Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pizza and Beer (#1168) - A Classic Combo

As you may have read here, I'm lookin' to be the pizza man now.  With cookbooks, stones, ingredients and a complete lack of understanding of  what I'm actually doing, last night was the first official Homemade Pizza Night. Garlic and Mushroom Pizza was on the menu.

Admittedly, the first batch of dough ended up in the garbage. Really.  The moral to that one is simply to read the directions. If the directions on the yeast packet and directions for the dough in the book are not for the same volume, you will  have trouble if you don't re-adjust things.  Trust me.

Adjusting for adjustments, the dough came together the second time.  Before long, the kneading was done and it was in the bowl so it could rise.  I was still quite a bit unsure about what I had created, as it just didn't seem right. Mind you, I had NO IDEA what right is as I have never made dough before.  

Yeasts, those  awesome little fungi that gobble up sugar and fart carbon dioxide, really do quite a job.  After an hour in the warm bowl, the dough had doubled in size. Reports that I had this much excitement about the living yeasts are over-exaggerated, but it was still neat to know that a microbe was gonna help me make a pizza. Biochemistry is sooooo cool.

Before long, parsley, cheese, garlic, bread crumbs and butter where stuffed into portobello mushroom caps.   Before slipping it into the oven, here is what we were lookin' at....

Twenty minutes at 450 degrees on the stone brought me to this....

Getting it in and out of the oven was a snap with the pizza peel.  While I could not shoot it into the oven like a professional, it worked well.  If you try it, be sure to use a dash of corn meal on the pizza bottom and peel to make it slide easily.  

After getting it out the oven (and snapping the silly photo), I realized the pizza....my precious little pizza that I cared for and nurtured for hours....was ill.....

Now, you might think "Oh, I get it! It has a yeast infection!"  (ba-dum-dum). No.  Far worse.  It was more like...

Sure, the crust was a bit thicker than expected (like half an inch thick), but something went awry and parts of the crust were nearly 2 inches thick.  That is a damn thick pizza. 

So, as I sit here and type this, I still have NO IDEA what I did wrong.  The cookbook suggests that you mix the dough, let it rise, deflate it and let is "rest".  I did not do that as most dough recipes make no reference to letting it sit twice.  (I did, however, find a recipe where a fellow puts his in the fridge for the night....)   Maybe I didn't flatten it out enough when I shaped the pizza in the first place.  Who knows.

I do know by the time the pizza was ready to be processed as leftovers and bagged for the fridge, I was using the pizza wheel to cut entire chunks of crust off.  I felt like the surgeons you sometimes see on those medical shows carving chunks of tumors off of stricken patients....

All my whining aside, I WILL make this recipe again. It was delicious.  That said, I will not stuff the mushrooms.  It was a bit too hard to eat, as you might imagine.  You get a mouthful of mushroom...or not.  Next time, the 'shrooms will be chopped and spread around while the bread crumb mixture simply sprinkled (which I did anyway).  It'll be fine, I'm sure.

Speaking of fine, one can't experiment with a new, wild recipe without trying a new wild beer, right?  Ruthless Rye (#1168) from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company was a perfect match!  Red to the eye and with a crisp, peppery aroma (apparently from the rye), the hop character on the tongue and finish went hand in hand with earthiness of the mushrooms on the pizza. 4 out of 5!

So there you have it.  A excellent meal, in my humble opinion.  Perfect? No.  Did I gain valuable experience in the art of pizza making?  Yes.  Did I pair the pizza (a pizza I never previously had, mind you) with a fitting beer. Hell yes.  

My culinary skills are expanding, people.  My pizza doughs just "knead" a little work.....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Another Hedwig

By now, you have to be aware of the invasion of Snowy Owls that has captured the attention of birders, non-birders,and Harry Potter fans alike. Big, white, and beautiful, they have invaded the Lower 48 in numbers not seen in decades.  

Suggesting once again a telepathic link between bird and man might exist, my buddy Don found yet another one.   Just outside of South Rockwood in extreme northern Monroe County, this gem was sitting casually in a farm field.  You can see it on the ground on the right side of the photo.

This view shows it a bit better!  (Click the pic for a better look.)

I think it is neat to note that this bird was on the leeward side of the weed tuft.  The wind was whippin' a bit Saturday night.  No, it is not much of a wind break, but every bit helps!  I don't think it was coincidence that it was sitting there.

There is really no telling which bird this is.  A bird has been present inside Pointe Mouillee State Game Area for a few weeks now.  It is completely possible this is the same bird out for an afternoon hunt (its last known location is a mere three miles away).  It is also completely possible this is the bird that was noted hanging out around Metro Airport.  Or maybe it was one of the four that was hanging out near the Clinton River mouth a few weeks back. Maybe it is the one from Lincoln Park in December.  Hell. The way this season has gone, it could easily be a "new bird".  

In any case, new or old, they're captivating, aren't that? 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

An Egyptian Curse? #1166

It is good to be among the living again.  Maybe it was the Curse.  It had to be...

After successfully painting my kitchen, I shot out  to the Oak Cafe for drinks.  With a stellar amount of world beers, the choices were numerous.

Ta Henket, from Dogfish Head was available  The beer is an amazing mix of brewing dedication, story-telling, creativity, and fun. 

As I understand it, the brewers from Dogfish took a field trip to Egypt.  Using actual hieroglyphics detailing primitive beer recipes, ingredients were a mix of ancient tastes combined with modern adjustments.  Chamomile and daum fruits were key (for the record, I have never heard of a daumfruit until drinking this beer).  

Yeasts were wild-caught using baited petri-dishes.  Simply left open to the air, the dishes collected all sorts of Cairo crap.  Fancy labs separated the wild, free-floating yeasts from dirt, pollution, insects and other nasties that would surely curse a beer.

A pale yellow or gold color, the head was functionally gone when we got it.  The aroma was absolutely like nothing I have ever had.; the floral and citrus notes were quite powerful.  Bread tones were quite strong too (I guess you would expect that based on the origins of the recipe).  It was quite smooth with an ever-so slight bite of carbonation.  Hops?  Forget it.  None detected.  You might be describe it as drinking liquid bread and flowers. 

All that said, I can't knock it.  Tremendous efforts went into making this beer.  It just just wasn't very "beery".   3 out of 5.

Shortly after the sampling, and my "average at best" review despite the brewer's impressive efforts, that peculiar little tickle appeared in my throat.  Looking back on it, I guess it was pretty silly to think it was just an irritation from paint fumes (after all, I  had just painted my kitchen).  By breakfast, symptoms were full-blown.

I'm sure you know 'em all. We've all been there.  Scratchy throat.  Sinuses full of snot.  Cough.  Brain cases slowing expanding from internal pressure.  Hot one minute only to be cold the next.  It all blows. 

Knowing more or less what was happening, I blundered on to WebMD.com and found myself reading the horrifying truth. 

I had Dengue Fever.   

No, wait. That couldn't be right.  While transmitted by mosquitoes, it is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, not Egypt (at least not often).  Boy, I guess you can't trust everything you see on the Internet.  

The symptoms are vague enough that they could be from a lot of ailments.  Legionnaires Disease?  Encephalitis?  I'm sure it was just the the good old-fashioned flu...minus the puking.  Thank goodness.  I did enough of that in college.

Ya know, books are full of stories about people dying after plundering tombs of the Pharaohs.  There was even the fellow who got bit by a mosquito, hacked open the ouchy while shaving, and soon died from infection.  The Pharaohs curse?

So, lets see if this all makes sense. The beer loosely based on an old Egyptian recipe was only so-so ('cause I said so). Offended, the Gods from a now dead culture cursed me. That has to be it.

No, no, no.  I just got a case of the icks.  The beer had nothing to do with it.  Rest assured, your intrepid beer consultant will continue to keep you posted on brews of the world.  Diseases and curses be damned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Calculating Visitor

This winter has been a joke so far.  What little snow we had is now gone.  Temps have been in the high 40s and even 50+ range a few times since mid-December.  I swear I am waiting for someone to fire up a lawn mower or leaf blower.

Despite the lack of winter, some birds simply are going to do what they do. When their brain says "Migrate!", off they go, even if the destination is feeling more like Tennessee vs Michigan. 

Hiking a bit and cruising roads looking for anything good while just enjoying the day, it was nice to spy this Rough-legged Hawk.    

We saw it when it floated down to a telephone pole.   After a moment or two, he/she (I'm not sure which) went on its merry way. After crashing down on a vole, it finally landed on this pole for a fine look.  If you look close, you can even see the gore on the toes, throat, and chin.  Such sloppy eaters. 

Not only did the it snag that vole with little effort, but I found it amazing that it could automatically calculate the most awkward flight path as it relates to me and my camera. I swear the bird's brain could input sun angle, obstructions (powerlines, etc.), and the make of my car (with the lack of sunroof) into the perfect course for photo impossibilities. Oh, hell no, it couldn't land on a stump outside the car door. Nope.  I had to make due with the majestic and awe-inspiring........power pole.....

Whining aside, this breeder of the far north will likely find the chilly temps and winds that rolled into town today a bit familiar.   With seasonally expected temps now in the region (minus the snow), perhaps this gem will feel more at home.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They Said What?

Ya gotta get the news. You have to do it. Read it. Listen to it. Watch it.  It is a must.  

Sadly, every once in a while, their word choice is just awful.

Take what happened a few days ago...

On a local expressway, a fellow faked a flat tire.  It apparently gave him a chance to pull over and get out.  With cars zipping by at light speed, he walked into the lane and went prone.  Multiple cars struck him and he was literally spread all over the expressway. They closed it down for hours trying to do the required investigation. They later ruled it a suicide.

That morning, with a major expressway shut down and traffic getting worse by the second, the guy reporting from the helicopter reports.....

"....Traffic along 696 is shut down while the police try to piece together (emphasis mine) what happened this morning...."

I was shocked. "Piece together"? Yes, folks, they really said it.

So, tonight?  Ohhhh,  they did again!

Apparently, there is a story of a woman involved in a fight with a guy.  During the ensuing melee, he bites her nose off.  She calls the police and then makes her way to the hospital so surgeons can work on her face.  Quoting the news anchor...
"...Surgeons could not re-attach her nose because no one.........knows where it is......"

Who writes this?  Knows! Nose! Get it?! The pause was there! IT WAS THERE! HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS SAYING!  I couldn't believe it!  Am I the only one who sees this?

Couldn't they have said "Her nose could not be reattached as it couldn't be located..." or "Her nose can't be located, thus surgeons could not reattach it...."

I can only shudder at the thought of what they say during the next outrageous story.  

If the two stories weren't so serious, you almost might chuckle. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ahhhhh....Spring Birding

Ahhhh, birding in April. Er, I mean January. The photo is of my car's dashboard. We WILL pay for this.

- Correcting a post using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Board And The Stone

A boy-king lived a long time ago,
In a stone, he found a sword, to smite his foe.
Not just any sword, mind you, it had a grand name,
It was called, "Excalibur", it was legend and fame.

Arthur was the boy, but the king of the land,
Ruled it he did, with the sword in his hand.
A gentle ruler he was, but strong, when needed,
His friend was Merlin, whose advice he heeded.

For years he ruled, with a sword from a stone,
The stories go on, tome after tome.
They travel generations,  with magic and lure,
But was he real? We don't know.  We can't be sure.

This part I know, I know to be true,
Tonight, I traveled yonder, in my steed of paint blue.
To Target and to Kohl's, I searched high and low,
Finally, Bed, Bath and Beyond, I had to go.

To the kitchen section I went, were gadgets abound,
On the walls and the shelves, displays all around.
I found my "sword" on the rack, what a deal,
Ladies and gentleman, I have a pizza peel.

Unlike Arthur's legends with swords in a stone
My story is different, my other skills I hone.
I dont smite the enemy, or from his horse make him fall,
I will add toppings to a pizza, to the joy of them all.

In the oven the stone goes, a uniform cook it will be,
At 450 degrees, the heat spreads evenly.
My wooden sword (the peel), takes pizza from the stone, 
Cheeses and meats, their aromas will fill my home.

In hundreds of years, no one will know my name,
Arthur I am not, no lasting legends, no fame.
but pizzas will be here, this place, my home,
You read it here first, The Legend of The Board and The Stone

Monday, January 2, 2012

#1,151 - Enormously Good

After getting a bit stir crazy these past few days, I thought I would head on our for a drink.

Fort Street Brewery released three beers on New Years Eve. I had two of them but I wanted to get the third
one before it was gone.

By my thinking, it should have been gone in seconds...

Barrelnornous (#1,151) is the Beernormous aged in a bourbon barrel. If you like that sort of thing, you will LOVE this stuff.

Smooth. Creamy. Bourbon notes from beginning to end. Damn good. Five out of five for sure.

Of course, at 9.5% alcohol, I thought bringing a book to the brewery was a good idea. I might be here for a bit.

A book at a brewery I'm such a dork.....