New York Deli

After my weekend foray into a batch of sourdough made with locally sourced rye flour, I got to thinking (and actually mentioned) a fabulous rye-bread pastrami sandwich that I shared with my wife back in 2016 in a world famous deli in the lower east side of Manhattan.

As promised, I dug through my old photos and discovered this mouth-watering gem.

for whatever one photo is worth:

In 2016 I won the lottery.

Sadly it wasn’t a cash prize. Instead, my name got picked from a big pool of runners who had submitted their entries to run as international participants in the annual New York City Marathon.

On a sunny Sunday morning in early November (literally hours before that infamous national US election) I ran forty-two point two kilometers through five boroughs of New York, starting in Staten Island, through Brooklyn, into Queens, over to Manhattan, and then a quick sweep through the Bronx before heading back to Manhattan to cross the line in the middle of Central Park.

My wife cheered me in and helped me hobble back to the hotel where I crashed over a bowl of carbs and a bottle of water.

The next day I was sore, tired, and hungry.

We walked, spent some time riding the subway, and checked out some museums at a much more leisurely pace than I’d done the day prior.

By lunch, we’d made our way to the lower east side, and towards one of my bucket list lunch spots: Katz’s Delicatessen.

As you walk in the door they hand you an orange paper ticket that tracks your order. I ordered at a packed, shoulder-to-shoulder counter nearly the length of the building, and the guy sliced my lunch there in front of me handing me a small sample to taste before I brought it all back to a table.

We shared a sandwich with each other, pushed through some fries and a pile of dill pickles, and chugged a cold beer to boot. We shared the table with a quartet of other marathoners who we chatted with and cheered before heading on our way stuffed and satisfied.

It was a memorable trip by all accounts. Not only did I run a marathon, but we saw a show on Broadway, met up with friends at the fountain in Columbus Circle, high-fived a famous actress at a nut cart in Central Park, attended a live taping of the Late Show, and stumbled upon multiple epic bridges, towers, landmarks and sights on foot… all before fleeing the country on the morning of their election.

Yet somehow among all of that, one tasty pastrami sandwich held it’s own in my memory.

Local Flours Sours: Peace Country Rye (Part One)

All this experimenting with food is getting expensive. I was at the grocery store again this morning buying some varieties of vegetables to grill over the fire this evening, and a big hunk of meat to slice up for a batch of beef jerky, so of course I stumbled by the baking aisle and found another locally milled flour to scratch my local flour sourdough dabblers itch.

Until this morning I had not ever heard of Peace Country Milling & Grains but anyone who lives in this area knows that the “Peace Country” is a huge swath of land up in the North West of the province named for the Peace River that runs roughly transversely eastbound through that area. The largest city in the area is named Grand Prairie and is familiar to us because a my wife traces some of her paternal ancestry to a couple generations of relatives who immigrated to, settled in and farmed upon that area. Many a five-hour drives did we used to make for visits while there was still enough of her kin there to justify the multi-day trip.

This particular mill seems to be hunkered just fifty kilometers outside of Grand Prairie in an area even those of us who live pretty much in the middle of nowhere would consider remote and pretty much the middle of nowhere.

I bought a bag of their rye flour. Rye is a variety of wheat that tends to have a darker colour, nuttier taste, and a lower gluten content resulting in a bread that is darker, more substantially flavoured, and denser from a weaker rise.

I’d been experimenting with a more commercial variety of rye flour over the winter months and pushing my sourdough percentages past more than about 25% rye flour turned the final product into a bit of a poundcake.

So, with this local flour I started with a generous, but still cautious, twenty percent rye to eighty percent white blend and then otherwise followed my standard go-to sourdough process.

The dough is hydrated and resting for an overnight rise in the fridge even as I write this.

Rye bread has always had a bit a special space in my heart, though. I’d be the first in line for a good Reuben sandwhich if we lived near a good deli, and in fact the day after I ran the New York Marathon in 2016 we hiked over to Katz’s Deli in Manhattan, not an insignificant distance from our hotel the day after running forty-two kilometers (and much, much farther from Grand Prairie where my bag of rye flour originated) and ordered a thick pastrami sandwhich piled high on a couple slices of rye bread.

What a connection!

And maybe I’ll hunt down that photo and continue the story in part two, after my own rye is baked and tasted.

Making Homemade New York(ish) Style Pizza for Pi Day

The kid was determined to eat round for March 14th.

We’d already made a pair of fruit dessert pies for later, but she decided that pizza was on the menu. What better way to make use of one of those specialty cast iron pieces that doesn’t otherwise see much day-to-day use: the 14 inch pizza pan.

Sadly I didn’t give myself enough runway to make use of my sourdough pizza crust recipe.

Some recipe research and light modification produced the following, which actually turned out fairly awesome from a “reminds me of that time in New York” slice perspective.

recipe

450 g all purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups tap water

1 cup tomato sauce
blend of pizza spices, to taste
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
assorted pizza toppings

We blended the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a food processor, then drizzled in the water and oil until a shaggy dough ball formed. This was kneaded on the floured countertop to a smooth consistency, then divided into two smaller portions, rolled until smooth. We oiled these up and let them rest and rise on the counter for a couple hours.

I heated up the tomato paste in my small cast iron melting pot, stirred in the spice mix, and let it bubble away for about fifteen minutes until everything was nicely blended.

The proofed dough balls were hand-shaped to two fourteen inch crusts, docked, and baked at 450F for about ten minutes (or until I noticed they were starting to brown on the top.) Ideally you should crank your oven a little hotter, but I need to clean mine and 550F would have smoked us out of the house.

The pizza crusts were topped and then baked back in the still-hot oven for about 12 minutes until the cheese was bubbly.

She missed out on a school trip to New York city last fall thanks to pandemic lockdowns, but with a recipe like this… well it smoothed out the rough edges a little bit.