DON’T TELL A COOK, “There’s no accounting for taste”

squash

Monday:              Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Chickpeas

sausage and cabbage

Tuesday:              Hot Sausage and Cabbage Stir-Fry with Chives on Flour Tortillas with Hoisin Sauce

avo toast

Wednesday:      Avocado Toast, Frittata

Thursday:            Katie and Dave’s Party for Julie and Matt -spectacular London Broil and those little hot dogs in pastry and lots of good-looking young people

snapper

Friday:                  Cheese and Crackers / Fried Fish Fillets with Herbs and Lemon, Parsley Potatoes, Green Salad

Matt and Julie

Saturday:             Julie and Matt’s wedding

Chicken Chemuin Dinner

Sunday:                Cheese, Toasted Baguette, Mustards and Chutney                               Chicken Chemuin with Sautéed, Lemony Zucchini and Beez’s Corn Salad / Cookies

Last week was filled with great food that we did not cook.  Katie and Dave threw a beautiful party for Julie (Slavish) and Matt (Murphy) who got married this weekend.  And (courtesy of Tim and Hilda) there was a huge party with great food and drinks at the Field Club after the wedding.  The wedding ceremony itself, with the string quartet, Uncle Rick’s singing, Father Duch’s benevolent presence and the beautiful couple exchanging vows was dynamite.  When was the last time you heard that said about a Catholic Mass?

The truth is that we would be content to live on other people’s good cooking.  But, while there are parties and marriages all the time, we don’t get invited to most of them, and need to expend some effort to put food on the table between invitations.  Now, we wouldn’t compare our food with the super London Broil that Danny provided at Dave and Katie’s or with the Field Club’s steak and lobster, but we did manage to put together some very tasty stuff indeed.  And tastiness is what we seek in the food we make and eat.

It was not always so.  I remember, with a shudder, the cafeteria at Central Catholic High School – the clamor and fetor of teenage boys, the truly wretched spaghetti (surely the cooks never ate this stuff).  And then came the seriously disappointing offerings of the freshmen food halls at Princeton.  The food was forgettable, and I have forgotten it – but the food fights (started most often by one Courtwright Miner) remain a favorite memory.  One of Court’s tricks was to get a dinner roll to land and stay put on one of the chandeliers that hung high up in the Gothic twilight of the hall.

But nowadays we get to choose our own food, and, allowing for health concerns, taste is our lodestar – and we have two really tasty dishes for you this week.  The first is a bit out of our comfort range, and all the better for taking us to food-truck land.  This keeper had Barbara slightly concerned because of its main ingredients – hot sausage and cabbage.  But the cooking, the sauces, the added vegetables and mushrooms, and the warm comfort of a flour tortilla balanced the roughness of these two ingredients nicely, and she is a fan.  Such food would have seemed miraculous to Central Catholic students and Princeton freshmen.

As an extra, we’re going to repeat one of our favorite things to grill.  We cannot praise enough the mad-for-fire Francis Mallman’s savory Chicken Chemuin.  Mallman is an eccentric Argentinian genius who occasionally cooks whole cows over wood fires (see his recipe for Una Vaca Entera in Seven Fires).  I have yet to convince SWMBO on the necessity for a fire pit with a circumference of 20 feet, or the fabrication of a large steel framework to recreate Francis’s work, but I’m working on it.  I may get the firepit one day, as well as the steel – but from personal experience, I’m guessing that she’ll balk at the whole cow.

NOTE:  The point of this blog’s heading is that the old adage, ‘there’s no accounting for taste,’ while it may be useful in keeping the peace, makes no sense from where a cook sits.  Family and guests will either eat your food or not.  There will be a definite accounting.  But don’t let it get to you.  Have fun, cook well, and if you want a real treat for the taste buds, cook . . . .

stir fry

Hot Sausage and Cabbage Stir Fry with Tortillas

(adapted from bon appétit, April, 2017)

Timing:                                                 About 30 minutes, including chopping, mixing, etc.

Ingredients:                                                                       Serves 4

1-inch piece of ginger peeled and grated fine
4 garlic cloves grated fine (we used 2)
1 lb. of Italian hot sausage, removed from casings (the packs available in groceries are 1.25 lbs – who doesn’t like extra sausage?)
2 tablespoons, plus more as needed, of vegetable oil (we used grapeseed oil)
6 ounces shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (we used two 4 oz. packages of mixed wild mushrooms, chopped)
6 cups very thinly sliced Napa cabbage, divided into 3 cup piles (A Napa cabbage is going to give you 18 cups shredded – so you’re going to have a lot left over)
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (any of the rice vinegars in the Japanese section of your grocery story will be fine)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup of thinly slice chives
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
8 large flour tortillas or mu-shu wraps, warmed

Hoisin Sauce and/or Sriracha for serving

Prep:

Grate the ginger and garlic, pull the sausage out of its casings and work the ginger and garlic into the sausage.

Slice the cabbage and divided into two bunches of 3 cups each

Chop the mushrooms and slice the chives

Put the tortillas, wrapped in aluminum foil, in the oven to warm

Cook:

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high (a little less, if you have a high btu burner).  Cook the sausage mixture, breaking it up into small pieces until browned, cooked and crisp – maybe 8 minutes.  Transfer sausage to a bowl.

Increase the heat slightly and cook the mushrooms in the fat left in the skillet – tossing often until they are browned and starting to release their liquid.  This can take up to 4 minutes – use more oil if they begin to burn.

Now add half of the cabbage and cook until it is wilted and tender – another 4 minutes.

Drizzle in the vinegar and soy sauce and cook, tossing, until the liquid reduces and the skillet is dry in spots – maybe 2 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and mix in chives, sausage and remaining cabbage.  Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with tortillas, hoisin sauce and Sriracha (we preferred the hoisin).

chicken whole

EXTRA                                                   Francis Mallman’s Chicken Chemuin

                                                              (from Seven Fires by Francis Mallman)

We’ve shared this recipe before, and we’ll share it again.  This is the simplest way to make great grilled chicken and offers the advantage of working with ideas from a truly wacky, but quite wonderful chef.

Timing:                                                 1 hour and 30 minutes (for a 4.5 lb. chicken)

Ingredients:                                                          Feeds 4 – 5

Whole chicken – Mallman suggests 2.75 lbs.  Giant Eagle, as you might suspect from its name, does not believe in such diminutive poultry – we used a 4.5 lb. bird
Coarse Kosher Salt
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup of rosemary leaves, minced
1 head of garlic separated into cloves, smashed and peeled – trust me – 4 large cloves grated is plenty
Parsley, olive oil and more garlic to make a parsley sauce (we make our own sauce minus the garlic and with lemon juice – we’ll describe it below)

Prep:

Split the chicken down the breastbone and open it out flat – use chicken shears for this.

Grate the garlic, mince the rosemary, slice the lemon and measure out some salt in a cup (you’ll be reaching for the salt with hands covered with raw chicken – not a good idea to contaminate your regular salt dish)

Loosen the skin of the breast and down over the legs and thighs so that you can push some of the seasoning under the skin.

Rub the garlic all over the bone side of the chicken and push some under the skin.

Season the chicken all over with salt (we also use pepper), lemon juice and rosemary, pushing some of the salt and rosemary under the skin.

Make Parsley Sauce – chop a bunch of parsley pretty fine and mix it with salt and extra-virgin olive oil and some lemon juice to taste.  The sauce should be liquid enough to drip, but fairly thick.  Mallman uses no lemon juice and adds minced garlic, but the garlic we get is too strong for this.  The idea is to have some sauce for the chicken – a chimichurri would be fine.

Start a charcoal fire

Cook:

Note:  Mallman cooks his chicken on a cast-iron plancha which he heats in a 500 F oven and then places on the grill.  With this method and a small chicken, he can cook the bird in about 30 minutes.  Unless you have this equipment and this size bird, we suggest –

Pour the coal into tow piles with enough space between to fit the chicken.  Put the grates on the grill, oil and once hot – place the chicken, bone-side down between, not directly over the coals.  This indirect cooking will give you a crisp skin, but won’t burn it.  (If you burn the skin, it’s okay.)

Cook for 30 minutes without moving.  Then turn over and cook for another 30 minutes and check the internal temperature (it should register 160F) – cook some more, if you need to.

Remove the chicken from the grill and let sit for 7 minutes, then cut into serving pieces and serve with the sauce.

Note:  Mallman serves the chicken with lemon confit, which we have done and which is good, but not necessary.

2 thoughts on “DON’T TELL A COOK, “There’s no accounting for taste”

  1. Great comment, Marj! Gotta say that I’ve had to look up more than a few words over the years!
    And Happy Birthday! I will catch up to you in October!
    Barbara

    Like

  2. I love you/your blog because of the foods/recipes, and keeping up with the Stewart’s, and especially today because you made me look up a word – fetor is now in my vocab! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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