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Posts Tagged ‘chorizo’

While the dishes named in the title above are linked by “and,” I hasten to assure you they weren’t eaten together. I made them as appetizers for two of Beloved Spouse’s culinary specialties, which he’d made within a short span of days: Louisiana shrimp remoulade to eat before gumbo and Mexican melted cheese before chili.

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Tom makes terrific oyster and sausage okra gumbos, one version of which I’ve written admiringly about here. For his latest rendition, it fell to me to prepare a worthy, but not overwhelming, first course. I chose a shrimp remoulade recipe from the Junior League of New Orleans’ Plantation Cookbook. The only shrimp remoulade I’d ever made before was a very elaborate version from Galatoire’s restaurant. This one was simpler: its remoulade sauce has only 9 ingredients, compared to Galatoire’s 12.

All the ingredients went into my mini food processor, which quickly converted chopped onion, chopped scallion, pressed garlic, grainy mustard, olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, cayenne, and paprika into a nubbly sauce. That went into the refrigerator overnight to integrate and develop its flavors. The next evening, to precede our gumbo, I arranged cold boiled shrimp on beds of shredded lettuce and topped them with the sauce.
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The remoulade wasn’t bad, and it complemented the shrimp well enough, but to our taste it wasn’t truly great, either. It was very acidic. That may be my fault, because the recipe called for tarragon vinegar and what I had was my own wine vinegar, which is very concentrated. I probably should have used less of it, or thinned it a little with water. Also, there was a lot more mustard in the mix, compared to Galatoire’s version, where the sharpness of the mustard is tempered by tomato puree and ketchup. So unless and until our palates want a really pungent shrimp remoulade, I guess I’ll revert to Galatoire’s version.

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A few days later, Tom made his Santa Maria Pinquito chili. He’s always tinkering with the details of his recipe, but he always uses those small, flavorful pinquito beans that we get from Rancho Gordo. And since he’s constitutionally incapable of making a small quantity of chili, we had to invite a few chili-loving friends to come and share it with us.

I’d planned to have guacamole and chips with aperitifs in the living room, so I needed something small to serve at the table before bringing on the main attraction. I turned to Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican cookbook for his queso fundido con rajas y chorizo, which I’d made successfully before. A dish of melted cheese with strips of roasted poblano pepper and crumbled chorizo is fairly hefty for an appetizer, but I made only very small portions.

Working alongside the chili chef in the kitchen, I made my advance preparations for the cheese dish. I roasted, peeled, seeded, and sliced a poblano chili into strips, which I sauteed along with some sliced onion. Next I peeled, chopped, and separately sauteed Mexican chorizo. And I cut Monterey Jack cheese into ½ inch cubes.

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Near serving time I put a pan of small, empty gratin dishes in a 375° oven. When they were hot, I spread the cheese cubes in them and returned them to the oven for five minutes, until the cheese was just bubbling. I took out the pan, strewed the pepper-onion mixture and the chorizo on the cheese, and put the pan back into oven for a final five minutes.
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Served with warm flour tortillas for scooping up the melted mixture, the queso fundido was a big hit with everyone. The combination of cheese, sausage, and vegetable flavors somehow made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I must make this simple, satisfying dish more often!
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In 1968, M.F.K. Fisher said “The trouble with tripe is that in my present dwelling place, a small town in Northern California, I could count on one hand the people who would eat it with me.” Regrettably, I, whose present dwelling place is a huge city in the Northeast, can say the same in 2012.

But Tom and I love tripe. So when I made my newest cookbook purchase, Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, the first section I turned to was the one on tripe. And smiled to see that quotation from Fisher’s With Bold Knife and Fork. McLagan realizes the difficulty of persuading people to eat tripe, which must be why she dubbed this recipe Beginner’s Tripe. It has so many other tasty things in it, she hopes to distract the faint-hearted from thinking about the principal ingredient.

I well know the difficulty of that. To me, tripe’s public relations problem is that it’s not one of those exotic-sounding but mild meats like rattlesnake or alligator, of which you can tell people, “Oh, don’t worry; it really tastes just like chicken.” Tripe doesn’t taste like chicken. Tripe tastes like nothing but itself. It’s animaly. It’s pungent. It’s spongy. It’s Dionysian, not Apollonian. But those of us who like it, like it for just those reasons. Sorry, faint hearts! But – truth be told – this recipe does go a long way toward disguising those characteristics.The recipe is for a sort of stew, which starts with a thick sauce base of olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, lemon zest, chile flakes, and tomatoes. Nothing to fear there, and plenty of concealment for the tripe!

The tripe, cut into tiny strips (thanks, Tom), goes into that sauce along with some meat broth, and cooks lengthily on top of the stove until it’s tender. McLagan says to blanch it first, but tripe is sold so cleanly pre-cooked these days that I rarely bother to do that, and I didn’t this time. No problem.

Now here comes the interesting part, which is the major tripe-distracting ingredient in the recipe: chickpeas. Cooked or canned chickpeas (I used good canned ones) are drained, rinsed, dried well, and sautéed in olive oil until browned. To them are added sliced chorizo and diced red bell pepper, all of which is further sautéed until the chickpeas are crunchy, the chorizo rendered, and the pepper softened.

Once all those things are added to the tripe and sauce, heated together briefly, put in a serving dish and topped with parsley, the chickpeas take on the lead role and the terrifying tripe becomes almost undetectable to both the eye and (alas!) the palate in the busy, colorful mixture.

This is a really good dish, flavorful and lively. It wants some crusty peasant bread to sop up the sauce with, possibly a green salad alongside, and a red wine strong enough to stand up to the spicy density of the dish. It might indeed convert a tripe-timid person – though for true aficionados, there isn’t enough tripe in it. Tom wants me to double the proportion of tripe, next time we make it.

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