Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Only in Japan

Natto. Fermented soybeans. Very healthy, yet the sort of food that will make the unprepared run screaming into the hills. It's the slimy surface. Natto might be an acquired taste, but maybe it's more a food that you need to grow up with. It's the Japanese equivalent of lutefisk.

I had natto once, served with rice. The sliminess was difficult to deal with, of course, but apart from that, it wasn't bad. I keep telling myself I need to try natto again, but I haven't quite gotten around to it.

Natto has become the centerpiece of a great food scandal in Japan, because excessive health benefits were claimed for the slimy soybeans. Maki has a good post summing up the situation at i was just really very hungry.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


If you want to find out more about what happened to these vegetables (red bell pepper, celery and onion) after they got chopped up, go over to Paper Palate and read about skillet Creole chicken fricassee.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Suzie Hot Sauce

Perfect Tommy is one of those connoisseurs of substances measured in Scoville units. He likes hot stuff. In our meanderings along the Delaware River, we have frequently wandered by the little town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, home to all kinds of quaint boutiques. One of these stores is called Suzie Hot Sauce and it specializes in - you guessed it - hot sauce. Perfect Tommy has been pining for a chance to visit for ages, but whenever we've passed by, either the store hasn't been open or Perfect Tommy hasn't been in the mood.

Today's birding trip found us cruising by Suzie Hot Sauce a few minutes before 5 PM. Perfect Tommy was in the mood, there was a parking place, and in short order, we were in. The small store was absolutely stuffed with all manner of hot sauces and spicy condiments, several grades of hot pretzels for taste-testing purposes, chile-laced chocolate, Creole sauce mixes, you name it. There was a corner devoted to Asian hot sauces, but most of these were things I had seen in the Asian supermarket before. If you don't have an Asian market nearby, however, this could be a useful resource.

Since the store was closing at 5:00, there was no way we could scour the shelves with true discernment. We did our best, however. Perfect Tommy got some of the aforementioned chile-laced chocolate, some hot and spicy Cajun chips (which didn't last long), some hot pistachio brittle, some serrano chile puree and a small bottle of Cholula hot sauce. I was a little better and limited myself to the serrano chile puree, Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (if only I'd had it last week) and some Outerbridge's Original pepper sherry. The woman behind the counter raved about the pepper sherry as I checked out; I told her I'd read about it and was curious to try it.

I also tried some of the hot pretzels. I worked my way up to the X hot level (the top is XX hot). I thought I handled it pretty well, but the burn turned out to be a slow-building one, and my stomach muttered at me for a while afterward.

As Perfect Tommy and I acted like, well, kids in a hot sauce store, The Lurker stood back and watched with his usual amusement. He is not a fan of spicy food, and so was immune to Suzie Hot Sauce's temptations.

All three of my purchases will doubtless liven up stir-fries and other dishes in the future. Better yet, I can now research hot sauces on the Hot Sauce Blog and have a hope of finding some of the obscure ones.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Roast chicken

Sunday night was an excuse for frivolity with The Cruise Director, The Fireman and family. The Deacon and The Frog Collector also stopped by. The Cruise Director put yours truly to work in the kitchen slicing onions, boiling green beans and offering advice on when to add ingredients to the saute pan. The main course was roast chicken with a nice peppery crust. Rather than a rack, the chicken was roasted on a bed of vegetables. This eliminated the problem of the chicken sticking to the bottom of the pan as well as providing a tasty side dish.

To say the chicken was moist is an understatement. When it came out of the oven, The Fireman held it over a bowl to allow it to drain for over a minute before putting it on the carving board. Once carving commenced, however, the cutting board quickly became awash in chicken juices. A turkey baster was pressed into emergency service for "reverse basting" and more chicken juices were added to the discard bowl. On the bright side, there is sure to be some excellent chicken stock in the offing. Besides, the chicken was tender and moist.