Drop by the Steampunk Cookery website.

Monday, December 27, 2010

State Dinner at the Dolmabahçe

The Dolmabahçe is a beautiful palace in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey. Home to sultans from its construction until the abolition of the Caliphate, the Dolmabahçe is an excellent example of in-period cultural fusion. From Wikipedia:
The Dolmabahçe Palace
The Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. [...] The construction works cost five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, the equivalent of 35 tonnes of gold. Fourteen tonnes of gold in the form of gold leaf were used to gild the ceilings of the [...] palace.
The design contains eclectic elements from the Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, blended with traditional Ottoman architecture to create a new synthesis. The palace layout and décor reflect the increasing influence of European styles and standards on Ottoman culture and art during the Tanzimat period. Functionally, on the other hand, it retains elements of traditional Ottoman palace life, and also features of traditional Turkish homes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Braised Brisket with Caramelized Onions

Brisket is a cut of meat that crops up often in Jewish cooking. There's many reasons for this, both economic and cultural.
Brisket is cut from the foresaddle of beef—meaning that it comes from the front half of the cow. It's typically a rather tough cut, because of being the cow's well-used pectoral muscles—this also, however, gives the meat more flavor than, say, the tenderloin, which is minimally worked, and therefore very tender and flavorless. In Kosher law, all sciatic nerve tissue must be removed from meat to make it Kosher. Because the sciatic nerve is very difficult to remove, meat from the hindsaddle (back half of the cow) was often not used by kosher households, to stay on the safe side of Kashrus. The "low quality" of the brisket and its kosher status (being from the foresaddle) made it a very common choice in the poor Eastern European Jewish households that developed what we today consider "Jewish Food."

Because it is so tough, brisket is usually subjected to some form of long cooking, whether braising as a pot roast or simmering as a corned beef/pastrami, or Barbecuing in the American tradition—which I highly recommend and will likely discuss at a later date. In many Jewish households, the idea of slow, long cooking was particularly suitable for Sabbath meals, where you could begin cooking something on Friday before sundown, and without adjusting or tweaking, allow it to cook all day Saturday until sundown, when the prohibition on work (which includes many cooking procedures) expired. A good hot meal on Saturday was the goal of most Jewish mothers, and so Brisket became prominent as a dish for Shabbes, and from there for other holidays where large groups would be fed, like Passover or Rosh Hashanah.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Squash Salad, Turkish Style

I'm going to be honest and tell you that I am completely uncertain why this is named "Turkish Style." I suspect that in 1919, that was code for "not the normal way we'd make it," but it may be honestly derived from a period recipe. The world may never know.

The original I found in an old Jewish cookbook, and reads thus:
To me, sautéed squash is not a salad, but a vegetable side dish, so I made a few adjustments. Instead of using simply zucchini or marrow squash, I used zucchini and summer squash, and left the peels on—I see no need to remove them, as I never do in any of my other cooking endeavors. Had they been marrow squash, I might have—the skin is a little tougher. I reduced the dressing to olive oil and red wine vinegar, with salt and pepper (the old standby from Italian cooking) and placed the sautéed and dressed squash on a bed of greens, butter lettuce and red oak lettuce.
Simple, but Tasty.
It's an admittedly simple presentation and it wouldn't pass muster in any of the banquets I've put on in a more formal setting, but as a simple between-courses palate cleanser, I think it worked.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Latkes and Applesauce

Latke, Bourek, Applesauce (on plate.)
As mentioned before, Hanukkah is a holiday about Oil, and so one of the most well-known and traditional of Hanukkah dishes is the latke, also known as the potato pancake. There's many different styles of latke, but in general, they all contain potatoes, onions, matzo meal, and are all shallow-fried in oil of some variety, usually a neutral- or lightly-flavored oil like rapeseed, vegetable, or corn oil. Developing after the age of exploration, our modern potato latkes are a very Germanic/Eastern European—and therefore Ashkenazic—Jewish concept.

Modern Sufganiyot
In the Israeli Jewish tradition, doughnuts called sufganiyot—very similar to paczki—are served. Elsewhere, deep- or shallow-fried cheese is served. (Thus, breaded and fried mozzarella sticks could be considered hanukkah food, if you wished...) The common denominator is frying in oil, of course, and it's quite possible that prior to the introduction of the potato, other starchy vegetables, or indeed other non-starchy vegetables, could have been used in the same fashion, to create similar items. Perhaps this merits some exploration and experimentation when there's more time at hand.

In my family, latkes usually get served with sour cream and applesauce on the side, which encompass the two ways that potato pancakes seem to be served wherever they appear—that is to say, sweet and savory.

My friend Red, who hosted the Hanukkah dinner, made our latkes, and will be shortly putting up a post over at Miss Kagashi's blog, and that is at this very location.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spinach-Feta Bourekas with Zchug

Bourekas, I am informed by Wikipedia, are a savory pastry popular across the Middle East. They vary greatly by region, from fried items in Turkey to baked items resembling turnovers in Israel. The article is worth a read just to gain an appreciation of the sheer variety of food items we as a species have come up with. For the Steampunk Hanukkah dinner, we're using Israeli-style Bourekas as an appetizer, filled with a spinach-cheese mixture.

They will be served with Zchug (there's a lot of spellings, considering that it's a non-English name,) which is a spicy pepper-based sauce popular in North Africa. The recipe I use for Zchug is from a cookbook called Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler. It's one of the bargain books that you can find at Border's or Barnes and Noble here in the US, but it's a great resource for a wide variety of styles. She says:
This is the Yemenite chilli sauce that has become Israel's national seasoning. It is hot with chillies, pungent with garlic, and fragrant with exotic cardamom. Eat it with rice, couscous, soup, chicken, or other meats.
Sounds good to me.

How are these dishes Steampunk, you ask? In a purely pedantic sense, puff pastry is leavened by steam, so I find that appropriate, but I think that these fall under the "multicultural co-mingling" area of Steampunk—these are being served in a dinner that contains items from around the world and from different traditions, harmoniously combined into something very Victorian in style—a multi-course dinner to serve a multitude. Bourekas come from a Turkish/Greek/Balkan background, Zchug from a Yemenite tradition, and they harmonize into something very unique and delicious.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chicken Schnitzel with Zigeuner Sauce

Radetzky, maybe responsible for Schnitzel.
Perhaps, as a young English-speaking child, you snickered at the name "Wiener Schnitzel." I probably did too, but now I've come to appreciate this dish. What is Schnitzel? The story goes that Schnitzel, as a concept, was introduced to Austria sometime between 1500 and 1900 by someone. (Awful vague, right? It's hard to answer questions like this, honestly.) Most likely, it came from Italy, where you find veal and chicken scaloppini served on a regular basis—these are cutlets of the meat, pounded thin to cook quickly. Schnitzel bears a strong resemblance to the preparation for the classic Chicken (or Veal) Parmesan dish, where a piece of meat is breaded and cooked under marinara, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. I like (mostly because I love the music named after him) the theory that credits Marshal Radetzky with bringing the dish to Vienna in 1857 or so, upon his return from fighting in Italy. Other theories include Italian or German soldiers bringing it over to Austria during the 17th century. Regardless, it's become a classic dish in Austria and the world over, to the point that Austria protects the identity of Wiener Schnitzel by legislation. Now that's dedication.

Veal has typically been a somewhat expensive meat, and one with equal amounts of cachet and controversy. I won't touch on that here, because that's not my purview; the point is, however, that nowadays it's common to find schnitzel made from pork and chicken alongside the traditional veal. For many Jews in Europe during the Victorian era, veal was an unattainable luxury, something eaten very rarely, and so chicken schnitzel became a popular replacement. My grandmother, a Viennese woman, made chicken schnitzel often when I was a child.

Schnitzel is a dish that begs for a sauce. Traditionally, it is served with nothing more than a wedge of lemon (and this is how my mother eats it to this day,) but I crave more moisture and flavor on my plate. For this presentation, I will use a German sauce called Zigeunersauce, which is a sauce made with bell peppers, mushrooms, paprika, and tomatoes. (Thanks to a commenter for prompting me to add this:) Zigeuner is a German word referring to the Romani. I'm not certain if this sauce originated with the Romani people, if it is merely named after them for its colorful look, or if it is so called as a nod to its Eastern European origins (where the Romani clearly came from, or settled, or belonged—depending on who you asked in the Victorian era.) I'm going to make my version of Zigeunersauce a little more refined than the traditional version, with smaller cut items, but otherwise will stick to the recipes that I've found.
The finished plate—braised red cabbage, Chicken Schnitzel, and Zigeunersauce

(Please, to any of my German readers, if you have a different recipe than me, feel free to post it in the comments. Hopefully what I've found approximates what you know. I wish I'd been able to get the recipes from my grandmother when she was still alive.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prepare Yourselves

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Blogosphere: I am preparing to do the Hanukkah Dinner tonight. This next few days will be a series of posts about each course, the preparation thereof, and so on. Be prepared.

Previous posts about a course from this meal include:

Curried Carrot Soup
Earl Gray Panna Cotta

Some changes will be made to the recipes, I suspect. I'll note that in a final write-up some time next week.

Until we meet again, cook well.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Good Cause

So, I usually talk about eating animals, right? I'm a carnivore, I like roast meats, and I like butchering meat as well—we'll get into that soon enough on this blog, I'm sure.

Tonight, however, I'm going to talk about something different. Most of you probably read Miss Kagashi's blog over at The Steamer's Trunk/Multiculturalism For Steampunk. For those of you who don't, 1.) you should and 2.) you should also consider chipping in via the widget at the bottom of this post to her charity drive.

Miss Kagashi has decided to support Heifer International, and specifically to raise money towards purchasing a Gift Ark, which includes a mated pair of several animals, plus instruction on their care, feeding, raising, and so forth—a laudable goal if I ever heard one.

So, if you haven't already done so, please consider throwing a few bucks the way of this charity drive during this holiday season. Animals are a gift that keeps on giving, and they can be essential to the survival and improvement of an impoverished community.

On a blog where I celebrate excess—through culinary endeavors and through a healthy love of the Victorian era and its excesses—I would like to exhort you all to give to those who cannot afford the excess.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Earl Grey Panna Cotta

Tea, and especially Earl Grey, has become inextricably linked with steampunk. Professor Elemental serenaded it in "Cup of Brown Joy," and many Steampunks enjoy sitting back with a hot pot of tannic liquid. Panna Cotta is an older dessert that's come back of late as American tastes stray towards the gourmet. A combination of the two seems perfectly logical—creamy, delightful, and full of bergamot flavor.

Typically, panna cotta uses milk, cream, and sugar, which is then combined with gelatin. The flavoring is often simply that of the milk products, but additional flavorings are possible; I have made a blood orange panna cotta using blood orange purée, and I have eaten raspberry- and strawberry-flavored versions as well.

Here we are going to apply the tea to the dessert via a direct addition; another way could be to use a method described by my good friends at TeaHaus.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tea for Ten

Cranberry-Orange Scones
My services were engaged this past weekend, to produce tea service for 10 on Sunday. While I did not make everything completely from scratch, there's a fair bit of this that I produced myself, and I thought I might as well document it here for your edification and information.

Scones - Plain and Orange-Cranberry, with Clotted Cream

Tea Sandwiches - Cucumber with Dill Cream Cheese; Prosciutto, Arugula and Boursin; Roasted Red Pepper, Portobello, and Chive Cream Cheese.

A Fruit Platter and A Cheese Platter

Chocolate Mousse and Palmiers

Proceed for pictures, recipes, and presentations.

Monthly Steampunk Feast No. 1

Hello, visitors from StumbleUpon! Welcome. Check out the main page or some recipes, why don't you?

The banquet requires one large staff.
A local bookstore has asked me to start offering monthly meals with a steampunk theme, and so for the first endeavor I have decided to go forth, full steam ahead, with no reservations.

The goal here is to fuse modern techniques and culinary understanding with an older approach to food and service—so, hopefully I will be able to engage enough people to have Russian Service and a respectable kitchen brigade. I won't deign to wear the round toque, but at least I'll cook well and have fun.

I shall either sink or swim on the merits of the following menu:

Monday, December 13, 2010


Delightful. By Thomas Hawk.
I have been gifted in this auspicious season of holidays and birthdays with a book called Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, by Ted Haigh (the illustrious Dr. Cocktail.) The contents of the book vary from mid-Victorian drinks to things created in the 1950s that have since faded from our drinking culture.

Dr. Cocktail discusses in his introduction the first bartender's guide published in the United States—The Bar-Tender's Guide, or a Bon-Vivant's Companion. There's some reprints available, as well as a web-based version at The Art of Drink.

As I am a man who likes his drink—as I mentioned previously in this post—this book, and the world it has opened up, is fascinating. I suspect I'll have more things to show you in due course.

In the meantime, here's a recipe from Jerry Thomas, author of the 1862 Bar-Tender's guide, for the Blue Blazer:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Service Amounts

One of the main challenges of non-plated service (i.e. family-style or carved items) is determining just how much of a given dish to make and present. When you're serving individual steaks, it's obviously simple—10 people get 10 steaks—for our purposes nobody is vegetarian in the group—, but when you have a soup served in a tureen to a table, how much to make—and how to offer a variety of items—becomes more difficult.

So, I present to you today, from the Hand-Book of Practical Cookery (1868), "the following table [which] shows how many dishes of each kind are to be served at dinner to a certain number of persons:"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Steampunk Hanukkah Dinner

Shortly, some friends and I are getting together to celebrate Hanukkah. It'll be a little late to fall during the actual holiday (which runs from December 1 to December 8 this year,) but the spirit will pervade our every action. We're hoping for a large banquet—at the moment we stand about 14 confirmed guests—and to that end we've decided to go for the gusto and produce a multi-course meal, somewhat taking our inspiration from Victorian menus (though with much less food served per course.)

Cooking for Hannukah has a theme to it—oil and cheese. The miracle of Hanukkah involves oil miraculously burning for 8 days, and so in remembrance of that, things are fried. Lots of things are fried. Cheese comes from an adjunct historical piece, the story of Judith and Holofernes. We've decided to take a multinational, multicultural, historical, Jewish approach to the meal, combining recipes from an old Jewish cookbook, from our family traditions, from our cultural backgrounds, and from our imaginations—the sort of thing that Steampunk is all about.

The menu, which will begin to be linked to recipe posts, is below.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Supersizers go Victorian

This was pointed out to me in relation to my post of "A Useful Soup for Benevolent Purposes" and I have come across it now—

The Supersizers go Victorian, presented in parts.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Curried Carrot Soup

To make nutritious, healthful and palatable soup, with flavors properly commingled, is an art which requires study and practice, but it is surprising from what a scant allotment of material a delicate and appetizing dish may be produced.
Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, 1877

Carrots are a lovely thing, of great use in the kitchen. They can fit in all of the traditional courses in some manner or another, and can be consumed raw or cooked, spiced and seasoned 'til barely recognizable or plain and delightful. Carrot soup is a poorly-used part of the recipe book, in that I've only seen it once or twice in my travels through the culinary world; I find it in many older cookbooks, and encountered a Soupe aux Carottes Nivernais in a French cookbook once. I see carrot purées appearing on plates as a sauce a lot more recently, but it seems odd that nobody has moved the carrot back to the soup bowl where it once resided alone.

In the aforementioned Buckeye Cookery, the following recipe appears:
Put in a soup kettle a knuckle of veal, three or four quarts cold water, a quart finely-sliced carrots, one head celery; boil two and a half hours, add a handful rice, and boil an hour longer; season with pepper (or a bit of red pepper pod) and salt, and serve. —Mrs. Eliza T. Carson
Old recipes have an accessibility issue due to ingredients (this one, fortunately, contains no ingredients which have since gone extinct, changed name, or are no longer considered healthy) and language—it's rare to see recipes in prose nowadays—, and they suffer from an accuracy issue: there's a difference between 3 and 4 quarts of, well, one whole quart. Further, a handful for me, a handful for my friend Miss Kagashi, and a handful for you are all different amounts—and my handfuls can vary amongst themselves, as well.

Carrot soups appear in almost every period cookbook I have examined, and they all follow more or less the same pattern; some involve puréeing the soup by passing it through a tamis/sieve, others (like the one above) are more rough and brothy. To my mind, the carrot soup ought to be puréed, otherwise it becomes a vegetable broth soup that's missing... the rest of the vegetables.

I've spoken before about fusion foods, and about marrying differing countries' cuisines. In this recipe, I am going to do a small bit of fusion and make a curried  puréed carrot soup, nice and spicy, with some added cream to enrich the soup, provide some body, and also to help smooth the curry spice slightly. Additionally, there's no reason to put meat in this soup, so I'm going to omit the veal knuckle—besides, I missed my chance to hit up the butcher shop.

Therefore, having now rambled on for quite a bit, today I present to you a simple Curried Carrot Soup, for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Useful Soup for Benevolent Purposes

Presented for you without comment:

Ingredients.An ox-cheek, any pieces of trimmings of beef (say 4 lbs.), a few bones, any pot-liquor the larder may furnish, 1/4 peck onions, 6 leeks, a large bunch herbs, 1/2 lb. celery (the outside pieces, or green tops do very well), 1/2 lb. carrots, 1/2 lb. turnips, 1/2 lb. coarse brown sugar, 1/2 a pint of beer, 1/2 lb. salt, 1oz. black pepper, a few bread-raspings, 10 gallons of water.

Mode.—Cut the meat in small pieces, break the bones, put them in a copper, with the 10 gallons of water, and stew for 1/2 an hour. Cut up the vegetables, put them in with the sugar and beer, and boil for 4 hours. Two hours before the soup is wanted, add the rice and raspings, and keep stirring until it is well mixed in the soup, which simmer gently. If the liquor reduces too much, fill up with water.

Time, 6 1/2 hours. Average cost, 3d. or 3 1/2d. per quart.

(Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Curry Powders

Image by Thomas Steiner
A relic of the British colonization of India, Curry Powders represent an attempt by the colonizers to copy something of the colonized: When they began "going native," the British governors of India discovered what they began to call "curry," a wide variety of dishes flavored with combinations of spices—masala—that varied from area to area, and often from house to house. "Curries" were more of a category of foods, sort of a soup or stew, but the British found the spicing to be what mattered, and therefore began to mimic the spicing of these dishes by creating "Curry Powder" mixtures that have become widely known. They homogenize the flavor of curry, and as with all spices, they sit on shelves and deteriorate quickly in quality.

So what better way to combine the do-it-yourself ethos of steampunk with the multinational/integrational/fusion approach that characterizes the genre, and that with a culinary item that is unique and wonderful?

Curry powders, as said, vary greatly from instance to instance. So, it should be no surprise that the recipes you find in a quick search of the internet vary greatly as well.

The upshot of all of the recipes below is that there are some standby ingredients that seem to be in every curry powder blend: coriander, cumin, turmeric, and pepper of some variety. Additional spices, like fenugreek, mustard, cinnamon, asafetida, and so on seem more varied in their prominence, and although they definitely add additional flavors, are not necessarily deal-breakers when it comes to creating a curry blend.

Before I adjourn to recipes, a question to all of you: Do any of you make your own curry powder blends? What spices do you use, if you do?

The internet is a wonderful resource. Let's take a quick sampling, shall we?

Friday, November 26, 2010


As a food blog, I would be remiss if I didn't wish my readers in the US a happy Thanksgiving, and the rest of you a... happy Thursday, I guess.

The Brown Stock I made last Sunday became a brown sauce on Tuesday, and today went into the braising liquid for some wine-braised short ribs of beef that I created, on special request, for the dinner. I also produced some sweet potato cakes, which follow from a very simple, old Irish recipe.

I sadly don't have any pictures of dinner as it was scarfed with great gusto before I could do anything like document my hard work, but I do have a picture from another event that includes both of the items I served tonight.

Far to near in the image is:

Red Wine-Braised Short Rib of Beef, with Creamy Mushroom Polenta and frizzed onion garnish; Fall Michigan Vegetable Medley (turnip, rutabaga, baby carrot, patty-pan squash, peas, parsnips); Charley's Mustard-Rubbed Pork Loin with Sweet Potato Cake, Pear Sauce, and Cherry-wine Reduction.

That is a sexy plate if you ask me. The food tonight was wonderful. I hope those of you who spent time with family or friends had as good a time as I did, and I'd love to hear what you all had for dinner...

Did anyone do a steampunk thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Speaking from a culinary standpoint, there are only a few kinds of stock, generally broken down into brown, white, fish/fumet, and court boullion.

For most purposes, you see brown stock, and white stock. (Fish stock is very similar to white stock, just a shorter cooking time, and court boullion is a poaching liquid, not a stock proper.)

White stock is anything made from unroasted bones that comes out with a light color—chicken stock is what most people think of, but in truth it can be from veal bones, pork, lamb, whatever your kitchen furnishes.

Brown stock is made from roasted bones, and tomato product is added to the stock during cooking as well. Typically, brown stock is a beef or veal stock, but again, as with white stocks, you find everything from brown chicken stock to brown pork stock.

My project in the kitchen today is brown beef stock, preparing for my family's thanksgiving dinner (For which I am cooking a not-so-steampunk dish, "Naughty Red Braised Short Ribs of Beef.")

Friday, November 19, 2010

Onion Soup

Julienne your onions diligently.
From the White House Cook Book, 1926.
One quart of milk, six large onions, yolks of four eggs, three tablespoonfuls of butter, one and one half tablespoonfuls of flour, one cupful of cream, salt, pepper.

Put the butter in a frying pan. Cut the onions into thin slices and drop in the butter. Stir until they begin to cook, then cover tight and set back where they will simmer, but not burn, for half an hour. Now put the milk on to boil, and then add the dry flour to the onions and stir constantly for three minutes over the fire; then turn the mixture into the milk and cook fifteen minutes. Rub the soup through a strainer, return to the fire, season with salt and pepper. Beat the yolks of the eggs well, add the cream to them and stir into the soup. Cook three minutes, stirring constantly. If you have no cream, use milk, in which case add a tablespoonful of butter at the same time. Pour over fried croutons in a soup tureen.
This recipe is rather straightforward, given that it's about 50 years newer than some of my other sources; therefore there's not much that needs changing, and merely a few tweaks to make.

For my version, I am doing the following:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Few Questions For You

Hello, Readers!

I've just gotten done with a long day of buffet service, which went very well and included some absolutely delightful dishes (smoked pork butt, braised pork belly, roasted potato salad, smoked turkey breasts and pork loins, all sorts of good stuff.) I've been quite busy with that and some other things this week, and haven't been able to get out all the things I wanted to. However! Tomorrow sees a soup of some type being made, I have several on the docket to choose from and I like to keep things a little spontaneous. I'm aiming to make some beef stock this weekend for a future project, and that might merit being recorded here as a fun little project. If I have time I'll also do another soup or two over the weekend. I'm sure I can find someone to eat all of it.

As promised by the title, however, some questions for you, dear readers.

First: I see by the statistics for this blog that a good portion of you are from Not The United States, a wonderful panoply of Places That I Would One Day Like To Visit. I am, by habit, using the US system of measurement, (cups, teaspoons, etc.) but am familiar enough with Metric that I could offer conversions of my recipes if they were so desired. Would you all be amenable to that?

Second, and more interactively: What are your favorite soups? Do you like them creamy or chunky? Thick or brothy? I eagerly await your input.

A soup for you tomorrow. I promise. Something more interesting this time, I think.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wine of Note: Grüner Veltliner

Graf Georg von Ziger, my principal Steampunk Persona, is Austrian. This is in homage to my maternal grandparents, both of whom grew up in Vienna, Austria, and lived there until they were forced out during the Holocaust. In honor of his (and their) nationality, I would like to bring a wine to your attention.

Grüner Veltliner is the most popular grape in Austria. It creates a wine that is full of "expressive fruit" character, with a "typical pepper and grapefruit note," according to the winemakers who create the particular bottle I'm going to recommend to you today.

Wolfgang Grüner Veltliner is a delicious wine. I first had it about a month ago, and wasn't impressed. I'd already tasted several other wines that evening, all of them with much fuller flavors than this wine, which made it seem flat and boring by comparison.

I decided to give it a second chance, however, after having another sip at the end of that evening and being more intrigued by it; further, after tasting Sauvignon Blancs, Muscadets, and Chardonnays back-to-back, I had a better appreciation for the subtleties of white wine; with that knowledge now in place, this wine does not disappoint. It's similar, I would say, to a Sauvignon blanc, in that it has a lightly fruity flavor with a crispness about it that makes it very easy to drink. It's not like a Chardonnay, packed full of flavors; it's more delicate, more subtle, and more refined.

It's a wonderful wine, and what's more, it's only $11.99 for a bottle here in Michigan. Look for it, Aaron recommends it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smoked Turkey Vegetable Soup with Rice

A soup in process...
For the month of November, I'm going to focus on soups. Winter approaches, and with it icy weather (not here, of course... today it's quite temperate out. My point remains!) Icy weather demands, of course, hot foods to warm your frozen body, a fireplace to warm your clothing, and a good book to warm your mind. My purview is the first; so today, I shall begin for you with a soup recipe.

Turkey is a seasonally-appropriate item for fall, especially with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away. Smoked turkey, however, is often available year-round, and once consumed you're usually left with carcasses...

Carcasses, fortunately, are notably useful in the kitchen. I saved up several from various sources (my father's office had a couple turkeys, and he was kind enough to give me the bones) and made a smoked turkey stock from them which has been living in my freezer for the last little while.

Therefore, I present to you, Smoked Turkey Vegetable Soup with Rice

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I'm not going to lie—I know a lot of you know how to cook already, and that's wonderful. It's my aim to address you and the kitchen neophytes with equal accessibility, and to that end, I'd like to talk about a few kitchen essentials before I plunge into making posts about food.

Equipment that I cannot survive without in the Kitchen:

A Good Knife. I use a French Knife, which you might know as a generic chef's knife. You might prefer a santoku-style blade—they're good too, and several of my colleagues swear by them, but I like the curve and line of a French Knife better, for myself. I keep it very sharp by taking it to a sharpening stone once or twice a month, sometimes more often if I've been working with a lot of tough items, bones, or the like. Every time I use it—before and after—I take it to a honing steel. When a knife does at least 75% of your cutting, you want to take good care of it. Other knives of note, especially for some things I'm going to do in the future here: A flexible boning knife and a cimeter (pronounced scimitar, like the sword.) These are essential for fabricating meat and poultry, which I think is a lot of fun. A paring knife is, in my opinion, the least-important-but-still-essential knife. I have big hands, I can use an 8" french knife for most of my fine work—but sometimes you need to cut a small item and do it finely, and so I'll get out a paring knife to do it. They're also great utility knives in the kitchen, for when you need to cut open a plastic bag, peel an onion, make a strawberry fan... whatever. Most of the people I've worked with set out three things when they get ready in the morning: A chef's knife, a paring knife, and a peeler. With those, 99% of the work gets done.

Top-Bottom: Cimeter, Boning Knife, Paring Knife, French Knife.

Good Cookware. I like heavy-bottomed stainless steel pots. Heavy-bottomed is the important part, honestly. The lighter your cookware, the thinner the material, and the more likely it is to warp and become unbalanced on your cooktop—and when that happens, you're going to lose some food eventually. It'll probably happen during your biggest dinner party ever, and you'll hate yourself and everyone in the world. I speak from experience on this.

You'll particularly want to have:
  • A stockpot, somewhere around 8 quarts. I have a 16-quart, because I like making large quantities of soups and stews and stocks, but I most commonly use my 8-quart pots for everyday cooking.
  • A sauté pan with curved sides (called a sauteuse,) between 8-12" in diameter. I have cooked with 10" sauté pans for a long time, and they're comfortable for me. They move easily (they're not too big) and they hold enough food to prepare one or two portions at a time (they're not too small.)
  • A sauté pan with high, straight sides (called a sautoir,) of a larger size—I have a 14" one that makes a lot of my pasta sauces, sautéed vegetables, and pretty much anything I need to make in large quantity.
  • A saucepan of 2-4 quart capacity. You never realize how many things you need to heat up, or blanch, and so on.
  • A roasting pan. There's many varieties, the main similarity being high sides. Get one that you can fit in your oven, move around well, and clean in your sink—those are the main concerns here, honestly.
    For many of the recipes here, you'll be good with those few things. For others, I'll refer to a lot of different pieces of equipment, and when I do I'll try to make a good explanation of them.

    Things I like to have in the kitchen food-wise include:

    Salt. When a recipe says "Season" it means use salt, even if salt wasn't called for in the recipe. Salt brings out flavors, makes things taste richer and more like themselves, and serves many other functions in the kitchen, too. Sprinkled on a floor, it can help to clear out an oil slick by breaking down the oil more quickly. Packed around a sausage casing, it keeps it from going bad. Salt is used in pickling brines and meat brines. It's even used to help scrub cast-iron pots and pans clean. Get a big box of kosher salt, and marvel at how quickly you'll use it.

    Olive oil and Butter. Between these two fats, I can cook anything and have it taste good. Butter is essential for roux, and for getting good color on sautéed foods. Olive oil makes many dishes richer and gives more flavor notes, it's great in salad dressing, and I personally love to take a spoonful of it straight now and then.

    Shallots. Anthony Bourdain talks about shallots in his book Kitchen Confidential, saying "Shallots are one of the things—a basic prep item in every mise-en-place—which make restaurant food taste different from your food," and I agree with him. Shallots seem inconsequential, but they add another layer of flavor to sauces, they give a je ne sais quoi to sautéed items, and they're really nice in salad dressings too. These go along with, not in substitution for, onions and garlic. Get different varieties and explore.

    Tea. Stereotypical Steampunk, right? I love tea, it's an incredible beverage and the varieties available are mind-boggling—it's also edible. A friend likes to snack on dry tea leaves from time to time. I haven't quite gotten to that point, but I do like to cook with tea. From infusing rice to making Earl Gray Shortbread, tea has many uses in the kitchen beyond stimulating the cook. I'll address some specific teas and their uses as the blog continues.

    Stock, also known colloquially as broth even though they're different, speaking in a pedantic sense. (Stock is made primarily from bones, while broth is the result of cooking meat that will later be eaten.) Making your own stock is simple and cheap, and rewarding. Chicken stock and beef stock will be your most frequently-used types (unless you're vegetarian.)

    What, then, can one use to make the cooking more steampunk? It comes down to an understanding of the nature of Steampunk cookery. Some ideas that I'll be exploring:

    Pressure Cookers. A boiler uses pressurized steam to move the pistons and wheels, and create mechanical energy. Why not cook with pressure?

    Smokers. Smoke is an essential part of the Steampunk world. Why not use smoke to cook?

    Steaming. Steamed vegetables are old hat. Chinese cooking has long used steamers to cook food, from filled dumplings and buns to vegetables. Steaming is an excellent way to cook food, it preserves a lot of the nutrients that are in vegetables, and can keep food delicate through a long period of time.

    So, with all that said... enjoy. Friday should hold a recipe for all of you to enjoy.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    A Beginning

    Good evening. I have started this humble blog for several reasons:

    First, to write about food in an accessible, enjoyable manner—after all, what good is a chef who can't tell you a thing about food, or who is so confusing in their speech that all you understand is that you're about to eat something?

    Second, to encourage the creativity of my fellow steampunks. We are, after all, an intensely creative community of people; why should this creative energy be applied only to literary and presentational pursuits? That is to say, we can and should do so much more than write stories and make costumes. Creativity in the kitchen is just like creativity elsewhere—it is a skill to be honed, to be practiced, and most importantly, to be shared.

    Third, to encourage my own creative process—"steampunk food" is a nebulous concept (to be fair, steampunk itself is somewhat nebulous,) and I want to force myself to think within my own constraints and develop delightful foods to flesh out my enjoyment of the steampunk world.

    I suppose there's a fourth, and necessarily more general, goal—I like to have fun, and this seems an awfully fun way to approach food. After all, if hundreds of other food bloggers are doing it, it's got to have some merit.

    Von Ziger, Battle Dress with Flag
    Photo by Robert Egan
    A little more about me, then.

    I am Aaron, also sometimes known as other things, but for now Aaron shall suffice. I am many things in life, and for the purposes of an introduction, I shall tell you some of them: I am a cook training to become a chef, I am an historian, I am a tailor, I am a steampunk enthusiast, I am busy, and I love to eat food of many varieties. In the time I am able to take away from cooking and studying about cooking, I am involved in the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron, a performance and educational group specializing in steampunk—you might encounter me as Graf Georg von Ziger (or a host of other characters) at cons such as the World Steam Expo. I also work behind-the-scenes assisting my good friend Miss Kagashi in her monumental task of running the group. It's good fun. Miss Kagashi also runs a blog called The Steamer's Trunk, which I think you'll enjoy.

    As a cook and a steampunk, I find it interesting to explore the intersection of those two pastimes—so, onward!