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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Did some cooking experiments this weekend. Was too lazy to take pictures of any of it, sadly.

I stir fried some sweet potatoes with fresh sage, butter, and olive oil, and was pretty pleased with the taste. The browned end product produced some amazing flavors, though the propensity for the sweet potatoes to sponge up as many sources of fat as you can throw at them makes this one a bit tough. Haven’t quite got the knack for it. My sous chef attempted playing with the recipe on a nonstick surface (I refuse to cook on such things), and experienced less grease soaking, but less delicious browning as well.

Also tried the same, but compressing into self-forming pancakes, as suggested by the author. This seemed to work at first, but the little bastards really didn’t want to hold together, and stuck like glue to a stainless pan, no matter the quantity of oil. Delicious, but not very pancake like. Need to figure out how to get this one working.

The final experiment in this vein was inspired by the same series of articles, using chili powder, tomato paste, onions, and grated sweet potato to make a topping (post-saute) for a pizza crust. This was pretty interesting, and to some degree a far healthier approach than the typical pizza.

So, this gets to the second round of experiments. Last week I did a no-knead sicilian style pizza crust that was delicious, though incredibly greasy (7T of olive oil in a jelly roll pan has to go somewhere).

This weekend I tried a different No-Knead pizza dough, cooking on my pizza stone after having the oven on broil for an hour.

The dough was nearly impossible to work with due to its high moisture content (no surprise there), but the final product had a crust as nuanced and tasty as any I’ve had from the professionals, though my stone/oven couldn’t deliver on the perfect texture and flavor of a well-seasoned coal/wood-fired oven. Naturally, this sort of cooking produced copious amounts of smoke from burned flour and corn meal, and I was reminded again of the inadequacy of the recirculating vent on my microwave pretending as some sort of actual evacuation hood. Oh, for a proper kitchen… Anyhow, if you want a low-effort crust that’s really hard to work with, I can’t argue with the results. Just make sure you have somebody talented to produce the crusts (that is, not me).

In addition to the sweet potato-topped variety, I spread fig preserves (jam type, not dry deli type), pancetta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano on one of the crusts and baked it until the jam started carmelizing (which was great on the pizza, not so great for the dollop that ended up on the pizza stone). The end product was amazing. Go, now, make one. Trust me.

The other big adventure was my first experience with the slow cooker. I made a Texas Chili (subscription required, sorry) from Cook’s Illustrated. It sucked. The flavors didn’t develop particularly well, and the meat was extremely dry and tough (though I may have procured the wrong cut of meat, to their credit). Simmering on the stove, browning the meat, and roasting your own chili peppers is too critical to developing good chili flavor, screw this slow cooker stuff. Based on using a slow cooker exactly once now, I pronounce them useless and stupid.

But I’ll probably try making some pulled pork in one at some point, anyway. Because pulled pork is delicious.

Tonight I think a Bolognese sauce is in order. We’ll see how that goes.