Thursday, October 18, 2007

Adventures in stuffing my face continues

I go through phases where I'll eat mostly homecooked meals for a while, then hit a patch where I never want to see another pot, pan or spatula ever again and "detox" on McDonald's and Taco Bell.

There was the beef burger phase when I was obsessed with making fatass burgers with regular ground beef or ground sirloin. The patties were all hand-formed and stuffed with garlic and would fry in a pan splitting and spitting angry grease. Then there was the um, "healthy" phase, where I tucked into all sorts of elaborate salads and sandwiches. After a particular mixed greens, roasted peppers and shaved parmesan salad topped with sliced and perfectly cooked to medium rare steak and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette, I kind of got sick of that too.

Currently, I seem to be in a comfort food phase. I "stole" the smothered pork chop from a West Village restaurant. And by stealing, I mean having tasted and enjoyed then copying it at home based on what I tasted. It was a pretty simple; pork chop served with red wine and beef broth reduction crammed with sliced onions and button mushrooms. I ate it all with my own garlic mashed potatoes and some tasty-looking asparagus I stumbled across at Whole Foods.

It actually took me two tries to get the pork chop right, not because I had deduced how to make it incorrectly the first time, but because I was too lazy to buy beef broth and actually reduce the sauce when I first made it. It was yet another lesson in why sometimes cooking short cuts don't work. I figured, "Well, it's already got good flavor, why don't I just thicken it with a roux?"

I'll tell you why you don't. While it tasted fine, it definitely wasn't as rich a flavor as it would've been if I hadn't been lazy and made an actual reduction with the broth. And more importantly, adding roux turns the sauce into a disconcerting lavender color. It'll send conflicting messages to your brain from your tongue, which is telling you it tastes good, while your eyes will be mildly grossed out looking at your thistle-colored pork chop.

Anyhow, I manned up the second go round and did it right. It was all the same as the first try. I salted and peppered, then lightly floured the thick-cut chop and browned it in a skillet with some olive oil (just to brown!). I set the chop aside on a plate, then dumped a pad of butter, sliced onions and mushrooms into the skillet. I poured in some wine, scraped the bottom of the pan as I cooked the alcohol off a bit. This time around, instead of the roux I added low-sodium beef broth and allowed that to cook for a bit. As it started getting a bit "thicker" I put the chop back in and let it continue to cook until it almost reduced down to a third of its original volume.

Right now I'm thinking of making meatloaf. It has a warm spot in my heart because it was one of the first entree endeavour I had made (not counting scrambled eggs made at 8). I was at the tender age of 11 and saw a recipe for it in a special cooking edition of Encyclopedia Brown. It was also from this book **SPOILER ALERT IN CASE YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW HE SOLVED THE CASE OF THE MISSING GOOSE**that I first learned that duck and geese are all dark meat**END SPOILER ALERT**.

So meatloaf it is tonight. With super tasty tomato glaze! I'm debating whether or not to make my tasty baked mac and cheese with it while I'm on this comfort foods kick. It's a take on the brick-like baked mac and cheese my Mississippian dad makes. Same ingredients (I might get fancy with the cheese sometimes), but by laziness and accident one day, the way I combined the binder of milk and eggs somehow lent the whole dish a flan-like layer of texture.

And the coming of cold weather is making me want to cook up a big pot of chili so that's on the list of things to cook. On top of that while reading one of my favorite weekly cooking blog/comics "Double P's Simple Cooking," I got an intense desire to make the featured curry udon. It also reminded me I needed to stock up on udon and Korean curry.

...I'm going to explode with food before December hits. The old Korean saying about fall is right: It's when the skies are high and the horses get fat. Seriously, I'm not making that up. Everyone sort of expects the "Autumn 15" to happen.


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