Category Archives: Food

Best Matzo Ball Chicken Soup

By popular request . . .

First thing you need to know: this isn’t easy. It’s not hard, either, particularly if you have any culinary skills. But it’s not the sort of soup you can whip up as an afterthought, nor will it soar without some TLC. Look, you’re making your own damn stock, okay? And you’re going to take pains to wring as much flavor as you can from each ingredient.

Let’s begin with the chicken.


If this were Facebook, I could convince you that the ability to read sideways makes you smarter than 98% of other humans. But this is old media. This is a BLOG. I expect you to be able to read sideways. And if you can’t cope with sideways photos, buh-bye. I’ll fix it later.

Back to cooking.


Hey! Look! A contest!

You can win a signed, hard cover edition of Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway


(see my review here) by helping me promote either my free ebook at Smashwords


or my Kindle book,


Here are the rules:

1. Multiple “entries” possible. Each entry will function as a lottery ticket, and I will decide the winner based on a drawing of such tickets. I have only one copy of Sara’s book, so there will be only one winner.

2. Each of the below will count as one entry:

a) Shout out this contest on twitter, facebook, or your blog. Your shout must include the URL for this blog post. If you do so on twitter, facebook, and your blog, that will count as three entries.

b) If you’ve read Gator & Shark, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. (If you do both, that will count as two entries.)

c) If you’ve read Nothing But Light, leave a review on Smashwords or Goodreads. (Ditto.)

3. Contest will end when interest dies down — probably next Monday evening.

4. Important: to get credit, you must indicate in the comments below what you have done.

Any questions?


More adventures in Manga Studio 5: Rule 34

Today, I played with Manga Studio’s free props and rag dolls. I wish there were more — I’d have a blast goofing off with these. It’s a shame that my options are so limited; otherwise, I could run a web comic on freebies alone. Yes, yes, I know I have to use my own art. But that doesn’t stop me from having some fun.



Porkstrami: finished product, untasted, so if there are no more posts you’ll know I died of food poisoning.

About ten days ago, I described how I went about brining my pork shoulder. Here it is, getting ready for its salty bath:

pork shoulder, rinsed and ready for the brine

pork shoulder, rinsed and ready for the brine

It’s in a plastic garbage bag. I added the brine, tied it off, and kept it at approximately 36 degrees F for ten days. Every day, I turned it or shook it up a bit.

Yesterday was day 10, to be precise, so I removed the boneless shoulder from the brine, rinsed it off, dried it. Then I dusted it liberally with paprika and ground black pepper, and left it in the fridge for another day to let the outer surface dry. Here it is, ready for the grill.

pork shoulder plus simple dry rub

pork shoulder plus simple dry rub

I banked the coals to one side, and used two to three cups of soaked hickory chips to create the smoke. The pork sat suspended on a grate at the opposite end of the barbecue.

ready to smoke!

ready to smoke!

Eight hours later, it smelled like the real thing and looked like the real thing, but the internal temperature was only 120 degrees F. I sliced a bit off one end, and it tasted great, but still looked raw. I popped it in the oven at 250 degrees F, and left it in (about two hours) until the internal temperature was 160 degrees F. And here it is:

the finished porkstrami, cooling

the finished porkstrami, cooling

There are a number of questions yet to be answered. Will it kill me? Make me wish I were dead? Will the middle be as tasty as the end bit I sampled earlier today? Is it smoky enough? Too salty, not salty enough?

And if this works, why not make lambstrami?


Porkstrami Extravaganza, Part the First!

No, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Yes, I’ve been writing — editing, to be precise. I finished the second/third pass-through on Gator & Shark, and I’ve sent it to an editor. Now I’m trying to breathe new life into The Brakan Correspondent. It’s rough; I finished it eight years ago, and have been fiddling with it ever since. I have some great set-pieces in this novel. Just a question of cutting away the crap to find the novel within.

But on to the food. I’m going to give you a play-by-play of my latest grand experiment: porkstrami! I’m allergic to beef, I miss pastrami, and I’ve heard that pork pastrami is at least as good as the real thing. Unfortunately, porkstrami isn’t the sort of thing you can get mail order. You have to make it yourself, and that means corning, smoking, and cooking the pork.

I chose a seven-pound pork shoulder. For the brine, I’ve modified from Alpoe the Mad’s recipe (mostly because I don’t like juniper berries). Here’s mine:

One gallon of water
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of “pink salt” (see below)
2 cloves
Four bay leaves, broken up
8 garlic cloves, crushed
5 whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice of ginger

Boil the ingredients, then cool the brine to room temperature. Add the brine and the pork to a garbage bag and put it in the refrigerator. I’m going to let it brine for at least ten days. Every day, I will shake it up a bit to redistribute the ingredients.

Pink salt: I bought this from our local butcher, who had no idea what it was or how it was used (I think he was a junior butcher — took him ten seconds to bone the pork shoulder, but he was lost on the pink salt). According to Alpoe the Mad’s blog, this is 6.25% sodium nitrite. Kinda necessary, I suspect.

I’ll keep you posted, with pictures too once it gets interesting.


, January 3, 2013. Category: Food.

Done! No, really.

I’ve finished the first major pass-through and I’ve sent the manuscript off to my betas. These are all folks who have expressed an interest in seeing the manuscript, so if I’ve overlooked you, let me know. It’s a bit big, 138K words. Sadly, I was not able to pare it down. I cut out at least three or four thousand words, but added back another three or four thousand.

The edit took a month less than a month. I’m pretty jazzed about that, considering I finished The Brakan Correspondent in — what? 2004 or 2005? — and have yet to finish editing past the fourth chapter.

I’m finishing just in time, too, since Terraria and Torchlight 2 are threatening to consume my life.


La lengua

Not only have I blogged beef tongue before, I did a decent job of it, too. That was seven years ago, I’ve since become allergic to beef, but my method of preparation has not changed a bit. I’ll throw in some commentary along the way, but here we go with beef tongue, baby:

One of these things is not like the other . . .

One of these things is not like the other . . .

Glorious beef tongue. Why is it that so many foods I despised as a child I now regard as delicacies? Tongue, chopped chicken liver, eggplant, pine nuts, cantaloupe: as a kid, these foods brought me to tears, but when I eat them now, I have happy memories of childhood. Where’s the logic in that?

Boiled Tongue

(Adapted from Julia Child and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II)

A tongue bought fresh from the market is already several days old. Don’t leave it around in the fridge for another few days — it won’t improve with age. Instead, scrub it under cold water and then soak it in cold water for two hours.

Next, cover with a thick layer of Kosher salt and wrap in plastic. Store in the refrigerator for two days, flipping it after day 1.

If your tongue weighs 3 to 4 pounds, you won’t need to soak it afterwards. Simply rinse off the salt and toss your tongue into a stock pot. Cover it with water — Julia recommends five inches over the tongue, but I think you’ll be fine if the water just barely covers it. Add a bouquet of herbs. Garlic and bay leaves are essential; add juniper berries if you want a corned beef flavor (but if you come over to my house, I won’t serve you that kind of tongue, nosirree). This last time, I used whole allspice, which worked well. I add celery, onion, and carrots to the stock pot as well. Quarter the onions and keep the skin on (similarly, for the garlic, just cut the bulb in half and throw the two halves into the stock pot).

This is where people mess up. They don’t cook it long enough, and they end up with a fibrous nightmare which, yes, licks you back when you eat it. Simmer it at least 3 hours, preferably 3.5 or 4. You ought to be able to easily pierce the base of the tongue with a knife.

Plunge the cooked tongue into ice water. Slit it down the side with a sharp knife or razor, and then peel the tongue the way you would pull an undersized glove off a very sweaty hand.

The end result should remind you of pot roast, but with far more richness. Well simmered tongue has a melt-in-your-mouth quality. If it’s chewy, you screwed the pooch and undercooked it. Too bad.

Classically, tongue is sliced thin and served on rye bread with stone ground mustard, red onion, and pickles, but I prefer soft tacos. For that, you need a quarter-inch dice of tongue meat. Quickly stir fry it over high heat (only to warm it — it’s already cooked) and serve over fried corn tortillas with a garnish of finely chopped white onion and cilantro. Top with salsa.

For our most recent tongue, I prepared a somewhat Indian tomato sauce in the following manner:

1. Saute one medium onion, finely diced, with one teaspoon finely chopped ginger and two finely chopped garlic cloves.

2. Add two 14 ounce cans of tomato sauce along with the following spices: 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or any hot red chile flake). For saltiness, I added about a tablespoon of fish sauce.

3. I also added one heaping teaspoon of roasted tahini paste as a thickener. I doubt this added much to the end result . . . perhaps a bit of complexity. Omit this if you like.

4. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it over the sliced tongue.


Eat anything fun lately?


, April 19, 2012. Category: Food.

That other Walnut

Lately, I’ve been using this new product in my facial recon work — pig basement membrane, which takes the place of an autogenous skin graft. The sales rep was in the OR today, and I guess he was trying to impress me, because he’d google me (I guess) and wanted to let me know how amazing I am.

“How did you do all those things?”

I wasn’t sure what “those things” were, but since I haven’t done much professionally except collect degrees, I said, “I dunno, I just stayed in school a long long time.”

“Yeah, but you must be brilliant. I mean, you graduated high school at 16, college at 19, you were an engineer –”

At which point I interrupted him. In retrospect, I should have let him go on, because now I’m curious what all else that other Walnut did. Was he an astronaut? Did he climb Kilimanjaro whilst fighting off a swarm of killer bees? Win a decathlon? Learn to bend spoons with his amazing mental powers?

I disabused him gently of his misconceptions. We hate losing our heroes.


Karen’s BD today . . . for which I made lamb tacos, homemade guacamole, and for dessert a Duomo Tiramisu. You can ignore the linked recipe and just focus on the picture, since that’s where I got the idea. I used my usual recipe, but decided to make it more kid-friendly so that Jake would eat it for a change. Instead of espresso, I soaked my pound cake in root beer. I did not use any alcohol in the zabaglione, but used some cherry juice instead. Then I split the zabaglione in half. Half of it I kept plain, and to the other half I added 4 ounces of German chocolate (melted). I then added one thingy of mascarpone cheese to each zabaglione sauce, then folded in the whipped cream.

After I had created multiple layers, I still had a fairly large volume at the center of my Duomo that was empty. (Yes, I’d used too large a bowl.) What could I do? If I left it empty, the whole thing would collapse when I inverted it. I really didn’t feel like going through the bother of making more filling and buying another pound cake. So instead, I bought a champagne cake, a small one, and stuffed that in the center. Thus achieving a dessert form of Turducken!

Good but rich. I’ll be shocked if we even manage to finish half of it. All three of us had some, and I think we only ate about 20% of the total.


Writing proceeds apace. I haven’t done a total word count lately but I suspect I’m something like 35K or 40K words into this. If so, this is feeling like a 100 to 120K story, which is just about right. So: epublish or not? I’d like to think I’d have the time to ship it out to agents, but who am I kidding.


For once, I did not futz with the recipe

For tonight, I made Tyler Florence’s recipe for galumpkis (stuffed cabbage). And now that I think about it, I did futz with the recipe: I used a pound of lamb and a pound of pork, no beef. Otherwise, yeah, everything was the same.

Quite good, although the sauce came out watery. I suspect the only fix for that is to cook down the sauce (in the earliest stage of the recipe) until it’s like mud. The meat and cabbage give up too much liquid, so I suspect that’s the only way to deal with the problem.

Oh, and I’ve decided I like working with grape leaves far more than cabbage. Cabbage is a pain. On one of the comment threads (perhaps on someone else’s stuffed cabbage recipe), one person claimed that if you froze and thawed the head of cabbage, the leaves will come off perfectly. Hmm. I can tell you it was impossible to remove the leaves from a fresh head without a lot of tearing.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping it will be better than 2011. At least up until that end of the world thingie.


For the Challah days


There’s two loaves there. Karen braided 1.5 loaves. I am a braiding dyslexic.


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