Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Macro Lens for My iPhone from a Hastings Triplet Loupe

I went for a photo walk today. On a hunch, I brought my Hastings triplet 7x loupe.  It took a little bit of juggling to hold it in position over the iPhone's camera lens, but look at the results. Simply amazing.

Compare that to what I got with my Canon 28-135mm macro.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Proportion of Meat in a Chicken

Last week I posted about the proportion of meat in a lobster. We also made my family's traditional Christmas Eve dish of chicken and noodles. Since I had meat to purchased weight proportions on the brain, I couldn't resist weighing the chicken too. These numbers come from two whole fryers that were stewed for two hours. Here's the breakdown:

Raw weight for 2 chickens: 11.59 lbs
Raw weight for 2 giblet bags: 0.75 lbs
Raw chicken w/o giblets: 10.84 lbs
Stewed weight of meat and bones: 6.77 lbs
Stewed weight of bones: 2.55 lbs
Stewed weight of chicken: 4.22 lbs

Raw to stewed weight ratio: 62%
Stewed meat to purchased weight: 36%
Stewed meat to total stewed weight: 62%
Raw giblets to purchased weight: 6%

First thing I noticed was how much weight loss there was from the cooking process. The cooked bird was less than two-thirds the weight of the raw bird.  With the meat representing less than two-thirds of that, we were left with just over one-third cooked meat to purchased weight.  Remarkably, that is just about the same ratio as the meaty lobsters we measured.

Working backwards, I estimate 6.75 lbs of raw meat.  So including the giblets, the ratio of raw meat to purchased whole fryer weight (including the giblets) is 58%.

Mimi's Christmas Eve Chicken and Noodles

We call my grandmother Mimi.  When I was young, Mimi made chicken and noodles every Christmas Eve. We had a large group of people, and it fed us all economically. Why else would you put noodles on mashed potatoes?

Now, Gail makes them for us every Christmas Eve. That morning, I come down stairs to the smell of Christmas, a mixture of stewing chicken and baking cookies. We share the chicken and noodles at Gail's mom's Christmas Eve party. By the way, she wanted a good grandmother name, too. We call her Gumma.

Mimi's Christmas Eve Chicken and Noodles
Serves 6
3¼ to 3½ lb whole fryer (not a stewing hen or oven-stuffer roaster, which are tough when stewed and make a less flavorful broth)
3¾ cu (9 oz package) of fresh pasta uncooked
6 small all-purpose potatoes for mashing (Russet or Yukon Gold, about 4 oz each)
3 t Salt divided
About 2 qt water
2 Peppercorns
6 T Butter
6 T Milk
6 T Flour
Extra chicken stock on-hand if needed
  1. Remove giblets from bird. Rinse inside and out; drain.
  2. Place bird, 1 t salt and peppercorns in large stockpot. Add water, until bird covered.
  3. Bring to boil. Reduce heat just enough so pot doesn’t boil over; skim foam as it forms.
  4. Cook, uncovered, until meat falls off bone and carcass collapses (about 2 hr).
  5. When chicken falls apart, place large colander into even larger heat-tolerant bowl. Spoon solids into colander, then pour stock through colander to strain.
  6. Let colander finish dripping, then place over soup pot and re-strain stock into pot. Let colander finish dripping again; set aside into bowl. Pull chicken apart to allow steam to escape and speed cooling.
  7. Return stock to boil. Cut pasta into bite-sized pieces; add to stock with another 1 t salt; cook according to package or recipe directions.
  8. When pasta is tender, double strain as before. Set noodles aside.
  9. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pick meat off chicken bones, tearing into bite-sized pieces.
  10. No earlier than 1 hr before serving, peel and cut potatoes.
  11. Return stock to boil. Add potatoes, remaining salt, and water as needed to cover; boil, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 15-20 min.
  12. When potatoes are tender, double strain as before.
  13. While potatoes are draining, heat cream and butter. Transfer potatoes to mixer bowl, add heated cream and butter. Whip until fluffy; cover and set aside.
  14. Measure stock. If less than 3 c, add extra to make 3 c.
  15. To thicken stock, use 2 T flour for each c liquid. Transfer 1 c stock to blender or food processor, add flour 1 T at a time, pureeing with each addition. Add more stock from the pot, as necessary, to form smooth, thin paste.
  16. Add flour paste to pot, stirring constantly to combine and prevent lumps. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 5 min.
  17. Stir in meat and noodles, heat through. Re-heat mashed potatoes if necessary.
  18. Serve chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes.
This dish says Christmas to me like no other.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Proportion of Meat in a Lobster

We are making Nova Scotia hot lobster again for Christmas, which means I boiled and picked ten lobsters today.  My inner nerd came out to play so I gathered some data about the ratio of lobster meat to purchased weight.  First, we had a note in our cookbook that a lobster is 20% meat by weight from a previous year.  This year we had very meaty lobsters and the total came to 32%.  Here's the breakdown:

Average lobster size: 1.5 lbs
Average meat: 7.6 oz (32% of the total weight)
Average tail meat: 3.4 oz (44% of the meat)
Average claw meat: 2.8 oz (36% of the meat)
Average knuckle meat: 1.1 oz (14% of the meat)
Average little leg meat: 0.4 oz (6% of the meat)

I find it easiest to use a rolling pin to get the leg meat out.  Start at the little claw end and roll toward the opening.  The meat will squeeze out.  Even with this easy method, it is debatable whether this little bit of meat is worth the effort.  It's your call.

Given the variance of the two data points, I'd plan on about 25% meat by weight.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Photo Backgrounds for Friends and Family

Here are a bunch of pictures I've taken with the idea that they can be used as computer backgrounds by friends and family.  I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Yule Log

For each Sunday of Advent Gail and I have been making traditional Christmas desserts. This week we made a yule log. The end result is impressive, and it's fun to roll up the log. Don't be intimidated. You can cover up your mess with the frosting. Next time, I think we'll add meringue mushrooms.

Christmas Martini

Made this Christmas martini tonight with our feast of seven fishes. Once again, bitters made this pop!

Christmas Martini
  • Rim glass with sugar and crushed candy canes
  • A splash of sweet vermouth
  • A shake of Vietnamese cinnamon
  • A dash of angostura bitters
  • A gurgle of vodka from the freezer
  • Garnish with chunks of candy cane and a cinnamon stick

Feast of Seven Fishes

Gail and I had our second feast of seven fishes today, the third Sunday of Advent.  It was just the two of us. Last year, we over-ate on the first few courses; so this year, we went slower with smaller servings for each course.
  1. Smoked mussels on crackers
  2. Crab stuffed mushrooms
  3. Shrimp sushi
  4. Clam fritters
  5. Flounder with ginger & mushroom sauce on bow tie pasta
  6. Scallops on mesclun mix
  7. Scalloped oysters
We finished with a yule log, but that's a separate blog entry.  And, the drink on the table is a Christmas martini, also a separate blog entry.