Monday, September 5, 2011

Perfect Pairings

This post regards Saturday's cookery - a bit belated, but I was busy that evening, spent all of Sunday-day with an old friend and all of Sunday-night in the animal emergency clinic for a (minor) issue with my puppy.

The first thing I started with was the base for the honey ice cream. Now, in the past, I've noted that recipes from this site are invariably too strong, and I thought to cut it back ... but since I wouldn't be letting the milk steep overnight like last time, I decided against it. It took forever to bring the milk to a simmer - close to an hour. I then let it set for an hour and a half.

Next, I started the cookie dough. Ended up having to run the fennel seeds through the spice / coffee grinder twice - they don't grind easily. As always, I used a ruler to get an eight inch log, because I entirely lack the ability to eyeball these things. The dough was so soft - in fairness, I nearly melted the butter because I forgot to bring it to room temperature first, so I microwaved it a bit - that I had trouble getting it to hold up in a log long enough to get it into the refrigerator.

I started the ice cream after watching Giada win over my heart. The base cooked up easily in around ten minutes, then went into the ice bath for the addition of honey. I do recommend using an ice bath, because otherwise it takes forever to cool. And I lied above (shock, horror!) - I actually did cut the amount of honey I used just a little bit.

Re-verdict (ice cream): Still an excellent ice cream, sweet - this time, not too sweet - and flavorful with the faint tang of cloves. If I make again, I would steep overnight, though: just possibly use less of the spices. They weren't quite pervasive enough.

The pine nut cookie log firmed up nicely and cut just as easily - again using the rule to get accurate slices. I used more than a quarter cup of pine nuts, liking a generous portion on each cookie. (And I ended up with about two dozen rather than the three indicated on the recipe, so it really was generous.) Embarrassing moment of the day: I realized I had no parchment paper and had to zoom out for it. Discovered it was not with the baking supplies and had to wander, too.

Re-verdict (cookies): These are simply delicious - the fennel is sharp and surprisingly satisfying in a shortbread, and the pine nuts add an extra, sneak-up-on-you element of sweet. Highly recommended.

A little later, I did mise en place for both the pineapple and the sloppy joes, knowing they would both have to be on the stove for about the same amount of time. Happily distracted by a phone call, I forgot to reserve the pineapple juice for the pineapple dish, so I ended up using water - but this time, I was actually able to use black mustard seeds and a crushed dried red chile, the intended ingredients over my substitutes of last time. I hoped this would mitigate the crushing spiciness of last time.

The pineapple dish being a simple matter of frying the ingredients and then adding the pineapple, I started that first, and while it rested on the lefthand burner - I almost swung the skillet handle about to the back of the oven to give myself more room, then caught myself just in time - I started work on the sloppy joe sauce ... and noticed that one of the two cans the tomato sauce I had been planning on using had swelled.

Now, I had already remembered from the first time that this dish was too watery - it never really reduced enough - and in reading comments on the recipe, discovered it was transcriber error: the recipe says tomato sauce + water, but Aarti uses tomato paste + water. So I figured: tomato sauce + no water should do it. Now, however, I had to improvise, so I used half tomato sauce, half tomato paste (guessing that half a can would be sufficient) and half the recommended amount of water. That's way too many halves.

And it turned out to be perfect. As the sauce reduced, I prepped the raisins and pistachios - I'm always surprised how fast raisins plump up - and then begin cooking the turkey. I was concerned I wasn't able to cut the pieces down finely enough, but once the sauce was added, it seemed just about perfect.

Always garnish with cilantro. This is not an optional step.

Re-verdict (pineapple): This is still spicy, but came out milder - a pleasant heat rather than an overwhelming one. Good and easy.

Re-verdict (joes): These are so fun - a traditional sloppy joe with a lot of subtle flavors, nuance and satisfying crunch. Recommended, with the recipe modification above.

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