Gonna Satisfy All My Whims

Sunday was about as perfect as a day could possibly be without ninjas or ice cream.

I went to Jungle Jims!

For those of you not in the Cincinnati Area, Jungle Jim’s is basically a sort of Chuck E. Cheeze for foodies.   I mean, there are other grocery stores. 

And there are other grocery stores with huge international Markets.  Or wall upon wall of hot sauce. Or an olive bar which features more than two selections.

There are probably other stores this far away from the ocean that have this much of a selection of fresh seafood, including these big “bioponds” where the live stuff just swims about all devil-may-care.

Or 364 different varieties of honey.  Or am “interesting” meat section.   Or international produce.  Or a knowledgeable staff, including cashiers that can correctly identify things like daikon and lemongrass without a PLU code.

I’m absolutely sure there are other big foodie paradises with all of that stuff.   But I doubt any of those OTHER places have animatronic cereal boxes hoisted above the aisles giant mechanical Elvis-cat things serenading you near the tapenade.

Or a frikkin monorail.   WHO has a monorail?

So I go THERE.

It is so exciting that there I have actually composed a song.  I try to sing this every time I visit, adding verses as needed.  Sadly, I forgot the “gonna grab food with all my limbs” line in this rendition.

 

So what did i get?

As you might have inferred, pork products were involved.  My favorite chorizo, some babyback ribs, and a surprise for Thursday I’ll write about later.

And this.  Fancy Serrano ham.   While very similar to prosciutto, it has a slightly drier texture but a much more even taste.   Sort of a porcine cotton candy, a sliver on your tongue just melts away, leaving behind a rich, fatty… piggyness with just the right amount of salt.

The lady behind the counter proceeded won my heart by offering me a taste of Jamon Iberico,after I told her that “I write about pork products.” I think this counts as my first official piece of adahp swag.

Then the cheese.  I found this stuff called Morbier, which I recognized from my cover of my French Cheeses Encyclopedia, and, yes, I own one of those.  It was dense and ashen, very good with the pork.  Plus some Mimolette, Gruyere, and local-ish cheddar.

I picked up some cherry-vanilla granola, which is my favorite thing in the world. I first discovered the stuff at Burlington’s City Market last summer while visiting Beth. 

Please also note that now I have enough fancy ramen to keep Mr. Penguin very happy.

 

This just might qualify as my best 3:40am snack ever.  Grilled cheese on homemade bread with Serrano ham and Mimolette.  

YU-uM

 

It…Moved

This recipe is a work in progress.   I mean, it’s not like I focus group this stuff.

Here’s the question:  What protocol, however informal, do you follow when you want to cook something new?

Before I explain how I do things, let me reveal another tidbit about myself that should shock all of you.  I am a stubborn, arrogant, pigheaded SOB incapable of believing anything I see, hear or read. Ever.

So, yeah, when I want to cook something new I typically go through a three-step process.

1. Comb the Internet as well as my vast array of crumb-besmirched cookbooks looking for the perfect recipe.
2. Reject everything I read because it just seems “wrong” for often arbitrary reasons I may or may not choose to articulate.
3. Wing it.

In my case I’m fortunate because my culinary repertoire tends toward “forgiving” recipes.  Soups, braises, stew.  Baked items with plenty of butter,  veggies at the last minute that are perfectly tasty if either overcooked or undercooked slightly.

I guess am the kitchen equivalent of a spread-option quarterback.

But sometimes you don’t want to play it safe.  While you might be able to guarantee “pretty good,” circumstances sometimes demand “outstanding.”  A cheese souffle (this has become my standard), Or, more to the point, something that demands the purchase of an expensive, blockbuster main ingredient.

This was one of those times.  I really, really wanted a Lobster Bisque.

The key problem for me to solve was “how much of what type of liquid?”   I knew white wine would need to be involved.  And chicken broth.  And, because it was a bisque, some sort of cream would be called for.

I also had it in my head that lobster bisque needs to be seriously yellow.  To me this means a bit of steeped saffron which means, yes, more hot water.

I no longer consider myself a bechamel ninja.  I can do three tablespoons each of butter and flour followed by three cups of liquid, usually milk.  This creates enough for a mac and cheese or some other sort of binding agent.  What I’m not very good at, however, is extrapolating.  It’s difficult for me to sort of adjust the quantities of butter and flour when I am not exactly sure how much of exactly what liquids I would be adding.  Long story short, I got lucky.

Which brings me to the lobster tails.

I have never worked with lobster.  In fact, the only time I remember actually eatinglobster was at this revolving restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls, while on a family vacation twenty five years ago.

Supposedly, retail lobster is cheaper this year.  People are ordering less lobster in restaurants, which means that restaurants are ordering less, which means that there is actually a glut of the little guys up in the northeast, and prices throughout the rest of the country are starting to catch up.

Anyway. I had two “fresh” lobster tails.  Actually, it was pretty obvious that they had been frozen at some point and allowed to thaw in the grocery case, which was fine by me.

But it led to an “eeu!” moment.  It wasn’t quite Annie Hall, but when I unsealed them from their little packet, they each “twitched” for a moment.  I watch too many zombie movies not to be unnerved when supposedly dead things are still animated.

And, like I said, I got lucky with the soup base.  It was thick enough and yellow enough and had a good balance between the cream and the wine.   I may need to tweak a little bit, so that 25 years from now when I make something like this again, I’ll remember what I did.

Lobster Bisque Version 0.9

Lobster tail(s) weighing a total of about 12 ounces. This should yield a cup and a half of meat.
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup of boiling water containing as many saffron threads as you are willing to part with
1/4 cup half and half
4 T butter
4 T Flour
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
salt
pepper
paprika

Prepare the saffron-water. Pour the boiling water into a ramekin and add the saffron. Stir a bit, then cover. Stir occasionally as you continue with the recipe. The water should turn a luxurious yellow.

Next, prepare the lobster(s). I find it easiest to steam them briefly. In your soup pot, bring a little bit of water to a boil and set the tails on top of your steamer insert. Cover the pot, cook for about six to eight minutes. They should be slightly undercooked. Set them aside to cool.

Melt the butter over low heat in your soup pot. Add the onions and garlic, along with a little salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn pale. Add the other veggies and cook for another few minutes until they, too, are soft.

Sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly. You will reach a point where the mixture begins to smell “grainy” but there should be no large clumps of flour on the bottom of the pot.

Add the wine first, all at once. Adjust the heat to a high simmer.

Add the broth, saffron water, and paprika. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens.

Harvest the lobster meat. I used my poultry shears to cut open the carapace and a serrated melon baller to extract the flesh. (you can do this and the soup cooks) Add the lobster meat, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for another twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves two as a main course (with bread of course!) or four as a starter.

OH!!

Forgot about the chocolate truffle torte.  Yum.  Recipe is here.

The Bacovore’s Dilema

I’m not just full.  I’m sated. Satisfied.  Pushed to the limits in both the kitchen and dining room computer table before being returned safely to a now-expanded comfort zone.

When we last left our hero he had decided to take a week and prepare a series of dishes from his favorite food blogs.   He would choose dishes from blogs he enjoyed reading for their own sake, while savoring the opportunity to experiment a little.

He also resolved not to add bacon to everything.  But more on this later.

And, candidly, I couldn’t be happier with how well things turned out. I have some comments and pictures to share, as well as a fridge full of leftovers that you are all welcome to stop over and sample.

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This Is Serious Baco-Journalism, Folks

I understand branding. It has a subtle and almost invisible power capable of creating a resonating and almost permanent impression. No one at work knows about my blogging life, but last week I was in a meeting and someone commented that the room smelled like bacon. Everyone then turned to look at me. I’m serious.

I accept, for the most part, that I am the “Bacon Guy.” To me, quite candidly, it’s a step up from being the “computer guy” or, nightmarishly, the “comic book store guy.” I just have that “look.” At least bacon is accurate.

But still people make assumptions, which are frequently off-base. I don’t pour bacon into a bowl every morning and eat it like cereal, or use bacon-scented hygiene products or anything like that.

Nonetheless, I think it’s time I branched out. Here is what I’m going to do.

This next week, I will be preparing several dishes straight out of my favorite food blogs. I will adhere to the following guidelines.

1. The dishes I choose will fit in with my overall lifestyle. A lot of cooking on Sunday, with quicker dinners on sunday that provide room for leftover lunches. I will prepare a mixture of elaborate dishes, quick meals, sides, and one wonderful dessert.

2. I will push my comfort zone. Ingredients I don’t often choose, methods I may not have mastered, and cuisines that I may have ignored.

3. None of the dishes contain bacon or pork product, and at this point I have no plans to add bacon to any dish. This will present a stern test with at least one of the items.

4 I will choose my dishes from blogs I have read for a long time, respect, and enjoy.

5. I will stay as close as i can to the original recipe, even if it means a quick last-minute trip to the IGA.

So I’ll see you guys next sunday with a full debriefing and a bunch of pictures.