Test Club – Oct 25th, 2009 Edition

This is a guest post by Sarah Davitt

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So I have been fortunate enough to have gotten involved with the magical “Jeff Potter” and his IR thermometer. As is usual, I show up, Jeff cooks something amazing, or we spend the time tasting the epic selection of drink possibilities. So I got the invitation to show up… and I was standing around, mildly famished, looking for the appetizers, because as brilliant as I am, I managed to miss the point of the gathering… because this Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter (ok daughter of a racecar driver and an art professor) was going to roll up her sleeve, and cook… *duck*.

I will tell you that duck does not come in a box. It is not an “add water” kind of thing. The only duck I’ve seen or had was peking, or crispy, and while tasty, a duck in the kitchen is something I’d never fathomed.

Until here is was, fathoms of duck in fathoms of goo*, and I had to fathom it, and pull that sucker apart.

So I did… and I managed to divide the duck into several piles, asking is it “good meat”? bad meat? or “meat of dubious uncertainty?” — It turns out that the question one should ask, is :”would I eat that?” And it would mean, turn out, that I was right on all counts… except for the wierdo jelly substance… which is, as Jeff put it… “culinary gold” because “you can’t buy that.” I was dubious. But I’ve learned to trust his instincts, because when I show up, the food is tasty and didn’t come from a box. So fine, the goopy jello jiggler cubes that look like the remnants of cat food are culinary gold. Alrighty.

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Next we were faced with the cast iron pan. Instructions said… “saute” so I take the “good and dubious meat pieces” and toss them in the pan, and start up the burner. Jeff raises his eyebrow.

“What!?” (we’d already done some very wrong things – mix the cheese and tomatoes, deleaf the thyme – in a culinary sense, and we’d learned to read the signs) “It says saute”

“To me” he says “saute means the pan is at least 310 degrees, then add the stuff” (We’ve also learned to ask “why?”)


“Because the pan, isn’t hot, and because of the cold meat, its going to be harder to get the meat up to temperature, and it likely won’t brown properly” (at least this is the recalled version of this explanation)

“But what about adding oil to the pan? They do that, don’t they?”

“Well, unless you know your oils, and pay close attention to the oil as it changes… its more likely to burn.”

“So how the hell am I to know that the pan is 310 degrees?”

He points to the thing that looks like a black and decker version of an inhaler.

“No way!”


I spent the next few minutes remotely picking up the temperatures of things, pointing at them.. “97degrees, 200 degrees, 61 degrees” until the pan was the prescribed 310 degrees.

I dumped the meat back in. And then we cooked the rest of the recipe, and adjusted it, and ate it, and it was good. You’ll have to buy the book, if you want to cook/eat this. By the way, the book is called “Cooking for Geeks.” Jeff Potter wrote it. Dig?

Then, only eluded to before, and after the absurd mention of the “Bizarro sugar from Indonesia” (which I made up, but he actually HAD it) there was mention of 30 second microwave cake.

I was intrigued. Imean, what fat girl doesn’t like some chocolate cake… ok, that’s a deplorable stereotype, but I am fat (adjective, not judgement-call) like cake, but I liked even more that it could be mythically extruded from the whip creme machine and baked in 30 seconds. I mean, who doesn’t want cake in 30 seconds?

So we dragged out the scales, both the bigger kitchen scale, and the little sexy compact blue backlit “I’m a drug dealer” scale, and the sugar, in grams, and flour, in grams, the chocolate in ounces, the wierd vegan binder material whos name I’d forgotten (Xanax? powder?) No, Xanthan Gum… which I think was named after the land created by Piers Anthony… but I digress.

We loaded up the scales, got properly scolded on the proper whisking sensibility, and the severe importance of doing your dishes, and that wiping the egg off the chocolate package doesn’t matter. We strained out all the lumpy cakeness, and put it in the magical whipped creme maker, and extruded into the Holy Ramekin, the appropriate amount of the mythical nitrousy cake substance.

Into the microwave! 30 seconds! Done! then another! this with nutella in the middle, 30 seconds! Done! then another flat-like for a jelly-roll… 30 seconds! Done! Suck on that Oprah.


Then we did dishes… because its important. Jeff said so.