Saturday, June 25, 2016

my food will warp your sense of time and put you in a coma

I fed my boss and my lone coworker some fusilli with red sauce the other day. The sauce itself was actually just bottled Korean spaghetti sauce—no different from a bottle of Ragu or Prego from back home.* The meat in the sauce was of two varieties: Italian sausage (purchased at High Street Market) broken up into small, spoonable chunks, and gigantic ox-testicle meatballs made of ground beef and pork.** I had also chopped up and included two types of mushrooms: button and oyster. The result was a rib-sticking, chunky tomato sauce. I brought this mess to the office, along with pre-cooked fusilli (easier to store and reheat than spaghetti or other noodles: fusilli's spiral shape prevents it from sticking to itself and becoming a huge, fused mass of pasta) and a bottle of parmesan cheese. Around 2PM, I set about serving.

The pasta was in a container that was too large for our office's tiny microwave, so I used the kitchen's hot-water dispenser to drown the noodles for a minute and allow them to heat back up. After a quick soak-and-drain, the fusilli were ready. I had brought along my gas stove and other cooking equipment, so I fired up the stove, dumped the cold sauce into my large bokkeum pan, and began reheating. The smell permeated our small office, distracting my coworker, who claimed he had sworn off carbs that week and wouldn't be joining our meal.

That last thing didn't happen: my coworker's will broke, and he asked to be given a serving. I made him a Kevin-sized bowl of pasta, sauce, and meatballs (two per person: every man deserves two balls, yes?), then served myself, then told the boss—who came in late—that he could serve himself whenever he was ready. So we all chowed down on the huge bowls of pasta and sauce. My coworker narrated his experience as he ate, first noting how absolutely delicious the food was, then segueing into how he didn't think he'd be able to finish off the serving I'd given him, then talking about how he was determined to finish, because it was so good, but that the eating had become a chore for him. I joked that I didn't want to hear about my food being a chore, and that he should just stop eating. My coworker insisted, though, that he'd pace himself and get through the whole meal. It took him two hours.

My boss, who is as large as I am, didn't have such trouble, and he was delighted that I had put meatballs into the sauce. I made a face and, just to make him feel guilty, told him he'd made me do it. He chomped his way through his meal.

The net effect was this: my boss fell asleep in the office (not a rare occurrence in itself), having been driven into a food coma by my food. My coworker, who normally leaves the office at 5:10PM every day, stayed until nearly 6:30; he later told me this was because he was digesting and had lost all sense of time. I told him I'd take that as a compliment.

I like cooking for other folks, and I've done several of these miniature office parties already. We recently did one in which I served the same fusilli, but with a shabu-beef version of boeuf bourguignon. That was scrumptious. I've done coquilles St. Jacques, hummus and pita, fettuccine faux-Fredo (with Gorgonzola instead of parmigiano reggiano), pulled-pork sandwiches (with franks and beans), meatball sandwiches, stacked deli sandwiches, and several other meals. I'm sure I'll do more over the coming months.

But watch out, world: judging from my office mates, it appears that my food will warp your sense of time and put you in a coma if you're not careful. So eat wisely.

*In my defense: I've made tomato sauce practically from scratch a few times before, but as you know, that's an hours-long process that requires near-constant monitoring, and sometimes a guy just doesn't have the energy for such things. I also used the Korean bottled sauce because it had been on sale at my local grocery: three bottles for W10,000, which comes out to about $3, US, per bottle.

**I'm rather proud of these meatballs. I normally don't make them, but my boss obsesses over meatballs whenever we talk about spaghetti. A classic Italian meatball is normally made from three types of meat: ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal. I had no access to veal (for all I know, it's sold at specialty stores or larger Korean groceries), so I made do with two out of three of those meats. I slapped them into a large bowl along with some panko, olive oil, dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley, salt, pepper, and sugar. For the binding agent, I went for parmesan cheese, and for an aded twist, I glopped in a heaping spoonful of some chimichurri sauce that I had recently made. Chimichurri is already 90% within the Italian flavor profile: it's got basil, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. But where it strays from Italian is in its inclusion of cilantro. With that in mind, I was curious to see what would happen.

I divided the meat up into eight largish balls, each perhaps 3.5 ounces in weight (i.e., about half a large hamburger patty). I rolled the meatballs in flour, oiled up my pan, got the pan up to a nasty-hot temperature, dumped the meatballs in, and seared those bastards, turning them every couple of minutes to catch all the undone sides. I then dumped the meatballs into my already-completed spaghetti sauce and gave them a chance to marry their flavors with that of the sauce, cooking everything slowly and stirring constantly. I ended up eating two of the meatballs to, uh, make sure they'd been done right (yeah... that's why I had two of them...). They tasted fantastic. I really like using parmesan as a binding agent. It works well alongside the panko, and you don't miss the eggs at all. The herbs and seasoning worked in perfect concert, and the chimichurri didn't provide any false notes: if there was a hint of a cilantro-y taste, it was muted at best, but I think the cilantro contributed something, even if only on a subconscious level. Anyway, these were some of the most flavorful meatballs I had ever done.


1 comment:

John Mac said...

Back in the day when spaghetti was on my diet I always used Prego. There was a period where I didn't have access to the commissary and I tried the Korean sauce. I found it watery and not flavorful. I'm sure your sauce was awesome but I couldn't let the same-same comment go without challenge.