Shortly after we got Boris, he ate a bunch of ibuprofen, and was diagnosed with acute renal failure and given a 50% short term survival chance. $2000 later, he made a remarkable recovery, but we have to keep an eye on what he eats to avoid putting unnecessary stress on his kidneys. For the last 5 years, I have made his food on and off. Pre-preparing wholesome “raw” food for an 80lb dog is time consuming. When we adopted Helo a few years ago, I just didn’t have it in me to prepare that much food in bulk. We switched over to a more simple diet consisting primarily of chicken quarters with whatever veggies we had a surplus of(usually wilted bits of spinach, or huge zucchini from the garden, mealy tomatoes, etc). It seemed to work OK, but for the last few weeks, Boris’s interest in the chicken has dropped off, and a few days ago, he totally stopped eating it. I kind of get it, eating the same thing every day without a lot of variance sucks. So I had to make dog food last night. Here’s my total breakdown in terms of ingredients and cost.
Urg. I have this love-hate relationship with fussy things. On some occasions, I enjoy the fussy aspect of really perfecting something. On other, either the artfulness of it is lost on me, or I just don’t care enough to put forth the effort to get it “just right.” Such has been my experience with espresso.
A few years ago, I picked up a cheap espresso machine as a birthday present for myself. It was a cheap little refurbished machine (highly rated though) that is essentially internally identical to the Starbucks Barista machine. It has what is called a pressurized portafilter. The portafilter on espresso machines is the little basket with a handle that the coffee goes in. A pressurized portafilter eliminates the fussy aspect of pulling a really nice shot of espresso. It gives you a consistent product, eliminating the need for the “correct” grind size, tamping, etc. It is consistent, and good, but not great. Enter my nature. Why improve on good? Because I could use a good knock to my ego. A manual portafilter, one that doesn’t have the safety net of being pressurized has potential to make exquisite shots of espresso. It also has the potential for extreme failure. The benefit of the potentially extreme failures that a manual portafilter can provide are that they are a) cheap and b) still espresso (yum). A couple years ago I got a burr grinder (also cheap, but highly rated), for the ability to freshly grind my beans, and knowing that at some point in time, I would decide that I had nothing better to do than spend $60 on a manual portafilter and continually hurt my own feelings in the quest to make great espresso.
The pressurized portafilter is visible sitting on top of my espresso machine in the first photo. It is a big honker. The non-pressurized portafilter is much slimmer, not having any of the extra crap in it to pressurize the chamber. An additional wrinkle in the standard portafilter game is the bottomless, or naked portafilter, where they cut out the bottom of the portafilter so you can see the basket from the bottom. This allows the barista to see exactly how the coffee is coming out of the filter. It basically allows you to figure out WTF you’re doing wrong, so you can try to correct it. And boy-o is it apparent!
There are a whole host of problems that you can create with different variables. The variables include: grind size, tamp pressure, inconsistent tamp pressure, and quantity of coffee.
You wanna hear how my first attempt went? NOT PRETTY. Side spurting like nobody’s business, too short of extraction times, blonding, over extraction. It was a clusterfuck. And no crema. NONE. It was still coffee, so.. you know… I drank it. Then I made a second attempt this morning. A little better. I got SOME crema, but not much. I still had a spurter, multiple streams, over and then underextraction. I tried again. This time with a little more coffee, a little more pressure, and a slightly finer grind. Better results. A spurter still developed, but it took a while. Extracted too fast. I have work to do. And by golly am I going to love both my successes and my failures!
|I used a ramekin so it would help catch any spray.|
Updates will follow.
I haven’t been so good about posting on my blog lately. I am attributing it to a combination of fervently researching everything that I possibly can about ducks in order to be fully prepared for when they arrive, and being bummed out that my husband and father-in-law (the ones that have the skills and know-how to actually build the pen structure) are far less enthusiastic about going outside and building an enclosure in the rain than I am about having fluffy, cuddly, hilarious ducks running around and eating my slugs. That was a run-on sentence if I ever saw one. Regardless, my nagging muscles are getting quite the workout, and the best way to smooth things over with the victim of my attacks is to feed him things that he loves. Namely, sushi. And SPAM. Craig loves SPAM.
Spam Musubi is a Hawaiian “thing.” Hawaiians love them some SPAM, so it seems to be a natural marriage of the Japanese influence and the almost unnatural predilection for SPAM. So here you go. In it’s most basic terms, it’s SPAM sushi. You make rice, lay a slice of the luncheon meat on top of it, top with more rice (this is based on preference, some only use one layer of rice), then wrap in some nori (seaweed) and nom. When it comes down to it, the whole process is a little more nuanced than that, but execution really is pretty straightforward.
I am a nervous nelly when it comes to making rice for sushi. I have long-grain and arborio skills, but sticky rice is a whole other animal. As such, I bought the rice at the Asian supermarket labelled as specifically being for sushi. Better safe than sorry. The traditional method for musubi is unseasoned rice, however we intended to try unseasoned, and then the standard vinegared rice mixture, but upon trying the seasoned vinegar rice, we liked it so much we stuck with it. The method that I used for this was: 3 cups rice, 4.5 cups water (that’s a 2:3 rice:water ratio if you’re keeping track), with the rice rinsed under cool water through a fine mesh strainer until no cloudiness is visible, this takes a while. Then you put in a pan, add your water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once a boil has been attained, drop the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. When 20 minutes is up, remove from heat and let stand for an additional 15 minutes to steam. When the rice has steamed, you’re supposed to spread it out in an even layer to evaporate out additional moisture, while you fan, stir, and sprinkle in the seasoned vinegar. I just put it in a bowl and mixed it up a little. It worked fine.
While the rice cooks, you want to get going on your spam. My pan will take 8 slices, which is, coincidentally, the number of slices you get from a can of SPAM easily. We tried both standard and low sodium and couldn’t taste a difference, so will stick to a lower salt content next time. I spent the entire night after eating 3 musubi getting up for glasses of water. The SPAM is just crisped a little in a nonstick pan, then has a mixture of 1 part soy/tamari and 1 part sugar poured over it and allowed to evaporate. You are essentially making a very salty meat caramel.
After your SPAM and rice are prepared, it’s just a matter of assembly. First, you lay down your nori, then put down your musubi press. Yes, you need a musubi press. I ordered mine for $6 on Amazon and got it 2 days later. Then you put some rice in, and smush that down, follow with a layer of SPAM, a sprinkle of furikake (sesame, nori, msg sprinkles) and then another layer of rice, press that down, then squish it out of the press using the plunger. Then all you need to do is wrap the nori, seal with a little water, and enjoy. Craig and I both liked this with a little tamari and wasabi.
Craig liked this so much that he was fiending for it a couple days later.