Drop by the Steampunk Cookery website.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chapter 2: The Return

It's been a long and unintended hiatus from this blog, punctuated by a post that, in and of itself, contributed to the very hiatus it had hoped to bring to an end.

That's a little convoluted, so let me be more direct:

First, I've been working my ass off for almost 3 years at the same restaurant, turning into a night shifter through and through. Four to five nights a week, from a few hours after I wake up until a few hours before I pass out. I won't recapitulate all the tropes about kitchen workers and chefs who don't do anything but their jobs, but that's pretty much me these days.

Second, I wrote that last post about cooking macaroni and cheese, and by a few winding routes of friends of friends, I ended up with a side gig writing articles for the Metro Times—food reviews, to be exact. I might syndicate them here, if I feel inclined.

Third, I bought a house. I mean, that was pretty recent, but in the meantime I'd been living in an apartment with a roommate, which precluded some amount of midnight cooking experimentation...

Fourth, I suppose, is that cooking for fun happens at work mostly now, where before it had largely happened at home.

Fear not, my dear readers!

For one, I have composed several dishes that I'll be bringing over here with recipes and reasonings behind some of them—or at least the ones that I think fit this blog's ethos.

For two, I've been given a project by my corporate chef—I'm writing desserts each month, to be featured daily and produced repeatedly. It'll be a big deal if they go well.

That project comes with a directive: it's to be based on "Tavern desserts," of the '30s-'50s... which happen to mostly harken back—at least in the early part of that range—to the desserts of the late 19th century... Hmm.

Seems oddly fitting to document the evolution of dishes based on what I do here, and at work, on here, while I serve them at work... yes. That.

So, starting with Saturday, when I'll have some pictures of beignets and a recipe for the dish, I'll be trying to post at least once a month about the evolution of my desserts.

And maybe, like I said, I'll syndicate my old restaurant reviews, and if we get really lucky this blog might be considered active again!

Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Cook

This promises to be a bit more esoteric than usual.

Begin with a goal. This is simultaneously unimportant and of the utmost import. It could be anything from "Nourish myself" to "Get this girl to love me" to "Help the person I love feel better." In this manner, you choose what you will cook.

To choose what you cook is entirely subjective.

Begin with a self. Your understandings, memories, and fantasies of, and your associations, relationships, and histories with food, your memories and your desires. All of these fall into place in determining what you cook.

Do you feel completely safe when you're eating macaroni and cheese, because—like me—you're still sitting at your grandmother's dining room table, with its ugly vinyl tablecloth blazoned with ochre and orange flowers—chrysanthemums, maybe?—and that ugly yet beautiful chandelier hung above it? I never was afraid of anything at my grandparents' house. I watched the news of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, I saw shots of bleeding victims and bodies and terrified firemen, and I wasn't scared, because Nana and Papa survived the Holocaust, and so they'll keep me safe.

So when my girlfriend is scared and hurt because of something that happened to her, of course I make her macaroni and cheese.

But I make it my way.
2 ounces of butter
2 ounces of all-purpose flour
1 quart of milk
2 ounces gouda, chopped/shredded
4 ounces havarti, chopped/shredded
4 ounces sharp white cheddar, chopped/shredded
2 ounces mascarpone
4 ounces parmesan, shredded/grated
white pepper

In a saucepan (I like non-stick,) melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour, and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook until the flour begins to take a light beige color, which can take anywhere from a minute to 5, depending on your pan, stove, etc.. Remove from heat, continue stirring, and add milk. Whisk vigorously to break up clumps of roux. Return to heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and hold for 20 minutes. Stir frequently, making sure to mix to the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.

Add the cheeses an ounce or two at a time, and whisk in until they have melted before adding more. Add more cheeses as you see fit, adjusting the amounts to your taste. Season with salt and white pepper to your taste.
Chill and store in portions or bulk, in the fridge for six days, or the freezer for a month or two.
Boiling pasta is quick and easy, and the natural amount of time it takes the pasta to cook allows you a moment for a romantic interlude. Perhaps a lingering, luxurious kiss on the couch? Opening a soda, or a bottle of wine? Or, if you're really lucky, a beer? (Wheat, light German style please?) Perhaps changing into something more comfortable for the both of you, together? That might take nine or ten minutes. Just remember to set a timer, eh? 
Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound of Macaroni pasta
6 quarts water
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 cups Mornay Sauce (see above)

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt, and when the cloud of bubbles released at the dissolution of the salt has subsided, add the pasta. Cook for an appropriate amount of time to the brand and type of pasta you have.

Meanwhile, heat the mornay in a sauté pan or saucepan large enough to hold all the pasta. Bring it to a simmer, but be careful to keep it from breaking. Taste to make sure it's still good. You may need to add salt.

Strain the pasta out once it's cooked, and mix the hot, drained pasta with the mornay sauce. Stir well to mix evenly, and serve up. This will feed two hungry Aarons, so maybe three normal people, or two guys and a girlfriend with a small appetite.
Maybe you want to be a little fancier? You're wooing, not seducing; you're serving wine, not liquor; you're playing coltrane, not LMFAO. Or whatever it is you kids listen to when you're being hasty. Maybe you're trying to show that you're as good a cook as that restaurant you hit last week where your friend got the Lobster Mac and Cheese, or that really cool Jazz Club where you saw that awfully hep Two Man Band who played music about Pork Chops and Gals whilst you ate some of the best mac and cheese you've ever had. Maybe you like your mac and cheese... crunchy.

Ritz crackers get an unfair rap for being pseudo-fancy whilst still being buttery enough to be a guilty pleasure like shortbread. Town House crackers aren't the famous ones, despite being a Keebler product. Ritz crackers are delicious, and because the National Biscuit Company makes things right, they're buttery enough to brown under heat.
Crush one sleeve of Ritz crackers, and to the result add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper. Mix, and then add in 1/4 cup melted butter. Mix again. Freeze in portions, or refrigerate for a week or two at most.

Prepare Macaroni and Cheese as above. However, instead of serving, place the pasta and sauce into an ovenproof serving vessel (industrial china bowl, etc.) and top with a layer of Ritz Topping as prepared above. Place in a 450°F oven for 5 minutes or so to brown the top. Carefully serve and consume.
Perhaps you like bacon, or vegetables, or seafood. Mix and mingle to your desire, and create Bacon Mac, or Buffalo Chicken Mac, or Veggie Mac, or Lobster Mac, or Shrimp Mac... and on and on.

And now you've strengthened your relationship with her, because you shared something that has deep meaning for you with her, and in so doing imbued it with new meanings for the both of you, and that's nothing but good.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Buried Chef, or Eli August, or How This Pertains to Food

I eat late. I also eat a lot of ice cream.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been a while. I've been working full-time at a restaurant since February, as you may know, and it's severely cut into my free time. Add to that a tendency to eat late and simply, and you end up with not much to write about. Sure, there's a couple articles that I've got almost ready to post, and recipes that I've written up with an eye towards posting here, but I rarely have pictures or enough coherent thought.

It's hard to be an artist. It's even harder to be a musician, when "steady" employment is still a difficult thing to find, and relies so heavily on people's likes and dislikes. I present to you, therefore, Mr. Eli August. I came upon his music over a year ago, after he played an ill-fated show in Farmington at the bookstore; I purchased his CD "Let This House Burn Slowly," and now I have copies of four of his CDs. I love his music—the orchestration, the harmonies, the imagery. It's powerful, emotional stuff for me, and I can't get enough of it lately.

Which brings me to two points: First, Eli August and his band want to make an album, but they need help to do so. They're running this campaign to make this album a possibility, and if you're able, I'd like to suggest that you donate to them. It will be worth it, I promise you.

Secondly, Eli and I will be conspiring next Spring at the new Michigan Steampunk Convention to bring you a picnic luncheon with music by Himself, and food by the both of us. If you are interested in that, head over to the convention website...

In the mean time, I will be trying to post when I can. Free time is at a premium...


The Steampunk Chef.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Steampunk Cuisine — An Article

I'd like to share this with you, dear readers, because I was interviewed for it, and in so doing I was able to articulate some of my thoughts on Steampunk Cuisine; in addition, the author has done an excellent job of situating what I do in the context of the modern trends in food preparation and the Culinary Arts.

Toque Magazine - Steampunk Cuisine
When it comes to food, though, Steampunk is silent, or nearly so. Yet many of Steampunk’s tenets–to celebrate the history of mechanical ingenuity and its aesthetics, to appreciate the high tech of a lower tech era–are lived out every day in restaurant kitchens and food science laboratories. Steam, historically speaking, denotes progress and forward momentum–steam propelled engines, heat and energy generation. Steam also revolutionized food production and preservation; we owe a lot to steam geekery within the food world. But Steampunk is not limited to steamed food. What exactly would Steampunk cuisine look like? More importantly, how does it taste?
A fantastic article that I'm proud to be part of. I even sound like I know what I'm talking about!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Picnic Luncheon: Meats!

Roast Beef. Chicken Pie. On a field expedient Cutting Board.
(Thanks to the reenactors for loaning me a crate.)
This post was written during the progress of making these dishes, and so the tenses and times of the various recipes and commentary may reflect a sort of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey approach. Please excuse that, and do not let it hamper your appreciation.
For the Victorian Day Picnic Luncheon I am making two meat items, chicken pie and roast beef. I've spent most of the afternoon shopping and preparing these two items, mostly the chicken pie.

I've been somewhat closely following a recipe from Buckeye Cookery for the chicken pie:
Cut up two young chickens, place in hot water enough to cover, boil until tender; line a four or five quart pan with a rich baking-powder or soda-biscuit dough quarter of an inch thick, put in part of chicken, season with salt, pepper and butter, lay in a few thin strips or squares of dough, add the rest of chicken and season as before; some add five or six fresh eggs or a few new potatoes in their season; season liquor in which the chickens were boiled with butter, salt, and pepper, add a part of it to the pie, cover with crust a quarter of an inch thick, with a hole in the center the size of a tea-cup. Keep adding the chicken-liquor and hot water if needed, since the fault of most chicken pies is that they are too dry. There can scarcely be too much gravy. Bake one hour in a moderate oven, having the heat turned to the bottom, as great care is necessary to have the bottom crust well baked.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Steamdrunks: The Drunken Earl

Trust this man to feed you drinks.
He won't tie you to train tracks. I promise.
I present to you today a post written by my good friend Oz, who you may remember from the Halcyon days of the State Dinner at the Dolmabaçe. He's been in exile for a while, toiling out of state, and so while we haven't been able to cook together for a while (the last time was in December...) we have conversed extensively about many things. Drinks, of course, are one of our many shared enthusiasms, and so this man–this wonderful man—has provided us with the following:

“We simply contend that a relish for 'social drinks’ is universal;... and that he, therefore, who proposes to impart to these drinks not only the most palatable but the most wholesome characteristics of which they may be made susceptible, is a genuine public benefactor.”
~Jerry Thomas, Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks: Receipts for Mixing All Kinds of Punch, Egg Nog, Juleps, Smashs, Cobblers, Cocktails, Sangarees, Mulls, Toddies, Slings, Sours, Flips, and 200 other Fancy Drinks (1862)

This story starts, as so many often do, with a lady.
“What if you made a cocktail with tea-infused simple syrups?” the lady asked, innocently.
“Ooh... wouldn’t be that hard to do... but what would you make?” I pondered.
And like that I had been nerdsniped into the fascinating concept of Steampunk Cocktails.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Picnic Luncheon: The Plan

Last Year's Picnick, by Blue Dragon Media
Having gazed at Mrs. Beeton's picnic menus (see my last post,) and at the menu suggestions provided by Buckeye Cookery, to wit: 
Cold roast chicken; ham broiled on coals; fish fried or broiled; sardines; tongue; hard-boiled eggs; eggs to be fried or scrambled; Boston corn bread; buttered rolls; ham sandwiches prepared with grated ham; orange marmalade; canned peaches; watermelon and beet sweet-pickles; euchered plums; variety or bottled pickles; chow-chow; quince or plum jelly; raspberry or other jams; Scotch fruit, rolled jelly, chocolate, Minnehaha, old-fashioned loaf, and marble cake; coffee, chocolate, tea; cream and sugar; salt and pepper; oranges.
I have thus come up with a somewhat simple plan for our own picnic. I'm hoping to stay away from fish, simply because it's an expense and a process that I don't want to engage myself in right now (as much as I'd like to smoke a side of salmon for my friends, the cost might be a bit prohibitive, even with a good job such as I have right now.)

A simple luncheon, then, to serve roughly 12 people:
  • Chicken Pie (2)
  • Cold Roast Beef with Appropriate Sauce (1 large joint)
  • Cucumber Salad (1 quart)
  • Pickles and Relishes (1-2 quarts)
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs (1 dozen)
  • Fresh Berries and Fruit (2 quarts)
  • Fruit Tarts (12 small)
  • Cheese, Butter, Bread, Biscuits, Jam
  • Iced Tea (4 bottles)
  • Wine (2 bottles)
You may as well put away your picnicking-baskets, I think this will win the all-time award for 'best picnic ever.'

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another Picnic!

Once again, yours truly will probably
win the annual croquet game.
Once again, it is May, and with the advent of spring comes picnics and celebrations. This year, I'm off (once again) to the Grand Ledge Victorian Days celebration, and have resolved to provide a completely different picnic luncheon experience to my friends and companions who will be joining me.

As with last year, we shall once again be taking part in that great Victorian tradition of picnicking by a battlefield, enjoying the great sport of war! It's never caused us any trouble before, you see: We go down, watch the battle from an encampment, and go home, the war concluded in an afternoon of glory and honor. There's no way it could go any differently, is there?

We are provided, as mentioned in last year's post about this very event, with some picnic luncheon menus by the Buckeye Cookery cook-book, and these are quite lovely, but Mrs. Beeton also offers two menus for picnics that I had not previously paid much attention to—so it is to them that I intend to look first.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unabridged Andra: Steampunk...Cooking??

So, in my busy life of late I completely neglected to follow up on this and show all of you a different blog who decided to feature me—Unabridged Andra: Steampunk...Cooking??

I think my writing looks a lot better on the page there than it did in my inbox. It's nothing you all haven't seen before, but it encapsulates my story and ethos pretty well, I think.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Field Expedient Mac and Cheese

Sometimes, you get out of work at 1 AM after closing down a kitchen for an hour, and you're hungry. Sometimes, you manage to stop at a fast food joint or a coney island (a Michigan-native variety of the 24-hour diner, specializing in chili dogs with onions and mustard, and Chicken Lemon Rice soup.) Sometimes, you grab a pack of snack crackers at a gas station and feed yourself on $3, including a pop or sports drink.

Sometimes, you get home at 1:30 AM and you're just damn hungry. So you pull out a slice of havarti cheese from the fridge, and grab a log of Norcino salami, cured and covered in white mold. You slice yourself a bit, and nibble a corner of cheese, and think to yourself, "I want macaroni and cheese, but I don't have any to microwave and I don't have a box of blue stuff."

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Blue Box Macaroni and Cheese. I grew up very close to my grandmother, and while she didn't produce many culinary delights for me, she did make me Kraft Mac & Cheese, which was bright orange and delicious to my young self. At those times in my life when I've been at my lowest, or most in need of comfort, I've gone and bought boxes of Kraft M&C just so I could remember my Nana, and feel better about my life.

That, however, is somewhat of a diversion from the main focus here—field expedient mac and cheese, which is what happens when a hungry cook gets home from work and wants a dinner.

Mornay sauce is, traditionally, béchamel sauce with Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses added; In this instance, I've produced a slight variation on that, with Havarti, cheddar, and Parmesan, as well as a bit of parsley.