Friday, May 11, 2012

Episode #300 - Confessions,The Gulag and Fish Pie

Dear L.A.B. Rats,

I hope you will pardon my lengthy absence, perhaps you will allow me to explain.

Several days ago, I pulled into work, and before I could even check my E-Mails....crisis had broken out.

One of our biggest accounts forgot to order, and it was pivotal that they had 10 dozen whole wheat hamburger buns within 2 hours.

Now my boys are good, but there simply was no way we could mix, shape, proof, bake, slice, package and deliver that product in such a short window of time,we needed to outsource.

When a customer makes the mistake, they don't get picky, they just want a product that will meet their specs and cover their plates.

I wasn't 100% sure where to find what they needed, but I hopped in the bread truck and headed to Super Target.

While I was en route, I called my friend (and faithful reporter) Kim Ode. One of the first things she asked was when was I going to drop my next installment of L.A.B.?

I explained my next post (this post) would be #300, and whenever I write a Blog Post that lands on an even hundred, I usually liked the piece to be important, touching or meaningful.

On Episode #100 and #200....the Angels of Warsaw simply slid columns of substance into my lap.

But now....TICK-TOCK........TICK TOCK.

There simply wasn't any divine inspiration.

You can't push a blog post if it falls on the even hundred.

Not only is it bad luck, but you are cheating your viewership if you do.

Then Kim Ode states.....

"300 blog posts huh? That actually is impressive Klecko. In my field, we'd say that number constitutes a BODY OF WORK".

I liked the sound of that, but have you ever seen those cartoons where the lead character needs to make a choice? and then there is a little angel on one shoulder, and a little devil on the other?

Kim Ode is w/o a doubt my writing angel, but my writing devil.....well that would be my writing teacher Mike Finley.

Ode encourages, but Mike pushes me to be a better writer, at all costs.

In many ways Mike Finley reminds me of Master Dick Kiwis, my first Bread Master.

It isn'r easy to help people raise their bar. people are not constructed with bullet proof emotions. When they put effort into something, and value the outcome...well it's not in most people nature to accept something like..."There are a few good points here, but you fell short really should consider....comments like that.

But if I've learned anything, I've learned that my efforts shine all the more when I sand off the rough corners of my perception.

Over the last year Finley pointed out to me that I have a tendency to not only star in most of my stories, but I also write my scripts to end with me being the hero.

He's correct, I like that.

I want to be the hero.

But Finley knows more than I. He knows that vanity is transparent and self gratification gets old quick.

"Point the spotlight on others Dan, make sure you focus on their beauty. Don't try to be a hero, just be who you are." he tells me.

Klecko may not be the brightest guy in the world, but he is smart enough to listen to those that he knows are smarter than him.

So before I switch gears, I'd like to thank all you crazy kids for supporting this Blog Site as long as you have.

Your comments and insight have inspired me more than you know.

With that said, I'd like to dedicate Episode #300 to my dear friends Kim Ode and Mike Finley.

A guy doesn't get enough oppurtunities in this world to brag about the people he loves the most, but you guys are both smarter than me so let me pose one question to the both of you.

Where would Klecko be today...tomorrow, had he never had the fortune of making your acquaintance?

Subbmitted for your approval in 3-2-1.....................

The Camera

So there goes Klecko...walking down a dirt road in Siberia.

He's north of pretty much everything.

North of modern civilization, north of the Road of Bones, even north of the Gulag camps. I'm with an interpreter, and she tells me that we are entering the ghetto of the Diamond city.

Hanging from my wrist is a disposable camera that I purchased at a Walgreen's back home.

About 1/2 a block up, I noticed a young woman...20 something. This chick was the resident Arctic - punk rock girlio.

She had zebra spandex pants, a leopard shirt, the sun glasses Lou Reed wore when he was with the Velvets, and a green Fidel Castro utility hat.

This girl is also holding a chihuahua in her arms,holding it like it was the Christ child, and now she begins walking in our direction.

My interpreter is kinda straight laced, and the look on her eyes tells me that she isn't frightened, but maybe a little concerned.

Punk Rock girl stand in front of me, she looks up....she looks down. Then she points at my camera and speaks instructions to my hired companion.

So now my interpreter turns to me and explains that this young woman has requested that I take her picture.

Now I start thinking....

"Geesh, c'mon woman, it's a disposable camera. We can't even be certain the photos will turn out.", and then I started to wonder if I actually would bother printing off the picture, and then trudge down to the post office and actually mail the stupid thing.

I mean I shouldn't commit to something that I wasn't going to follow through on...right?

So next I explain to the interpreter that I would have to get these photos developed in America, and I couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to send a finished picture back to this location.

Then the interpreter looked paused, at first she looked confused and then embarressed because she realized I wasn't trying to figure out shipping logistics, I was just being thoughtless and lazy.

With sadness on her face she responded....

"Daniel, this woman does not ask for you to give her anything. She just wants to express what an honor it is to have American in her village. She has never met anybody from your country before. she wanted you to have a picture of a gift for you. It is to say....she wanted to send you home with her soul."

Here this woman is willing to give me her soul.....and busy me wasn't sure if he had time to lick a stamp and drop an envelope into a mailbox.

Even though my apathy embarressed me, my self loathing was outweighed by the grace and generosity that the Siberian Punk had bestowed upon me.

With that said.....I turned to the interpreter and asked....

"How did she know where I was from? I could of just as easily come from London or Australia?"

The interpreter laughed and answered...

"You are silly, Americans are so obvious."

Then she laughed some more.

6 years have passed since that day, and on more than one occasion, I have wondered what the Siberean Punk is doing.

And each time I look at her picture, I smile.

I think it's people like her that Finley would encourage me to focus on, people who are kind enough to share their soul.

The following recipe may seem a little odd to you, but when you are in a land where food is scarce, the following is a welcomed meal.



First the pie crust, I pulled a recipe off the Crisco site. Many people argue the fat content in pie crusts, all butter crusts are becoming popular, but I've found that if you do that, butter bleeds out quicker than shortening, and your pie crust won't have good structure between the layers.

On the few times I've even bother to jerk around making pie crusts for home use (I'm not opposed to purchasing premade)I've blended the 2 fat sources, but remember.....keep the crust chilled as long as possible.'s what Crisco and Pillsbury says.......

•1 1/3 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/2 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 1/2 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

•2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1 teaspoon salt
•3/4 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 3/4 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

•2 2/3 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
•1 teaspoon salt
•1 stick well-chilled Crisco® Baking Sticks All-Vegetable Shortening
•OR 1 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
•6 to 10 tablespoons ice cold water


1.BLEND flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.

2.CUT chilled shortening into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut in chilled shortening cubes into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, in an up and down chopping motion, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.

3.SPRINKLE half the maximum recommended amount of ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.

TIPTest dough for proper moistness by squeezing a marble-sized ball of dough in your hand. If it holds together firmly, do not add any additional water. If the dough crumbles, add more water by the tablespoonful, until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.

4.SHAPE dough into a ball for single pie crust. Divide dough in two for double crust or double deep dish crust, one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten ball(s) into 1/2-inch thick round disk(s).

TIPFor ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

5.ROLL dough (larger ball of dough for double crust pie) from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper) into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.

6.For a SINGLE pie crust, trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold edge under. Flute dough as desired. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

7.For a DOUBLE pie crust, roll larger disk for bottom crust, trimming edges of dough even with outer edge of pie plate. Fill unbaked pie crust according to recipe directions. Roll out smaller dough disk. Transfer dough carefully onto filled pie. Trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold top edge under bottom crust. Press edges together to seal and flute as desired. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to vent steam. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

Two Methods for Pre-baking Pie Crusts (Cream Pies)

1.Pre-baking without weights: Thoroughly prick bottom and sides of unbaked pie dough with fork (50 times) to prevent it from blistering or rising. Bake crust in lower third of oven, at 425°F, 10-12 minutes or until edges and bottom are golden brown.

2.Pre-baking with weights: Thoroughly prick bottom and sides of unbaked pie dough with fork (50 times) to prevent it from blistering or rising. Chill or freeze for 30 minutes. Line pie dough snugly with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Reduce oven to 350°F. Bake 5-10 minutes or until edges and bottom are golden brown.



Raw Fish....Carp and Sturgeon are the most popular. i guess it goes w/o saying that you should use the filet. Bones and pie
are not a good combo.


Black Pepper

Onions 1-2 big or 2-3 medium

Olive Oil

Bay Leaves

Rice 1 1/2 - 2 cups

So assuming you figured out how to make a pie crust, you will line your pie plate with one crust, and reserve the second.

Next you'll want to salt your fish (if you want to use a brine, that's cool) and then pack the pieces snug against each other.

Then pepper to taste, Klecko utilizes this option more than most. with the eventual fish juice/grease you'll find more pepper is better than less.

Then I take my onions (which I have sauteed in olive oil) and place them in layers over the fish.

To be authentic,our next step is to layer bay leaves, but I have always found them to be pungent.

If you are doing a Salute to Arctic cooking, use them...but if you want it to taste better, I'd suggest Italian seasonings, or some other such spice(s).

Next, cover this with a genorous layer of cooked rice.

Some people use white, some use brown.....not a big deal, no big diff.

Next cover this with the 2nd pie crust, and when you do, weld that sucker on there LOL, you want it to be tight. Nobody wants wicked hot fish grease splashing their oven walls.

One that pie crust top is on, I pat in firm with my hand.

This is nessasary because you'll want to remove the air between the ingredients and the top pie crust.

During the baking the 2 will do everything to seperate from each other.

Now, place the pie on a sheet pan and slide it into an oven set for 350 degree (F).

Your bake time should be between 35-45 minutes.

And b.t.w., fish pie pairs well with vodka...just saying.

In your service.....the Last American Baker

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