To eat or not to eat, that is the question;
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The aches and pains of culinary delicacies,
Or to take pause against a plate of shellfish,
And by opposing, eat them. To cook, to eat;
That’s right. Once again I have been attacked by the “kings disease.” You know they label gout the “kings disease” because back in the day, only the nobles could afford the rich foods that cause the debilitating digression. Here it is a week later and I am still not totally out of the woods. No pain now, but soreness. Gout is the ultimate foodie curse!
Shellfish, beans, and other gout causing dishes aside, we love to take advantage of a good sweet dish. Becky has a giant sweet tooth. She can eat sweets like they are going out of style and never gain a pound, me, on the other hand, yeah, not so much. That doesn’t stop me though. I have to take the sweets in moderation. There’s that word again.
Now I absolutely love brownies. I don’t know what it is, but a warm brownie with vanilla ice cream sends me to a euphoric place. I also love cheesecake. Cherry cheesecake has been a favorite of mine since I was a tyke. So when I saw the recipe for brownie-bottom lemon cheesecake in the May edition of Bon Appétit, I knew immediately that I was going to make it. And we did.
This cheesecake turned out almost perfectly. The brownie bottom was a bit tedious to negotiate; it was very chewy. This was a good thing for eating, but a bit of an issue to slice through when cutting slices of the cake. Other than that, it was perfect. It had the right consistency of a New York cheesecake. We added more lemon than the recipe called for just because I juiced a ton of lemons and we took liberties with the garnish. All in all, I would highly recommend this recipe for those who have an insatiable sweet tooth.
I’ll be honest, not that I am not usually, but, I really find it difficult to eat in a healthy manner. I mean, I eat healthy portions and I use healthy ingredients, but more often than not, those healthy ingredients are besieged by an onslaught of fat; be it cream, pork fat, butter, you know that really tasty stuff. I need like a fat-equals-flavor twelve step program.
We have made a huge change since my last few conversations with my internist. I got the usual lecture; less of this, more of that, cut that out completely, I can’t believe you actually DO that! So, I have spent time on the interweb Googling, and Googling until I found various methodologies and theories. So after much pondering and sleepless nights, I conversed with the wife and after many a negotiation and critical thought I had an epiphany. We’ll incorporate muh… modum… um… *sigh*
It seems we were actually doing that with the healthy stuff; moderating it when it should be the other way around. So call it a reverse healthy culinary application. I do.
Most of the meals that I have been preparing in this new health conscious manner have been purely experimental and not yet ready for the blog. I still have a nice uber-caloric comfort meal from time to time, it’s just that the ratio has changed.
With this meal, I had to share. I saw a recipe for sake sea bass in the May issue of Gourmet magazine and I thought, this looks healthy and flavorful. So I decided to give it a try. I only used the recipe as a guide and I can attest that this is a great launching pad for any type of improvisation that you can think of.
I decided to place a few shitake mushrooms at the bottom of the parchment paper topped with a 5-6 oz sea bass fillet that had been seasoned with salt and pepper.
The bass was then topped with a sake wine, soy sauce, red pepper flake mixture. I used enough of this for each pouch to come up to about halfway of the fillet. The finishing touch was a kiss of some shaved ginger, minced garlic, and scallions. Each pouch was tied with kitchen twine, placed on a baking sheet, then into a pre-heated 400 degree-f oven to 12-15 minutes. The parchment enclosure makes for a nice steaming vessel and the fillets were perfectly done. They were flaky, juicy, and full of flavor, with NO FAT!!!
Now here’s a dish representing, I think, a cultural history that is one of the tastiest; Creole and Native American. I guess it is technically Acadian French (Cajun) and Native American, but I like to Creole it up a bit. Plus, Southern Louisiana dishes always have me befuddled as to which is Creole specifically and which is Cajun specifically. I’d like to meet an expert and pick his brains for about a day.
Well for those of you who don’t know, introducing Maque Choux. It’s pronounced ‘mock shoe’ and it is one of the tastiest blends of ingredients I ever put on a plate. Really.
The idea for this dish was a whim, but most of my dishes are. I bought some ramps off eBay for the first time after reading about them from my blogging bud Claudia. I wanted a way to use them. I must testify, these are wonderful little taste bud exciters. They aren’t garlicy, per se, nor oniony, rather a blend of both with a serious punch of flavor. I’m serious people, these little guys may look like scallions, but I warn you, they are not. They are much better. It is a shame that their season is only from April to the end of May, but this is one wild leek that I will put on my calendar for an annual reminder.
So I’m thinking I want some okra as well. I don’t know why I have been craving okra as of late, but I have been seriously jonezin for the slimy little veggie. By the way, for those of you who think that okra is too slimy to put into your dishes, in this dish the okra slime is better than a tasteless corn starch slurry with regard to thickening the sauce.
So I decide to head to the web, my massive array of dust collecting recipe books notwithstanding, to find something that I can make with the ramps and the okra. I definitely did NOT want to make risotto with okra. No way. I found several variations of this dish floating about and decided to concoct my own version. You see, maque choux is typically served as a Creole/Cajun side dish as in succotash; sans limas. But add some crawfish, chiclen, or what have you to make this really a treat. You can make it quickly too. If you chose to use frozen ingredients then you have an even quicker meal.
Trust me, because I was a Boy Scout and Boy Scouts are trustworthy, this is something that you want to try. Mine is a bit on the spicy side, but like I said, the combination of ingredients is really up to you. You really only need start the base with corn, bell pepper, tomato, celery, and onion.
Quick and delicious. Sometimes this is the way to go. You know the days. One of those I-don’t-really-feel-like cooking, ordering in, or driving thru and yet, we must eat ‘cause Ize kinda hungry, nights.
This is a dish for one of those nights when it has to be done quickly (and deliciously) with minimal fuss. And let me tell you, this tastes much mo better than frozen or canned anything. Unless they’ve got bacon in a can and I simply have yet to find it.
Nevertheless, it can often be a challange to whip-up a meal quickly, during the week or otherwise, and make it really delicious. So with me, when I find one of those types of dishes, most of them not blog worthy, I put them into the standard rotation.
There is a consideration here that can transform this dish from good to great and that is the Marsala sauce. I am, of course, now writing to the non-chefs, as if I has any chefs read my blog… Marsala sauce is your basic pan sauce; meat drippings, shallot, butter, and stock along with the Marsala wine. This wine is like port or sherry and it is fortified, meaning that another type of alcohol has been added to it to make its alcohol content higher.
One if the things I found out about Marsala wines is that they are not equal at all. Some are sweet, some are dry, some are semi-sweet. The taste of older Marsala is more pronounced than younger. Well, it is wine, yes?
My suggesstion here is to find one you like. I would think that if you like your wines sweet, try the sweet Marsala wine. I prefer dry wines and I prefer a dry Marsala. I’m not sure, but I thing dry is the traditional Italian way. Don’t quote me on this though. I would highly suggest that you buy your Marsala wine where you buy your better wines not over there in that isle comingling with the salty and verbotten “cooking” wines.
As with most dishes that have been around for a while, there are variations. I couldn’t begin to tell you which manner is authentic. I can, however, tell you this manner tastes good.
Well, I have been in some kind of non-blog mode; a funk, a fog. It is sort of like a cross between writer’s block and jock itch. I don’t know how or why this happens, but every so often, I step back from blogging and wish I was blogging. Maybe that’s the Gemini in me or maybe I should stop rationalizing/philosophizing and realize I just haven’t felt like it.
I can tell you a one thing that has been going on. That is I LOVE MY MAC!!!!!!! Sorry….. I can be loud sometimes. That’s right. I am a convert. I had, what I thought to be the Bentley of laptop computers for a little over three years; you know just long enough to have no more warranty. This was an HP, 17 inch monitor, 2 gig RAM, even a separate numeric keyboard which is unheard of on a laptop. I was liking this thing for the first year, very much.
Then the hard drive crashed. No biggie. After ironing out some small warranty details, we got that figured out. But still, a year for a drive. That had me worried. As it should have. Not more than 8 months later, the entire mother board had to be replaced. Then the thing would overheat and simply shut down while I would be downloading some really good pr0n.
Food pr0n, if you must know. In any case, one day I was doing something that, I felt, was more important than that the need for the laptop to freeze, thus killing any and all of accomplished tasks. So I did what any normal frustrated computer user would do. I beat the livin’ shit out of it!
Yup. Sure did. I literally threw jabs, crosses, and upper-cuts to the monitor with the occasional ‘bow to the keyboard. This felt extremely liberating….
…at the time.
It was destroyed. The LCD was covered in a black mass reminiscent of Lake Pontchartrain. It still boot up and ran as if to taunt me, to give me the proverbial bird only in digit-al. Well I put all that to rest with a brand new MacBook Pro. I absolutely love this machine. I didn’t go for the 17 inch, got the 15 instead and it is still one of the best machines I have ever worked on. I still have 2 high powered Windoze machines in the house, but now my wife has converted as well and she got an iMac. Converts we are!
I am also a long-time-coming convert to pink pork as well. For so long I have eaten and cooked pork to the n-th degree of doneness only to end up with a petrified slab of hot shoe leather. No. Now we do not sweat the small stuff. Today’s swine are raised in much better conditions than than those like the ones who belonged to the laundry man in the T.V. show Deadwood. That would be filthy bad. Now we can cook out pork to 140 degrees-f and be happy.
This dish was one of those that just jumped off the pages of F&W and pleaded with me to make it. I had not issues with obliging. The spices were the main thing for me here. Fennel and mustard seeds with mustard and red pepper flakes? Oh yes. If I remember correctly, I added the red pepper, because.
I have had pork tenderloin seventeen ways from yesterday and this seemed somehow to be different. And, compared to what we have had before, this was a winner.
No real recipe for the stewed okra; just some okra, onion, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, and a bit of tomato paste. When I get the recipe down, I will be sure and post it.