Saturday, August 20, 2011

Walking Tall

Today started with a trip to my chiropractor after yesterday found me limping around the house in severe pain, so I was a bit concerned about my ability to stay on my feet long enough to cook. Thankfully, all is well - or at least well enough that my neighbors didn't hear me bellowing.

Last night, I didn't have much selection for plantains, so I wasn't able to get them totally-black as the recipe recommended. I picked up a paper bag at the grocery store, stuffed them inside, and hoped, and they did darken a bit more overnight.

I started with the pie crust for the plantain pie. By now, I've become practiced, if not skilled, at mixing fats into flour for dough. The homemade pie crust came together easily, but I got exasperated rolling it out and ended up just pressing the remainder up the sides of the pie pan. I also realized that I hadn't gotten beans to weigh down the crust, so I used very old rice instead. I don't even want to begin to divine when that rice actually went into the pantry, but it was probably during an era when "legs" was a dirty word.

Backing up a bit, before I rolled out the pie crust, I prepared the chicken marinade / sauce, which included ricotta, orange juice, ginger ... so many good things packed into one bowl to meld.

The baking of the crust went off without a hitch. As a note, since it said to lightly oil the foil, I used peanut oil. While the crust cooled, I peeled the plantains, dropped them in the food processor, and hoped. Success! They were soft enough to puree. I added the other ingredients and realized I'd gotten some molasses and then cinnamon on the top of the blade fixture, which meant it wouldn't get into the pie itself. I added a splash extra of each, which was perfect for the molasses and ... too much for the cinnamon. (In the final analysis, the difference wasn't enough to alter flavor.)

I discovered my dark brown sugar was a single rock candy lump, but managed to get enough softened to pour into the processor, too. This involved eating a lot of it - a necessary culinary step, I'm sure you'll agree.

Getting this pie to bake correctly was a challenge. I finally took it out at about 42 minutes - just shy of the upper range of the 35 - 45 min recommended - even though a knife wasn't coming out clean, because the edges were moving in the direction of burnt. As it turned out, this would be perfectly cooked.

Final verdict (pie): As advertised, this is very much like a pumpkin pie, but deeper, richer and less cloying. The crust, though, is nothing special and even a little off-putting in its blandness - I wouldn't bother to make my own in the future unless I were going to jazz it up.

Next, I simmered up the raisins in the red wine vinegar and sugar - that is to say, the sugar was in the vinegar, not the raisins, which would be tricky, though raisins in of themselves have sugar. This happened faster than I had anticipated. It came off to cool while I chopped and prepped. A quick toss with the other ingredients ... done.

Final verdict (salad): This is nothing special, but it has a nice tang to it and is dead simple to make. It could go with just about any dish.

At this point, I chopped the chilli and onion for the chicken, and wondered once more who in thunderation eats that much onion, anyhow? Recipe called for a full onion, and again, I used maybe a third - I had a half onion left over from last week. I think if I bought a pound of onions, I'd be set until Christmas. Again, I used peanut oil, since it seemed to fit the flavor profile.

After the onions and bay leaf had fried up for a bit, in went the chicken and sauce. I was concerned it wouldn't cook, and was pleasantly surprised when the chicken started to turn white before the stir-fry period was over. I would be lost without my wok lid - it's the only cover I have large enough for my frying pan.

I was a bit dubious that just throwing in chillis and mint at the last minute would anything to the flavor, but surprise, it does - they meld even without being cooked in with everything else.

Final verdict (chicken): A rich, mildly creamy dish with enjoyable flavor - maybe just a hint of spice. The sauce is quite thin ... next time, I would go with my instincts and make it with rice to sop up the additional juices.

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