Thursday, January 31, 2013

Yakisoba - and haiku to you

wok heats over flame;
so much to chop; make cocktail
and sip, grasshopper.

I've learned only in very recent years how one's mise en place makes an enormous difference in the ease of putting a meal on the table within a reasonable amount of time after one's spouse has come home from work. Witness this:

With enthusiasm: "Hi, honey, I'm home."
With resignation: "Hullo."
With anticipation: "What's for dinner?"
Snappishly: "A goddamn stir-fry if I ever finish chopping everything up."

Compare with this:
"Hi, honey, I'm home."
"Hello, dear."
"What's for dinner?"
"The mother of all stir-fries which will be ready in minutes as soon as you're ready."

Mise en place is what makes the difference. It doesn't take a long time to chop up stuff, except when you feel under the gun. Get out your Tupperware and do the chopping in the morning or even the night before. In most stir-fries there are things that go into the pan (wok or not wok) in sequence. Simply put them in separate containers. When it's time to cook get that pan or wok hot, hot, hot. While the oil heats put your bottles of soy sauce, cooking wine, vegetable oil, sesame oil, whatever, next to the stove.

I designed this one carefully, using pre-cooked noodles. My result was a one-dish dinner. If there's ever a divorce in this family it won't be from a complaint that "his mise was never en place." (I wonder if they can develop a pill for it?) "If you need more than four hours to get everything in place for a stir-fry, contact your physician immediately. Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for stir-fry activity."

Oh, what's in it:
vegetable oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 huge clove garlic, minced
4 mini and multi-colored bell peppers
4 baby bok choys
4 scallions, green and white parts, 1" long
6 medium button mushrooms or baby bellas
leftover cooked sliced steak
8 oz. yakisoba noodles
To taste: splashes of Shiaxing wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ginger (the dog, not the spice)

I convinced Peter that fostering dogs awaiting adoption would be a good idea in this transitional period AS (after Scooper) and BD (before another dog to be determined). Suddenly last night I got a call from a rescue agency in need of fostering this adorable retriever/spaniel mix (as best anyone can tell). And no, this is not a prelude to my waggish suggestion of a Chinese fortune cookie reading, "Dog, the other white meat." I fetched this guy from a boarding facility this afternoon.

He has two adoption applications in the works and may well be with us only until the weekend.

This may be the first posting of a cartoon in a food blog (it certainly is via my blog). But this one  appeared in The New Yorker quite a few years ago. What makes it more salient is the fact that the adorable pup you see above is named Ginger.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pam gives birth to a limerick (and Cabbage and Pasta)

With pasta and cabbage by Pam,
It's poetry cuisine's slam.
So simple it's dumb.
But don't cut your thumb
Knifing napa or savoy or ham.

When I read Pam's post about cabbage and noodles I did indeed go directly to the store to buy a large head of Napa. I waffled, then decided to go with Asian clear rice noodles and Asian flavors. You need no guidance here. Just cook some cabbage the way you like it and serve it with macaroni of any provenance. Go have a look at what Pam did.

On a more pedestrian note, I still have no communication between my excellent digital camera and my computer. But I've gotten my phone to agree to take some pix after a period of severe recalcitrance. Not great photo-journalism, but adequate for my purposes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rouladen - Was ist das?

Roll up some beef with some stuff inside. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Make some gravy, or some gnocchi, or some potatoes, or some red cabbage, or some au gratin something. In your best "Hogan's Heroes" German accent, cry out, "Das ist gut!!!"

During my Denver days, 2001-2011, I had dinner at the home of an extremely boring German lady numerous times. You may be asking yourself why I was there so often if she was that boring. Good question. Professional necessity is the best answer I can give.

Until today I never made rouladen myself. I consulted a few recipes and realized that it is so easy even Col. Klink could have done it. With our temperature hovering just a skosh above 20 degrees F, this is perfect "get in where it's warm and have a warm and comforting meal" weather.

I have largely given up posting recipes. If you can spell Google you will be boondoggled with more recipes than you can shake a Bier Stein at.

I served some gnocchi with my rouladen and some arugula wilted with hot bacon grease and tossed with a few finely sliced radishes and mushrooms.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Want a biscuit?

Dinner invite from fish-a-vegetarian friends.
To satisfy my own ends,
Wanted to bring an amuse bouche.
Had a container of Pillsbury Grands.
Cut them in thirds with my own hands.
Stuffed 'em with peanut butter/chutney - some.
Gouda cheese - others. 
Baked 'em. Neat little mothers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liar, liar, Lance on Fire (and turkey in Turkey)

This is a food blog, but I have something non-culinary to get off my chest. I admired and revered Lance Armstrong for many years. I accepted his denials that he cheated in order to gain ground in the bike races in France. I honored him to the extent of buying a "Live Strong" bracelet to help support his cancer foundation. Now the 'dope' comes out of the gym bag and he admits to doping. And guess why. Because he wants to be allowed to compete professionally again. He wants to find a way to worm himself back into product endorsements and the millions of dollars he can 'inject' into his bank account. I, for one, do not support his endeavors. We have been cheated by him in the same way that he cheated the cycling world. Sorry, Lance, your pants will be burning forever as far as I am concerned. On to something that actually matters - a different turkey - one of the edible kind.

Wikipedia told me that turkeys (the birds) were imported to Europe from Turkey (not the bird) long ago. I have a friend who spent this past Thanksgiving in Turkey, where they don't celebrate the holiday (except that the birds do). She had a celebratory dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I haven't cooked a whole bird in the last few years. Parts have been the way to go. I love drumsticks (I've even played timpani with them), I love thighs (I've played ... uh, oh, don't go there), I love the breast (someone help me get out of this downward spiral).

Today's chapter, excerpted from my autobiography, is titled "For the birds: how I cook budgies and other 'cheep' critters." Did you know that turkeys have been known to drown in a rainstorm if they stick their heads up into the air and "gobble"? I don't know if that's true, but I hope it is.

All you do is start by brining the thighs and/or drumsticks for 2 to 3 hours, rinse well, and dry with paper towels. Heat your oven to 300, put the thighs and/or drumsticks (I wouldn't use this method for breasts) into a pan and add some stock, some onion and carrots and green peppers and celery and pepper. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until tender enough to eat without your dentures.

Alternatively, broil them, starting skin side down and ending skin up for crisp-itude. I would think this might be suitable for breasts as well.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cornish hen sous vide

I have had a fascination with sous vide cooking for several years. Unfortunately I can't afford professional equipment and have made do with attempts to use standard pots and pans and thermometers. Today I had my greatest success ever. Much of it is due to our range which has a center/rear burner for very low simmering. I put a large pot of water on it and managed to hold it right at, or near, 160 degrees for 3 hours. As for the bird, it was brined for 2 hours and then sealed in a freezer bag with a stick of butter, a couple sprigs of sage, some garlic, and some pepper. I was able to squeeze out nearly all the air, enough so that the bag sat down in the water in the pot. The resulting texture was of utmost tenderness and moistness. The flavor was gentle and delicate, all in all a delight.

If you aren't familiar with sous vide, I'd suggest you Google the term. Probably you will find a more comprehensive description than little old me can provide. It's doubtful that things for which I might like a lower temp will be possible, such as seafood, eggs, and such, without a circulating heater. But one can certainly try various cuts that require long cooking. Maybe ribs, roasts.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

There's no "V" in lasagna (oh, yeah?)

Maybe two weeks ago I warned the blogosphere (that includes you) of Jenn's impending use of the "V" word at her place, jennsfoodjourney. If you click on that link right now you may still catch her recipe, chicken queso pasta. Her casual, unremarkable, confident inclusion of not only Velveeta, but Ro-tel, should be a model of the "just lay it out there" school of recipe sharing. No headlines, no hype for the Official Cheese of the 50's, just matter-of-fact presentation. That's what I meant to do here, except now I'm blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Okay, what I've done is to make a big tray of lasagna with a hefty layer of Velveeta in a middle layer and served it to my spouse, and a lady of a certain age who just got back from the hospital following a minor heart attack and an angioplasty. Our fourth was her son who had bused his way down from Pittsburgh to DC to be with her for a few days. Bottom line: everyone had seconds. No one asked any embarrassing questions about ingredients. I will go to my grave with it as my secret since I know none of you are blabbermouths.

If you are wondering when I am going to get around to the recipe, well, I'm not really going to. You all have your lasagna designs, handed down from grandma to ma to y'all. In short, I used a pound of ground turkey, a 28 oz can of whole romas, a 14 oz can of tomato sauce, garlic, salt and pepper, and four cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and the hero of the day, Velveeta. Oh, and I used real, grownup noodles, not those wimpy no-boil things. (Go ahead, make my day, tell me I'm an idiot.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Going with the grain

I had the intention of boring you all with the saga of my ambitious dinner party from Saturday night. However, time got away and I never was able to seize the camera for documentation. Yesterday I snagged bits and pieces of things from the fridge along with about 1 1/2 cups of dried wheat berries from Whole Foods. I made a salad of it all: the berries, carrot, scallion, heart of palm, marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and celery. It was (and will be again tonight) oh so healthy and delicious. The pic is purloined, but my heart is pure. Oh, and the dressing was left from Saturday when it was used on a faux Thai green papaya salad. Ingredients? Stuff. I don't know. I was busy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Today I crabbed and fussed

I've posted crab cakes before, I think. But this is what I did tonight in honor of my 32nd anniversary with Peter. I had bought a pound of crab on Monday because my supermarket was out of lobsters. But I decided later to go to the waterfront and get a lobster for risotto. There is nothing magical about crab cakes, except when there is. Tonight they were magic. I read at least a half dozen recipes earlier today and they were more different than alike. So I made it up. When is the last time I did that? You don't need my recipe (even if I could remember all its details). I mixed the crab with: about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs made from flour tortillas, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 Tbs mustard, celery salt, 1 egg lightly beaten (just until it whimpered but didn't scream), a touch of cayenne, and a lot of love. (I hate it when TV chefs say there recipe has a lot of love in it. Give me mayo and bacon any time.) Sauteed the little buggers in some butter and EVOO for about 5 mins. per side. And here I am an hour later, reveling in the warmth in my tummy.

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