Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer of Jim

Every other restaurant in this town serves some form of deviled eggs.  I don’t know why these people think their deviled eggs would be better than your grandmas’.   The eggs are free range and the pickled acoutrement is organic and handcrafted but those elements don’t make them taste better than my Granny’s or Aunt Shirley’s and they certainly don’t taste better than mine.  But for some reason someone at your table will insist upon ordering them and pay $8 for three egg halves.  Jaded at this point, I’d rather see a more interesting turn on Southern staples, like deviled ham that tastes remotely palatable, let alone delicious. Hugh Acheson actually does that.  Or a transcendent ham biscuit.

It’s like living a stereotype, so you can imagine my shock when I opened this spring’s edition of the Garden & Gun showcasing a new deviled egg recipe.  I was tempted to roll my eyes but Jim insisted that this was a recipe we needed to do.  So he did.  And he’s worked to refine the recipe and he was right, it’s a real winner.  They disappear faster than the traditional ones.  And dare I say it’s a recipe you need to have, not to replace Grandma’s but as an alternate, a better one at that.  

Deviled Eggs with Sriracha and Smoked Salmon - Adapted from Trevor Higgins - Serves 30

2 dozen eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
3 tsp. whole grain mustard
6 tbs. Sriracha sauce
3 tsp. rendered bacon fat
2 oz. smoked salmon
3-4 sprigs tarragon
1/4 cup vinegar

Place the eggs in a deep pot and cover with water, add in the vinegar.  Bring the water to a boil, let boil for 1 minute, then turn off the burner and let the eggs sit covered for 12 minutes.  When finished cooking plunge the eggs in to an ice bath for 5 minutes, then peel the eggs.  Halve the eggs lengthwise and remove the yolks.  Combine the yolks, mayo, mustard and bacon fat, season with salt and pepper.  Fill a piping bag or a sandwich bag with a corner cut off and fill the egg halves with the filling.  Top with a small sliver of smoked salmon and a tarragon leaf. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Little Southeast

Collards are an integral part of the Southern culinary vernacular.  But it seems they are only allowed to sing one song.  I get exasperated when I hear people complain and campaign they must be made no other way then the traditional way; that’s with salted pork, vinegar, broth, crushed red pepper (and a few other things depending whom you ask) and simmered for hours.  We don’t dictate how other vegetables are cooked and served.  Actually, I take that back, okra suffers a lot of the same pigeon holing as collards.  That’s a blog for another day.  Honestly, I don’t usually cook collards the traditional way, I usually saute them, with some (gasp!) garlic.  This allows them to to retain a bright green and due to their sturdiness they work great in this application.  Don’t get me wrong, I like them boiled army green and swimming in pot likker too, I just don’t think that is their only use.

The other day while staring aimlessly into the fridge I found myself craving Southeast Asian food.  We eat a lot of it around here.  Much of it isn’t authentic but certainly inspired, especially in the summer when the traditional table salad is growing on our porch in abundance.  I remember the very first time I had Vietnamese food. I had just moved to Houston for my first post collegiate job.  Houston is home to the this country’s second largest Vietnamese population and my new co-workers wanted to show off this treasure.  Well I was absolutely hooked. The food is fresh, cheap and delicious and for someone with a less than stellar straight out of college salary this fit the bill.

And it continues to fit the bill.  I’m just happy Jim enjoys it as much as me.  So, tradition be damned, eying a bundle of large collard leaves from a farm in North Georgia I decided they would fill in for traditional rice paper wrappers.  

Collard Rolls - Serves 4
8-10 collard leaves
4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage 
2 carrots - peeled and shredded
1/4 cup peanuts - toasted and chopped
1/4 cup herbs torn from the stalks - mint, basil, cilantro

Prik Nam Pla (Fish Sauce with Chiles - adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
1 cup fish sauce (gluten free)
1/2 cup dried bird chiles - chopped in a mini food processor

Blanch the collard leaves in boiling water for 15 minutes, then refresh under cold water and pat dry.  Remove the thick part of the stem.  I did this by removing the tough part of the stalk then to get the rest of it but to keep a good part of the leaf I made a small triangular shaped cut chopping out the thicker part of the stalk but leaving the leaves.  Toss the cabbage with 2 tbs. spoons of the sauce.  Lay out a collard leaf with cut end facing towards you.  Starting near this side, layer the ingredients, starting with cabbage, then the herbs, carrots and topped with the peanuts.  Roll the leaf by pulling the two ends over the mound, then pull in the sides, pull tightly and roll.  Serve with more prik nam pla or a sweet chili sauce, such as Mae Ploy.