Wednesday, February 06, 2019

so, a portuguese, an indian, and an italian walk into a mexican kitchen

It sounds like the first line of a joke designed to set modern sensibilities on edge. But the Mexican kitchen was mine today, and my lunch theme was fusion across three continents.

Because I have reduced my daily eating hours from 2 in the afternoon to 7 in the evening, I want each of my meals to be a culinary adventure. And that has not been difficult.

I read some years back that the majority of any given American family’s meals are limited to only twelve recipes. (At least, that was more than the British average of nine.) When I read that, I thought it had to be wrong. But, after talking with friends and acquaintances, it appears to be accurate.

I need more variety than that to keep from getting bored with my food. That is probably one reason I bought an Instant pot. It was a new tool to induce me to experiment.

And that was exactly what I intended to do today for lunch.

I have seen several Instant Pot recipes for Indian pork dishes. Ground pork vindaloo is a popular choice.

Vindaloo has always intrigued me. Even though it sounds (and tastes) very Indian, it did not originate on the sub-continent. The Portuguese brought the method with them when they were the colonial masters of a good portion of India. The cuisine of the region around Goa (Portugal’s last colonial redoubt in India) still bears a notable Portuguese influence.

In the case of vindaloo, it is vinegar (an important component of Portuguese cooking) that defines the dish’s flavor layering -- and origin. But the spices are what make it Indian -- cumin, black mustard, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and, of course, lots of cayenne. All of that is complemented with onion, ginger, and garlic.

That was the Indian and Portuguese contribution. But mine is a Mexican kitchen. As much as I like spicing up dishes with cayenne, it does not have the same depth of flavor as serranos and habaneros. (For those of you who believe habaneros have no Mexican roots, we will have to talk.)

I looked at those ingredients assembled next to my Instant Pot. By using my wok, I could have my meal in less than 10 minutes -- and I could control the layering of the spices. The Instant Pot would reduce my ability to tinker, and would take longer.

One of the lessons I have learned with the Instant Pot is that buying a hammer does not turn everything into a nail. As wonderful as the Instant Pot is, it is not a universal cooker.

So, out came the wok. I decided to add a bit of Siam by cooking everything in sesame oil. It turned out to be a success --  something I need to remember for future pork experiments.

And the Italy part of the meal? About a week ago, I bought a package of Italian gemelli pasta (one of my favorites) that would be the perfect shape to capture the subtle layers of the vindaloo. And it did.

The only surprise was inside the package. It does not bear on this tale, but it certainly will be a good topic for a future essay. The squeamish need not inquire further.

The meal was delicious. I do not think I have had a well-engineered Indian dish that I did not like.

My blogger pal Jennifer Rose suggested that I buy Urvashi Pitre’s The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook to get some ideas for my low carbohydrate-high fat food regimen. When I looked at the reviews on Amazon, I was amazed at the number of people who complained that the food was “too foreign” or “real weird” or “my family would never eat any of this stuff.”

I suspect the naysayers (some of whom most likely fall into the 9- or 12-recipe repertoire) were reacting more to the “Korean-style Galbijjim” or “Chicken Shawarma” than to “Corned Beef and Cabbage” or “Chicken Tortilla Soup.” But maybe they had something against Irish and Mexican cuisine along with their Asia-phobia.

Pitre’s Keto cookbook, along with her Indian cookbook, has given me some new leads for my “a-new-dish-every-day” method of cooking.

And it has reminded me that good food should not only please the tongue, it should be as fun to make as it is to eat.

Tomorrow? How about something German, Italian, and Japanese?

Or maybe not. It seems like the last time those forces combined, the dishes were not quite edible.

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