Saturday, November 03, 2018

ratting on steve

I am not a food snob.

I will raise my hand to  being a "foodie." Though I detest the word as a grotesquerie. It is right up there with "iconic" used to describe anything not visual -- and the much-detested "blogger." (And the irony quotient just pegged. Not a snob, indeed.)

My Instant Pot experimentation is proceeding apace. After my successful pot of beans, I decided to take off the training wheels and bravely move up the scale to boiling eggs. My friend Dennis had extolled the virtues of easy-peel Instant Pot boiled eggs, and seemed to think the task was not beyond my reach.

He is correct. Something in the pressurized cooking changes the chemical makeup of the shell by letting it slough off like an orange peel.

I found only two downsides. The first is time. It takes longer to use the Instant Pot than the stove. The actual cooking time is less. But there is the additional time the cooker needs to build up pressure. But, unlike a pot on the stove, once the eggs go in, you are done until you dunk your eggs in the ice bath.

The second downside is the consistency of the whites. The yolks cooked perfectly. I used them for deviled eggs, and they were consistently creamy. But the whites were almost rubber tough. If I use the Instant Pot for boiling eggs in the future, I need to remember to decrease the cooking time.

But that is all small-fry cooking. I needed something worthy of my new acquisition.

Pressure cookers are noted for their treatment of tougher cuts of meat. Serendipitously, I discovered I was in the mood to experiment with my favorite Cuban-Caribbean dish -- ropa vieja. I could even claim it is one of the Mexican dishes I thoroughly enjoy -- because of its relationship with the state of Veracruz.

Even though beef is the traditional meat in this Spanish-inspired stew, I prefer pork (probably because that is how I was introduced to it in the paladares of Havana). And I prefer pork shoulder.

But none was to be found at my butcher. Because I am an experimenter at heart when it comes to food, I bought a piece of pierna, what we would know up north as the portion of Petunia that gives birth to ham. My butcher was skeptical when I told him what I was about to cook.

Into the pot went the requisite 2-cups of water for Instant Pot cooking; the pork; tomatoes, garlic, and red and yellow bell peppers I had just fire-roasted; cumin; smoked Hungarian paprika; Greek oregano; and that standby of Latin cooking -- cumin. For a bit of India, in went a healthy dose of Bhut jolokia powder to open the sinuses. And f
or a Mexican Steve twist, I added a handful of dried chiles de árbol and a cube of achiote paste for a one-two Jalisco-Yucatan combination.

As much as I like classic ropa vieja, I preferred mine. Omar had never heard of the dish, but he ate through a couple of bowls and declared it "perfecto." With one rather rude surprise.

I forgot to remove the 
chiles de árbol. For me, they are too tough to chew. But both Omar and I are used to eating around them. When I saw a large red lump left uneaten in his bowl, I thought it was a chili.

It wasn't. It was the undissolved anchiote paste.

That was my cooking lesson for the day. When I use the paste preparing sauce on the stove, I always need to stir the paste into the liquid to dissolve it. Just like bouillon.

In the future when I use anchiote in the Instant Pot (and I will, but probably not with
ropa vieja since I have already made it), I will remember to dissolve the paste in the water I add to the pot.

These little failures are great teaching tools.

And I am about to learn a lot with today's pending adventure.

I have always been a fan of Julia Child's
bouef bourguinon. The problem was using her concepts in an Instant Pot. Fortunately, someone had already done the extrapolation for using a pressure cooker. All I needed to do was buy the ingredients.

So, I made my shopping list. Bacon. Beef brisket (pecho, here). Carrot. White onion. Pearl onions. Garlic. Beef stock (I am making that). Tomato paste. Thyme. Chervil. Bay leaves. Butter. Mushrooms. Salt. Pepper. Flour.

And then I started laughing. The recipe interpreter offered the choice of wines. Merlot. Pinot Noir. Chianti.  

Really? The dish in not Marilyn Merlot beef. It is Burgundy beef. There is a certain hint in the name as to what wine to use.

I pulled out my copy of The French Chef Cookbook just to make certain Julia had not betrayed my moral indignation. She hadn't. Her choices were all Burgundy-based.

But my laughter was not at the inclusion of Merlot and Chianti as an ingredient. It was at my reaction. I sounded like one of those recently-arrived visitors to Mexico who refuse to eat chiles en nogada unless it includes the traditional 53 (or whatever number he has been told by someone) ingredients.

It was a reminder to me not to get too judgmental. Inevitably the very traits we find annoying in others are a part of our own personalities. Often rising to the level of a quiddity. 

That is one reason I cannot take most political discussions very seriously these days -- or ever, I suppose. Tossing around terms like "fascist," racist," and "socialist" make me smile because the people who resort to those terms are usually carrying an incredible bag of self-righteousness that would make my Puritan forebears jealous.

And, so, we laugh. And if we cannot laugh at ourselves first, we may be doomed.

As for me, I will go on pretending I have not the least part of snobbery in me. Because the notion is a constant font of mirth in which ineed to dip frequently.

Just watch out for that achiote paste. 

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