Wednesday, October 24, 2012

With a Hint of Burnt Popcorn


If failure had a scent, it would probably smell something like burnt popcorn.
That quick moment where you walk away from the stove from what you thought was a couple of minutes and your first indication of a ruined batch is the acrid perfume of blackening corn kernels.

After this most recently happened to me, I took a close look at my pot of failure and thought that biting into a whole kernel would definitely be off-putting. But I couldn't bring my self to throw away the disappointing results. I did dispose of the whole burnt kernels just leaving the remnants and I decided to cook quinoa in the same pot with salted water hoping that the beyond smokey flavor would permeate the grains and give a hint of something familiar, yet unfamiliar in its context. 

I boiled the quinoa in the burnt popcorn water until completely evaporated, let it cook a bit longer so the quinoa started to toast and almost burn itself. I then quickly stirred everything to mingle all the textures and flavors from the bottom of the pot.


I might actually prefer it this way. Though I struggle with the fact that I may have to purposefully burn popcorn every time, I believe I'll get used to it.

Monday, October 15, 2012


shrimp shell broth
celery root dumpling
crispy beef feet
sunchoke powder
thai basil

Broth is a great vehicle for layering flavors without one particular ingredient standing out. All of the components work together to create a harmonious focal point. There is no star to the dish, the dish itself is the star. One could easily say that the shrimp plays first fiddle, but I think that diners and chefs are almost conditioned to give the starring role to a protein. The bold item with the larger font held up by the starch, sauce, vegetable and herb; all in a smaller and less bold font. The stigma of entrées.

Hear me out, there is nothing wrong with having a star protein. The juicy, thick, bone-in ribeye smothered in mushrooms & peppercorns propped atop mashed potatoes or the roast chicken leg amongst a smattering of root vegetables from the same pan. These are all delicious ways to eat. However, it seems as though we cannot come away from this idea. When your eyes dart past the EntrĂ©es section of a menu it's almost as if every dish is set up in this A-B-C format. This is why I almost always eat from the appetizers and snacks section of most menus and just enjoy an assortment of flavors in smaller bites that won't leave me feeling like a gluttonous schmuck. The usual exceptions for me are often big bowls of soup or varied plentiful salads. These as a main course are often loaded with multi-layered flavors and ingredients that all support each other equally and give you a different experience with each bite. 

The broth was made from shrimp shells, garlic, onion & celery and seasoned with salted tomato water.

The shrimp was poached in a beurre monte with herbs.

The beef feet is left over from making beef broth, deboned, patted dry and pan fried.

The celery root dumpling is made from boiled celery root, flour and egg. Also crisped in the pan.

The sunchoke powder is made from the leftover trimmings and peels of sun chokes, dried in the oven and then pulverized in a spice grinder.