Eggless meal

Reading through Paleo Slow Cooking I stumbled through this recipe for a morning hash without eggs. Why? Chrissy’s husband doesn’t like eggs that much. And I feel sad about that.

20130513-210305.jpg
One of the great things about Slow Cooking is that you can prep all the ingredients before hand and then dump them in the crockpot when you finally need to cook. I had sliced and diced the peppers, the onion and the sweet potatoes (3, 1, 3, respectively) the previous night, and put everything together the following morning. The protein for this meal was two pounds of sausage.

20130513-210433.jpg
Eight hours later, the sausage was perfectly done, and the veggies were soft and moist. And yes, I used this recipe for dinner, even if it’s supposed to be a breakfast substitute. I don’t care. Besides, breakfast for dinner is fantastic!

20130513-210620.jpg
So good!

I need carbs

I usually eat a lot. A freaking lot. A “Alan, you are scaring me” amount of food. Thing is, even if I get satiated, it won’t last that long. Almost the opposite of what is supposed to happen when most of your calories are from protein and saturated fats, right? Well, what happens is that when I’m being a lazy bastard and just doing what I do for a living, I actually can feel satisfied pretty easily. But when I work out… well, things get out of hand.

20130326-193044.jpg
So I’ve decided to go up a teeny little bit on the carbs. As in, I will try to eat a sweet potato a day. And what better way to do it than breakfast! Learning from NomNom I shredded it and fried it in butter with salt and pepper. I did that on purpose – I still don’t know what flavors go well with a sweet potato, so I decided to keep it simple.

20130326-193256.jpg
Yeah, my breakfast was three fried eggs, one whole sweet potato (fried), one broccoli head (steamed) and some cauliflower, mashed. And I was hungry around noon after that.
I’m a freaking worm hole.

Reading faux pas

So, I’ve mentioned that when you are cooking you need to think the process, all the way from reading the recipe (or analyzing the pantry) up to serving the dish to yourself or your wonderful guests. I didn’t.

20130128-082101.jpg
For the curry that the Virginia Hunter-Gatherers wrote I did not read the recipe. I did not look at the ingredients, and ended up getting only a pound of stew meat when the recipe required three; I made the onion-ginger-garlic paste and started simmering it before I had made the coconut milk; and forgot that i had curry paste, not powder, before I had dumped everything in the Dutch oven.

20130128-082428.jpg
This is where you start to get creative: I made the coconut milk while the paste was simmering (and the onion fragranced my kitchen).

20130128-082528.jpg
I riced the cauliflower while the sauce was simmering.

20130128-082604.jpg
And I removed half the sauce after the first twenty minutes of reduction to save it for another day – when I buy another pound or two of chuck and put it in the slow cooker.

20130128-082644.jpg
And I cleaned the dishes while I waited for the curry to be done. I added turmeric to balance the curry paste, since I expected it to be far more concentrated than curry powder – it also helped bringing out the taste of ginger. I didn’t add too much salt – just a bit after the first reduction, so I will need to add salt when I’m cooking the other portion of the curry.

20130128-082826.jpg
Saved face, and ended with a delicious meal!

Does this make me a cook?

My best friend (Hola Alfredo!) is a professional chef. As in classically trained, worked in restaurants and was featured as one of the main cooks in a massive county event in Durango, Mexico, a couple months ago. His specialty are meats in mexican cooking, but he failed his course on bakery. Mind you, he was working on a charity to feed poor people, but still, he failed.

Me? I am not a chef. Not a cook. Not even a fry cook. If I were to work at Denny’s most of the dishes would be returned because they look ugly or something they wouldn’t like. I, however, made to goal to survive in the kitchen even if it were by following recipes blindly left and right. Yet, Alfredo pointed to me that during my journey I must have picked up some little skills and techniques that might actually make my food a bit more my own, and not just following a recipe, and surprisingly I have to agree with him.

The Bacon and Cabbage soup I always cook is mostly chopped bacon, with its fat rendered in which cabbage is fried and then boiled in chicken stock. This time, however, I decided to first fry some onions and some garlic in the rendered fat before I added the cabbage; I added pepper and herbs de provence to the cabbage when fried and let it boil for almost thirty minutes, with just a dash of apple cider vinegar as an effort to bring out the flavors.

20130121-144314.jpg
The result was a much more intense, much deeper soup. I am happily chowing it down as an attempt to keep whatever bug I caught away. And I am also proud that I am actually starting to make concoctions that differ of the Kitchen Sink approach I use every once in a while.

B-B-Q

The other dish mexicans (or at least, us from Durango) consume while curing a hang over from the weekend and getting ready for Sunday’s soccer beers is Barbacoa, which is completely different from barbeque.

20130121-135812.jpg
Photo from Wikipedia
In its most basic form, barbacoa is sheep’s or goat’s meat steamed until tender – as a matter of fact, they will sell you the cuts (depends on the butcher, but shoulder is usually a good choice) and you only need to steam it; when served you accompany it with chopped cilantro, chopped onions and a plethora of sauces. However, the more you dig into the history of this dish, the more fascinating techniques you find to cook it, including the mythical Bajio’s method (referring to the geographical location in mid-Mexico, around the state of Guanajuato) in which they dig a hole, they put embers, and they introduce the whole sheep wrapped in banana leaves to steam for twelve hours. They tend to reserve that for weddings.
I have to say this is one of those dishes I miss the most, I commit myself to do it and then forget about it until I have the cravings again. It’s a simple dish (I am not going to bury down a whole sheep in the ground – knowing Boulder’s environmental laws they would probably call me and question me) and it actually has a pretty good yield, since the meat is shredded and it then to get stuck into the teeth, making you chew more slowly and letting your stomach reach the point of fulfillment. However, it is sacrilege to serve it with a salad (tacos are mandatory when discussing barbacoa) so you need to make a hearthy, full of vegetables soup to go with it.

Four per head of cattle

Sunday morning back home (I’m from a city called Durango in Mexico. I used to think it was really small – it turns out it’s bigger than Denver!) people get up late. I mean late, no one is up before ten am, except for those who work in food related businesses, such as restaurants and diners (called “fondas”), and even they don’t open until ten. And they mostly offer one of two dishes: barbacoa (shredded goat meat) or menudo (tripe). I’ll talk about the latter today, about the former tomorrow.

Tripe in Mexico is only consumed Sundays, for breakfast, and with one goal only: to cure the hangover you had from drinking Friday and Saturday, so you can actually start drinking beer with the soccer games. It’s heavily spiced with oregano, peppers, cumin, paprika, cilantro and onions. It’s a warm, spicy soup that is supposed to make you sweat and wake you up and remove every single feeling you might have about the alcohol you consumed.

20130121-065445.jpg
Photo from No Recipes
I am not sure I enjoyed it, maybe it wasn’t well cooked or I was expecting more. The taste was great – the blend of spices, a secret of the restaurant I went to, did what was supposed to do; warmed me up and made me sweat even though the temperature outside was close to 30F and inside wasn’t that warm either (we don’t use heating or furnaces that much, but that may change with the increasing colds we are getting). However, the texture was a bit rubbery and chewy, almost like eating meat taste chewing gum, so it wasn’t completely tasty.

Maybe if instead of the fancy restaurant had I gone to the old lady across the street that also sells tripe every weekend (since there’s a taco cart real close, and they serve hang over tacos) I would have had better luck. I didn’t go hungry though: I did finish my plate and kept with the other dishes I was eating. Who knows.

I don’t know if I will cook tripe any time soon (I’m leading towards no). Not because it can be gross (I eat liver for Gandalf’s sake) but because it is complicated and time consuming, mostly preparing the stomachs of the cow. The procedure that I know involves washing, rinsing, drying, soaking and squeezing, several times for several hours (the soaking, not the squeezing) before you can actually start cooking it, so it would be a big time commitment. But, I will keep it in the back burner, so yes, it is in consideration. If I find a good source!

Michael Ruhlman’s Six – What came first?

No, I haven’t forgotten rules four (onions) and five (acid). It’s just that my logistics (fine, my lack of organization) dictated that I worked with eggs first.
Eggs are the swiss blade of cooking. They can be a foundation (cakes, custards), a compliment (sauces, mayonnaise), a work of art (souffle) or a complete meal in themselves. So it is understandable that Ruhlman dedicated a whole chapter to them. He spends a lot of time talking about the multiple uses of eggs -particularly for custards.
Scrambled eggs are NOT my specialty. That would be the frittatta, since all I need for that is a broiler, a cast iron pan and whatever I find in my kitchen. Scrambled eggs, on the other hand, are a subject of eternal debate between my american friends and I, since I prefer to scramble them in the pan, while they prefer to scramble them in a bowl and then curd them in the pan. Being an american, Ruhlman follows the latter and I decided to follow the recipe.

20121211-101402.jpg
Eggs in a double boiler is probably one of the things I would have NEVER thought to do. So I sliced some chives, opened the goat cheese, beat the eggs until uniform and waited for the water to boil.

20121211-101455.jpg
First some butter, then the eggs, then… wait? Even though the water was boiling and the inside pan was hot the eggs took a LONG time to cook. Really long time. At some point I gave up, moved it to the stove, added the goat cheese immediately and prayed to God it would work. It did, but of course some of it stuck to the pan.

20121211-101950.jpg
Chives and more goat cheese for garnish. They tasted like heaven, or what heaven would taste like were it made of eggs and goat cheese.