Wednesday, 07 May 2014 15:45

Kitchen crematory: not as morbid as it sounds

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Fact No. 1: Stage 2 combustion of wood occurs at 540 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fact No. 2: Much of our home and its contents are assembled from wood and paper products.
So, when the instruction manual for my gas oven declares that the self-cleaning cycle, should I choose to use it, will reach 900F, I look around and take a quick inventory of the things I’d rather not incinerate.
Nine hundred degrees, after all, is hot enough start an inferno that would to do away with all but my dental work.
Nine hundred degrees, in fact, makes me wonder why more television crime dramas don’t use a self-cleaning oven cycle as means to cremate evidence.
And 900 degrees, according to Wikipedia, is the temperature at which rocks, roasted by volcanic activity, continue to glow faintly.
Which leaves me with two questions:
No. 1: Do I trust my oven?
No. 2: Do I have any other choice?
As far as I can tell, one is not meant to spray the inside surfaces of a self-cleaning oven with powerful solvents. Nor should it be tackled with abrasive materials.
No one on the entire Internet seems to know, or is willing to say, although I suspect it has something to do with damaging the ceramic layer, and its ability to evenly distribute heat. A feature I depend on with some regularity.
 Judging, however, by the Pollok-esque splatter adhered to the glass viewing, there’s no doubt that powerful solvents and abrasive materials, or an incineration cycle of 900F, is exactly what’s will be required to clear the view.
But before I start up a crematory in my kitchen, there are a few things I’d like to set within easy reach, just in case:
• No. 1 —A pet carrier already containing small, furry, family members;
• No. 2 —My BlackBerry with the numbers 9-1-1 pre-dialed;
• No. 3 —A fire extinguisher, in case a fire should smolder controllably, rather than lick at my heels;
• No. 4 —A lawn sprinkler, set atop the kitchen island, which I’ll turn on from outside should there be a need to flee.
First, however, it’s time for one more recipe, a Mexican molé that may prove splattery when the lid is removed for the final reduction. And then, with my emergency kit assembled, I will press the “Auto Clean” button, watch as a metal window drops between the double-paned oven glass, and trust my worldly belongings to Maytag. Maybe.

Dutch Oven Molé (adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 medium dried mulato chilies
5 medium dried pasilla chilies
3 medium dried ancho chilies
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup dark raisins
15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (fire-roasted if available)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground anise
pinch ground cloves
1 oz (1 square) semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 slice French bread, toasted and torn into several pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar (plus a little more if needed)
flaked kosher salt
7 cups chicken stock

Remove stems from chillies, then tear open and remove seeds. Break or chop into small pieces.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. When hot, add the chilies, garlic, almonds and raisins. Stir slowly and continually until the chilies are pliable and fragrant; about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes (with liquid), spices, chocolate and bread. Cook 2 minutes, until thickened, then stir in 2 cups water, the sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer pot to a 350F oven and braise for 2 hours, then for another 2 hours at 300F, until very thick.
Scrape mixture into a bowl, then spoon half of the mixture into a blender and add 2 cups of the chicken broth. Blend until very smooth (several minutes).
Using a wooden spoon, press through a medium-mesh, back into the Dutch Oven. Repeat with remaining mixture. Stir in 3 cups more cups of chicken broth. Return to oven, without lid, for an hour or longer, until reduced to the consistency of a marinara.
Season to taste with salt and sugar.


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