Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Bang Bang Chicken of the Sea

As mentioned in the DSIW intro post, I go to Costco once a week.  That trip is made on Sunday mornings, with my mom, and we have a wonderful mother-daughter bonding time involving the ogling of many baked goods*, the use of much profanity, and the reinforcement of our shared opinion that Californians seriously do not know how the fuck to drive**.

I am all about buying meat and fish in bulk then freezing it in single-meal portions; it’s cheaper, it cuts down on the number of times I have to go to the store, it reduces the amount of packaging involved in my meat & fish consumption, it’s just a win-win-win.  Win.  I’m not even sure how many.  There’s a lot of win involved.

And while that works perfectly well for a lot of things, it does not work for tuna, so when I buy a piece of tuna at Costco on Sunday, it goes in the fridge and is eaten no later than Tuesday.  Buying tuna at Costco is a hit & miss prospect, not because of quality (that’s consistently good) but because of quantity.  I don’t know if the butchers are still drunk from Saturday night when they parcel it out or if some of the tunas fight back harder than others or what, but more often than not, my choices for tuna-buying are an 88 lb slab or a scrap barely sufficient to feed a colicky toddler who doesn’t particularly care for tuna even on a good day.

So when I find a piece the proper size for two adults, I grab it***.  And eat it within 48 hours.  Which is why I decided to try Domestic Sluttery’s Bang Bang Chicken recipe with tuna.  And holy wow am I ever glad I did, because it was awesome.

I made far more alterations to this recipe than just swapping out the protein, but the end result stayed pretty true to the spirit of the original, in that it was rich & peanutty & spicy & again made it far too easy for us to eat twice as much as we should have.

First off, since tuna cooks far more quickly than chicken, I decided to combine all of the poaching liquid ingredients beforehand and let the tuna marinate in it for a couple of hours, to make sure it really soaked up all the yum.  The changes I made there were using jarred chopped ginger and lemongrass, since that’s what I keep handy, and throwing in a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice because I don’t have star anise in the spice rack right now (which I totally thought I did, but if I do, I can’t find it).  Oh, I also used minced garlic from the 3 lb jar that is in my fridge at all times.  I use far too much garlic on a weekly basis to want to mess with chopping it fresh every day.

“But what is that I see?”, you are asking yourselves right about now, “you neglected to add a small piece of tuna to the marinade!”

No, I did not neglect.  When tuna is cooked in this house, a small piece of it is cooked sans seasoning for the third resident of our household

Lady Byng, Spoiled Rotten Little Shit Extraordinaire

who is a thoroughly spoiled rotten little shit, and is also the only canine I’ve ever met who likes fish even more than she likes bacon.  Watching the eye-popping backflip-turning hyperventilating happiness that ensues is well worth the small amount of extra work.

But on with the people food.

I did not have rice noodles in the house, so I made black rice instead, which I love and which for some reason we haven’t had for a while so it was about time.  If you’ve never tried it, find it.  It’s amazing, and lends itself really beautifully to nutty dishes like this.

For the accompanying veggies, I did not have bean sprouts, sugar snap peas (dozens of blossoms in the garden that will be ready in a matter of weeks, but that didn’t do much good last night) or spring onions, so I used green beans, a bunch of garlic chives that really needed to be harvested, and threw in a bunch of extra peppers with the carrots that the recipe calla for.

After cooking the tuna and straining the poaching liquid, I gave the veggies a quick swim in it, just enough to heat them through and let them pick up some of the flavor but still keeping them crunchy.

For the sauce, I substituted a heaping tablespoon of chili paste for the chopped red chiles, a sprinkle of dried coriander for the fresh that I didn’t have, and an extra splash of rice vinegar to bump up the acidity since I didn’t have limes handy.

The recipe calls simply for “crunchy peanut butter”.  I don’t know what peanut butter is like in the U.K. but I will tell you this; using natural peanut butter is, to me, an absolute must here.  Using the brand name stuff that works so well in sandwiches and cookies will not work as well here, so check the label.  If the second and third ingredients in your peanut butter are sugar and corn syrup solids, consider picking up a jar of something that contains nothing but peanuts, oil, and salt to keep on hand for your savory peanut butter dish needs.

And once you’d tried this, you will have those needs.  Oh yes.  You will need.

On the menu tonight: Breton Chicken

*Seven.  Pound.  Chocolate.  Layer.  Cake.

**With bonus points for not knowing how the fuck to maneuver a shopping cart.

***Even if it does bear a slightly disturbing resemblance to Oklahoma, a place not exactly renowned for its saltwater fish

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Drunken Spaghetti with Baked Avocado

People who do not live in California tend to associate the state with movie stars, beaches, and Disneyland.  And while it’s true that we have those things, natives like me have other associations with our beloved home state, many of which are tied to agriculture.

On less than 1% of the total farmland in the United States, the California Central Valley produces 8% of the nation's agricultural output by value

So, you know, we’re pretty cool like that.

For today’s blogscursion, we focus on two specifics of California agriculture; we produce 90% of the nation’s avocado crop, and are the fourth largest wine-producing region in the world.**

Avocados & wine are part of my dinner routine 4 to 5 days a week, usually in salads and glasses respectively.  But it’s always fun to take old favorites and render them almost completely unrecognizable, which is why I chose to open Domestic Sluttery Improv Week with a Cali twofer, combining interpretations of their Drunken Spaghetti and Mediterranean Baked Avocado.

Holy mother of tits you will never want to do anything as plebian as cook pasta in water again as long as you both shall live.  You and the pasta, that is.  I won’t presume to make sweeping declarations about any of your other relationships.  But your commitment to starch and alcohol just took itself to the next level whether you think you’re ready or not.

The recipe calls for a bottle of red that is cheap but drinkable, the finding of which is something I excel at quite mightily.  You may recall from the DSIW intro post a mention that I buy much wine at Big Lots.  Outlet store wine is hit & miss, but more often than you might think, a lot of really good bottles wind up there simply because a lot of really good wine makers get hung up on the “I am an artiste” aspect of their chosen profession and don’t have the sense to assemble decent marketing departments.***  My latest find, at $4 a bottle, is TanTerra.  They have two varieties, but the Cab is better than the Syrah, so I used the Syrah to cook my pasta.

Cheap, drinkable, AND sustainably-grown.  WIN.
The end result was the pasta having a slightly acidic edge to it, which balanced the richness of the rest of the dish beautifully and made it really easy for us to eat twice as much as we should have.

The changes I made to the DS Drunken Spaghetti recipe were omitting the butter and increasing the olive oil to compensate, substituting Asiago for the Parmesan, using turkey bacon in place of the pancetta, and adding a bit of anchovy paste to put back some of the richness lost by leaving out the butter while still keeping some of the fat/calorie reduction benefits.  Oh, and I used curly leaf parsley instead of flat leaf, because that’s what I grow.

Their Mediterranean Baked Avocado recipe is meant to stand alone as a starter or small entrée, but since I was incorporating it as the protein in a pasta dish, I kept it very simple, just rolling the avocado halves in the olive oil mixture (after it was cooked but before adding the wine) and topping them with some of the cheese before baking them.

Next time, I’ll either use the broiler or break out the torch to brown the cheese a bit, but overall I was extremely happy with the flavor and texture.

In summary:  I cooked an entire pound of pasta for 2 people.  There is one very small dish of leftovers currently in the fridge.  ‘Nuff said.

Happy Pasta Spoon was happy, too.

On the menu tonight: Bang Bang Chicken of the Sea

*I was going to spell it right, but that would have altered an awesome alliterative apportunity

**Which may or may not hearken back to the Californians-seriously-not-knowing-how-the-fuck-to-drive bit mentioned in the previous post.  I’m not sure learning the truth would make me feel better or worse, so I’ll just leave that alone.

***A lot of bottles that are nothing more than a tragic waste of grapes, glass, and cork also wind up there.  It’s a gamble.  When in doubt, look for labels that show addresses in Napa or Sonoma proper.  It’s still a gamble, but that puts the odds slightly more in your favor.  You also run the risk of running into people in outlet store wine aisles who are genuinely not aware that Bordeaux is a place.  Trying to explain this to them is not worth your time.  Just walk away.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Domestic Sluttery Improv Week

As some of you may know, I recently stopped smoking, after a year and a half of smoking, after four years of not smoking, after a very long time of smoking.  The combined effect of no longer flooding my system with appetite suppressants and needing to keep my hands busy has resulted in a lot of really good food flying around my house lately.

Now, I’ve been playing in the kitchen since I was tall enough to reach the stove* and am no stranger to cranking out properly cooked and well-seasoned food, but even I’ve been impressed with me this past few weeks.  I have been stretching, boys and girls, stretching like the first bite of a chile relleno, like the innards of a just-cut grilled cheese, like homemade mozzarella I will be making week after next**.

Why wait, you ask?  Because next week I am dedicating to paying proper tribute to a blog I’ve been following for a while now but have not taken the time to truly appreciate hands-on, Domestic Sluttery.

We’ve all found blogs that immediately make us go “ooooOOOOoooh…” with all their pretty and awesome and delicious, and subsequently make us go “mmmmmm” and “zomfg” and “I SERIOUSLY FUCKING NEED THAT IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW” with every new visit, but how often to we take the time to act on those base and usually not entirely healthy urges?  Not often enough, people.  Not nearly often enough.  So next week, the household menu planning will revolve around interpretations of recipes found on that blog.

Even if they are based in the U.K. and insist on using an utterly ridiculous system of measurement based solely on increments of ten, when we have a perfectly good one of fours, fives and twelves that anyone who was raised with it can easily make perfect sense of.  And even if they do insist on calling cans “tins”, when everyone knows cans aren’t even made of tin anymore.  That would be like us calling glass jars “cans” just because the process of sealing things in glass jars is called “canning”.  Pffft.

And thank you, Google, because without you I seriously had no clue what the shit a “courgette” was.***

However, I must admit to finding the phrase “on an offer”**** far more endearing than it has any right to be.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know.  It just makes me happy every time I read it.

But I digress.

Your next question after “why the hell are you waiting to make mozzarella?!” is very likely “why will you be interpreting the recipes on the blog rather than following them exactly?”  And the short answer is, because I am an old hippie at heart and people in California do not know how the fuck to drive.  Which probably requires some elaboration to make even a modicum of sense, so here you have it:

I am not one of those people who will make a special trip to get a single ingredient to make a specific dish.  I go to Costco once a week primarily for meat, produce, and bulk dry goods like flour & rice.  I go to Big Lots once a month, mostly for a lot of wine but also for canned and smaller dry goods.  I make a special trip to Cost Plus 2 or 3 times a year to stock up on spices, vinegars, more esoteric pantry items.  And that is it.  I choose to not worsen my carbon footprint by willynillying around on a daily basis for teaspoons of things.  And I limit as much as possible the amount of time I have to spend on the road with my fellow Californians, who, I believe I have previously mentioned, seriously do not know how the fuck to drive, consequently also limiting the likelihood that I will wind up on trial for their mysterious deaths should my numerous assertions throughout the years that I am quite capable of planning the perfect murder***** prove sadly untrue.

So I will be following the recipes pretty closely, but making adjustments as I go based on 1- what I have in the house, 2- the fact that I cook for someone who has a history of picky eating that I have only mostly managed to obliterate, and 3- my fundamental what-the-hell-everishness when it comes to actually “following” recipes.

I will be posting the results of my folly here, with links to the original recipes, notes on what changes I made, and, of course, pictures.  Feel free to tell me to stop at any time.  I won’t, of course, but the feedback makes me feel loved.

*shut up, Paul
**dear god I love cheese
***for those of us in English-speaking countries, it’s a zucchini
****it means “on sale” but it just sounds so civilized and non-inclusive of mall brawls
*****digitalis and coffee filters, just sayin’