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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Inspired by Hainan Chicken...

...or more specifically Mark Bittman's Hainan chicken.

One of the first jobs I ever had was in the kitchen at Hunan Gourmet on Long Island. The job lasted a few long hours and after my shift was through so was I. I was a dishwasher. I got yelled at repeatedly, but so did the guys who were not as slow as molasses like me. "Fuck you fuck clean dish fucking fuck...aaaAAAAAAAAASSSSSSHHHHOOOLLLEEE...you fuuuUUUUUCCKKKK..." and so it went. For 13 hours from the time I arrived until the time I left. I knew from that day that the kitchen of a restaurant was not for me.

I did, however land a couple of more jobs in kitchens both busing and waiting tables. I've always been awful, but the real stress for me was always in the kitchen. The real insanity. The dark, desperate feeling of never being fast enough (describes most jobs I've had of any physical or menial nature as well) or alert enough. Even a recent bartending stint has proven to be overwhelming at times. There's a point somewhere between lax, fun and lost.

In the case of the bar there's the delay of thought that has to go into every movement combined with slurred speech of a sometimes difficult dialect of a language I should be much more proficient in. But now I've strayed so far from the focus of this post that I don't even know if I'll make it back to Hainan. Or perhaps I'm avoiding the topic because I know a secret. Shhh. I have no idea what I'm doing. I never even heard of Hainan before today, but the dish intrigued me so much that I had to allow myself to become curious and inspired. Plus the fact that I've done something like this before to an extent, which excites me.

I will not call this Hainanese chicken. I will merely call it chicken and rice inspired by the above mentioned dish. Mine used dark meat chicken parts, boiled and set aside. The rice (jasmine) proceeded to an oiled pan and came to a crackle. Then the fatty water from the chicken went over the rice to cook. Here's the fun part and the main variation i made do with - the sauce!

I had to substitute and add a bit to make it my own and to compensate for what I lacked. I was missing fresh ginger and peanut/sesame oil. I chopped garlic, red onion and Chinese chili peppers and placed them in a bowl. Squeezed fresh lime juice and orange juice, salt and sugar over that stuff. I crushed peanuts and pumpkin seeds in the old granite M&P (OK it's not that old) and put the pulverized, seedy seeds and legumes into the bowl as well. Then I poured sizzling hot sunflower oil over the stuff in the bowl. Holy spicy dipping sauces!!!! Amazing!

I think the fresh citrus, especially the juice from the orange really helped to cut into the oily nature of the dish. For that purpose I also threw in some slightly wilted kale for a clean balance. Yes Laura...I found curly kale here in Ribe. A new 'mom and pop' opened in town and they sell flowers and amazing produce. Check this out...

Anyway I appreciate the fact that it's just me in the kitchen and nobody is yelling at me, rushing me or threatening me with cleavers. And you know what? I've gotten really fast! I guess it's in my nature to be laid back. With cooking, creating, living, etc. I guess now I just need to figure out how to make a living going at my own pace. Maybe I'll ask Mr. Kale or Mr. Seed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hi again!

I know I know. I fell off the map here for a week or two. It happens. In this post I'm just going to recap the last few dishes.

Not in any order...

I recently found Spanish Recipes after searching around for some reference for preparing snails other than drowning them in garlic and butter. I don't think I followed a recipe, but I allowed my subconscious to pick up on some ingredients. I do this because I find it more enjoyable to create by instinct rather than follow a recipe. Unless I'm baking something I try and rely on my taste memory and break down ingredients in my head based on what I think I've tasted before and what I think would taste good together. Along with the snails I have gazpacho above and some rice.

To tell you the truth I really am not sure of what I did here as it was spontaneous, it was last week and I am too disorganized to have written anything down. I believe it involved garlic, olive oil, saffron, fennel seed, chili pepper and fresh tomatoes.

The gazpacho just contained roasted garlic, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, tomatoes, olive oil and some hard bread.

Here we have pan-seared red fish with brown rice and a little onion, tomato and basil in a vinaigrette. Chopped red Chinese peppers sprinkled onto the rice - delicious.

Mmm red fish!

This was interesting. I call it laksagna (laks is Danish for salmon). It was really quite spectacular, light and fresh tasting. I par-boiled the lasagna plates and made a simple mornay sauce. Fresh tomatoes and red onion. It got layered in a casserole and baked in the oven until the fish cooked through.

How about an apple break from mor mor's apple tree!

Next we have some flour tortillas above.

And here we have some goodies including my guacamole made in the mortar and pestle and 2 kinds of salsa, one mild and one spicy.

And finally pizza mortadella with fresh basil, mortadella ham (of course), mozzarela, garlic and onions and my fresh and beautiful pizza crust!

I apologize for not including detailed recipes on my posts, but that's really not what this is about. It's about sharing inspiration and my passion for home cooking and if your lucky (or unlucky depending on how you see it) you get a story or two. I mention ingredients that I use on some of the dishes so that, combined with the pictures will hopefully give you ideas.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Aioli and potaotes

It's been a while since I've used the mortar and pestle. I've been thinking about Spain quite a lot lately. I'm craving contrast to my current environment. Maybe it's the rain. Maybe it's my personality. Perhaps it's because I'm a Gemini. Whatever.

Above I'm slow roasting potatoes in the pan with some onions and garlic. I like em this way because they come out nice and meaty. The pan it slightly oiled.

I take the garlic out of the pan after a bit, depending on how strong you want the mayonnaise. I'm feeding kids here so I need to roast them a bit. I throw em in the mortar and pestle with some lemon, sea salt, and olive oil and I crush around. I throw in an egg yolk, a dash of mustard and continue grinding and melding until it's a bit thick.

There we go. Dash of paprika on the potatoes. Nice aioli and potatoes. Salud!

The macaroni, the shrimp her wife and their lovers

The above is a bowl filled with cucumbers, red pepper fruit and onions. They're bathing in salt, lime and vinegar, preparing for their marriage with baby shrimp, elbow pasta and fresh tomatoes. Talk about bigamy. Sheesh!

The shrimp is seen here with tomatoes and some homemade mayonnaise awaiting the dowry from the little elbows.

Ahhh....the glass breaks and we can all say mazel tov! The pickling stuff is added and now we have a lovely shrimp and macaroni salad!

Pork fried rice with a ray of sunshine

This is a no-brainer. I made the typical combination of rice wine vinegar, soya, sugar, fish sauce onions, cucumbers and garlic. Stir fried the rice with the sauce and threw in an egg. Some chunks of pork and we good to go, yo.

Minimal month will come to a halt soon. Then our asses are gonna get spicy and crazy again. Speaking of crazy I composed a horrific jingle for the Heady Pepper that sounds a cross between Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka cruising through the dark tunnel, Michael Jackson's Thriller and Ethel Murman on Paoti.

Jam on it!!!

I woke up one morning and saw some fruit that was just about past it's peak - some plums, pears, and apples. I decided to make a jam. I threw the fruit into a pot with about a cup of sugar, water, a pinch of nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon. I brought it to a boil and let it simmer for an hour or two until it looked like...

Delicious and no preservatives!

And I enjoyed one of my favorite meals. Scrambled eggs with a ton of black pepper and home made jam on toast!

I used to be a diner addict before I left the US. Unfortunately my tolerance has been reduced as my cholesterol level has gone way down since I've been away. When I go back I get the post diner food coma. But now I can emulate my favorite aspects of diner cuisine without the dry mouth, chest pains and shortness of breath.


In keeping with the theme of the last few weeks, this proved to break through the ever tightening challenge of using what remains in the cabinets.

Here we have some ground pork from the freezer, the rest of a bag of penne and a Spanish style tortilla made with carrots instead of potatoes. Crazy I know. Everything cooked separately and then baked a bit in the oven and held together with a home made mornay sauce.

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