Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Lots more tomato sauce and a dry rub recipe.

So today I decided I was going to make a BIG batch of tomato sauce. I purchased about 24 lbs of mixed heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market today and then picked another 6-8 lbs out of the garden. My big 12 qt stock pot is FULL and I still have tomatoes to shove in there. So I’ve got it on the stove and as the tomatoes start to cook down, I’ll shove more on top. The reason for filling the pot so very very full is that the tomatoes will cook down by about half. Then the sauce itself will reduce by probably another half before it’s done. So I hope to get about 3 quarts of sauce out of this quantity of tomatoes.

I will mention that I did go back and take a few of these off the top of the pot since I realized I could stir it with it this full lol. So I have about 5-6 more lbs of tomatoes to put in the pot once this first batch starts to cook down. I’ll simmer this on low until bedtime then cover the pot and turn the heat off. I’ll come back tomorrow and finish it up 🙂

In addition to beginning the tomato sauce, i also have a brisket in the smoker. I made up a really nice dry rub for it yesterday and actually remembered to measure the ingredients as I put them in. So not only can I make it again, I can share the recipe with you, my dedicated readers 😉

The reason for using turbinado sugar is that the crystals are big and sharp. It serves some of the same purpose using kosher salt does. It scores the skin of the meat and helps the flavors soak in easier.

 

Recipe

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar

1/2 cup kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup ground black pepper

1/4 cup paprika

1/4 cup granulated onion

1/4 cup granulated garlic

1/4 cup dry mustard

1 TB ground celery seed

1 TB fresh ground cloves (if you don’t want to grind your own, use 2 tsp ground cloves)

Mix everything together and store in an air tight container. This obviously makes a lot but I wanted to have a lot left over for future uses. Cut the recipe if half if you want less 🙂

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Chichen Pot Pie

My friend Cat suggested that I make the Chicken Pot Pie recipe in the Joy of Cooking. So I broke out my edition from 1997 to make the recipe. It’s on pages 604-605. The first step is to make the Creamed Chicken recipe, then the pie.

Recipe – Creamed Chicken

The recipe calls for cooking chicken. I bought two rotisserie chickens at Costco today, let Jene eat what he wanted and used the rest for this. So about 2 lb of shredded chicken meat.

4 TB unsalted butter, melted in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat.

Whisk in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Slowly whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth until smooth.

Then whisk in 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.

Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. (I did not whisk constantly, as long as you whisk it every 60-90 seconds or so, you should be fine.) Make sure there aren’t any lumps or stuck bits on the bottom of your pan and stir in the shredded chicken meat. I added a splash of white wine (the recipe calls for 2-3 TB of sherry). Cook for 1 more minute.

Remove from heat and season to taste with a few drops of lemon juice, ground black or white pepper and fresh grated or ground nutmeg. I used some of each.

Recipe – Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe only has a top crust which makes it really easy to make. I used pre-made puff pastry dough. Cat says she used phyllo dough. I was going to use phyllo but the store didn’t have any lol.

So once you have your creamed chicken made, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Heat 2 TB of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until the foam begins to subside.

Add and cook, stirring often until just barely tender, about 5 minutes:

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used baby carrots because they’re the perfect size)

2 small celery stalks, cut 1/4 inch thick (I used 3 stalks)

I also cooked these until they started to caramelize because it deepens the flavor. Then I deglazed the pan with a bit of lemon juice and white wine and added that to the mix. Mix the veggies in with the creamed chicken.

The original recipe calls for adding 3/4 cup of frozen peas, thawed and 3 TB of fresh minced parsley. I left both of these out because I don’t like peas and didn’t have parsley.

Once everything is mixed together, taste for seasoning. I added a bit more black pepper and salt.

Now you can put it all in the baking dish. Lay the pastry dough over the top and tuck the edges down into sides of the pan. If you want a really pretty crust, brush it with some beaten egg. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

 

 

 

And here it is in all it’s golden glory. I immediately dished some up and started eating it before finishing this post lol. VERY good and I think this will be a standard in our house, especially once it gets colder.

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Tomato Sauce

Sunday Jene and I picked a decent quantity of tomatoes. As a result, I made sauce over the course of Sunday and Monday. Tonight I finished up the sauce and served it over quinoa to make dinner. I thought I’d share the recipe I’ve made up for tomato sauce.

Recipe

5 quarts fresh, home grown tomatoes (I used a combination of Sun Gold, Japanese Black Trifele and Black Krim)

splash of white wine

1/4-1/2 cup dried, minced shallots

1-2 tsp dried minced garlic

2-3 tsp Penzeys Tuscan Sunset (or other Italian seasoning)

For the larger tomatoes, cut them into halves or quarters, you can leave smaller tomatoes, such as the Sun Golds, whole. Toss them in a pot with a splash of white wine and put the heat on low. Now you get to wait… and wait… and wait. I simmer the tomatoes for 7-9 hours to make sure they’re nice and soft. Once they’re all mushy, I run them through the food mill to remove the seeds and skins.

As you can see in the picture on the left, my pot was very full. However, the tomatoes cook down to less than half that volume so it’s ok to fill the pot full. The white wine is just a small splash. Just enough to provide a little liquid to start the tomatoes stewing.

On the right, you can see how it’s all reducing down in the food mill. When you get done, there’s barely a handful of skin and seeds left. All the juice and pulp is down below in the pot.

After I have the tomatoes processed through the food mill, I put the pot on the stove, on low heat and add the garlic, shallots and seasoning then let it simmer for another 6-8 hours or so. It cooks at just barely a simmer. The purpose of this super long simmer is to cook off a lot of the water and thicken up the sauce. It also lets the flavors of the seasonings really marry into the tomatoes. By using the Sun Gold tomatoes, this sauce is crazy sweet. Once you have this basic sauce you can do all kinds of things with it. Tonight I browned some ground beef and then added the sauce and some sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil) to the sauce and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes. Then I cooked some quinoa and served it with sauce and parmesan cheese over top.

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Creamy Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

I was originally going to make crab cakes tonight. However, my crab wasn’t thawed out so I’ve had to put it off for another day or two. Instead I decided I wanted Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I remembered that I had an issue of Cook’s Illustrated that had a recipe that sounded good. This was the Soups & Stews 2012 issue and was authored by Bridget Lancaster on page 39.

Recipe

3 TB butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces, florets chopped into 1/2 pieces

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp ground nutmet

12 ounces cheddar cheese shredded plus more for garnish

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broccoli stems and cook until bright green and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Add florets, cream and nutmeg, simmer until florets are tender, about 5 minutes.

Puree soup in two patches in a blender until smooth, return to pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in cheddar until melted and season with salt and cayenne to taste. Serve garnish with extra cheese.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I did this as a last minute whim and didn’t have fresh broccoli on hand so I used frozen. The thing I noticed about this is that it made the soup a little watery. I added extra cheese to counter act that problem. I also didn’t bother separating the stems from the florets because I didn’t have the big thick stems. So basically, I dumped 1.5 lbs of frozen broccoli in the pot. 🙂 I also added black pepper to the seasoning at the end. The last thing I did differently is I used my immersion blender instead of running it through a regular blender. I like chunks of broccoli in my soup and this made for a coarser soup which I enjoy. Overall, I think this recipe is probably pretty good if made with fresh broccoli as the recipes says. I just didn’t have it. I don’t know that I’ll make this recipe again with frozen broccoli. I will say that I am over all happy with it and will try this again in the future and it certainly hit the spot for dinner tonight. 😀

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Asian Inspired Flank Steak

I pulled a couple of flank steaks out of the freezer yesterday. After thinking about it for a couple of minutes I decided to go with some Asian influenced flavors.

Recipe

Flank Steak

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

2 TB sesame oil

2 TB ginger paste (you can use fresh grated ginger, I just didn’t have any on hand)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper.

Combine all ingredients (except steak) in a gallon zippy bag. Shake bag to mix ingredients together then add the flank steak. Let sit on the counter to marinade for about 30 minutes. Then grill the steak over medium heat until it reaches the desired doneness.

This came really good. Hints of sesame and ginger with the sweetness of the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. The veggies are asparagus and artichoke hearts with garlic butter sauce. I can’t take any credit for that because it was a frozen mix from Raley’s but it’s pretty decent none the less.

Edit: Doh! Garlic! This needed garlic! So if you make this, add 3 cloves of mince garlic to the marinade. I knew it was missing something…

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Summer’s Bounty

No, I’m not talking about paper towels… I’m talking about the produce that my garden is producing at an alarming rate lol. I’ve got roughly five quarts of tomatoes in a pot cooking down for sauce and about 15 lbs of cucumbers waiting to be pickled.

As you can see, my pot of tomatoes is a bit over full but they will cook down and fit perfectly in the pan. I’ve added just a bit of white wine but otherwise, the tomatoes will stew in their own juices.

The cucumbers have taken over the garden. As you can see from the photo (yes, they’re white and yellow, not green) I have LOTS of cucumbers. I’ve got my jars and lids and hope to make dill pickles this week. I haven’t tried making pickles like this before so wish me luck!

I had some chili peppers but Jene threw them out “because they weren’t hot.” Sigh… I could have used them in something but oh well. My friend Cat and I have brokered a deal where next year, I’ll grow tomatoes and she’ll grown the peppers. I have the worst luck growing peppers and she can’t grow tomatoes. I think it will be profitable for both sides.

This upcoming week should be good for my blog. I have several days worth of cooking planned out and all my ingredients. I will be making things like flank steak, crab cakes, paleo chocolate cake and a brined/smoked chicken. And if I’m too tired to cook I’ll post about what I’m reading in my new cookbook Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. An excellent book that my fried Cat convinced me to buy. In fact, she was SO persuasive that I bought it on my Kindle right at the restaurant we were sitting in!

Tomorrow I’ll post more pictures and ingredients for the finished tomato sauce. For now, the tomatoes are just going to keep doing their thing over very low heat. I’ll cover them before bed and then finish cooking them tomorrow.

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Eau de Smoke and Spice Blends

A coworker told me today that if they could make perfume out of the smell of smoked meat, she’d wear it. I am currently wearing that perfume lol. I will mention that I came about it the old fashioned way, adding wood to the smoker for the pork shoulder, not from a bottle. 😉

Tonight’s dinner is a very basic smoked pork shoulder. It’s been in there for almost 12 hours now and should be coming out in the next hour or two. Last night I was going to make my rub from scratch and be all creative. By the time I got home from dinner with Tane, I was tired and wound up not making anything. I handed Jene a jar of McCormick’s Sweet & Smokey Rub and went to bed. Jene very kindly rubbed the pork and shoved it in the fridge for the night. Then he surprised me this morning and got the smoker running while I was still sound asleep. He’s such an awesome husband!

So I thought I should say a few words about store bought spice rubs/blends. While I appreciate the joy of creating my own flavors I am not such a snob that it’s required. Some store blends just flat out taste good and I think it’s worth using them. Penzeys Spices has especially good stuff and they don’t put in a lot of additives to prevent clumping and stuff like that. I use a LOT of their Ozark, Mural of Flavor, Chicago Steak and Tuscan Sunset seasoning blends. McCormick also has a few blends that I really like. The Sweet & Smokey rub that I have on the pork shoulder is really nice. It’s got some of the sweeter spices like cinnamon and a touch of cloves. I adore their onion burger blend. Add some of that and some worchesershire sauce to ground beef and it’s crazy good for hamburgers.

Anyway, this isn’t much of a post but I recommend spending some time thinking about the flavors that you enjoy on your food. Then play with combining those flavors together to create your own blends. The worst that happens is that you hate it and throw it out, wasting a few dollars worth of herbs and spices. But think of it as a learning experience!

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Barramundi in parchment with mango and zucchini

It’s been a pretty slow week for cooking. I’ve been tired and just not doing much of anything besides working and sleeping. Tonight was just going to be broiled fish again with veggies. I asked Jene to stop and grab some squash and in addition to the zucchini he brought home some beautiful mangoes. This gave me an idea… Thus this recipe was born.

Recipe

4 pieces of parchment paper

4 fish fillets (I used barramundi)

2 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds

2 cups diced fresh mango

1 TB butter

2 cloves garlic, slivered

2 TB dried minced shallots

1/4 cup white wine

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425F. Take one sheet of parchment paper, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and place one fish fillet in the center. Place 1/4 of the butter in the middle of the fish, sprinkle with 1/4 of the slivered garlic and 1/4 of the shallots. Place 1/4 of the mangoes on top of this and layer on 1/4 of the zucchini slices. Pour over 1/4 of the white wine and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold the parchment paper over on itself to seal and tie with kitchen twine. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

 

This picture shows how the fish looks as I start layering on the zucchini. The squash gets layered over the mango until it’s covered completely. The reason for doing this is so that the mango juice soaks directly into the fish as it bakes. The zucchini will steam in the combination of white wine and mango juice.

I like cooking fish in parchment paper because it keeps the juices in and the fish stays very moist. It also makes for a particularly pretty presentation when it’s done cooking. Another variation on this I’ve done is salmon with leeks and asparagus instead of mango and zucchini. This is another recipe that’s easy to change around and make your own.

This second picture shows the four packets tied up and ready to go in the oven.

And finally, the finished product after baking. It came out really good. Personally, I would have enjoyed asparagus more than the zucchini but asparagus is unholy expensive right now lol.

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A video game recipe…

Those of you who know me, know I play stupid games on facebook. One of those I’m currently playing is called Chefville. Surprisingly, it actually gives out real recipes from time to time. This is one I got this week and decided to try out tonight. I did make one change to the recipe. I did not dredge the chicken in flour and fry it. I prefer my chicken without the breading. Other than that, I followed the recipe.

ChefVille by Zynga
Follow us.
Tangy Orange Chicken
Zynga Executive Chef
Matthew DuTrumble
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
2 tablespoons orange juice, concentrate
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) mirin (rice wine)
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup (220 grams) brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Chicken

2 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts cut into ½ inch (13 millimeters) pieces
1 cup (140 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper ground
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Pour mirin, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool for 15 minutes.
  2. To marinate, place the chicken into a sealable plastic container. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into the container and reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can refrigerate this for up to 6 hours. The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavor it will absorb.
  3. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Toss the marinated chicken in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Remove and place on a plate with paper towels to let it rest.
  4. Bring the remaining sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix the cornstarch and water together thoroughly and stir this into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions to serve.
Play ChefVille Now
 

 

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Accidental Alchemist

I was reading this post from my friend Cat and loved it. I figured since I didn’t really cook anything worth writing about tonight I would share Cat’s post. I’ve finally posted enough of her stuff that I even added a tag just for her lol. There’s beautiful pictures from the Caribbean including some of food. Enjoy!

 

Dinner May Be Alchemy, But Fishing It Up Is Magic

Posted on August 21, 2012 by

 

Frigate bird over St. Croix seasThe bellwether.

That’s a Magnificent Frigate Bird, commonly seen soaring effortlessly over the seas and reefs surrounding St. Croix, and it’s magnificent for more than one reason.  Its enormous, tilted wingspan (over 6 feet in most instances) allows it to soar for hours, even days, without touching land.  (The only other bird known to do this is the Common Swift). Frigate birds snatch flying fish as they jump — a stunt I’d pay good cash to see, considering how wicked fast those slippery little freaks zip inches over the waves  — and pick off smaller fish that come close to the surface without even wetting their feathers.  They’re also thugs to other birds, harassing them until the victim drops their dinner. Yes, even birds push each other around for their lunch money.

But aside from their superb aerialism and obvious antisocial personality disorder, frigate birds are also incredibly useful.  I’ve learned that when an offshore fisherman sees one or two of these guys circling an area, that means that there’s almost certainly some serious sportfishing action going on right there, right now.

Unbelievably Useful Husband (hereafter, “UUH”) and I found this out when we booked a fishing charter for our next-to-last day in the little house on the island.  We’ve gone sportfishing before in Hawaii, where UUH solidified his reputation as “Tailfisher.”  For some unknown reason, every time he actually caught a fish, it wasn’t in the standard operational mode.  You know, fish bites hook, hook gets stuck in fish’s mouth, guy reels fish in face-first.  Nope, not nearly interesting enough for UUH.

For him the fish would evade the hook, but somehow would get the line wrapped around its tail, so UUH would drag it in backwards in a comic reversal of the usual process.  How he managed this multiple times was one of those mysteries that deserved further investigation, and we were eager to see if he could replicate it in the Caribbean. So friends of ours found the Island Girl II of St. Croix Deep Blue Charters, a superb custom 45-foot Hatteras that works off the Christiansted area of St. Croix, and we began the experiment.

The Island Girl II is run by a husband and wife team  — Ben, the Captain, and Megan, the First Mate. (Island Girl I, we discovered, was crushed and sunk by a yacht during Hurricane Hugo.)  After the usual confused period where the charterees load on about six times more beer and food than they need, which turns out to be exactly the right amount, we were off into the Caribbean Sea.

The Island Girl II in full display is an impressive sight. The multiple rods and lines are spread out in perfect geometries, interconnected in complex but aesthetically beautiful ways with connectors and hooks and even rubber bands.  The reels are polished, golden, wickedly functional works of art in themselves.  As the boat moves farther out, the baited lines take flight, extending and then disappearing into the vanishing point as the wake surges behind.  We had a pretty calm sea that day, with a warm sun and few clouds, so it was tough not to doze off.

One thing I did notice in my sun-induced stupor, though, was the constant communication between the captain and first mate.  They were constantly scanning the skies — looking for frigate birds like our lead player.  Frigate birds are great bellwethers; they’re the pathfinders to what you want.  Fishermen know that they tend to circle over groups of small fish hovering near the surface, hoping to evade larger fish hunting them.  When you see a few frigate birds in one place, you know that the party’s on down there.  First Mate Megan carefully tracked and circled the boat right at the birds that were spotted, as Captain Ben ensured that the bait was correct for what we were after.

It didn’t take long after that before there was a loud BZING!, one of the reels began buzzing frantically, suddenly there was great deal of frenzied activity, and apparently the fight was on.  UUH was in the chair.  There appears to be a great deal of physical work involved, and as I try to avoid that as much as possible, I was quite happy to simply observe the process. There’s a constant chatter of “ease up,” “let him out a bit,” “pull him in,” “he’s running, he’s running,” and the whole event has the adrenaline of a Top Gun dogfight.  This fish didn’t breach the water much, but as the churning water kept coming closer and closer to the boat the tension became so excruciating everybody watching had to have another beer.

 

 

One brief but brutal side-of-the-boat struggle later (a word of advice — don’t get into a fight with Captain Ben, especially if he has a big stick) the fish was eventually brought aboard.  It was a mahi-mahi, which folks also call a dolphin. They’d been hunting the little fish that the frigate birds had spotted.  In the water, they are even more gloriously incandescent than they are on land, though considerably less delicious.

The end of an era.

It was a victory for us, but sadly, UUH’s unbroken record as “Tailfisher” has now been broken. It cannot be disputed that the hook is actually in the fish’s mouth.

It didn’t take long before there was another BZING, another challenge accepted, and our friend Denise was fighting a fish to the boat.  These guys are no slouches and it takes a while, but eventually we had another dolphin on board. Two big, beautiful mahis later, we returned to dock.  If you’ve caught fish, tradition demands that you put a flag up indicating what you’re bringing home.

Dolphin flag — a successful mission!

 

Captain Ben was kind enough to fillet them for us so we’d have dinner that night.  The scraps he produced during the precise, exacting filleting process (this guy could teach knife technique to surgeons) he threw to a group of tarpon fish loitering near the boat.  They obviously knew the routine:  fishing boat coming in = dinnertime.  Tarpons are pretty much useless except for entertainment; they’re big but bony and unpleasant-tasting, so no one eats them, but my God can they put on a floor show.  Several bars on the Christiansted harbor boardwalk have tarpon gangs in the water that hang out waiting for scraps, and it’s nearly irresistible not to feed them something simply for the amusement value. Kids are transfixed. Hell, I was transfixed. We took about fifty pictures of the tarpons just fighting over mahi scraps because . . . because . . . well, because. It was the sun, or the beer, or something.  Anyhow, look at these fish! The expedition was fantastic, and the dinner was even better. The expertly filleted steaks were probably the best meal we had on the island.A few days before while grocery shopping, I’d found irresistible a bottle of Tamarindo Bay Caribbean steak sauce and bought it on the spot without knowing exactly what I’d do with it. The answer was obvious the minute we got home with two chunky, perfect mahi steaks.  A few minutes marinading in the sweet but tangy, unmistakeably Caribbean sauce — this stuff would be great on anything up to and including truck tires — and they were ready for the grill.

On the advice of a brief website search (how on earth did I ever do anything before the Interwebs?), I put the steaks on a piece of foil and then directly on the little house’s big Weber grill on the porch.  The foil makes it easier to flip the steaks without sticking and breaking.  About three minutes a side and they were ready. A simple side salad was all that was needed.

It was the perfect farewell meal to St. Croix.  Our thanks to Captain Ben and First Mate Megan of the Island Girl II, our friends Keith and Denise Murphy, the mahis that graciously provided our dinner, and especially to our bellwethers, the Magnificent Frigate Birds that helped it all happen.

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