Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coffee Log: Follow up to the coffee ice cubes post

After I posted about making coffee ice cubes, a good friend sent me this link to making cold-brewed coffee. And I'm hooked.

In short, you grind your coffee very fine, and put it in a vessel with water, seal the vessel, and leave it at room temp for 12-24 hours. At the end of that time period, filter, add ice, and a little milk, and drink. Medium roast is better than dark roast.

Because it's cold-brewed, the extraction of the more bitter oils is kept to a minimum, and the end result is some incredibly smooth coffee.

BUT... I don't use his recipe. The article calls for a ratio of 1:1 coffee:water by volume, using coffee ground finely for use in a drip coffee maker.

I'm lucky enough to have a really nice coffee grinder that will do an espresso grind. Since the author lists surface contact with the coffee as a factor in brewing, I figured finer grinds than normal would work better. With the grind setting I use, I've only needed to use my standard hot-brewing ratio. (3/4 cup coffee/ 12C of water) I may try playing with the ratios a bit, but this has worked well so far. For those of you without a fancy grinder, look around for a grocery store that offers whole bean coffee, AND has a grinder in the store. You should be able to get a fine enough grind that way.

I also don't bother with using a French press. Because I'm using less coffee, I don't need to extract such a high amount of grounds. And because I'm using such a find grind, the press wouldn't filter much out anyway. So, I use a 6 cup mason jar, and pour it through the top of my regular coffee maker, and filter it that way.

Good stuff...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Saturday Hash

This has become a weekly staple in our house on Saturday mornings. Since Pancakes are the staple for Sunday mornings, that means I'm going to have to start breaking traditions if I want to do new things, but that's a discussion for another day. Typically, a skillet full of hash browns will last us for most of the weekend. 

The great thing about this recipe is that the process is very forgiving. No worry, no hurry. So, on Saturdays, when I stumble, bleary-eyed into the kitchen, this is how I start the day.

Step One: Cast iron skillet. Put it on the stove to pre-heat. 

Step one and a half. Start making coffee.

Step Two: Bacon. I grab hunks from the TJ's ends and trimmings package, and start cutting. Big chunks of fat go right into the pan to grease it up a little bit for cooking. Dark meaty parts get sliced up into bits to be fried and eaten. The big chunks of fat will get removed before any other ingredients get added to the pan, so the overall fat content is lowered, but it definitely adds flavor and that wonderful fatty bacon smell.

I've also used pre-sliced pepperoni, and I have no doubt that thin sliced kielbasa would be another good substitute for bacon. (And now that I've considered this, it will have to happen soon.)

Step Three: Onion. While the bacon is cooking, chop up an onion or two. Remove  the big chunks of bacon fat from the pan, and dump the onions on top of the bacon. Don't stir just yet, let that bacon stay sizzling on the pan. Crispy bacon is good.

Step three and a half: get some coffee, if you haven't already. Good hash browns take time, and Saturday is supposed to be relaxing.

Step Four: Potatoes. While the onion is sizzling away, chop up a few (3-4) Yukon Gold potatoes (Or baby reds, or whatever.) into 1/4-3/8" cubes.  Size of cube counts... smaller pieces cook more easily, and larger ones end up with a half-cooked texture. Stir the potatoes into the onion/ bacon mix.

Step Five: Seasoning. I've been using a combination of Thyme, Oregano, and a salt-free Chili/ BBQ blend from Penzey's, called Arizona Dreaming. I leave all of this on top of the hash, and sprinkle a little bit of water over everything. The steam seems to help re-hydrate the seasoning, and add more flavor.

Step Six: Black beans. I'm lazy, I buy canned beans. If you're a dry-bean person, I guess you should set them out to soak the night before. I rinse them off in the steamer basket, and stir them into the mix. 

As things continue to cook, sprinkle a little bit of water over everything once in a while. It will help loosen up anything that's sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use a metal spatula (as you should, with cast iron) to scrape up that starchy goodness and stir it back into the hash. Keeping all that gunk from burning on to the pan will make cleanup a lot easier later on. And since most of whatever is sticking is made up of starch, onions, bacon, or spices, you're basically stirring a lot of flavor back into the hash where it belongs. 

Continue to take your time. Have some coffee, get some plates out, pre-heat another pan for some eggs, whatever. Hash takes time, and Saturdays should be relaxing. Have some more coffee while that one sinks in.

Once everything is cooked, put the burner on low, and scramble up some eggs, or fix whatever else is going to be part of breakfast for the morning. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

Coffee Log: Better iced coffee

Well, summer's officially here. Blecch. Hot, humid... Not the best time for a piping hot cup of coffee. So, that means it's iced coffee season. But after 10 years of drinking Dunkin Donuts' iced coffee, I think I'm about ready to admit that it's revolting. Sugar helps. Milk helps. Holding your nose helps. It's a predictable flavor, and knowing what to expect is better than expecting good, and not getting it. But I'm still in the mood for something better.

I'm still searching for a lighter blend than I usually drink at home for summertime drinking, but our regular coffee (50/50 espresso roast/ Decaf Italian roast) is still good enough.

Which brings me to the remaining issue. To make iced coffee, the traditional method is to make super-strong coffee, with the understanding that the ice will water it down. But it basically means that I'll drain most of the cup, while it's still super strong, and not exactly tasty. And later, I'll still get watered down leftovers.

The obvious solution hit me the other day: ice cubes made of frozen coffee. So now I'm drinking regular strength coffee, that's chilled with cubes of regular strength coffee.

The only problem now is that the ice cube tray looks revolting. Good coffee is oily, and those oils don't completely freeze.