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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    The Eternal Fridge

    A successful test with my rough puff pastry dough: Sticky Toffee Oreo Puffs
    Tasty but not quite ready for primetime: a test loaf of focaccia baked on sea stones.
    Preheating the sea stones with my re-seasoned Megawok (King Disc Grill).
    ZZ Powdercoating did a great job sandblasting the rusty surface of the Megawok.

    I received an email from Lowe’s this week informing me that the refrigerator I purchased from them in April 2023 was now out of warranty and they were offering me ONE LAST CHANCE to purchase an extended protection plan. It was $832.00 for three years coverage, almost half of what I paid for the appliance.

    Coincidentally, on the same day, a classic Facebook meme about old refrigerators popped onto my FB wall again. It’s usually a photo of a ’70s Frigidaire in Harvest Gold or Avocado Green and the ominous caption reads: “2024 Fridge — breaks within 2 years. 1970’s Fridge — I will outlive you and everyone you love. I am eternal. I am time itself.”

    The new LG fridge wasn’t a replacement, it was an upgrade. Two-door fridge top with freezer drawer below. Much more storage space for my cooking projects, and finally have an automatic ice maker. I moved the old Kenmore into the spare bedroom, which has become my “kitchen annex.” I use that term freely and without irony. The Kenmore was manufactured in June of 2005 and it just keeps chugging along. Say what you want about Sears, the Kenmore has given me zero grief. It remains a backup fridge for my farmers market goods. Will it outlive me and everyone I love? Stay tuned. I’ll keep you up to date in this column if it predeceases me or have it listed in my Day obituary as one of my survivors.

    Last year, when I was shopping for the new fridge, I was actually hoping that Honda made refrigerators. That would’ve saved me a lot of time. I’m a Honda guy. We have a symbiotic conglomerate/consumer relationship. I love the dependability, quality and design of their products, and they love my brand loyalty and my hard earned dollars. I’m currently driving a 2015 Accord Hybrid, and I’m proud to say that we’re over 270k miles with the original storage battery and we routinely still get over 50 mpg. Outside of routine maintenance, tires and one engine battery, I’ve spent less than $2,000 on repairs in the last eight years. Rear brake calipers, pads and rotors and a run-in with a horny deer at 2 a.m. on Route 95 have been the only surprises. The Accord is the first brand new car I’ve ever purchased; bought it as a business investment because I was pulling in enough cash Uber driving from 2015 till the start of the quarantine in 2020. The 28k I spent on the car allowed me to gross $165k over four-and-a-half years, giving 12,482 rides to approximately 20,000+ people. My expectations for any mechanical purchases were raised very, very high with the purchase of this car.

    I know I’m comparing car apples to refrigerator oranges, but the offer of the extended protection coverage still feels like a slap in the face. A refrigerator has ONE JOB ... keep the food COLD. And the only real moving parts are the doors and the compressor. And they won’t even warranty it past the four-year mark? When I moved into my first apartment in New London in 1986, the apartment came with an 1940s General Electric fridge with the compressor on top and a chrome pull bar door handle. It was so old that it had no grounding plug, and if you opened it in your bare feet, you would get a juicy jolt of electricity right up your arm. But the point is, Old Sparky was over 40 years old at that point and still on duty, keeping us safe from salmonella and chunky milk.

    Yes, this is a cooking column. No, I am not buying an extended warranty. It’s reasonable to expect that my big kitchen appliances have lives measured in decades, not months. I don’t care about water or ice on the door. I don’t ever want a refrigerator with wi-fi, a touchscreen or anything remotely computerized.

    So far, the LG has performed beautifully. Lots of room, but somehow I’ve adapted and learned to pack every square inch of it’s interior as well. I do have a question, though. Will the clunk of the automatic ice maker dropping the ice ever stop scaring the crap out of me late at night?

    New Farmers Market test goodies

    I’ve been testing out a rough puff pastry that I make in the food processor. I know you’re supposed to cut the butter into the flour gently to avoid building up the gluten, but there are only so many hours in a day. I came to a reasonable compromise by using frozen butter and pulsing it into the flour and then pulsing in the water a Tbsp at a time. I didn’t even knead the mixture together; just gathered it together into a crumbly mass and threw it into a container and into the fridge for a couple hours for the dough to hydrate.

    My first test with the rough puff was for an idea I had kicking around in the back of my mind for a couple weeks: Sticky Toffee Oreo puffs (see photo). A disc of the pastry wrapped around an Oreo topped with a blob of homemade toffee and almonds. I made a batch and brought them to a birthday party to test them out. They disappeared very quickly, and I got some great feedback. A fresh batch will be coming with me to the Waterford Farmers Market.

    A couple years ago, I was watching a YouTube video of an Asian street food vendor who was making flat breads by lining a flat-top griddle with smooth sea stones, heating them and griddling the dough directly on the stones, with more hot rocks on top of the dough. The result was a super textured flat bread that was no longer flat; it was cratered with crusty divots. I tested this method out at home this week, after gathering up all the black sea stones I could find down at the Niantic Boardwalk. Preheated a large pizza stone in my oven covered in the cleaned stones and baked a half portion of the Lugurian Focaccia from the incredible cookbook “Salt Fat Acid Heat.” This was not a raging success. The bread texture and taste was out of this world. The stones on the underside of the bread popped right out, but the stones on top wouldn’t release and ripped the bread apart. Too messy.

    Going back to the original method, I decided to use my King Disc 22“ Megawok to make another test batch outside in the back yard. This was very successful (see photos). I got a focaccia that looks like the surface of the moon and tastes like crusty pillowy heaven.

    There’s only one problem with this method: my CT cottage food license only permits me to sell items that were prepared IN an approved kitchen. No backyard cooking. Sigh. So unless I can find a way to make this inside my house, I’ll be condemned to a lonely summer of fresh, hot focaccia bread in my backyard, filling the cratered surfaces with olive oil ... maybe some garlic butter ... warm marinara ... a little rosemary ... a little cheese could be nice. Now doesn’t that sound awful? Poor me.

    Rich Swanson is a local cook who has had numerous wins in nationally sponsored recipe contests. He is also the layout specialist here at The Day.

    Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Rich Swanson can be reached at TheSurlyTable@gmail.com.

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