Sunday, February 13, 2005

the fondue you missed
(and other things)

A lovely afternoon meal with Person Who Shall Not Be Named consisted of a very good, if somewhat thin, fondue moitié-moitié, chopped-up baguette, and leftover salad from the previous meal. I have enough cheese for a second fondue; perhaps I'll blog that one.

The fondue got better as the cheese disappeared. Next time, I'll have to add more flour. There are flour and cornstarch versions of this fondue... perhaps the most unfortunate thing today was to be missing nutmeg and kirsch, but I've had-- and made-- fondue without those ingredients, and it tasted just fine. Wine is probably the most important component, along with the Gruyère, giving fondue moitié-moitié its signature smell and taste.

After the meal, I went for a long, late-afternoon stroll through the Olympic Park. Dedicated rollerbladers were out doing their maneuvers; some couples were about, gloved hand in gloved hand; flocks of becoated old people jabbered as they walked past me; some bikers and joggers added kinetic zest to the scene. The Olympic Park's man-made lakes had been drained for the winter; it was strange to stare out at the dry, cold, packed earth, which for some reason had bulldozer tracks all over it.

I swung by a bathroom to take what I suspected would be a massive shit, but only a single plop, about the size of half a Bratwurst, came out.

On my way back out of the park, I saw a rabbit on one of the sidewalks. White body, one black eye, and black ears. I asked it, "Why aren't you hibernating?", but it bustled away, its rabbity secrets unrevealed. I'm never sure how concerned I should be when I see animals out in the cold. Seoul has plenty of dogs and cats fending for themselves in the winter; I imagine they're all pretty street smart.

Had another shit when I got home; I suspect my body is reacting to the super-infusion of cheese. As I've gotten older my Asian genes have activated and I've become somewhat lactose intolerant. I expect to be taking another shit or two after blogging this evening. The shit will probably smell like Gruyère.

In lieu of fondueblogging, let me present you a few pics of the white sauce I made the same night I made the spaghetti sauce and pasta.

Some white sauce ingredients (Italian spices not pictured, but they played an important role-- the holy trinity of parsley, oregano, and basil):

The rinsing and draining of the shrimp (a large pack which cost me about $9):

I had also bought clams, but somehow I overcooked them and it was like eating leather. Seafood is volatile that way: most items from Mother Ocean come pre-salted and require little in the way of cooking. This is probably why raw fish is usually a safer bet than, say, drinking raw eggs or eating steak tartare (which, by the way, is tastier than it looks).

Here, you see the shrimp being fried up with a bunch of mushrooms:

The end result:

Frying completed, I removed the skillet and started making the white sauce. That, too, was initially a disaster, because I added way too much flour and ended up with a soppy mass that looked like Cream of Wheat. So I immediately tried again, and... success.

Here's the way you should really do it:

1. Ignore the recipe's indications for how much flour should go into the hot milk.

2. Start with at least 2 cups of milk and a huge-ass chunk of butter in your saucepan (think: about the size of 1.5 to 2 golf balls). Buttery Bechamel. Heat. As when making chocolate milk, don't scald the milk. It never did anything bad to you, so treat it right.

3. Start adding flour, tentatively, perhaps a heaping teaspoonful at a time. Make sure the flour is mixed evenly through the milk and butter mixture. If the liquid is hot enough, you should see a thickening reaction within a minute. Watch that reaction. Get a handle on when it stops. If the thickening stops, but the sauce is still too thin (ever opened a can of Chunky Style New England Clam Chowder? that's your test for viscosity), add a bit more flour and mix in the same manner.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste. That's the basic sauce. In fact, the next time I make a creamy chowder, I'm going to start with this as the base.

Combine the sauce with the fried-up shrimp and mushrooms, and voilà:

Person Who Shall Not Be Named liked the sauce so much that she kept it. It was gone in 48 hours.

In conclusion, I want you to ponder the fact that the sentence "You can never eat too much cheese!" can be read in two completely opposing ways.


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