I believe that the sign of a great meal is seeing the satisfaction that it brings to others. that is my prime motivation for cooking, to see someone else try what i have made and see the wow on their face. this weeks meal was a prime example of this, it turned out damned tasty and both Eddie and I couldn’t get enough. unfortunately for him, i laid claim to all the leftovers, yeah, it was that good, i was unwilling to share…
i owe a debt of gratitude to Bon Appetit magazine. i mention it a lot but i wanted to highlight just how much i enjoy it on a month to month basis. it’s one of the few pleasures i have here, opening the mailbox and finding one of the three magazines that i subscribe to (the other two being Wired and Popular Science). One of my favorite parts of Bon Appetit is their letters section in the front where readers mail in their memories of great dishes they have had either on holiday or during a special night out and the Bon Appetit staff do them the service of tracking down the recipe so they might recreate a little bit of that magic at home. It’s a great idea, everyone who enjoys food can probably think of a great meal that they have had that ties back to great memories. it’s natural to want to bring some of that home, even if in amateur hands such as mine the meal isn’t the glory it was made by the original chef, it’s still a great thing. i touched on this when i made the tuna with wasabi mayonnaise a few months back. this weeks meal is centered around a dish that comes from the letters section of the December issue (which due to the jacked up postal system here i received 4 days before the november issue, go figure). it’s originally from W.A. Frost and Company in St. Paul, all credit to their staff and chefs for the recipe, i am merely interpreting the best i can here in korea.
i’m going to paraphrase the prep for this, buy the december issue if you want really detailed instructions, i don’t want to steal their thunder… this recipe is modified from the original slightly with how i prepared it, replacing an ingredient or two due to availability and modifying quantities of things like garlic to suit my taste. i also scaled it down a little to closer fit my 2 person audience with a little left over for my lunch.
make a paste from 1 cup fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup paprika, the juice of 2 lemons, 6 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin and a generous drizzle of thai chili sauce. i used my immersion blender and a large mixing bowl because thats what i have available but a food processor would probably suit better.
start a saucepan over medium heat and transfer the paste to the pan. whisk in 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper. the original calls for the broth to chill overnight to develop the flavor but i shortcutted this step, primarily because i missed reading it when i originally planned the meal and started the broth about an hour before dinnertime. in a large pot, brown 3 oz of chorizo, three links in my case, rough chopped with the skins removed. add two pounds of mussels and stir well. pour in the broth and reduce to a simmer. the original calls for cooking the broth until the mussels open, about 5 minutes but the mussels i had access to were already on the half shell so i kinda winged it. be careful not to overcook, tough chewy mussels are not the aim here. i called it good after about 10 minutes on low low low heat and ladled onto serving plates, making sure to get a nice mixture of mussels, broth and chorizo in each portion.
Originally, i had planned on making the mussel dish alongside some patas bravas and a loaf of bread but the more i thought about it the patas bravas with their stewed tomato sauce didn’t carry enough contrast to the broth used on the mussels so i made up a potato dish as i went along. i’m sure it probably has a name in some cuisine somewhere, its so hard to come up with something truly new but to me they will probably always be known as “those really great potatoes i made that one day”. clever, huh? so, here is how i made them. take 6 small red potatoes and quarter them. place the potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. season with salt, pepper and rosemary. shake the bowl to ensure proper coverage and distribution of seasonings. transfer the potatoes to a casserole dish and bake at 350 until they begin to soften.
meanwhile, caramelize one finely chopped yellow onion over high heat in a bit of olive oil. when the onions are about done, remove the casserole from the oven and drop in a knob of butter, about 2 tbsp. let it melt a bit and shake the casserole to cover the potatoes with butter. stick them back in the oven and broil them for about 5 minutes to get a nice browning on the potatoes. i wasn’t too anal about it but try to have the fleshy parts of the potato up and the skins down.
then, mix 2 tbsp sour cream, 2 tbsp mayonnaise and 8 cloves of minced garlic well with your immersion blender to make a smooth sauce. i hit the sauce with my hand blender after as well to aerate the mixture a bit. to serve, not that you probably need me to tell you this, put the potatoes on the serving plate, top with caramelized onions and a dollop of the sauce. eat immediately and then return for seconds.
with a dish this good, i wanted the bread to turn out right. i decided to tinker a little with my standard bread recipe and make a wetter dough than normal in an effort to avoid some of the density problems with my past breads (ok, i’m the only one that ever complains, everyone else loves the bread but still, i think i can do better). i also wanted a bit more crust to the bread so i took steps. start with 3 1/4 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. make a well in the center and pour in about 1 1/2 tbsp of yeast. sprinkle a generous tbsp of sugar over that and a couple of grinds of salt around the outer edge of the bowl. drizzle olive oil around the edge and pour in 1 1/2 cups of warm water, not directly onto your yeast. mix with a large spoon until the dough comes together. i normally knead by hand at this point but with the wetter dough, i opted for the hand mixer with the dough hooks this time. knead for about 5 minutes until the dough has a nice consistency and a silky look to it. lift the dough from the bowl, pour in some olive oil and return the dough to the bowl, flipping to coat with oil. cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. your dough should have doubled in size by this point. turn out the dough onto a floured surface and punch down. add a large amount of cracked black pepper and basil. knead the dough until the pepper and basil are completely disseminated through the dough and it has a consistent look to it with no pockets of spices anywhere. form into a ball and place on an oiled baking pan, tucking the edges underneath to get a taut surface on top. cover again with a kitchen towel and let rise again for about an hour. after the second rise, score the top of the loaf with a serrated knife or a razor blade if you have one. this will help with crust development. brush the loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, not a lot, just enough to get that occasional surprise in your bite. bake at 350 for about 15 – 20 minutes until nicely browned. on my second attempt, done today at the request of a co-worker, i found that midway through the baking process, misting the loaf with water helps immensely in terms of crust development. i am basically in favor of it and will definitely work it into my normal routine for bread making.
so, there you have it, two dishes with a bread accompaniment and i really can’t say enough about how good they turned out. i think the appetizer that eddie brought made it even better, homemade pita and roasted red pepper hummus. i have created a monster. also, pairing the meal with Leffe Blonde was an outstanding idea, i would have to suggest it to everyone far and wide.
only 2 more meals until i get to go home for christmas and see my wife and kids for the first time in seven and a half months. i plan on making a supplemental entry for a dinner party we are having on christmas eve, stay tuned for that.
next week is likely to be cordon bleu with garlic mashed potatoes and some undetermined vegetable, possibly a spinach based dish, i have a hankering…