Pressure Cooker Sri Lankan Pork Curry

Curry Mix
2 tbsp whole coriander seed
1 tbsp whole cumin seed
1 tbsp whole fennel seed
1 tbsp whole black pepper
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder (like kochukaru)
15 g dried Puya chilies
6 green cardamom pods or 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp brown/black mustard seed

Toast spices and grind everything you wouldn’t want to find in your curry.

Pork Curry
2 lbs of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 inch of ginger root, minced
2 lemongrass stalks, prepared
1 tbsp of tamarind pulp
2 tbsp of rice vinegar
14 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 c of canned coconut milk
lime and cilantro for serving

Saute onion, garlic and ginger until softened and translucent.  Add spices and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.  Then add coconut milk, tomatoes, lemongrass, tamarind pulp and vinegar.  Sesaon to taste with salt and scrape the bottom and bring to a simmer before adding pork chunks.  Seal pressure cooker and bring to pressure before cooking under pressure for 30 minutes, then 15 minutes of natural release before quick releasing remaining pressure.  Reduce as needed and check seasoning for additional sugar or lime juice.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Tart

Peanut Tart Crust (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated cookie recipe)

2.5 oz of roasted unsalted peanuts
3/8 cup (1.9 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2.3 oz) creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 egg yolk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Pulse peanuts in food processor until finely chopped, about 8 pulses and then dump into bowl with flour.   In the food processor process the sugar for several minutes or until very fine. With the motor running, add the butter. Add the peanut butter and process until smooth and creamy, about 10 seconds. With the motor running, add the egg yolk and process until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated.  Press or roll into tart or pie pan and dock tart with fork before freezing for 30 minutes.  Fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove weights and bake until entire crust is dark brown and crispy.


Peanut Butter Mousse and Jam Filling (PB Mousse from Rose Beranbaum)

7 tablespoons (4 oz) cream cheese
1/2 cup (4.6 oz) peanut butter
1/4 cup (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 oz) heavy cream, softly whipped

In the bowl of a standing mixer, preferably fit with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, salt and sugar just until the mixture is uniform in color. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla. Beat in 1/4 cup of the whipped cream just until it is incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream, mixing until the mixture is well blended but still airy.

Scrape the mousse into the sweet peanut butter cookie tart crust and smooth the surface so that it is level.  Refrigerate the tart for an hour.

1 cup (10 oz) of raspberry or strawberry jam
4 tsp of lime or lemon juice or to taste
1/8 tsp of salt

Whisk all ingredients together to loosen the jam up.  Spread over firmed peanut butter mousse filling.


Sour Orange Cheesecake with Orange Curd and Gingersnap Crust

After a failed attempt at a lime cream pie and the lingering memories of Cook’s Country Sour Orange Pie, I wanted to do something orange again.  I also had some really terrible cheesecake from a supermarket that spurred me to try my hand.  I don’t normally make cheesecakes or remember them fondly.  However, I need to decide if that is because most places can’t make a cheesecake worth eating or if it’s generally not my style.  I don’t really like cream cheese and I don’t really like crumb crusts because they aren’t crisp like a pie or tart crust and thus provide no textural contrast.  So cheesecake has its work cut for it.

Here I am stealing a page from Cook’s Illustrated’s lemon cheesecake and trying a technique where I literally just bake a cookie as the crust.  Considering that tart shells are almost identical to shortbread cookies, I think this will work out.  Fingers crossed.

Gingersnap Cookie Crust
6.25oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4.375 oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 large egg yolk

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Brown butter in large saucepan, remove from heat and whisk in spices .  Let cool for 2 minutes then whisk in brown sugar, molasses and fresh ginger.  Finally whisk in egg yolk.  Dump in dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.

Prepare a 9-in springform pan and pat cookie dough into bottom of pan.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour while you preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  When ready to proceed, bake crust for 20 to 25 minutes until cookie is set and edges are darkening.  Remove from oven and turn oven down to 250.

Sour Orange Filling
10.5 oz sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp orange zest
6 tbsp orange juice concentrate
6 tbsp lemon juice
1½ pounds cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a food processor, process zest and sugar until zest is very fine.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese on low speed until broken up and slightly softened, about 5 seconds. With mixer running, add 7 oz of sugar/zest mixture in slow, steady stream; increase speed to medium and continue to beat until mixture is creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in eggs, two at a time, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl well after each addition. Add lemon juice and OJ concentrate and salt and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds. Give filling final stir by hand.

Pour into crust, cover tightly with foil and bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, remove foil and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes until center is 150 degrees and edges are set and the cake has a faint jiggle.  Cool completely on wire rack before transferring to fridge for 2 hours.

Sour Orange Curd
3.5 oz sugar/zest mixture from filling
3 tbsp orange juice concentrate
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs and 1 yolk
3 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients except butter in a saucepan and cook over medium heat whisking frequently until mixture reaches 170 degrees.  Whisk in butter.  Let cool before spreading on top of refrigerated cake.  Return cake to fridge for 2 hours before serving.

License to Kill

There has been a theme coalescing in what I read about how people approach rationalizing their actions.  Essentially, people keep running tallies of their “good” and “bad” deeds and try to balance the books so to speak.  I use quotes here because I don’t necessarily mean good and bad in a moral or ethical sense.  This system is used by people for far more innocuous things.  The behavioral economics term for this behavior is self-licensing or the licensing effect.

You are witnessing the licensing effect whenever you hear someone justify their racist actions by responding with a variation of “I have a black friend!” as if one example of tolerance somehow excuses an expression of intolerance.  Scientists have demonstrated this effect in a diverse array of environments.  For instance, research showed that publicly endorsing Barack Obama cause his followers to express more racially biased views.  It’s been suggested as a reason that energy use increases after one purchases energy efficient appliances.  One that I routinely see and hear (and succumb to myself) is when people reward themselves with dessert after having a salad or engaging in a strenuous day of walking.

Perhaps the most intriguing element of this research is how little one must do in order to invoke the licensing effect.  All it takes is voicing the intention to do something good (like the Obama example above) and the effect is triggered.  In one case scientists elicited self-licensing by merely having the participants imagine doing something charitable.  It’s amazing how effortlessly we appropriate evidence that we are good and wholesome to puff up our self-image.  It doesn’t take more than just imagining we are compassionate and caring!

Now the ease with which we accrue moral capital might no be so terrible if we didn’t readily spend it on misdeeds grossly out of proportion to our supposed good deeds.  That is, human beings seem very bad at this moral tallying system.  We chalk up points in the positive column with abandon for the slightest thing and then heavily discount the value of our sins.  In fact, my theory, and this shows up in many other domains of human behavior, are that human beings are more enumerators than scales.  We don’t typically store the value of our deeds as much as count the number of good deeds and the number of bad deeds and try to keep the sum above zero to maintain our fragile egos.  It would explain how CEOs embezzling money can justify their actions by giving a tiny fraction of that money to a charity.

I am also puzzled where this system originated and whether it has become worse in our modern age.  I say this because the major religions of the world do not, to my knowledge, endorse this theory of morality.  Sure, a numerical scoring that determines who gets in to heaven, ala the TV show The Good Place, is a popular conception, but I don’t recall Jesus actually proposing that you balance your sins and virtue so delicately.  Instead he continually called people to not judge (a key component of self-licensing) and always show kindness.  As a counterpoint, Catholic practices like indulgences would suggest that entry to heaven is determined by balancing your misdeeds against your donations to the church.  So maybe we can once again leave some blame at the feet of the religious institutions that spring up around the core precepts and texts.  I remain unconvinced though.

Has this gotten worse?  I think the modern segmentation of society into cloistered groups with similar views would likely make this worse.  Who is going to challenge your moral accounting if everyone you interact with thinks just like you do?  It’s OK to make that racist joke at a party, you all voted for Obama.  It doesn’t even require drawing down your moral bank account.

It might not be readily apparent, but the judginess of liberals and even conservatives on social media platforms is symptomatic of rampant self-licensing.  I say this because, as I mentioned earlier, self-licensing requires a strong, almost unassailable, confidence in your judgement.  If you doubted your ability to tally points in the appropriate column then I think you would at least have a harder time accruing and spending your moral income.  The irony of the internet liberal is that tolerance is one of the core precepts of liberalism that they seem continually unable to express and that the self-licensing allowed by their loud pronouncements of virtue on the internet likely enables all kinds of poor behavior in other settings.

In conclusion, I think one should be aware of this poor mode of thinking and avoid it at all costs.  The appropriate view is to do good always and do evil never.  You can’t go wrong with that.

Stabilizer Chocolate Ice Cream

Recently I made some chocolate ice cream (almost more of a sorbet) and it came out of the freezer a bit too icey for me.  Now chocolate butter freezes hard as a rock, which makes it very hard to work with in an ice cream.  Some research didn’t turn up much, but I did stumble upon ice cream stabilizer blends again.  I had resisted the urge to buy one in the past, but I splurged and got a huge can of Cremodan 30 that will likely last the rest of my ice cream loving life.

Now the best resource on the science of ice cream on the web is Underbelly NYC.  However, I was also looking at Frozen Desserts by Francis Migoya, a very well respected pastry chef.  I took his commercial recipe and scaled it down and rounded to about a quart, the size of the typical home recipe.

There are two divergences in the recipes here of note.  Migoya uses no cream in his base recipe, but uses more yolks.  Underbelly expresses a strong distaste of egg flavor and sweet ice creams, but keeps a typical ice cream ratio of milk to cream.  I don’t know which I would prefer, but Migoya’s is more appealing to me in theory.  I like eggs, I think most people expect ice cream at about the sweetness of his recipe and heavy cream can dull flavors, is the most caloric element in ice cream and a pain to keep around.

I suspect I will play around and change it up depending on the flavor.

Migoya Ice Cream
24 oz or 3 cups whole milk
30 g nonfat milk powder
100 g or 1/2 c sugar
35 g dextrose
15 g trimoline or invert syrup
3 g ice cream stabilizer/emulsifier
4 egg yolks

360 g whole milk
360 g heavy cream
55g nonfat milk powder
70 g sugar
25 g dextrose
15 g trimoline or invert syrup
ice cream stabilizer/emulsifier
2 egg yolks

Chocolate Ice Cream
12 oz whole milk
6 oz heavy cream or more whole milk
10 g of nonfat milk powder (if using heavy cream only)
60 g sugar
35 g dextrose
15 g invert syrup (honey)
30 g cocoa powder
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 g ice cream stabilizer
4 egg yolks

Miso Liver Catfish Curry

There is an anime called Food Wars (Shokugeki no Soma) that is about a young man entering a prestigious and very competitive culinary school.  It’s ridiculous and over the top and not always in a good way.  But the food usually makes sense and looks good and there are some novel ideas in there.  One such dish was a curried version of a Japanese fisherman stew, dobujiru, which literally translates as soup of the ditch.  This is typically made with angelfish or monkfish and features a strong liver taste.

Now I don’t have access to monkfish or angelfish and definitely not their livers and when I think of curry I think of something completely different than the Japanese.  As such here is my interpretation with a more Malaysian bent using catfish.

Curry Paste:

1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1 tsp black peppercorns, ground
1 tbsp turmeric powder
5 or 6 dried puya chiles
25g garlic, roughly chopped
25g peeled ginger, roughly chopped
100g shallot, roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalk, core roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp of shrimp paste

Process in a food process or pound in a mortar and pestle into paste.

To finish:
2 lbs of catfish steaks
6 oz of chicken liver
1 14-oz can of coconut milk
4 tbsp mixture of red or white miso
1 tbsp of palm sugar
2 tbsp of tamarind water
Fish sauce, sugar, lime for additional seasoning
cilantro for garnish

Heat a couple tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Once shimmering, add chicken livers and sear until well browned all over.  Remove livers from skillet and turn heat down to medium.  Blend or process livers, coconut milk, miso, sugar and tamarind water together.  Add curry paste and cook for about 4-5 minutes until very aromatic and then add coconut/liver mixture to skillet and mix with paste.  Bring contents of skillet to a simmer and then add catfish steaks and cover.  Steam for about 10 minutes, flipping once.  Remove from heat and serve.


My Yu Xiang Qie Zi

A good Sichuan yu xiang eggplant dish is one of my favorite vegetable dishes and I love vegetables.  Here is my home version that does not require deep frying.  Deep fried eggplant is amazing, but it is a pain the butt to clean up along with how unhealthy oil soaked eggplant is.  It is cobbled together from various recipes and techniques I have tried, though in the end is quite similar to the Serious Eats version.

I use sambal oelek here instead of Sichuan pickled chili paste.  I have an expansive Asian pantry, but even I have to economize on things.  I only stock Vietnamese fish sauce and shrimp sauce, for instance, and sambal fills my pickled chili slot.

1 1/2 pounds Chinese or Japanese or globe eggplants, cut into 2 inch batons
2 tbsp sambal oelek or other pickled chili paste
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Zhenjiang vinegar
1 tsp of sesame oil
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
4 tsp minced fresh ginger
4 tsp minced garlic
4 scallions, whites thinly sliced, greens cut into 1/3-inch segments
2 tablespoons doubanjiang

Line entire surface of large microwave-safe dish with paper towels Spread eggplant in even layer.  Microwave on high power until eggplant feels dry, about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through to dry sides evenly.  Dry eggplant thoroughly.

Combine ginger, garlic and scallion whites with 1 tbsp of oil in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine all ingredients from the sambal to the cornstarch and mix until homogenized.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add eggplant in even layer and cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until pieces are charred on most sides, 5 to 7 minutes.

Push eggplant to the side and aromatics to the center of the skillet and stir fry for 30 seconds.  Add doubanjiang and cook for 30 seconds with aromatics.  Toss everything in skillet together and then scrape sauce into skillet.  Simmer for about 3 minutes, adding water as necessary if sauce becomes too thick.  Finally add scallion greens and give one final toss before transferring to a serving platter.