Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pork Cobbler

Like a good, frugal, home cook, I hate throwing out leftover food. I'm also not a fan of eating the same thing over and over again so when I do something with leftovers, I like to change up the flavor profile a bit. That batch of pork ribs with barbecue sauce created a ton of left over porky goodness, some of which Mr Minx used in a pasta sauce. The rest I turned into what I'm calling "pork cobbler."

I wanted a more chili-like flavor, so to the 2 cups or so of leftover meat and sauce I added a 15-oz can of chopped tomatoes, a small can of chopped green chiles, half a cup or so of frozen corn, a tablespoon of chili powder, and dashes of dried oregano, chipotle, and smoked paprika. I let it all simmer together for an hour or so until the meat fell into shreds, then poured it into an 8" square baking pan. On top, I dolloped a kind of cornbread biscuit.

Cornbread Cobbler Topping (adapted from Epicurious)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or bacon grease)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces grated or chopped cheese of your choice

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, egg, and oil in a small bowl, then stir into cornmeal mixture until just combined. Fold in half of the cheese.

Spoon mounds of the batter over pork, then sprinkle remaining cheese over batter. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of corn bread comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes.

So maybe it doesn't look so pretty, but it was pretty tasty. And it used up all of of the leftover pork.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Charm City Chowhounds Dinner at Bangkok Garden

I've whined here on many an occasion about the dearth of really fine Thai food in my area. While most restaurants serve some variation on some of my favorite dishes - panang curry, tod mun, tom kha gai - the curry and soup are usually far too sweet and the fish cakes are greasy. So when given the opportunity to try dishes from the "secret" menu at Bangkok Garden, in Columbia, Mr Minx and I jumped at the chance.

We were not disappointed.

We started out with a trio of appetizer-type dishes.

Som Tum Thai - green papaya salad with marinated crabmeat. I really didn't notice much crab meat (although we did get a couple of random legs). I'd never eaten green papaya before, and I'm happy to report that it doesn't have the same vomitous pre-digested quality as the ripe stuff. However, the crab and lashings of fish sauce gave the dish a "garbage" essence. But as one of my dining companions, Kwan, put it - "garbage in a good way."

Yam Makheua Yao - warm salad of smoky grilled Thai eggplant. I loved this! The meltingly soft eggplant paired with red onion and mint in a bright citrus dressing was heavenly. I could easily have eaten a whole order myself.

Naam Prik Plaa Raa - fermented fish paste dip with sliced raw vegetables. This was my least favorite of the dishes. While it was tasty enough and not too fishy, it was difficult to eat as a dip, particularly with thin slices of bamboo shoot. It just didn't scream, "more" at me.

Next came the entrees.

Khang Som Cha-Om Kai Sai Koong - hot pot of sour red curry broth with shrimp and acacia omelette. This was simply delicious. I loved the bits of spongy omelette that had absorbed some of the rich, tangy, and tomatoey broth.  I scooped every last drop out of the hot pot because it was too good to waste.

Pla Muk Pad Kra Pow - squid stir fried with sweet basil leaves. This was very good, with fairly tender squid that had been scored in the traditional Thai style that leaves it looking a bit like ginger flowers after cooking. I thought the dish could have used a tad more basil, but the dish was a favorite around the table.

Panang Kai - red curry with chicken. Before this dish came to the table, I mentioned to the group that although I love penang curry, I find it is often too sweet. And such was the case at Bangkok Garden. Sweet indeed, but it still had a nice depth of flavor that put it above other such dishes I've eaten elsewhere. (But still no match for the aromatic perfection at Bangkok Place.)

Raat naa taleh - wide noodles with seafood. The components of this dish came in a thick gravy-textured sauce that was quite different from all of the other sauces; unfortunately I think the preponderance of sauce made the noodles soggy. This was, however, better than the too-tough undercooked noodles we had at Bangkok Delight last Fall.

We also had a dish of pork with garlic and white pepper. I wish they had brought a bigger portion for our table of 7 people because I enjoyed this one very much. It was simple and flavorful.

Finally, we shared a dish of perfectly ripe mango and still-warm sticky rice topped with a bit of coconut milk, one of my all-time favorite desserts.

Overall, I give this meal a pretty high score. I loved the variety, and the chance to try things I might not normally try. I had originally thought that the heat level would be incendiary, since we were ordering from a menu that was written in Thai, but found that the heat level was perfect for me. Ok, I gasped twice, but a bit of rice mellowed things out nicely.

There will definitely be trips to Bangkok Garden in my future.

Bangkok Garden
5810 Robert Oliver Pl
Columbia, MD 21045-3740

Bangkok Garden on Urbanspoon

True Citrus Chat and Recipe Contest

I've posted in the past about True Lemon and its brethren True Lemon and True Lime. I really love these products because I never seem to have fresh lemons and limes in the fridge when I really want one. Especially in these sweltering hot days of summer when I want nothing more than a big glass of lemonade. Over the weekend I made myself a "virgin mojito" by putting a packet of True Lime, a spring of fresh mint from the garden, and a pack of Truvia in a glass of ice water. Not as much fun as a rum drink, but I'm not all that big on drinking alcohol when it's sweltering. Especially after I've come in from walking the dog and want something to guzzle.

My recipe is pretty basic, but the True Citrus line can be used in place of fresh citrus juice in more complex recipes, too. And True Citrus is kicking off a recipe contest starting today! All of the information can be found here and here. The winner will receive a $500 Visa gift card and 4 others will each receive a $100 Visa gift card - hello! Time to start tinkering with recipes.

Also today is a Ustream online chat with Diane Henderiks, the Dietician in the Kitchen. Diane is a culinary nutritionist, personal chef, culinary educator, and monthly on-air contributor for Good Morning America Health and will be discussing nutrition tips and all of the different ways you can cook with the entire True Citrus product line. Participants can ask Diane anything from the different ways they can cook with True Citrus, to general nutrition questions and more. To participate in the chat, click here or go to

I'll probably not have time to chat because, well, I do have to *work.* If you participate and learn something interesting, please fill me in! In the meantime, I'll be contemplating recipes (as I usually do).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Next Food Network Star 6 Episode 4 Recap

Mercifully, this week Bobby Flay is back on the job so we don't have to put up with Guy Fieri's porcupine 'do and ridiculous facial hair. Bobby and ACT Fluoride Rinse fan Giada DeLaurentiis meet the nine remaining Wanna-bes in the Star Kitchen to give them their first challenge of the day. This "Camera Challenge" will involve cooking with chile peppers, an ingredient near and dear to Bobby's heart. After creating their dishes, the competitors will present them in a 30-second on-camera spot in which they must convey its flavor, bringing it to life. The winner of this challenge will have their recipe featured on the specials menu at all three of Flay's Mesa Grill locations.

The Wanna-bes are encouraged to rush at the table of chiles and fight for their choices, which leads to lots of mature pushing and shoving.

During the cook time, we find that Herb's feeling down and that his competitive side is taking a break.

In a flash, the cooking is over and the Wanna-bes have to talk to the camera. As is to be expected, Paul's presentation isn't compelling, but his food is a "solid B." DAS is a mess, not giving any indication of what his food, which was poorly executed, tastes like.

Aria overthought her presentation and completely forgot to mention the pepper she used. Herb was clearly discouraged.

Serena tried to speak more slowly, and while she was successful there, her dish was underwhelming. Aarti looked cute as usual, but ran out of time.

On the more positive side, Brianna's presentation and dish were both praised. Tom also did well. And Bobby thought Brad used his chiles with finesse.

Brianna gets the win and a spot on the Mesa Grill menu for a week. She immediately makes plans to go to the Bahamas and Las Vegas.

At this point, Herb begins to enjoy wallowing in his depression and wonders if he should even be there. Oh, stick it out for a few more episodes at least, Herb! You'll be eliminated eventually!

Immediately the Wanna-bes get their Star Challenge. Before them stand Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger, and Eric Greenspan. Hmmm...two Top Chef Masters finalists! They must have been filming that show at the same time (both were set in LA). The challenge is also taken from a page in the Top Chef book. The chefs are put in teams of three, not to compete with each other but against each other, head-to-head-to-head (as in Top Chef DC's episode 2 Elimination Challenge). Each team must put their own spin on a dish that is a childhood favorite of their assigned chef (reminding me of the "Last Supper" challenge from TC season 5). Confused? Ok, that means we're on track.

The teams break down like this:

Team Waxman: Aarti, Herb, and Tom must create a dish of lamb and potatoes.
Team Feniger: Serena, Brad, and Brianna must create dishes of fried chicken and iceberg salad with bleu cheese dressing.
Team Greenspan: Aria, Paul, and DAS must create a dish of steak with macaroni and cheese.

The next day the Wanna-bes head to Feniger's restaurant, Ciudad, where they have one hour to cook their dishes.

The first team in the kitchen is Team Feniger. Because she got injured in the kitchen last week, Serena makes sure that every time she needs to walk behind the other two on her team, she calls out, "behind you." This annoys Brianna, who still isn't feeling any guilt for stepping on her competitor.

The hour passes quickly and soon the three are presenting their version of fried chicken to the judges. Brianna makes chicken with curry waffles and tells the sad tale of her reunion with her father, a veritable heart-tugging rags-to-riches story that includes both homelessness and a PhD. Serena makes Italian-style chicken cutlets, the heavy breading of which does not impress the judges. Brad's fried chicken is delicious but the judges aren't so excited about his POV. He wants to call his Food Network show, "The Pro," but seems so tentative around the real pros whom he is serving.

Next up in the kitchen is Team Greenspan. DAS decides he wants to show the judges something that's all about him, so he puts a "tri-berry" relish on his Prime steak. And then he puts his foot in his mouth. When asked if he knew what "prime" meant, he said sure.

BZZZZZZZT! WRONG. He also couldn't explain the existence of that berry mess he used to top the steak.

Aria makes the bizarre combo of fajitas with jalapeno mac and cheese, hoping the addition of jalapenos will tie the two disparate dishes together. Unfortunately, it doesn't. And Paul...he does his own thing too, making pork tenderloin instead of steak, and spaetzle instead of mac and cheese. His reasoning is that when he was a kid, his family couldn't afford steak and ate lots of pork instead. Yeah, but remember that you're cooking with Chef Greenspan's memories.

Finally, Team Waxman sets to cooking. Tom does an underseasoned leg of lamb and smashed potatoes, but he tells a nice story from the heart. Aarti makes lamb kabobs that she sauces with home-made pomegranate molasses. She stepped out of Waxman's box but stayed completely in her own zone, which the judges loved. And finally, poor depressed Herb burns his balsamic vinegar reduction and fails in every other aspect of his dish.

Back at the Executioner's Table, Tushface, Bride of Fogelstein, and Bobby Flay critique the Wanna-bes and their dishes.

Bobby was into Brianna's chicken.

But Brad's chicken was even better. Aarti nailed her lamb dish, and Aria was the winner from her team only because her dish didn't suck as badly as those of her competitors. The winners and "safe" folks were sent off while the bottom three remained, awaiting their fate.

Serena is cute and had a cute story, so she gets to stay. Herb, who made Bride of Fogelstein tear up with his dinnertime story of woe, also gets to stay. That leaves DAS, ridiculed by Bobby on the "prime" issue, to get the boot. The DAS boot. (Yeah, I know you didn't get the joke this time either.)

Next week: someone rises from the ashes to impress Tushface. Is it Paul? Serena? Herb? Stay tuned! Or not.

Meatless Monday - Tofu with Spicy Sauce

Gourmet Magazine may be gone, but one can still catch episodes of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie on PBS. In an episode seen not long ago, Ruth Reichl whipped up this Korean panchan-style dish. It looked quick and easy and a great way to use up that block of tofu that was getting dangerously close to its sell-by date.

Despite going against a major rule for preparing tofu - boiling it rather than pressing all of the extra moisture out - it retained a nice texture and was not at all water-logged. Although Reichl used soft tofu, the technique worked great with extra firm. And it was delicious. With all that garlic, scallions, and soy, how could it not be?

Warm Tofu with Spicy Sauce (adapted from Gourmet)

1 (14- to 18-oz) package firm tofu
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped scallion
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Korean hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar or agave syrup

Rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat and cook for about half an hour.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together.

Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a bowl. Pour sauce over tofu and serve.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament

Does watching a live competition of local chefs pitted against each other, Iron Chef-style, sound like fun to you? Then you should attend the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament! This foodie experience is a multi-week event showcasing some of the area's finest chefs while providing an evening of entertainment AND dining.

In addition to enjoying a four-course meal while watching the chefs compete, twenty-five audience members can participate each night as judges, tasting the chefs' creations and voting alongside the panel of expert judges.

General admission tickets cost $55 and include dinner. Judging Experience tickets are $75 and include both dinner and a chance to taste and vote on the chefs' wares. In addition, 10% of the net profit from ticket sales goes directly to Moveable Feast, a local non-profit that provides meal delivery service to homebound People Living with AIDS/HIV, and women undergoing breast cancer treatment and their families.

Next week is Moveable Feast Week and an additional 10% (20% total) of net profits will be donated to the charity. On Monday June 28th, Chad Novak of Don't Know Tavern will do battle against Thomas Friend of Skipjack's Restaurant & Crab House. On Tuesday, June 29th, Michael Ledesma of Leelyns will face Francisco Lopez of Federales.

Please use this opportunity have a good time AND help those in need by attending an event. Please enter sponsor code "MOV101" when you place your order.

Today's Groupon Deal - Talara!

I was excited to see that today's Groupon Deal is for Talara, which I raved about a few weeks ago. To get $30 worth of food and drinks for $15, click here.

Flashback Friday 6.25.2010

Here's a post by Mr Minx, from July 7, 2006.
U.S. Sears Foie Gras

The efforts to ban foie gras in Chicago and California most likely signal the beginning of the end for this delicacy in the U.S. For most, this will mean nothing, since only those who frequent finer dining establishments even consume the fatty duck liver. In fact, many might rejoice that such elitist fools will be denied one of their treasured indulgences. It’s one of our quirky American traits to worship wealth while simultaneously sneering at anything that smacks of aristocratic pretentiousness. No wonder Donald Trump and Paris Hilton are so popular.

For the politicians who enact legislation against the production and sale of foie gras, it’s an easy call. They can afford to offend a few duck farmers and gourmands in their effort to finally do something that will placate the vegans and PETA zealots. It’s rare when an elected official can take a stand that will win praise from this faction without pissing off just about everyone else.

Of course, the primary reason behind the ban is that force feeding ducks to create those extra fatty livers is considered unusually cruel. Attempting to make ethical decisions in the area of animal farming is like trying to discern what should be considered a war crime. At least the ducks raised to create foie gras are free range. Can’t say the same for the agribusiness calves chickens who are trapped in cramped pens, wallowing in their own feces while being fed hormonally enhanced food that create plumper breasts. Of course, don’t expect to see the politicians going after the likes of Tyson anytime soon. No up side there, since the animal farming giants are too big and, dammit, too many people like fried chicken and hamburgers. I believe that the enjoyment of chicken tetrazzini and a medium rare steak will be a god-given right for some time to come. I even believe the immobilized calves will be ignored so that we may continue to enjoy veal parmesan. Foie gras, on the other hand, has been sacrificed to the evil sin column.

Banning foie gras is the culinary example of our constant effort to nibble around the edges of our moral dilemmas. We attack what is easy to attack so that we may preserve the larger transgressions. We feign outrage over viewing Janet Jackson’s breasts at the Super Bowl, but true pornography will thrive. We like it too much. Illegal flag burning has a good chance of becoming a Constitutional amendment simply because most people have no interest in burning flags. A ban on radio talk show hosts who spout opinions other than those of the reigning administration may have a tougher time getting through.

I suppose I should take some comfort in this: the fact that we seldom give up the core of our rights since such things are important to the majority of us. But I can’t help wondering whether the 18th amendment, which created Prohibition, would have ever been repealed from our Constitution had it only covered champagne rather than all alcoholic beverages. I suspect people would be drinking just as much alcohol today as they currently do; they just wouldn’t have the special delight of enjoying one of its finest examples.

If foie gras disappears from every menu in the U.S., I’m sure the country and its citizenry will survive. However, I don’t believe we should feel any better about ourselves for it. As in so many aspects of our lives, there are some hard realities that we don’t like to face. We eat animals, and the raising and slaughter of those animals is not a pretty process. We can’t gain higher moral ground simply because we have stopped one form of animal farming. We simply lose one of the more exquisite offerings a meat eater can experience.

As for the vegans who declare that their lifestyle is the only ethical choice, it’s important to bear in mind that such a lifestyle is a privilege only allowed in a developed country and could not be feasibly imposed on all humans around the globe. Instead of feeling superior, they should celebrate living in a country of such freedom and abundance that allows them the opportunity to consume only quality fruits, grains, and vegetables (along with the nutritional supplements they must take to make up for the meat they aren’t eating). And while the vegans are celebrating their good fortune for living in the United States, maybe they can exercise a little tolerance, which is essential to any free and civilized society.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 2 Recap

Our second episode begins with the obligatory scenes of cheftestants eating breakfast/doing yoga/brushing up on their "throwing under the bus" skills, after which we see them head off to the Top Chef Where's the Product Placement? Kitchen at the Washington Hilton. There they find Padma with special guest judge Sam Kass. Who? Well, um, he's an "assistant" White House chef. Not the head chef, but an assistant. In other words, he's probably in charge of Bo's dinner.

Because this is DC, the show uses any excuse to make a stupid pun about politics, so the first challenge of the day is called the "Bi-partisandwich" Quickfire. The chefs must work in teams of two, as determined by the Knife Block of Doom, and create a great sandwich in 30 minutes. But that's not all folks - there's a crack-tastical twist: the pairs must don a special two-sided Pushmi-Pullyu apron. It's a one-armed version of a one-legged race.

:::shudder::: That put a really unpleasant image of David Spade in my mind. Nasty!

Amanda gets paired with Tamesha, Stephen with Jacqueline, Ed with the Alpha Male, Alex with Tim, Arnold with Kelly, Lynn with Tiffany, Andrea with Kevin, and Inigo with Tracey. While the cheftestants bitch and moan about the situation, Tracey sees a silver lining in her pairing with Inigo. On whom she has a wee crush - hey, a gal loves a swashbuckler!

For the rest of the cheftestants, the theme of the contest seems to be trust. As in, "I don't trust my partner with a knife in his/her hand."

Amazingly, nobody gets cut, nobody dies. And sandwiches get made.

Sam Kass picks the teams of Stephen/Jacqueline and Lynn/Tiffany as creators of the weakest sammies. On top are Tracey and Inigo, and Alpha Male and Ed. Kass gives the win to Tracey and Inigo, extending his win streak to three in a row. With the win, the pair gets immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

Speaking of which, for the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants get to participate in a cause that's important to Chef Kass and the Obamas - fighting childhood obesity. This makes me wonder why Chef Jamie Oliver wasn't involved in this episode somehow, being that this particular fight has become part of his life's work. Anyhoo, the cheftestants team up in sets of four to prepare a delicious and nutritious lunch for 50 kids at Alice Deal Middle School with a budget of $130 - basically $2.60 cents per child. This is about the same amount our government allots for the National School Lunch Program because there's no money left to feed our children after flushing most of it down the festering toilet called the Iraq War. And China will only let us borrow money to bail out the fat cats in the banking and auto industries.

The teams are:

Team Winners: Inigo, Tracey, Alpha, and Ed
Team Girly: Arnold, Kelly, Lynne, Tiffany
Team Manly: Tim, Kevin, Alex, Andrea
Team Losers: Amanda, Tamesha, Stephen, Jacqueline

First the teams get a little time to plan their menus. Kelly shows herself as quite bossy and perfectly willing to take all of the credit for her team's potential success. But will she take the fall if things go wrong? Doubtful.

After squabbling over who makes what and why, the chefs get their petty cash and head to Restaurant Depot for shopping. Amanda wants to make chicken in a sherry jus. Really? She wants to feed alcohol to children? It's a myth that all alcohol burns off during cooking. Even after one hour of simmering, 25% can still remain. While Amanda is throwing her team's $ away on hooch, Jacqueline can't afford the chocolate she wants to use for dessert and has to resort to unripe bananas.

After shopping and 2.5 hours of prep, the chefs pack up and go home. There, Arnold stages an intervention with the rest of his team to tell Kelly that they don't appreciate that she's going to take all of the credit for everything. Kelly pretends to be flabbergasted at the accusation. Meanwhile, she still plans to bask in all of the glory. Truth be told, the entrée *was* Kelly's idea.

The next day, the cheftestants head to Alice Deal and deal with squeezing their 16 butts into the 4-butt kitchen.

With one short hour for prep, Inigo is overly concerned that he can't get his foamer to work for his peanut butter mousse. Vizzini is dead, so there's no brain to puzzle out the fact that there's no need for such preciousness as foam in a school cafeteria.

Inigo tries to borrow a gadget from Team Manly, but gets shot down by Kevin and Andrea.

And who gets to wear the old man sweater?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the cramped kitchen....

Everybody knows any Sherry in a public school rightfully belongs in the secret stash in the teachers' lounge. What's this world coming to? Next they're going to be telling us that ketchup is not a vegetable!

Lunchtime! The chefs serve their fare to the hungry kiddos and the judges come out to taste samples from each team. The mac and cheese is the low point of Team Manly's offerings. On Team Winners, Ed's sweet potatoes are far too peppery for a child's palate. On Team Losers, Jacqueline's dessert was too sweet. And Team Kelly Girly did well all around.

We then see the chefs in the Where's the Product Placement? Stew Room, worrying about their fates. Padma walks in and with her undertaker voice announces that she wants to see the members of Team Winners and Team Losers at Judges' Table. At this, Kelly gets miffed because Padma usually calls out the winning teams first, meaning her team must not be a winner.

As it turns out, Top Chef has switched things up for the first time in 7 seasons and the first group to face Judges' Table comprises the worst performers in the challenge. Amanda gets called out for her use of Sherry and Jacqueline for her overly-sweet banana pudding. Team Winners gets called out for its lack of vegetables, particularly for Alpha and Ed noticing the missing green stuff but not pushing to include it. Then these two last-place teams squabble with each other about peanut butter and Sherry and sugar for a few minutes before Padma dismisses them.

Back in the stew room, Inigo takes Tracey aside and tells her in confidence (but with cameras rolling and mics on) that he "doesn't like" Alpha. Meanwhile, Team Girly is sent out to face the judges.

There they are complimented on their dishes, the number of vegetables, and their creativity. They made the best lunch, and Kelly is given the win for her carnitas. Her head immediately swells to such proportions that the set medics are called in with the jaws of life in order to extract her from the room in one piece.

One more time we see chefs pulled out before the judges. Ed, Alpha, Amanda, and Jacqueline are the bottom four and after some back and forth, Jacqueline is told to pack her knives and go. How sugary pudding is worse than plying kids with booze is beyond me, but what do I know?

Next week: picnic time! Instead of a traditional Elimination Challenge, hungry bears will be invited to the festivities. (Hey - a girl can dream, right?)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Junkyard BBQ

There was a big package of country style pork ribs taking up room in the freezer, and a fridge full of condiments that were preventing us from storing the fresh produce we recently bought. So the lot of them became part of last Sunday's dinner.

While nosing around in the fridge, I found about a tablespoon of cherry jam, half a preserved lemon, a quarter cup of chipotle salsa, and about 1/3 bottle of barbecue sauce. There was also a full jar of locally-produced apple and raisin chutney that I bought at the Towson Farmers' Market last year, half a container of Korean black bean paste, and a plethora of chopped scallions. In addition to the store-bought condiments, there were also leftover bits of home-made puttanesca and romesco sauces. (I haven't even touched on the dozen or so other jars of various spice pastes and chile sauces that also live in the fridge.)

And I mixed it all together and called it "sauce."

I used only a few tablespoons each of the chutney and the black bean paste and about 2/3 of the bbq sauce. I also added a pork bouillon cube, about a teaspoon of chile powder, half of a fresh lemon, and a cup or so of water. After several hours of simmering with the pork ribs, the sauce grew dark and rich. The end result was a very nice tomato-based barbecue sauce with a lot of character. It was a little spicy, a little lemony, and only very slightly sweet.

It took me back to my childhood, not only to the lemony sauce my mother served with ribs or pork chops, but also to the ribs my Aunt Stasia made. And back in those days, the most perfect accompaniments for slow cooked ribs were rice and corn. We had some fresh bi-colored corn on hand and it was extremely sweet despite being picked who knows how long ago. There was also a big bunch of asparagus in the fridge, so we had some of that as well.

Despite not knowing what I would have as the end result of mixing so many disparate condiments together, I think the dish turned out quite successfully. It tasted as if it had been completely intentional, and I suppose it was.

What do you do with little bits of condiments and sauces that are left over in your fridge? Do you throw them out, or do you use them to make something yummy?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Foodie Book Review - Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery

I picked up a copy of Gourmet Rhapsody because the premise sounded interesting: a famous food critic, while on his deathbed, searches his memory for one flavor in particular that he longs to taste once again.

Amazon made it sound really terrific:
Proust's infamous madeleine cannot hold a candle to the lush, winsome memories of meals past that you'll find in Muriel Barbery's Gourmet Rhapsody. M. Pierre Arthens is France's premier restaurant critic—so premier in fact that he's simply called the Maître—and we meet him as he lies in bed, waiting to die. Fervently he mines years of gastronomic delights and discoveries in search of one single flavor, one that he says is "the only true thing ever accomplished." What unfolds—in vignettes narrated by him and by a chorus of his familiars (most human, some quite comically not)—is a portrait of a man in thrall to the very ingredient that makes French cuisine so inescapably, ecstatically, seductive: It's not cream, nor cognac, but the cook who defines those glorious tastes. "The only true work of art, in the end," he says, "is another person's feast." --Anne Bartholomew
Unfortunately, the Maître is a loathsome character and before I was halfway through I cared not if he ever discovered that illusive flavor. Bah. And the writing is a bit ponderous to boot.

In any case, Apostrophe, a boulangerie/patisserie in London and Gallic Books are having a little contest. Submit an essay of no more than 500 words describing a gourmet experience of your own and you can win a one night stay in London, a pair of tickets to see The 39 Steps, dinner for two at Inamo, and breakfast for two at Apostrophe. Contest ends July 2, so if you're interested in entering, click here post haste!