Sunday, September 13, 2009

Notes From the Underground

Photo by Cynthia

Our friend Richard went clamming (without me) and found a sweet spot in the reeds. He harvested about 120 clams - too many even for Richard. He shared some with us, and we enjoyed them roasted from the grill with lemon and garlic butter.

Things are getting pretty busy here at the Random Gourmet. Cynthia and I work as theatre technicians and designers and as the fall season approaches we have multiple projects to juggle. While we continue to cook (and eat), the time to photo and blog is becoming scarce. And, we have a sober milestone approaching that will require its own entry on our related blog.

So while we may be dormant for several weeks, please check back occasionally. There is a lot going on below the surface.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sloppy Joe Pocket Sliders

Photo by Cynthia

Drick at Drick's Rambling Cafe extended a generous invitation to participate in his new weekly series on tailgating food - just in time for football season!

I love football! Well, not really, but I love to tailgate...

Actually, I just love to eat...

Anyway, to me the secret of good tailgating food is food that can be eaten with one hand: one hand to hold the paper plate and one hand to bring the food to your mouth.

Better yet, one hand to hold the food and one hand to hold the beer.

We've been doing a lot of sliders at our house lately, partly for portion control but mainly to increase the ratio of filling to bread. To me, a normal-sized 1/4 to 1/3 pound burger fits best on a slider roll. But mostly, sliders are fun.

I love Sloppy Joes and thought that converting such a classic into a slider would be perfect tailgate food if it weren't so, well...sloppy. And keeping that saucy mess in a tiny bun would be the definitive futile exercise. Then I remembered the mini pitas that we served with our tourtiere a week ago, and voila! Problem solved!

So here goes:
  • Sweat a mock mirepoix of diced onion, celery and sweet potato in a pan on medium heat. Why sweet potato? Just because. And just because I had one left over.
  • Chopped bell pepper is common in Sloppy Joes, but bell pepper messes with me. I used one chopped poblano, a couple of cherry peppers and some chopped peperoncini peppers.
  • After the vegetables are softened add two finely diced garlic cloves.
  • Add one pound of ground sirloin and about 1/2 pound of bacon that has been ground in a food processor.
  • Add salt, pepper, some smoked paprika and several healthy splashes of worcestershire sauce. Turn the heat up to medium-high to brown the meat.
  • When the meat is cooked through, add your house barbecue sauce (our house sauce follows). Start with adding about 1/2 cup, adding more as desired. Be careful to get the right saucy consistency to your meat mixture. If it is too runny or greasy, the sandwich will fall apart. If it's too dry, it just won't be a Sloppy Joe. Drain excess grease from the pan if necessary before adding any sauce.
  • Adjust the seasoning. If you want to go a little more southwestern, add some cumin, chili powder and/ or your favorite hot sauce.
Spoon the mixture into warmed mini pita pocket halves. We mated these with pockets full of a tangy slaw that Cynthia grabbed from Epicurious. For a variation, try spoonful of both in each pocket. This slaw was quite vinegary; Cynthia recommends cutting back a little on the sherry vinegar and doubling the sugar.

Our house barbecue sauce:
  • Pour a 16 oz bottle of pomegranate juice and the juice of one lemon in a pan and reduce to a thick syrup. You're basically making pomegranate molasses.
  • Add a 14 oz bottle of ketchup. I love ketchup. I need to start making my own.
  • Add 1 can of Coca-Cola. Or Root Beer. Or Dr. Pepper. A friend once inexplicably gave us 10 cases of Dr. Pepper. We had Dr. Pepper sauce for a year. And Dr. Pepper-glazed ham. And Dr. Pepper cherries jubilee...
  • Add 1/2 cup of sour orange juice. I find this in the ethnic aisle of the supermarket next to the mojito mix. If you can't find it use 50/50 lime and orange juice.
  • Add between 1/2 cup to 1 cup of bourbon.
Add anywhere from a teaspoon to two tablespoons each of:
  • fresh ginger
  • garlic salt
  • onion salt
  • sweet paprika
  • smoked paprika
  • ground coriander
  • crushed thyme
  • crushed oregano
  • celery salt
  • worcestershire sauce
  • salt and black pepper.
Simmer for at least an hour.

After creating the base sauce you can adjust to your liking or to suit the dish by adding:
  • honey, brown sugar and/or molasses
  • apple, pineapple, or mango juice
  • cider vinegar
  • mustard
  • ground chilies
  • cumin
  • tamarind paste
  • cinnamon
  • your hot sauce du jour...
The sky, as they say, is the limit.

Eating Her Curds and Whey

Photo by Cynthia

Cynthia has been urging me to try out tofu. This dish was a long way from Japanese, but, with a hat tip to Ming Tsai, I'm no longer afraid to add tofu to the arsenal.

First I mixed some curry powder into melted butter and began oven poaching some very large shitake mushroom caps with their chopped stems. Then I poured a 12 oz bottle of Jamaican-style ginger beer into a new pan with one crushed garlic clove and reduced to a thin syrup.

I discovered Goya Jamaican-style ginger beer with the Latin fooods in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store and first used it to cook rice. It has a wonderful aromatic taste of ginger with a unique tangy, spicy heat.

I cut a couple of small planks - about 2" x 3" x 1/2" - from a block of soft tofu and dredged them in panko seasoned with red and green chili flakes. These were fried in grapeseed oil for about three minutes on each side, then set on paper towels to drain.

A half pound of fresh heads-on shrimp (which had been peeled and de-veined, but with the heads and tails left on, and seasoned with salt and pepper) was sauteed on high heat, also in grapeseed oil, for about a minute on each side.The shrimp were then tossed into the pan with the ginger beer glaze with some chopped snow peas and scallions.

Each plate was prepared with a nest of soba noodles (cooked for about four minutes in coconut water), then stacked with a shitake mushroom cap, a fried tofu plank, and two shrimp. The snow peas and scallions were scattered about the plate with the mushroom stems, and the shrimp was topped with fresh bean sprouts.The final touch was tiny bit of steamed lobster claw. The dish then was drizzled with the shitake-infused poaching butter and the remaining ginger beer reduction.

The tofu and noodles absorbed all those warm and sweet-spicy juices. The more we ate, the better it tasted.

Cynthia liked it. A lot.

That makes me happy.