Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pad Thai

And then all of a sudden, things change.

You think everything is normal, and will stay that way, and then people come or go away or get married or grow up or grow young or chase a dream, and then things aren't the way they were. It makes you melancholy, leaves you nostalgic for a time which you didn't fully appreciate. I don't truly regret anything. Only the things I didn't eat and the stuff I didn't buy.

But Fate happens. And you really just have to deal.

The other day, I was with my family, and there was literally no food in the house. Let me tell you about my family. When they are hungry, they morph from humans into really pissed off werewolves. Hungry werewolves. We decided to go to our new favorite restaurant, a little green food trailer called Little Thai Food.
To add to the melee of general discontent, Little Thai Food only accepts cash, and between the four of us we had exactly $31. We ordered with abandon without thinking of the costs, begging for steaming egg rolls, burning hot curries, and slippery pad thais.
And you know what? All total, it cost exactly $31.

Like I was saying, Fate happens.

You can't fight it. I need to take the lesson of the Thai Food Trailer and just trust in the universe.

And regrets?

I wish I had known how to make pad thai much sooner.

Pad Thai
from The Gourmet Cookbook

I really liked this. Most pad Thais are a bit darker or more reddish in color than mine was, but I think that's probably due to the fact that I didn't have any tamarind. I also added mushrooms and bell peppers because I like mushrooms and bell peppers. Take control of your destiny and add those mushrooms. And make this. It really is that good.

1 cup boiling
2 tablespoons tamarind (from a pliable block)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, preferably naam pla
3 tablespoons packed palm sugar or light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (7 ounce) package dried flat rice noodles (1/8 inch wide)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 small shallots, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound medium shrimp in shells (31-35 per pound), peeled deveined and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pound plain baked tofu, rised, patted, dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 2/1 cups ( 1/2 pound) bean sprouts, rinsed and dried
8 scallions, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces
4 tablespoons crushed unsalted roasted peanuts
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Lime wedges are tasty

Pour boiling water into a bowl, add tamarind, and stir mashing gently, for 3 minutes to soften. Pour mizture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on solids; discard solids.
Combine fish sauce, tamarind mixture, palm sugar, granulated sugar and salt in a small saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Soak noodles in 10 cups boiling water in a large bowl until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok ( or large deep skilet) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.
Add eggs and cook, stirring, until scrambled and just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer eggs to a bowl and tear into small pieces.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in wok ( or skillet) over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add garlic and shallots and stir-fry until just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add tofu and stir-fry until shrimp is just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggs.
Heat wok over moderately high heat until hot. Add tamarind sauce and bring to a boil. Add noodles and stir-fry until tender and excess sauce is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and shrimp mixture, 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts, scallions, 2 tablespoons peanuts, and red pepper flakes and toss well.
Mound pad Thai on a platter, top with remaining 1 cup bean sprouts, and sprinkle with remainging 2 tablespoons peanuts. Serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

When I was little this was my ideal meal:

hopefully followed by:

The glory of those meals, was extremely rare. My parents have always been healthy to the point of obnoxiousness, and rarely was I fed anything that wasn't homemade. But those times that I got MAC 'N CHEESE...
Oh my. I was a happy camper.

Now unfortunately, MAC 'N CHEESE from a box doesn't thrill me to my core.* Please enjoy your cheap thrills while you've got them.

Anyways, the point is, since those days, I've never eaten much macaroni and cheese. (BTW I really don't like the phrase MAC 'N CHEESE. It's obnoxious.) Sure, we've made occasional home made baked pastas that are called Macaroni and Cheese, but none of them have ever had that luscious cheesy quality that I've always longed for.

Until this:

(My camera got steamy.)

Can you say "amen?" Can you say, "I believe in Cheesus?"
Beloveds, this is THE ORIGINAL MAC 'N CHEESE. Only better, because it FEEDS YOUR SOUL.


*Dude. It's crazy how your tastes change. Also on my list of things I no longer enjoy:
Gummi Bears.
Most juices from little boxes.

Macaroni and Cheese
from The Gourmet Cookbook

This is really, really, really good, so please don't complain about the amount of cheese/cream/calorie. It's good for you. Note: I used an white Irish Cheddar, which is probably different than whatever you're going to use. I also went easy on the red pepper flakes. Finally, I ignored most of the topping ideas, and instead simply sprinkled some walnut bread crumbs. I loved the crunch. The sprinkle of bread crumbs add just that much more finesse, and really why would you want to cover the crunchiness with more cheese?
Also, eat this with your family and a salad.

For the Topping:

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups panko (japanese bread crumbs, because you know, you just have this stuff on hand) OR coarse bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar (about 4 ounces)

For Cheese Sauce and Macaroni:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about a pound)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 F. Butter a3-quart shallow baking dish.
Make the topping:
Stir together butter, panko/breadcrumbs and cheese in a bowl until well combined.
Make the sauce;
Melt butter in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Whisk in flour and red pepper flakes and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. (If you don't know what a roux is, don't worry, just stir it until it looks smooth.) Whisk in milk in a slow stream, then bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in cream, Cheddar, mustard, salt and pepper. Remove pot from heat and cover the surface of sauce with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming.
Cook the macaroni and assemble the dish: Cook macaroni in a 6 quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain macaroni. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water and drain macaroni. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl, then transfer to baking dish, (mixture will be loose).
Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni. Bake until top is golden and bubblin, 25 to 35 minutes.
Eat with a salad.