Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday Test Kitchen – 11/18/09

Finally, I’m rolling out a prompt on-time Wednesday Test Kitchen. I really must say that there was only very minimal planning this week for what I wanted to make. The colder weather really dictated on how I wanted to approach these two plates. Both are hearty and best when hot.

I ended up with some really nice wild head-on gulf shrimp because I originally intended to make some Shrimp and Grits, but I had all this nice fennel, sausage and fumet stock hanging around, so I decided that a soup would be best. My roommates occasionally do a Tom Yum soup, but I didn’t want to mess around with spice blends or any packaging. I decided to make my own interpretation – which oddly ended up pretty close, but vibrantly more layered and brighter than your standard. With the exception of dried shrimp paste used in my Gold Cayenne sambal, there were no powders used. I threw in andouille and 4505 Meats Golden Dogs. Why? Because they have a spicy sweetness to them that tasted awesome when paired with the soup. That and it’s my soup, I can do whatever the hell I want to it.

The other dish was a creamy farro risotto. It was cold and I really felt like something warm and creamy. (That’s what she said. Sorry.) I was planning on cooking persimmons all week and blending it into savory, but I wasn’t inspired to pair it with meat that night. I just had no desire to cook meat. (Yes, it’s shocking, but it can happen.) I happened to have wonderful farro literally fall into my hands when I opened my kitchen shelf. It was meant to be. The dish really harkens back to the good old days of the Orson kitchen (really not long ago actually, feels like forever…) when there was a seasonal farro dish on the menu (once with cabbage stock and later with peach). What was wonderful about the presentation of the peach farro dish at Orson was really the complexity established with elements of savory and sweet. It wasn’t an established comfort food, but it was definitely a comfort dish. I partially wanted to recreate the philosophy of that dish, but at the same time, do nothing even remotely similar in terms of flavor combination. The dish gets finished similarly, but I guess nothing in the prep process or ingredient list was remotely similar except for lemon. I don’t think it’s a reinterpretation or copy, but I’d like to call it a tribute.

Onto the Menu:

Tom Yum Soup

-Fumet fennel shrimp stock, wild Gulf head-shrimp, 4505 Golden Dogs, Andouille, homemade Gold Cayenne sambal, finished with torpedo onions

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Pumpkin “Farr”-o Risotto

-brown butter sautéed persimmons, Meyer lemon, Andante Minuet and yuzu zest

*the yuzu zest adds to the depth of flavor and complexity, but I also tried a bowl with Meyer lemon zest, which meshed better into the flavor profile. Both were awesome as garnishes, but the yuzu was like the Veronica to the Meyer lemon’s Betty. Tough choices.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cooking Out Of Joy

It seems that for some reason it’s gets easier and easier to get aggravated by really stupid things.  Maybe we can blame the weather change.  Generally, I’m a fairly calm and positive person, but the last couple of months, I’ve been very agitated with things that normally don’t bother me and sometimes I don’t even know why… 

“But, I’m trying Ringo.  I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd…”

To suppress or alleviate this unwanted sense of anger, I sometimes desperately try to find the most relaxing or soothing things to do.  It’s the kind of stuff that provides you the right distraction for a happy few minutes.  It’s the desperate escape your brain needs sometimes.  Aside from listening to mind numbingly happy songs like 1234 or Here Comes The Sun, I try to enjoy simple cooking/food related things that make me smile and keep my blood pressure a nice mellow low of 150 or better.  Cooking can be therapeutic even though many people often feel that its a chore, so I thought I’d give people a few good examples.  Maybe you can come up with your own as well.

The following is a list of some of the cooking related things that make me smile:

  • the sound of meat searing on a pan
  • pounding and kneading pasta dough
  • the hot gust of aroma when you first open an oven with a roast
  • the smell of wine/alcohol deglazing
  • drinking the wine/alcohol you’re using to deglaze while deglazing
  • stirring slow forming mounds and curds of scrambled eggs
  • watching egg white strands form webs in poaching liquid
  • watching souffles rise
  • watching souffles fall
  • seeing the tiny bubbles when emulsifying
  • the smell of brown butter
  • licking the last of the honey coated on the spoon
  • strolling the aisles in a supermarket
  • mixing hamburger/sausage meat with your bare hands
  • smell of zesting lemons
  • watching risotto thicken
  • making quenelles with spoons
  • flipping fried eggs
  • watching grits absorb milk
  • brulee-ing anything, fire rocks!
  • crisping meat skin
  • stuffing a bird
  • watching quince poach from yellow to pink to red
  • whipping foam, yeah yeah yeah, I know its so 3 years ago…
  • breaking down ducks
  • smoking pork belly, i.e. makin’ bacon
  • “tasting” hot chocolate chip cookies out of the oven
  • pouring cake batter
  • flouring surfaces
  • cooking anything in duck fat

Remember we’re almost at the holidays.  Stay relaxed, stay calm and stay hungry.