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April 17, 2016

Food Thread: Hot, Hotter, Hottest [CBD]

As recommended by our very own CDR M....

ghost chips.png

There is a local Chinese restaurant that has a dish called "Lamb With Cumin," that is roaring, gaspingly, ridiculously hot. It is also fantastic, so I order it knowing that my mouth will be on fire for a good 20 minutes. But for whatever reason the heat compliments the other flavors, and it is a real pleasure.


But some people go far beyond what makes sense from a culinary perspective, and turn it into a test of wills, or some odd measure of their worth as human beings. I have no desire to eat something so hot that it makes me vomit or need medical attention. What's the point?

So....where does The Horde fall? Are you a bunch of masochistic maniacs whose most fervent desire is to destroy the sensory apparatus of your mouths with genetically modified organisms designed specifically to cause pain...or do you like spicy food because it heightens and magnifies the flavors and increases the pleasure of eating.

Or both?

******

I have a bunch of different salts in my kitchen, but 99% of the time I use plain old Kosher salt for addition to the food, and mass-market sea salt for last-minute texture. I have volcanic salt and Hawaiian pink salt and a dozen other types, but I rarely use them. Every once in awhile I will sprinkle one of the odd salts on a grilled steak, making sure to salt it slightly less before cooking. What? You don't salt your steaks at least an hour before you cook them? Savages!

maldon sea salt crystals.jpg

One of my favorite simple dishes is grilled pork rib chops with Dijon mustard (yeah...I have jabbered about this before). I buy them from a local supermarket that cuts the chops from high up near the shoulder so there are some interesting and flavorful muscles included with the pleasant but boring loin. They also have figured out that not trimming the fat makes for a bigger margin and a happier customer, because fat is flavor. There is no way around that (and grilled fat is the best flavor).

Anyway, I salt the hell out of them with copious quantities of Kosher salt at least four hours before I cook them. Then I rinse them, dry them, coat them with Dijon mustard and grill them on high heat until they are nicely browned and crispy. Then -- and I think this is an important part of the process -- I tip them onto the bone and finish them over cooler indirect heat. Obviously this will work only if the chops are thick. I shoot for at least 2", and if I can get the butcher to cut them thicker I will jump at the opportunity.

The combination of the crispy fat, the rich dark meat from the shoulder and the wonderful saltiness is the stuff dreams are made from.

******

I have been drinking far too much of a very simple drink, which is nothing more than a Gin Sour.

  • 2 parts strongly flavored gin
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • 1 part simple syrup (1:1 by weight)

Shake well with ice and serve in a tall glass with the ice and a lemon peel garnish.

There is a problem though, I suck them down very quickly, and as my liver has reached middle age I can no longer drink like I used to. The horror of aging is rarely so starkly evident!

******

In Defense of Vodka Takes vodka too seriously as a stand-alone beverage. But many people, including your sex toy writer, have unfairly maligned it. As a blank canvas that provides nothing more than the bite and mouth feel of alcohol, it is a perfect foil for interesting flavors.

I have no particular interest in it, but there is something to be said for a brisk, ice-cold vodka martini, garnished with a twist of lemon and a splash of bitters.

******

Spicy Garlicky Cashew Chicken is actually pretty damned good. Please do not hold it against me that it is from the NYT.
******

This is a Tyler Florence recipe that I modified slightly, but his current one (on the Food Network website) is smaller (8" spring-form), so obviously not as good.

Lemon Cheese Cake

Crust:


  • 2 ½ cups finely ground (use a food processor) graham crackers (about 40 squares)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (Add to graham crackers while processing)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted (or more if you like the taste of butter)

Filling:

  • 3 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
  • 1½ pints sour cream

To prepare crumb crust:
In a mixing bowl or the food processor, combine the crust ingredients together until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 11-inch spring-form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and 1-inch up the sides on the pan, use your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

To prepare filling:
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides again. The batter should be well mixed, without any lumps. The traditional technique is to beat as little as possible so that the batter doesn’t have too much air in it and then crack while baking. [That has never happened to me, and I think that the texture is better if the batter is well beaten. Just don’t use the fastest speed on your mixer.] Pour filling into the crust-lined pan.

Place spring-form pan on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 65 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle a little, it will firm up after chilling. Be careful not to overcook! Do not do a toothpick test in the cake's center, just trust your clock. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours to set up. Un-mold and transfer to a cake plate. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

Do not garnish with fruit, because the bible says that cream cheese with fruit is an abomination.

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posted by Open Blogger at 04:00 PM

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