Drop by the Steampunk Cookery website.

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!