April 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A week or so ago I posted an old picture of a salmon burger I’d made to my “Food” album on Facebook. It was a rare moment of sexy food photography, and responses were full of drool. So tonight, with a brand new grill to christen, I thought I’d make a go at recreating the recipe. It’s been nine months since I’ve grilled, so standing in our back yard with a bottle of Oberon and my huge grillin’ spatula felt really, really good.
- 3/4 pound salmon fillet
- tsp or more chili powder
- pinch cumin
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tbsp cilantro
- 1-2 tbsp panko, bread crumbs, or crushed crackers, if needed.
Strawberry Mango Pico:
- 1 mango
- 4 strawberries
- 2-3 small cloves garlic
- 1/4 red onion
- 1 jalapeño
- 1 tbsp cilantro
- juice of half a lemon
Skin the salmon fillet, chop into a few smaller pieces, then pulse in a food processor until you get a ground-meat-like consistency. You can also chop the hell out of it with a knife, but the food processor works better if you have it. Transfer fish to a bowl then add chili powder, cumin, lemon juice, and cilantro. The mixture will be wetter than a beef burgers would, which is fine. I usually add a tablespoon or so panko (or just crushed saltines) to the mixture as a binder. Form into patties and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so.
While letting the patties rest, cut sweet potatoes into spears. Parboil for a few minutes, drain the water, toss with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and paprika, then bake in an oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. The parboiling will help the outside of the fries get nice and crisp while keeping the inside softer and al dente. Get the grill going too while you’re at it.
Grill the patties until done, anywhere from three to five minutes a side depending on thickness. You can also cook them in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. Add a slice of cheese near the end if you want (provolone or jack cheeses work well).
For the pico, chop and mix all ingredients in a combination that suits your fancy. We’ve also made a similar pico with blueberries instead of strawberries, and with or without corn.
Drizzle the inside of the buns with olive oil, then sprinkle with basil, thyme, garlic powder, or whatever you like. Toast the buns oiled side down on the grill. Assemble the burger, topping the salmon patty with pico and adding mixed greens if you like, then dig in.
April 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
To kick off the Poetry portion of this blog, and in honor of the two birds we defiled with citrus, roasted, tore apart, devoured, and boiled the bones of last week, I offer an old favorite by one of my earliest influences. I was introduced to Stephen Dobyns as an undergrad with his collection Cemetery Nights, which remains my favorite of his books and contains what is still one of my favorite similies of all time, which I
stole referenced in my own poem Celestial. In “Cemetery Nights V,” a ghost sees his former lover outside the cemetery catching a bus and wonders where she is going, if she can feel his attempts to get her attention, how she thinks of him. Dobyns answers that when she sits in his chair or drinks his favorite wine “she will recall his face but / much faded, like a favorite dress washed too often.” Nice, eh?
One reason I enjoyed Dobyns early on was that he’s not afraid of narrative (not surprising, since he’s perhaps better known for his novels), which gave young me license to experiment with a more prosey voice, character, story…. He also has a playful absurdist streak, which I always admire. I think specifically of his poem “Art, et Al,” in which a man continually interrupts a back-alley craps game by repeatedly running full-speed and head-first through the players and into a dumpster while ranting about “art.” The humor often serves to set up a more solemn punchline, much in same the way that Billy Collins or Tony Hoagland use it. Other times, they just stay absurd. To all the roasted, barbecued, poached, and rotisseried birds of my past, this one’s for you.
A man eats a chicken every day for lunch,
and each day the ghost of another chicken
joins the crowd in the dining room. If he could
only see them! Hundreds and hundreds of spiritual
chickens, sitting on chairs, tables, covering
the floor, jammed shoulder to shoulder. At last
there is no more space and one of the chickens
is popped back across the spiritual plain to the earthly.
The man is in the process of picking his teeth.
Suddenly there’s a chicken at the end of the table,
strutting back and forth, not looking at the man
but knowing he is there, as is the way with chickens.
The man makes a grab for the chicken but his hand
passes right through her. He tries to hit the chicken
with a chair and the chair passes through her.
He calls in his wife but she can see nothing.
This is his own private chicken, even if he
fails to recognize her. How is he to know
this is a chicken he ate seven years ago
on a hot and steamy Wednesday in July,
with a little tarragon, a little sour cream?
The man grows afraid. He runs out of the house
flapping his arms and making peculiar hops
until the authorities take him away for a cure.
Faced with the choice between something odd
in the world or something broken in his head,
he opts for the broken head. Certainly,
this is safer than putting his opinions
in jeopardy. Much better to think he had
imagined it, that he had made it happen.
Meanwhile, the chicken struts back and forth
at the end of the table. Here she was, jammed in
with the ghosts of six thousand dead hens, when
suddenly she has the whole place to herself.
Even the nervous man has disappeared. If she
had a brain, she would think she had caused it.
She would grow vain, egotistical, she would
look for someone to fight, but being a chicken
she can just enjoy it and make little squawks,
silent to all except the man who ate her,
who is far off banging his head against a wall
like someone trying to repair a leaky vessel,
making certain that nothing unpleasant gets in
or nothing of value falls out. How happy
he would have been to be born a chicken,
to be of good use to his fellow creatures
and rich in companionship after death.
As it is he is constantly being squeezed
between the world and his idea of the world.
Better to have a broken head–why surrender
his corner on truth?–better just to go crazy.
April 7, 2011 § 3 Comments
Last night we decided to continue our Mexican theme with some tortilla soup. Now, I should probably go ahead and say while this blog is young that I love meat. I’m not just talking “I enjoy a steak” love meat. I mean “Eat a rotisserie chicken for dinner then feel content at the fact that I just ate an entire animal” love meat. “Impale strip steak on a stick, hold it in a bonfire for 15 seconds, then stagger away with it into the night” love meat. “Robert Bly beating drums shirtless in the woods” love meat. So while Kelly does as well but isn’t as keen on, say, bare-handed tearing apart a chicken carcass, I, “meat man,” usually end up having to wash up to my elbows like a surgeon by the time I’ve finished gleefully scavenging. And yes, I find all the meat. So it was with great pleasure that I met her suggestion that we pick up a whole roaster while we were out running errands.
This post isn’t about the soup, and I was too slippery with chicken to document it anyway, but since it is a major component of the leftover dish at hand, I’ll give a flyover. We covered the chicken with paprika, chili power, salt, pepper, and some Kansas City Cowtown All Purpose Barbecue Seasoning, given to us by my awesome sister when we stopped at her digs in K.C. on the move up here from Texas. We double-checked Ruhlman’s “World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe” because neither of us can ever be bothered to remember times or temperatures for the basic shit, then got the oven pre-heating. Ruhlman, you’ll notice, says to put a lemon up the chicken-cavity, but since we were going Mexican we went with a lime. [Recently-learned protip from Jamie Oliver: boil the lime/lemon for a while to get it hot, then stab it a few times before shoving it up the chicken. It'll start giving off steam quicker, flavoring and cooking the bird from the inside, too, rather than doing so in just the last ten minutes like it would if you started with a cold lime shoved in.]
Once the hour had passed I tore that chicken up and dumped the carcass into a stock pot, where Kelly covered it with water and did all manner of things. Not sure quite what all happened or in what proportions, but here’s the stuff of the soup:
- Chopped/shredded cooked whole chicken
- 1 zucchini
- 1 can kidney beans, rained
- diced tomatoes, (a can or two?)
- corn, however much we had left
- garlic, bunch of
- some manner of spices
Let it go for a while, crumbled some tortilla chips in, threw some cheese in my serving, and there we were.
Now, to the topic at hand. This made a ton of soup. We weren’t really feeling soup again for tonight, but, broke as we are, also didn’t want to go out and spend a ton on groceries. So, it was back to La Mexicana Market, where we bought three or four tomatillos and a pack of 12 fresh corn tortillas straight from Chicago’s Taqueria Atotonilco for a grand total of 80¢. You will get sick of hearing on this blog how in love I am with this place. Try the lengua. Seriously.
Once home, Kelly harvested a small bowl’s worth of the solid bits from the soup with a slotted spoon. To this she added some of the leftover Salsa Verde Rice from the molcajete night, adding a bit more fresh onion, garlic, jalapeño, and a squeeze of lime to freshen up the flavors. After a good stir, this mixture was spooned into the corn tortillas and arranged in a baking dish. We whipped up some more salsa verde (molcajete still out of commission, so, sadly, in the blender) which was then mixed with a couple good dollops of sour cream to make a sauce, then poured this in a couple strips over the batch. I added some optional cheese to four or five of the enchiladas on the end, then tossed it all in the oven until the cheese was melted and the tortillas had crisped up in a few spots.
After all that, apologies for the shite picture. I mangled my serving a bit while taking it out, tried to make it more photogenic but only mangled it more. Overall, though, a successful use of leftovers. And, now, we have both tortilla soup and enchiladas to chose from for lunch tomorrow, which really can’t be beat.
April 6, 2011 § 7 Comments
Just over a week ago I turned 33, and for my birthday Kelly got me a molcajete, the authentic Mexican version of a mortar and pestle made of lava rock.
I’d wanted a good mortar and pestle for a while, but admittedly had no idea what one actually did with them besides pulverize spices. The literature accompanying my gift explained that in Mexican cuisine the molcajete is most often used for salsas and guacamole, which I can always get behind. Then, after binging on some Jamie Oliver—who, at least in the Oliver’s Twist series, pretty much uses a Thai granite version in every episode—it became clear that my new volcanic plaything and I were going to get on swimmingly.
But before I could dive in and start pounding garlic, there was the matter of de-gritting. I found a variety of methods online, the most common thread involving getting a bunch of dry rice and just going to town on it until you’ve broken off all the little bits that will come off. Thankfully, a number of folks mentioned that one should do this outdoors. Instead of having folks throw rice at our wedding, maybe we should line everyone up and give them molcajetes.
After grinding unto flour about eight handfuls of rice, I stopped noticing blackish-gray specks. See the rice everywhere? Yeah, do this outdoors.
We took a trip to La Mexicana Market, easily one of my favorite places in Kalamazoo, and were then ready to get started. First up, the pork marinade.
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- one small serrano pepper
- zest and juice of one lime
- olive oil (a few tablespoons)
- two or three chipotle peppers
- tablespoon or so of adobo sauce
- cilantro (handful)
- salt (pinch)
I started with the garlic, pulverizing to a paste in the molcajete, then choped the serrano and added it to the mix, followed by the cilantro. I found myself grinding in big circles, stopping occasionally to push the mixture back down the sides. The order of events here isn’t all that important. You mainly want the harder-to-crush ingredients to go in first so they benefit from the rough surface before adding in the liquids. Once everything was well mashed and blended, I poured the mixture into a ziplock bag with some thin-cut pork chops, sealed it, then squished vigorously until the swine was coated.
Next up, a Tomatillo Salsa Verde.
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 1/2 serrano pepper
- 5-6 tomatillos
- cilantro (handful)
- chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- juice of 1/2 lime
Again, I started with the garlic, pulverizing to paste, then added the serrano as before. I was about to add the tomatillos when I noticed small black specks peppering the mixture. Tasting a bit off my finger confirmed it. Grit. I took a break to mope while Kelly finished the salsa in the blender. She set half aside for chip purposes, mixing the other half with cooked rice for a spicy salsa verde rice thing which was just damn tasty. I got ready to cook the pork (as I feared, it too was tainted with grit, but I figured I’d go ahead as planned and worry about it later), and Kelly went on to make the pico:
Mango Clementine Pico
- 1 mango, diced
- 2 clementines
- half a red onion, finely diced
- cilantro, coarsely chopped
- frozen corn (two handfuls or so)
- chili powder (to taste)
I seared the pork for about 20 seconds each side in a cast iron skillet, then put it in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes. This method would have worked better for thicker chops. These, however, were pretty thin, and were I doing them over I think I’d omit the oven and just stick to the skillet for no longer than it took to cook them. I knew the grit from the molcajete had made them inedible as they were, but I plated anyway and took a picture as if I’d won. I tasted a small bite and the flavor was good, which made me all the sadder when I had to wash them off to get rid of the grit. Enough of the marinade soaked in that, with the pico, the meal wasn’t a complete loss—just not quite what I’d been looking forward to since bruising the marinade-smells into the air earlier in the evening. So for now it’s back to the porch with more rice, corn, and whatever else I can find to grind the molcajete into shape. Once it’s there, I’m definitely going to try this recipe again.
April 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I fell off the blog-wagon in mid 2009. I was scrambling to finish my dissertation and get out of grad school, scrambling to force-feed my brain 14 credit hours worth of Spanish to test out of, and going generally crazy. Since then I finished the dis., graduated, moved to Michigan, relearned snow and seasons, became the most overqualified stock-boy in health food store history (short-lived), proposed to my now fiancée, but never did make it back to the blog.
It was an odd one, the old blog. It started as an attempt to keep my fingers moving, then became a place to develop ideas for poems, to rant theory, to journal. When we started the Wainscot, it was a way to keep up with other writers and publishers, and when we closed the Old Man’s dungeon, the blog just became a catch-all. I’m fond of it like everyone is fond of the notebook they find on a closet-shelf every four years or so. There are plenty of blank sheets left there, but as I considered blogging again I easily realized I’d need to start fresh.
This blog will surely be a catch-all, too. I am, however, somewhat clever in my title. I am, when I pull my head out of the dark and do it, a poet. I am for all intents and purposes unemployed, so I am hungry. I am also a food enthusiast and pretty decent cook who would rather spend what little money I do have/make on good food and drink than anything else, often entertaining the urge to say “hell with it” and buy a food truck. And so, The Hungry Poet—part poetry, part food porn; part Byron, part Bourdain. All sustenance.
Oh, and dogs. There will most assuredly be dogs.