temperature today set a new record high, beating out the record that was set just 5 years ago, for the warmest temperature on this day. i had a chicken salad bagel for lunch. i wanted to eat something healthy this week for dinner, and originally was thinking some kind of instant pot rice and bean recipe, but found a few instant pot chicken burrito bowl recipes that seemed more promising and more delicious. i walked across the street to star market to buy some boneless chicken thighs then biked to market basket to collect the aditional ingredients. it was warm enough that i just wore a t-shirt. it was actually so warm that i thought about wearing shorts as well, but my only pair of shorts that wasn't in storage was a little tight (due to winter weight gain), so i kept my pants on.

my plan to take advantage of this unseasonably warm february day was to ride my bike west through watertown and maybe even waltham, investigate some bike trails, maybe find a good spot to do some drone flying even though today was a bit windy. i packed up my things and was all excited for an adventure, even had my gopro camera ready to shoot a time warp video, then i discovered my front tire was flat. not just a little flat, completely flat. it must've happened on my way back from market basket, because i specifically remembered pumping both tires before i left. i did remember hearing a loud popping sound, and thought to myself, "boy, i wish that wasn't my tire." apparently it was my unlucky day.

so i wheeled the bike into the backyard so i could remove the wheel and fix the flat. i pulled out the inner tube and pumped it up so i could submerge it in the tub and find the leak. but the weird thing was, seconds after i inflated the tube, it went flat again, almost immediately. this had to be a very bad puncture. it didn't take long to find it. instead of on the tread face of the tube, the puncture was on the inner face, the side pressing up against the spoke. it was a spoke that punctured the tube. i've never had this happen to me before. i checked the location on the wheel rim, nothing seemed amiss, except maybe the rim tape was a little old. i tried patching up the tube twice - once with a standard patch using very old rubber cement - the second time with a glueless patch. neither worked, the tube kept on leaking. makes me think either the puncture is unrepairable, or maybe there's another leak on the tube i didn't find.

i could install a new tube but i wasn't confident it wouldn't happen again with the old rim tape. besides, the kenda tire itself has seem better days, i must've ridden on it with a flat in the past, because there was stripping on the sidewalk and cracks between the treads. the safest option would be to buy a new tire and new rim tape before installing a new tube. fortunately it's going to snow on friday, so i won't be able to ride for a few days anyway, perfect time to temporarily put the bike away in the basement.

by that point it was almost 3pm. the sun was starting to get low in the sky, the warmth starting to recede, and i wasn't in the mood to go out anymore. there will be plenty of warm days to come (maybe just now in february). i went onto amazon and ordered a kenda kwest 26x1.5" tire ($26) and a pair of kenda brand rim tape ($6).

feeling like i got robbed of some fun, i decided to make the best of my indoor time and make some jiu niang. to be honest, i should've been making this all winter long, and to be make it now - when spring is almost here - is rather late on the jiu niang schedule. i did have some year old jiu niang in my fridge - one jar was sweet, one jar was wine, and one jar might've been acetone - but i gave it all away to my parents 2 weeks ago. i had to look back at old blog postings to figure out the recipe, which i've never formalized and wrote down before (although the basic steps are not that hard).

jiu niang 酒酿
(3 quart jars)

3 cups glutinous (sweet) rice
3 cups water

4g angel rice leaven
(1/2 packet)
6qt instant pot
small mesh colander
infrared thermometer
3 quart jars

boil all equipment before using to sanitize (to avoid contamination while fermenting). add 3 cups glutinous rice (200g per cup) and 3 cups of water to instant pot and cook on rice setting (no need to soak overnight). remove inner pot with cooked rice and rinse under cold water in sink until rice temperature is around 75 degrees. strain rice in colander, move back into inner pot. add rice leaven powder (jiu niang yeast) and mix. spoon rice into 1 qt jars. use chopsticks to create well in center of rice before screwing on lid. cover with towel and place in warm location. jiu niang ready in about 3 days or when rice well fills up with water. should taste sweet with slight alcohol flavor. if bland, leave out additional days to sweeten. if bitter and strong alcohol taste, accelerated fermentation to rice wine, will not sweeten anymore. if sour taste, rice has gone bad. if mold appears other than white, rice has gone bad. mycelium in jar is natural and means the jiu niang fungus/bacteria is working. put jars in fridge once desired flavor is reached.

i had a half (4g) packet of leftover angel rice leaven from a year ago, not sure how good it still is, i guess i'll find out. the last time i made jiu niang, i created 3 jars (equal to 3 cups). there's no reason i can't do more in a single batch, and that's actually the way my father makes his jiu niang, using up an entire 5 lbs. (2.26 kg) bag of glutinous rice. a single 8g packet of angel rice leaven supposedly can ferment 2-2.5 kg worth of sweet rice, almost like it was designed to ferment that much rice at a single time. i ended up going with 3 cups of rice again, didn't want to waste too much rice if the "yeast" was bad, nor not use enough if the "yeast" turns out good.

i use my instant pot which isn't necessary. the advantage of the instant pot is that it has a low heat yogurt setting which is perfect for quick jiu niang fermentation (24-30 hours). the downside is a standard 6qt instant pot will only fit 2 1qt jars (i ferment in jar, not directly in the inner pot), so i can only make 2 jars at a time. another downside is quick heated fermentation creates more alcohol (which can give a slight bitter or sour aftertaste), which is great if that's what you want, but a slow ferment makes for a sweeter jiu niang in my experience.

i've seen a lot of different recipes on how to cook sweet rice for jiu niang, they all seem overly complicated. i used to soak the glutinous rice overnight, but i've found that's entirely unnecessary. after adding 3 cups of sweet rice to the inner pot (200g per cup, i don't bother to wash the rice), i then add 3 cups of regular tap water. i swirl the rice a bit before putting it in the instant pot and cooking on the rice setting, which defaults to 12 minutes low pressure cooking.

while the rice is cooking, i take the time to boil some water to disinfect my jars and lids. i use 1 quart wide-mouth jars, which i've found to be the best in terms of price, availability, and storage. disinfecting this way might be an extra step, but i like to make sure there are no contaminants in the jars.

once the rice is cooked, i take out the inner pot and rinse the rice in cold tap water to cool it down. i used to do stuff like ice baths, but that's too much work. cooling it down this way also adds more water to the rice, which is typically too dry after it's finished cooking. straight out of the instant pot, cooked rice is too hot - 165 degrees - and the high temperature will kill the jiu niang yeast. i like to lower the temperature to around 75 degrees before going to the next step. i pour the rice and water into a fine mesh colander to drain (fine mesh because you don't want the rice to fall out of the holes) before dumping the rice back into the inner pot.

i then add the packet of angel rice leaven - in this case 4g worth (half a packet). you can also use traditional jiu niang yeast balls. in my experience, yeast balls yield a strong alcohol taste, but it's the authentic way of making jiu niang, and they're usually pretty cheap when you buy a whole bag of them. you just need to crush the yeast balls into a powder before adding. then you mix the cooled drained sweet rice with the yeast powder, before spooning the rice into the jars. with a disinfected chopstick (i pour boiling water over it), i made a well in the center of the rice. this is so you can tell when the jiu niang is ready, because the well will fill up with liquid over time. once that happens, you know the jiu niang is ready.

finally, i like to write on the jiu niang jars with a white paint marker, so i can keep track of which batch it is. i used to just use a sharpie marker, but they wipe off too easily. paint markers take more effort (i usually clean them off with an alcohol-soaked cottonball).

i put the jars in a cardboard box, covered with a towel to keep them warm. i also put the box in the warmest part of my house, which happens to be the bathroom. unfortunately because it was so warm today, my heat never once turned on, so the house actually felt colder than usual. but the heat will kick in tomorrow like normal. in my experience, it takes 3 days of slow fermenting for the jiu niang to be ready. at this rate, they'll be good by saturday-sunday.

by 7pm it was time to make dinner.

instant pot chicken burrito bowl
(3-6 servings)

1-1/2 lbs. chicken thighs
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 cup uncooked rice

1 can chicken broth (2 cups)
15 oz. can black beans
16 oz. jar spicy salsa
1 cup frozen corn

shredded mexican cheese
scallions, chopped
cilantro, chopped
sour cream

cube chicken and mixed with salt and pepper. cook chicken in 2 batches in instant pot high sautée setting, adding tbsp of oil before each batch. remove chicken, add oil, cook onion and garlic, add dry spices. add rice. add chicken along with rest of ingredients. cook on high pressure mode 10 minutes. quick release and mix finished cooking. serve with cheese, scallions, cilantro, and sour cream.

i combined two different instant pot chicken burrito recipes i found online: kitchn and no.2 pencil. i had 3 lbs. of boneless chicken thighs - way more than i needed - so i just used half, syran wrapping the leftovers and putting them in the freezer. i cut the chicken into cubes and flavored them with liberal hand sprinkles of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. i also chopped up the onion and garlic.

first we sautée the chicken with some olive oil inside of the instant pot with the high temperature sautée setting. the 6qt inner pot itself is not big enough to sautée everything at once, so i split up the portions into two batches. i think this is supposed to brown the chicken and release some umani flavors, but because the chicken itself leaked out so much juices, it was more boiling than sautéing, so i never got much of that browning. i'm of the opinion that this is an unnecessary step, and the recipe would work just as well if raw chicken was thrown into the pressure cooker and cooked as-is. i then removed the chicken and sautéed the chopped onion and garlic, along with some dry spices. this was a more successful step, and adding the spices made everything smell really delicious. i then added the rice to absorb some of that tasty liquid before putting the chicken back into the pot and adding the remaining ingredients.

the recipe calls for canned black beans (which i happened to already have in my cupboard). i wonder if i could use dry beans instead? would that require a longer cooking time? one of the recipes said to only use 1 cup of chicken broth, but i don't like canned chicken broth just sitting around, so i used the whole can (2 cups). one recipe said to add a can of chopped tomatoes - which i bought - but the other recipe said to dump in a whole jar of salsa. i opted for the salsa route, figured that would add more flavors. i also added 1 cup of frozen corn.

i cooked everything in the instant pot on high pressure setting 10 minutes. it took a long time to come to pressure - i think because i had too much liquids - around 20 minutes. i was starting to get worried, thought maybe there was a leak somewhere and the instant pot wasn't able to pressurize.

once everything was cooked, i mixed the burrito bowl ingredients. the chicken - originally in cube form - were so tender now they split apart into strips. the rice was a little mushy and i think that's because i used short grain instead of long grain, had the consistency of chinese rice porridge. i served myself a big bowl, added some shredded mexican cheese, chopped scallions and cilantro, and a two heaps of sour cream. the cheese melted into the rice and the sour cream gave it another dimension. i could also taste the spicy salsa. i like the corn too, surprising crispy bits of sweetness. if i had to do it again, i might skip the salsa, added the chop tomatoes, but also add some chipotle peppers for heat. but if i did that, that would be very similar to my mexican chicken soup recipe, which uses israeli couscous instead of rice and more chicken broth, but otherwise very similar in ingredients.

i've been watching this MIT online lecture course, "introduction to nuclear engineering and ionizing radiation," it was a youtube recommendation. it's highly technical but i really like it. i started with lecture 26, which explained how chernobyl happened, but then started watching other lectures in the series.

when evening came around, i turned on the 11pm news. however all the shows were still running overtime. that could only mean one thing: there was some kind of breaking news that i missed. i went onto cnn.com and saw it: russia has begun it's full-scale invasion of ukraine. i knew they've been encroaching and threatening, but i still thought it was just a bluff. but you don't station 75% of all your troops around a country just for fun, and sure enough, they started bombing military installations, disabling ukraine's flight defense. the whole situation left me feeling ill, like i might vomit. there's no reason behind it, other than russia just wanted to invade ukraine. how do you scale back something when you've already crossed the line so many times?