Sunday, March 30, 2008

Miscellaneous food talk

After I got home from work, I needed to do a little practicing, but I decided that after that I would finish making my beer truffles. The only way I could get both accomplished was to use my chocolate machine. It's sort of like a Ron Popeil machine: set it and forget it, baby! It really is a slick piece of equipment. It makes the process fairly fool proof, and unlike my previous efforts, I don't need to be hovering over the chocolate the entire time. You drop in the chocolate, turn it on, and let it do its thing. That machine allowed me to whip up two dozen truffles tonight before I went to bed. Not bad.

And I think the truffles aren't bad either. I'm very curious to see what other people think however, and my good westsiders...have no fear that you will have a taste!

On the freezer purge front, I've enjoyed making do this week with what food that I already had on hand. Far too often I find that food goes to waste in the freezer, so it's felt good to dig deep and get a little creative. The past couple of days I've been eating some pulled pork that came from a pork shoulder I bought sometime this past summer. It turned out pretty tasty. I started by putting a dry rub all over it, then roasting it in the oven on a very low temp for a couple of hours, followed by an all day sojourn in the crock pot. To help it along, I checked out what I had on hand, and I added a couple of bottles of hard cider, some chicken stock that needed to be used up, a few bay leaves, ,sage, thyme and rosemary, lot's of black pepper, some allspice berries, a few bay leaves, onions and garlic and a little bit of liquid smoke. After it had been cooking for about three or four hours, I tasted the sauce that was developing and decided it needed a few more things. I added a can of tomato sauce, and some regular cider to sweeten it up just a little bit. I then let it cook for a few more hours.

When the pork was fork tender, it was time to finish sauce, so I strained out everything and tweaked the flavor a bit. I added quite a bit of cherry wine vinegar to give it a nice fruity zing, then some chipotle pepper powder for smoky heat, then I more black pepper to give it a bit more kick, and finally added just a little bit of sugar to round out the flavor. I popped the sauce on the stove, poured in some Calvados and then let it reduce by 75% until the flavor was deeply concentrated and the sauce had thickened quite a bit. I think reduction is one of the least used techniques in the kitchen--simply by reducing even relatively bland cooking liquids by half or more can really create some amazing flavors. In this case, the many hours of cooking, and the variety of ingredients, gave this sauce some great flavor. I've really been enjoying this quite a bit this week, and it feels great that the food didn't go to waste and that everything I used was something that I already had in the house.

I also found some frozen whiting in the freezer and decided I would cook that. Baked fish can sometimes be boring, so I figured I'd try and make it interesting. A perusal of the pantry showed me that I had a can of macadamia nuts and almonds. It made me think of pecan crusted fish which got the creative juices flowing. I ground up the nuts, then added a slew of spices and flavorings, including some minced onions, until I arrived at a tasty little coating. I dipped the fish in an egg wash, then dredged the filets with the nut mixture. I baked them at 350ยบ for 15 minutes or so and had about three or four healthy (and low carb) meals from food that most likely would have ended up in the trash in a few months time. What I learned from this experiment however is that the nut mixture should be ground as finely as possible, and that when working with such a bland and tasteless fish as whiting the spices should be more concentrated than my intuition would suggest. It needed even more flavor than I gave it.

Tomorrow, I'll be making the four cheese pasta dish that's been a favorite of mine for the past few months. I'm trying to stay low carb and healthy however, so I picked up a spaghetti squash the other day to use instead of pasta. Spaghetti squash is an amazing food, and is a great substitute for pasta. When you cut it in half and boil it, it cooks into spaghetti like strands that you pull from the squash with a fork. I highly recommend it. It's honestly very hard to distinguish from real spaghetti when it's covered in a great tomato sauce. What I'm curious about, however, is how it will hold up in a baked dish like this pasta I'll be making tomorrow. Regardless, I know the flavor will be good and it won't feel so unhealthy as if I was eating pasta. And again, the nice thing is that, other than the squash, everything is already here at home. Project purge is going well, and the pocket book is appreciative as well!

1 comment:

Torey said...

The Westsiders can't wait!