Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All-New Food Adventures Part 2

Previously, on "Things You Really Didn't Want to Know:" Becky went grocery shopping for some exciting new recipes, made a salad with mango and collard greens and managed to do a load of laundry. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion.

After finishing the salad, which I admit took longer than I was expecting it to (I blame my poor mango-slicing skills), I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to start the Sloppy Bombay Joes before my laundry was done in the dryer. I don't iron (don't even own one), so all my clothes have to be promptly dealt with after coming out of the dryer so that they don't wrinkle to death. Believe me - death by wrinkle is not the way you want to go. Being unfamiliar with the recipe, I didn't want to have to stop in the middle of it to take 10 minutes to hang up my clothes.

I decided to wait for the laundry to be done. I knew there was about a half hour left on the dryer, and I conveniently had a half hour show saved on my DVR that I still hadn't watched. I sat down with my not-kale salad and ate that while watching the show.

All right, let's skip ahead to the next round of cooking. The Twins game was starting, so I put the TV on that channel and turned the volume up a bit so I could hear what was going on as I cooked.

For starters, I decided to do what the TV chefs always tell me to do first: prepare my mise en place. This meant that I had to mince some garlic and ginger, dice and onion and red bell pepper, and get everything else ready that I was going to need. In hindsight, I probably could have done this step while waiting for my laundry to get done, but it worked out all right for me in the end.

In my adult life, I've only ever owned hand-me-down knives. They're not very sharp, and they're not that great. I'm sure that 20 years ago when they were new, they were fantastic knives, but now they're crap. As an aspiring home cook, this really didn't help my chopping skills. Now that I've got this fancy new set of knives, I got to experience what it's like to use some actual sharp knives. Like the pros.

Not wanting to get into anything too messy just yet, I started by coarsely chopping some pistachios. Piece of cake! Only took about 30 seconds. Beautiful. However, if you look at the recipe, it never says you have to chop the pistachios. I think they were supposed to be kept whole. But that's ok. I chopped them anyway. (I think I was confusing this recipe with the one for the creamy pistachio pops, which does call for chopped pistachios).

Next adventure: ginger! Most of my experience with ginger is in dried, ground form (for gingerbread cookies) or pickled on my sushi plate. I've never used fresh ginger before - but I've seen TV chefs deal with it loads of times. I got out my vegetable peeler and got rid of the... skin? rind? whatever that outside layer is called on ginger. Sliced it, minced it and had a little tablespoon-sized clump of ginger. Beautiful! Garlic was more of the same (excepting peeling it is much easier). Beautiful!

The onion was on deck. (Since I was listening to a baseball game, I figured I'd go with a baseball metaphor for this paragraph). The previous 3 ingredients all got base hits (actually, the pistachios just walked), so the bases were loaded for the onion. Onions make me nervous. I always strike out with them. With a new knife (bat), could this aromatic veggie finally hit a grand slam? The knife comes down, and... well, it was a bases-clearing double. Not out of the park. Turns out I just don't know how to properly dice an onion, but at least it was fast with the super-sharp knife. And it didn't make me cry!

Next up was the red bell pepper. Those of you who know my culinary tastes are probably surprised to see this ingredient. I did buy a small one. I've always hated red bell peppers (and yellow and orange ones, but the green ones are ok). There's just something about them that isn't right, and their flavor always infects anything they touch. But it seemed to be a major part of the flavoring of this recipe, and I couldn't just leave it out. It also didn't seem right to replace it with a green pepper, so I went for it. Red pepper. That was way easier to dice than the onion.

I don't really need to give a play-by-play of the actual cooking for the most part. I just followed the recipe and did what Aarti told me to do. Heating up the raisins was funny - they really did plump up, and I was afraid they were going to explode! I was surprised at how little of the Indian spice, garam masala, went into the sauce. I was terrified that the flavor wasn't going to come through when the whole dish was put together.

So I was happily cooking along, step-by-step. Everything added as I'm told. I got to the point where the ground turkey was done cooking and I added the sauce to the turkey, red pepper, and onion. I want to tell you that it smelled amazing, but it really didn't. It just smelled like food, nothing special (yet). The last step on my recipe print-out was: "Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes."

"Wait a minute," I told myself. "There's something missing here. Where's the half & half, and the honey? And when do I add the raisins and pistachios back in?"

I read through the recipe 3 more times, and confirm on the ingredients list that those items were actually supposed to be used. It all seemed good. Then where was the rest of the recipe? Thankfully, my phone can use the internet (I didn't have time to wait for my laptop to boot up), and I found the recipe on the Food Network website in record time. I was missing a bit of the recipe! I felt like such a fool. Why didn't I check to make sure the whole recipe was there when I printed it out?

In any case, I added the half & half, honey, raisins and pistachios as directed, and finally, my dish was complete.

It still didn't smell special.

Tentatively, I took a bite.

It tasted fantastic. Freaking fantastic. It was rich and flavorful - it really came alive inside my mouth. The honey and raisins added a nice sweetness to the dish.

The best part? I even liked the red bell pepper. It didn't infect the whole dish! I actually LIKED it.

It was a bit more spicy than I expected. I did keep the jalapeno in longer than the recipe suggested, so that could be the source for the heat.

I really didn't need more than that teaspoon of garam masala - I could taste it.

I was fully prepared to "dress up" the dish with some more spices and flavors, but in the end I'm glad I didn't. It really tasted excellent and I probably would have ruined it. A sprig or two of cilantro would have been nice, but there wasn't much I could have done about that.

And that, loyal readers, was my first adventure into Indian cooking, even if it was just one step into the culinary realm. It was fun, exciting, and I'll certainly keep the recipe on hand so I can make it again.

Oh, and here's a picture of the finished product. I didn't buy any buns because they tend to go moldy before I can eat them all. I just ate it out of a bowl. And it was tasty.


  1. I'm wondering if you could go Curry style with this and put it over a bed of jasmine rice to get that little bit of starch to soak up some of the liquid and still avoid the moldy bread problem.

  2. You know, Chris, I was actually thinking about trying that, except all I had was pasta (all the rice I have right now is flavored), and I thought that would be too heavy. But I think it would totally work with rice - and the starch would probably help alleviate the spicy factor, too.

  3. I'd like this recipe - email it to me, if you could! :)

  4. I'm so making this. Yum! - Lizz

  5. Looks delish!

    Keep your buns in the freezer if you don't eat it before it can mold. Just nuke one for 30 seconds to warm it up for use.