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Diablo
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been using a brand of biscuit mix where you mix in some milk and some melted butter. I guess they're buttermilk biscuits, or something. It was out of stock last time, so I had to get something different and I got this Bisquick packet that says "just add water." Easy enough, obviously. But I had this idea - the other mix wanted butter, and they're pretty good, so I figure if water is good, then adding butter to this other packet, it'll be even better, right? I mix it up, seems fine, bake it for a short time, take em out - they look right. Ohhhh but they didn't taste right! I couldn't really describe to you exactly what they tasted like, it probably had some extreme butter overload, also tasted almost burnt even though they were definitely not ... it was no doubt a complete disaster. Filed away for future reference.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Buncha cooking.

* * *

Haven't made my Tandoori Chicken in a while.







More photogenic than anything. ;)

Was a bit too spicy, and a bit lacking in flavour. Actually it was lemony, but no other spices jumped out.

I have this "National" branded tandoori mix that they recommend 5 spoon-fulls of. It's spicy, and I'm sure it's been worse. I would probably prefer 3 spoon-fulls, and more other tandoori mix just to get more flavour.

Actually this method (yogourt + lemon juice/zest + garlic + spices, baking) is a pretty decent base recipe. I should try different/alternative spices. Would be nice if I could make something interesting that my girlfriend could eat.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Earlier this week I made a lasagna.





I should have taken a slice photo, but I didn't. Ah well.

By far this was the best Lasagna I've made, girlfriend even asked to take some leftovers with her. I've been enjoying it every day since Thursday. Wow, just wow.

I've settled on my recipe.

Meat Sauce
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed in to a paste (can be chunky but should be pastey)
- 2-4 regular onions, finely chopped
- 2 large stalks of celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots (or a good handful of carrot strings), finely chopped
- ~150g of Panchetta, cubed
- ~450g (1 lb) of a fatty meat (medium ground beef)
- ~450g (1 lb) of a lean meat (lean ground pork)
- ~3 large King Oyster Mushrooms, cubed, lightly pan fried (tastes like a 3rd meat)
- 28 oz (~800 ml) can of whole Italian tomatoes (optionally San Marzano, but quality tomatoes from Italy work)
- Half a 5.5 oz can of Tomato paste (used to infuse the sauteed ingredients with tomato)
- ~half a box of stock, for deglazing, getting the rest of the juice out of the tomato can, and generally adding a better flavour than water.
- Milk, the creamier the better. At least half of that tomato can's worth, but more milk doesn't hurt (it just takes longer to reduce)
- (in general, prefer milk to stock, but both add flavour. once added, your 5 qt pot is going to be awfully full, so do what you can)
- I found the perfect tray size for it: the large tray from Dollar Tree. Other trays weren't big/deep enough.

- Saute garlic in some oil. Add Onion, Celery, Carrot, and continue to saute.
- Add Panchetta, and continue to saute.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Add that half can of tomato paste, and stir in. All the sauteed ingredients should now have a light coating of tomato.
- You can add one of the meats to the main pot, and brown it alongside the other ingredients. Be sure to add salt and pepper for them to absorb!
- In a separate pan, you can individually saute the mushrooms or brown the meats. Be sure to add salt and pepper for them to absorb! Add to main pot when finished.
- once everything has browned, add can of whole tomatoes. Crush them in the pot. Whenever you stir and find large chunks, crush them some more.
- Add some stock and milk
- simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring regularly (every 20 minutes, or more frequently to avoid burning)
- when sauce looks chunky, not runny, it's ready.

Bechamel sauce
- Butter
- Flour
- ~1 litre of Milk
- Nutmeg

- Melt butter, add flour, whisk constantly
- cook for a bit
- add some milk, whisk in, repeat until milk is used up (adding milk cools everything down, so the less you add, the less the temperature changes)
- add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste (probably add this sooner, but in general regularly test it)
- You want a somewhat thick sauce that actually coats your finger/spoon (it doesn't have to be translucent, but should have some thickness). Whisk in more flour if it's not enough.

Lasagna
- Fresh lasagna noodle sheets
- A whole bunch of spinach (enough for 2 thick layers)
- A whole bunch of fresh basil (enough for 1 thin layer on top)
- A 250g block of Parmigano Reganno (that you'll shred yourself)
- ~500g of fresh Mozzarella or equivalent Pizza Mozzarella balls (i.e. more than a 340g ball), sliced
- Olive Oil

- Layer of meat sauce on the bottom. You can alternatively fill in some of the gaps with Bechamel, but it's important that the base is moist.
- Layer of noodle
- Layer of Bechamel (noodle should be fully covered)
- Layer of Spinach. You should not see any sauce.
- Layer of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (to add a saltyness to the spinach)
- Layer of meat sauce. again you can fill in the gaps with bechamel, since you might not have as much meat sauce, but you want enough to make sure you get full moisture coverage
- Layer of noodle
- Layer of Bechamel
- Layer of Spinach
- Layer of Parmigiano Reggiano
- Layer of Bechamel again (because meat sauce is probably low)
- Layer of noodle
- Layer of Meat Sauce and Bechamel, whatever is left. Try to make sure the noodle has full moisture coverage.
- Layer of Basil Leaves. Doesn't need 100% coverage, but there should be a little bit of basil everywhere.
- Some Parmigiano Reggiano, especially anywhere you just can't cover with sauce/bechamel
- Layer of Mozarella Cheese slices. Also doesn't need 100% coverage. Gaps give you good lines for dividing slices of Lasagna. Also put some chunks along the edge for that crispy edge cheese yums
- Drizzle of olive oil on top
- Bake for 35 minutes, then broil for ~5 minutes until cheese on top is nicely browned
- let sit for 15 minutes, then serve

Honestly I'm not sure what can be done to improve (other than perfecting the Bechamel method, making fresh noodles). Fresh slices will be a bit soupy, but after it sits for a bit they will be stable.

I'm super happy with this recipe.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And today we made another Mac & Cheese. Still trying to get a feel for it.







I avoided mustard and any other additives, and kept it very basic. My last batch (the mustard batch) ended up a greasy mess that lacked cheesyness. I felt like there were more essentials I needed to work on first, plus ingredient decisions to make.

My first Mac & Cheese I tried to get extra fancy by adding Gruyere cheese, but that stuff was super expensive, and frankly I'm not convinced I could taste what it really improved about things.

I think what I want my Mac & Cheese to be is a cheap recipe. So this time I stuck to a cheap ~500g block of "Old Cheddar". Supposedly old cheddar is supposed to not be very melty, and I have found that good cheddars are more firm, but this "old cheddar" was reasonably soft and I had no problems melting it.

So I made a cheese sauce, but this time I went full-Bechamel on it. i.e. nutmeg and everything. I think I added too much milk (enough that it wasn't thick anymore). I melted handfulls of cheese in, and just repeated until I had melted the entire block. I added a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano, but I'm not sure it added much. Sauce was nice, not too thick (could have been thicker).

Noodle was undercooked slightly (8 minute cook vs the recommended 10 minute), just so it had some room to absorb sauce moisture. I like this noodle because of all the places cheese can get stuck in it. :D

Mixed the cheese sauce with the noodle, saving a little bit for topping (not much).

What I should have done: greased the pan BEFORE pouring the noodle+cheese mix in. Unlike my Lasagna, it's not a very moist recipe. Little bit of oil/butter/grease in the pan would help it crisp up the edges better, instead of sticking.

Poured it in to the pan. Poured what I had left of the cheese sauce along the edge for... well I'm not sure what, but I assumed it would help. It probably did.

Topped with some breadcrumbs (normal, not toasted, just as is). THEN topped with a layer of Parmigiano Reggiano. I think this combo works well. Crispy Parmigiano on top is kinda nice.

Baked for 30 minutes, then 5 minutes with the broiler to brown the top. Sit for 10 minutes, then serve.


It definitely needs something more, but this batch definitely tasted like a good baseline. I always have Parmigiano Reggiano in my fridge, so that plus a cheap old Cheddar and Milk gives a good 3 creamy flavours to work with.

Things to try:

- GREASE THE PAN
- Mustard (again), possibly dry mustard
- Paprika (several recipes call for this)
- Pepper (I avoided it, for science)
- all mixed in to the base of the Bechamel, before milk is added
- less Milk to achieve a thicker sauce
- unmelted cheese (several recipes suggest melting some cheese, and including some unmelted cheese to add pockets of melty cheese, but I think that's more a fix for thin sauces)
- Ground meat or bacon (might push it too greasy if not careful)
- Spinach (or other green that shrivels when cooked)

Probably the biggest problem I'm running in to with Mac & Cheese research is that it's an "American Classic", which basically means most recipes you find are half-assed and lacking in craft and study. Making a good Mac and Cheese is more about fundamentals than a specific recipe. Which is fine. It just means I get a good general Cheese Sauce when I'm happy with it, which I think should be a more intense alternative to Bechamel (a sauce that's already creamy).
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syn9ne
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This looks amazing. Have you tried Alton Brown's baked macaroni? He's very big on the science of cooking, it might be worth a shot.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe-1939524
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The onion is an interesting thought. I have been feeling like it's missing something. I probably need more than just cheese and noodle to feel right. ;)
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't really bake/make deserts, but I had a hankering for cookies late, on a day stores weren't opened. I've never made cookies-from-scratch before.



I didn't really have ingredients for what I wanted to make (no chocolate chips, barely half a cup of peanut butter). So after googling recipes, I settled on a sort of improvised recipe: using what Peanut Butter I had, and some Cocoa just to give it something more interesting than just sugar.

Well, I was glad to learn it's actually pretty easy to make cookies: Butter/Margarine, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Flour, Egg, Risers (Baking Powder, Baking Soda), Flavours (Vanilla Extract, Crunchy Peanut Butter, Cocoa).

I bought a tin of Cocoa on a whim recently. The thought was "hey, if I'm out of hot chocolate mix, I can probably make it with cocoa+sugar". Didn't expect it to get used for cookies. It definitely saved my butt, otherwise these cookies would have been quite plain.



After mixing the ingredients, it gave me enough for roughly 3 batches (cookie sheets full).



The downside of using cocoa: you can't look at them and know they're done (from edge browning).

The 1st of the 3 batches was best, with slightly moist insides. The other 2 batches, #2 was slightly burned on the bottom (not bad tasting or anything), and the 3rd was just dry, overcooked. I also made the mistake (?) of putting multiple batches in the oven at the same time. This messes up all estimates of how long things take.

Things I'd change:
- Well I need peanut butter. Having peanut butter around is good thing. I had no idea I was (nearly) out.
- I should replace my brown sugar. It's old and clumpy. Some clumps I just wasn't able to remove with the mixer.
- one batch at a time. I was trying to save time putting 2 in, but you really need to know your timings/switch the order for more "fair" baking time.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't like coffee.

Let me repeat that.

I DO NOT like coffee.

That said, this hasn't stopped me from researching: how to make coffee.

Even though I don't like coffee, I expect there are things I can learn from the process. If nothing else, it's one more life skill to add to my repertoire. I've already accepted I have a dependence on caffeine (i.e. old, even just a little helps me function, going "cold turkey" doesn't work because my weight), so worst case scenario it's a cheaper alternative to my usual go-to: sugar free energy drinks.

Of course like everything I do, I like to go too far to figure out how to do it right. So after some reading, I learned that meant:

- Grinding beans before use
- Brewing a fresh pot

If I was to go even further, that would include roasting, but nah, I decided to stick to grinding and brewing.

More digging lead me to learn that Coffee beverages essentially break down in to Espresso+Milk concoctions, and Brews (Drip, French Press, etc).


So, because science, to truly understand Coffee as an ingredient, I decided to start with Espresso. It doesn't get more intense than that.

My tool of choice, rather than go full-on Espresso machine, I went with a Moka Pot.



I picked this up on sale for $8. That's where this all begins. Technically Moka Pots don't make "full strength" Espresso, but again, for something that'll be so infrequently used, I decided to go cheap.


Now technically I've had a blade grinder for a while. I bought it for spice grinding, but in practice I just use a Mortar and Pestle for my spice grinding. What I read though, "blade" grinders are no-good for coffee grinding, due to the lack of consistency in grind size. Instead, what everyone recommends is a "Burr" grinder. So I ordered this from Amazon.



A mere $12, and reasonably high ratings all things considered.

A couple days later though, I managed to score an electric grinder for stupid cheap, via a local auction site:



I spent about $10 for that. I was used once (poorly cleaned by previous owner), and best I can tell it works.

To date I haven't used the manual grinder, but I still have it. I'm tempted to re-purpose it as a Spice Grinder, but again, I keep just using the Mortar and Pestle, so *shrug*.


So great. I have a tool to grind, and a tool to brew. Now I just need a bean.

I started with this cheap $8 KG bean... probably not the best choice.



"Double Roasted", which I later learned that implied a Dark Roast. i.e. a bean that's likely very bitter (and less caffeinated). Also the bag lacked an expiration date, and a CO2 release valve. I knew from that I wasn't buying a great bean, but it was cheap, so I knew I'd have plenty of waste in my experimenting.


Over a few days I brewed 4 different brews in my Moka Pot, each with a different grind of the electric grinder. The electric grinder describes the grind size as "Espresso -> Drip -> French Press", with Espresso taking the finest grind, and French Press the coarsest. My first 2 brews (in the espresso zone and halfway in to the drip zone) were IMO too bitter.

Wisdom for Moka Pot coffee is you want a coarser grind than typical Espresso, but less than French Press. Well IMO the coffee wasn't tolerable until I got close to the "French Press" settings on the electric grinder (batch #3). It wasn't pleasant, but I believe I did finish it. As a final test I pushed it all the way to the maximum coarseness, and it was also tolerable (albeit watery). It also made a mess, spitting everywhere, but that was my own mistake.


From that, and a bunch more reading, I'm lead to believe my dis-taste is my choice of bean: a cheap dark roast.

So next time when I try this again, I'd like to pick up a fresh light roast.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Further refinement to my Coffee process, I picked up a new kettle, just to be sure I was getting less corrosive in my hot water.



This came from that same auction site I got the electric grinder from, for a mere $4. ;)


Part of my Amazon order including the Burr grinder included a French Press, something that was on sale with high ratings (mainly to pad my order for the manual grinder): $16.



I haven't tried it yet, but on Twitter folks keep telling me to try French Press, so I got one of them now.

I also read something about using a French Press as a Milk Frother, but looking at this thing in person, this is quite a beast of a tool, that having to clean milk out of it for a tiny cup of coffee seems quite a bit extra work.


Finally I added another Moka-like pot to my repertoire.



The Moka pot is iconic, but this one seems a bit better made. Checking Amazon reviews, the top-of-the-line Moka Pots come from the Italian company that invented them: Bialetti. That said, an American (?) company Primula seems to make clones that get high reviews on Amazon too. They're made in China (what isn't), but I like some of the features of this pot, most notably the handle. My $8 Moka pot, the plastic handle isn't the best designed. It has exposed metal in a spot that can burn you. This pot at least has the foresight to make the handle of silicone, and include a lip where the hand grip goes, making burning yourself a little less easy.

Oh, and I got it for $3 from that local auction site. ;)


So yeah, I've spent about $60 in hardware so far, and $8 on beans.

I haven't done anything on the "Coffee Project' since Dec 26th (boxing day). A friend offered to make me what he considers a "perfect cup" next time I see him (we do weekly game nights), so I'm waiting on that before I continue.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been using that first Moka Pot for a couple years now with starbucks espresso beans ground for espresso. I add a splash of french vanilla creamer in the cup before pouring in the coffee. It works great, except that I have to consciously try not to burn myself when I pick it up :)
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh! Food discovery!

Was at lunch with some friends. They had a Steak Sandwich on special. Sounded good.

Holy crap!

Aside from the usual stars of the show (tender aged beef, cheese, fresh bun, arugala?) there was a special sauce on it it, something I'd never tasted before: Chimichurri Sauce. Specifically a Jalepeno Chimichurri.

(Google Image Search)



https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chimichurri-sauce-107159
https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/argentine-chimichurri-sauce-28393
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/traditional-chimichurri

It was this thin green sauce that seemed to drip out of the sandwich. Very tasty.

A quick look at recipes, it appears to be:
- Parsley/Cilantro
- Garlic
- Oil
- Vinegar
- Oregano
- Sometimes other Spices (Cumin)
- Sometimes a pepper (Chiili's, Chilli Flakes)

Definitely the star of the show, but in general it was a good sandwich. I was not expect such good food at a brew-pub. Good thing it was a daily special. If that was on the menu, I might be in trouble. :)

An Argentina recipe, traditionally it looks like ChimiChurri is paired with beef.

It's also prepared cold, so that's a nice time-saver.

Hmm.

Anyway, something new for the list.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Research. :)

Went to a Hungarian restaurant with my Grillfriend and her family and I got what they called the Budapest Platter.

It started with an amazing Goulash. Kicking myself for not taking a photo. I've definitely been barking up the wrong tree with my recipe.

Then I was introduced to this:



Everything was amazing. Boy am I so glad I got over my dis-taste of Cabbage and Cabbage rolls. This was wonderful. Expensive (nearly $30), but wonderful.



This cabbage salad thing.




A cabbage roll (right) and braised super-tender beef.




A deep fried piece of Wiener Schnitzel on top of the beef.




A chunk of sausage, and the tiniest dumplings I've seen.




Takeaway: I want to figure out the beef. I think it might just be chunks of beef cooked in/for the goulash, but served on the plate. Also knowing what the cabbage dish is (and what's different about the cabbage rolls) would be nice.
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