Its Friday afternoon....early evening, just about the time rabbits surface from their hole.
Klecko figures that maybe now that it's becoming autumn, maybe he should make "Ronald Reagan's" chili recipe.
Other than bacon drippings, another interesting ingredient in our 40th Presidents culinary masterpiece is red wine.
Ever since the dumb a** Food Network has surfaced, it seems like anytime I mention cooking with wine.....some twit will almost certainly inform me.......
"Don't forget what the Italians say Klecko, if you are going to cook with a wine, it should be a wine you are willing to drink!"
You mean I shouldn't use Yellow Tail, lighter fluid or monkey urine?
Sheeesh - I know Klecko isn't the brightest guy...but.
So anytime I decide to cook or bake with a red wine, here are the prerequisites in determining it's selection.
It has to cost at least $15.
Well Klecko, what if the bottle was a $20 bottle and now is on sale for $10?
Remember rule #1.......
It has to cost at least $15.
As I get older, and have less money, I'm guessing this rule will change, but sometimes a guy doesn't want to skimp on something sacred.
After all, what if Christ was coming over for breakfast tomorrow morning. Would you buy him a cheaper "value" bacon to save a couple shekels?
I try to always remember that anybody-anybody-anybody that eats from my soup kettle is somehow related to the Polish Christ, and what kind of steward would I be if.....
I digress, sorry.
So I'm making the chili, and my Droid Bionic informs me that I just received either an e-mail or a text.
It was the latter.
The text was from my son Tydus, and the caption was "New Sh**".
I kinda assumed that he was going to show me some new Nike's, or Lebron 9's that he ordered.....but to my utter shock.....it was a photo.
The photo was small and within the frames was a picture of his legs, from knee caps down to his feet.
On his left leg was tattooed the word "Madison" and on the right leg "Rose"
For those of you new to this Blog, or my life......that's my granddaughters name.
I stood there totally stunned....totally.
There were so many things racing through my mind, things like..........
#1 - Wow, what made a 20 year old man choose to brand himself with the name of his niece.
#2 - Is that even a legit tattoo? His college is in the midst of an Iowa cornfield, did the Amish open a tat parlor?
#3 - Dang......look at those hairy legs, dude's like a bear, he sure didn't get that trait from us Pollacks (I'll bet it came from his Russian - Jew mother".
So I called Tydus for confirmation ,he answered, when I asked about the artworks authenticity, he said that there was a shop in downtown Decorah.
Tattoo's aren't free, so the next thing I asked was how much it cost.
Tydus played it down a bit and mentioned that it only ran him 80 bucks, but for a kid that delivers pizzas to people who are standing next to dilapidated barns when he pulls up....
Then there's a noise in the background, my son says he has to dash, and he'll call me later, so then I reminded him about Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle", this made him laugh...but he still hung up.
I hung up the phone too, turned off the burner on the stove and sat down at the kitchen table.
For a moment, I just slumped in my chair and waited for my sense of logic to catch up with my emotion.
My kid branded himself for life.........with the name of his sister daughter.
During season #3 of The Last American Baker, we have discussed many topics that have revolved around their Fathers and Daughters.
When you speak or write a phrase like "Father and Daughters"....to me, it almost seems like it sounds like a formula, like all dads who bring a baby girl in this world can simply turn to an instruction manual and tend to the girls needs.
It doesn't work that way though.
Each man gets a different set of "tools" in their "toolbox" when preparing to embark on navigating his daughters life course.
Sometimes I wish I was a better mechanic, or even 1/2 way smart so I could tend to my KiKi's needs, but instead......she kinda got stuck with a Pollack lout who mostly kicked in doors, carved pumpkins and forced her to march like the African singers on Paul Simon's "Rhythm of the Saints" album while presenting spelling bee words to me.
But the one priceless tool that I created,was something not all girls get....a brother.
So I kinda wanted to get back to cooking, but it was as if I wanted to find some kind of emotional punctuation before I stood back up and moved forward.
And then it occurred to me, that now.......at this very moment, both my children had crossed the finish line and choose to remain connected.
Nobody was forcing these to....they simply made the choice and choose each other.
WOW.....as thrilled as I was, it suddenly occurred to me that the next chapter in our families history, I won't even be around for LOL.
Cuz this selfless gesture on my sons part now confirms that my kids have love, and that gives them a platform of concrete.
Dude, you know what comes next right???????
My 2 kids, with Sue McGleno and more grandchildren, some of which who might enter the world after I leave it.
If I were KiKi or Tydus, I'd just make up lies about me.......
Their kids wouldn't believe the truth.
MY SON BRANDED HIMSELF WITH THE NAME OF HIS SISTER'S DAUGHTER.
My work is done.
Anyway.....back to Ronald Reagan's chili, the problem with the recipe is I usually only need 2 cups, so therefore I have 1/2 a bottle of Chianti left over....
Now I know some of you will say......
"Where's the problem Klecko, why not sit back and drink the remnants and consider yourself fortunate?"
The honest answer.....
Klecko Rule #811 - Booze isn't for taste, but a vehicle to numb the mind.
Seriously, I never have drank a drop of booze for taste....I want to get HIGH!
Wine chugs along and leaves a trail of snail sludge on my mind the next day.
If I want to go to the moon, why would I take a bus, when a thing called humanity has already offered me a rocket ship?
The best thing you can do with red wine isn't drinking it.... just make Biscotti.
RED WINE - BLACK PEPPER BISCOTTI
All Purpose Flour 2 pound 8 ounces
Sugar 12 ounces
Salt 1/3 ounce
B-Powder 1/2 ounce
Pepper 1/2 ounce
Dark Red Wine 8 ounces
Olive Oil 6 ounces
Eggs 6 ounces
Golden Raisin (optional) 6 ounces
Tricks for baking Biscotti......
If you asked Klecko off camera what his thoughts on Biscotti were....he'd secretly divulge that "They Are Great" (for feeding savages - Klecko whispers underneath his breath), unless-unless they are used for dunking into coffee.
But that's Klecko dream, not yours. I know a lot of you peeps love these brittle cookie/biscuit treats some lets establish a few things.
Is Biscotti a great vehicle for flavor?
Compared to other cookies, not really.
The one thing that Biscotti has that people really love is texture.
But "baking texture" is a lot like hand guns and Jesus, I am glad both exist, but I don't want my neighbors pointing them in my face.
So many bakers really mess up Biscotti in at least several of the complicated steps that take place.....let's review those steps...........
#1 - Mixing
I like to have all my ingredients prescaled and my oven set to 400 degrees "F". Then I place all my dry ingredients into a bowl, and loosely mix them with my hand. Next I throw all my wet ingredients into a second bowl, loosely mix those with my hand, and then I s-l-o-w-l-e-y pour the wet into the dry.
I want the final consistency to be firm but pliable.
You don't want the dough to be dry, if it is...just another splash of wine.
However, remember that you are using B-Powder (not Soda) so the second it gets wet, and entwined with the other ingredients....the energy is activated.
If you doddle too long, your energy will disperse and you'll get crappy oven spring.
#2 - Shaping
If you make this particular recipe, cut the final dough roughly in 1/2 and then roll it out (on a slightly floured counter) into log shapes.
Place those logs onto sheet pans covered with parchment papers, and try to square off the edges. Many people will advise you to press the logs down....but Klecko thinks killing energy is stupid....so don't.
#3 - First Bake
So when do the finished logs get placed into the oven? I have heard everything from immediately to giving the logs a 1 hour resting time.
Once again.....Klecko says "Killing energy is stupid....so don't!"
Place them in the oven pronto. We are at 400 degrees, and we will keep it there for 10 firm minutes, then we won't even bother opening the oven to look, we want the heat to stay in so just bake 400 for 10 minutes, and then drop your temp to 350 degrees (F).
I know - I know, that old woman from the boot of Italy told you to set your oven to 300-325 and bake the Biscotti for what...3 days LOL.
Reduced temps suck. It causes an unevenness between the crumb wall and interior. with a Biscotti, the 1st bake is actually the most important. you want the dough logs bake to be uniformed.
How long you bake your logs has a tremendous amount a variables. Log Size and ingredient selection alter Biscotti bake times more than any other baking item I can think of.
Usually, on a log.....its 10 minutes @400 and 25-40 @350
#3 - Cutting
How long do you wait before cutting your Biscotti?
Once again, I have heard about a billion interpretations, but the hands that God glued to my Polish carcass have found that it is best to wait for room temp, but not too long after that. You don't want staling to occur.
So once they have cooled....I like to cut with a serrated bread knife. Many high brow chefs will tell you to cut on the bias, but once again Klecko will beg to differ due to logic.
It is much-much harder cutting on a bias, or to do so with uniformity I should say, and also, the smaller you cut your pieces...the easy it will be to assess the bake.
Larger pieces can get or remain gooey in the middle, and lets sampled a smaller piece that by chance has less raisins in it....well it will be done while the others wouldn't even be close.
Oh yeah....maybe the most important part....do go Bohemian on me and cut slices thicker than 1/2 inch....anything thicker gets too hard to monitor the interior on the second bake.
And one last thing on CUTTING, I use my serrated knife like a saw. I lumber jack the blade out-in-out until it sinks about 1/2 way into the cookie. when It gets there, I firmly apply pressure on the top of the blade.
The pressure obviously needs to be equal. This step expedites cutting time, but ALAS Pilgrim....if you try this move before the blade sinks 1/2 way, you'll fracture the log.
#4 - Second Bake
On the second bake, you have to lay the cut pieces flat. It shouldn't look like a coin standing on edge. Lay them down, and the pieces at least a fingers width of space between one another.
Sometimes you need an extra pan to accomplish this (that means if you bakes 2 logs on one pan, you might need 2 pans to fit all the cut pieces onto.
I have heard bakers squabble as to whether of not you should flip the cookies during the second bake, the theory being that both sides of the cookie will get direct heat.
I agree. Do you throw a hamburger on a grill and eventually toss it onto the bun before flipping it on the grill?
The exact same principal applies here.
Oh yeah.....the entire second bake is @350 (F) so bake for 20 ish minutes, then pull out of the oven (close the door quickly to retain the heat) and then flip them onto a second sheet pan if you have one. If not.....flip them like pizzas or pancakes and then get them back in the oven.
Usually you are looking for another 20-30 minutes.
So the second bake is.......
2o minutes - flip
Then 20 to 30 more minutes.
But the bottom line is that you want the cookie to be firm, quite firm....but not sand paper. This can be tricky and even Klecko himself struggles with this.
#5 - Cooling
If you have a wire cooling rack, that is ACES, but whatever you do....don't place the cooling Biscotti into a jet stream of any sort. Avoid direct contact with fans or breezes by open windows.
Often times if hot & cold collide......condensation takes place, then it rests on the crumb wall and eventually sinks into the interior.
Many a batch has been ruined this way.
#6 - Packing
When totally cool (I would let them rest 4-5-6 hours) I don't think you can beat Tupperware. Place it in the receptacle and secure the lid tight.
#7 - Shelf Life
I could care less what pirates and coffee shop owners tell you.....your Biscotti has a max shelf life of 4 days. Are they edible after that?
Yeah, I guess....if you a stranded on an island.
Seriously though....so much of the Biscotti that is out there has all sort of preservatives. If we are going to go through all the trouble it takes to make this.....let's eat it with dignity.
See, its a lot to know huh?