KingMidget's Ramblings

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Category Archives: Food

A Return to King Midget’s Kitchen

Years ago, I tried to make corn tortillas.  Queen Midget bought me a tortilla press and everything.  I failed miserably.  I couldn’t get the tortillas to come off the plastic in any form that resembled a tortilla.  Ever since, I’ve stuck with flour tortillas.  I think I make a damn good flour tortilla.  Which is good since I’ve always preferred flour to corn when it comes to the ol’ tortilla.

But, then I discovered street tacos.  Simple corn tortillas with meat, onions, cilantro and a dab of salsa.  And, depending on where you are, maybe a little guacamole.  Today, it was time to try corn tortillas again.  Really is there anything simpler than some masa harina and water?

Here’s the end result … again taking a cue from the Round Corner.

And, yes, my set up for my pictures is incredible.  A place mat, a napkin.  Randomly set up for a quick picture.  The reason is simple.  My family thinks I’m weird for taking pictures of my food.  As a result, I scurry around to get it done quickly so I don’t have to deal with their scorn.

The tacos though were this.  Home made tortillas, grilled with cheddar cheese.   Carne asada.  Salsa with tomatoes from the garden.  Guacamole.  Onions.  Cilantro.  The tortillas?  Worked much better than my last effort.  I will definitely be doing this more often.

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Best Damn Tacos … EVER!!!

A little Round Corner, a little street taco, a little bit of my own thing.  I rubbed some skirt steak with some “hot” pre-packaged taco seasoning, grilled it for  a few minutes, then chopped it up, and sauteed it in some butter and some more of that seasoning.  Then I warmed some corn tortillas, again in a little bit of butter — to the point of having a little bit of crisp, but no so much that I couldn’t fold the tortilla.  In the last minute or so, I put some cheese on the tortilla to allow it to melt.  Topped with the meet, onions, jalapeno, cilantro, and some green salsa.  Can’t imagine a better taco.

Always Looking for Something New

I have my favorites.  Those things I can make almost with my eyes closed.  But, where’s the fun in that.  I enjoy making new things.  I never want to get stuck in a cooking rut.  Tonight, I made pizza … OK, that’s a rut, but I’m trying to push the edges of the envelope on that as well.  More on that later.

Tonight, I added to the mix …

 

Grilled Romaine Hearts.  A little bit of olive oil, a little red or white win vinegar, some fresh herbs, a little salt and pepper.  Whisk together and brush the romaine.  Grill for a minute a side until it gets just a little bit charred.

Was it good?  Eh.  It was something different, and that’s the thing that counts.

As for the pizza, thanks to Guest Blogger, rather than cracking an egg in the middle, I scrambled it and the spread over the pizza before baking.  A much better alternative.  And, no picture.

 

A Trip Down Memory Lane

When I was a kid we went to Straw Hat for pizza.  It was where we went for what we called “report card treats.”  We didn’t get money or fancy cars or trips to Europe for our grades.  We got pizza.  Personally, I appreciate the idea.  As kids, our job was school.  We were supposed to do well, not for the rewards, but because that’s what you do at your job. My parents set few responsibilities for us.  In school, it was simple.  Get A’s and B’s and there was no need for a discussion.  Get a C and well, it was time for a talk.  My only C was in the 9th grade.  Convinced by the ease of math in middle school, I signed up for Advanced Algebra.  Got a C.  I remember my mom saying to me, “what happened to my kid who is so good at math?”  I had no answer.  Maybe that’s why I shunned the challenge of AP and other advanced courses for years after.  But enough about my educational filings, this is about memories.  And pizza.

Back then, we were a sausage pizza family.  Well, except for my dad.  Frequently, he got an anchovy pizza for himself.  Ask yourself this question … where can you find an anchovy pizza these days.  What I remember about Straw Hat was the cracker crust.  Thin and cracker crisp on the bottom, with dough bubbles popping up through the cheese.  Seriously, aren’t those dough bubbles one of the cool things about pizza?  At some point, watching my dad eat an entire anchovy pizza by himself, I set out to eat a pizza by myself.  I don’t remember when I did it, but there was a point when I ate a small sausage pizza at Straw Hat on my own.

Over the years, I’ve gone far afield in my pizza experience.  For years, I’ve avoided pizza sauce, first preferring olive oil and garlic, then pesto and, occasionally, roasted garlic.  Sausage hasn’t always been my topping of choice, either.  Recently, however, pizza sauce has made a return.  Probably because I realized how easy it is to make.  Get some tomato sauce and tomato paste, add some garlic and herbs and simmer for a couple of hours.

Today I made a sausage pizza for lunch.  I don’t know that I’ll ever duplicate the cracker crust of Straw Hat, but it had sauce and cheese and sausage.  And, it was good.

Friday Night Challah is back

This is one of those topics where I feel like I’ve covered some of this ground before.  If I have, my apologies.  Twenty-one years ago this August 4, I met the woman who would eventually become Queen Midget.  I’m not sure she knows that’s her title, by the way.  I’d point out in the contract where it states that she would forever be known as such, but she claims to never have seen the contract.  But I digress.

Queen Midget is Jewish.  Shortly after we met I participated in my first round of Jewish holidays.  The gefilte fish (blech!!!), the chopped liver (sort of blech, but at least manageable), and the challah.  Back then, I was a novice breadmaker.  Cinnamon rolls, basic french bread, and a few other things.  I tried the challah and decided I ought to try to make some.  For a long time after that, I provided the challah for most of the family events.

Fast forward a dozen years or so and I made the challah for my oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.  And for all of my younger son’s closest friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  People began to tell me I should make the challah for the synagogue’s Friday and Saturday services, but I begged off, unsure if I wanted to devote the time to it.  Unsure as well if my challah was really that good.

The youngest Princely Midget had the last Bar Mitzvah among the family friends just about a year and a half ago.  For those who don’t know, there’s a Friday service and a Saturday service involved.  The Friday service is kind of the preliminary thing, while the Saturday service is where the kiddo leads the service, delivers the sermon, reads from the Torah and makes his or her mark.  My challah was always for the Saturday service, a large loaf about two feet in length.  I never provided the challah for the Friday service.  So, I tried the store bought challah at the Friday service of my son’s Bar Mitzvah …

Oh, wait, I forgot something.  The challah is prayed over or blessed or something like that at the very end of the service, after which everybody who wants grabs a chunk of the bread.

… back to that Friday service.  I tried the store bought challah.  Actually, it’s made by a local bakery.  And, you know what?  It tasted like nothing more than white bread braided and covered with an egg wash to look like challah.  I tasted that challah that night and decided to listen to all who encouraged me to make the challah for the synagogue — a noble exercise being the non-Jew that I am.  Clearly, the bakery did not put the quality ingredients I put into mine — eggs, honey, vegetable oil to produce a memorable challah.  It was just white bread masquerading as challah!!!  I contacted the synagogue administrator the next week and thus began my Friday evening mental health break.

I make the challah for a few months.  I take a month off.  I make it again for a few months.  Take a month off.  Friday evenings, I get out of work and spend a couple of hours in the synagogue kitchen making the two or three or four loaves they need for the week’s services.  I make sure I have my music, frequently I ensure there are a couple of cold beers available for consumption, and I have my reading material for the rising periods.  This past year I’ve also made loaves for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs when requested to do so.  This isn’t entirely a charitable event.  I charge per loaf what the bakery charges, but my loaf is better, bigger, tastier.

After taking the month of June off, I was back at it tonight.  Three loaves, plus a couple of experiments as explained below.

People ask me why I do it … it’s that mental health thing.  Most Fridays, I’m alone there, just making the challah and doing my thing.  The last few months more and more members of the synagogue have learned who I am and have lauded my challah.  So, I make challah — it’s good for my soul and it’s good for my ego.  It’s a nice little moment between the workweek and the weekend.

Tonight, as I wrapped things up, the cantor came in.  I offered her one of the extras.  She told me how, during services now, people watch to see when the cover from the challah comes off to see if it’s mine and that there’s a discernible sigh of disappointment when they can tell it’s not mine.  Now, I find that hard to believe, but I’m going with it.  There isn’t a member of the synagogue who, when finding out that I’m the “challah-man” (maybe that should be the name for my next blog!), doesn’t tell me how great it is and how much they appreciate that I make it.  So, there you go.  I make the best challah in the land.

One of the other “traditions” at the family synagogue is that the 10th graders go through Confirmation and then go on a five week trip to Eastern Europe and Israel.  It’s a huge undertaking and expensive.  For a year, the kids and their families do what they can to raise money.  This year, I’ve decided to contribute my challah making as a Rosh Hoshanah fundraiser for the Confirmation class, of which my youngest is a part this year.  While challah throughout the year is a long loaf, for Rosh Hoshanah, the loaf is made round.  The circle symbolizes a number of different things depending on what you want to believe — the circle of life, the cycle of the year that both ends and begins with the New Year, which is what Rosh Hoshanah is, or pick your circular symbolism.

I have no idea how many people will want to purchase a loaf of mine for their personal Rosh Hoshanah celebration, but I’ve got to be ready.  The synagogue kitchen has two large regular ovens as well as two large convection ovens.  I have not used the convection ovens for my challah yet, but if there is enough demand for Rosh Hoshanah, I’ll have no choice.  On my own, using their two large conventional ovens, I can make about 20-25 loaves in four hours.  If I get orders for more than 50 or so loaves, I’m going to need those convection ovens.  So, tonight, I gave it a try.  Here’s the end result.

I think the convection oven worked.  It’s on to mass production.

And for all my local readers.  You want a loaf of challah — $5, with all proceeds going towards the B’Nai Israel Confirmation Class of 2012-13.  You know where to get a-hold of me.

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