Saturday, August 04, 2007

Back in the kitchen

One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep notes on my various culinary efforts. Despite the recent hiatus in posting here, I haven't stopped cooking, but I've also grown to realize that I miss being able to refer to those notes. So here I am again.

Another thing that's been going on lately is more non-Asian cooking. For example, a few nights ago, I wanted something quick and easy, but something more than a packaged meal. It finally dawned on me that I could toss together some "Pasta Alla Gricia" from Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. Just brown some chopped bacon in olive oil (I didn't have pancetta on hand), reserve the bacon and its juices, cook your pasta (again, capellini was what I had on hand, so that's what got used). When the pasta's done, add the bacon and juices plus grated Pecorino Romano cheese. The result is fast, tasty and gives the pleasure of cooking your own food without a lot of work.

Not that I've turned my back on cooking Asian food, by any means. I've been enjoying reading and cooking from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. That last dish I tried was from Land of Plenty, namely "Chicken with Chiles." I made a few changes in the recipe, most notably skipping the initial velveting step and treating it as a straight stir-fry.

Aromatics are important in this dish; it calls for dried red chiles, garlic, ginger, Sichuan pepper and scallions. Of course, I only have ground Sichuan pepper, so that burned when it hit the hot oil (whole peppercorns are preferred). None of these seasonings are meant to be eaten; they're there to flavor the oil. Again, I kept the pan too hot, so there was little oil to be had by the end of the proceedings. I had a cup of chicken broth on hand, though the recipe doesn't call for it, so to keep the pan from drying out, I made sort of a pan sauce from the chicken marinade (dark and light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine and salt) and the broth. In the end, the chicken meat had complicated spicy flavors, very intense but still a light meal. Serving this over a lot of white rice would be a good idea.

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