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Friday, May 06, 2005

The White Party

Don't freak.

I'm not running David Duke's new political campaign. Nor am I a recent convert to that funky, yet strange, religion known as Santeria.

No, this White Party has nothing to do with jackass racists or dismembered and sacrificed chicken heads. This White Party is about finding white asparagus in Safeway at a price I could afford and then going with a theme. Granted, I didn't plan to go with a theme at first, but then I happened upon the parsnips. Then, poking me in the back were the cauliflower. Before I knew it, I had white onions and white mushrooms and white garlic and pretty soon it looked like Noe Valley in my little shopping basket.

Think of this party as being like that of another White Party, minus the crystal meth and muscle queens. This party is spread out over the course of the week and bumpin' with some wicked music, sweat, and occasional bouts of uncontrollable dancing. Granted, while in the kitchen, I am a party of one, but that's ok!

Monday, May 2nd

White Cauliflower Curry
aka Koya Gobhi Mattar
Soundtrack: White Light, White Heat by the Velvet Underground.

This recipe is from the book The Curry Club Indian Restaurant Cookbook by Pat Chapman circa 1984. I get the impression that before Madhur Jaffrey arrived on to the Anglo-Indian cookbook scene, white boys like Chapman were regarded as experts in the "exotic" world of British Asian cookery. However, despite all of the Orientalism, there seems to be an honest love of South Asian food in this cookbook and the cookery clubs it inspired.

A good example of a unique recipe is this one. Unlike a lot of Indian curries, this one is not spicy. It has a mild, milky flavor that makes it a good accompaniment to other, spicier curries, although I don't mind to serve it on it's own.

1 medium white onion, finely chopped
Canola oil
½ cup cashew nuts, unsalted and ground
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons milk powder (I use Meyenberg Goat Milk powder)
1 large cauliflower, free of blemishes

Spice Mixture:
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander

1. In a large skillet and on medium heat, fry the onion in oil until transluscent, about 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, make a paste from the nuts, cream, milk powder and spice mixture. Add water if necesarry to get a thick consistency.
3. In the skillet, add to the onion the paste and cauliflower. Heat through, simmering for a maximum of 10 minutes. Adjust salt and serve with rice.

By the way, do you know the super easy way to make perfect rice? I do, and once you make it this way, you'll want to throw that rice cooker away (granted you have a microwave).

For four to five cups of cooked rice, take 2 cups of rice and put it in a strainer. Flush well with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain. Put 3 cups of water into a large microwave safe bowl (use a clear glass bowl if you have one, since it makes it easier to see what it's doing) and add rice plus a teaspoon of salt. Put it in the microwave, uncovered, and cook on high for 20 minutes (depending on your micro, it may only need 15 minutues), and about at that time you should see little steam vents on the top of the rice (not bubbles, if bubbles, continue to cook longer). Remove the bowl from the microwave and cover with plastic wrap (or a plate) and put back in the microwave, cook for 5 minutes on high. Afterwards, let it sit covered for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Wednesday, May 4th

I guess I should be jotting this stuff down and treating the blog like a blog is meant to be treated. You know, daily entries and all, but sometimes I just don't have the time to post, so I just write down these notes.

Yesterday, was the 2nd night of the White Party. I was depressed most of the day and didn't think I could pull it off, but once I got into the swing of things, most of that melted away like butter in my mental skillet. But hey, it's my party and I can cry if I want to, right?

I think my depression of late stems from being broke, and the prospect of being unbroke is not looking any better for quite some time. Of course, besides money there are other reasons, like work, my unfocused course in life, the price of rent and uncertainty of staying in the city, the exponential growth of the Right in American politics, and well, justa buncha other stuff. In other words, things are looking black.

Now I know to some people that "black", "dark" and the like are bad descriptive terms for misery and evil, and on a philosophical level, I totally agree. Hey. I've seen Lord of the Rings; I know what you mean.

I think black is beautiful, and black is cool, and black is sexy, and black is revolutionary. Except when office workers wear black, then it's just lame (especially with the white sneakers!).

However, Goth kids don't dress in black b'cuz it's upbeat, and people don't wear black at a funeral b'cuz it's a lively color. They didn't call it the Black Plague b'cuz it seriously rocked, and the Dark Ages weren't a time of eatin' good in the neighborhood. Dark clouds on the horizon don't portend auspicious events, and Disney isn't known for its Film Noir department. I know that in this day and age, black has been reclaimed from the naysayers as a positive thing, and that even fashionistas proclaim this season's "it" color as "the new black". And you know, I'm right there with ya. But sometimes, despite knowing better, I just feel black; and no, not Black, but black.

Staying with this concept, I'm hoping the more white food I eat, the more grey I'll become, and eventually the more my aura will begin to become as white as Miss Cleo's French-manicured nails. God, is she still around? Or has she retreated back to "Jamaica"...Queens, New York?

Maybe it's the glue in the stamps I'm licking at work that's causing a change in mood. Have you ever noticed that phone companies "sweeten" the glue on their billing return envelopes? What, is this to sugarcoat the fact that we're getting screwed? 20 years from now we'll probably learn that the glue on SBC's envelopes causes mouth cancer. How depressing. –Sigh–

Anyway, this next dish gives a new meaning to the term "white on rice". And it'll stick to your ribs like white on rice because the risotto is firm, dense, and cheesy. The white asparagus and mushrooms are sautéed and then cooked in a reduced chicken stock sauce. For the piece de resistance, the risotto is molded into a ring, the center is filled with the veggies, and the whole thing looks like an edible white-walled tire. Salivating yet? Let's drive it home. Here's the recipe.

Risotto Tire with White Asparagus and Mushrooms
Adapted from the book Pleasures of the Good Earth by Edward Giobbi
Soundtrack: White noise from the open windows and television in the other room.

4 tablespooons of canola oil
2 medium white onions, chopped
1 bunch of white asparagus, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
3 cups of whole white mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced into medallions
3 cups of chicken stock, plus 1 cup of water
White pepper and salt to taste
2 cups of aborio rice
1 tablespoon of butter
½ cup of grated parm
white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

I usually don't peel asparagus, but I noticed that these white ones definitely needed it. So I used a potato peeler and peeled it like you would a carrot. Cut the mushrooms in large chunks. Use homemade chicken stock, duh! (Or use my second favorite choice, Better Than Bouillion.) By the way, this is a great recipe for people who suffer from Gout!

In a large skillet on medium heat, saute half of the chopped onions until transluscent then add the garlic. Saute a little bit longer then add the asparagus and mushrooms. Fry for five minutes or so, or until the mushrooms begin to lose their liquid and become fragrant. Add half a cup of the chicken stock to the veggies and raise the temperature slightly to reduce the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Once the stock is reduced (not completely, and please don't burn anything, ok!), reserve on low heat to keep warm and cover.

Next make the risotto. Basic risotto principals are easy to remember: frying, deglazing, lots of stirring, lots of reducing, lots of hot water/stock.

Heat the rest of you chicken stock plus the cup of water in the microwave until hot (in mine it takes 5 minutes). Take the rest of the chopped onions and, on medium heat in a saucepan, fry in a little butter and oil. Once the onions soften a bit, add the risotto (note: you don't have to wash risotto!) and stir for a few minutes, but do not brown. Next, add a splash of wine and stir until the risotto has absorbed the wine. Next, add some of the hot stock. Stir until it is all absorbed. Continue doing this, while occasionally tasting the risotto, until the risotto is soft but firm. During this time, the risotto which begin to get creamy. For many risotto recipes, you want it to be somewhat creamy with the consistency of a thick rice porridge. But we want this firmer since we're putting it in a mold. Once you've tasted the rice and gotten a good consistency, stir in salt, pepper, and the grated parmesan. Set aside off heat for a minute or so.

Meanwhile, take a ring mold and spray it lightly with cooking oil. Spoon in the risotto and pack it in gently. Invert a large serving plate on top and then turn over, gently shaking the plate until the risotto comes loose from the mold (having a clear glass ring mold helps a lot). Fill the inside with the asparagus mushroom mixture and YOU ARE SPENT, BABY!

Congratulations and good cooking!

Thursday, May 5th

Last night was the end of the party. As parties go, it was a blast at first and "knew itself" towards the end. As usual, I stood around propping up the wall, with drink in hand, wondering who are all of these tacky imaginary people? Oh, she's hatin' it! And someone should tell him that there's a reason it's considered disgraceful to wear The Flag as a piece of clothing; red, white, and blue is totally mixing your seasons. Let's keep it seasonal with our food and attire, ok!

This party had to end because it's just weird to eat one color of food for any significant amount of time. Weird, I tell ya! Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed cooking in (mostly) all white, but frankly, it started to get creepy, like in that Stanford Prison Experiment sort of way. Was I becoming the guard, was I becoming the inmate, my mother, my sister, my mother my sister?

Besides, variety is definitely the spice of life and I could really go for some kick-ass Mexican or Thai food right now. But before I call in a to-go order, let me share with you the last entrée in the thematic food mini-series, known to me as the White Night Riots but to you as the White Party.

Cardamom Garlic Pork Chops with Creamy Parsnip Puree
Soundtrack: The White Album, Number Two by the Beatles

This recipe was my own creation. Cardamom seems like a weird spice for that other white meat, but it's actually quite complementary. The chops marinate in a cardamom, garlic, white pepper dry rub for at least an hour, after which some of the garlic is scraped off and the chops are fried. The parsnips are boiled until soft and pureed with heavy cream and wine then served with a roasted white onion slice on top.

There are no exact measurements for this recipe, but I'll try to give you my estimates.

1 medium white onion, cut horizontally into large rings
1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 or 3 bone-in pork chops, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
2 large parsnips, cut into 1" chunks
½ cup of cold heavy cream
¼ cups of cold Chardonnay
White pepper and salt
Additional white wine for deglazing
2 tablespoons of cold butter

Make a paste with the cardamom and garlic and rub well into the pork chops. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour.

About 15 minutes before you cook the chops, bring to boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add the parsnips and cook until just about soft. Turn off, cover, and reserve to the side. Mix the cold wine and cream together. So long as they are cold, they won't curddle.

For the presentation part, take the white onion that has been cut into large rings and carefully take the full rings, place them on something sturdy, like a cast iron skillet and broil them directly under the oven broiler, until the begin to color. Careful! I have many burnt memories of forgetting that I had something under the broiler. This has to be watched or it's toast (and not very good toast either!). Once done, turn off the oven and transfer to the bottom part of the oven to keep warm.

When you fry your chops, removed some of the garlic from them. Garlic, when fried too long, becomes brown and bitter. Removing some of the garlic will minimize that for our sauce. Fry the chops on medium heat, on each side for the first 5 minutes, the flipping every minute or 2. The best way not to overcook or under cook your chops is to take their temperature. I usually shoot for 135 on an instant read thermometer (the temperatures continues to rise after you take them off heat).

While you are waiting for the chops to finish cooking, remove the parsnips from their water with a slotted spoon and transfer to a food processor. Add the nutmeg, s&p, and some (!) of the cream/wine mixture. Pulse until combined. You may want to add the rest of the cream/wine, but only add enough to where you still have a semi-firm puree. Keep covered until ready to plate.

When your chops are cooked, reserve to a plate or cutting board to sit for 5 minutes (this allows them to continue to cook and reabsorb their juices). Deglaze the skillet with a little white wine and cook until it has thickened. Take off heat and stir in the cold butter until you have a sauce.

Plate by placing the pork chop on the plate, spooning over the sauce, adding a dollop of the parsnip puree and topping that with the roasted onion ring.

So what's left?

Well, if I decided to continue the theme, it would have to be a white cassoulet.

Any takers?



Anonymous mingerspice said...

Just got to this blog. Fabulous!

My white suggestion:
What about a white fish fillet served with white bean puree drizzled with white truffle oil, and an endive and celery root salad on the side tossed with mayo?

2:03 AM  

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