Forks & Knives: Forks

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Greetings fellow humans, internet itinerants, and space-faring lizardmen with a penchant for world enslavement —  an introduction.

My name is Dan Garrison and I am a chef living and working in the Midwestern United States. I have been cooking professionally in one capacity or another for a little over 20 years. I like to think I specialize in from scratch, home made, foods — usually with an emphasis on “poverty foods”, “cucina povera”,  “peasant food”, “soul food”, et cetera. I like to start with staples and work up from there. As a result of that I dabble in a lot of “international” foods (international to people that don’t live there, anyway) and flavor profiles. I play a lot. You will too. But first we need to talk about some fundamentals.  As an addendum; I am generally terse and fairly potty mouthed.

My first plan was going to be to talk about beer beans, but I got caught up trying to decide if I wanted to write about how to soak dried beans & pulses.  Then I needed to scale one of my recipes that I wanted to use.. and therefore finally decided that it might just be helpful to start there. With scaling.

This requires math. But I have confidence in you, human. I really do. I tell all my cooks part of tackling anything in the kitchen is you need to be smarter than the food. This should not be a challenge for you; plan accordingly. Speaking of which, we’ll talk about mise en place and how essential it is to being successfully productive in a kitchen next time, if someone else doesn’t beat me to it.

Having said all that, I’ll get right to something you might find immediately useful at home.
My ancient egg scale

How We Scale Recipes,  or How This Shit Works

You have a recipe that you love. It serves 4. You love it so much you want to prepare it for 17 people. Now what?  Well, listen up.

Whether scaling up or scaling down; it doesn’t much matter — the method employed for adjusting the quantities in the recipe will be the same. This is called scaling, or scaling a recipe. Some things we don’t scale all the time. Like salt. You’ll see.

We need to calculate the conversion factor.  This will be the number that you are going to be using to convert almost all the recipe quantities. I generally just round up when I get a long answer, like .45213 — just round up or down to the nearest hundredth — so .45 for your own sanity.
To resolve the conversion factor: Divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings. The result is going to be your conversion factor.


Scaling that 4 portion recipe up to 17 portions involves two steps:

1) Divide 17 by 4, which gives you a conversion factor of  4.25

2) Multiply each ingredient  by 4.25 — sometimes we scale salt, sometimes we don’t. When baking, we generally do – but not always. Most other recipes we don’t want to scale the salt UP because, well, shit gets too salty.


**Bonus Material**

This will also spare you some sanity when converting one recipe to another.

Tsp= teaspoon.    Tbs = tablespoon.       C = cup.

3 tsp = 1 tbs.

2 tbs = 1 oz.

8 oz = 1 cup

48 tsp = 8 oz, or 1 cup

16 tbs = 8 oz, or 1 cup

**Bonus Material**

Below, I have presented you with a relatively simple vegan baking example – we want to take this recipe that serves 24 and convert it to serve 6. Granted, the math is super simple — shouldn’t be an issue.

Sweet Tater Drop Biscuits

(serves 24)

- 16 oz peeled & diced sweet potato – about 3 small sweet potatoes, or a couple large ones

- enough water to cook the sweet potatoes in

- 4 C whole wheat flour

- 4 C All purpose flour

- 8 tsp brown sugar

- 8 tsp baking powder

- 2 tsp fine kosher salt

- 3 C rice milk

- 4 tsp apple cider vinegar

- 4 tbs vegetable oil

Method Of Production:

1) Preheat your oven to 425˚F

2) Peel and cut the sweet potatoes  in to 1/2″ cubes.  Place in an adequately sized pot and use enough cold water to cover them twice over. Lightly salt the water to help retain starches. This is also the reason for the cold water to start with.

3) Bring the sweet potatoes to a boil and then turn them down to medium heat and cook, covered, 12-18 minutes, or until potatoes fall apart by poking them sharply with a fork. Or a knife, I don’t care.  After verifying harmlessness, remove the sweet potatoes from the heat. Remove the sweet potatoes from the excess water. Let them stand for 5 minutes and then mash them with your preferred mashing implement. A fork works. Measure out the amount you need and set it aside

4) In a small mixing bowl, mix together the rice milk and vinegar and then set it aside to curdle. Yep, curdle. The “wet mix”.

5) In a separate large mixing bowl mix together the flours, baking soda and powder, salt and sugar. The “dry mix”.

6) Whisk together the sweet potato with the now curdled rice milk mixture.

7)Now pour this “wet mix” into the bowl with the flours, “the dry mix”, and combine until almost fully incorporated; really just a few turns with a spoon or whisk is pretty good.  Now we are going to add almost all the oil to the dough, but we need a  little bit on our hands too. Slap a few drops of oil on your mitts and start kneading the dough for just a couple of minutes — this doesn’t take more than a minute or so. Once it’s all combined it’s done. Staaaahp.

8) Turn your oven down to 400˚F. We had it at 425˚F to ensure that when the oven cycles on and off that we do not dip below our desired temperature of 400˚F. Remember, be smarter than the food, people.
9) Using an oiled tablespoon, spoon out the dough about the size of a golf ball, or about 1″ thick on to a cookie sheet and keep them spaced about 1″ apart.  Sprinkle the top with a little extra salt and sugar if you like, and proceed to bake for 10-12 minutes. When finished, the biscuits will be golden on top, and when you insert a probe it will come out clean, ahaha.

So, now..

We want to scale this recipe down to 6.  Divide 6 by 24 and we get a conversion of .25!  That’s fuckin’ handy.

16 x .25 = 4. 3 x .25 = .75 or.. 3/4 a cup of rice milk. You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure.
The first part of the scaled recipe

Sweet Tater Drop Biscuits

(serves 6)

- 4 oz of sweet potato

- plenty of water and a pot big enough to cook in

- 1 C whole wheat flour

- 1 C All purpose flour

- 2 tsp baking powder

- 1/2 tsp fine kosher salt

- 2 tsp brown sugar

- 3/4 C rice milk

- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

- 1 tbs vegetable oil

So, maybe you learned something. Maybe you didn’t. In a couple of weeks we’ll talk about the importance of mise en place and having your collective shit together before you try to get started. Then we’ll make some  Red & Black Frijoles Borrachos.

Vegetable OgreForks & Knives: Forks

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