Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
In the introduction of Ratio by Michael Rhulman he discuss hollandaise sauce as it applies to his discover of ratios. He states, "Take away the vinegar, pepper, and lemon and you still have hollandaise. Take away yolks or butter and it ceased to be hollandaise," (Rhulman xxiii) what he was discussing was in reference to the old Dean at the C.I.A. and his conversation of ratios, and that an understanding of the fundamentals of cooking is necessary in understanding food. But this is a backwards approach to understanding food. To understand the fundamentals, I believe, you must understand food. Make hollandaise and place it in a bowl what is it? It is not a meal, despite the friends who would claim they could eat by the spoonful I would challenge them to eat a whole bowl, nor is it a sauce. When studying sauce making in a culinary school your are given several criteria as to what is a sauce. You may been told about consistency, or classifications, but these are just label and points of qualities. The one criteria is that it is a liquid that is used to enhance a meal. A English Muffin, ham, and poached egg is a fine meal, but to add hollandaise to elevate, to improve it. It is not because it becomes Eggs Benedict, this is just a name of a dish and one that, in the contemporary since, has little to do with traditional ingredients, it is because the sauce works well and enhances. The acid, the fat, the moisture, these qualities create something new out of what was already there. So to the point of without vinegar, pepper, or lemon, but with just butter and egg you have hollandaise I will have to say no. Butter slowly whisked into egg yolk is emulsified butter, butter slowly whisked into egg yolk with vinegar, pepper, and lemon is emulsified butter with vinegar, pepper, and lemon. It is the intent that makes it Hollandaise Sauce.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This is all very necessary for the working and struggling classes to pull out of the dependence on convenience foods, but we must be able to find a emotional connect to these dishes. If we are to eat rice every day in order to survive it helps to know that their is volumes of history of peoples that with little more than rice to live on have aided in the development of civilizations. Several years back I was in a little worse off than now (which isn't saying to much, but with the benefit of mild Southern winters), and living on a diet that doesn't differ to much from now, the exception was a little less cooking knowledge to help stretch out the food, it consisted mostly of black beans and some masa for my tortilla. Around that time I came across the book, "Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From the Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado," Elvia is a labour organizer and activist first brought to US attention during the eighties, in the book there is a wonderful description of the average meal of the compasinos in the area where she was organizing which was, to the letter, the meal I was waiting for to finish cooking. After that I never look grudgingly at my pot of beans or my tortilla, I had a deep connect to the poor on a global level with every smear of bean wipe up with my tortilla, every mouth full of rice, with the cracked coating of dough on my hands will I made my bread. The great problem with programs to help us it that it is often coming from people with a disconnect from our lives and needs. Every food drive calling for canned goods for the poor make me sad; give us flour for our bread, corn to mill, beans to wash and cook. Let us have a connection to our food. If you want to give us something, give us land. Le us look to people like Ledonna Redmond as an example on how we should bring food to our tables.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The arepa is one of those holy little items of the culinary world that gives meaning to a impoverished meal. Arepas are masa cakes the come from South America, they are often the bread for small sandwich like creations, sliced and filled with a variety of goodies. I first came across arepas while working a the Chicago restaurant Coobah where they produced a sweet variety that I have adopted for my home. The version given here is similar to their version but with a few variations, such as the use of a filling, they simple made the cakes as a base for their Eggs Benedict variation. The measurements are approximated, since I do this mostly to feel.
2 c. Masa
2 T cilantro, chopped
1/8 c. sugar
2 T Rhum, optional
1 can coconut milk, optional
Toss you masa, cilantro, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Place the sugar in a heavy bottom pan with enough water to give a wet sand feel, and place it over high heat. As the water cooks away the sugar will have enough time to melt, and then begin to caramelize. Once the sugar reaches a nice amber color you will turn it in to a caramel sauce of some form. The options here are adding about 2 cups of water to the caramel while whisking, or adding the Rhum will whisking followed by the water or coconut milk. While the sauce is still boiling pour it into the masa mixture. Stir quickly to evenly mixt the dough till it forms a stiff dough that is pliable and holds to together, if needed add more water. Pull off about 1 oz. balls of the dough forming them into round discs. Place your filing in the middle, and cover with a second disc and seal the edges. After all of the arepas are formed fry them in a little hot lard until they are nicely browned on the outside.
They filing can vary, but should be able to hold up to the sweet dough. For this meal I used the salted fried pig's skin I mentioned earlier. The final verison of this dish was served with sofrito made with tomato, culantro, cilantro, scallion, onion, jalapeno, lime, and shredded smoked fermented fish.