marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

I'm about to take an Emeril Lagasse oyster stew recipe prisoner for this communique on why you should always scan recipes for ingredient lists, cooking times and methods, then ignore almost everything they say and just do whatever the fuck you want.

Before this article on 10 ways recipes are undermining your cooking came along I never knew discussing this sort of thing was a thing, but now that it is, hey, let's do this.

The recipe

Emeril Lagasse's oyster stew

The (alleged) ingredients, with notes on what I sub in or out and when in [brackets]

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick), plus 2 tablespoons butter [this is bullshit; you don't need a plop of butter; if anything, it dilutes the finished product]
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour [he adds it at the entirely wrong step in the process]
  • 1 cup chopped onions [I sub in shallots or use shallots and onions; sometimes also leeks, bok choy, and/or green onions]
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery [completely unnecessary; stew tastes just dandy without it]
  • 2 cups milk [makes a thin, runny base. I worked in a restaurant where oyster stew was made with milk, and it was a disaster. I use half cream and half milk or half half-and-half and half milk - just whatever we have on hand]
  • Salt and cayenne [go light on the cayenne unless you want a burning tongue; can be skipped altogether; for milder flavor I'll use paprika and only use coarse sea or kosher salt]
  • Fresh black pepper [I use this and a peppercorn medley which adds allspice, coriander and All the Pepper Colors]
  • 2 dozen oysters, shucked, drained and liquid reserved [works and tastes just fine with half this many but the more, the merrier]
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic [I usually double this and don't chop it, except to get it small enough to mash up in the mortar and pestle]
  • 1/4 cup chopped finely chopped parsley [not even needed; tastes better with fresh basil chopped and sprinkled on top - and we grow our own]

The directions, with what I actually do in [brackets]

Oh God help me *drinks an entire liquor store's worth of vodka before going on*

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. [OK, so far I'm just playing along here, and it's fine. This will be the last time you see me this complacent, so enjoy it.]
  2. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. [Nope, nope, NOPE, what the hell is he even doing? I haven't even cooked the veggies yet. NOPE.]
  3. Add the onions and celery and cook for 2 minutes. [OK, so far I've melted butter and begun cooking shallots and celery, or shallots and onions without celery, or just shallots or onions, or onions, shallots, and celery. Sometimes I'll even throw in some green/orange/red/yellow bell peppers. But I never add flour before cooking the veggies, literally never. And I stir in garlic after the veggies finish cooking but before the next step, heating it no more than 30 seconds to a minute so it won't get bitter.]
  4. Stir in the milk and oyster liquid. [Nope, nope, NOPE, what the hell is he even doing? This is the part where I finally add the flour! NOPE.]
  5. Season the mixture with salt, cayenne and black pepper. [Nope, nope, NOPE, I do that only after stirring in the cream and milk, or half-and-half and milk - which I haven't done yet, because I'm still stirring in the flour. NOPE.]
  6. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. [This is when I stir in the cream and milk or half-and-half and milk and add the spices, then bring to a simmer for about the suggested time, except sometimes I'll throw the oysters in now as well, but a lot of times I'm drinking or otherwise distracted so I'll forget I could just toss them in now.]
  7. Add the oysters, garlic and parsley. [Nope, nope, NOPE, I add the garlic after sauteing the veggies, which was many, many steps and often at least one drink or so ago. The oysters might already be curling in the stew at this point, so it's just a matter of tossing parsley or basil in now.]
  8. Bring the liquid back up to a simmer and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the oysters curl. [Half the time, they've already curled, so I'll skip this and the next step and any subroutines they involve.]
  9. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remove from the heat. [Nope, nope, NOPE, no butter gets added now. Or ever. NOPE.]
  10. Ladle the soup into the terrine. [We don't have a freakin' terrine, pardon my French, so we just ladle it out of the pot.]

  11. So yeah, sometimes following recipes can suck for some pretty obvious reasons.

    But if you can suss do I put to work around them, they can help you by suggesting what I refer to as "flavor profiles" and giving you other ideas to work off of, like rough quantities and approximate cooking times.

    To give an example of how I'll (deliberately) mix things up, sometimes I'll make oyster stew by combining Emeril's original recipe with his Creole version (which I think is not his nor truly Creole; if it was truly Creole, then the cayenne would be in it, not in the other recipe). Which means picking ingredients from both lists (but normally I just add bacon and white wine and otherwise keep ingredients and proportions about the same as above) but I use the techniques which I bent to my will in the above recipe to cook the resulting combination.

    When I really want to change things up, I'll use ingredients from another recipe altogether, which adds cooked, crumbled sausage into the mix but is otherwise too bland to use in anything other than combination with Emeril's original.

    What none of these recipes even hint at? That fresh-squeezed lemon applied at the table makes any oyster stew truly out of this world. And that if the stew comes out a bit on the thin or bland side (using my steps, it shouldn't), a drop or two of Tabasco at the table is a good flavor lift. And to cook oyster stew in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven because nothing else tastes like it...

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

From this recipe, annotated as follows.

Step 1: Don't boil water yet; your big burner heats to boiling in just five minutes and you haven't even cooked the sauce. Cut a huge shallot instead of an onion. "Oil" is "garlic-infused", which you don't have any of, and which is a horrible cheat, so use olive oil. The cast iron skillet is on the water-boiling burner, so expect carmelization to occur in five minutes, not ten.

Step 1a: Wonder why shallots make you cry, why the sting is so much sharper than an onion's and why it takes so much longer to hit than the onion sting does. Crush three cloves of garlic with the flat side of your knife and let it rest in the mortar, because you'll be making your own garlic-infused oil OTF.

Step 2: Use one big can of Prego garlic and herb red sauce and one big can of diced tomatoes. "Fresh" grocery store tomatoes are almost never naturally ripened so you quit buying all but the cherry kinds years ago. Resolve the math problem the cans create by leaving a few ounces of sauce behind. Find the special lid that seals cans and refrigerate. You used all the light - not heavy - cream, in an earlier dish, so use half and half. Look up recipes for mock heavy cream in an absolute panic. Decide they're ridiculous because this recipe already calls for butter, and how much more does it need?

Step 2a: Decide the sauce needs more cream; get the half and half back out and double it. Wonder if you're only doing so because heavy cream is thicker so not so much is needed, or if the recipe is just somehow wrong.

Step 2b: Wonder if you're favorite pasta/pizza place on Long Island, the one owned by a young Sicilian Italian who did most of the cooking, ever made this dish right, even if it was one of your favorites. The sauce was much thicker, had no allium, was just barely pink - almost white - and had just a tiny pop of tomatoes. The thing you just created is, even with the doubled half and half, a deeply sunburned color, loaded with allium and tomato dice, and needs red pepper flakes, come to think of it.

Step 2c: Add a few energetic shakes of red pepper flakes.

Step 2c: Mash garlic in mortar with pestle and scrape with a small, soft spatula into a smaller cast iron skillet, along with a spoonful of olive oil. Go low and slow so garlic gets sticky but doesn't turn brown or burn. Mix into sauce, which only has half the olive oil it needed to saute the onions, because adding more with the garlic later on was the plan.

Step 3: The water's on the slow burner, where you left it after putting the big cast iron on the water-boiler, so leave it there and add pasta, as the water has already hit boiling twice. You don't have penne, so use rigatoni. They didn't tell you to salt the hell out of the water but you do so, anyway. You let the steam soften your face as you dump the boiling water in the colander because your mom always did that but you thought it was nuts - until you didn't.

Step 3a: You're not happy with today's news (Rex Tillerson plays the bumbling lead in Yo, War's Peace, You Feelin' Me Bro in a newsfeed near you, the most common Google search term is [nuclear war], The Religious Freedom Act's getting signed over Ivanka and Jared's obviously not-too-strenuous objections, even as the mangled health care bill that might kill legions of Americans is being rushed out to a vote) so you add roughly double the amount of vodka the recipe calls for and don't even try to pretend it was an accident or like you feel bad about it.

Step 3b: You realize you cooked only half the pasta the recipe calls for but still doubled the vodka and shrug it off, indifferently. Then you watch as the butter melts: such a creamy, swirly, sticky mess up against all those big, fat noodles, then you mix some freshly picked and chopped ribboned basil right into the pasta. Your vodka smells like nail polish remover as it hits the pot, so you make a mental note to try to buy better quality someday, because quadruple-distilled apparently isn't distilled enough.

Step 4: You skip Step 4, put the pasta on a plate and cover it with sauce. You almost die over how good it tastes, then clean up the kitchen, put away the leftovers and write about what it is you made.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

I'd said in an earlier post (maybe last week; I don't keep track of such things too well, anymore) that I was never posting publicly again, and I'm never posting publicly again, but I forgot about this stupid post I write every year for Thanksgiving, so I guess I'll write it, but unless my worldview changes considerably - mostly for the better - there won't be much more public posting - except maybe some activist/political this and/or !signalboost that because I'm just...I could say a lot more, but in short, nope.

Girlfriend's got other places to go.

It's not that I'll never write again; I'll still have my usual free-for-alls under lock, if I so choose, and I'll still write publicly, I just don't know where, or why, or how often, or anything else.

And so, on with my normal (if you can call it that!) post...

Today I'm thankful, as always, for not having turkey. Bad enough to live in a country bursting with them, you know? So many turkeys, it's enough to make me cluck with apprehension.

I'm also thankful this Thanksgiving was much better than all but one of the last four were, simply because I spent it in our own home, set up and cleaned to my liking, listening to music I wanted and watching TV with shows I liked on it, with just the people around me whom I chose and of course my cats, and ate exactly what I damn well felt like after preparing the food to my liking, myself. I apologize for sounding a bit like Ayn Rand here, but a girl's got her reasons.

You can't take these seemingly small things for granted. If you do, you don't know how lucky you are, nor how thankful you should truly be for it.

Because this year !I cooked or !I made most of the comestibles, I can tell you there was no turkey in sight. There was delicious cured ham, fresh baked sweet potatoes and organic butter from a new whole-foods store that opened up recently, and OP, who's finally made peace with both his haircut and my feelings about how I get to decide who I am, not anyone else, contributed a divine fresh Brussels sprouts au gratin topped with Gruyere cheese and chopped bacon.

I took a small break on pre-dinner apps this year...there were many, as usual when I do the Thanksgiving spread, but I went mostly for jars, cans and containers this time because *ahem* I has !lazy, which caused a quick, easy spread of smoked oysters, pickled artichoke hearts, fresh kalamata olives, pickled onions and crackers to unfold before our eyes, while I only made the chicken liver pate and deviled eggs from scratch this time. The pate was a first for me; I actually made it ahead, then let it set up in the fridge overnight. It was...aaaahhh, so good.

I think the only thing missing, besides family, cats and a few celebrities I miss and wish were still with us, was someone else to feed. I wanted someone who'd truly appreciate the food and maybe even the company, but though I checked around, I couldn't find the right person.

There's always Christmas, though. I really want to have someone I don't know over for dinner.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

Because why would I post normal things?

Uncooked vegetables for shrimp curry

Raw ingredients for shrimp curry in a cast iron pan on the stove.

Uncooked but fully assembled pizza

Raw ingredients on uncooked pizza dough, all in a pizza pan about to go in the oven

Some foods look better raw than cooked - that's just how it is. Both meals came out tasty but not as good-looking as they were raw.

The pizza was a treat Other Person made tonight with Publix pizza dough, shallots (we get 10-15 for just $1.49 at the local Asian market), fresh basil from the back porch, garlic crushed in the stone mortar and pestle (which I snagged for just $10 at the Asian market because the pestle was broken, but some super glue set that right real quick), thick shredded mozz, thin-sliced cherry tomatoes, Barilla spicy marinara, and Boar's Head pepperoni, which I was grateful for after taking a survey asking if I'd like to buy bags of crispy pepperoni slices like you get on pizzeria pizza. Well, yes, I would, enough to rush out in my nightclothes right now, where are these crispy little delights you speak of?

Talk about sudden cravings.

The pizza was delicious. Never tried Publix's pizza dough before but as I commented to OP after a few bites, they must've stolen the recipe from some Italian restaurant back in NY, because it did taste authentic.

Some weird flea medicine

My neighbor's big spray bottle of flea medicine

My mom's dead spider plant

My mom's dead spider plant, as seen on the back porch

The weird flea medicine is my neighbor's. I took a picture to Google it when I got back home (but still haven't Googled) but then I thought I'd post the pic to ask the rest of y'all, has anyone tried this? Is it any good? Her entire apartment smells of peppermint from spraying her cats (she's got the two black kittens I never took and some others) and her rug.

The Activyl flea medicine came today. We applied it to all five kitties while the pizza cooked. I was surprised it came so quick, but glad, because in the last few days I've picked a flea off Bowie's face and OP's picked one off of Pip, and I've come to see flea dirt everywhere (yes, even in my dreams, where our entire living room was coated in flea eggs this morning) so it couldn't get here fast enough unless someone airdropped it even as I clicked "Add to cart".

The last one's called "My mom's dead spider pant" because she said it would die before she did, so before May of 2012. I hate to say it lived - I wish it'd been the other way around, and the plant died just days after her prediction while she went on to live forever, but alas, it was not so. As crazed and really no longer myself as I was by then, something about her saying it would die - at all, much less before she did - was the proverbial flag in the bull's face.

Mom got too sick to know or care if the plant lived but I wouldn't give up on it. It had maybe a tiny handful of half-dead leaves when she passed but by then I'd kept it alive single-handedly and nurtured it back to glowing health by that fall so it looked mostly like the picture above. Then a frost killed it at the house out in the woods about two years ago.

What you see in the picture above? Is not the plant she predicted would die two years before it actually did. It's one of the children it had. Just one.

I have four more pots holding them, and between those there are dozens more babies hanging off those, so her dead plant lives on. I'd keep it going forever, in memory of her, if I could.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

Not all the food...some of it...


Thick-cut rib eye, a slab big enough to serve two with a few bites still left over, on sale...this thing was so beautiful I hated cooking it. I should have taken a picture before I did. There's something awe-inspiring about the sheen of a good piece of meat, the thickness and was tempting to go all Paleo and just eat the damn thing raw. Kosher rock sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, and garlic dry rub on it about 20 minutes, then slapped it on the Foreman grill until medium-rare/almost medium-done. Served with fresh-tossed salad.


Homemade shrimp salad (shrimp on sale)'s been close to 100 degrees 'round here forever and one night I was just too hot (even with the A/C running...but I'd been out walking earlier that day) to cook. I didn't want to heat up the kitchen, I didn't want hot food in my Publix had a pound and a half of shrimp on sale for under $10. I was like, "Awesome" and picked up a bag. Cooked 'til just pink, plunged directly into an ice bath, then drained with finely ground sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, a touch of garlic powder, a touch of red pepper flakes, mayo, celery stalk sliced fine with some leaves chopped up, fresh minced onion, a heaping teaspoon of pickle relish, about a tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon good. I ate it right out of the bowl I put some of it in, while Other Person ate it on a kaiser roll slathered with even more mayo, salt and pepper and lettuce leaves. Served with fresh tossed salad.


Rotisserie chicken...Other Person got off work so late I didn't feel like cooking. We still had to hit the store for other things so I picked up a rotisserie chicken. This was not my proudest cooking moment, as I made Past-a-Roni White Cheddar shells to go with it (processed foods are something I run circles around - as a general rule - in trying to avoid, but this particular flavor is hard to resist) and uh, another tossed salad. We eat a lot of salad, right, but really we don't. I can go months and make like, three salads altogether, and not even want those. I'm still fighting my childhood thing of hating veggies, though they're not bad once I eat them. With the heat, though, my salad consumption's gone through the roof.


Chicken and mushroom penne...this used up some leftover rotisserie chicken, some stock made from another chicken I'd cooked the week before, and some fresh baby portabello mushrooms about to cross the Great Divide. Sauteed mushrooms with jarred minced garlic, regular ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, crushed oregano, finely ground sea salt, and some cooked, chunked chicken in butter, added a touch of heavy cream, and served it over fresh-cooked penne with Parmesan. This was one of the easier meals I pulled off for it being pretty much from scratch.


Pork loin...there was a pork loin in here, somewhere...probably Thursday (I use regular loin, not tenderloin..with plain loin you get dark and light meat, and it cooks up more tender; almost impossible to ruin). Same kosher rock sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, and garlic dry rub, then in the oven until just past medium-well. Served with black beans and rice...cook jasmine rice, drain, add drained/rinsed black beans and toss together. One of the best side dishes I've ever come up with (if you don't like the rice/bean mixture so dry you can toss it with some olive oil or butter, which I do, sometimes).


Homemade French onion soup...the Pioneer Woman has taken something I normally only eat in restaurants because that's the only right way to have it and made it so it's all I ever want to eat again. She's also convinced me that adding chili powder to mac and cheese is a good thing to do (I wouldn't make her mac and cheese again after trying it a few months ago - too much flour, too mushy - but adding chili powder to mac and cheese is a truly brilliant food hack). We've made this three times in a month...first time I helped Other Person, who caramelized the onions in the oven as the recipe calls for. We used homemade chicken stock, and red wine instead of white, and it was just amazing.

The next batch Other Person made but didn't use Ree's recipe. It was not quite so good (thinner; used all beef stock and a lot of thyme). The next time I made it while Other Person was at work and used Ree's recipe, but caramelized the onions on the stovetop in a cast iron Dutch oven instead of in the oven-oven, to save time. Almost as good as the first batch, but I didn't have quite enough wine on hand and used less onions simply to use up what I had by making more of this soup. Cooked this batch with homemade stock made from the leftover rotisserie chicken and still have over a quart of it left over.


Shrimp curry...I took my go-to chicken curry recipe and substituted shrimp, which used up the rest of the shrimp from Publix. I always make a few changes...extra virgin coconut oil instead of vegetable oil adds a nice, mild hint of coconut...I add fresh garlic only right before the stock goes in...I use more of every spice and seasoning throughout the assembling and cooking process, and use garlic powder in addition to fresh garlic and ginger powder in addition to fresh ginger. I don't measure the yogurt (I use plain Greek, I can't even recall offhand what the recipe calls for) but I just add enough to make it look creamy and sort of light yellow. So good. There's still tons of that left over, too.


White clam sauce over leftover cooked penne...tonight I had cooked penne to get rid of and cherry tomatoes walking the Great Divide. Sliced them lengthwise and sauteed in butter with fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, basil leaves, finely ground sea salt, hand-ground black pepper, fresh-squeezed lemon juice...separated the clam juice from the canned clams, added some cornstarch, whisked the juice, poured it in the pan, added chardonnay, brought it to a boil, let it cook a few minutes, turned it off, threw the clams in, and served it over the penne reheated in butter in the Dutch oven. This was amazing - but only until I added a can of Geisha baby clams along with a few cans of chopped clams and ruined the whole thing. I have to remember to use only chopped clams.

Other Person came into some fresh peaches from Georgia via a friend which got turned into homemade peach cobbler today...I'm dying over it. Other Person can bake, while I cannot (I mean, I can just look at the ingredients for any baked dessert and burn them. With my eyes. On contact. It's hopeless.). This cobbler's absolute perfection.

They also decided to make their first-ever homemade Yorkshire pudding. I'm not jealous or anything of their baking abilities, hell no, not me. Anyway, I had exactly enough leftover beef grease from tacos we made the week before (I keep all leftover oils/greases/stocks in the freezer) to complete the recipe. Are any of y'all English? Me and Other Person are part-Brit, and while OP enjoys some English food, I do not. Except for Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and English hot mustard, I can find no redeeming qualities to English cuisine. Yorkshire pudding reminds me why that's so.

First off, it's not pudding. Second, it's not bread or cake - more like a baked shell with grease on the bottom. While it's sort of delectable right out of the oven (I ate one half of a pudding on sight last night; we had two) the grease flavor is a bit much and of course the, "You'd think someone blindfolded made this" presentation leaves much to desire. But it won't kill anyone, which is the one dependable thing about English cuisine: it's just good enough to eat, and just bad enough you hope you never have to again.

Next recipe...I've done it probably dozens of times since my 20s but I don't have the recipe anymore. Given it's that Eat Salad to Survive time of year, there's an authentic Italian antipasto I've been making forever that I can barely remember how to assemble anymore (especially not the quantities it calls for) because somewhere in the last 10 years I lost my recipe. It was from an Italian restaurant in NY that published their own recipe book. The recipes dated back to the 1930s-1940s. One was for a really neat antipasto (the book also had a recipe for anchovy sauce over steak that I can still recall, but it's so rich I don't make it much anymore).

Main ingredients are...a small block of deli salami, a small block of deli ham - boiled is best (you can add any other deli meat, like cappicola, prosciutto, pancetta), a block of sharp or extra sharp Provolone (I prefer extra sharp, but it's hard to find), a fennel bulb, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes (I prefer cherry), cucumbers...dice up the above. Add red or white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano leaves, fresh basil...then saute a lot of fresh, crushed garlic in maybe four tablespoons (?) extra virgin olive oil (I use vegetable oil because the garlic taste comes out much more clearly; I suppose you could also use a really light/mild coconut, grapeseed or canola oil) until the garlic just starts to brown. If it gets too brown the oil's ruined (too bitter). If the garlic's too light the garlic flavor won't be strong enough (indeed, I threw out many batches of garlic and oil to get this right, way back when).

Scrape the garlic out and throw it away. This is not the fun part because at just-brown, the garlic sticks like glue. Pour the garlic oil over the antipasto, mix and refrigerate. It lasts almost a week and the flavor is indelibly, indescribably good.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

I made slow cooker black bean chili again, my first try since the disastrous result I had on such a wintry night a few months ago. This time I a) pre-soaked the beans from 8 last night until 2:30 this afternoon (16 1/2 hours; the recipe, ridiculously enough, calls for not soaking them at all), 2) added twice the amount of baking soda the recipe calls for, 3) added 1/4 cup more water, and toward the end 4) almost doubled the amount of chili powder and cumin.

I cooked the entire mess on high for 4 hours.


The most wondrous part was the beans were...not crunchy, exactly, but quite firm. I definitely got my dietary fiber intake for the day. As I told my dinner companion, "Well, I wouldn't want them mushy, but I wish they'd come out a bit softer". I mean, just a bit! Maybe a five hour cook time would've been closer to ideal.

Maybe next time I'll parboil and pre-soak the beans, as doing so allegedly produces "tender beans". "Consistently"! I'm also thinking of starting a DO Soak Your Beans! campaign (Anti Un-pre-soaked Beans - aka Anti-UPS) because websites which claim beans have "more flavor" un-pre-soaked are likely a) full of it and b) I can't even. My brain flees me on this.

As folks might recall, my last batch of beans was old, likely contributing to the Crunchy Chili Conundrum, but this time I ruled even that out by buying fresh Publix-brand beans with an expiration date almost two years from now which I stored in a cool, dark, dry place, so I'm fairly certain it's not age at work in this, at least not anymore (unless, of course, Publix's bean producer stored the beans for five years before selling them to Publix...anything's possible, which does beg the question: How does one make sure they buy a truly fresh bag of beans? Is there any known way to determine freshness, outside of growing and picking the beans yourself?).

My other question is, if the beans are bought seemingly fresh, stored correctly and used quickly after pre-soaking them for almost an entire day then a) how are they still firm after cooking them for four hours on high and a1) how does anyone get away with saying you could possibly improve the flavor at the expense of the texture? I don't think black beans taste better un-pre-soaked (did that, got the t-shirt; nuh-uh no thanks). Is there another bean that does have more flavor than the black bean if you don't pre-soak it? Because it seems to me the black bean is not the one.

Unbitterly Yours

The lemon thyme chicken I discussed a while back has been in pretty heavy rotation since I first dabbled with it but the last few times I made it I was surprised the aftertaste was pungent and bitter. I started questioning my taste buds: had they been missing until last week? Last time around I skipped the lemon zest the recipe calls for because a) I can't stand making lemon zest and b) I figured it was to blame for the aftertaste. Such an easy fix. The dish is perfect now. So to all the modifications I made I'll add don't use lemon zest, because if you have taste buds it ruins the whole thing.

Lemongrass Is A Thing

As one might imagine - because I talk a lot about cooking and cook all the time as it's cheaper and healthier than eating out - I watch a few cooking shows. One of my favorites (after staring at it indifferently as though the TV was turned off for oh, the last three years) is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (strangely enough, Guy never seems to find drive-ins). I'm kind of obsessed with pork so one episode stood out for me, in which he covers Bun-ker, a NYC Vietnamese restaurant that apparently cooks some mean pork loin (I mean, these folks literally take the loin and slice it into chops after marinating it in a dry rub for at least eight hours).

The problem with grabbing recipes from DDD is everything's done at whip-speed for the cameras, but luckily there's on-demand and rewind on one of our TVs, so a week after I first watched it I spent a good half hour rewinding in order to write the recipe down. I was relieved to see we had all the ingredients except lemongrass. Much "What is lemongrass?" ensued and even Google couldn't solve the mystery because outside of looking at it in this episode, I'd never seen or tasted it. So I put it on my shopping list thinking I'd need it to get the rub done right.

After what I went through to find it, I can tell you where not to look - not in Any Normal Place. There's a Whole Foods and several co-op markets just far enough away I refused to make a special trip, but outside of one or more of those stores having it (I really can't say) I can tell you no one else did. Even Publix only had a paste. A lemongrass paste.

I was like - under my breath, so the helpful produce guy wouldn't hear, "Wtf is that, even". He showed it to me and I thought to myself: "How do I convert lemongrass into an equivalent amount of paste? Will I use this whole thing up?" And then, because I'm anti-chemical and anti-corn syrup I got to thinking, "What's even in it?" but I couldn't see because I didn't have my glasses and then they wanted almost four dollars for it so I was like, "OK I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS SO JUST FORGET IT".

So I gave up on Vietnamese pork because lemongrass seemed like a pretty essential ingredient and I had no idea what to use in its place. Then maybe a week later I was in an Asian market when I spied it. It was not fresh, mind you! More like shaved and frozen in the same sort of tiny cup tomatoes come in for 99 cents at Walmart. My brain was like, "YES YES YES, THIS WILL WORK" but even then I wondered if I was simply being desperate. I paid four dollars for that, trudged it home, and have been making some of the best pork loin of my life ever since.

There's nothing like it. It's like if lemon and ginger ever got crossbred. And I have both, so now I know what to substitute, but the shaved texture of it is really nice on pork, and seems to work with the other ingredients to make a nice, solid, crispy coating - almost like crispy skin on roasted chicken.