Sunday, May 31, 2015

aftermath's aftermath

Leftovers can be fun to play with. From last night's dinner, I had pieces of a not-so-great baguette (the Korean bakery/cafe chain Paris Baguette supposedly specializes in baguettes, but their baguettes are mediocre at best), some caprese, and one serving of shrimp-and-shroom pesto pasta. I plucked two fat shrimps and four flavorful slices of portobello from the pasta dish, then I split the shrimp in half. Next, I garlic-buttered the baguette pieces and pan-fried them—which is what I should have done yesterday instead of using the oven's broiler. The broiler is nice (I used it to cook the chicken satay, and it worked out perfectly), but for real browning, the direct heat of pan-frying can't be beat.

So I made what is essentially a shrimp-and-mushroom-caprese po' boy. I'm tentatively calling it il povero ragazzo, or just a povero ragazzo, the literal Italian translation for "poor boy." In terms of edibility, the sandwich, though it looks messy (see pics below), actually holds up well when you bite into it. Toward the end of the eating process, the sandwich's innards do try to slip out the back end, but the slippage isn't unmanageable. One disappointment is that the shrimps somehow get lost in the mix of all those flavors. This thought set me to thinking about how I might improve the sandwich. I'd probably cook the shrimps in much the same way, except that I'd add a bit more salt and a dash of chili flakes to accentuate the shrimpy flavor. Any heat from the chili will be offset by the coolness of the mozzarella. I'd also vary the proportions, increasing the shrimp-to-caprese ratio.

What you see below is something of a distant cousin to the crostini, but bigger and more ambitious. It's a good start, as sandwiches go; it could use a bit of improvement, perhaps, but everything in the sandwich makes sense in terms of flavor profile.

While I'm musing on the topic of food, I'll say a thing or two about things I learned in cooking yesterday's dinner. First: who knew that a yogurt marinade would be a legitimate marinade? According to Chef Anne Burrell, a marinade has three basic elements: an oil, an acid, and an aromatic (onions, garlic, herbs, etc.). When I whipped up Tyler Florence's satay recipe, which requires you to marinate your chicken, I had to wonder whether yogurt was an appropriate marinade. Turns out that it is, and I think I know why: yogurt is a dairy product, so there's your oil. Yogurt is also acidic, so there's your acid. And what an amazing marinade yogurt is! Florence's recipe includes nothing more than ginger, garlic, and curry in the chicken bath. I thought this might not be enough—what about some salt or something? I was wrong: as long as your next step, after marination, is to grill or broil the chicken (not to pan-fry it: if you do that, the marinade starts to smell like baby vomit—yeah, I made that mistake), you've got a perfect coating that sinks into and blends well with the meat. So, yes: marinate in yogurt, then grill or broil. The results will surprise you. Pleasantly.

The other thing I learned was that, when the recipe tells you to add sugar when making a chocolate ganache, this is no bullshit. The added sugar isn't there just for sweetness: it's there to give the ganache a shine and a luster that it wouldn't otherwise have. If you've seen what Nutella looks like straight from the jar, then you know it's got a "flat" look to it. I didn't follow any specific recipe in making my ganache: I simply followed intuition, common sense, and the half-remembered advice from recipes I'd read; the result, after adding sugar, was indeed a shiny, glossy ganache. In my case, I set up a double boiler, dumped in about two-thirds of a cup of Nutella, added about a third of a cup of heavy cream, and spooned in about two heaping tablespoons of white sugar. Time and heat and stirring all did their work, and in the end—voilà, a perfectly respectable ganache worthy of the cheesecake onto which I drizzled it. That, plus the three-berry sauce and the homemade whipped cream, made it all worth it.


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