Monday, February 27, 2006

¡Tacos al Carbon!

I believe I have figured out a solution to making this at home. I haven't had the meal in long enough to know if I have perfected it, but what this makes is a damn good approximation from memory.

Ingredients:
  • A flank steak. These are 1.5 - 2 pounds, I think I paid $7.99 a pound. Serves 4 easily.
  • 1 16 oz can of low sodium chicken broth (low sodium because it gets reduced and full on broth makes it too salty- a buillon cube made with twice the water also will work)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • flour (as a thickener, get some Wondra flour in the Pringles-like can which is produced specifically for gravy making purposes. It work beautifully for any gravy or pan sauce.)
  • 2 sticks of butter (let's get nuts!)
  • a few cloves of garlic, 4-6 depending on size. DO NOT buy elephant garlic no matter how big (ha!) the temptation may be. It's bitter and gross.
  • flour tortillas

    Equipment:

  • Frying pan, prefereably of the non-non-stick variety. You're going to be making a pan sauce and want that shit to get stuck on there because that shit is the flavor. I did do it in a teflon pan also, and it worked alright too.
  • Some kind of heat proof spatula. Wood is the classic tool, but that's just gross. I use a silicone spatula sold under the Pyrex brand that was about $4 at Target.
  • A smaller pan for butter melting purposes.
  • A microwave safe thing for the broth.

    This can be broken into two steps, pre-prep or mise en place, and then the final cooking. But I'd do it the same day either way.

    Step one, the meat. I found that cutting it into fourths makes it easier (IE, possible) to wield and cook in a normal pan. Cut in half once with the grain, once against. I pounded the meat a bit, since this cut can be a little dense. We're not talking paper thin, just a whack or two until it shows a little give and is a bit more uniform in thickness. If it starts out at 3/4 inch, it ends up at a half. Then mix the salt and sugar, and season both sides of the meat with this mixture. You should have some left over, but not too much. Pepper to taste, not too much as it cooks up bitter if you go too heavy. Cover with plastic wrap (in the fridge if working ahead).

    The butter: Drawn butter is not easy to do, it burns almost instantly. What I did was place the butter into a pyrex dish, and then put that dish into a bath of hot water, along with 3-4 of the garlic gloves sort of smashed up, but still solid enough to grab out at the end. I just let the water boil and slowly melt the botter, letting the garlic infuse itself into it. You can poke and prod the garlic to get the flavor out, but too much and you have tiny bits to deal with. Once it has completely melted and infused for about 15 minutes, remove it from the bath. Place it into a pan for cooking and allow it to begin foaming. As soon as the foaming subsides, reduce heat to almost nothing and begin skimming off the milk solids from the top, and remove the garlic chunks. Work quickly, when the solids at the bottom begin to brown you've got almost no time left. Pour into serving dishes, or a clean container to set aside (in the fridge if you're prepping ahead of time).

    The broth: Not too dificult. Crack it open, put into microwave container with remaining garlic cloves smashed like above. I also added a couple shots of hot sauce for a bit of heat. Remember, this is getting reduced so don't go too heavy. Microwave it to around boiling and set aside (fridge if working ahead).

    I think that does it for the prep work.

    When cooking time comes, remove the stuff from the fridge. The meat should come out so that it's nearing room temperature at cooking time. You should see that the sugar and salt have drawn just a little moisture out. That's good.

    Warm up the broth and remove the garlic chunks.

    Warm up the butter and place into serving dishes.

    Warm the frying pan and put in some corn or olive oil until it just starts smoking. Drop the meat in, making sure to leave some room around the pieces for the steam to escape (or you'll have a gloopy nightmare). Sear for a minute or so and reduce the temperature. Cook it to just under what you'd like the steak flavor to be. Hotter and faster for blood rare, slower and cooler for medium. The goal is to get a nice dark seer on the meat without burning it or over cooking it, and also for some nice good brown stuff in the pan. Flip once halfway through (I think it was about 7 minutes a side for me), and maybe one final flip to even up the sear.

    (Warm up your tortillas when not tending to the meat)

    Remove from heat and let rest on a plate covered in foil. Meanwhile, check the pan. If the gunk is dark brown and on the verge of blackness, good stuff. If not, let it cook for a while until the gook gets nice and dark. Coffee ground colored. Once there, "deglaze" the pan with about 2/3 of the chicken broth and bring this to a boil. Once there, continue boiling and stirring to scrape up and dissolve all the brown bits. Sprinkle maybe 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of the flour into the mix. Keep reducing until it gets to a ketchup consistency. If it starts to burn, add more of the broth. Or if it's not looking dark brown enough, let it cook down to almost nothing and darken a bit, and then reconsitiute it with the remaining broth. It's a finesse thing. Once the sauce is dark and ketchupy again, give it a quick taste for saltiness and salt if necessary.

    Here's where it gets tricky. While you're doing that, after the meat has rested about 5 minutes and expelled juices, dump the juices back into the pan, and then slice the meat against the grain.

    Now dump the meat in, and stir it around to get coated, and cook it a bit more until the sauce pretty much is gone and stuck to the meat. This final step is why you wanted to slightly undercook the meat earlier.

    Place into the tortillas and serve. And enjoy, dammit!

  • More taxes

    As we learned here, I dislike my taxes being raised. At least, for no good reason. Now, another school appears with hands outstretched. But if you read the two articles, two things seem clear. First, UCLA's management has a plan (besides not making cuts). Secondly, that plan details the benefits to my voting for their increase. Rather than trying to justify it by claiming that "District 126 has not had a tax rate increase since 1972".

    I will vote yes to this. Heck, I'd even think about buying one of the bonds if such a thing is possible to the lowly investor such as myself.

    The Factor

    A couple of funny quotes from a good piece on perennial bully Bill O'Reilly:
    O'Reilly criticized a Fox News appearance by author Neal Gabler, calling Gabler a "rabid dog" who "traffics in personal attacks."
    Mmmm, that's good irony!
    And:
    "The median age of viewers of this program is 58.7," Olbermann said Friday on "Countdown." "The median age of viewers of Mr. O'Reilly's program is 68.6. If you want to be concerned about `well-being,' Bill, be concerned about the odds of your viewers living into next week."
    So wait: for every viewer under 68, there is a viewer over 68? That's hilarious.

    I regret not watching more Olberman, he seems like he's got his head on straight.

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    They're just crazy, right?

    Verizon Executive Calls for End to Google's 'Free Lunch'
    A Verizon Communications Inc. executive yesterday accused Google Inc. of freeloading for gaining access to people's homes using a network of lines and cables the phone company spent billions of dollars to build.
    I think he's missing something. They still charge these consumers for the access, right? The consumers give Verizon $45 a month, and Verizon provides connectivity between "teh Intarweb" and said consumers. And, correct me if I'm wrong, Google has to pay somebody for the giant OC-a-billion phone lines that connect them to the internet. Verizon is just pissed that their crappy, ad-filled portal page they paid so much to so many webmonkeys for is not being used, right? They just want a cut of the action.

    More broadly, the government must not kow-tow to these idiots! They must allow the internet to remain "free", clamping-of-access wise anyway. The idea is that if you don't subscribe to your ISP's version of VoIP, for example, they will throttle all competitors' VoIP traffic on your line. Rendering it useless. I've got no problem if they give higher QOS priority to their own service, just not hindering access to traffic they don't make money off of. Heck, I'd pay extra (a little) to have my Vonage traffic get higher QOS priority.

    I'm Starting a Cigar Company!



    (Note the fabulous 5 minute edit job, editing out the cigar labels.)

    I'm going to have seven types, and name them Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Dopey, Doc and Bashful.

    That's gold, Jerry.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Etc.

    1) It was friggin' awesome! I was watching some of the men's downhill slalom, and they did this thing called something like ThruView, where they managed to superimpose the video of two skiers' runs onto one. That doesn't sound quite as spectacular as it looked. It looked no different than the live video, just that there was a second guy there. And it was timed precicely, so you could see each guy's different footwork and such. Wicked pisser. They also were doing some extreme close ups of fouls and stuff.

    2) Democrats! What is all this about the $7 hunting license and waiting to report the shooting? You are unspinning your own story! The story is Vice President Cheney Shot his Friend in the Face With a Shotgun. Don't say anything else. He is shooting people now. That's the story.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Blagojevich on 'Daily Show'

    I hope you all enjoyed Gov. Haircut on the TV.

    Blagojevich, sometimes looking befuddled and other times trying to sound witty himself, made a cameo appearance last night on the ``Daily Show,'' ostensibly to discuss his order requiring pharmacies to immediately fill emergency-contraception prescriptions.


    Best line ever:

    ``I sat down with Gov. Blago, Blagaaaa . . . Gov. Smith,'' Jones said in a voiceover.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Taxes!

    So they keep trying to raise my taxes. I note with wonder and amazement that there hasn't been a tax rate increase since 1972. So my question is, what is different now that a revenue stream that has worked for 35 years (and which was lower during the Baby Boom where every house had 17 kids) won't work anymore? And they're talking about a 33% increase, by the by.

    EDIT: I'd also like to add that property values (upon which the tax rate is applied) have far outpaced inflation, and that the neighborhoods in question are far more mature than they were back in the day, as these places were built for the post-war crowd, and it would thus stand to reason that there wouldn't have been as many empty-nesters then as now. So, again, what? (Note to out-of-staters: Illinois is fairly unique in that much of local school money comes from the local property taxes. Education funding can vary widely from community to community.)

    I'd also like to note that Incarnation Catholic Church currently has on its message sign the following "this school saves taxpayers 1.3 million a year." I didn't get any refund check, and they do charge tuition, right? Not exactly like it's some charitable thing they're doing.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    It came from 1971...

    The SEARS CATALOG!

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Book Reviews

    I have finally read:

    Devil in the White City: Absolutely fascinating. The architecture, the big dreams. Good stuff. The nut: I wonder if the author didn't make him a bit too one-dimensional. There were a few spots where he reviewed a contemporary fact about him, and then editorialized a bit. Rarely are people that simple. The third plotline, the guy who is obsessed with the mayor, seemed a little contrived. Flesh it out more. Or less. But I'm not complaining- it was a great book.

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: The book briefly touched on some issues I've been having with the world, but most of it went over my head a bit. I'd say it was one of the toughest reads in a long while. I don't know the language of philosophy and it is used extensively in this book. It was written in, and I think for, another generation. There is a subtext of a WWII guy pleading with the boomers not to take thinks for granted. It's quite possible there is almost no mention of any Eastern philosophy in this book. It's very long. I think I'm writing this way on purpose now. Being a concrete minded sort of person, I hate the "riding off into the sunset" sort of ending. It's not that I don't get the point in many cases, but that I want a payoff. Yes it's about the journey, blah, blah, blah, but just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with a footstep, it also ends with a knock on a door. I want just a tiny little bit of what happens when they answer. Not very zen-like, I imagine. It was still a good book.

    Both recommended.

    Fools!

    No school, no books, no teacher's dirty looks

    This just seems like a bad idea. Put quite simply, there are things that we need to learn that we aren't all naturally curious about. Not the least of which being self control. This sort of edu-surfing is GREAT for a summer vacation, but its only value is in the pace change from REAL SCHOOL.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    HA!

    Alito splits with "conservative" bloc on first day.

    I listened to some of the Senate hearings on this guy, and he didn't seem so bad to me. They had this great shot of him on the State of the Union address, just looking around soaking it all in. He woke up that day just some guy, and he ended the day as a Supreme Court Justice sitting in the Capitol Building. Not bad.

    Goodness

    Boy George in non-drag. Looks like Darth Vader with his mask off.

    Bamboo!

    It's all the rage. No longer just room dividers and bad furniture, it's supposed to be an excellent flooring material as well. Now they're making sheets and socks out of it! I was in the Target and saw some bamboo sheets. Very soft feeling, like a silky linen. Not even a little "twiney" as one would think when hearing "bamboo cloth". It's supposed to be antibacterial also.