The Accidental Recipe

September 1, 2010

I know it’s been some time since I last posted on this blog. Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that: time, motivation, and depression. The first two are self explanatory I think, but the last, depression, is due to my recent trip to Italy. The food was so good there that I knew whatever feeble attempts I tried in my kitchen would fall woefully short of the food I dined on in Italy, and I didn’t have the heart to face my rather large inadequacies in the culinary arts. That and it was summer in Dallas and who in their right mind wants to heat up the kitchen?

So with summer in it’s last stages and the memory of Italy a bit faded, I took up pan in hand and had at it. I threw caution to the wind for two reasons: I didn’t have a thing in the cupboard that was called for in the recipe, and therefore if my attempt failed, I had a reason to point to if my attempt was inedible.

So on my recent day off due to my birthday, I spent part of it at Central Market doing a little grocery shopping. I spied some Key West pink shrimp and ordered from the fish monger my usual amount-“grab a handful”.

That night I had an excellent birthday dinner with friends at Capital Grill which included among other delights a perfectly cooked (for me medium rare+) aged sirloin with a Kona coffee and cocoa rub. Melt in your mouth…so I decided to cook the shrimp the next evening. Pondering what direction I wanted to go with the shrimp- simple, sauteed in a little butter, or cooked with a tomato pasta sauce, or with a cream sauce. I opted for cream sauce, as I had some basics on hand, mainly milk and butter.

Looking through an old autographed cookbook that was mother’s, “Ann Clark’s Faboulous Fish”, I scanned for a cream sauce that would go with the shrimp and pasta I had pre set my taste buds on. I had almost nothing on hand the recipe required but I had what I thought were enough reasonable substitutes to make a daring and edible attempt.

Let’s see, the recipe called for:
a) 1 leek and 1 shallot…nope, I have some mild onion and some dried chives-close enough
b) butter…ok, got that
c) shrimp…ok, still good
d) dry white wine…how about a cheap sweet wine a co worker gave me last Christmas?
e) fresh basil…how ’bout dried?
f) heavy cream or creme fraiche…yeah, right, how about fat free milk and some butter
g) salt…sea salt (fancy! score one for me)
h) freshly ground white pepper…um, forgot to refill the pepper mill so with a nod to my mother who used lemon pepper in almost everything but ice cream, I used some of that
i) Moutarde de Meaux or other grainy prepared french mustard…Does an old jar of a grainy mustard that all the vinegar had evaporated out of work for ya?
j) freshly chopped chives, dill, tarragon…gunna use the dried chives again

Here’s the result simmering and thickening the sauce:

I boiled some water for the pasta, and while waiting for it to come to a boil that was enough time to make the sauce. I’ve gotten a bit lazy lately as I don’t even drain the pasta water anymore, I just scoop the pasta out of the pot to reserve the pasta water in case the sauce needs a little extra moisture.

Here’s the final plating with the wine and the yellowed cookbook that paved the way.

It turned out pretty good. I thankfully used only half the mustard called for in the recipe as the mustard was evident in the sauce, but not overwhelming. More of a “what’s that flavor?” as opposed to “wow, that’s some spicy mustard”.



July 2, 2010

I’ll post some quick comments about my recent Italy trip. I took notes on the go, on trains or in hotel rooms. I’ll probably edit these heavily unless there is a hue and cry to post my notes in a fuller form, as most of my notes were not necessarily about food and wine.

Been up for 38 hours straight. Connecting flight delayed 2+ hours for hydrolic leak to landing gear. A hard piece of luggage fell on my head from the overhead and my head is still sore!
All very tired but in good spirits. Had a nice Margarita pizza and 1/2 carafe of red house wine at a pizzeria near Porgeza hotel in Roma for € 15,50, not bad. Sat outside, nice and cool at night.  Very good, just what we needed to end a long day. The house wine in most of these places is quite good.

A James Bond breakfast

June 6, 2010

If you’ve ever read any of Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers, you know of his attention to detail. From the type of cotton in 007’s shirts (Sea Island cotton) to the camera equipment (“an M3 Leica, an MC exposure meter, a K2 filter and a flash holder.”) he used to entrap Auric Goldfinger cheating at Gin Rummy.

Also the food James Bond dines on is noted with detail: “When in London, Bond maintains a simple routine. Sitting down to The Times, he breakfasts on two large cups of “very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex” and an egg served in a dark blue egg cup with a gold ring round the top, boiled for three and a third minutes. There is also wholewheat toast, Jersey butter and a choice of Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegen Heather Honey from Fortnum and Mason, served on blue Minton china. Breakfast is prepared by May, his Scottish housekeeper, whose friend supplies the speckled brown eggs from French Marans hens.”

Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade, Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Bay’s English muffin, small “bangers”, (sausages), and an egg cooked over medium dusted with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt.

I will most likely never drive an Aston Martin DB5, but I can sure have the same brand of jam and marmalade 007 dines on! On a whim, I purchased a jar each of  Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam and Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade. I should stifle my whims in the future. Neither of these condiments are available domestically so I had to purchase them from British suppliers along with the subsequent shipping costs (uh oh). The Little Scarlet Strawberry jam is a limited run, as there is a limited supply of the type of strawberries used in this jam. The strawberries are one fifth the size of regular strawberries. The jam is not as cloyingly sweet as the regular strawberry jams you find at the grocery store. Not tart, but a nice balance of sweetness.

The Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade is tart, and has none of the sweetness that domestic orange marmalade exhibit. In the marmalade are very large strips or chunks of orange rind that impart the tartness to this toast topping.

When duplicating my breakfast of an international spy, instead of whole wheat toast, I used as a base for the jam and marmalade a Bay’s English muffin (shown in background of photo). If you like English muffins I urge you to try this brand found in your grocers refrigerator section. I believe they are unparalleled in taste and texture. Much larger nooks and crannies in these muffins to hold melted butter or the condiment of your choice.

Heaven on a plate

May 18, 2010

Just a quick shout out to Debz for the wonderful brunch she had on Mother’s day. I got to take home a goody bag of leftovers. Here’s the last piece of french toast (she went to 5 different stores to find the right bread). Over the toast is a homemade raspberry sauce that when no one was looking warranted licking the plate, along with homemade whipped cream and pecans. Yes it was worth every calorie. Thanks, Debz

Jungle juice

April 19, 2010

On the advice of my trainer (that sounds so official as if I’m bulking up, not) I bought some AÇAÍ juice that he recommended. It’s $7.99 for a 32 oz. bottle at Albertsons where he recommended I could find it. I’ve subsequently found it cheaper at Whole Foods and Central Market.You can study all the good things it will do for your body here:

I like this flavor the best of the two I tried. Your taste buds may vary. It’s quite good and refreshing and has a smooth almost oily mouth feel. That sounds weird, but don’t let it be off putting as this is really good juice. It tastes a bit like chocolate covered blueberries but not as tart.

Go get healthy with a little bit of the Amazon in your fridge.

I goofed

April 19, 2010

If you’ve ever had bacon wrapped shrimp, you know it’s an unholy alliance that makes your taste buds feel like they have committed a cardinal sin behind closed doors. There are many variations I suppose on how to mate sea and swine, but I did what I thought would be the simplest. Instead of actually wrapping raw bacon around raw shrimp, attached by toothpick and broiled, I opted to cook the bacon and shrimp separately.

One of the reasons I tried this is many a time I’ve had underdone bacon wrapped around overdone shrimp. So why not cook them separately in the manner and time that suits the bacon and shrimp best? I cooked the bacon first using my low and slow method (as mentioned in a previous post) giving it a head start. Once the bacon was cooked, I then cooked the shrimp in the bacon drippings. Now here’s the first part of the goof part-I used a peppered bacon. I got that bacon just because it was the leanest package I could find. That was my second mistake. If the bacon is too lean it won’t wrap around the shrimp (d’oh!). The pepper goof is that the pepper is too strong and overwhelms the delicate flavor of the shrimp. And you also don’t want to use a thick slice bacon because it will be too thick to wrap properly and it will probably be too strong in flavor.

One thing that might help is to blanch the bacon before cooking it as that will reduce the salt and smoke content and make the bacon milder in flavor. OK, now you know how not to do it.

Bible Bread

March 21, 2010

Ezekiel 4:9 “Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof…”

Ok, so it’s an old recipe. With futuristic pricing. I bought a loaf of Ezekiel 4:9 the other day on the advice of the trainer I was seeing. It’s a loaf relatively high in protein and low on carbohydrates. I opted for the low sodium version. And to be truthful, I think it tastes like old bread. It comes frozen as there are no preservatives. So frozen bread is not too appetizing. I tried toasting it to see if that enhanced the flavor. Didn’t help. Now possibly the low sodium version is not as tasty as the other versions available. I’m not sure if I feel I need to find a loaf they make that I’ll like.

I’m a bit disappointed that Jesus or one of his relatives did not appear on my toast.

[Edit: Upon further review (or revelation ;^ ) as I had a piece of toast this morning), I think the culprit is the low sodium of the loaf I chose. I think the lack of salt just kills the taste. That and I very lightly toasted the last piece I ate so I think the light toaster setting helps bring out the flavor.]

So I can’t recommend the low sodium version, but let divine inspiration guide you to a choice of their other offerings.