Sometimes, it feels like forces are just aligning against me. this weekend has been one of the most challenging I have had since getting to korea and certainly put doubts on completion of my weekly feast. The misfortune started on Thursday. As per my usual, I was browsing around on the internet, trying to decide exactly what I was going to cook on Sunday. I usually get a rough idea on Thursday and then by Friday afternoon, make a final decision and do the shopping. Well, this particular Thursday, there was a bit of snow coming down. The roads had been declared as dangerous here on the base and an announcement was made that all vehicles would be restricted starting at noon. This was at 11:30. With the forecast calling for continuing snow, there was a very real possibility that the base would be shut down and the grocery store closed. With this in mind, I found it necessary to make a snap decision and quickly rush to the store to shop for the meal. This in itself wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, I do prefer to have a bit more premeditation but I had been browsing a recipe from the January issue of Bon Appetit for a spicy meatball sandwich that seemed to fit the bill.
I hadn’t came up with sides by this point, I figured I would work it out on the fly. So, rush to the store, rush through the aisles, buy the ingredients for the sandwiches, add in a few nice sized potatoes (you can do so many things with potatoes) and on a sudden whim, four large artichokes. I’ve never cooked a fresh artichoke, why not…
Well, panic was for nothing, the snow let up and nothing was closed at all. All that rush for nothing. However, as stated in my previous post, Saturday morning I had a catastrophic computer failure. Not a show stopper for cooking but I do use the internet for browsing recipes and eventually for making posts such as the one you are now reading.
Add another brick to my wall of frustration. Five or six panicked hours later, I am up and running with some semblance of normalcy. I’ve lost all my data, my itunes library, the last 8 weeks of feasts photos and a couple of very nice photos of my wife (wink wink nudge nudge, say no more)… but fine, on track for Sunday cookery as normal.
Sunday rolls around. I have a lazy morning, a nice breakfast, an extra cup of coffee. I like to relax on Sundays but I think that goes for just about everyone. So, around noon, what should happen? Oh, yes, the electricity goes out. And remains out for the next four hours or so.
This, above all, has put a damper on my cookery. Luckily, this being a holiday weekend, I fall back on cooking on Monday. Improvise, adapt, overcome. Instead I spend Sunday searching for the bottom of a few white Russians and more than a few cheap beers. Entirely too many more to be exact. So, Monday morning comes as it usually does after Sunday night and I find myself wondering if I can even bear the thought of food much less the preparation of a nice meal. Long story slightly less long, I found the fortitude to go on and despite these challenges, prepared a mostly decent meal.
Three courses, the aforementioned Meatball Sandwiches, Twice baked potatoes and oven roasted artichokes.
Spicy Meatball Sandwiches (more accurately Pork Meatball Banh Mi, linked here on epicurious. oddly enough, the one problem I had with
ingredients for this meal was the daikon root. Imagine that, an asian ingredient that I couldn’t get my hands on even though I am in asia.
There are a multitude of sources for them off base but see the previous comments re: snow and realize that I was not driving anywhere. Besides, there was beer to drink. Aside from that lapse which I filled by plussing up the carrot content, the only real modifications to the recipe as originally designed was an increase in the amount of chili sauce in both the mayo and the meatballs themselves. I did increase the garlic in the meatballs to 7 cloves but I think anyone who knows me probably already knew that. I do wish that I would have taken the time to bake my own baguettes for this as the bakery at the commissary here is passable at best. These weren’t bad but they weren’t great either.
Twice baked potatoes: my wife called me out for cheating on this one.
It’s true, this is something I could make blindfolded as I have been making it pretty much my entire adult life. It was one of the mainstays of my early attempts at treating my wife right, twice baked potatoes, shark steak and steamed broccoli being a fairly routine example of my menus for her. Take two large-ish potatoes, prick them with a fork and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, slice off the tops (which are great snacks with a twist of salt, pepper and a sprinkle of
cheese) and carefully scoop out the cooked potato, leaving the wall of the baked potato intact. Mix the cooked potato with 2 tbsp butter, salt, pepper, a bit of cheddar cheese and two strips of crumbled cooked bacon. Refill the potatoes and pop into a hot oven for about 15 minutes to get them nice and browned on top. Serve and enjoy.
Artichokes: my goodness, I am so thankful at this point that these come in cans and jars. This has got to be the most difficult ingredient I have ever worked with, waaaay too much work and effort for the payoff.
I sliced these in half, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and baked in a 375 degree oven for about an hour. The hearts did attain a nice flavorful texture but there is so much peeling back of layers and discarding of the woody outer leaves that I seriously don’t believe it was worth the effort. I am determined to learn more about these as the taste was amazing, there just has to be something I need to do differently. Expect artichokes to make another appearance soon, possibly in the form of Poached Eggs
on Artichoke Bottoms with White Truffle Cream and Mushrooms. if that’s not decadence, I’m not sure what is.
I feel a pressure with the impending end of the project to ensure I give it my all, I’ve said this before but I really want to make sure sufficient planning and care is given to my endeavors. I believe I may begin planning on Wednesday to prevent the frantic efforts of last week.