Sunday, April 13, 2008

[Shopping] Buying a pressure cooker

Mostly for my benefit, but maybe it'll help someone else.

Why a pressure cooker?

Easy - time. Cooks things much faster. Boiling point of water in a pressure cooker (at 15psi) is a mere 250 degrees. Which means you can boil things in 2/3rds the time. And some other impressive things - a 6-hour stock in an hour.

Rules for pressure cookers

  1. Don't low-ball the price. You're talking about something that will hold boiling liquids/food at pressure. As in bike-tire pressures. The last thing you want is for it to give - it can hurt you, maim you, and at the very least make a mess of the kitchen that will be Epic.
  2. Same goes for used. Be safe on something like this.
  3. If it feels cheap, it probably is. You want heft.
  4. You want Stainless Steel, not aluminum. Aluminum will pit and hold gunk within - not a happy thing.
  5. 3-layer bottoms. Makes it cook more evenly.
  6. Bigger is better, you need room for the steam to build pressure. Supposed 6 quarts is the magic number.
  7. Get a modified-first-gen (pressure valve) or second-gen (spring valve), not a "jiggle top".
  8. Expect to spend between $70 and $250.

Brands I've seen recommended: Fagor (budget pick), Kuhn Rikon ("mercedes of pressure cookers"), Magefesa, and WMF (brand used by Alton Brown, but man that's pricey).


My decision:
Either the Fagor or the Kuhn Rikon. Fagor's about $50 less, but I think either will be a good choice. The way I figure it, I cheaped out once on a different piece of cookware (a cast-iron skillet), and I might as well throw it out... tried seasoning it for years, and it still has yet to taste as good as the Lodge Logic we bought.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

[Sysadmin] Kick users after midnight

Not mine, but we use it. Pretty basic - looks for SPIDs that are in a particular database and kills the SPIDs. We use it to ensure that people don't have active connections during maintenance time.

The one downside is that it's very literal - if you aren't explicitly in the system as sysadmin, out you go. Set in a job to run right before your maintenance.

set nocount on
declare @spid nvarchar(10)
declare @killem nvarchar(20)
declare spid_csr insensitive cursor for
select spid from master..sysprocesses
where sid not in
select sid from master..syslogins
where sysadmin = 1
and dbid in (db_id('Main'),db_id('AnotherOne'))
and loginame like 'MyDomain%'
open spid_csr
fetch next from spid_csr into @spid
while @@fetch_status = 0
select @killem = 'kill ' + convert(varchar(3),@spid)
exec (@killem)
fetch next from spid_csr into @spid
close spid_csr
deallocate spid_csr

Monday, April 7, 2008

[Baking] Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

This weekend I expanded my repertoire, and made pizza. While I love Gino's & Due's in Chicago, getting them shipped is _pricey_.
I used the following recipe I found on the net.
Well, that's nifty - the site has changed owners. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine, which had a copy.

The Best Deep Dish Pizza

by Philip Ferreira
Best Deep Dish Pizza Background

When I was a kid I used to work at a place in Chicago that made some of the best Italian food that I ever ate. One of their specialties was Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Now that I live on the East Coast I find myself wishing more and more that I had access to that pizza. Not that I can't make it, but because like anything it is a chore and it is easier to pick up the phone and order a few for the family.

Alas I am the only person in my house that knows how to do it so the chore gets put on me fairly regularly. Normally I don't give up my secrets without a fight, but living on the East Coast has made me sympathetic to the people that are not in Chicago who do not have access to the great pizza. That being said here I go:
Best Deep Dish Pizza Recipe:

You'll be able to make two good sized pizzas with this recipe. It takes about 3 hours so make sure you have everything you need before you start. This recipe is expensive, probably comparable to what it would cost to buy them. The ingrediants need to be fresh, and if you substitute or don't do something the way I tell you to, don't blame me for the results. Making Authentic Deep Dish Pizza is an art, it took me a long time to get it right.
Best Deep Dish Pizza - What you need to start:

You will need an electric mixer with a dough hook. If you don't have one you can try and follow along by kneeding the dough yourself (You will need to add another 45 minutes to this process if you kneed the dough).

Make sure you have the following ready:

2 18" deep dish pizza pans - Don't use a baking dish, go out and splurge on a few pans, this is serious pizza and you shouldn't go screwing it up by trying to make it in a 9x15 baking dish it won't cook right, it won't be the same and you will probably end up thinking this recipe stinks.

2 Tablespoons of Sugar (Needs to be sugar, the yeast feeds on it and won't proof without it).
4 Cups of Warm Water (110 degrees when you pour it in the bowl it will cool by the time you get everything else done)
4 Packages of Yeast or if you have the jar you can do 8 teaspoons of Yeast.
1 cup of First Press REALLY GOOD Extra Virgin olive oil.
1 Cup of Yellow Cornmeal
9 Cups of Flour (Up to 10)
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Technique

Proofing the yeast is an important part of this process. Make sure you do it right, you want your bowl of water to be about 95 - 100 degrees. Mix in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir it with a wisk. Once you disolve the sugar in the water, put the yeast in and make sure it all gets wet. (Yeast tends to float on the top and some of it won't proof if you don't wet it). Now walk away from it for about 10 minutes. It should be in a big bowl because this stuff is going to FOAM up and it will spill over if you don't have a big enough bowl - you have been warned ;)

In your mixer mix the olive oil, the cornmeal and 5 cups of flour. Mix it up for about 1 minute and add the yeast slowly while it is mixing up. Slowly add the rest of the flour and let the mixer mix on about 1/3 speed for 5 minutes. The dough should not be sticky or wet, it should feel like really soft smooth elastic. Coat a plastic bowl with a little olive oil and put the dough into the bowl (Big bowl). Cover the top of it with a damp towel and let it rise until it is double the size.

Punch it down and let it rise again.
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Prep Your Pans First!

Prep your pizza pans, spread a little olive oil on the surface and sides and sprinkle yellow cornmeal on the bottom of it. This will prevent the pizza from sticking to the pan. Alternately (and I do it this way quite a bit) you can take REAL butter and really give it a good coating all away around and in the pan. Layer it on very thick. It gives the crust an amazing flavor. Sprinkle with yellow cornmeal the same way you would if you used olive oil.
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Mix Your Cheeses and Make Your Sauce

Make your sauce & cheese mixes while you are waiting around for the dough to rise. Here is what you do:

Cheese Mix:
4 Pounds of Grated Mozzarella
1 Pound of Provolone
1 Pound of Romano, Parmigiano, Asiago mix (You can get them predone at the store in the deli section)

Mix the cheese mix in a big bowl so it is blended well.

4 28 oz Cans of Plum Tomatoes, Drain them and then put them through your blender for about 10 - 15 seconds you want them to be crushed up and chunky, but not liquid.
5 Teaspoons of FRESH Chopped up Basil
5 Teaspoons of FRESH Chopped Oregano
2 Tablespoons of Sugar (Or Splenda, I use Splenda)
10 Cloves of FRESH Garlic Peeled and Crushed with a Garlic Press
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup of Parmigiano Cheese Grated

Combine the ingrediants together and make sure it has good time to sit and steep in the acids from the tomatoes. This will bring out the flavors of the seasonings.
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Bringing Everything Together.

Once your dough has doubled again take it out and divide it into two sections with a knife. Roll it out onto your deep dish pizza pans (last chance to go out and buy pizza pans if you are using a baking dish you will not get the consistancy you need and you will not be happy). When you are laying the dough onto the pan push the dough to the edge. You can then turn the pan slowly while you pull the dough up the sides. If you have extra dough (and you should) roll it flat put it on a cookie sheet mist it with some olive oil, sprinkle it with garlic powder, Parmigiano, a little salt and bake it with your pizzas. You slice it with your pizza cutter after it's baked and dip it the left over pizza sauce. Presto free pizza bread / bread sticks.

Now that you have your pizza dough ready take a brush and brush olive oil onto the dough. Add your toppings (I use Portabella Mushrooms, Italian Sausage, Pepperoni, Green Pepper, Onion and Black Olives.) on the dough, then put half of your cheese mix on one pizza, half on the other. Use it all!

Pour your sauce on top until it reaches the edge of the dough (which should be all the way up the side of the pan), spread it out evenly and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Note: For all you folks that have never had Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, the sauce is on TOP so it's a red top pizza. This is traditional, and trust me it is good!
Best Deep Dish Pizza - Heat Your Oven and Make Sure You Let It Cool!

Preheat your oven and bake for 25 minutes on 350 degrees. After 25 minutes crank the oven up to 475 and bake for another 10 - 15 minutes. You want to watch the pizza and take it out when the top is light golden brownish and the crust is a light golden brown.

IMPORTANT: Let this pizza cool for 20 minutes, if you do not it will be all over the place. Once it cools for 20 minutes it will be just the right temp and will come out of the pan the right way. Cut and serve. This recipe should feed a family of 7 with maybe a slice left over.

Looking at it, I had that "aha!" moment. I've always wondered how they got the texture of the pizza crust - now I know. 1 cup of cornmeal. So, made it this weekend, with a few substitutions

* I couldn't find 18" deep-dish pizza pans nearby. So I bought 2 3"x13" pizza(?) pans at Ace-mart (local restaurant supply shop). A little too deep, but close enough!
* Halved the recipe. Which means that you get pretty close on the size (18" = 254 square inches, 13"*2 = 264 square inches). Which explains why I was a little short on crust. But also made it cheaper - I think I spent $30 on cheese alone.

Thoughts from making it:
* Garlic - rather than run in through a press, you can huck it in your blender first. Put on chop - when I dropped the garlic in (through the small opening on the top of the blender), it bounced around for a while, which wound up with it getting chopped into bitty bits quite nicely. (And we went with much less - 2 toes of garlic instead of 10). Faster than chop and it just falls straight to the bottom. Chop allowed it to keep getting flung about the blender.
* If you use the pan I did, don't attempt to go all the way up the sides. About half-way will do you. The slices still weigh 10 ounces or so, and definitely are deep dish pizza goodness.
* Maybe get whole tomatoes in a can, or just buy crushed. I bought diced, and about 3 seconds in the blender was all it took - both to mix it all up, and to make a horrid mess as my blender barely held all the tomatoes.

Some changes for next time, I think:
* Try to make a little more crust. Or just make sure I distribute it evenly. I wound up with ultra-thick sides, and not enough on the bottom. Still yummy, though.
* A little less of the parmesan/asiago/romano mix
* A little less cheese, a little more sauce. It seems like a ton of sauce - it's not.

Overall? A triumph. I'm making a note here: huge success.
Awesome Chicago pizza.


[WAT] Weird conversion error in SQL Server

Here's a fun conversion that will bite you.

SET @test = '50000'
SELECT convert(varchar(5), convert(int, @test))

You get back "50000".
Now do this:

SET @test = '500000'
SELECT convert(varchar(5), convert(int, @test))

What do you get back? "*". Nifty.