Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sorry, we can't tell you.

It's the day after. Time to review my work. Critique the food and vow to learn from any mistakes. I'm trying to stay focused on this process, but my boys have absconded with four whisks from my kitchen and are playing an attack game in the next room quite loudly. Ah, the battle has now ended, and they even remembered to put them in the sink so I may wash them before the next battle!

Okay. Asian feast. Yes, the Ahi Poke. Now called: Pacific Rim Ahi Poke
We picked up the sashimi grade ahi in Redondo Beach at International Seafood. A nice 2" slice with a thick rigid rind of dark blue scales.
But the flat leafed herb I picked up at the Saigon market was not shiso leaf. So, I kept it simple with the ahi, scallions, avocado and daikon in a soy sauce, mirin and wasabi dressing. It was GOOD. The avocado and ahi so tender and tasty in the dressing, the daikon shreds added a little crispy texture. I served the Poke with sesame flat bread which added another harmonious flavor and a nice crunch.

Vietnamese inspired Grilled Steak and Herb Salad
We've made the beef salad a few times. It's out of the Lettuce In Your Kitchen cookbook by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. They call it Spicy Cabbage Salad with Chile-Rubbed Flank Steak. It turned out wonderfully. We left the herb leaves (cilantro, thai purple basil, and mint) whole for the first time. It worked perfectly because we could prep the salad early and it didn't turn brown from oxidation on any cut edges. I'd definitely do that again.
We used a gigantic beef sirloin steak. Bruce did a great job grilling it. There can never be enough dressing for that salad, excellent stuff - sweet, salty, spicy, sour - hits them all. I just had left overs of it for lunch.

Thai Green Papaya Salad
Those things are tough to grate. I didn't enjoy that task. But the salad was pretty darn good. Not the best I've ever had, but good. I read a few recipes for this dish and we did a little research over the past two weeks. Bruce and I had lunch at Chaba Thai Bay Grill in Redondo Beach twice and dinner once and we've ordered their green papaya salad each time. We were only able to have it twice. The first time was the best. It was fresh and very spicy and the acidic dressing had a real kick. We tried asking the chef for information about their dressing and received a polite, "Sorry, we can't tell you." The second time we tried to order it, they said it's not available at lunch, which is strange because that's when we had it last! The third time we ordered it at dinner and it was not the same. It was boring, soggy, not sharp tasting and it had mushy tomatoes in it. Eeew. I digress.
My salad was tasty and a friend who had some of the left overs claimed it was better than any she's ever had at a restaurant. But it's just not as good as the one at Chaba Thai Bay Grill, if you get it on a good day. The dressing I made was very similar to the one on the Beef Salad above (chilies, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, peanuts). I've gotta keep working on this one.

The Noodles: Stir Fried Egg Noodles with Chinese Mustard Greens and Chicken
I stumbled upon "Hunan Style Egg Noodles" with a label written in Thai, not Chinese, at the same Saigon Market in Gardena. I was nervous after reading the cooking instructions when I got the package home. It said to soak in cold water, cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drain, and then they are ready to cook. That just didn't make sense to me. But I did it. And after straining they looked like they were going to clump up and be a mass of messiness. But I charged on anyway, wondering if the final dish would be even edible. I heated up the wok and stir fried some ginger, garlic and added ground chicken. Cooked thoroughly and broke into tiny bits, removed from pan. A little oil, more garlic and ginger, then the mustard greens, sliced red pepper and scallions, toss toss toss, add noodles and our magic sauce toss toss toss add meat back, toss and serve. What magic sauce you might ask? It's called Sweet Chile Sauce for Chicken, it's a bright red sauce you can get in any decent Asian grocery store.
I was amazed at how well the texture of the noodles turned out. They were slippery slick and the sauce melded great with all the other ingredients. Not bad for completely winging a made up Asian dish!

I had to make a second batch of the Green Tea Ice Cream. There didn't seem to be enough with just one. But I don' t think I needed to, we had plenty. It was good, everyone liked it. I would have liked a more intense green tea flavor, like the stuff I get at cheap Japanese take out joints with it's otherworldly green tint.

We skipped one of the whites wines (the one with the horse on the label, the Sauvignon Blanc). But I think the show stopper was the Granache from Spain - Los Rocas, at $13.99 a bottle, I think I'm going back there to buy a case! Fabulously rich and smooth and could handle all the spice on the plate. Loved it.

Okay, that's it. I'm going to have a scoop of that green tea ice cream!

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