Whole-Wheat Breadcrumb-Crusted Shad Roe (on a Bed of Quinoa)

Well, I sort of backed into this one.

Josh H. urged me to make shad roe.  It’s seasonal, he said.  It’s delicate.  You cook it, he said, basically like Wiener Schnitzel (a great love of mine in childhood).

So, with Debbie out of town and no one to fold their arms and glower at the Crummy Cook, I bought two “sets” of shad roe (two sides of the egg case, I guess) and “set” to work on it.

Josh H. told me to coat the egg cases with beaten egg and then with panko, but I had some fresh whole-grain breadcrumbs (from some failing whole-grain loaves) which had been on my mind, so I used them instead.

And the whole buttery Wiener Schnitzel world seemed to call out for a bed of something.  I wanted, again, whole grains, so for some reason I decided to go with quinoa.

Quinoa is the reason, I’m convinced, that 300 Spaniards under Pizarro were able to conquer the vast Inca nation.  The vast Inca nation smelled the frying garlic from the Spanish camp at night, realized they didn’t have to eat something that tasted like soap every single night, and surrendered.

So why did I use it tonight?  I succumbed to quinoa propaganda: they call the flavor “nutty” instead of “soapy”.

Anyhow, I did it.  It wasn’t terrible, but I wish I’d used the panko and skipped the quinoa.

Next time.

Beet and Cabbage Soup (not Borscht)

We have some beets (the not-very-red kind; maybe they’re even “yellow”) that have been in the fridge for a while, and almost a whole big head of purple cabbage.

I beetled off to Epicurious, who seemed to have nothing but recipes for Borscht.

Nothing against Borscht; Debbie makes it from time to time, and it’s tasty and hearty.  But I wanted something different.

Enter "Beet and Cabbage Soup", a Mexican recipe (of all things) featuring jalapeno, lime juice, and tortilla chips at the end.


Here’s the mess o’ vegetables saute-ing at the beginning (the beets are the golden colored chunks).


And here’s the soup at the end, with tortilla chips and a dollop of (low fat) sour cream.

Tasty, but, you know what?  It kinda tasted like Borscht with lime juice and tortilla chips and a hint of jalapeno.  And the mauve color didn’t help bring it to life for me.

Braised Chicken Legs from Fine Cooking’s “101 Tips”

I’m on something of a braising roll lately.  And since I’m not that keen on eating the things you really should braise – tough fatty cuts of beef, lamb, or pork – I end up wanting to braise chicken.

(Which Josh H. tells me is really stupid to do, since chicken is a tender meat and doesn’t need much braising unless you’re cooking a 40-year-old rooster or some such.  He’s right of course, but the urge to braise goes on.)

A few years ago I got a picture book called “The Best of ‘Fine Cooking’ 101 Tips”.  Debbie wanted to throw it out when we purged books this winter.  She sneered at it: “Most of those things I already know.”  But the point was that I didn’t know them, I love tips, guidelines, and, most generally, advice, so I rescued the book from the purge box, put it in the bathroom, and have been leafing over it for some months with pleasure and instruction.

Well, it has a recipe for “Braised Chicken Legs with White Wine, Bacon, Cipolline Onions, and Mushrooms” (shown below, from their website), and I resolved to make it this weekend while Debbie was away wrapping up family affairs in California.

Braised Chicken Legs with White Wine, Bacon, Cipolline Onions & Mushrooms RecipeSome minor-league problems.  No cipolline onions (which I looked up on the web, e.g. here), although the main thing about them seemed to be “flat and sweet”.  I got some white “boiling onions” instead, because the supermarket I hit on the way home didn’t even have sweet onions.

I was worried there wouldn’t be any cremini mushrooms either, but those they had.

Other than that, it went really smoothly and tasted pretty good.

Product and Service cultures

Moving from Silicon Valley to DC in 2001, I found I was leaving the land of Product Imagination and entering the land… of what I’ve come to call Service Imagination.  The two couldn’t be more different.


Product Imagination is all about what goes into the product and what’s left out.  The product is a crystallized packaged of functionality which customers can take or leave.  It’s what you get.  Product imagination tunes the package to be most beguiling to the biggest bunch of customers, but there are always features (and therefore customers) who are left out.


Service Imagination is just the opposite.  Customer by customer, the organization delivers exactly what that customer wants, and then does the same for the next customer, and the next.  Service Imagination is about faithfully recording and reproducing requirements, and building them on a reliable timetable.


An organization built around Service Imagination can’t scale, of course.  There’s only so many customers you can faithfully support per engineering (or product requirements) body in the shop.  More customers require more bodies.  Product organizations don’t  have this problem.  The same development group can serve a customer base of almost any size (of course, some things have to scale, like product support and distribution, but R&D does not).


The two kinds of cultures (and hence the two kinds of businesses) hardly ever co-exist or cross over.  A product company is very hard to turn into a services company, and vice versa.  And what usually happens when they try is one of two possible hybrids.


Hybrid #1 is a “services organization with a toolkit”.  In this kind of organization, the repetitive element of various customer jobs is built into a kind of ur-product (often called a “toolkit” or “framework” or “template”) which is customized for each client.  The professional services organization which customizes the toolkit then becomes the locus of swelling body count, with the toolkit group emerging as some kind of product organization embryo.  Very rarely, this product organization spins out into a successful product company, but most often languishes on in symbiosis with the PS group.


Hybrid #2 is a “product organization bogged down with per-customer versions”.  In this hybrid, the company is supposedly producing a product but in fact modifies it for each customer (or for the biggest customers).  The symptom here is a development group that can’t implement new features because they are too busy with the per-customer modifications.  The company doesn’t turn into a full-fledge services company, usually, but languishes as a product company progressively falling behind.


Are there examples you see of the two cultures mixing, merging, or migrating?

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Whatever happened to RDF?

A friend and I were talking the other day, and we realized 1) that we both thought RDF was a nifty idea for organizing graph-oriented stuff and 2) that we had no idea what had become of it.

I looked around a bit and it seemed as if little was happening in the RDF community.  The links all seemed to peter out in the mid-‘00s, and I wondered where, if anything, the innovation was happening in this area.

Please comment if you can point me to cutting-edge companies and research ideas wrt RDF and its stack.

Inquiring minds would love to know.

Venture Capital as a Manufacturing Business

Half in jest and half to spur my thinking about our business, I’ve found it convenient to think of venture capital as a manufacturing business.

Most people in and around the venture business think of venture capital as a services business.  Our “customers” are our backers – Limited Partners – whose money we invest (hopefully) profitably.  Nothing wrong with that point of view, except it doesn’t lead you to think outside of the box.  And it’s wrong.

Our backers are, more accurately, our shareholders or our investors.  A limited partnership doesn’t work exactly like a joint stock company, but close enough, and certainly closer than thinking of them as customers.

OK, you might say, if you’re in the manufacturing business, what do you manufacture?   Very simply, we take raw materials – ideas, entrepreneurial talent, intellectual property, and so forth – and turn them into companies that can be sold profitably to a buyer, an exit.  We manufacture exits.

Our customer, then, is the buyer for our exits.  And they come in two forms.  In the B2B form of the venture business, our customers are major M&A acquirers.  Cisco is a VC customer.  IBM is a customer.  Google is a customer.

In the other form of sale, the B2C form, we “sell” the company to the public.  This is a “channel” sale because we use channel partners – otherwise known as investment banks – to distribute our “product” to the consumers.

How does this affect your thinking?  Very few VCs pay much attention these customers or channel partners, and the few who do reap outsized returns.

Chicken and Vegetables Braised in Peanut Sauce

The origins of this project?  I’ve had a yen for a while to “braise” something.  There’s of course a bunch of foodie propaganda in the magazines and online about braising in the winter, and the dishes look really good.  So I’ve been getting more or more exciting about braising.

(On, one more thing: the foods you normally braise – tough fatty red meat – kind of grosses me out, even if braised.  I was mildly disposed to avoid those kinds of braises, although Debbie has done a pretty good job time and again with braised boneless short ribs.)

So, the usual drill: epicurious with search terms taken from my fridge, so “braising” and “root vegetables”.  What turned up was Chicken and Vegetables Braised in Peanut Sauce, with the additional lure (for me) that it’s an African dish or a dish of African origins, so reminds me of Mara.

Chicken and Vegetables Braised in Peanut Sauce

Here’s how it looks in the Gourmet magazine presentation.

Well, I’ve also had a yen – also generated by foodie reading – to learn how to cut up a whole chicken, so, rather than getting 5 lbs of chicken parts I got a 5-lb chicken and started to cut it up.

Not as easy as I thought: a raw chicken is slippery and floppy.  It’s hard to find the joints.  I did get it, though.  Four breast pieces (two breast halves cut in two), two thighs, two drumsticks.  I neglected to cut off the wings, which turned out to be a big mistake since they interfered with browning, cooking, and eating.  Ah well: next time I’ll know better.


Here’s my version (I used brown rice (not shown) instead of white).  Not too shabby-looking compared to the prototype, although my chicken is not as well browned (due to size of pieces and presence of wings).

Not all that tasty, though.  It basically tastes like a very mild peanut-butter sauce, which is kind of eh.

I’ll try it another time, I think.  I’ll also try other braises.  Onward and upward.

Return of the Crummy Cook

It’s been a while.

In the holidays I had a couple of guest postings from Harry, and then in January I had a hip replaced.

Miracle of modern surgery and rehab, but still a long slog until last night, when I was finally feeling Crummy enough again to don the apron and toque and brave the kitchen.

Just me last night.  Debbie is away in California working on a family illness, and when I drove home from work I was fully intending to just go out to dinner.

But I feel pretty much like a loser when I have dinner out for one, and, in any case, a slow stewing inside me (braising? poaching?) put some iron in me: “You’re the Crummy Cook!  You can cook for yourself at home!”

Not much in the way of ingredients.  No chance to consult with epicurious or any of my other props.

So here’s what I did:

Took some asparagus and cheese frozen ravioli from Dean & Deluca, and made a sauce with olive oil (the Mediterranean Wunderkind), garlic, onions, green beans cut into short pieces, frozen scallops, and white wine.

Actually, as I look at the blog, it was quite close to my last dish before the hiatus: Whole wheat penne with scallops and garlic.  Oh my, just a year into it and I’m in a rut.

Or maybe my cook muscles need some rehab as well.