Easiest Mole Poblano

4 ancho chiles,
4 guajillo chiles,
2 pasilla chiles,
½ cup raisins
3½ cups chicken broth
1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 minced canned chipotle in adobo sauce
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup peanuts
1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn
into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
2 ounces bitter or unsweetened chocolate, chopped
coarse
1 Tbsp of dark brown sugar
4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Toast chiles in microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.  Seed and devein.  Combine dried chiles and raisins with 2 cups of stock.  Microwave until boiling.  Meanwhile combine 2 Tbsp of oil and all other ingredients except chocolate and chicken in food processor.  Drain chiles and raisins, reserving liquid and add chiles and raisins to food processor. Process until a smooth paste forms, adding stock as necessary to loosen.

Add 2 Tbsp of oil to a pot or Dutch oven and heat on medium until shimmering.  Add paste and cook and stir for 3 minutes.  Add chocolate to pot and incorporate completely.  Transfer pot to oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove pot and add reserved and remaining stock.  Add chicken and bring to a simmer on stovetop.  Either finish in oven or simmer on stovetop, removing chicken as each cut finishes cooking.  Season with salt, soy sauce, fish sauce and additional sugar as needed.

 

 

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Two Winter Minestrones

I heartily recommend the article on Serious Eats about minestrone.  However, that is most decidedly a summer dish and we are in the middle of a cold winter.  As such I have made two variations using winter produce that turned out great and I document for posterity.

As for cooking method.  I cook long. I like mushy vegetables and as such I see no reason to cook beans in a separate pot.  Just chuck everything together.  Also I use chicken stock rather than water and added some smoked pork.

First:
4 cloves of garlic
2 onions or replace one with a leek
2 Thai bird Chiles
1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
4 celery stalks
1/2 lb of carrots
1 rutabaga
1 head of savoy cabbage
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes

Second:
4 cloves of garlic
2 onions or replace one with a leek or fennel
2 Thai bird Chiles
1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
4 celery stalks
1.5 lb of carrots and parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
Small bunch of kale
1 14 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes

 

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White Bean Gumbo?

Lately I have tried to make my lunch for the week on the weekends for a number of reasons.  One it is typically healthier.  Two, it’s way cheaper.  And three, I really don’t like most of the options for lunch where I work.  Also it gives me an opportunity to cook more which I do enjoy.

Anyways I need something that makes a lot of food and is a complete meal with adequate protein and vegetables.  This leads to stews and stews with legumes because they kind of straddle the line as a good protein source and psuedo-vegetable.  Below I adapt gumbo by replacing some of the meat with white beans.  I also use a dry roux to avoid the excessive amount of oil in a typical gumbo.  With the bean starch, roux and okra this “gumbo” will thicken up nicely.  I like it spicy so adjust accordingly.

1 c flour

2 onions
3 celery stalks
2 poblano or green peppers
spicy chilies to taste
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp of thyme

1 tbsp of black/white pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 fruity dried chile (e.g. ancho) toasted and ground
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery salt
2 bay leaves

2 lbs chicken thighs
1/2 lb dried white beans of choice
8 oz smoked pork (andouille, smoked pork pieces, even bacon) in bite size pieces
1 lb fresh or frozen okra cut to preference

Instructions:
Soak beans overnight in salty water with 1/4 tsp of baking soda.  Drain and rinse.

Toast flour, stirring occasionally, in 425 oven for 40 to 55 minutes until color of  ground cinnamon.  Set aside and then lower oven to 300.

Brown chicken thighs in pot and remove.  Dice first block of produce and saute until softened.  Add spice block and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.  Add 2 quarts of chicken stock and scrape bottom of pot.  Add beans and bring to simmer.  Transfer pot to oven or simmer on stove, partially covered for 45 minutes.  Whisk a bit of broth little by little with darkened roux until homogeneous paste forms.  Add flour paste, meat and okra to pot, return to simmer on stovetop adding additional stock if needed to submerge.  Partially cover and return to oven for an additional 45 minutes.  Remove pot from oven and remove chicken thighs.  Season gumbo with salt/umami boosters and hot sauce/vinegar.  After chicken cools shred and return to pot and serve.

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Boston Cream Pie

I love Boston cream donuts and I did have one spectacular version of this dessert at a restaurant in Chicago (Bavette’s).  So it is about time I go about it myself.  Traditionally a sponge cake is used for this dessert, but I get tired of sponge cakes so I am going full on moist tender buttermilk cake.

Cake taken from Baking for All Occasions, pastry cream from Flavor Flours.

Buttermilk Cake:

1 3/4 CUPS (7 OUNCES/200 GRAMS) CAKE FLOUR
1/2 TEASPOON BAKING POWDER
1/2 TEASPOON BAKING SODA
1/4 TEASPOON SALT
2/3 CUP (5 1/2 FL OUNCES/165 ML) WELL-SHAKEN BUTTERMILK
1 TEASPOON PURE VANILLA EXTRACT
5 1/2 OUNCES (1 1/3 STICKS/155 GRAMS) UNSALTED BUTTER, AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 1/3 CUPS (9 1/4 OUNCES/260 GRAMS) GRANULATED SUGAR
3 LARGE EGGS, LIGHTLY BEATEN

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Butter a 9 by 2 3/4-inch round springform pan, then flour it, tapping out the excess flour. Or, lightly coat with nonstick spray and flour the pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is lighter in color, clings to the sides of the bowl, and has a satiny appearance, 30 to 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the sugar in a steady stream, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. If at any time the batter appears watery or shiny (signs of curdling), increase the speed to mediumhigh and beat until the batter is smooth again. Then return to medium speed and resume adding the eggs, beating until smooth, stopping the mixer as needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing only until incorporated after each addition. Stop the mixer after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly touched in the center, a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of cake, and the sides are beginning to come away from the pan, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
Slip a small metal spatula between the still-warm cake and the pan and run the spatula carefully along the entire perimeter of the pan. Release the springform clasp and remove the sides. Invert a rack on top of the cake, invert the cake onto it, and lift off the bottom of the pan. Slowly peel off the parchment liner, turn the paper over so that the sticky side faces up, and reposition it on top of the layer. Invert another rack on top, invert the cake so it is right side up, and remove the original rack. Let cool completely.

Coffee Pastry Cream:

6 tablespoons (80 grams) sugar
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon superfine white rice flour or 3 tablespoons Thai white rice flour
2 cup milk
4 large egg yolks
1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tsps of instant espresso

Set the strainer over a bowl near the stove. Whisk the sugar and rice flour together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the milk to make a smooth paste. Whisk in the egg yolks until smooth; whisk in the rest of the milk and instant espresso. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, sweeping the bottom, sides, and corners of the pan to prevent the mixture from scorching.

When the mixture begins to simmer, set a timer for 5 minutes and continue to cook and stir, turning down the heat if necessary to barely maintain a simmer.

Immediately scrape the custard into the strainer. Stir the custard through it, but don’t press on any bits of cooked egg that may be left behind. Scrape the custard clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl as well. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool for about half an hour, then cover with wax paper or plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled.

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
4 1/2 ounces chopped dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Whisk gently until smooth, 30 seconds. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add vanilla.

Complete Cake:

Slice cake in half height-wise.  Spread pastry cream on top side of bottom half.  Place top half on top.  Drizzle warm glaze over top.

 

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Berbere/Mitmita Spice Mix

This is my amalgamation of recipes that combines these two spice mixes.  The latter is supposed to be something of a garnish to maintain the pungency of the spices, but I am lazy and just put them all together.

2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
tsp. whole allspice
1 tsp ground cardamom
4 whole cloves
1 tsp garlic powder
5 dried puya chiles
3 tbsp. kochukaru
12 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. ground ginger
12 tsp. ground cinnamon
spicy dried chiles to taste
My understanding is that real Ethiopian is spicy as hell, so put in as many spicy dried chiles as you think you can handle.  Also I use Korean chile powder as I find it more closely mimics Asian chiles and it has more flavor/spice than paprika.
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Is there a solution to the decline of rural America?

I want to take a step back and recognize that there is a very real economic problem going on in broad swathes of rural and suburban America.  Manufacturing and unions died and it left these areas bereft of jobs and opportunity.  I may have previously blithely dismissed the economic hardship visited upon these areas.  It is very easy to say retrain and relocate but this is a large burden, particularly for older people.  I do think there is a nontrivial amount of entitlement among this population, that the solution to their woes must allow them to maintain their provincial lifestyles.  But as a believer in utilitarianism we cannot just ignore their preferences entirely.

Identifying a problem does not mean we have a solution.  This applies to both parties.  I know Republicans don’t have a solution or at least their proposed solutions are not going to do more good than harm.  Democratic policies are definitely more focused on a macro perspective that is more palliative than cure.  As I said before, these towns were mostly built on the backs of manufacturing.  They were company or industry towns through and through.  This is not coming back.  Any reshoring of manufacturing is unlikely to return to the Rust Belt and more likely to head to the South.  In the medium-long term, robotization is going to eliminate these jobs entirely.  So what is the new engine of economic growth for low skilled labor outside cities?  I don’t think anyone has any idea what that looks like which is why even Democrats focus on treating symptoms rather than causes.

It is important to recognize that this issue is really not fundamentally different than that facing the entire nation and at some level the entire developed world.  That is, income/wealth inequality and the hollowing out of the middle class.  Manufacturing is just the first victim of automation, but it will not be the last.  Self-driving cars are going to replace millions of workers to give a salient example.  We can expect an economy with demand for high skilled labor and the capital of the rich and a smattering of service jobs that cannot be automated or where most people prefer human interaction.  Nobody has a model for how to “fix” this outcome.  I am not even sure we want to fix it.  A “post-labor” economy sounds like the zenith of human civilization.  That is if, and this is a huge if, we shepherd it in responsibly such that nobody is left behind.  Sadly, the bulk of science fiction argues that we will fail, but let us hope that is more fiction than science.  Democratic redistributive policies are a good first attempt at trying to make this happen, so it is quite depressing that they are effectively locked out of power by a party that appears intent on recreating the most dire prediction of science fiction.

Lastly, I want to point out that all of this talk about the economic plight of rural Americans ignores a very relevant fact.  Namely that minorities and women, often concentrated in cities, are in even worse straits.  They are grappling with the same macroeconomic trends while still facing discrimination and the crippling legacy of prejudice.  For instance, the black unemployment rate is always at least several points higher than that of whites AND they are working in lower wage jobs.  Rural whites are neither unique nor the most egregiously hurt by the modern economy.  So lets spend a little less time talking about them and their problems.

 

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Understanding the Rising Populist Right

Paul Krugman recently wrote a column expressing befuddlement regarding non-xenophobic reasons for the surge in support for Trump from mostly rural whites.  This is just a continuation of the liberal self-scrutiny after Clinton lost that follows from what I call the Bernie Sanders critique, that liberals need to stop playing identity politics and engage voters under the big tent of economic progress for all.

Krugman and others point out that politics is always identity politics.  For instance, identity politics propelled Trump to the White House.  Some of this identity is defined by racism, the erroneous belief that society is offering a helping hand to minorities as it leaves rural whites behind.  The other part appears to be a dissatisfaction with “elites”, both Republican and Democrat, that they believe look down upon them with disdain. Trump played on both of these, positioning himself as an outsider and fueling racial resentment.

I also don’t agree that racial equality and economic equality are mutually exclusive in a rhetorical sense or in reality and in my mind they in fact build on each other in a virtuous cycle.  There is plenty of evidence from scholarship and recent elections that poor economic conditions predispose people towards intolerance.  On the other side, a better economy will free the poor and disadvantaged to engage in politics more (via the bee sting theory of poverty) which should improve support for liberal policies and express the appropriate amount of opprobrium towards racism and xenophobia.

Let me return to Krugman’s befuddlement.  First, Krugman is not actually ignorant of the positions of the Populist Right, he is more confused about how they got from resentment of nonwhites and elites due to dissatisfaction with current culture and economic circumstances to voting for Trump because they think he can fix it.  He cannot follow the logic and neither can I or other liberals.  Now some would just dismiss this as the irreconcilability of the conservative and liberal world view, but throwing up our hands in despair is never the answer.

From a policy perspective, Democratic policy has been and will continue to be geared toward addressing income inequality through progressive tax structure, government benefits and regulation to curb the excesses of corporate and moneyed elite.  Trump policy in this area is fairly orthodox Republican policy: cut taxes for rich, deregulate and cut government benefits.  The only satisfaction this will give the many Trump supporters in the low and middle classes is that many minorities they perceive as undeserving will be hurt.  But this is classic cut off the nose to spite the face behavior.  Trump’s sole policy contribution is a more extreme antagonism towards immigration, but there is little evidence that immigration is a contributor to the economic malaise felt by Trump supporters.  There is an even more tenuous relationship between Trump’s suggestions in this area and economic prosperity.

Thus, the conclusion is that most people don’t care about policy or at least the details of policy, which I believe was always obvious.  Conservatives realized this long ago and I am not sure why so many on the Left still labor under the false belief that policy informs voting decisions.  Maybe it is a charitable assumption about voters or an inability to see that not everyone thinks like them.  Or maybe they all know it, but refuse to lower themselves to a political discourse that revolves around “feelings.”

I cannot understand the white working class dissatisfaction and what they see as their future.  The picture emerging is that they want to live their small town lifestyles, as they seem to have a strong distaste for city life, but want the economic progress and perks of modernization.  However, human progress is built on the back of the agglomeration benefits of cities and it is very hard to see how you export that out of cities.  There was a short period of prosperous small manufacturing towns dotted around the country, but that era is over and it is not coming back.  Even if globalization trends downward, robots will continue to erode manufacturing positions.  The irony of course is that manufacturing has been in decline so long that many of these voters aren’t even pining for a nostalgic past they experienced, but merely one they imagined their parents living.

Therefore, when Krugman writes that these people are voting against their interests he seems exactly right.  He is not engaging in liberal paternalism or disdain.  He is writing from the perspective of an expert in economics engaging in an economic analysis and his conclusion is that they haven’t thought beyond their immediate anger and resentment.  This is also how democracy works, people vote for representatives that are hopefully better informed and can therefore make better decisions, decisions that may not align with popular opinion.

Which is not to say that there is not a strain of disdain among the liberal camp, a feeling I all too often succumb to as well.  For me, this mostly springs from what I perceive is the blithe dismissal of evidence and empiricism by the conservative half of the country.  WHY DON’T THEY JUST LOOK AT THIS GRAPH AND AGREE WITH ME?  THEY MUST BE MORONS.  It’s very hard to tamp down on that particularly because logic and data have been my language through school and into my post-graduation career.

However, there is a particular faction of liberalism, most readily seen on social media that are very judgmental about their opponent’s culture or lack thereof.  They mock their food and clothing styles or even their methods of speech.  It dovetails with a general surge on the internet of a belief in the infallibility of personal preferences and culture and a need to project them onto others.  In the Democratic party this appears to mostly be driven by the younger, whiter, more affluent and college educated demographic.  The irony is that the real Democratic base of the poor and minorities probably has more in common with Midwestern Trump supporters than they do with this privileged minority of the Democratic Party.  And yet it is likely that this outspoken minority draws the ire of so many Trump supporters that feel a real disdain coming from the liberal camp.

The rallying cry of the Democratic party should not be about adherence to some specific set of cultural mores or even a grounding in facts and empiricism.  It is about compassion for humanity, all of it, any race or socioeconomic status and even those outside our own political boundaries.  And around that core of compassion, we construct a solid theory, backed by as much data as we can muster, of governance and policy.  And it just so happens that theory suggests that government is not always the problem and that the market is not always right.  Democrats are not the party of big government.  They are the party of better government that cares for all people.

 

 

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