Friday, January 14, 2011

Memory Food

I often say I don't cook from recipes, but there are a few favorites in our repertoire that require me to dig out a book.
They're not complicated. I should just give them a good study and commit them to memory.
But there's always that "He said what?" factor that requires me to double check the print.
In the case of Paul Prudhomme, it's that wacky mixture of dried spices. Gotta be dried, people. That's the way.
Cranky and I have been making his Red Beans (and rice) for nearly three decades, and I still use the book.
The first time, we misread something, and had to strain out the ham hock (still on the bone) from the gooey beans. Won't make that mistake again.
Cranky made this latest batch all on his own, and I'll bet he could walk into the kitchen tomorrow and do it again, solo and without a recipe. The time has come.
Even so, there is room for a little improvisation. We have long used poblano peppers instead of green bell peppers in this dish. Bell peppers are fine; they melt into unrecognizability. But I just don't like them.
Well. This time, the poblanos were packing heat. A lot! So Cranky short-changed the amount of cayenne called for and left out the Tabasco altogether. Good move.
The miracle (and why we faithfully consult the book, probably) is the flavor that results. Where did that little vinegary tickle come from? Why is it so beautifully thick without a roux? How come I always feel like I'm tasting Asian flavors?
I should tell you that we are shopping for a small bookshelf to nestle in the last available corner of the kitchen. I need more room for my cookbooks (and I do keep acquiring them).
Nothing wrong with a good cookbook for memory food, if you haven't memorized the recipe.


Shine said...

The flavor profile of this sounds intriguing...where does the Asian part come from I wonder?

I had a pepper question for you if that is okay Cookie, as you seem to know about these things:

We like flavor, I just have to be careful as my hubby has to avoid too much spice for medical reasons. He likes the heat in dry pepperoni etc... But the heat Hot Buffalo Wings is too much. What is a good pepper for me to use in cooking heatwise?

I hope it is okay I'm asking you this :)

cookiecrumb said...

Shine: Of course! Let's see. In the US, jalapenos have become less and less hot. (But if you buy them in Latino markets, you'll still find the hot ones.)
I'd try jalapenos, test them for heat, remove seeds (of course) and see what happens.
I'm guessing the dry pepperoni has dried red chili flakes, and probably black pepper.
Serranos are reliably a bit hotter, but you can mince them and spread the heat thinly, still getting that fresh taste.
Hope that's of some help.

Zoomie said...

Shine, I'd take out the ribs inside the jalapeƱos, as well as the seed, and if they are too mild in your next dish, leave them in. It's a balancing act.

Greg said...

Three decades! You must have started when you were eight. :)
That is a nifty halo effect on the picture.Picasa??

cookiecrumb said...

Greg: Thirty-year wedding anniv. this June. I was an old bride! Heh.
Hey, Picasa did not provide that effect. They have a "glow" feature, but it changes the lighting and doesn't blur enough. I used iPhoto.

Ms Brown Mouse said...

Red beans and rice makes everything nice - a much better ear worm, thank you.

cookiecrumb said...

Mouse: Oh, that's a good ear worm, but you have to sing it upside-down with your chin.

Chilebrown said...

Where did you get your ham hocks from? Beans, pork, sugar and spices is hard to get wrong. We all have our favorite mixture. Vinegar is one of the secret acid ingredients that will save the world or your bean pot.

cookiecrumb said...

Chilebrown: Ham hocks were called "pork hocks," from Marin Sun Farms.
No sugar in this dish. New Orleans.
And yes, I mainline vinegar, but there was none in this recipe! (Want it?)

Chilebrown said...

Naw, I just wing it. I will take all the ingredients and taste. Beans are hard to mess up.

You say tomato's amd pork hocks are what the Marin crowd will pay.

cookiecrumb said...

Chilebrown: I get your improvising. It's just that there are a couple of recipes we use that are Magic if you follow them precisely.
No tomatoes!

Shine said...

Thank you Cookie and Zoomie! I have never tried using Serranos before so I look forward to that. Thank you for the tips on how to control the heat of the jalapenos :)

cookiecrumb said...

Hey, Shine: You'll want to control the serranos in the same way. Even more, because they're usually hotter. But such a nice, zingy chile! Have fun.