Archive | March, 2006

Vending Machine Nirvana

31 Mar

I get a bit stressed out at work from time to time. It’s shocking, I know. I mean, from what I’ve written about myself here, I’m sure you think I’m smart, calm, caring, in-control, and just possibly funny. To one degree or another those are all true, but you should also know, I can be one major-stress puppy.

So yesterday, something went wrong and I found myself in front of the vending machine at work (yes, to deal with stress at work, I eat). I scan the offerings; chicken salad, oreos, potato skins, butter-braid pretzels, pop tarts, candy bars… Damn, no cheetos? (I have a major fake cheeze problem) Oho, but what’s this? Sweet Island style potato chips? For 65¢? Oh yes, this I must try!

I have no idea what Herr’s is going for in this flavor, but good-on-em for trying! They’re tangy, sweet, creamy, a little spicy and packed full of umami. I’d describe them as a cross between the new Spicy Thai Kettle Chips and some chip coated with cheese and spices. These are some serious chips. Coated in a sublime flavor that seems to blithely skip over the ridges of the chips.

Instantly I was taken away from the crapiness of my day… there was a thought tickling the back of my mind… yes, could it be? The flavor of these chips brought a food memory wriggling out of my brain, yes, these chips very closely resemble… The salsa I’ve been trying to recreate for a few years now, One (condiment) That Got Away!

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to recreate the salsa from the recipe on the back of this bag, but as long as I don’t tell any of my coworkers about this amazing vending machine discovery, I’ll always have these chips (that is until the vending machine man comes to refill it and doesn’t bring these with him).

Sausages And Sparrows

27 Mar

My aunt will be so proud. She will also be relieved… I taught myself how to make spätzle yesterday.Spatzle

My aunt, the daughter of German immigrants, has been making her brand of spätzle for family gatherings for longer than I can remember. In the weeks leading up to, say, Easter, I’ll call my mother, “Are we going to Syracuse? Is Aunt L going to be making spätzle??” over, and over and over, even now that I’m old enough that I really should know better.

Aunt L’s spätzle are different than any other I’ve tried at any German or Austrian restaurant anywhere in the world. Hers are much thicker, closer to a dumpling and less a little sparrow (and no, I don’t mean this kind of sparrow) and more like a gorgeous, fat goose. Also, as a bow to my family’s obsession with garlic, she browns them off in oil and garlic until they’re golden and crispy. To me, they are the picture of culinary perfection. I truly believe I could eat her spätzle every day for the rest of my life.

Sausages & Sauerkraut

For my first attempt, I think my spätzle turned out pretty well. Mine were smaller, but they had the same chewy, toothsome feeling as my aunts. When I make them again (and I will make them again!) I will use fewer eggs, maybe 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, plus more milk and even a little more flour. Then again, maybe I’ll hold off until Easter, when I’ll badger Aunt L into making hers for me again, you know, as research…

yum

I served my spätzle with kielbasa (we’re a melting pot of Eastern European culinary traditions my family is…) and sauerkraut all braised with caramelized onions and dry vermouth. The kielbasa was much different than what I’m used to. I was inspired to try some local sausage from the East Village institution, Kurowycky Meat Market, which was unfortunate, because well, to be frank (heh), I didn’t like their kovbasa at all. It was nicely spiced and full of large chunks of meat but had a strange, gamey smell/flavor that I just couldn’t get past. I’m a little sad really. I thought maybe, finally, I’d find a more convenient local source for my kielbasa fix, but alas, I’ll have to keep making that trip to Eagle Provisions in Brooklyn. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Recipes for both dishes below the break.

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One (condiment) That Got Away

24 Mar

Yesterday I outted myself as a sauce junkie, admitted my condiment addiction, so today, I put forth the greatest condiment conundrum I’ve ever faced; the search for the perfect salsa. I hope someone can help me get my fix!

A few years ago, I was asked if I wanted to go to Cozumel over Super Bowl weekend. Being one that doesn’t give a fig about football, but does love habanero salsa, swimming and conch cocktail, how could I refuse?

So off I flew. I nearly ran into a shark while snorkeling (no contact lenses), I did bandera shots with a local, and I managed not to get sunburned, but most importantly, I ate at La Choza. It’s very unfortunate that their website sucks, because, if I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that I wish, oh how I wish, would make their secret recipes public, this is the one!

Their pollo en relleno negro and sopa de lima are awesome, but the true draw, the condiment that got away, is the salsa. Yes, just the normal salsa they put on the table to eat with tortilla chips, the reason to hop on a plane and sit in a tropical paradise and feel like you’ve discovered a hidden foodie nirvana, is for the salsa at La Choza.

I went back at least three times trying to dissect this secret, firey elixir. It resembles an aïoli more than a traditional salsa. It definitely has acid in it, both in the form of vinegar and citrus. I think the chiles had been fire roasted because I remember little flecks of black in it. It had definitely been emulsified with an oil, that’s what gave it the creamy texture, and it had a serious kick, probably the local habaneros I would imagine. I’ve tried to recreate this salsa many times, and failed miserably each time. I’ve done research up to my eyeballs, and have found nothing.
The owner gave me one intriguing clue, that his family was originally from Michoacán and that most of the dishes on their menu were a mix of family recipes from the old state combined with the traditional dishes of Quintana Roo. I’ve tried exploring this route too, and well, gotten nowhere.

Mustard And Branston And Ponzu, Oh My!

23 Mar

I have a problem. Hi, my name is Ann, and I’m a condiment addict. Phew! Just saying that makes me feel a little bit better. But sadly, the fact remains true, I have a real problem.

Every time I’m in a grocery store, pretty much anywhere in the world, something always catches my eye, and I buy it. That’s the thing with condiments; they’re cheap, they’re intriguing, and they’re small so you can justify carrying them home across a giant ocean, well, that is if you only buy one bottle.

And just so as we’re clear, I’m not talking about fancy ketchups (although, to be fair, I really love ketchup!) On my last trip to London, I toted home something called “Gentleman’s Relish,” a strangely spiced anchovy paste in a goregous ceramic box that looked more like it should be holding a ladies’ powder than stinky fish paste. When I went to Mexico I brought back so many chilies, salsas and moles I got pulled over at customs. Even my trip to the Adirondacks for a long weekend with my family was fraught with condiment buying danger, namely, the garlic & chipotle barbeque sauce from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

But the thing is, I feel very little remorse for my problem, I mean, it could really be worse… I could be addicted to, say, caviar, jetting around the world looking for the perfect roe. That would be pricey. And, seriously, sometimes my addiction can be a boon, like last night when I jazzed up an un-promising sandwich with some Key Lime Mustard and Beet & Horseradish spread (sounds nasty, tasted divne!) So maybe it’s not such a problem, I should just embrace my foible and move on, I mean, it really could be worse.

Root Cellar Soup (and a pot of promise)

21 Mar

Saturday was a sad, draining and depressing day. One of my best friend’s mother’s had succumbed to cancer earlier in the week, and so a group of Manhattan and Brooklyn-ites headed over a bridge or through a tunnel to New Jersey for a beautiful remembrance of an amazing woman’s life.

I was tired and hungry when we got back to the city, so off we went to feast on therapeutic buttermilk battered fried green beans. I guess the boy could tell I was in no mood to think or cook, so he suggested trucking up to the farmer’s market to procure some root vege so he could make one of his famous pureed soups for me. What sane girl would say no to that?

We settled on a classic; Parsnip & Apple, but once at the market I was seduced by the Jerusalem Artichokes. As I was scrubbing the girasole, the boy was sauteing the onions and garlic and said to me, “Is there anything more full of promise than a pot of onions and garlic?” It was a nice thought at the end of a crappy, sad day, that a glug of olive oil, a few onions and crushed garlic could truly be the start of nearly any dish from around the world.

We didn’t get to eat the soup on Saturday, some group therapy was in order (read, a party) so we cooled the soup, grabbed some Gin and headed out into the night.

But Sunday was all about relaxing. With the soup bubbling away on the stove, I cued up disc 2 of Bleak House (another series I had missed during TV Free February), decanted a bottle of wine and got set to do nothing. It was blissful.

I don’t think my wine choice was perfect for the meal, a 2000 Chateau Ste. Anne from Bandol in Provence. It smelled lovely, all flowers and leather in the glass, but tasted a little tight and tannic with the soup. Perhaps I decanted it too late. But, after a little time to breathe, it eventually went very, very well with a little Wallace & Gromit.

Head below the jump for the recipe for this easy, soothing soup.
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