This corn kernel reminds me of Calvin on school picture day.
I didn't really dwell on this when it happened, but my Christmas Eve pozole didn't really turn out very well, and of course I made enough of it to fill a VW bug. Here's a picture of it.
I mean, it was edible, but not addictive: I could never really seem to get it to taste like anything (despite copious applications of salt, cumin, chiles, etc), the accompaniments were the only thing that gave it any life. And the texture of the corn itself was a bit too firm and chewy, although I cooked the living daylights out of it, like 6 or 8 hours' worth. Maybe even twice that.
So since it was my first time cooking with hominy, I didn't really have any idea what I did wrong. And of course it sucks to have a compact car full of mediocre stew sitting around over the holidays, so I just kind of swept it under the rug, figuratively speaking.
Tonight, though, was the Me. vs. Pozole rematch, and I was trying a very different strategy. In December, I used prepared nixtamal from the refrigerated foods section in a Mexican grocery store. It seemed like the authentic thing to do at the time.
Ah, how wrong we can be sometimes. Based on tonight's results, it seems that this quest for authenticity was the fatal flaw with which I shot myself in the foot. Y'see, son, it seems that there are different styles of hominy: Rancho Gordo's dried posole, which is apparently prepared Native American-style instead of Mexican-style, has a really enjoyable toothiness and a very corny flavor, and that's what I used tonight for a pozole de camarón, shrimp pozole with red chiles.
The recipe is from Stephan Pyles, who got it from Diana Kennedy, who picked it up from a Señora Rafaela Villaseñor in Guerrero, who used to make this pozole during Lent. My variations on the recipe were to leave out dried shrimp and to substitute a small quantity of butter for a small quantity of olive oil (3 tbsp), because, well....shrimp, corn, and chiles? They prefer butter.
It came out very very good, recipe and pictures to follow.
Pictured above: yesterday's recording session @ Outline in Amsterdam. Eaten: burnt toast; a few tortilla chips; beer; half an English fry-up for dinner (but not half of the whole thing: just the baked beans, mushrooms, and ham). This morning: steamed broccoli and dochujang, plus as much caffeine as it takes to trick my brain into being productive.
Last night's dancers were wearing shirts that said "Neko" on them. Which means "cat" in Japanese.
We're "enjoying" a day of not really doing anything other than complaining about being tired, with occasional breaks for half-hearted lunges in the direction of catching up on some (house)work.
By far the best thing we did today (well, so far) was to invent a dessert called Polenta and Ricotta Cake with Cherries in Port. Well, "invent" implies that it sprung out of our heads, but it's actually two recipes smashed together, this one and this one.
It's basically a gorgeous-smelling sweet corn poundcake that includes a bunch of orange zest...
...covered with a sauce of cherries simmered in (not quite enough) port with cinnamon and vanilla beans for a long time. We had just run out of sauce by the time we got around to taking pictures. I think ideally the cake would be soaked with the port-cherry sauce, as my best bites were.
One nice thing about living in a building where friends live and work is that we could give the rest of this cake to Andy, Valentina, and Ron, thus saving us from eating an entire poundcake in 24 hours.
polenta & ricotta cake with port-soaked cherries (de-Doriefication in progress).
1/4 cup port-soaked cherries
1 cup fine or medium polenta or yellow cornmeal 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 cup (250gr) ricotta 1/3 cup orange juice or a little more 3/4 cup raw sugar 3/4 cup honey Grated zest of 2 oranges plus a little more
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled 2 large eggs
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-1/2-inch springform tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder and salt together.
In a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey and almost all of the orange zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated.
You should have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter. If not, thin carefully with orange juice or a little water.
Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the cherries. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter. Scatter the remaining orange zest on top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.
We're in one of those very busy periods that happen a couple of times a year: basically just before vacation season or about a month after a general return from vacation. That means February, June, October, and December.
"Busyness" in this case has to do with gigs, lots and lots of gigs. Your gigs (setting up for my Sunday gig at Outline is pictured above), your friends' gigs, gigs from "foreign bands" who are coming to town ("the Chicago guys" just blew through town, always fun because they're generally the nicest guys on the planet, and I'm going to see Neko Case, Marc Ribot, and Animal Collective in the next month...an unusual amount of "big name shows" for "me").
Nonetheless, I do find time to think about food here and there. Last night's relaxation browsing involved the This is Why You're Fat site, and I must say, that is not why I'm fat. I haven't eaten anything that gratuitously fatty in a long time. Overall, it's not really my kind of food, there's lots of terribly gross crap out there, but some things that looked actually good included the Heart Attack Sandwich, Loosiana Gator Dog, and the Bacon Donut.
Andy made larblast night for the first time, and we bit the shit out of it. I thought the soup he made as a pre-larb was even better than the larb though, a tom kha with shrimp. Here's the eGullet larb thread for good measure.
Then we went downstairs for some really surprising guitar playing and, yes, beer. Non-alcohol February proving to be a bit of a bust so far.
WTF is going on??? 2009 seems to be wreaking havoc in the personal lives of our friends. If you are one of our friends and are blissfully havoc-free at present: brace yourself, assume crash positions, etc. Our circle needs some positive juju, pronto.
I went with Andy to the Nieuwe Anita last night for the first time in ages, and really liked the new space. It quite obviously looks like a 1970s American rec room, but I think it might actually look like someone's real rec room I hung out in as a young duckling. Anyway, we saw Suicide Club from Sion Sono, which was a mostly compelling mix of horror and social commentary, very watchable. The clip above is the sequel to Suicide Club, Noriko's Dinner Table.
So, pictured above is my breakfast this morning, and as previously mentioned, it contained much greatness. My other meals today were all bowls of an incredible soup I made from things laying around the house: (frozen) tonkotsu broth, Chinese cabbage, Szechwan pickles, peanut butter, scallions, red chile, and a ridiculous amount of Szechwan peppercorns. Kind of a radioactive Szechwan peanut soup. And then you throw a fried egg in it and some more scallions. It's really really really good, and I've got to see if I can make a vegetarian version of it that's worth a shit.
Mara and I (mostly Mara, I acted as consultant) updated an old favorite last night, Mark Miller's chipotle shrimp with corn cakes. To be Perfectly Frank, our extension of this is quite a bit more thrilling than the original (having made and enjoyed the original 8 or 10 times, I can say this with just enough authority).
I myself enjoyed (another perfectly executed) dinner at J-Kim's last night (Marcella's onion fritatta and some penne with tuna, courgette, and a touch of cream), but sat down to this leftover chipotle fiesta for breakfast, and along with a couple of cups of black coffee it launched my rockets with complete effectiveness. Maybe it seems like an odd thing to have for breakfast, but consider the components, yo: orange, cornmeal, buttermilk, butter, tomato...see? Totally breakfast.
I think the thing that really sets this apart from most of our cooking is the complete lack of spices involved. It's somehow vibrantly complex without them (maybe because there are 4 separate recipes involved?), and the overall impression is one of sweet butter and shrimp, tangy buttermilk, tart orange and lime, fresh mint, and a bit of smoky spice from the chiles and raw onion.
As for our documentation that follows: for now I am only including the What and not the How, because we will remember the How. Also, due to winter lighting, our photos of the actual food are less than colorrific. Behold last night's presentation:
shrimp with chipotle, orange, and mint + buttermilk corn cakes.
smoked tomato and orange sauce
1 can chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp roasted garlic paste
1/2 cup orange juice
1-2 tbsp adobo sauce from the chipotle can, depending on hotness
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp orange zest, minced
buttermilk-scallion corn cakes
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp unrefined sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk or a tiny bit less
1 cup of corn kernels
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup orange juice
2 chipotles, whole
salt to taste
1 cup diced fresh tomato
3/4 cup diced orange segments
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
salt to taste
15 shrimp (16/20), peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
Serves 2-3. Maybe 4.
Basically: make the "smoked" tomato sauce by putting the can of tomatoes, a bit of salt, and the garlic in a pan over very low heat and reducing for an hour or so, checking after 30 minutes to make sure you're not running out of liquid; if you are, you can add the butter and orange juice at this point.
When the tomato sauce is sufficiently reduced (you know, so it tastes like tomatoes and not acidic red water), add everything else and reduce for another 30 minutes or so. I would start with a small amount of adobo and work your way up until you can just taste it. When it's done, cool, and puree. This is the sauce in which you will saute the shrimpies.
I think everything else is pretty straightforward. The chipotle butter is made by simmering the chipotles in the butter and orange juice for 10-15 minutes on very low heat, for kind of an infusion.
It's very important to make sure the salsa has enough salt and lime or it will be boring. We made it about 2 hours before serving and that seemed to be a nice amount of time for the flavors to come together.
Final cooking and plating: make corn cakes, keep warm in oven if necessary; saute shrimp in smoked tomato sauce for 2-3 minutes; put a corn cake on plate, top with shrimp, drizzle with chipotle butter, put salsa on the side, devour.
We've been in overdrive over here...a totally unproductive, sleep-deprived, weather-subdued, budget-constrained, vegetarian overdrive. Two days in a row we've succumbed to "comfort food" needs and dove headfirst into big piles of steamily inviting pasta for lunch.
And fallen dead asleep 45 minutes later, making me realize just how little refined flour I consume anymore (this was "normal" pasta, not whole wheat). Above is Tuesday's super custom lasagna pillow from Mara: no-bake noodles with some roasted red peppers, ricotta, gorgonzola, and marinara sauce. It filled a need I was experiencing.
What should we be eating instead of energysucking refined grains? This duck finally braved the hostile territory of De Natuurwinkel in order to replenish his supply of good grains like spelt. Which is not farro.
So yesterday was the official release of The Double Headphone Project, just about one year after it started.
It was also the official end of my vegetarianism experiment, which I'll write about eventually. Capsule review: vegetarianism will continue for the forseeable future.
And it also begins an alcohol-free month. Well, there was nothing alcohol-free about yesterday, but you know, moving forward.
To tide yourself over until I feel like writing again, maybe you can read this article that pretty much describes my life from 2001-2004, if you substitute "CD" for "coffee". I may have even linked to it before, but guess what? It's still relevant: especially the bit at the end about what happens to your relationship with your spouse when you decide to work behind the counter yourself. Fun stuff....
"Guess what, dear dreamers? The psychological gap between working in a cafe because it's fun and romantic and doing the exact same thing because you have to is enormous. Within weeks, Lily and I—previously ensconced in an enviably stress-free marriage—were at each other's throats. I hesitate to say which was worse: working the same shift or alternating. Each option presented its own small tortures. Two highly educated professionals with artistic aspirations have just put themselves—or, as we saw it, each other—on $8-per-hour jobs slinging coffee. After four more months, we grew suspicious of each other's motives, obsessively kept track of each other's contributions to the cause ("You worked three days last week!"), and generally waltzed on the edge of divorce. The marriage appears to have been saved by a well-timed bankruptcy."
Speaking of fun stuff, we saw Revolutionary Road last Wednesday. Unsurprisingly depressing, and sometimes unpleasantly shrill. High points were the constant pre-blubbering torment on DiCaprio's face, a face which I normally find completely uninspiring; and Michael Shannon. Bottom line: I can't believe so many critics are calling this the American movie of the year. The trailer, though...great trailer.
Anyway! Here is a recipe that Mara has been tinkering with. Last time she did this, the beans were too broken down, and the bulgur was too cooked, and the texture was too much like a potato pancake or something. Something you could add that would probably be good is walnuts, but Miss Mara doesn't really like nuts "in things". Regardless, the doneness of the bulgur and the roughness of the mashed beans are integral to making the texture vaguely hamburger-like.
mara's veggie burgers.
1/2 cup onion
3/4 cup fine bulgur
3/4 cup water
100gr white beans, cooked
200gr brown beans, cooked
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
Saute onions, when they're brown, add bulgur and water, cover, and turn off. You just want the bulgur to be slightly al dente and not mushy. Let cool.
Mash up the beans (roughly, not a puree), add bulgur and raw onion, soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic, and spices to taste. Then add egg and breadcrumbs, thoroughly combine and chill for at least an hour.