Interesting Food

If you like Mexican food and happen to be near Chicago, the Frontera Grill is well worth going out of your way.

On a completely different note, the Gallery of Regrettable Food probably deserves a wider audience. Whether the wider audience deserves the Gallery is less clear.

Index to other material

(Things that happened to be on-line already.)

Recipes

Miscellany


Blackened fish with Mexican spices

Inspired by a dish served at the Blue Mesa, Chicago.

Melt the butter in a skillet, press the garlic into it, and saute briefly.

Thoroughly combine the seasonings in a bowl. Dip each fillet in the garlic butter, then evenly cover both sides of each fillet with the seasoning by sprinkling it on and pressing it in by hand.

Cooking

The classical method of preparing blackened fish is in a white-hot (it cannot be too hot) skillet for about 2 minutes per side. A teaspoon of the garlic butter is poured on each fillet at the beginning and just after turning.

The drawback to this method is that the smoke will drive you out of the house unless you have an industrial-strength hood over your stove for ventilation. (The butter may flame up, but that just requires extra care.) Not recommended without proper equipment.

We have had good results cooking this dish outdoors. A very hot fire is needed; mesquite works well, and presumably a gas grill would be suitable also, but common briquets are inadequate. The fish should look somewhat charred; time depends on the fire, but shouldn't be over three minutes per side.

Choice of fish

Traditionally, redfish or possibly pompano. We have used swordfish (good) and haddock (better).


Recipes from the "I Really, *Really* Hate To Cook" cookbook

Text from a Roz Chast cartoon in the March 21, 1988 issue of The New Yorker.

Lunchtime Surprise

Serves 1.

12-Second Casserole

Throw a bunch of unspoiled stuff in a pot that won't blow up when you put it in the oven. Bake till hot.

Serves 1.

Leftover Jamboree

Do your best to find a clean pan. Heat food up with a little water.

Serves 1.

Ma Bell's Special

Decide what you're in the mood for. Dial. Order. Wait for delivery.

Serves 1.


Omnivores

From "Onward and Upward With the Arts (Oxford Food Synmposium)" by Dan Hofstadter, in the April 25, 1988 issue of The New Yorker.

A curious light was cast on the symposium by the contribution of Charles Perry. Perry, an accomplished Arabist, a former editor at Rolling Stone, and a restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, spoke on the subject of "Medieval Near Eastern Rotted Condiments." At the 1983 symposium, he had offered a recondite paper on "Grain Foods of the Early Turks;" this time, he took up the even more obscure subject of kamakh, murri, and bunn. Fascinated by recipes like the one for murri in the thirteenth-century Baghdad Cookery Book ("Take pennyroyal and wheaten or barley flour. . .and bake into a loaf. . . . Wrap in fig leaves, stuff into a preserving jar, and leave in the shade until fetid"), Perry had decided to perform "an experiment in rotting," and had set out various loaves of barley dough to rot in various ways, in accordance with instructions in old Arabic cookbooks. After forty days, each smelled unique. The most suitable were wrapped in grape leaves in a loosely lidded container. They were to be used with a rotted whole-wheat flat bread from a health-food store to make bunn. The loaves of barley dough "were surprisingly white throughout most of their volume, and smelled faintly but not unpleasantly of rot," he reported. "The bread had rotted vigorously, and in the end looked like a furry black kitten with pink patches." These rots Perry then ground and sifted to make the bunn, which "developed a curious richness of aroma, like that of a ripe salami, after a week," he said. "It had a loathsome appearance but was agreeable to taste, if not a delicacy by my standards." Perry concluded by wondering aloud why these condiments had disappeared. Much of his audience was apparently wondering why he had not disappeared, and one listener rose to congratulate him on his survival.

Coleslaw and onion rings

These are from the Hog Heaven restaurant in San Francisco, as reported by the late James Beard in 1981 and are very good; the coleslaw is extremely spicy.

Coleslaw

Combine and mix into until dissolved. Then add

a little at a time, whipping with a whisk.

Makes a quantity sufficient to cover about 1 1/2 qt of slaw.

Onion rings

Slice four onions as thin as possible (about 1/16 in).

Soak in a mixture of

sufficient to cover; chill for one hour. Drain well; dredge in a mixture of

Shake off excess. Deep fry at 350 deg F for about a minute, or until golden brown.

Serves four.


White chocolate mousse with chocolate sauce

After considerable effort[1], here is the recipe[2] for this dessert as served at Ambria, one of the best restaurants in Chicago.

I am aware that some chocolate lovers consider "white chocolate" to be a contradiction in terms[3]. Theological arguments aside, one should not expect this to taste like traditional chocolate mousse. Ellen made this once; of four serious chocolate addicts (none of them a white chocolate enthusiast) surveyed, she didn't care for it, two others liked it very much, and the fourth characterized it as the best dessert he had ever tasted. It is very rich, as one would think.

Mousse

Sprinkle milk with the gelatin in a double boiler until the gelatin softens. Turn on the heat, and when the gelatin is dissolved stir carefully and add the chocolate. Stir occasionally until melted; remove from heat, add vanilla, and let cool to 80 degrees F. Beat chilled cream to soft peaks and fold half at a time into the chocolate mixture. Add lemon and a little salt to the egg whites and beat until stiff, not dry. Fold into the chocolate mixture half at a time and chill.

Chocolate Sauce

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until bubbling. Add sugar and whisk together; add cocoa and whisk again. Add cream and bring just to simmering. Remove from heat, strain, and cool. (Lay plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to avoid skin formation.)

Serving

Use small plates, something with a rim or slight concavity. Make a pool of the chocolate sauce on the plate. Using a large serving spoon, scoop two ovals of the mousse and lay them in the sauce. May be garnished with (brown) chocolate shavings if desired.

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[1] A special visit to the public library in Evanston, Illinois over Christmas. How else do residents of Rochester, NY lay hands on a copy of the November, 1982, issue of Chicago magazine?

[2] Purported recipe, I should say. However, the referenced issue announced the results of the annual "ten best Chicago restaurants" reader poll; a recipe was featured from each of the winners, and this was the one provided by Ambria. This is reconstructed from notes taken from that article.

[3] Boynton waxes eloquent on this subject in Chocolate: The Consuming Passion.


The green brain

Vinaigrette

Guacamole

Steam a head of cauliflower, whole. Pour on vinaigrette while the cauliflower is still warm. Frost with guacamole. Serve warm as a main dish or cold as a party dish; in the latter case it is better to allow the cauliflower to cool before frosting.

Convenience in slicing dictates that this be served on an open platter. On the other hand, you'll never find a more fitting use for that large skull-shaped casserole Uncle Vlad gave you as a wedding gift.

Enjoy.


Menu entry at Al's Oasis (Oacama, South Dakota)

"Bisonburger from the herd that appeared in Dances with Wolves."


Clandestine Cuisine

Text from a Roz Chast cartoon in the September 30, 1996, issue of The New Yorker.

Liver Surprise

Mix. Serve in as festive a manner as possible.

Cauliflower? What Cauliflower?

Combine ingredients. Arrange portion on plate in the shape of a bunny and act innocent.

Limas Incognito

Grind the beans to a paste and stir them into the macaroni. Do not behave as if anything were amiss.

Land Mine o' Halibut

Mash the hell out of the halibut and blend it in with the other stuff. Sit back and hope for the best.


November 8 2001