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Sushi from a Food Truck…and Other Questionable Culinary Choices I’ve Made

I just finished lunch from one of my favorite food trucks (I will not mention its name). Let’s just say I should have exercised caution when ordering sushi from a food truck. Especially from that particular food truck since I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the health department driving up and shutting them down. I thought perhaps they learned their lesson. Besides, they serve a roll that I like best. I hope the queasiness that I’m feeling is totally unrelated to the fact that the raw sushi was a bit warm. I’m sure it’s totally fine.

In my business I take food safety extremely seriously, and thus assume other practitioners of the culinary arts take food safety seriously. However, there are times when eating out I have made a few debatable decisions surrounding food and beverage. My lunch choice for today caused me to reflect on said decisions.

A “soft” pretzel at 6pm from a pretzel cart in New York.
A burrito from a hot dog cart in D.C. (talk about a case of the horribles!)
Halal chicken and rice from a famous food cart (there was a reason there was no line)
“50 cents for bourbon and cokes!? This must be my lucky day. I’ll take 3 dollars worth!”
“Sure it’s 3:00am and we’re at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, but this coffee seems fine. There’s steam still coming out of the pot, so it’s fresh right?”
“You’re challenging me to eat a 1lb cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake? Sir, I accept your challenge! Software Testers gotta represent.”

Not all of my daring food choices have led me astray. Ordering from the non-American menu at a Chinese restaurant yielded a pleasant experience of duck tongue in black bean sauce, lobster congee, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember. Quail eggs. Chocolate-covered grasshoppers. Cute little octopus. Beef Carpaccio. The list goes on and on.

Will I go back to that food truck? I’m a glutton for punishment so the answer is obvious. That roll really was tasty.

Uh oh. That belch didn’t feel quite right…gotta cut this post short!

Katrina is the owner of Culinary Cupid LLC. When she’s not paying homage to the porcelain god for unconventional food judgment, she’s dragging her nieces and nephew along to share in her culinary adventures.

http://www.culinarycupid.com
cupid@culinarycupid.com

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Jesus Saves…His Go-To Recipe

milkcartonEveryone needs a go-to recipe; a recipe that you can prepare with ease. Whether it’s a workplace potluck, or a family recipe trash talking throw down, this is the recipe that put you on the map.

I have a recipe like that. I know it backward and forward. I didn’t need to write it down; I have a mind like a steel trap.  It’s in the vault, baby.

I forgot what my go-to recipe is. I realized this when I had need for it a few days ago when my in laws were coming over for dinner. “I know! I’ll make Salmon Wellington”. It’s easy to make and I know all of the ingredients are available at any grocery store. Problem solved.

Salmon Wellington is not my go-to recipe (or maybe it is but I forgot). I make it occasionally, but it still needs a few tweaks before I can put my ‘official’ recipe stamp on it (I wouldn’t make it for a client just yet). I thought the presentation would make a good impression for my in laws.  I’ve made it in the past with great success; but, I felt it was missing something.  “I’ll make steaks,” then I realized not everyone likes red meat. I didn’t have time to make lamb (another go-to recipe contender) because I needed it to marinate overnight. And good heavens no more chicken! I stood in the kitchen and experienced a total brain fart. “What in the world am I going to make? Do I even know how to cook?” It was like trying to figure out that word problem in math where you have to determine at what point two trains traveling in opposite directions would meet. I decided I’d get an idea once I got to the grocery store.

The grocery store was out of lamb and rib eye steaks. After meandering around the grocery store looking for alternatives, my choice was clear. Salmon Wellington it is. I grabbed the ingredients and headed home.

I re-purposed the base of a lemon butter sauce I had left over from another dish (more on re-purposing in a later post). I fished out the tarragon and added fresh dill and lemon juice. I threw in jumbo lump crab meat. I needed to make the filling stretch for seven portions so I added shrimp and lobster I had in the freezer. I rolled out the puff pastry dough and realized it was too soft. I didn’t have time to put it back in the fridge. I’d have to make do. When you’re assembling the wellington, the bottom layer is actually the top layer. The order is puff pastry, filling, fish. Seal the seams with egg wash, and then flip. If your puff pastry is too soft it may tear, which of course mine did. To fix the tear you can either try to push the tear together and seal it with egg wash, or you can use a cookie cutter to make a fancy design using leftover puff pastry dough and adhere it with egg wash. Just now while typing this I realized that I could have made a freehand braided rope design.

Naturally, I could not find the appropriate cookie cutter (it is too early in the year for gingerbread men). So, I took a small piece of dough and sealed it with all the elegance of a pothole repair. The wellington looked like Kuato was about to appear and tell Quaid how to start the reactor to bring air back to Mars. I patted down the lumps as much as I could and placed it in the oven.

It puffed up nicely; no sign of lumps at all. It still looked a little plain. I added dill and fresh lemon slices around the pastry and a rather large piece of dill across the center to give it some pizzazz (and to detract from its overall appearance). I’ll post the recipe for Salmon Wellington as soon as I think it’s worthy :).

samwel

From this dinner, I have taken away a few lessons.

Lesson 1: Write down your go-to recipe.

I know this is stating the obvious. Writing it down is important. If for no other reason, you will have a record of the tweaks you’ve made on the road to perfection.

Lesson 2: If you give people enough wine, they’ll like anything you serve.

Great strategy – if the people with whom you are dining actually like wine. No one wanted wine. “Who wants wine? I have wine right here! I’ll just open the bottle and anyone can have it whenever they want. Pour yourself a glass. We don’t stand on ceremony here.” I knew I should have made cocktails instead.

Lesson 3: Set a pretty table to detract from the food.

I totally nailed the Bishop’s Hat.

bishophatI didn’t beat myself up about the appearance of the wellington. Perfection is rare, especially in cooking. I tell my clients that all of the time. So I let myself off the hook. Everyone loved it. My father-in-law even asked for a doggie bag. Not too shabby.

It was a beautiful evening with family and that’s all that mattered. And that is the ultimate lesson.

Katrina Martin is the owner of Culinary Cupid LLC. When she’s not quoting obscure movie references, she can be found searching for her go-to recipe.

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One Love

Before I left for Jamaica I was already mentally preparing my blog post for when I returned. I thought I will incorporate the love of food that I experienced while taking the advice of every travel writer to get to know the locals vs. having an aristocratic understanding of exotic places in an effort to prove that I ‘get it’. This has become cliché so I decided to skip it. Anyway, Bourdain has already eloquently covered the local perspective. I was there to relax, and maybe drink a Red Stripe or two if offered (you know, in an effort to maintain world-wide diplomacy). I didn’t ask the chefs ‘what do you cook at home’ while waiting for my omelet because I know I don’t like to be bothered when I’m trying to feed a surge of patrons as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to think about work. When asked, I told people I worked for the CIA. I did not critique the food; I decided to be thankful for a decent meal instead. It’s hard to put a little love in food that has to cater to such a varying degree of palettes. But love and I found each other at a humble eating establishment recommended by the resort staff (always, always, always ask the staff where they eat, especially the chefs) called Scotchies.

Oh yes, Scotchies. This place was recommended to us by friends in the States as well. When we arrived, the smell of the wood fire grill was heavy in the air. It literally felt like it was give us a big bear hug. There was no middle ground: either the food is going to be really good, or really terrible. It had no central roof; only umbrellas over the tables and tin awnings. But no matter; who needs a roof in paradise? You don’t go expecting cloth napkins and ambiance (although, it does have ambiance in spades). You go for the food.

What shall we order? Decisions, decisions. We went for the gusto and ordered all of the meats, and the fish. We skipped side dishes. I didn’t have a chance to chat up the grill masters to get some pointers on grilling. There were hungry patrons to feed after all, and the meter was running on our taxi. We scurried back to our room. A meal such as this requires a wardrobe change into something with an elastic waist band.

The food was remarkable. Each meat had a distinct flavor even though it was all prepared on the same grill. There was of course jerk chicken and pork. There was also pork sausage and chicken sausage, and fish cooked in foil with onions, green peppers, and okra. Everything was seasoned simply so the flavor of the meat was not masked. In the 6 years that we’ve been married, I have never heard my husband go on about anything I prepared like he did about Scotchies. I attributed it to us not having a good meal in days, so I gave him a pass – just this once. The only thing missing was bread to make a sandwich (room service to the rescue!). And dag on it I forgot to ask for sauce!

Ahhhh, there’s the love: good food, Caribbean sunset, a warm breeze, a cold Red Stripe…and a nap.

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