Drop by the Steampunk Cookery website.

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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

15-Hour Red Wine Brisket

Beef en Filo with Onion-Leek Marmalade and Chive Garnish.
Sometimes, one cooks with almost no time. In a restaurant, for example, the goal is to reduce any given item to about 10 or 15 minutes total of preparation from "hey, we need a ______" to it going out to the diner. This means that some things are partly finished in advance, destined for a sort of reheating (for example, pasta is often cooked just short of al dente, then re-boiled to finish cooking at service.) Other times, you have a couple hours, like cooking a family dinner. Finally, one can periodically cook with all the time in the world—that is the sort of situation that spawned this dish.

This began rather harmlessly as a variant on the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that I've made before; in this case, I didn't marinate the beef, nor did I include a lot of aromatic herbs with the braising liquid. Instead, I opted for a somewhat simple, rather old-fashioned approach. I simply placed all the ingredients in a large pan, covered it, and braised it in the oven until it was tender.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Polastrello in Padella

There's a truth about being a chef. It's a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless: The minute you get through culinary school, you stop relying so heavily on recipes; this is also the time that you will be given the most cook books.

Nowadays, I tend to use my modern-era cookbooks as a source of inspiration, rather than a direct recipe source. I can flip through a cookbook full of soups, spot an idea that I like, and adapt it to suit my needs, tastes, or supplies on hand. Tomato soup becomes roasted tomato soup becomes tomato-basil bisque becomes tomato, chicken, and rice soup. It's easy to rewrite a recipe if you know what you're doing, and it's easy to write a recipe from scratch.

Yet, there are some books that I will cook from verbatim, whose recipes I will memorize and cook over and over again, because they are so good. La Tavola Italiana, by Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow, is one such book, and their recipe for Polastrello in Padella (Braised Chicken) is simply divine. It's simple, flavorful, and delicious.

Earlier this year, we purchased several chickens from Melo Farms. They were large chickens (between 4 and 5 pounds) and were definitely older—their bones were bigger, and their joints harder to butcher when I was working with them. We roasted one plain, and determined that the meat was just a bit too tough to work well with fast, hot cooking. Moist heat, as I've mentioned before, works well for tough meats, helping to break down the muscle tissues without losing the moisture that makes it palatable.

Polastrello in Padella is a recipe that works equally well with your average supermarket chicken and an old bird like we had.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mushroom Beef Barley Soup

Shortly before Serving
For New Year's Eve some of my culinarily-inclined friends and I got together and decided to do something ambitious: 7 courses of dinner, 12 bottles of wine, and (ideally) 10 or so people. Well, the 10 people didn't show up (we ended up with 7) and only 2 people made it to the main course. I myself passed out after the champagne toasts and chicken course (which was only the 3rd course.)

Jenny, the mushroomian
We opened with an amuse-bouche of lentils with a bacon vinaigrette, and our poultry course was roast cornish game hens... these were followed by a salad (which we called "Graecia Capta"—"Captured Greece" in Latin—a hybrid of a caesar and a greek salad,) the main course of a roasted pork loin, chocolates, and fruit and cheese. As far as I know nobody made it to the chocolates before heading home or turning in for the night.

The soup for the night, falling between amuse-bouche and poultry, was a Beef Mushroom Barley soup, which I carefully crafted a couple days before. When I was cooking it, I had in mind my very dear friend Jenny, who likes beef, mushrooms, and heat—thus the addition of a dried hot pepper to the fortification of the soup's broth. She thoroughly approved of the soup (as did the assembled masses.) Therefore, I present to you, a recipe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Postmortem: Murder Mystery Wassail

The Spice Rack (L-R)
Tarragon, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage
Peppercorn, Thyme
All told, the dinner was a success. I was able to get the vast majority of the items prepped in advance, so that little was left to the vagaries of the location's lack of cooking space—however, the one item that could not be prepared in this manner (the Cornish Hens) were, of course, the problematic one. They went from being the first meat course to being the main course, due to spending far longer being cooked than I had anticipated.

Everything ran slower than I'd intended, as well. This was due, partially, to the Cornish Hen issues, but also lay at the feet of some guests being late, the murder mystery show and the servers being (more or less) unable to occupy the spaces between tables at the same time, and not having quite enough staff to efficiently plate one course whilst clearing another. This is not to say that the waitstaff was at all insufficient—I had the easiest time with this dinner because I was able to focus more, and did not have to run around serving, clearing, doing dishes, and cooking all at once.

Tarragon, the Butler, was ably assisted by the twins Rosemary and Sage, and Thyme, the fellow with the bell. Peppercorn was my point man for the Cornish Hens, and Jason (whose nickname has yet to be determined) was an
The Steampunk Chef, and Sous Chef Jason
excellent sous chef, in charge of quenelles, cornish hen fabrication, and piping whipped cream, as well as generally keeping me a sane man.

Apparently, my timing ended up satisfying the guests, who were quoted to me as saying that the slower pace of the food meant that they had time to watch the show, talk, and generally feel that they were not being rushed through the evening. I find that to be a success out of what I would have otherwise considered a failure.

The menu ended up being shifted around, as I said, and finished thus:

Open-Face Tea Sandwiches
Dill Cream Cheese, Cucumber, Hard-Boiled Egg

Winter Squash and Chicken Quenelle

Winter Salad
Greens, Green Onion, Celery, Radish, Hard-Boiled Egg, Beet, Dressing

Braised Beef en Filo
Onion-Leek-Garlic Compote

Roast Cornish Hen, Lemon Cream Sauce
Glazed Carrot, Rice

Assorted Fruit and Cheese

It was a lot of food, to be sure, but most every plate came back clean... Recipes forthcoming.

Photos here by Lance, aka Tarragon, aka Blue Dragon Media, LLC.