I got mine at the GPO Bookstore

When I was a kid and through my late teens, I regularly visited the Government Printing Office Bookstore in Boston. The Federal Building was just a short walk from North Station, so I’d take the train in – never once getting kidnapped or murdered that I recall. They had a whole corner devoted to NASA books, usually forty or fifty of the most recent volumes, so for me, it was like visiting the Kennedy Space Center in miniature. I didn’t have much money, but I’m pretty sure train fare for the twenty-five minute run into town was between US$2 and $3 each way, so ten bucks carefully saved up would cover the trip plus one or two books.

I got several of my NASA books right there, at their gloriously low original GPO prices. For example, the 681-page This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury was US$5.50. This collectSPACE article lists most of the better NASA history volumes that were at one time or another in the bookstore.

The P in GPO now stands for Publishing, not Printing, and the Boston GPO Bookstore closed in 2001, but I still have all the books I got there. Now the real reason for this article is not nostalgia or sidelong swipes at milk-carton-kid-based helicopter parenting, satisfying though those are, but this: I recently found something of a bonanza for people who are interested in these books in their original form but don’t want to spend US$50, $100, or more for them – or who, like me, own them but would love the convenience and frugality of free PDFs of the originals. The NASA Technical Reports Server has full page-by-page scans – and good quality scans, I’ll point out – of many of the original books, including:

There are other good volumes there as well, including Apollo Expeditions to the Moonmine was $2.25, but it’s now $40 or $50 for a good condition original – Where No Man Has Gone Before, and the like. The part 1-3 articles linked in the collectSPACE article above mention more of these – there’s also a final part 5 not linked there. The best way to search the NTRS site is with NASA SP-nnnn where nnnn is the publication number.

Click on any of these page scans from the PDFs for a larger version. They’re larger than these screenshots in the PDFs.

From Moonport

From Chariots for Apollo

From Stages to Saturn

From Apollo Expeditions to the Moon

My copy of that one

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Jasper White’s Corn Chowder

I’ll likely be making Jasper White’s Lobster and Corn Chowder this weekend or next, but I had a hankering for chowder today – without quite so much work – and selected the simple and delicious Shaker-style corn chowder from White’s 50 Chowders book, the recipe below. The corn and Yukon Gold potatoes here are from Willard Farm.

The only change I sometimes make to this recipe is to use rosemary instead of cumin in step 3 for a completely different background note – either a couple springs of fresh rosemary, fished out afterward, or ½ teaspoon ground rosemary. Today I stuck to the original.

I forgot about the thinly-sliced scallion garnish in the prep bowl not even two feet away. Oh, well…still tasted great. Click for a larger version.

To go with, I made a couple loaves of simple crusty bread, River Cottage style, one of those to be frozen for later. At the end of this article, there’s a seven-minute River Cottage instructional video and recipe for the bread – do watch that video and see how easy it is. I’ve also included there Jasper White’s general notes on corn and on the importance of curing chowder (yes, some things do benefit from curing). I enthusiastically recommend his book on chowders – it’s both authoritative and fun.

Click for a larger version

Corn Chowder

From 50 Chowders – One-Pot Meals – Clam, Corn & Beyond by Jasper White (2000)

Yield: About 7 cups; serves 6 as a first course

Corn chowder is the king of farmhouse chowders. Hundreds of recipes for it have been published over the years, but since corn and salt pork were staples of the American farm, it is likely that corn chowder was being made and enjoyed long before any recipe was ever printed. The oldest recipe I have come across is by Mary Lincoln, founder of the famous Boston Cooking School, in her Boston Cook Book (1884). Fannie Merritt Farmer, her successor, also published a corn chowder recipe in the original Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896). A crop of corn chowder recipes followed Mary Lincoln’s, appearing in cookbooks from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and just about everywhere in between. Some were thickened with flour, others with egg yolks. Some, like Fannie Farmer’s, used canned corn (which has been around since the mid-1800s), some used fresh corn. The use of milk, cream, or condensed milk also varies from recipe to recipe. The Shakers, members of the well-known utopian community, are renowned today for their austere yet beautiful furniture, but they were also highly regarded for their cooking skills, especially their farmhouse chowders. My version of corn chowder is made similar to the Shaker style, according to a recipe from the Shakers at Hancock Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (1900), using fresh corn, butter, and cream. Its mellow, sweet flavor and lovely pale golden color are very comforting, and it is a big favorite with children as well as adults.

Serve corn chowder as a starter, with toasted common crackers or Pilot crackers. Or serve with Sweet Corn Fritters, Skillet Corn Bread or Corn Sticks, or Anadama Bread on the side to add a delicious contrasting corn flavor to your meal.

Cook’s Notes

Since corn is the heart and soul of this dish, the success of your chowder will rely a great deal on the quality of the corn you use.

If you are making chicken stock or broth especially for this recipe, add the corn cobs (do not scrape them in this case) to that stock for more corn flavor.

Although potatoes help to thicken this chowder, I also use a bit of cornstarch to give it an extra smooth and creamy consistency. Mix the cornstarch and water to create a smooth paste, called a slurry, before you add it to the chowder.

The ground cumin adds an interesting but subtle contrast to the predominant corn flavor of this chowder. In the Southwestern-style corn chowder variation that follows, the amount of cumin is doubled, letting it stand out even more. The small amount of turmeric brightens the chowder’s color, making it a little more yellow.

For equipment, you will need a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, and a ladle.

Ingredients

A note on this blog entry: For my own future reference, I’ve put double-recipe quantities in square brackets here – so “3 [6] medium ears” just means 3 for a single recipe and 6 for a double.

3 [6] medium ears fresh yellow or bicolor corn
4 [8] ounces slab (unsliced) bacon, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 [4] tablespoons unsalted butter
1 [2] medium onion (7 to 8 ounces [14 to 16 ounces]), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 [1] large red bell pepper (6 to 8 ounces [12 to 16 ounces]), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 to 2 [2 to 4] sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 [1] teaspoon)
1/2 [1] teaspoon ground cumin [alternate: 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary or two sprigs fresh rosemary]
1/8 [1/4] teaspoon turmeric
1 [2] pound Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 [6] cups Chicken Stock or Chicken Broth
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 [4] teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 [2] cup heavy cream

For Garnish
2 [4] tablespoons minced fresh chives or thinly sliced scallions

Directions

1. Husk the corn. Carefully remove most of the silk by hand and then rub the ears with a towel to finish the job. Cut the kernels from the cobs and place in a bowl. You should have about 2 cups. Using the back of your knife, scrape down the cobs and add the milky substance that oozes out to the corn kernels.

2. Heat a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over low heat and add the diced bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, leaving the bacon in the pot.

3. Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin [or rosemary], and turmeric and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes, until the onion and pepper are tender but not browned. [If using rosemary sprigs, fish them out and discard.]

4. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, and stock, turn up the heat, cover, and boil vigorously for about 10 minutes. Some of the potatoes will have broken up, but most should retain their shape. Use the back of your spoon to smash a bit of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and season the chowder with salt and pepper.

5. Stir the cornstarch mixture and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly. As soon as the chowder has come back to a boil and thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.

6. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the chopped chives.

VARIATION: Corn Chowder with Tomato and Basil

Peel 1/2 pound ripe red tomatoes: Score an X in the bottom of each tomato. Drop into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, until the skins loosen. Cool the tomatoes in ice water, drain, and pull off the skin. Quarter the tomatoes and cut out their juicy centers, reserving them for another use. Cut the tomato flesh into 1/2-inch dice; you should have about 3/4 cup. Add the tomatoes to the chowder right after you add the cornstarch (Step 5). When you remove the chowder from the heat, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil along with the cream.

VARIATION: Southwestern-Style Corn Chowder

Increase the cumin to 1 teaspoon. Just before you add the cornstarch (Step 5), add 1 small poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into small to medium dice. After you add the cream, stir in 2 or more tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

VARIATION: Corn Chowder with Sweet Potatoes

To make this delectable sweet chowder, substitute 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice, for the white potatoes. Sweet potatoes cook a little faster than all-purpose potatoes, so reduce the cooking time to about 8 minutes, then proceed with the recipe as instructed.

Simple White Loaf

From River Cottage

1 kg bread flour
10g fast-acting yeast
15g fine salt
1/2 tbsp canola or olive oil (optional), plus extra to oil the dough
600 ml water

1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, if using (not essential, but it makes for a slightly softer, more supple crumb), then add the water. Stir to create a rough, sticky dough. The dough really should be quite sticky at this stage – if it isn’t, add a splash more water.

2. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, rhythmically stretching the dough away from you, then folding it back on itself. The idea is to stretch and develop the gluten within the dough, not to beat the living daylights out of it. Avoid adding more flour if you can: the dough will become less sticky and easier to handle as you knead, and a wetter dough is generally a better dough.

3. When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball, coat it very lightly with oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with cling film or put inside a clean bin-liner and leave in a warm place until doubled in size – in the region of 1½ hours.

4. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingertips. Reshape the dough into neat rounds and put on a lightly floured board to prove for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 10, or its highest setting. Put a baking tray in to heat up.

5. When the loaves have almost doubled in size again, take the hot baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Carefully transfer the risen loaves to the tray. Slash the tops with a sharp, serrated knife and put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and bake for about 30 minutes more, or until the crust is well-coloured, and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it sharply with your fingers. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Jasper White on Corn

From 50 Chowders – One-Pot Meals – Clam, Corn & Beyond by Jasper White (2000)

The flavor of corn combines so naturally and beautifully with other chowder ingredients, it is little wonder that this staple of the American kitchen has found its way into hundreds of chowder recipes. The essence of chowder is making something special out of what is at hand, and for many people, especially those away from the coast, corn fits that criterion. In addition to playing the leading role in Corn Chowder, it performs wonderfully as a supporting ingredient in Lobster and Corn Chowder, Savory Summer Fish Chowder, Chicken Chowder with Corn, and several others.

Canned corn has been around for more than a hundred and fifty years, and its use in corn chowder is probably just as old. I do not use canned corn, but you can substitute canned or frozen niblets by volume in any of the recipes that call for fresh corn. Canned creamed corn has an artificial flavor I dislike, and I do not recommend it. My style of cooking celebrates fresh ingredients, and I don’t like to use foods that are not in season. Since chowder doesn’t call for or need the most tender delicate types of summer corn (trucked-in cellophane-wrapper supermarket corn works fine), I am content to make good corn chowders from fresh corn for eight or nine months of the year.

Types of Corn

The best types of sweet corn for chowder are the hearty yellow or bicolor varieties. Most of the corn in the market today is one of the sugar-enhanced hybrids. Unlike the old-fashioned varieties that need to be rushed from the field to the pot, these maintain their sweetness for long periods. Because of the extended cooking corn receives in chowder, texture is not a factor. When you stop for chowder corn at the supermarket, you most likely won’t have a lot of choice, but the corn will probably be right for chowder. At the farm stand, remember that tender young freshly picked white corn like Silver Queen, which is an ethereal experience when eaten on the cob with butter and salt, will not have the same result cooked in chowder. In either case, look for large ears, preferably of yellow corn; bicolor is the second choice. And it is fine to save a few pennies and buy yesterday’s corn. Some of the best varieties of yellow corn are Earlivee, Kandy Kwik, Sugar Buns, and Tuxedo. Among the most flavorful varieties of bicolor corn are Athos, Double Gem, Delectable, and Clockwork.

I have come across early chowder recipes that call for dried corn, but I’m sure these were driven by necessity, not choice. Sweet corn is a vegetable, but dried corn is a starch. Adding it to a chowder would produce something more akin to porridge than chowder.

Cutting Corn from the Cob

To prepare corn for chowder, husk it, then carefully remove the silk. Wiping the ear with a dry towel will remove any recalcitrant silk. Stand the ear with the tapered end up on the cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut from top to bottom, keeping the knife close to the cob but not cutting into it. Then use the back of the knife to scrape away the remaining moist bits of corn still attached to the cob — what I call the “milk.” The cobs can be broken in half and added to any stock that is intended for a corn chowder; if you are going to do this, don’t scrape the cob, just leave the milky bits on to flavor the stock.

Jasper White on “Curing” Chowder

The term curing is used in Cape Cod to describe one of the most consequential (and easiest parts) of chowder making — allowing chowder to rest while the flavors meld. Do not underestimate the importance of this process. It is during the resting and cooling-off period that chowder undergoes a metamorphosis, emerging with a deeper flavor and richer texture. Once you cook the chowder and remove it from the heat, you have two options: you can let it sit for up to 1 hour at room temperature to cure, or you can refrigerate it (curing it in the refrigerator) for up to 3 days. A 1-hour resting will improve your chowder immensely, and refrigerating overnight or longer is even better! If you decide to refrigerate your chowder, let it cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place it in the refrigerator uncovered. Covering can prolong the cooling process, resulting in a warm center that is ideal for bacterial growth. Bacteria ruins the flavor and shortens the shelf life of food. Cover the chowder only after it has chilled completely. I do not recommend freezing chowder, because it destroys the texture of the ingredients, but the stocks and broths in this book, which are often more time-consuming to make than chowder, can be made up to 2 months in advance and kept frozen. Always date the stocks and broths you store in the freezer.

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New Print/PDF/Email function

I’ve added a new WordPress plugin called PrintFriendly for printing, emailing, and saving PDFs of individual articles on the site. I did this because for convenience I sometimes print or email myself the recipes I’ve posted here, and this plugin includes just the content of the article instead of the whole web page template, which was dumb. It’s much nicer looking and will save a lot of paper.

If you hover over sections of the article in the Print/PDF/Email dialog that opens, you’ll see that you can click to remove any paragraph, image, etc., making the output as abbreviated as you like, which I think is slick as a whistle. I’ve never seen this sort of feature in a print preview dialog.

The price for this is, alas, adverts the plugin author has included, but they appear only in the Print/PDF/Email dialog once you choose the output type, never on any page on my site or in your output. Without casting aspersions, I would suggest never clicking on them.

After enabling PrintFriendly, I removed the JetPack plugin Print, Email, and Pocket sharing buttons that used to be here. If you actually used the Pocket button, let me know and I’ll put it back in – I removed it because it looks cleaner without that button sitting all by its lonesome.

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Practical application of Lucrative Coincidence Theory

Saturday, 29 July: Equifax shuts down a security breach of 143 million people’s SSNs, DOBs, addresses, etc. that had been ongoing since May.

Tuesday, 1 August: Equifax Chief Financial Officer and President of Information Solutions both dispose of a total of US$1.5M of stock options in unscheduled sales

Wednesday, 2 August: Equifax President of Workforce Solutions disposes of a quarter-million bucks of shares in an unscheduled sale

Thursday, 7 September: After biding its time – perhaps waiting until summer was over and all the staff was back? – Equifax announces security breach 41 days after they shut it down. 41 days seems like an awfully long time to me, but I’m no expert on security. Or securities.

Later on Thursday: Equifax insists – don’t you love when that word is used in news stories instead of “said”? – the three officers knew nothing about the security breach before their stock sales.

Yes, that’s right, the President of Information Solutions – sounds like the top IT guy to me – knew nothing, nothing of what may be the largest security breach in US consumer history 72 hours after it was shut down. By his own department. Mebbe in the same Atlanta building as him, I dunno…but jeez, shockingly poor communication must abound in that place. Or his competence is on a par with Jen Barber. In either case: Tsk.

Results of Finley Quality Used Car Test: Would not buy one from any of those three guys. Especially the one on the left.

Edited to add this notice that just appeared on my Credit Union’s login page:

Wait, I know, I know! Is the answer ‘Sell a bunch of stock before anyone gets wind of this’? Too late, you say? Pah. Skunked again.

When there are two conflicting versions of a story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.

H. Allen Smith

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“The flight was extremely normal for 36 seconds…”

“…and after that it got very interesting.”

– Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad in the post-flight technical debriefing, referring to the first of two lightning strikes on the vehicle during launch.

I just found out I can upgrade my Galaxy S5 at no cost to an S8, so I ordered a new phone skin that will ship tomorrow – as it serendipitously turns out, the 48th anniversary of the date the photo was taken.

This is Apollo 12, taken from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building as the stack began its 3½ mile journey to Launch Pad 39A on 8 September 1969. This assembly of Crawler-Transporter, Mobile Launcher (aka Launch Umbilical Tower), Saturn V, and Apollo weighed over 18 million pounds, the equivalent of twenty or so 747s, and moved at a stately 80 or so feet per minute.

From the remarkable 600-page Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations: “These novel mechanisms almost defy verbal description, and the reader should refer frequently to the illustrations in this chapter.”

Here’s a higher-resolution copy of the source photo – click for a larger version and note the people in white hardhats at the edges of the platform:

NASA photo AP12-S69-51309

Apollo-era photo of the 526-foot-high Vehicle Assembly Building and crawlerway leading to Launch Complex 39 with Pads 39B (upper left, 4.2 miles from VAB) and 39A (upper right, 3.5 miles from VAB). Apollo 12 launched from Pad 39A.

NASA photo AS12-68-7134: Pete Conrad wiggling Surveyor 3 by its camera on 20 November 1969 (Okay, Houston. I’m jiggling it. The Surveyor is firmly planted here; that’s no problem.”)

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What a load of horse potatoes

  • Made with Bulletproof clean coffee beans that are certified to be free of 27 toxins”
  • “…sustained energy and mental focus”
  • “…will allow people to conveniently take steps toward achieving their goals and unleashing their full potential”
  • “Brain Octane oil”

It’s true, they haven’t even added cyanide or hemlock to their buttered coffee – now gullet-ready at Whole Foods, five bucks a pop – because they respect their marks customers so much. I’m surprised, however, that they left out from today’s press release so many high-bogosity health claims frequently associated with I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Got-Butter Coffee. For instance, metabolism jump-starting and consequent miraculous weight loss – doesn’t buttered coffee like doing that anymore? Too tiring?

I’m thinking of calling Hogan Brothers Coffee Roasters and Barrington Coffee Roasters to ask if the Thunder Mountain and Barrington Gold blends I get from them are free of 27 toxins – and if they can name them. You know, just to give them a giggle.

Brain Octane oil indeed. Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.

Time for a cleanse in the form of a balancing load of bullshit antidote. This guy is my kind of cynic, and full of novel phrases. Both of these videos are NSFW due to salty language. First up, a teardown of the just-torn-down Juicero. (Seeks a buyer? Surely they jest.) He made this one three months before their end of days last week.

And a look inside a KitchenAid mixer:

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Chips ahoy, unabridged

I recently consolidated all I know about these delightful chocolate chip cookies for people I share them with, so here it is:

Serving suggestion the next day: Microwave one cookie for fourteen seconds. You won’t regret it.

The cookies, pictured above in my kitchen in 2010, are my variation of what are widely referred to on the web as the…

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original 2008 article in the Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/dining/09chip.html

Accompanying recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015819-chocolate-chip-cookies

Throughout and at the end are my notes on improving and simplifying the recipe and making it more affordable while still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 ½ ounces, 240g) cake flour [examples available in supermarkets are Swan’s Down, Softasilk, and King Arthur Cake Blend]
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 ½ ounces, 240g) bread flour
  • [You can safely substitute 4 cups/17 ounces/480g of all-purpose flour for the cake and bread flours because the above combination results in a protein content right in the range of all-purpose flour; bread flour is generally 14-16% protein, cake flour is 7 or 8%, and all-purpose flour is 10-12%]
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt [kosher salt to you and me – or you can substitute 1 teaspoon table salt]
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups/10 ounces/280g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces/280g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces/225g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • [My addition: 1 ½ cups pecans, toasted as described in my note 1 below]
  • 1 ¼ pounds/565g bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see tip)
  • Sea salt for sprinkling before baking [see my note 4 below]

Tip

  • Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods. [people with earthbound budgets, see my note 3 below]

Preparation

  1. [Toast pecans as described in my note 1 below and allow to cool]
  2. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. [flours generally don’t need sifting these days, so I just measure them into a bowl – the flour by weight – and whisk thoroughly]
  3. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop [pecans and] chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. [See my note 2 below about skipping this next step] Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  5. [See my note 5 below about portion control – these are way too big] Scoop six 3 1/2-ounce/100g mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt [I bolded that because it’s really easy to forget] and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. [I simply slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto my kitchen island] Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

My notes on the recipe:

  1. Pecans: They’re essential in chocolate chip cookies for me. Before starting the recipe, I break a cup-and-a-half of pecan halves into quarters and toast them on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 300F for 10-12 minutes. When you start to smell them, they’re toasted. Don’t forget to boost the oven to 350F afterward for the cookies. Add the cooled pecans to the dough just before the chocolate chips go in. Pricing note: Costco sometimes has 2-pound bags of raw pecan halves for about US$12, which is what pecans used to cost down South about 20 years ago. That’s a lot of pecans, but you can freeze them and they won’t go rancid after six months.
  2. The so-called curing stage: Because I found it hard to believe anything can migrate anywhere in what is a very thick cookie dough, especially after chilling, and the fact that the flour will autolyze – soak up the liquid – in well under an hour, I did extensive blind taste-testing with friends when this recipe came out in 2008. We determined definitively that the 24- to 36-hour “curing” in the fridge is a sad example of wishful thinking of the “Sounds gourmet, right?” variety. Any difference in flavor was purely due to different baking times that people unconsciously or consciously used. It brings nothing to the party other than an unforgivable delay in access to your cookies, and who needs that stress?
  3. Inexpensive chocolate: Jacques Torres is a peach of a guy, but forget about his chocolate discs and those Valrhona fèves; they would make these cookies prohibitively expensive. Instead, use two 10-ounce/285g bags of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate chips, which are delicious, in shape halfway between a standard chip and a disc (meaning the chocolate spreads well inside the cookies – see the photo), and priced between US$2.99 and $3.39 a bag at Market Basket depending on whether they’re on sale. They’re strangely up to $6.99 a bag at Stop & Shop and other supermarkets, way above Ghirardelli’s suggested list price of US$4.75.
  4. Sea salt: I use Maldon Sea Salt from the UK, available inexpensively on Amazon and in some US supermarkets. It’s also a nice finishing salt for salads, steaks, fish, &c.
  5. Portion control: I find their suggested 3½ ounce/100g scoop size ridiculous – that’s a #10 disher size, what you’d use for an ice cream cone, fercripesake. It’s no wonder so many pictures of these you see on the web depict wonky and/or partially raw cookies. I want more cookies that last longer, not cookies the size of Wales that I can’t finish, so I use a heaping tablespoon – a #30 disher or a not-quite-full #24 disher (the one I have), about an ounce/30g, will do that nicely.
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Salsa very fresca

After enthusiastically wolfing down a couple cups of this earlier today, a friend asked for the recipe, so after writing down what I do, I figured I might as well paste the body of that email right here:

This will stop the salsa from almost immediately turning into soup: To remove excess water from the seeded and diced tomatoes – see photo below – salt them with a teaspoon of kosher salt, mix it in, and then put them in a mesh strainer, pushed up on the sides of the strainer to make an even layer, over a bowl for 45 minutes to an hour. This will extract a cup or more of liquid from four fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes. If you use roma tomatoes, which are drier and more dense, you generally don’t have to do this.

The tomatoes and bi-color corn I used this morning were still warm from the field at Willard Farm.

Tomato and Corn Salsa
Yield: 5 or 6 cups

  • 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced, excess water removed
  • 3 ears corn – shuck, then over a sheet pan (less cleanup), hold by the pointy end and slice off the kernels, rotating the cob as you go
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, some but not all of its rib removed, finely diced (the rib, not the seeds, is where most of the heat is)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced, then mix in a pinch of kosher salt and smush with the back of a knife to make a paste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro/coriander
  • Juice of one lime
  • Additional kosher salt if needed (it usually needs a bit more) and freshly ground pepper to taste

Let this sit for an hour or so and the salt and lime juice will mellow the harshness of the onion and garlic.

Those chips were On the Border Café Style Tortilla Chips, which I prefer over Xochitl because they hold up much better in the oven when making chicken nachos, &c. The thinner Xochitl sort of wilt under high heat. I wasn’t surprised a few months ago when the On the Border chips were the America’s Test Kitchen taste test winner.

The excess liquid from four tomatoes:

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A shoulder to gnaw on

Pork shoulder ends up fantastically moist when slow-cooked inside an oven bag – in the case of this half-shoulder, about five hours at 275F/135C. This cut is commonly known as “Boston butt” because 1) in the 1700s, pork shoulder was widely known as a Boston specialty and 2) a butt is a volume measurement equal to two hogsheads and was also the name of the casks butchers packed shoulders into for transport. So the odd name was not so much for the product as its origin and the container it arrived in.

The QA department, ever thorough, is responsible for the large missing chunk. Click for a larger version.

Pulled pork demands hamburger buns, and around here that means King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Beautiful Burger Buns:

They really are things of beauty. My friend appropriately said, “Oooo!” when she walked into the kitchen to see. Click for a larger version.

The corn below comes from Willard Farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, where the Willard family has been farming since the 1600s. A dozen or so generations directly back from the current owner is Simon Willard, who moved here from England in 1634 and founded the town of Concord, Massachusetts, serving as its clerk and counsel for a couple of decades. Their corn, quite sweet early this year due to lots of rain, cannot be beat. It’s in the form of Better Than Granny’s Creamed Corn here, made about two hours after the corn was picked.

Click for a larger version

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Sammiches? Turkey dinner? Turkey noodle soup? More sammiches?

Yes to all of those, and probably in that order. First up, the sandwiches: turkey, cranberry sauce, and soft Gournay cheese with garlic and herbs on hunks of split and lightly-toasted baguette from Iggy’s.

Possibly the best-looking turkey ever to come out of my oven; click for a larger version

Nice and juicy, too. I always scratch my head when I hear some sleb chef say turkeys are dry and awful. One little click below will present to you the evidence of how wrong they are.

The roasting pan has the requisite amount of liquid gold, of course, to be strained right after I post this.

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