Thursday, June 24, 2004

VI's Retro Kitchen

I do not usually write about my kitchen exploits, well mainly 'cause there aint much to write about. Lately, however, I've been on a roll, so I thought I'd share.

First, came this dish inspired by the kidz and the Condiment Queen. Seems she can create for them, perfectly wonderful dinners from bread, cheese and microwave. And even though this rather cheesy cheddar seemed fine as is, I got to idea to, well, rarebit it, or as I was to later learn, rabbit it. One of those Musso and Frank/Fergus Henderson (its on the St. John menu pretty much daily) that I adore but never think to make. I knew instantly where to look: Joy of Cooking, which I forever think of as the joy of eating because I think it less a book on cooking as a book on eating well. Sure enough, there was a Welsh Rabbit recipe, and a simple and easy one at that. With makeshift double boiler from a stainless steel bowl and saucepan, I went to work on grating a pound of cheddar. Lucky me, the chowhounditas soon thought that a fun job, and took over. They also took over the job of pulverizing the mustard seed (Penzy's) into ground mustard. So, I mixed the royale, as we chefs would call it, one egg, a bit of worcestershire sauce, a tiny shake of curry powder (Penzy's hot), a slightly heavier shake of paprika (Penzy's half-sharp), that mustard dust, and a small pour of Valentina brand hot sauce. The process goes like this: in the double-boler, melt a tab of butter, add the grated cheese, melt, add beer, I used 3/4 bottle of Berghoff dark, traditionally it should be stale ale, keep mixing, there is some rules about wooden spoons and mixing directions but I used a whisk and went wily-nily, finally, add the royale and mix until incorporated. I ate on toasted, buttered, English Muffin (Trader Joe's). Only later did I learn, in research, that I was only supposed to toast only one side of the bread. I should note, as good as the kidz plain melted cheese was, this was better.

Second, inspired by a big bag of shrimps the CQ had boiled up, I got the idea to make shrimp louie, which is really just an excuse to eat Russian dressing. Ah, I love Russian dressing, as much for its taste as for its pure alchemy and the way it allows me to partake in two less favorite foods, mayonnaise and catsup. Would you eat your salad with plain catsup or plain mayo? Would you put catsup on a turkey sammy? Yet, combine the ingredients and you would (I would). Here's how I did. I took about 5 Trader Joe's cornichons and minced them. I took glops of mayo, ketchapeno, cocktail sauce, and Tapatio hot sauce and combined. I tasted and refined until it tasted "right", but in fact it did not taste right. It tasted a hell of a lot better than most Russian dressing. My shrimp louie was also a lot better because we had pretty large shrimps and Ms. VI boiled them up with some interesting spices. For the bedding, I used Trader Joe's baby romaine. I garnished with a hot house tomato that came with one of our CSAs. Great.

Third, inspired by what to do with extra Welsh Rabbit, I made a hot brown sammy. Using the easiest cooking method known, I microwaved excellent Niman Ranch bacon (made at least some of the time with pork from my friends the Wettsteins). I took a thick slice of Fox and Obel semolina bread (thanks Aaron), added F&O turkey (the best I know), then the leftover cheese sauce. I nuked to melt the cheese, then stuck it under the broiler, or salamander as us chef's say. Unfortunately, the cheese did not brown up, but it surely tasted fine. Even better because I completely surrounded the sammy with fresh shelled, buttered farmer's market peas. I was so awed by my creation, that even though I was eating alone, I kept to my knife and fork, euro style.

Fourth, now we have extra Russian dressing, I think a Field's Special Sandwich, that great, not always on the menu dish, of the Walnut Room. Eerily, a CSA box we got yesterday (which I have some gripes about, but that's for another post), contained a head of iceberg lettuce. Perfect. So it went, buttered semolina bread (thanks Aaron), Jarglesburg cheese, F&O turkey, 1/2 head of lettuce, overflowing dressing (as per Field's), and two strips of Niman bacon. We had no hard boiled egg, but I forgot to put on some of the olives that we had (Trader Joes). Needless to say, great as the above.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sukhadia Update

The other day, as I was stuffing myself with samosa chat, bhel puri and other things from the recently re-opened Sukhadia Sweet Shop on da'Bomb, I mentioned to the Condiment Queen my growing belief that Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi (shall we call it Sub-Continental?) food was the world's greatest. Yes, there is no truffled Bresse chicken which some foodies will argue is the greatest treatment of food and the reason behind France's superiority, nor is there (is there?) any Michelin starred restaurants in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh, another standard for cuisine greatness. But I measure my cuisines (to the extent I do) on quantity over quality. I love Sub-Continental food because there is so much of it. I mean so many kinds of it. Just compare the assortment of food at Sukhadia to say, Wiener Circle.

Sukhadia is one of several snack or "chat" shops on da'Bomb. Chat shops come in two varieties based on the religion of their owners. Muslim owned shops, like Tahoora Sweets, feature plenty of meat, for instance you can get your samosas filled with ground beef. Hindu owned shops fill you up with grains and vegetables. Sukhadia is the latter. The grains include small cakes made of corn flour and chickpea flour, buttery pancakes stuffed with vegetables (parantha's), puffy fried bread with sides, puri, and crunchy grains drenched in sauces, bhel puri. Vegetables are mainly spicy chick peas and sauteed potatoes. Since everything is really cheap, you can try a lot. Order as in a Mexican bakery. As to knowing what things are, ask, the people behind the counter will explain, and when in doubt, just point to the food displayed behind the counters or on the color menu.

Sukhadia closed for about 6 months. I believe they took over a small store next door. They used the extra space to move the open kitchen towards the back and spread out the tables. They made the place a bit more spacious, but there are still not that many tables--hence the sign advising 20 minute total per table, and the chaotic ordering system remains. It took 4 attempts to get our chai.

The gradients between da'Bomb chat shops may be subtle, but ordering aside, Sukhadia has no glaring problems. Now, it is possible to get some bad tea on da'Bomb. Zam-Zam's was so terrible we tossed it out, wasting the 75 cents. That's for another post.

Sukhadia Sweets
2559 W Devon Avenue
(773) 338-5400