Chicken Dinner, and Mushroom Juice

A couple times now over the last month or so, I’ve picked up Fennel and Leek at a farmers market either in Oakland, or San Leandro. The potato leek soup was the first thing that was the inspiration to even get a leek, which was something I don’t think I’d ever cooked with before. Then a little research had be looking at the fish with leek and fennel, which also turned out good. More recently, because we kept ending up with more of both, that was starting to get a little long in the tooth before getting used, Elaine was looking at various things online as well, and found a chicken dish that sounded interesting, so what the hell.

Today went back by the Splashpad farmers market, and on a little shopping binge. The aforementioned leeks, and fennel, and some other odds and ends as well. There’s at least a couple meals worth of stuff in the pantry now. Or at least stuff to be part of a larger meal, and the produce really is some pretty good looking stuff at the market. Made a stop at Safeway for some odds and ends at well before heading back to Moraga.

Late afternoon was a good time to start a run at the chicken dish. Some chicken thighs browned on one side, and finished in the oven on the other side. The chicken resting under some foil to the side, while in the pan cook off some leeks, and fennel till soft and a little colored as well, and picking up all that good chicken drippings while we’re at it. Then add some Orzo, and let that pick up a little color as well, before slowly adding in stock, not unlike making a risotto. I suspect this could be turned into a risotto type recipe pretty easily down the road. A little white wine went in before the stock too, to deglaze and add a little more depth while we’re at it. A little chopped up fennel fronds adds some nice color to the pan, and a little lemon as well. Never enough for Lin, or Elaine won’t be happy at how much got added. The toss the chicken back on, and remember to get a pic to torture Rich with.

It was a very tasty, successful dinner, I’d say. Maybe a little less Fennel, wouldn’t hurt to have a little more leek either. A little less butter, I think. It didn’t need the bit at the end to finish, IMHO. It’s a solid start, and I’m going to play with it a little moving forwards, I’m sure. I think I can even make a single serving of something evocative at home down the road. Although the fennel/leek might be a small issue for making smaller servings on demand. I’ll have to work on that.

Chicken and Orzo with Fennel and Leek

The other thing I worked on today, is something entirely of my own creation, based on a few other things I’ve made the last few months. I’ve described it elsewhere, and didn’t actually get pics today, I should have. But it’s basically a mushroom stock. I turned 4 & 1/2 pounds of mushrooms into about a quart of cooked mushrooms, that Elaine will probably use in some mushroom soup down the road. And I ended up with 3 & 1/2 cups or so, of concentrated mushroom essence. That is going to make some of the best gravy I’ve ever had before again, when I make meatloaf in the near future. I was originally thinking Tuesday, but I’m probably making the chicken again Tues instead, so the meatloaf will have to wait a bit. It’s ok. I like having a few things lined up for various meals, at least in outline.

If nothing else, the apocalypse has been good to get me chugging around in the kitchen again. I’m hopeful that getting back to work (someday soon hopefully!) and life returning to some semblance of normal, won’t cause me to stop cooking too much. I’m having a lot of fun doing it, and it would be a shame to let my skills start to lapse again. Being able to feed yourself is always a good skill to have available, and if you can feed others and they’re happy with the results, that’s definitely a bonus too.

Bloodchild – Anna Stephens

The end of a Trilogy isn’t necessarily a slam dunk for an author. Sure, you’ve been planning it (hopefully). But there’s no guarantee that you’ll stick the landing either. Certainly has been the case before, that the ending never lives up to the slow build leading to it. And if it’s expected to be the full stop end of the story, at least where it’s planned to end, then you want to make sure to wrap up all the loose ends, that have been building over the previous 2 books.

So how do I think Anna Stephens did in this case? I’m pretty happy. I don’t regret any of the 3 books in the series. The first was a VERY solid opening to a fairly big story, with lots of characters moving through it. The second book kept things moving along nicely. A few arcs came to an end, but some new avenues opened up as well, and the story progressed. And then we get to book 3. There’s still a lot of characters running around, and plenty of bad things still going on. Of course I’m not sure I really expect all the dark corners to get chased away either. It’s a grimdark book, I’m not sure the world is supposed to be bright, even if the big bad is defeated. By and large the loose ends are pretty wrapped up. Nearly all of the major characters have moved to some sort of ending to their arc, and reached a place where things are clearly stable compared to the beginning of the books.

I don’t really want to be too specific or detailed about the arc(s) in the book. No reason to spoil books 1/2 for people that might want to read them eventually. But I do recommend the series. I’m not sure I enjoyed them as much as something like The Black Company. They’re certainly better than the story in the AGoT TV Show, if you count the stuff that was shot past the most recent book.

So if you’re looking for a good fantasy series, where nobody has a really good time most of the story, I think you’ll like these books, and will be satisfied with the finale as well. No regrets at all for picking them up from me certainly. I’m very comfortable giving this finale a perfectly solid 4*. It’s right up there with the rest for sure. So if GrimDark fantasy sounds like your wheelhouse, I’d recommend checking out these books. Hopefully you won’t think I steered you wrong!

Endorsements – Some Software Tools

As just about anyone that knows me is aware, I work with computers, and part of that is needing tools to do things. The world is packed full of things to do stuff on a PC. And some of them, I simply wouldn’t want to live without, for a variety of reasons. And because I’m drawing a blank on anything else to blather about, I’ll talk about a few today, that I find indispensable. But of course your mileage may vary. Maybe they don’t work the way you’d prefer, and you have something different, but these are some of mine at least.

Ventoy – This is one of the newest things I’ve discovered. And it replaces a long sequence of previous tools to do that same thing, but it smokes them all easily. Clear back when USB drives started to be available with enough capacity to hold a CD’s worth of data. there started to be ways to take a bootable CD, and create a bootable USB Drive instead. CD’s are well and good. But install media changes, and CD’s get scratched, and a thumb drive just fits in a pocket better. Some tools worked better than others, and I tried a few certainly. But about a year ago now, I saw someone suggesting Ventoy, and thought I’d give it a try. And it just annihilates the competition easily. Game over. The first gen tools just made a drive that had a single image on it, which was fine enough, when there was nothing else. Then Rufus made it possible to have a menu pop up, and you could pick what .iso to boot, which was great. You could make a drive that had a variety of tools, and images to select from. But Ventoy makes that whole process almost invisible. You set up the Ventoy bootable drive, and it creates a boot partition, and a image partition basically. I’ve never touched the boot partition, maybe there are some things to tweak but it’s almost perfect the way it is anyhow. And then you just drop any .iso you want into the image partition. That’s it. No program to run to update the menu, or any other nonsense. It’s just that easy. And it just works. Every time for me so far. So one big thumb drive can be an installer for every MS OS, and ESX, and anything else you can think of desire too. It’s absolutely a life changer, and indispensible.

Greenshot – Greenshot is the tool I use for screen capture 99% of the time. It sits in the system tray, but it’s really keyboard launched most of the time. It’s got all the basic capture options you’d want, and you can configure what the keystrokes are for all of them. But the real magic happens after you capture something. You get a second menu to decide what to do with what you captured. You aren’t left with just putting it on the clipboard. You can save the it as a .png directly, or pipe it to a ton of different applications. Either an editor that comes built in, or to things like Outlook to send it to someone, document creation tools to put the screenshot into a document of some sort, or even upload it to a free hosting service to share it via a link. Pretty much anything you’d want to do with a screen shot once you have it, is right there at your fingerprints. If you’ve ever needed a screen shot for anything, you’ll wonder how you lived without this tool most likely. It’s just simple, and streamlined, and free!

The main Greenshot menu.
Where the real happens, after you capture something with Greenshot.

Ninite – So I didn’t give a link for Greenshot, because of Ninite. If you’ve ever set up a new computer, and haven’t used Ninite to do it, you’ll wonder what you were doing before now. Ninite is a web based tool, primarily. When you visit the web site, you get a menu of available tools. All nicely sorted into sensible categories, and a checkbox next to each. You’ve got nearly all the basic tools you might want as part of a new system build. Web Browsers, Torrent client, Some Developer tools. Messaging clients, Media tools, Runtimes (java), More generic Utilities, Imaging tools, Document tools (think Open Office, and PDF tools), Cloud Based Storage, Security Tools, and File Compression. So you go through the page, select as many as you want, that you want on your system and then hit the big blue button at the bottom to download. And what’s really brilliant, is it doesn’t download the installers. Instead it downloads a nice small shim installer, that you can take to any PC and run, and at the time you run it, it will go out to the internet and run a defaulted install of all the programs you’ve selected. The UI is nice and simple, just tells you what’s downloading, installing, waiting, or done. “What if I’ve already got something installed?” you ask? Well in that case it either skips over it, if you’ve got the most up to date version, or if you have an older version installed, it will automatically update you with the newest version. So the shim you download the first time, if you keep that around and run it regularly, you’ll update all the same stuff to the newest versions with no pain at all. It just works. And it’s just that easy too. They offer a corporate version for commercial use, if you want to keep an office network up to date as well, complete with logging and tracking of who is running what, and how up to date they may be. It’s another tool that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it, once you try it once. Utterly indispensible.

So there’s a few of the things I can’t imagine doing without. I recommend all 3 unequivocally. If you ever work on a PC, you will want to check out all of them.

Homelab – 22. Connecting to Tape Through Hyper-V

In the ESX world, you can pass hardware through from the physical to the virtual machines, under certain circumstances. But MS doesn’t seem to have that as part of the platform (yet?). Which makes something like a tape drive a bit of an added challenge. Since the VM will need to communicate with it, more or less, directly. It’s not like a storage volume on disk that can be accessed through the virtualization system.

So what’s the solution in Hyper-V? Basically you shim the tape drive, at the host level, with software that then passes the drive back off again as an iSCSI device. Or at least that’s one solution, that’s a viable one certainly. In my case, something called the Starwind Tape Redirector, which is free fortunately, that does exactly that. It runs on the host that the drive is connected to, and makes it available to other machines, be they virtual or physical.

Of course this isn’t something I was aware of, until I actually tried connecting the tape drive to the VM today. And then did a little research. Among other things, it means that the decision to use the full version of Server 2019, rather than just the Hyper-V Core Server was going to be ultimately necessary. It also brings up some interesting options for future changes to the environment as well. Since the tape is now just another virtualized device on the network at as a whole, software can access it from anywhere on the network, more or less, by setting up connections to the iSCSI target. So the backup software can run from a VM on either platform I’m running, and there shouldn’t be an issue either way. It also gives the option to make a dedicated tape “server” at some point, that won’t be a virtualization host, but will just be a dedicated machine to provide the physical connection to backup device(s).

I was originally thinking that I could document the setup of the Redirector software, but on further reflection, I’d say that it’s even less interesting than most installs. And since I’m just winging it, and figuring things out as I go, I mostly went with defaulted choices anyhow, except for one or two specific things I knew I’d want to change.

All in all, a little research, and a little messing around w/ software was an acceptable thing to do on a day that I’m still pretty distracted for otherwise. I’ve got an important interview tomorrow afternoon, and focus is shot in the meantime, pretty much.

Homelab – 21. Creating My First Hyper-V VM

I’ve spent 12+ years using VMWare for virtualization. When I started with it, it was really the only serious game in town. ESX was head and shoulders above anything else available, particularly for someone like me, that lives in a Windows world. And at this point, I’m very comfortable in the ESX environment for most routine stuff, and even some less than routine stuff too. I’ve done things like password recovery on a host before even, over a decade ago.

But ESX isn’t the only game in town anymore. Microsoft has Hyper-V, and like most MS Products, after a couple revisions, they end up with a usable product eventually. And I think it’s safe to say at this point, that Hyper-V is a perfectly serviceable virtualization platform as well now.

Until tonight, I’d never actually done anything with Hyper-V or created a VM in that environment. The process is actually pretty polished and straightforward at least. I ran into one small hiccup in the process, that I’ll explain when I get there. And I’ll want to do some research down the road to find out what the actual issue was, and what my options are for getting past it.

The splash screen for the Hyper-V Manager
About what you’d expect for starting the creation process
Your basic management splash screen. Nothing much to see or even bother reading here.
What do you want to call the VM, and where do you want to store it’s data?

So the VM Generation selection was the one bump in the process. I initially tried to create it as a Gen2 VM figuring the newer version would be best. But it wouldn’t boot off the ISO for whatever reason as a Gen2, so I recreated it as a Gen1 and everything worked fine. I’d certainly prefer to use the newer, probably even more secure version, but it’s not worth digging into right now certainly, since this could end up being a trial machine, and nothing I want to keep long term at all.

What generation VM do you want to create
I don’t need that much RAM for something I might not keep, but I’m not constrained either currently.

I need to decide what I’m going to do with networking on the host, and get at least the other 1gb port running. I probably should get a 10gb card for it as well, so I can plan on adding that too. But at least for the moment, the single port is all that’s live. And the 40gb Infiniband is god only knows where down the road. It’s a back burner item for the time being.

Connecting the VM to the only NIC currently up and running on the host.
No need to get fancy with naming at this point. And 127 is certainly plenty for now.
Attaching an ISO to install Windows from is a must.
Your basic summary screen, showing all the options previously selected.
Once the VM is created, it’s just a matter of Starting, and then Connecting to it…
Look. It’s the ever popular Windows install screen, as if it’s a real computer!
Why, yes. I do want to install now.
On the off chance I want to do anything with this VM, I’ll install the GUI to have it available.
Sure, of course I read and plan to strictly adhere to the licensing. Anything else would be madness, right?
An old habit from years of manual windows installs. I always do a custom so I can make sure the drives are what I want
Yup, there’s the 127gb “drive” we created.
And now we wait, while Windows installs.
Once the OS installs, and the VM restarts, you need to select the password for the Administrator account.
And with that, we have a working Windows Server 2012 VM.

With that, I’ve now created my first Hyper-V VM. And it’s pretty anti-climactic, really. Microsoft knows how to refine tools so they are easy to use, and this is pretty much what I would expect from one of theirs. It just works, basically. Nothing fancy, and nothing terribly confusing either. Just a bunch of clicking to work through the process one step at a time really.

I’m assuming that the process of connecting it to hardware that the host is happy to talk to (like the tape drive) is a pretty straightforward process as well. But that’s for another night, at least. For now I’m happy to have the host running, with a VM running under it. With both the host, and a single VM running on a adequate, but not spectacular server, I’m using about 26% of available RAM, and the CPU is currently clocking in right around 5% or so on average. So there’s still plenty of headroom to run things so far.

Based on what I’ve done so far with Hyper-V I have to say that it’s a perfectly serviceable environment to work with. But it’s also very much a Microsoft tool, that really wants to be in a full featured MS environment. If you don’t have a domain to join, you’re going to have issues handling the host, in my opinion. While with VMWare, it’s a piece of cake to set up a “stand alone” host and just spin stuff up, running admin tools remotely from a PC that has a basic network connection to the host. I suppose in theory that does imply at least, that the host is slightly more exposed than the Hyper-V host is, since you can access it from “anywhere” assuming you’ve got a clean TCP route to it and the proper credentials. But that’s why we have perimeter devices to keep out external connections we don’t want, and why we have a sensible password regime to secure the console. I ran an ESX Host for years at home, and never once thought there was any risk of someone doing something to it remotely.

So that’s todays installment and work accomplished, as well as my thoughts about it. I have prep for an upcoming interview tomorrow, but hopefully I can find time to see what can be accomplished by someone that knows nothing at all about Veeam too.

Imposter Syndrome

In the IT field, Imposter Syndrome is a pretty common affliction to find. I have no idea how prevalent it is in other fields. Maybe it’s a function of how broad tech can be, and how much it changes as well? Or maybe it’s a result of the types of people that tend to be attracted to tech jobs? Not always the most outgoing, so self-selected to be less than confident at times?

Whatever the cause, it’s certainly a thing. Read at all in SysAdmin forums and it’s a recurring theme, that gets a lot of discussion. And of course the best time to really show symptoms of it? When looking around at changing jobs, or finding a new one. Either you’re looking at positions that you’re absolutely qualified for, and will probably end up being bored out of your mind doing, and probably not even particularly a good fit for, as a result. Or you’re looking at jobs that want something that’s a reach in some way for you. Personally, if I’m looking for a position, I want there to be opportunities to learn new things, and grow my skillset somehow generally. As has been previously discussed, when I’m bored I can get myself into mischief after all.

Of course then you get hit with it, in the worst possible circumstances. I’m still looking for work. And sending out resumes regularly as a result. Had a first round interview with a company last week, and I certainly felt that I got a good rapport with the interviewer during the call. It’s a good sounding opportunity, seems to fit with what I want to be doing, and even geographically has some appeal too. Pushing me further towards the fringes of the bay would be nice, because maybe at some point I could even start migrating to cheaper climes. I’d like to eventually GTFO and stop living in a crappy, expensive studio.

I got an email today from him, and he’d like to move ahead to a technical screen, with some of his team, via video conferencing. So already I’m not over the moon. I dislike video conferences anyhow. I’ve never been a fan of being on camera for things. I like being a photographer, because it keeps me on the side of the camera that I’m happiest about. 🙂 And of course then there’s the general concerns, with how well I can communicate that I know enough to do that job, even if I’m pretty confident that I can do the job, being able to “sell” my qualifications is never easy.

But then we get the kicker, that either makes it much worse, or a little better. The second half of the 2 hour screen, is to be going over 5 projects they are looking at this role leading. And so there’s a list of 5 things they’d like to accomplish, and me (and I assume other candidates) will have an hour or so to talk about the 5, and at least give broad brush outlines of how we might proceed with them. Clearly I don’t know much of anything about the current environment, so I can’t really be too specific. Just demonstrating that I know the basics of how things work. And where to go with projects at least in general.

The reality is, that knowing the 5 should add some comfort, at least in theory. Since a technical interview is going to touch on what you know, they are going to throw technical questions at you. At least in this case, I know in advance what the 5 big items are, and can prepare for them. Giving them some thought, and having prepared some notes, and hopefully giving more detailed answers as a result. Rather than having just random stuff dropped in my lap instead. That should be better, right?

The reality is I’ve got ~72 hours to obsess over a list of things, think about them, wonder if I’m truly qualified to deal with them, and wonder how I sound compared to people I’ll never know for sure existed, and how qualified they might be, or how much more qualified they might be. I know I can do that job. But what Christopher Titus calls the Inner Idiot. And of course even after I get off the call, the II will be sure to point out every stupid mistake I made, and everything I overlooked. The little bastard is useless in advance to prepare, other than as a distraction. But after the fact he’s going to be able to demonstrate a truly detailed memory of all sorts of things I could have done better.

It’s going to be a long couple days, hopefully the outcome will make it worthwhile tho.

Darksoul by Anna Stephens

Chapter 2 of 3 can be tough. You know where the story is ultimately going to go, but now you’ve got to fit some story in between the part that’s already done, that builds towards the ultimate finale, without it being too much. You certainly don’t want to steal the thunder from the 3rd chapter, and have it be anti-climactic in the end. But you don’t want to short-change your audience with part 2 either. They deserve a complete, compelling story too. Sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t.

For a novice author, Anna did a pretty bang up job. Maybe the fact that this is a dark, dismal world helps in some regards. The characters that have already been pummeled pretty badly are given room to fall even further, and do so. The world that she’s built continues to unravel, as the protagonists continue to fight against the approaching darkness that threatens to completely envelop the world. And so far, they aren’t doing a great job of fighting back against it. Nobody is having a good time here. To be fair, not even the “bad guys” escape unscathed. Everyone suffers in some way. Pieces are taken off the table. Even some that seemed pretty important are lost. And while there isn’t a complete sense of despair, there aren’t any real winners here either. The darkness makes some advances, but doesn’t end up dominant as they were hoping. The forces of light are pushed around a lot, but score some solid blows back at least.

In some ways the story reminds me of what some consider the gold standard of middle pieces. The Empire Strikes back. Both in overall tone, and how things go for the heroes certainly. There were even some events that made me immediately think back to Star Wars, in some good ways. It’s a different setting, but it’s a very well built world, that feels like it had some thought put into how everything fits together.

So yeah, I loved this book. But I have to be careful to say much in detail about it as well. I’d hate someone to read my thoughts on the book, and find out something they would rather find out naturally as they read it instead. But if you can handle a world just jam packed with despair, and shitty people, I continue to recommend this series. I’m very excited to be diving into the third, and final chapter. The author has already started a completely new series, that’s unrelated to this one. So I’ve also got the prospect of feeling that things have concluded once I finish book 3. Or at least we’ve reached a satisfying ending for a very strong story arc. Sure, I’d be fine with spending more time in this world. But if the story is over, I’m fine not forcing it to keep going. It’s ok for things to be finished. Plenty of things have gone far beyond what could have been a very satisfying ending.

So I’m going to give this 4.5 of 5 stars. I don’t think it’s necessarily a weaker book than the first one. But it’s not coming out of nowhere like the first book either. It’s a very solid continuation of an extremely compelling story. And I can’t wait to see where everything winds up in the final chapter.

Fish 2.0

So after the “en papillote” experiment on Tuesday, I decided I was on a good course, but after a little thought realized that parchment isn’t the only way to approach it. Cooking in parchment is basically a way to do some indirect heat (to keep it from overcooking), while keeping the protein and the other ingredients in close proximity to each other to make the flavors come together nicely.

But that’s more or less the wheelhouse for Sous Vide prep as well. So I already started thinking about it that way, and Saturday’s are good for the Farmers Market in Oakland, where there’s a very good selection of produce to work with. This has definite possibilities now. Like I mentioned on Thursday, I whipped up a pretty mean compound butter on Thurs as well, to use as the primary flavoring for the fish today.

So today was a run to the FM for leeks and fennel. Then I also went to Whole Foods to get some cherry tomatoes, and fresh thyme. While I was there I got some bread, because compound butter. And I stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up a mandoline, because my knifework isn’t great, and precise slices are kinda nice.

So at the house today, the first thing I did was increase the amount of butter I had, more fresh herbs, and some minced (rather than roasted) garlic. Honestly, I like the roasted better, but I didn’t have any handy. So I used what I did have. It was still fantastic on bread. I ate a couple pieces of Epi with some.

Once that was taken care of, I decided to try an alternative to garlic roasting, and tried putting the stove on as low as it would go, a pan with a half inch or so of olive oil, and a layer of garlic, with some thyme and rosemary. Unfortunately, the lowest setting is still to high, and I didn’t “confit” the garlic, but just fried it instead. The outside is now brown and tough, but the insides could be squeezed out and used. And the oil did pick up some flavor, w/o turning bitter or anything, so it wasn’t a complete failure. I’ll have to keep trying things, to see what else might work instead.

For the Tilapia, first I sliced the leeks and fennel with the mandoline, on a 3mm setting. In about 30seconds I had a bowl full of nice thin slices of both. SO much easier than a knife. I tossed the vegetables with a little of the garlic/herb oil to get them started, and added some sliced cherry tomatoes. A little fennel seed as well, and a very small amount (could use more) of lemon/pepper as well. Then assembly was just a matter of a rinsed/dried fillet, a nice spoonful of the butter, and a good handful of the vegetable mix. Then into the food sealer to pull out the air, and seal the bag.

Bagged up and ready to cook. It’s not pretty, but how much food is, before cooking?

Having never done fish like this before, I did a little poking online, and from the research I found a recommendation of “Lightly Flaky and/or Firm 120°F” and from looking at other stuff, 30min sounded about right. While the fish cooked, I made a quick “instant couscous” which I thought would make a nice change of pace. Served up my plate first, and realized that the fish was uncomfortably firm still. Apparently “Very Flaky and/or Firm 132°F” would have been the better choice. So Lin and Elaine’s bags went back on for 20more min, at a higher temp, and I nuked mine for 90 seconds right as theirs came out. I shortened the time a little on theirs figuring it was already up nearly to the right temp to the middle already, it probably didn’t need a full 30 again.

I forgot to get a pic before digging in, and I should have posed the tomatoes better. But I cleaned it completely. It was good!

That did the trick, and theirs was very satisfactory (not enough Lemon for Lin). The couscous couldn’t hold a candle to Aziza, but it also was about $2, rather than “far more”. While it might be fun to try making couscous from scratch sometime, that’s not happening anytime soon for sure. I’ll probably just stick with rice in future batches, because it’s cheap and super easy, and just fine too.

So if you’re ever looking at making sous vide tilapia yourself, I would recommend 130-132, and about 30min. Now I’m going to look at minor tweaks to advance the recipe in small steps. Probably a few lemon slices in Lin’s bag, and some extra lemon/pepper as well. Make his easily identifiable, as well as lemony the way he’d prefer. Otherwise things were quite successful. I’d happily prep and eat this again. And now that I have done it some, I can crank it out fairly quickly. I think I’d like to prep an extra next time too, and toss it in the freezer till “later” just to see how it is after being stored. Assuming it stores well, which it should, it’s a way to grab some tilapia when it’s on sale, or pre-frozen fillets, and prep some meals that take 30-40min to cook when you need a dinner. That’s can be a pretty quick turn-around for a tasty, healthy, fresh meal.

Now to start mulling other variations. Maybe even adding some carrot back in too, would be a good addition. I think it would go well with the flavors I’ve already got working here anyhow. If anyone else has any ideas, I’m certainly open to them. Historically fish, other than Salmon, wasn’t something I cooked at home anyhow. And I can’t think of any particular dish I’ve eaten out either.

How did my “tech blog” become such a “cooking blog”? Ah well. At least I’ve got something keeping me writing. 2 weeks into the year, and every day so far, effectively.

And one last lesson picked up recently, is that having a vacuum sealer is WAY better than what I was doing before, for sure. I’m much happier with the sealed bags, than the zip-top style ones made of silicone that I had before. It’s really no comparison.

Homelab – 21. Server 2019 Lives

So I got the iDRAC card yesterday, and installed it today. Here’s a little tip. I probably should have checked what the license the server had covered. Turns out the card is just taking up space (that can’t be used for anything else anyhow). At this time the port isn’t live. I’ll probably look at getting a license for it eventually. But there’s not exactly a pressing rush to do so now. No screen shots of installing Windows, is all I’m losing out on immediately. Not a critical problem for the time being. annoying but that’s survivable.

At least the card is installed however.

So with that installed, I did go ahead and re-install Windows on the host. A full install of Server 2019, with full GUI included. I did a little testing, and at least right off the bat I’m unable to get management tools to connect to it from the “home” network. I can ping across, but no remote management. Ah well. If it had been easy to get configured, I probably would have looked at reinstalling again, in the stripped down version, and manage it remotely. Operating without a domain, but with multiple subnets as if I was on a much larger network is definitely adding some added complications/considerations to life. Something for anyone following my footsteps to at least keep in mind before they make architecture decisions.

Windows didn’t recognize the SCSI card by default. But it was pretty straightforward to look it up, grab the drivers, and install them, and then both the card, and the AIT-3 drive are recognized. 100gb native, 260gb compressed isn’t a super compelling backup solution. But at least it’s something for the moment. Better than nothing. And I’ve got a bunch of tapes already, so it’s going to suffice in the short term at least.

More and more I’m leaning towards pulling the Infiniband card from the system (normally it sits just above the iDRAC card), and replacing it with a 2 port 10gb NIC. Do I want to use Infiniband for something eventually, yeah. But I don’t know when that is going to be either. I’ll have to mull it, at least.

So the next step is to create my first (ever!) Hyper-V VM, and set up Veeam on it, and try laying something down on tape. It’s been far, far too long that I’ve been building towards that point. It’s well past due getting accomplished, frankly. Probably a Windows Server 2012 VM as the Backup & Replication Server, just to avoid licensing hassles. And it will be a learning process for sure, having never touched Veeam at all. But how bad can it be, right?

Chili Paste, Cornbread, and Compound Butter

So after the last Chili experiment, I was definitely craving it again. But I definitely didn’t want to use the same Mexican style chili powder I used last time either. That stuff had rather more heat than I was expecting, having never used it before. I enjoyed it, but was blowing a little as I ate. Lin and Elaine soldiered through it, but they definitely weren’t fans either. I’d used the whole package, and not even gotten the “spicy” variety either!

El Guapo Chili Powder Mix
It’s got good flavor, but it brings a little more heat than some enjoy.

So I did a little research, and discovered that Babish had actually made a Chili Con Carne recipe for one of his episodes, and he made a paste as the base. I liked the sound of that, and was willing to give it a shot. One nice thing about his, was it uses 5 different kinds of dried chilis. Some are significantly higher Scoville indexes than others. Which meant that I would be able to tweak the recipe later, to adjust once I’d tried it once. His technique involved taking the 5 different kinds, cleaning them of seeds and stems, and tearing them into smallish pieces. Then pan roasting them a little just to get them fragrant. Then add some water, and lower the heat to simmer, then cover and let steep for a bit. Then puree the whole pan, and you’ve got a chili paste. It turned out that finding all 5 kinds was a bit of a pain, but was ultimately doable. I think it took a total of 3 different stores to get the complete set. Once I had all of them I banged out the paste and froze it. I figured it was the sort of thing that was going to be time consuming enough that having it ready to go would be good, but wouldn’t suffer at all for freezing once it was ready to go.

I wasn’t actually planning on using his recipe after that, I was overall pretty happy with the Instant Pot one I’d tried the last time, it just needed a different flavor base. But his was 1 1/2c for 3-5# of Chuck Roast, and so I figured Somewhere around 1/2c per pound might be about right. And I can just riff on what I’ve done before otherwise. Getting confident enough w/ the tools that I’m working with, that I don’t mind doing that now. Another thing I’d seen somewhere, that I was at least curious to try, was a suggestion of not cubing the beef before searing it. If it’s in cubes there’s much more chance for it to release liquids, and steam/boil a little more than sear. And I do want a nice crust on the beef if I can. So at the store I’d looked at steaks, then found a good looking piece of pot roast beef. Nice flat piece, about 3#, and maybe 1-1/2″ thick. That had some real possibility, since this is basically a modified “low and slow” braise recipe really. And that’s ideal for a pot roast cut. Flavor and just a need to cook it enough to get the texture good.

So today was the day to take all the new ideas for a test spin. First it was get a skillet with some oil good and hot, then slap the slab of beef in. Clearly not the best plan, since hot oil doesn’t know it’s supposed to stay in the skillet. Nice hot oil burns on the inside of my arm, and back of a finger. They actually don’t hurt, UNTIL you go to wash your hands an hour or two later in hot tap water, and then they emphatically do! Sauteed onions in the IP to get them soft and ready to roll. Then added a bunch of bell pepper dice and cook that a little. I didn’t bother measuring the chili paste at all. I’d guess it was somewhere between 1-1/2 and 2c. I just used it all. There wasn’t going to be enough left for anything meaningful anyhow. A couple other spices, including some cocoa powder, which you don’t taste at all per se, but I assume it’s bringing something to the table. Cubed up beef, a can of tomato dice, some water, and beef stock concentrate, and some pre-soaked black beans, and let it rip for 20min under pressure and 15 or so more of a slow de-pressurize. A little masa at the end of the cook, and it’s done.

Once the chili was going, I decided it needed some corn bread to go with it. But the previous 2 trials hadn’t been perfect. Last time I made chili I gave a new cornbread recipe a try that I’d never had before. It’s actually using a nice coarse polenta, and I liked the idea of it having a little more texture than standard corn meal. The recipe ended up being not quite as much as I really liked when it was done, the pan just wasn’t a nice full piece. And Lin said it just didn’t quite have the corn punch that he was expecting either. So I tweaked with it some just as a one-off a bit later. Upped the recipe 50%, and instead of adding more flour, used extra polenta instead. It did help the flavor some, but the texture was a little too loose in the end. So it was good, but it wasn’t a great stand alone corn bread either. My thought for today was, well we want more corn, lets really take it up some. So I pureed a can of cream corn, and replaced 2/3 of the milk with that, as well as a little of the egg too. Basically went with everything else the same for the increased batch recipe, and it was by far the best of the 3. So that’s my go to for corn bread for sure. I’m going to be making it that way from now on, and making sure I’ve got the fixings handy.

Melting butter on top while still piping hot is a must isn’t it?

So dinner was some cornbread, shredded cheddar over that, chili over that, and then a dollop of sour cream, and some diced red onion just to have a little fresh note of onion on the very top.

So it’s not necessarily photogenic, but the flavor was spot on.

So how did it all turn out, since this is all a mix of various experiments in a bowl? As I said above, the cornbread was perfect. Good texture, good taste, spot on. The flavor of the chili was fantastic. It has a little heat, but not aggressively so. And not a lingering burn after either, like it did last time. I was thinking I’d have to adjust and tweak the Babish mix, but it’s perfect as is. There was one slight misstep however. Turns out a 20min cook is great when you’re using off the shelf “stew beef”. Turns out a thick pot roast cut isn’t quite the same. It was edible, it was cooked. It was also… chewy. Less so than before cooking obviously. But definitely not something you’d want to cut w/ a fork, and it was a longer chew than we were expecting. So while we finished dinner, I threw the lid back on, and did another 10min cook, and maybe another 10min of slow release as well. There was still about half a batch still in the pot at that point, so it was worth trying to “rescue” it and fix it up a little. Fished out a piece of beef to try after that, and it was MUCH better. Fork cuttable, and a huge improvement. Still a little texture, and definitely not mush. But a much better eating experience to be sure. So I just have to remember to bump the cook by at least 50% when using the cheap, tasty cut. Which is fine. It’s still a fairly quick, but deep, flavorful meal. And It’s going to stay in rotation. And it’s the sort of disk that makes killer leftovers too. Eat it a few days later w/ chips or whatever and you’ve got a quick easy dinner in the time it takes to re-heat a little.

So what’s this about compound butter, and what’s that got to do with anything eh? Thinking ahead to the next meal on the road map, and having nearly a stick of butter that was room temp soft and spreadable, I figured I’d get a head start on the fish 2.0 I’m planning this weekend. Put the butter into a dish, added a gratuitous amount of roasted garlic paste, as well as some finely minced rosemary, which smelled absolutely divine to work on. I thought I had some fresh thyme as well, but ended up using some packaged/dried leaf instead (not next time!) and mixed all that up thoroughly. Looked promising. Tasted a little off the fork, and thought it had some real promise as well. So after dinner, I tried a small piece of cornbread with a little bit of the butter on it. Holy crap. That was amazing. Honestly, by the time I got home I was actively craving a piece of a nice baguette with a smear of that on it. And that’s with no actual appetite either, after a filling dinner. It was that good. I’ve got a REALLY good feeling about dinner this weekend. I didn’t get pics of the butter, it just didn’t seem that compelling at the time. Maybe this weekend…

So that’s todays kitchen adventures. I actually do have the last part for the R320 now, so hopefully tomorrow I can make headway on that project, and have something actually “on topic’ for my “tech blog” to post. Clearly this is a little more wide-ranging overall than I ever planned. But I like it, and hopefully someone else does too…