Saturday, September 3, 2011

Developing your dish

For me cooking is a give and take process.  I'm not naturally all that good at it, I just want to be, and at the end of the day the meals I cook are usually more soul satisfying than your average dinner in a box just because I'm trying.  Every once in a while I screw up and make something that's inedible.  A month ago I bought this pasta that I've never worked with before, its called Filei Calabresi and its basically a rolled pasta in the shape of a green bean.  There was no cook time on the bag and just for the record, stuff probably needs to boil for 25 minutes to get it al dente.  Needless to say, I tasted the one piece of pasta in the pan that was cooked after 17 minutes and pulled the rest.  Raw pasta is inferior to Mcdonalds.  You got me there.  At least at Mickey D's, the burger will be cooked.  

Two nights ago for dinner, Jessica and I made a dish that we've collaborated on before, Roast Carrot and Scotch bonnet puree with Butter roasted Halibut.  Its not a great textural dish, just flavorful.  I added a few well seared oyster mushrooms for a little bit of texture, pic is on our FB page.  Two issues with this dish were as follows:  I guess theres some kind of Halibut shortage on the East Coast right now... Damn.  Hurricane related maybe, I don't know... ...  The closest substitute we could find was Cod and the Cod really didn't stand up to the preparation or the sauce. 

The second problem was the sauce. First time I made this one, when I finished the onions I added a little white wine vinegar before adding the carrots and stock, well this time I forgot to add vinegar and then amidst the dogs and our two year  running around I decided to add it late and had a heavy hand to boot.  Doh.  Bad move there.   Stock tasted like pure vinegar, so I had to cook it down and add more stock, thusly the flavors weren't developing while the carrots were cooking more than I needed them too.  All in all sauce was too spicy, not well balanced and broken.  Along with the underwhelming cod it took a dish we were ecstatic about and muddled it to the point where it was just dinner.  The mushrooms were pretty good though.

There was plenty of leftover sauce so I saved it.  I figured, why not turn it into a soup?  So the next day for lunch I added a little more stock, and some honey and made quesadillas with tomato and cheese and had a little soup and sandwich with Kaia.  Flavor was still mediocre at best.  Quesadilla with Kumato Tomatoes was the better half.

But we had leftover carrots.  About 1/3 of a bag and we had a couple Thai Bird Chiles and half a box of chicken stock left.  So tonight, I got to work on redeeming myself.  The end result of all this failure was an outright success and a very soulful, economical, warm and comforting carrot soup.  Here's the recipe.

1 bag baby carrots (I like these for their sweetness, you could use any variety of carrot you like)
1 box chicken stock
1-2 small red or orange chiles (be sure to taste for spiciness)
Mascarpone, creme fraiche or similar
1 Yellow onion
Bay leaves
Good Olive Oil

1.  First toss the carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them with a couple bay leaves for 20-30 minutes at about 400 degrees.
2.  Chop half an onion and about 1 chile.  (I usually chop a whole chile, save 1/3 to add as desired)  Saute in sauce pan until onions are translucent.  Don't forget to season.  (season late with onion not at the beginning)
3. Add roasted carrots and stock to and bring to a boil. 
4.  Reduce temperature.  Add about 2 tablespoons of honey.  Continue reducing stock. 
5,  When carrots are fork tender, remove pan from heat. Remove bay leaves, taste and season.
6.  Add Carrots and stock to blender with about a tablespoon of mascarpone or creme fraiche.  Puree until smooth consistency.  Strain if desired.
7.  Serve and enjoy.

The soup tonight was just spicy enough, and the flavors were harmonious.  I can't decide whether to make another batch tomorrow night or start a new culinary adventure... ...

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