It’s time to get back into this whole writting thing..

Ok nerdlings, I know you’ve been wondering what that emptiness you’ve been feeling lately is, and I think I have it figured out…it’s me, duh…I know i’ve been major awol lately (a grand total of 2 posts in all of 2015!), but to be honest with you…

i miss you let’s get back into this whole thing, mmmkay? Great..

ok…so where do we start? how about an ice breaker post, like on something we can all admit we love…

coffee morning illustrated caffeine

(secretly I’ve been spending the whole year searching for the appropiate gifs to attach, and I think it’s obvious that I..

the office nbc office andy nailed it…)

 – hey nossi! way to still be weird!! we barely even noticed you were gone!!

aww, you guys

stop ben stiller zoolander bashful derek zoolander

ok, i’m done…moving right along

So as I’m sure you remember we’ve already covered coffee … twice…but to recap for the sake of, whatever the opposite of brevity is, the coffee that we’ve all come to love is a “bean” that’s more like the seed found in a cherry-like fruit. The bean is then dried, fermented, roasted, ground, and brewed. There are so many variables that can affect the final product, that it can get confusing, so let’s go over the stuff that actually you have control over.

1) The beans – As with any food, quality deteriorates over time, and obviously the fresher and better the bean, the better the coffee (there’s actually a caveat to that statement…coffee beans are actually not at it’s best right after it’s roasted, and that’s because after roasting there’s a lot of gases [carbon dioxide being the most abundant] that still needs time to dissipate out, and if brewed right away can give an off flavor..)… So its always best to buy whole beans, and grind yourself (more on that in a second).

What kind of bean you get, I feel like, is where it can get mostly unnecessarily confusing. Roast of said bean aside, (which we’ll also get to shortly, Dr Impatientpants, geez…), there’s the actual type of bean. For example kona bean or blue mountain, or Ethiopian yagachurra are all names of famous beans known for distinct qualities (ok, I made up that last one), and sure they might be great and all, but I’m inclined to opine that the subtle nuances that differentiate between one bean and the next are of lesser importance than freshness, roast, and brew method. That’s not to say they’re not important, but it’s not the most important thing to look for. Also a lot of times they sell these high quality beans as part of a “blend,” and there’s no way to tell what percentage is high quality bean, and what is some other random bean. That’s not to say all blends are bad, but make sure it’s from a reputable roaster.

2) The roast – in order to get the dark color which is characteristic of coffee, can we please have Monsieur Maillard come back from his long hiatus? Don’t know what/who I’m talking about? Well its time you open your eyes bruhhh, and maybe read like one other post on this here fine establishment.. (Maillard = browning {which is not the same as caramelization}..which we’re not going to get into here..)…but how long you roast it will make a difference for coffee beans. To keep this brief – light roasts are obviously roasted the least amount of time, and will allow you to taste more of the coffee notes that are unique to the individual bean. Dark roasts (also known as Italian/french/vienna/espresso roasts) are as dark and shiny as they come, and will have mainly roasted-y flavor, and very little flavor of the character of the coffee, and are great for espressos. Medium roasts try to toe the line between the two.
The roast type you want is mainly whatever your preference is. Personally I used to love medium roasts, because I’ve felt that light roasts didn’t give me enough in the way of oomph/flavor, and dark roasts were too much. But nowadays I lean towards lighter roasts (partly because of the newer way I’ve been brewing, namely an aeropress, which if moshiach doesn’t come before I’m done this “short” diatribe, I might get around to talking about!).

3) the grind – there’s two ways of grinding your beans, the wrong way and the right way. The wrong way is to put it in a “spice grinder,” which similar to a food processor has a whirring blade on the bottom of some sort of bowl, and chops up the coffee bean into random sized chunks. The issue with this method is the non-uniformity in the grind size, which since we’re doing some sort of extraction of flavor, the variables that effect that are mainly: time, temperature, and surface area. The surface area of the coffee is dependent on the size of the grind, and if when grinding the coffee the beans are not uniform in size, then some beans will be under-brewed, and some over-brewed. However, if you were to use a burr grinder, which is essentially two inverted cones on top of each other, it dictates exactly how large the grind size will be. Which brings us to the last point –

4) the brew method – as Harold McGee says in On Food and Cookin there’s no one way that will brew the perfect cup of coffee. Each different method has it’s pros and cons taking into account different variables. Like for example – a French press allows you to take advantage of the amount of brew time, and obviously the temperature, but grind size is a little tricky. A pour over (like a Chemex) can help with the grind size problem, but time will be harder to control.

Then there’s the Aeropress. The aeropress is basically a combination of a pour over and a French press, and it kinda looks like a very large syringe with a filter attached to it’s end. The nice thing that I’ve found is it allows you to control all of the things we’ve talked about. There are really two ways of brewing with an aeropress, the regular way, and the upside down way. Here’s a step-by-step rundown on how I do things in my backwards world.

I like to start my aeropress upside down, with the plunger on the bottom. I add my coffee (obviously i weigh my coffee and weigh my water…there’s absolutely no other way of having consistently good coffee every day without doing that, and I’ll range from a 15:1 water:coffee ratio [for lighter roasts] all the way up to a 22:1 [for medium roasts).  wpid-wp-1447724767602.jpg

The next step is what’s called blooming the coffee ground, and that simply means adding enough hot water to just moisten the grind by adding about double the amount of water than grind (so in our example, 48 grams), and letting it sit for about 30 seconds. This starts to pull out the remaining trapped gasses in the beans.


Once that’s done, fill the rest of the aeropress with water*, and let it seep. I usually seep the grind for around 4 minutes (but again, since time is one of the determining factors, upping or downing [??] the amount of time will affect the end results).

*can we pause for a second and talk about water temperature?? So you know how temperature is one of the factors that affect the overall extraction? Well coffee needs to be brewed no more than 190-200 degrees because it will extract too many harsh flavors; Water boils at 212 degrees, so basically water that’s just boiled is not what you want. What I do is boil water and let is sit for about 15 minutes, or if I’m in a hurry, I take a page out of Sh’miras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, and use a k’li sheni [ie – I pour the really hot water into another cup, wait about a minute, and use that water]. Along those lines, we’ve done cold brewed coffee [which again, lower temperature, means longer brew time], and I’ve even attempted “warm brewed coffee” where I brew the coffee in a sous vide machine at about 100 for a few hours…the coffee was similar to cold brewed, with a little more oomph….


Then, I’ll put the paper filter on the filter doo-hickey, and screw it on; Turn it right side up, and press the plunger down, gently…it should take about 1-2 minutes to express all that beautiful brown elixir.


Once that’s done, then you top off the brew with hot water to come to your total. So in our example, we have 24 grams of coffee grind, if we’re going to go with a 15:1 ratio, we’re going to need 360 grams of water, but the aeropress can only hold about 250 grams of water, so I add the additional water after (in this example, the additional 90 grams). Now you might be thinking, but won’t that dilute the coffee down? The answer my friend is, no. So for once in your life, just please trust me.


Now you can brew it the normal way, where you put the filter on first, put the coffee grind, pour your water, and then attach the plunger and push the brew out (and top of with water)

Hard to tell, but this is the other brew method, where the plunger goes in last

So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to, pretty boring right? Sooo…yeah, this was fun…maybe, um, we can do this again sometime soon?? I’ll call the shadchan.

Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp


Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.


For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.


I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.



Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.


About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

French Toast


How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.


Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.


Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.


That’s it. Easy as pie.


By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.


Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Fried Potatoes Thingamaroonies

So if anyone is good at coming up with food names, there’s a position open here at The Kosher Gastronome headquarters. Pay is terrible, and the hours are long. Let me know.


Here’s what went down with this dish. I had gotten it in my brain that I wanted to make something with filo dough (more on that in a second), and I had this vision of mashed potato and cheese. So I bought some filo dough, made some mashed potato*, and added some goat cheese. I folded it all up, brushed with some melted butter, and baked it. Now..this story is not about these quasi spanakopita thingies; nay…this story is about what happens next, and how the events transpire. Come, let me take you on a journey. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.

*I make my mashed potatoes thusly – cubed potatoes go in pot with cold water and salt. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, and while hot mix with fat (ie – butter), and whatever else tickles your fancy. I think I threw in parsley into this one. If you want to go really decadent, you can mix in heavy cream.

Ok, so first let’s talk filo dough. Remember way back in the day we made scallion pancakes, and we talked about “laminated dough?” Well, if you don’t, here’s the tl/dr (=”too long/didn’t read”). There’s a sub family of dough that gets it lift from fat separating the different layers of dough.


Filo/fillo/phyllo dough is one of those, and they way they work, is you take these extremely thin sheets of dough, brush them with oil, then keep on stacking dough and oil until you have the thickness you want (usually around 3-6 sheets), and do whatever you were planning on using it for


Like I said, the actual triangle thingy isn’t what we’re talking about (long story short, I made them on Thursday for a Saturday night, and by that time they were a little soggy…they tasted good but were too non-crispy, yaknow what I mean?)

Anyway, I had a whole lot of the scraps left over, and not being one to waste, I was trying to figure out what to do with them. I figured the filo is basically just dried up dough, meaning they can lend structure. I figured I would mix it with the mashed potatoes and cheese, and fry it up. I mean fried cooked dough? it’s essentially chremslach (how badly did I butcher that spelling?). But I figured something might be different if I add the filo. I dunno…it was an excuse to eat fried potatoes…all in the name of science.

I rolled up this appetizing looking mush


and fried these suckers


So as you’ll notice from the top picture, they didn’t really stay in their spherical shape, but rather became more pancake like, so that being said, I don’t think the filo made a difference. However what I would tell you is these little fried potato thingamaroonies were pretty dang top notch! Huzzah!

Seriously, get some mashed potato, add some goat cheese and fry it, it’s really good.

So now that you’ve read this, can you think of an appropriate name please? Winner gets credit in the Kosher Gastronome Cookbook.