Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's cookin' #2 - all KINDS of stuff (including a Century Egg)

Actually I've been cooking quite a bit - September and the beginning of October got so crazy that I ended up eating out to the point where I was tired of eating out and it's been nice over the last couple of weeks to replenish the refrigerator and freezer. 

Spam musubi was not my only Asian-inspired experiment - weekend before last, I finally made the dried scallop congee (rice porridge) I'd planned to have the night I stayed on Croton Point during my paddle down the Hudson - I'd started out with a really nice visit with friends at the Chelsea Yacht Club, which got me off to a late start, which meant that I got to the Annsville Creek Paddlesports Center fifteen minutes after Bill had shut up shop and headed up to Norrie Point for the Friday night activities he has up there. With nobody to visit at Annsville Creek and a fair distance to travel before I got to my campsite for the night, I lost all my inclination to do all the unpacking I was going to have to do to get the scallops and rice into their soaking containers, so I left 'em bagged up and had round 2 of pasta with sausage, squash, green onions and cheese.

Congee fixin's, delivered by kayak from Waterford, NY.

After Saturday's big swim support across the lower Hudson, I was ready for a day of puttering around at home, and ended up doing 2 projects in the kitchen.

Project 1 was finally making the congee. I was extra-glad that I'd gone with the pasta because this really took a long time to cook down into a nice porridge-y consistency. I still think this could be a good camp dinner but it would need to be on one of the shorter days, not the very longest one!

Only benefit to having it while camping would have been that I would have been eating it in the dark.

In the dark? Yup. You see, I had decided to get extra-fancy with this ten mixed grain rice I'd picked up in Chinatown a while ago. The rice mixture was attractive enough out of the bag (although it did look disconcertingly like birdseed):

But the end result reminded me a lot of the time when I came home from Ithaca with a beautiful homegrown purple cabbage from the garden of the lovely folks who'd put me up for Women Swimmin' 2013, and made it into corned beef and cabbage. Do you know what color corned beef and cabbage turns when made with a beautiful purple cabbage? I didn't, but I found out, and let's just say that if you're looking for a fun dish to make for a Halloween party, that would work well. You could call it Zombie Stew - everything in the pot went this sort of dead blue color. Delicious, if you like corned beef and cabbage (which I do, very much)- but really, really offputting in appearance.

Same story with the congee. Very tasty, and I'm adding it to my winter comfort food cooking list, but next time I'm making it with normal white rice - after an hour and a half on a low slow simmer all of those lovely browns in the rice had just sort of mushed into a dispirited gray. 
Project #2 was much more of an unqualified success - when I'd gone out to the club to collect my gear for the swim, I also decided to collect some basil from the garden even though it was weird picking it in the dark. I didn't strip the bushes, but I got a nice big bag, enough for my annual Pestopalooza!

Never any questions about that. Basil + garlic + pignoli + olive oil = freezable yumminess (I'll add the cheese as I thaw it out for use over the winter). The only thing I'm wondering is whether there were enough leaves left on the basil plants that I might get a Round 2 out of it.

Have to check that out as I managed to NOT make it out to the club last weekend. I'm glad I decided to check the garden when I did, though, the tomato plants had one last ripe tomato for me! This one didn't even need to sit - this was an orange variety and it was ready to eat. We'd had a warm spell the week before and I think that was just enough to coax this last one into perfect vine-ripeness and in fact the plant had flowered again -- I don't think that's going anywhere but this was a lovely surprise in October. Also picked a palmful of peppers.

You'd think that this and the spam musubi experiment would've been enough culinary fun for a while, but somehow although I went into last weekend feeling fairly confident that there would be boating, it ended up being A Weekend In The Kitchens (how enchanting, how deliciously droll)!

TQ's taking a few vacation days in here and a weekend together is a rare treat! Saturday was absofreakinlutely gorgeous and we totally should have gone paddling or maybe sailing - but first we slept in, and then since I still had all the fixings, I just had to make spam musubi and eggs for breakfast. Sorry, no pictures this time, just picture two on the leaf plate with a nice heap of scrambled eggs (scrambled in the spam pan with the caramelized spam-shoyu-sugar-and-ginger juice, yummy). By the time that was done, it was feeling somehow too late to pack up for a Jamaica Bay trip, plus we both had odds and ends to do around the house, so he headed home and I headed, yup, back into the kitchen. Round 2 that day was "butterduckennuttercress" soup - I'd had a bunch of watercress left from the congee, I'd thought that would go nicely in butternut squash soup so I'd picked up a squash earlier in the week. I ran to my local greengrocer for a sweet onion and a head of garlice; I roasted the squash, onion, garlic in the dutch oven, thawed out a container of ducken soup, fried up some bacon in the stockpot, sauteed the watercress with the bacon, threw in the soup, pureed the roasted veggies, threw those in - thought that was it and then realized that there was caramelized squash and onion juice all over the bottom of the Dutch oven so I deglazed that and threw that in the stockpot too. Delicious.

Took some of that over to TQ's for dinner and then we watched 3 episodes of Iron Chef - 2 Japanese (an early early Japanese one where the Iron Chef was being a total goofball and everybody on the set was trying to crack everyone else up while cooking their octopi, a later Japanese one where they were being Much More Serious - or maybe it was just the horrible English voiceovers, I would've preferred subtitles) - and then a very strange one from Thailand where they started with some sort of crocodilians (caimans?), the entire critter, toothy head to scaly tail, and finished with these astoundingly gorgeous dishes. All in Thai, no subtitles, but you could pretty much see what was going on the whole time.

The next day TQ made steak and eggs for breakfast and then we just carried on with the culinary theme with a trip to New York Mart, a grocery store in Brooklyn's Chinatown. We came home with bean paste and lup cheong and mirin and char siu sauce mix packets and an assortment of frozen dumplings and I don't remember what all else, and TQ bought himself a wok (he's been wanting one for ages) and I got a small thermos (I discovered my old one had lost its vacuum during the lower harbor swim when I got on the support boat looking forward to some hot tea and it was luke warm) but the main point of the trip was to find some century eggs -- I'm not sure where TQ had read about these but he really wanted to try them and we did indeed find them, plus some salted boiled duck eggs. I ran home to get some white rice and green onions while TQ seasoned the wok, which I broke in with rice with the green onions and the Chinese sausage.

and when that was done TQ got the eggs out. Here's a century egg straight out of the box. 

 Starting to peel. We'd done enough reading to not be surprised by the color. Century eggs are preserved by coating them in a mixture of clay, salt, ashes, and quicklime, which causes this change in appearance. Still strange to see this color -- I can't imagine what we would've thought if we hadn't seen pictures. 

 All peeled, on the plate with the salted egg (which didn't peel nearly as neatly). I was a little disappointed that this one didn't have the snowflake patterns they showed in the picture on the box - that's apparently a hallmark of these eggs but it wasn't very pronounced on this one. 

 Sliced, the deep amber color of the yolk comes out - really looked nice. The yolk was a little scary looking and the egg didn't smell too good - we both took a sniff while TQ was peeling it and we both wrinkled our noses at it. But we're both big fans of stinky cheese too, a food that's frequently mentioned in online articles about century eggs, so we don't scare that easy. 

 We got a little silly with the plating after all the prior night's Iron Cheffery. The salted egg had been very messy to peel and the century egg was a little wobbly when slicing but I tried to arrange them and then I put a green onion on the plate and then TQ said "Ha ha!" and added the red pepper garnish. I don't think we're ready for Iron Chef but we were having fun.  

TQ tried his first and then after watching his face relax from a very tentative state as he began to chew to a "well that's not bad" expression, I tried mine. Not bad indeed - somehow, very much like a stinky cheese, the smell that was so unpleasant to the nose didn't translate to an unpleasant taste in the mouth, and I really liked the creamy texture of the yolk. Of course after the first couple of bites I sort of diluted the taste trial by deciding that what would be really good would be to chop up the eggs and mix them in with the sausage-and-green-onion rice - and that combination was really, really good. 
Second course was a few assorted steamed dumplings, but the century egg was really the big experiment of the day. Might have to try them in my next go at congee - they're a very traditional thing to put in there.

So that's what's cookin' - all kinds of things!

Hopefully back to something on the water or at least outside next weekend - but this was good fun.

1 comment:

Rob K said...

My goodness, Bonnie, you've been cooking up a storm. Invite me over for dinner--I'll bring the cheese!