Thursday, April 28, 2005

A close call

A few months ago, when I was alone at the house during a weekend, I was cooking dinner when suddenly the fire in the gas stove snuffed out. Puzzled, I came closer to investigate thinking that I ran out of LPG in the middle of the night. I noticed a faint hissing sound and the distinctive smell of mercaptan. I realized that the hose connecting the LPG cylinder and the oven has completely come off and it was leaking LPG into the room!!! I immediately shut off the gas cylinder and the oven. Conscious of the fact that I wasn't supposed to turn on or off any electrical appliance in a potentially explosive atmosphere, I refrained from turning on the exhaust fan and just opened the doors and windows of the kitchen to let the LPG dissipate naturally. This cold have been much worse since I sometimes go to my room while I let the food I'm cooking simmer for a long time. Luckily this time I was in the kitchen when it happened. I shudder at the thought of what might have been. The room could have filled with LPG and a tiny spark from somebody ringing the electronic doorbell or the phone ringing could have set it off. Kaboom!

The problem was that the hose connector to the oven was not put on tightly enough and over the years of use it must have slipped off. Opening the gas cylinder pressurizes the hose and the repeated pressurization over the years undoubtedly contributed to that also. Whenever a new cylinder is installed I don't usually bother to the end connected to the oven, I'm just concerned that the end connected to the cylinder and pressure regulator is snuggly fastened.

An interesting fact about LPG is that it's heavier than air. Composition is roughly 50-50 propane and butane which are both gaseous hydrocarbons with larger molecules (thus heavier) than air. So what does this mean? It means that LPG tends to flow and settle at low points of the house. It could be at the floor or if you have a basement it would flow down there too. Opening a high window won't dissipate the accumulated gas fast enough. It is better to open the doors too. I attended this safety seminar once where they demonstrated that LPG indeed flows and does not dissipate in open spaces by pouring LPG down a long half-pipe. They lighted the other end and sure enough I saw the fire climb up the half pipe. It was even done inside a hotel seminar room and there were nervous hotel staff with fire extinguishers on standby. Also have you ever wondered about the awful stench of LPG? It's actually added on purpose. Pure Butane and Propane are both odorless. A substance called Mercaptan is added to stench the LPG so that you know that there's a gas leak. Nice huh?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Seafood Paella

I love to cook. I don't know if I have ever mentioned this in my previous posts. I probably enjoy cooking more than eating. Hehe. What makes it more enjoyable is when you are cooking for somebody. Cooking for 1 is a bit more difficult and with my brother not living with me anymore, I almost exclusively cook for just myself both during the weekdays and weekends. I remember a time when a group of friends would meet at my house during the weekends and we would eat together (we would sometimes take turns cooking -- or at least those who knows how to cook). It became a semi regular activity that another friend eventually heard about it and accused me of having a party at my house every weekend and not inviting him. Haha. I assured him it was just dinner and told him jokingly to remind me not to invite him if ever I will throw a party in the future. :)

Last weekend, I tried cooking paella. It turned out to be a moderate success and I'm very pleased with the outcome. It had mussels, clams, crabs, squid, and prawns as main garnishing and mixed veggies for added color and flavor (corn, carrots, peas, and red and green pepper). This is also the first time I have used saffron in cooking. I read a lot about it but only after I cooked the dish and I learned some very interesting facts about it. Aside from its main claim to fame of being the most expensive spice in the world, I learned that it is poisonous in large quantities. However no case has ever been recorded of saffron poisoning (too expensive to use for suicide or for deliberate poisoning I suppose and chefs probably keep a watchful eye on their saffron stocks). The reason why they are so expensive is that each saffron crocus flower produces only 3 stigmas which is hand picked and then dried. It takes approximately 75,000 flowers to have 1 pound of this spice. I also found out that crushing the dried stigmas maximizes the aroma, flavor and color attributed to the saffron. I made a couple of mistakes in cooking the dish but I'm confident that I can cook a better paella the next time. My mistake is that I added too much chicken broth so the rice was a bit soggy and not fluffy as I would have wanted it. Thankfully I did not have any uncooked rice (that was my biggest concern) since I baked the dish to give it a more even cooking temperature.

For my next trial recipe, I will attempt to make Seafood Bouillabaisse with Saffron and Leeks. I'll tell you how it turns out when I give it a try.

This post does not fit in my recipe vault so I posted it here. I have several recipes for posting in the recipe vault but it's not yet finished. Be sure to watch out for that.