Monday, September 5, 2016

Cooking Up A Storm

I may have given up 'Entertainment Performance Cooking' but that doesn't mean that I've given up cooking. In fact in some respects I'm cooking as much as ever especially as it concerns making things for later use.

The last two weekends have been jammed backed with food processing. Last weekend was all things chile. This broke down into the roasting of fresh chiles from the garden and the processing of red chiles that had been harvested and dehydrated in the past into condiments.

I may have mentioned in the recent past that in spite of some crazy weather my tomatoes, chiles and herbs did fantastic. Not that I get any credit for that since Wife does all the garden maintenance.

When the weather finally got wetter, it seemed that the chile was going to rot before it got red so I decided to do the traditional New Mexican Green Chile Roasting

 After they are roasted, you let them cool and then peel and seed...AN INCREDIBLE BITCH OF A JOB! It took me hours and my hands were burning for hours afterward. The chile is also pretty darn hot BUT it has a very good flavor.

Then it was on to the Red Chile Condiments.
I love two of them.
Harissa - from North Africa, I use it on sandwiches, on eggs, I put it into soups and stews to give them a kick.
Sambal - I make a Malay version and I use it with all kinds of the other Southeast Asian curry pastes I make and with fried rice especially

The recipes for these call for you to combine the ingredients, then blend to a paste. They don't tell you anything about getting rid of the skins that are on the chiles. I solved the problem this year by processing all the red chile into a paste and then making the condiments

Red Chiles soaking
 Ground up chile with all the skins on the left and then the nice smooth silky skinless paste on the right

This weekend I was processing smoked meat and making Southeast Curry Pastes

I have been on a quest for making pulled pork. I'm getting very good with the smoker as far as getting the right flavor balance. Essentially what I do is for all large cuts of meat, I brine them with the BBQ rub spices in the brine and no rub on the meat when it goes in the smoker. For thinner cuts of meat, I use the rub only but let the rub sit on the meat overnight before I smoke.

As the smoker doesn't work well in cold weather and with another big trip coming up and the fact that once you turn the smoker on you use the same amount of energy whether you do one piece or you fill the thing up, I decided to go whole hog (ha, ha, pun intended) and fill it up. I had 15 pounds of pork shoulder for the pulled pork and two full racks of spare ribs (I like them better than the baby back ribs)

To get the meat to right internal temperature for it to 'pull' easily, you have to smoke it for around 12 to 13 hours. So I was up at 4:00 AM to start the smoker and get up to temperature and had the shoulders on at 5:30 AM. The ribs take about 7 hours so they went on at 11 AM. I've learned to add an hour to all the estimates of the times I've found on line. The results were really spectacular (he says with extreme modesty).

Meat at the end of the smoking process

One plate of smoked meats and sides
These meats freeze really well. The ribs in particular, we can just take out a couple each, let them defrost for a couple of hours and then heat them up in the microwave.

The last thing I did was make Malay and Cambodian Curry Pastes. The bugaboo here as been getting these to be smooth. Going on line, everyone says that the food processor just doesn't do it. You end up with a grainy product and the flavors don't amalgamate well. But if you try to do it the old fashioned way of pounding everything in a mortar and pestle it takes for ever and it still is hard to get all those hard roots (ginger, galangal, tumeric, garlic, shallots) to become a paste. So what I did this time is grated every thing first. Since a lot of ingredients were in the freezer, I by accident found that they grate much easier (especially the lemongrass) if they are frozen. The result were my best textured curry pastes yet. 
(Sorry no pictures)


alexis said...

wow, I hope I remember this post so I can come back when I have the ambition to tackle these pastes one day.

Agent W said...

It will be so good for you and Wife to come home from your next trip to find your wonderful food right there is your own freezer! Good job de-I !!