Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mediocre Week

Oh look, a pretty rainbow. Best thing seen from my kitchen this week.
It's one of my signature 'fail' weeks in cooking. No one can cook well all the time. Luckily my husband was faring a bit better, and has taken a little more interest in the kitchen lately. Here are some pictures of some good ideas and some bad executions, for your entertainment:

Attempt at Alpen Magrone
 Ever since our trip to Switzerland in the spring, I've been planning to recreate this awesome dish we had at Hotel Waldstaetterhof in Luzern. They actually had two separate kitchens, one for meat and fish, and one for the vegetarian menu. The vegetarian menu contained different comfort type dishes with creams, sauces, pastas, potatoes - and you could choose your vegetarian protein (quorn, seitan, tempeh). I was able to order fish, and if I remember correctly my husband ordered a creamy mushroom dish with quorn with some vegetable or potato or something - it was very good.

When we asked about this macaroni and cheese type dish called alplermagronen, the waiter told us that it's a traditional dish from the mountains: a hearty dish for cold days, technically translated "alpine macaroni". It was a creamy bowl of penne and cheese, with chunks of potato, served with a bowl of applesauce. The swiss cheeses were no surprise, as melted cheese was in overabundant supply at most of our meals, but the potatoes were a new twist. The tartness of the applesauce cutting the salty creaminess was a totally new experience.

Here we are now at the tail end of prime apple season, going into cooler weather, so I thought the time for alplermagronen had arrived. I was only able to find one recipe online, and I have to say I should have just tried to figure it out on my own. My results were dry, not creamy at all. The potatoes were flavorless, since there was a lack of sauce, and somehow I undercooked the onions. I ended up pouring tons of homemade applesauce (without the spices) all over it for moisture.

Attempt at Peanut Seitan Skewers
I haven't done much Asian cooking lately. I've kind of been craving Thai food, but we rarely order it because every restaurant in our delivery radius in Downtown Brooklyn uses stupid fish sauce. I think fish sauce is the most overrated thing ever, and I refuse to keep the smelly stuff in the house - I swear they make those containers leaky on purpose, schmearing fishy smells on everything in the cupboard. I also think it's incredibly insensitive and ignorant of restaurants to use fish sauce, knowing that they offer "vegetarian" tofu versions of curry, and most people won't realize that there's actually gross fish sauce in there. If they only knew how much business they could have if they made true vegetarian dishes.

I decided to turn a box of seitan into marinated skewers one night, and followed another recipe I found online. Again, I should have followed my instincts and grilled them like I do the Gardein BBQ skewers - searing the outsides, keeping the inside moist. But, this being my first attempt I followed instructions to bake the skewers. Not only did the seitan completely dry out, but the peanut sauce turned out too gloppy and bland. I recently realized how many gross additives are in Skippy, and have switched to pure unsweetened organic peanut butter. It doesn't make a very enticing peanut sauce.

This was supposed to be dumplings.
Also on Asian night this week, I came home early to make dumplings from a package of wonton wrappers I was sure I ordered a week ago. I chopped and sauteed carrots, onions, oyster mushrooms and cabbage, and mixed it with soy sauce, garlic chili paste and such until I had a nice dumpling filling ready. But, I was wrong, there were no wonton wrappers, only a half-package from over a month ago, rotten and moldy. The package I thought was wrappers in the fridge, was actually rice noodles. So I cooked the noodles and mixed them with the dumpling filling. It was edible, but a bit wierd, and hard to eat the miniature vegetables with chopsticks.

Scone mix doesn't make great biscotti.
One last fail this week. Since my previous successful attempt at using bread mix to make biscotti, I tried to do the same thing with scone mix this morning. Didn't work. Just a dry, crumbly, flakey mess.

Breakfast potatoes, by Amit.
 Just to end on a positive note, my husband had a little more luck this week. He's not on a project right now, and has had a bit more quality time with the apartment. An episode of Brunch @ Bobby's inspired him to cook up some spicy cumin breakfast potatoes last weekend, and they were actually really good. He confuses me, because I think he really does know how to cook and just plays dumb sometimes. Maybe my mishaps of late are forcing him to display his hidden talents.

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