From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Leftovers? What leftovers???

It was a fun weekend for me on the culinary standpoint, as I was virtually inundated with fodder for today's entry.  I was exposed, mostly voluntarily, to the widest variety of cuisines possible today, both in a dining standpoint and from a televised perspective.  It was AWESOME!!!  The question was: "What would POSSIBLY be interesting enough to captivate an audience, and how in the WORLD would I pen all of it?"

So here goes...

It started late Friday evening, on a cold almost-winter's night.  Horns were blaring in the streets and music was bumping and thumping from the... oh, good grief... this is starting off like a bad novel..

We were at my wife's company Christmas Party and the dinner was.. umm... good? I think?  There was a veritable buffet of Mexican Food, and I started on the wrong side of the line.  (Actually, I think they had set the line up the wrong way.)  In the first chafing dish was the ubiquitous Tex-Mex starch option - Rice & Beans. Really.  Moving along, I encountered picadillo*, shredded chicken, fajita chicken and steak, and plenty of flour tortillas.  It was the true trifecta of starch, starch, starch.  Better to load up once than have to stand in line a second time.  So.  Tacos and $7.00 margaritas in a 6 ounce cup? Awesome.

Needless to say, we left there just a little unsatisfied, wondering if we were going to have to run into a 24 hour joint to get some true sustenance, or hold out until the morning. 

Turns out we decided to wait. But boy, was it worth the wait.

Somehow, in our travels on Saturday, we ended up at Golden Wok.  Yum.  Had a craving and ordered enough to satisfy the craving, fully anticipating that we would have, as always, leftovers to take home for the next night's meal.  I ordered off of the Dim Sum menu.  My old standard.  Har Gou, Shrimp Siu Mai, and Beef Spare ribs.  Kim ordered the Shrimp and Broccoli and pan-fried chicken Potstickers, and my younger daughter ordered a bowl of their Egg Drop Soup.  As the food started arriving, I realized that we might be in some trouble.  Not because of the quantity, but because of the flavor profiles that we would be encountering.

One of the cardinal sins in the dining world is to work backwards in taste.  One should NEVER serve the tastiest, most seasoned dish first, or else your subsequent course or menu item will not satisfy you.  (Hence the whole "serving the palette cleansing sorbet thing" in fancier restaurants.)

Thankfully, either because the servers and chefs knew of this rule, or through blind luck, our food was served in the proper order.  (I am guessing the former, because our food was never brought out by the same person.)  The chicken potstickers were tasty, and crispy, which is how they MUST be served, or else the skin will stick to your teeth. yuck...  The dipping sauce added a spicy and tangy dimension to what would otherwise have been bland, because right after we got the potstickers, the Har Gou showed up.  Shrimp, wrapped in rice paper, much more flavorful than the potstickers.  Then came the Siu Mai, the Beef Spareribs and the Shrimp and Broccoli.

The look on my wife's face when the spareribs showed up was classic.  (What the heck is THAT?  How come it doesn't look like what is in the picture?!?!?)  But, to give her credit, she did try it, but didn't like it.  The black bean sauce that the spareribs were cooked in was quite tasty.  But it is an acquired taste.

Leftovers? What leftovers? There may have been half a portion of the Shrimp and Broccoli left after all was said and done, and even our younger daughter was stuffed.  Such a good thing...

I knew it was going to be tough to follow that act the rest of the weekend, so I didn't try. Really. Why set myself up for failure?

Grilled Cheese sandwiches the rest of the way.  (With pancetta and salami, a heart attack lover's delight!)

On Sunday, between football games, I managed to watch Cake Boss, Cooking with Gordon Ramsay Live and Iron Chef America - A match up special featuring Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentis versus Mario Batali and Rachel Ray.  It was fun watching the match-up, because Rachel Ray, who drives me nuts yet has some easy to cook recipes for quick food on the go, seemed truly out of her element, out of her comfort zone.  The mystery ingredient was...wait for it... Cranberries!!  I saw some true inspiration in the dishes that were presented, as well as variations on an old favorite, and I saw some safety.  Ideas to cook by? Absolutely!!

The most engaging show of the day, however, was definitely Gordon Ramsey's Cookalong Live, featuring a curse-free Gordon Ramsay, with celebrity accompaniment of Leann Rimes, Cedric the Entertainer, and Alyson Hannigan.  I would have LOVED to have been a part of the studio audience, but only if I would have been able to partake of the dining experience and taste his food.  Gordon Ramsey did a good job of, in his frenetic, almost frantic pace, guiding many different families and the celebrities through the basic steps of cooking fun and flavorful dishes as part of a 3 course meal.  On the menu: a shrimp-and-pasta appetizer, steak Diane served with sauteed potatoes and peas as the main course, and a quick tiramisu for dessert.  The most fun element of the show for me was watching just how FAST the man can cook.  Pure economy of motion, no wasted movements, no unnecessary flair.  (Although the FLAMBE action with the sauce for the steak Diane was cool.  Don't know how I am going to do that without a lighter, as I have to cook with *sob* electricity...)  It makes perfect sense to me why the numbnuts on Hell's Kitchen stand such a little chance of succeeding.  If you can't cook a meal for 4 in an hour, on a Tuesday night, then you sure as heck won't survive in HIS kitchen. 

I was wondering, however, how in the world anyone would be able to stop and eat, if all of that food was to be cooked in an hour.  I am going to have to give that whole meal a spin. 

(Honey, you remember what we need to add to the shopping list for next week, right? Oh, crap, okay... call me and I will tell you.)

*My recipe for a delicious picadillo, as done at Chino's Cafe:


2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
3 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (Cholula is my favorite)
6 cups canned stewed tomatoes, half-drained

In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of  oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion and green pepper until onions are transparent. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, heat the remaining oil and brown the ground beef.

In a separate saucepan, combine vinegar, salt, pepper,  bay leaves and hot sauce. Let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Place the seasoning mixture and the onion mixture into the pot with the ground beef. Add the half drained tomatoes and cook for 1 hour over medium heat; stirring occasionally.

Yum... Good Eating, Friends...

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