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.


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

Oven Jerk Ribs and Sweet Potato Fries

Jerk Ribs

4 scallions, chopped coarse
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp molasses
1.5 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoons ground allspice
4 habanero chiles, stemmed and deseeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup soy sauce
(2½- to 3-pound) racks St. Louis–style spareribs, trimmed
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
limes for serving

Combine everything but vinegar in food processor and process into paste.  Rub into ribs and marinate for at least two hours.

Remove ribs from marinade and wrap tightly in foil.  Place in preheated 250 degree oven for 2 hours.  Remove foil and return to oven for roughly 1 and a half to 2 hours, until meat has no resistance.  Remove ribs from oven and turn oven up to 500 degrees.

Meanwhile add vinegar and reduce marinade into glaze and rub all over ribs.  Once oven has reached 500 degrees, place ribs back into oven until well browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

Sweet Potato Fries
Follow this recipe.  Add
2 teaspoons smoked paprika,
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar,
1 teaspoon garlic powder

to cornstarch.

Chicken Pita Sandwiches

This is going to borrow liberally from Serious Eats’s Halal Cart Chicken recipe and pita bread recipe.


Red Zhug Sauce

3 dried guajillo chiles
1 chipotle morita chile
1 lb of red jalapenos or fresno chiles
1 tbsp soy sauce and fish sauce
6 garlic cloves unpeeled
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Toast guajillos.  Slice fresh chiles down one side so you can lay them flat.  Remove seeds.  Broil for about 10 minutes with garlic.  Peel jalapenos once cool and then put all ingredients in food processor or blender and process until paste forms.  Add olive oil or water to loosen if needed.

Roast Chicken Schwarma
2 lbs of chicken thighs or drumsticks
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp of dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp of salt

Whisk everything but chicken thighs together and then apply as a marinade for chicken for up to four hours.

Preheat oven to 450 F with a baking sheet inside.  Place chicken skin side down on preheated sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

Mayo Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, cilantro, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt.


Pita Bread


Bread and Butter Israeli Pickles
4 kirby cucumbers sliced 1/4 in thick
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons mustard seeds
3/4 tsp of ground turmeric
1/4 tsp of cloves
1 teaspoons celery salt
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp of salt

Combine vegetables and salt in and set in a colander over a bowl for at least an hour.  Drain vegetables and pack into a jar or sealable bowl.

Bring all other ingredients to a boil and then pour over vegetables.  Let cool and then seal and place in refrigerator.


Lagman or Asian Ratatouille Noodles

In central Asia/western China there is a popular dish called lagman that is essentially a stewed/stir fried vegetable dish over noodles.  Sometime lamb is added, but I think it is delicious as vegetarian dish.  Here is my version where I have added some Chinese influence and western technique.

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-in pieces
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed and liquid reserved separately
2 onions diced
8 cloves of garlic smashed
2 Tbsp of ginger julienned
2 Tbsp of tomato paste (optional)
2 Tbsp of doubanjiang (optional)
1 Tbsp of dark soy sauce
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1-2 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 small zucchini, 1-in dice
1 small summer squash or another zucchini, 1-in dice
1 red bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, 1-in dice
1 Tbsp of black rice vinegar (prefer Shaanxi)
Light soy sauce to taste
cilantro for garnish
fresh wheat noodles

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add onions, garlic, ginger then cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until onions are translucent and start to soften.
  4. Add tomato paste, doubanjiang, pepper flakes, spices and bay leaf then cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  5. Stir in reserved tomato juice and reduce for a few minutes.
  6. Stir in eggplant and crushed tomatoes and dark soy sauce.
  7. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered for about 40 to 45 minutes, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown.
  8. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency.
  9. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers and 1 tbsp of light soy sauce then return pot to oven.
  10. Cook uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender.
  11. Remove pot from oven, cover and let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife.
  12. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille.
  13. Discard bay leaf then stir in 2 tablespoons of cilantro and vinegar.
  14. Season with salt, light soy sauce and pepper to taste.
  15. Serve with favorite wheat noodles and additional cilantro to garnish.



The Simple Arithmetic of the ACA Individual Insurance Marketplace

If you have been following the news you know that 2016 has been rife with major health insurance issuers leaving the health care exchanges, i.e. Obamacare.  Some have thrown the entire line of business under the bus claiming that it will always be unprofitable.  Others like Aetna, that is the most recent exit, were less pessimistic in the long run but were losing gobs of money in the short run.  Their CEO blames Risk Adjustment saying it wasn’t properly reimbursing them for their relatively unhealthy population.  This is of course a stupid thing to say and I will point out why.  The interesting question in my mind is still whether there is a stable profitable equilibrium for the individual marketplace and this post will explore the simple arithmetic for determining this.  The answer will become particularly important if some markets are reduced to having only one issuer.

So I said simple arithmetic.  That is because the profitability of the marketplace as a whole is really quite simple, money in has to be greater than money out.  The input is member premium and government subsidies (Advanced Premium Tax Credit and Cost Sharing Reduction).  Money out is medical claims cost.  You will notice Risk Adjustment (RA) is not in there.  RA is a zero sum transfer between insurance issuers, it does not affect the sustainability of the market as whole, only the profitability of an individual issuer.  It also becomes moot if there is only one issuer.  When Aetna whines about RA they are essentially saying that they want a piece of their competitor’s profits.

Now both sides of our expression are variable based on which members are purchasing insurance.  Even with a tax penalty, not everyone will buy insurance.  So if you jack up the premium, your healthier population will likely take the penalty and you lose their premium while medical costs will only go down slightly as sicker individuals that incur most claims will continue to purchase.  Thus the question simplifies to: is there an equilibrium premium that keeps enough healthy people paying premium to cover the medical costs of the unhealthy people?

This is slightly complicated by the government subsidies which are mutable based on the marketplace.  The CSR depends on the out-of-pocket (OOP) limits of the plan.  This will induce more healthy people to purchase insurance (since the benefits are greater) and issuers are really only on the hook for very sick patients that blow through their OOP expenses.  A plan design that maximized the Max OOP expenses will extract the largest subsidy from the government.

Similarly, the APTC is based off the second lowest cost silver plan.  If issuers become monopolies in their market they could potentially set the price of this plan to whatever they want and thus determine the APTC.  This allows them to extract whatever they want from the government.  And much like CSRs we would expect more people to purchase insurance if the issuer sets the APTC such that it covers a large portion of a bronze or lowest cost silver plan.

People talk about the pillars of the ACA: no underwriting, subsidies and a mandate.  The first requires a mandate in order for healthy people to subsidize sick people.  Otherwise healthy people opt out because the premium price is higher than their expected value from insurance.  However, the presence of subsidies suggests the writers of the ACA think even the tax penalty is not enough to create a market equilibrium where expected medical costs are lower than expected premium.  In other words, the writers of the law think the only way private health insurance that covers everyone with no underwriting can be profitable is essentially if the government is the one supplying the profits!

The conclusion then is that health insurance for all is not profitable and furthermore the current design of the ACA is probably not welfare maximizing.  The tax penalty is inducing people to purchase insurance that is costlier to them than not having insurance.  This is a classic situation for government provision of a public good and instead we have a system that BY DESIGN requires the government to pump money into it for private insurers to be profitable.

Thus the only rational next step is a public option/single payer system.




Reduce state sovereignty to improve governance

Let me ask a question, can you name an instance where the states in opposition to the federal government were on the right side of history?  On a more mundane level, there are obviously huge inequalities in the quality of government between states.  Look at Kansas which has turned farcical under the poor management of Brownback.  Look at all the Republican states that refused Medicaid expansion, which ended up costing them money!

If we just abandoned this idea of state sovereignty we could drastically improve the quality of services in many poor areas (usually Republican-controlled) and reduce inequality stemming from arbitrary state borders.  The biggest sham is the idea of state block grants usually proposed by Republicans.  This, as far as I am aware, has never worked. States find ways to spend it on what they want or do so poorly.  See the sorry state of TANF  in Red states.

For instance here are some low hanging fruits if we got rid of this ridiculous notion:

  1. Health care.  Medicaid expansion should be mandatory It is ridiculous that anyone can refuse this, on either fiscal or moral grounds.  This is free and it helps the poor, especially poor children.  Even better we should just combine everything into one federal program and provided basic healthcare to all.
  2. Schools.  Currently schools are mostly financed by local property taxes.  This means schools in rich areas get more money when their students are probably going to do well regardless.  This is completely backwards.  Federal funding of schools would more equitable.  Furthermore, why are we not just having the government provide free open source textbooks for every subject written by experts?  This would save so much money and ensure a baseline level of quality of materials.  But no, we have to appease the idiots that are still horrified that evolution is taught in school.
  3. Taxes.  Many states are engaged in a race to the bottom offering staggering tax breaks to lure businesses.  This is a beggar thy neighbor policy at best and a beggar thyself policy in many cases.  If most of the tax base was at the federal level it would be much harder to get away with this.  Also, state taxes are regressive in general, while federal taxes are usually progressive.  We  can hope that a shift to federal tax collection would make a more progressive tax burden.
  4. Unemployment insurance and other welfare programs are a mess of state and federal programs.  I already mentioned the sorry state of TANF in many states, but it’s indicative of other programs neglected by states not very interested in providing for their poor.  And again, the poor are mostly concentrated in conservative states where these programs are skimpy.  Apart from reducing administrative overhead, federal consolidation of these programs would eliminate much of the wide disparity in the generosity of welfare among states.