What We Heard in May

5 weeks of playlists below, including everything I played on Beef Jerky Time in the merry month of May, 2010. Some favorites: Kissogram, Don Diablo, The Acorn, Treasure, We Have Band and Gayngs. Others seem very excited about new releases from Sleigh Bells & LCD Soundsystem, too.

Raqs Raqs Raqs Raqs: Kissogram
Garden Friends: Kissy Sellout
Friend of the Night: Teen Inc
Promises: The Morning Benders
Honey Trap: We Have Band
Superfast Jellyfish: Gorillaz
Living in America: Dom
F.X.N.C.: The Samps
All the Saints: Class Actress
In Ruins: Fol Chen
A More Perfect Union: Titus Andronicus
On Your Own: James Yuill
I Will Live on Islands: Josh Rouse
Gone at Last: Paul Simon & Phoebe Snow & the Jessy Dixon Singers
Buster Voodoo: Rodrigo & Gabriela

Good Evening: The Concretes
Real Love: Delorean
5 Rings: Keepaway
Faded High: Gayngs
Youth: Beach Fossils
The Cold World Melts: Soft Metals
Loxtep: Annuals
Take on Me (a-ha cover): A.C. Newman
You Didn't Love Me: Seinking Ships
A Million Miles: Don Diablo
Heat & Depression: Blank Dogs

Tell 'Em: Sleigh Bells
Weak for Me: Nite Jewel
Restoration: The Acorn
Get On, Me: The Brother Kite
Alley Cats: Hot Chip
The Devil's Crayon: Wild Beasts
Mexico: Common Loon
Talamak: Toro y Moi
Odessa: Caribou
Remembering Lena Horne:
Let the Little People Talk
Yesterday When I Was Young
A Lady Must Live
That's What Miracles Are All About

Love Will Tear Us Apart: Joy Division
Forget Me Not: Thieves Like Us
Bicycle: Memory Tapes
Westside!: Dillon Francis & DJ Ammo
O.N.E. (XXXChange remix): Yeasayer
Lina: Les Sins
Hustle (Bloc Party remix): Tunng
Holy Diver: Dio
Man on the Silver Mountain: Rainbow
Canada: Treasure
Lady Daydream: Twin Sister

Reel Around the Fountain: The Smiths
Forget Me Not: Thieves Like Us
Girls FM: Happy Birthday
Canada: Treasure
A Million Miles: Don Diablo
Honey Trap: We Have Band
Son of a Gun: The La's
Connected: Elastica
Sister Havana: Urge Overkill
Sissyneck: Beck
All My Friends: LCD Soundsystem
Youth: Beach Fossils
F.X.N.C.: The Samps

Saturday afternoon: Heel of the bread

Discovery: How to use up the end of a loaf of sourdough. Add nutella, coffee and a sunny afternoon.

My Chop Challenge

This month my self-appointed challenge was to make chop. This was a bold move because chop is a special childhood dish for my dining companion. It feels risky to mess with someone's childhood memories. If he doesn't like it, will memories of my bad chop start to taint his happier memories of chop as a kid? ("I used to love that stuff... until SHE made it!")

What is chop? Basically chopped kale (or whatever dark green you have), cooked a long, long time with a bit of meat, hot peppers and palm oil. The result is unbelievably rich and tender and savory and tasty.

The backstory is that chop comes from West Africa, which is where my dining companion's parents met. I have seen him and his siblings go crazy for it! Grammie S made a batch over the holidays and all 3 tore in, getting second and third helpings, and adding more hot peppers as they went. I did too, it's really delicious. They also discussed the recipe, and it did Not Sound So Hard.

  • some kind of meat: smoked pork hocks, leftover ham pieces, canned corned beef and/or Spam
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 pickled hot cherry peppers, Italian type
  • 1/2 cup of liquid from pepper jar
  • 1/2 cup palm oil or "palm cream"
  • 2 pounds of chopped frozen kale or other greens (I used frozen collards & turnip greens)
  • 1 small can chicken broth (or a bouillon cube and water, or just water)
  1. Put the meat in the crockpot. (I used smoked pork hocks.) Saute the onion and add to the hocks along with the chopped peppers and pepper liquid.

  2. Strew palm oil/cream about (it tends to be very gooey). Arrange chopped frozen greens on top of everything and turn crockpot on to low.
  3. After about half an hour, add a small can of chicken broth. (Or use a bouillon cube in water instead, or just water.) The idea is to make sure the hocks are mostly covered with liquid so they braise all day. Add more water if needed to cover.
  4. Cook until the hocks are falling apart. If you know how to eat pork hocks as is, then serve. Or, remove the hocks, take off the meat, and put it back into the crockpot. Discard rest of hocks.

  5. Falling apart, I picked off the meat.

  6. Serve over white rice with extra hot peppers on the side.


The result of my chop challenge was complete satisfaction. My dining companion was impressed! Thank you to Grammie S and Auntie A for sharing a special family recipe. According to them, you can also use mustard greens. You can also use fresh greens that are chopped fine. (You may need to add more liquid if so, since the frozen greens do contribute some juice.)

Grammie S also says a dash of ketchup is optional. Or really, you can add or tweak however you wish, since this is a highly adaptable recipe. I would say the only required elements are meat, greens, peppers and palm oil. DO NOT attempt this recipe without palm oil on hand. It is essential for the right flavor and mouthfeel.

I'd never heard of chop in any other context. I tried looking it up and found one entry from Congocookbook.com, which quotes Sir Richard Burton as saying "Palm-oil chop is the curry of the Western coast." Interesting how several of the quotes about chop seem to involve consuming it with alcohol.

Let me know if you give this a try or have had something like it!

Other challenges this year:
January: Banh Mi
February: Kouign Amann
March: Croque Monsieur
April: Sourdough bread

Rhubarb season once again

The rhubarb plant is up and happy and healthy. We just have the one plant, and every year I pretty much strip it to make a few rhubarb items. Here's a picture before I had my way with it:

So what to do with rhubarb? It's simple enough to just make rhubarb sauce by boiling small pieces with sugar and water. Excellent stirred into yogurt or over vanilla ice cream. But doing the simple thing is not always my way. I really wanted another Bebop-A-Rebop Rhubarb Pie like I made last year. It's Michael Ruhlman's "3-2-1" recipe and it's GOOD. (And I think he got the name from A Prairie Home Companion, which was the first thing that came up when I searched for the recipe.)

The pie turned out very well. Grammie S, who was visiting, said it was the best rhubarb pie she'd ever tasted! It was the flakiest and best pie crust I've ever made, though I don't know why. Maybe it was because I put in the full 5 ounces of ice-water, although it seemed rash at the time. The result was almost puff-pastry like, with lots of layers and loft.

I also made a batch of rhubarb tapioca, a depression-era USDA recipe courtesy of Recession Depression Therapy. I suspect that the organic tapioca I used was not quick-cooking, as required, since the little pearls never really became translucent when using the double-boiler method.

Rhubarb tapioca is... strange. It definitely has a depression-era austerity to it. And yet after a dish of this stuff, I strangely no longer craved my usual nightly bowl of chocolate ice cream.

One last note on rhubarb: As I was picking stems for the tapioca the words "pie plant" jumped into my head. It was something I'd read about in the Little House series. Something Ma used to bake with. I finally looked it up just before starting this post and learned that pie plant is none other than... rhubarb.

What are your favorite things to do with rhubarb?

Sweet on sourdough

The saga of the sourdough continues. So I tried my mother's "tried and true" recipe and it seemed to turn out fine. In fact, I gotta bake another loaf soon (and she loaned me her treasured French bread pans to use!). But I also wanted to try a sourdough with natural leavening--wild yeasts. I found a recipe in the Fields of Greens cookbook. As usual, it was very involved. The first step was really fun--get some organic raisins and soak them uncovered at room temperature for several days.

The result is supposed to be either a little moldy (one would scrape off the mold) or a little effervescent and bubbly. Mine went bubbly--it was so cool! If I shook the bowl a little bit, a herd of bubbles came pinging up between the swollen raisins. The idea is that the yeasts that naturally cling to grapeskins will start to multiply and feed off the sweet grape juice (you squeeze the raisins a bit beforehand to create this juice).

There were many more steps before I got to bake. I started soaking raisins on a Sunday, and a week after the following Thursday (that is, 11 days later), I was finally ready to bake. In the interim I followed various directions about draining off the yeasty raisin liquid, mixing it with flour and water, letting it sit at room temp and in the fridge, and other complicated things I didn't really understand.

Here's what happened the first time I put it in the fridge. Not sure why the starter was doughy, not runny. And looks like I chose a container that was too small, eh?

Days later I got to prep the sponge and it was supposed to rest covered with plastic for 12 hours. Here's how it looked when I got home. This yeast seems vigorous!

Finally baking day, my loaves are resting on a floured surface ready to rise.

And here's the result after baking. Look at those rustic holes in the crumb! The cookbook did have me spraying the loaf with water during the first 15 minutes of baking. I think this accounts for the dark crust.

I thought this was fairly successful for a first attempt at a naturally leavened sourdough. I guess this recipe was used at the famous Tassajara bakery in San Francisco, so they must know what they're doing with all the mixing, sitting, refrigerating, putting damp cloths on rising bread and so forth.

But I wanted to understand why I was supposed to do all these things. Enter my new favorite baking book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart.

I feel so lucky to have found this book on my first foray into reading about bread. It is exactly what I wanted. Reinhart has a good writing style. I'm reading this cover to cover because it's that interesting. He also has a great philosophy about baking, which is that he wants the reader to learn "spirit of the law" baking and not "letter of the law" baking. That is, don't just follow recipes by rote and don't just concentrate on the technical stuff. If you learn the crucial steps of bread baking, then you can riff and adapt them as you like, becoming a "romantic" baker rather than a technical one. I like that. (He also has tips for getting around the need for a banneton--for instance you can use an oiled bowl and an oiled cloth that has been floured. Frugality=awesome.)

I'm submitting this to YeastSpotting, an online weekly showcase of breads and yeast creations. Hooray for yeasts!

Banneton ad

Before yesterday I'd never heard of a "banneton" or a "brotform." I didn't know what a "peel" was either. That was before I started watching online videos about sourdough bread. Now I have a new obsession, and a wishlist to go with it.

I mentioned in my last post that I knew bread-making was complicated, and the more I'm learning the more overwhelmed I get. When I see a lot of numbers I get scared (like "166% hydration" or "bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes and mist with water every minute"). I am also not very scientifically inclined, as in matching 1 part this to 1 part that or considering "degassing" and starter acidity so forth. However, I do kind of understand how to brew beer, and that's a little science-y. So I have faith that if I stick with this sourdough thing, perhaps I can figure it out. I am only on loaf #2 after all.

Here are the two videos I'm obsessed with at the moment, from Northwest Sourdough. I love that of the 4 sourdough videos I've watched, 3 of them have the sounds of kids playing in the background. Learning breadmaking seems like an auspicious match for me as I learn to accept this middle, parenting part of my life. (Probably a little more appropriate than learning club DJing, though that would be awesome too.)

Based on these videos, here's my list of STUFF that would be fun to have for my new hobby. (Whenever I start a new hobby I exhibit gearhead tendencies and start amassing equipment. Witness my piles of sewing STUFF--I have a collar turner! And homebrewing stuff. And even a few items from a short-lived rug-hooking phase.)
  • Banneton (brotform)--proofing basket (form where you put the shaped loaf to rise before baking)
  • Lame--razor sharp knife for slashing the top of the bread just before baking
  • Oven stone--put in oven 45 minutes before baking to heat. The radiant heat from below helps the bread cook well.
  • Spray bottle--for misting bread during first part of baking to achieve a crisp, crunchy crust
  • Peel--like a pizza oven paddle, a flat board/paddle with handle used for placing bread on hot stone, and also for removing it once baked.
  • Wooden cutting board--attractive surface for cutting finished loaves
  • Kitchen scale--for measuring things by weight instead of volume. Helpful when your 1:1 ratio is in ounces, for example.