Ponderings About Food

We were watching my current favourite TV food show, Ugly Delicious with David Chang the other night. It was the Home Cooking episode, and it brought up some interesting thoughts about food and our relation to it.

First of all, let me go on about Ugly Delicious. This show is probably the most cerebral food show I’ve ever seen. Bourdain’s No Reservations was along the same lines, but Ugly Delicious really gets into some deep thinking – which I adore. (Chang was a friend of Bourdain’s and had a chapter in The Nasty Bits.) David’s partner in this show and his magazine Lucky Peach, Peter Meehan, is a food writer who also owns a huge food oriented book store that I really need to go to. These two explore food in a way I’ve never seen in a show before. They look at the roots of it, the people who make it, the people who consume it and the social contexts of all this. It’s brilliant, really. You should watch it.

Anyway, aside from my fangirling, this show always leaves me thinking about it after I watch an episode. The episode we watched the other night was about home cooking, and it in, Chang and Meehan go to Chang’s family’s Thanksgiving feast. They cook the “white people” food and Chang’s mother does the Korean food. (The spread was MASSIVE!!) During the episode, Chang talks of his childhood spent watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen, learning how to do the family recipes. He went to culinary school, where the French methods rule, and felt that his Korean food heritage was somehow less than the fancy French cuisine he learned in school and cooked in the restaurants he worked in. It took him a very long time to come around to the fact that his family’s comfort foods may not be pretty, but they are ugly delicious and they deserve to be represented in the world of cuisine. That’s what spurred him to open his first restaurant, Momofuku.

All this discussion about home cooking, made me reflect upon my own upbringing and the foods that I remember the most. I mostly remember my grandmother’s cooking. It was never fancy, but always good. We always had a massive garden (1/3 – 2/3 acre or so) and I clearly remember watching my Gran putting up Silver Queen corn (cream style), green beans, tomatoes (YES Alton Brown, you CAN can tomatoes!!) and making blackberry jelly. I also remember her making fudge and what she called cream puffs, but were actually éclairs, and chocolate pie (my favourite!). She’d make Stack Cake with homemade apple butter at holidays.

Speaking of holidays, my Aunt and Uncle (mom’s brother) would always host the holiday family gatherings. It was mostly Aunt Vera’s family and my grandmother’s sisters and brothers. There’d be a HUGE buffet with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, all the standards. Some of the women would bring things, but it was mostly my grandmother and aunt who did the cooking.

Years later, we were visiting a friend’s grandmother during Thanksgiving and of course, we were encouraged to eat. So we did and I was surprised to find that her grandmother’s cooking was almost identical to what my family made. So, there’s your proof that cooking is indeed regional, perhaps more than even I suspected it was!

So, back to the family foods thread. My mother was not what I’d call a great cook. She knew all the standard stuff (regional dishes), but when she married my father, he demanded that she cook like his mother did. Apparently his mother was a fan of overcooked, very greasy food. So my mother cooked the stuff that he liked and in the way he liked it. Then came the 70s and casseroles – OY, so many casseroles. My mother could make a good fried chicken and a good turkey, but most everything else was mush. And she did not like to cook, so I really believe that her dislike of it is what ruined the taste and made her food unremarkable. My dislike of her food is why I started cooking for myself. I tell you, if the food culture back then had been what it is now, I’d already be a chef with 35 years experience. I watched Julia Child and Jacques Pépin when I was a kid and was fascinated, so the desire was there even then.

Then a friend on FB mentioned kids’ anxiety and how it seems to be related to being over scheduled, and how this has made them anxious if they don’t have something to do. She mentioned sitting on the porch snapping green beans with her grandmother as a kid – as I did. THAT got me to thinking about how perhaps all this stimulation and busy-ness could have something to do with the proliferation of all these chef boxes with prepped food that you just have to cook. For me, food prep is my happy place. I don’t listen to music, I just get into a groove of cutting and measuring and enjoying the process. I think that kids who’ve been brought up with helicopter parents and every minute scheduled and monitored don’t have the ability to just BE. They really can’t just do nothing or enjoy the simplicity of snapping green beans for an hour. We were never scheduled as kids. We thought up things to do or wandered around the neighborhood. I remember making up commercials and acting them out when I was bored. Kids don’t do that now, they are scheduled, anxious and antsy. No wonder the thought of an hour of standing in one spot cutting veg is horrifying to them!

It makes sense to me that kids brought up with never having downtime would be terrible at food prep. It is a meditative process. Ask anyone who does it for a living! Anne Burrell once commented on her cooking show that shelling peas is one of her favourite things to do, but she “doesn’t get to do it” now that she’s an executive chef. Notice the GET in that sentence. It’s not a chore, it’s something she LIKES to do. I totally feel that way, too. I can’t WAIT to do prep all day. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. (Now, ask me that after doing it for six months in a restaurant kitchen! LOL I might have a different view!)

The idea that I’d like to get across in this post is the thought provoking nature of Ugly Delicious and how much I really do think about food and how people relate to it. Everyone feels that their home cooking and comfort foods are no big deal and not worth cooking in a restaurant. BUT. Look at how dining out has changed in the last decade! Comfort foods are everywhere. There are grilled cheese restaurants FFS!! Pretty much all the ethnic foods you seek out are comfort foods for that culture. Western (European) cuisine has been about fancy and pretty for a very long time, and I, for one, am glad that we’re moving away from that. I really detest fussy food. Which is why I’m a great cook, but a terrible “Foodie”. I don’t like spending $100 a plate for things that I can replicate (even if they are fancy). I am almost always let down with fancy places, honestly.

I’m very, very happy that comfort food is its own culinary thing now. It is what I cook, what I’m good at, and hopefully what my customers will like. My recipes are literally from my kitchen. They may have exotic Asian ingredients, but they are truly what I cook for us. I don’t make much of the foods I grew up with, but I intend to remedy that. I’ve done canning for years and I’m going to try to see if I can channel my Gran and make some of her favourite desserts – especially that stack cake, which is an Appalachian regional item. I won’t make my own apple butter, but I am pretty sure I can make the cake part – it’s basically spice pancakes. I am a horrible baker, but I think I can give pâte à choux a go, and I know I can make pastry cream for éclairs. I’ve made chocolate pie before – it’s just pastry cream with chocolate in it. I am good with pies, madeleines, galettes and biscuits, but cookies elude me! Oh, and I can make lava cakes. I can even make soufflés, but cakes and cookies? Not so much. Come to think of it, Gran didn’t do cakes and cookies much, either. Perhaps it’s genetic! :D

I encourage YOU to think about the food you grew up with and your relationship with food. If you don’t cook, why not try some simple recipes? I’ve got dozens on this blog that are easy. If you do cook, do you make foods from your culture or region? Why or why not? Food sustains us, but it’s also a big part of our upbringing. I think that it is also an important part of our culture(s). I’m going to get out my Gran’s cookbook and see what I can find in there. I encourage you to do the same with your family’s cuisine. Bon appétit!

Harissa Coconut Slow Cooker Pork Ribs

Harissa Coconut Pork Ribs

Harissa Coconut Slow Cooker Pork Ribs
2.5# boneless pork shoulder ribs (sometimes labeled country style)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 medium onion, large dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tbl harissa paste (You can find this at large Kroger stores. If you use powder, use 1 Tbl with 1tsp oil.)
2 small jalapenos or serranos, finely diced
1 small can coconut milk (unsweetened, or half a regular sized can)
1 Tbl soy sauce
S/P
1 tsp coriander
Juice of one lime
fresh cilantro for serving

Clean ribs of all surface fat. Combine next 5 ingredients in a large bowl and coat ribs thoroughly. Heat up a large pan with a couple Tbl of oil and sear the pork ribs. Don’t burn the sugar, but get them nicely browned; season lightly with salt and black pepper. Put ribs back in the spice rub bowl and set aside. Put 3/4 of the onion, garlic, harissa and chiles in the drippings from the ribs and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add in coconut milk and soy sauce and bring up to boil, kill heat.

In a crock pot, spray the crock with food release such as Pam and put reserved onions in the bottom. Layer in ribs with any leftover rub and drippings. Then sprinkle second tsp of coriander and 1/4 tsp salt over ribs. Pour the veg and coconut milk mixture over ribs. Cook on low for 4-5 hrs or high for about 3-3.5 hours. Feel free to add a little water or stock if you feel they are too dry.

After the ribs are cooked and soft, remove from the crock pot and set aside. Put a screen sieve over a small pan and strain the liquids into the pot (OR if you like a chunkier sauce as I do, just leave all the veg in there and give it a quick whizz with the immersion blender to make the sauce). Let the sauce sit for 15 minutes or so, to let the fat rise to the top. Ladle off as much fat as you can, then put the sauce over medium heat and simmer until it thickens. If it doesn’t get as thick as you’d like, add a tsp of cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbl water and boil for 2 minutes to tighten it up. After the sauce is done and off heat, add the lime juice. (Adding lime juice before a boil will make it bitter.)

Serve over polenta or grits with the sauce spooned over and fresh cilantro leaves on top. Or serve with broccoli or other veg for low carb.

So, this is happening…

Remember over two years ago when we were hot to trot about opening a pub? Well, we have made that dream come true!

When Nick’s job ended and I began at Krobar, we really didn’t know what we’d do. One of Nick’s bosses had expressed interest in funding our pub idea, but then backed out. I was over it and figured I’d just work this shitty Kroger job and try not to get fired. Nick was over it, too.

One day, Nick was tooling around the intertubes, looking at various funding sites, etc., and he came across this thing called the ROBS Program from the IRS. There are several companies who administer them, but Nick contacted Guidant Financial.

When he told me about this Wile E Coyote plan, I was skeptical. Plus, it costs $5k to put it in place and $139/mo administration fees forever after that. But we discussed it and then had a call with a sales weasel from Guidant and after more discussion, we decided to do it.

What ROBS is, is a plan – fully backed by the IRS – that allows you to take your 401k money, roll it into a NEW 401k under your company name, then dump that money into your C corporation bank account. No penalties or fees, other than the $5k you pay Guidant to manage all the paperwork. They issue you “stock” for the $5k, so it’s sort of refunded.

Long story short: we now have $107,681.95 in the IndigoDragon Inc. bank account and we can now start looking for commercial real estate. :) (You can’t look at commercial real estate until you engage a realtor, and for that, you gotta have fat stacks in the bank. Now we do!!)

There are myriad rules when dealing with ROBS and the C corporation, but so far, Guidant support has been good. Dealing with a C corporation rather than the standard LLC or S corp that most small businesses use is a huge PITA, and we’ll get taxed twice (once on the corp and once on our income), but it is a strict rule and it’s the price we’ll pay until we can get out from under the ROBS program. I’m hoping 2-3 years and we can buy out of it and be on our own. But in any case, we are funded, and…

I’m making the announcement:

PLAYER ONE ARCADE PUB IS REAL. WE ARE DOING IT.

We are putting literally every bit of money we have into this project. We eat/sleep/breathe it. It’s all we talk about. Midlife crisis FTW!

I’ve quit the Krobar and shout out to Doug, Thaddeus, Cheri, Aaron, Miranda and everyone who made my last day a BLAST! Man, we had some fun up in the Krobar yesterday! LOL No adult supervision! Wheeeee! Ended up staying on for a bit longer, but they reduced the hours of the bar when I was off for Momo, so I did quit. The wine steward is out of that hellhole, too. FUCK KROGER.

If any of you would like to keep up with our progress on the bar, please follow the Player One Arcade Services FB page. Hopefully I can change the name again and use this page, but I’m not sure, since it’s been changed before. In any case, all announcements and news will be posted on the current FB page and the website. There are benefits to following along early, such as dry run invitations (FREE food and booze!), helping me create the menu and bar (I LOVE INPUT!) and being on our Friends and Family supporter list (discounts and perks!)! Come on over, give us a follow and let’s DO THIS!

Shrimp in Creamy Prosecco Sauce with Linguine Fini

This is my take on a VERY old recipe that I pulled from a magazine in the late 80s or early 90s. I still have the clipping (pic below) and it’s still a solidly delicious recipe! I’ve made it many times and not only is it super easy, it’s super deelish! The original recipe calls for champagne and is lacking garlic, but otherwise this is pretty close. You can change up the herbs and give it different flavor profiles. You could even make this Asian by using coconut milk and ginger. It’s a method, the flavour profile is determined by your choice of herbs and spices. I’m going to do Asian next time I make this. I’ll post the results!

Shrimp w/ Creamy Prosecco Sauce

Shrimp in Creamy Prosecco Sauce with Linguine Fini
1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 Tbl cajun seasoning or dry Old Bay
EVOO
1 Tbl butter
1/2 small package cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium shallot, small dice
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
S/P
1 tsp dry basil (or dill or parsley)
1 cup prosecco or champagne
3 Tbl grated parmesan
~1 cup heavy cream
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 package of linguine fini, prepare as instructed on box (substitute: angel hair)

METHOD:
Clean the shrimp and coat in the cajun seasoning, set aside.

Start the pasta water (don’t forget to add salt!!). Cook pasta while you’re doing the next steps.

Start a large nonstick skillet over medium to med hi heat with a few turns of olive oil and the butter. When hot, add shallot, shrooms, garlic and basil. Sauté the veg until the shrooms give off their water, then add shrimp and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue to sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add prosecco and cook for a minute. Add heavy cream – use enough to create a thick sauce, it’s about a cup, more or less. Bring to boil and cook a couple of minutes. Add parmesan – this is for added flavour and to thicken. Adjust to your taste. Add in about 2/3 of the scallions and save the rest for garnish. Check for S/P levels before serving. Keep in mind that the pasta will negate some of the seasoning, so go a little heavy.

Serve over linguine fini (or angel hair) and garnish with scallions. Drink the rest of the prosecco with dinner. Makes about 4 servings.

Here is the original clipping!

Original recipe clipping!

Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Galette

If you can make this galette dough, you can fill it with ANYTHING. It can be sweet or savoury. It’s a METHOD that I use for all sorts of fruits and stuff. A very good savoury is caprese: tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. Leave out the sugar or sub salt for savoury, obviously. Adding parmesan would be nice with the caprese I just mentioned…

Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Galette


Honeyed Fig and Goat Cheese Galette
1 small carton fresh Mission figs (about 6-8), halved top to bottom, then sliced longways
4 oz goat cheese (I found HONEY goat cheese!!) room temp
3-4 oz cream cheese, room temp
2 Tbl honey
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 egg + 1 Tbl water for wash
large crystal sugar or Demerara sugar

Dough
1 cup A/P flour
1 cup S/R flour
2 Tbl sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon or even ginger, depending on what you’re putting in it!)
1 stick cold butter (I use salted), diced
1/3-1/2 ice water

Preheat oven to 400F.

Stir together dry dough ingredients. Cut in butter (just like for biscuits) until you have pea sized pieces. Start adding the ice water and stir in with a spatula. Keep adding water until the dough JUST sticks together. Don’t make it wet.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and roll up/knead a couple of times to make sure it’s all together. Don’t overwork. Pat into a 6″ disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a half hour or even over night.

While the dough is resting, cream together goat cheese, cream cheese, honey and lemon zest.

After dough has rested, turn out on a floured board and roll out to about 1/4″ thick. No need for perfectly round, this is a rustic galette. The rough disk should be about 10-12″ across. Roll up on roller and transfer to a baking sheet ON PARCHMENT PAPER. Do not skip the parchment. It is the only way to get the baked galette off the sheet.

Dump the cheese mixture in center of dough and ever so gently spread it into a disk that stops at least 2″ from the edges of the dough. I used my fingers to spread this, it worked better than the spatula. Place the figs around the edge of the cheese mixture – put extras in the middle. Drizzle with a little honey.

Fold up the dough, making pleats where needed, being careful not to tear it. Brush dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Top the figs with a few thyme leaves and sugar.

Bake in a 400F oven for about 30-40 mins, until the dough is golden. Top with more thyme leaves when you take it from the oven. Wait at least 15 minutes before transferring to a plate or you’ll break it. To transfer, slide the parchment from the baking sheet over to a plate, then pull the parchment out from under the galette. Serve warm or room temp.