Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Oh.. Hello and Welcome to Thai-o-Rama pt. 5.
This round brought the lot of us to Mekhong Thai, neighbor to both Haggerty's Brit-Indi and the space formerly known as Mexican Lindo on outer Forest Ave. From a quick glance at their menu, it looked to be pretty straight ahead Thai with noodles, curries and other usual Thai suspects on the menu with a Pho menu offered inside the restaurant, which I saw when I stopped in there this past weekend for take out. You also learn, from checking out their website, that they have establishments in both Kennebunk and Wells.
The space, from what I saw from the bar area was pretty bare, though there was a nook by the front door that openly housed old Christmas and Halloween decorations that looked like they were bought at the Goodwill up the road. One thing that stood out in the bar was a vent system that turned on and off in seven second intervals(yes, I counted). I could not see myself dining in comfort with the constant chugging of machinery in the background and was a bit glad I was taking the meal with me. Aside from myself, only three other people were in the restaurant and one sat at the bar for several minutes before any staff came out to greet him.
By the time I made the trip back home, I was salivating and still a little buzzy from the vent noise. And, at first glances, the food was going to make everything alright.
Going with our usual safe bets, we ordered up Crab Rangoon served with a 'cocktail sauce' and Thai dumplings which are described on the menu as "Steamed wonton skin stuffed with chicken, shrimp and scallions,served with ginger sauce." The Rangoon were pretty much identical to every other batch you can find in town, though the 'cocktail sauce' served with it was an absolutely foul blend of ketchup and some chili based sauce. It was sickeningly sweet from the ketchup and whatever sauce it was blended was in complete conflict with it. It was bad and sat unused. The dumplings were ok, but I thought they would have been paired with a lighter based sauce and not the ginger heavy soy one that was found in the to go container.
The Mrs.' had the lunch portion of General Thai, their take on the Chinese dish of General Tso's. To be honest, the color of the dish kind of turned me off, so I can't speak on any aspect of it. When I asked her what she thought of it, she replied "It's ok. I wouldn't go out of my way to go there again, though."
Now, when I opened up my container of Drunken Noodles with Chicken, I was quite excited. The dish smelled wonderful and the portion was more than generous. And, on the first few bites, I thought it to be one of the best. But then the burning in my mouth took over to the point of nearly being inedible. This wasn't the feel good burn I normally associate with this dish, as it tends to be heavy with thai chilies--in fact the menu says it uses a chili paste in the dish-- but something else. After a few pokes of my fork, I realized that there didn't seem to be ANY thai chilies present whatsoever and the heat was all coming from what looked to be an insane amount of black pepper. Black f'ing pepper. Are you kidding me? Please..please tell me you're kidding me. Please?
But, there was no kidding. In my rush to eat, I had completely missed the fact that this dish looked like someone had just taken a pepper shaker and dumped the whole thing in. Truly, I wanted to cry. I wanted to call them up and tell them that this, and their ketchup dipping sauce, was a crime against Thai food and everything I loved about it. But, instead, I got up and threw it out.
And a few hours later I chewed on some Tums to stave off the awful indigestion that had set in from the food and the disappointment of the whole meal. Scratch another from the list.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
But, as I find myself a bit wiser and more level headed than I was back then, I am conscious of the fact that I am now capable of handling alcohol. I have just spent the past 10 years of my life avoiding it 99% of the time--I detest beer, won't drink hard alcohol if I can taste it and can't stand the headaches and hangovers of red wine. Oh and I can't stand being around drunk people when I'm sober.. in fact, give me a room full of potheads and I'm much more in my element. I've essentially become an alcohol prude. Yet, I there is a side to me that wishes to learn more about it and, like everything I've learned about food and cooking, I know that the only way to truly learn is to taste. And, besides, I didn't quite mind all of the drinks we had at our blogger "Obscure Holiday Cocktail" gathering in December.
This past October I made a success batch of homemade Limoncello. These were mostly gifted out to friends and family, but I have enjoyed a few nips here and there to warm up in my usually freezing apartment or to unwind after a particularly hellacious day at work. I'm already planning a second batch in the upcoming month--one that will be steeped longer with lemon peels and contain less simple syrup, perhaps a ginger syrup to add something else to the mix.
Just this past week, I had a hankering for something I haven't had in about 5 years: A Lychee Saketini. Actually, the first day I spent in Portland I remember having a few of these over dinner at Benkay. It was my first taste of Sake in my life and it was love at first sip. Feeling the need to follow through on this craving my partner helped me gather up the ingredients for a Lychee Saketini Blush recipe I wanted to make.
The sake, Bunraku, Lychees and Grenadine were all purchased at Whole Foods and the Vodka from Hannafords.
The recipe is as follows:
- Crushed ice
- 2 shots vanilla-flavored vodka--I used unflavored Vodka
- 2 shots sake
- 2 tablespoons lychee syrup
- Splash grenadine
- 2 lychee nuts, for garnish
Chill 2 martini glasses. Fill a martini shaker with ice and add vodka, sake, lychee syrup, and grenadine. Shake to combine. Strain into the chilled glasses and garnish with a lychee nut dropped in each glass. Serve immediately.
Not having a proper Martini glass, this was poured into a Delirium Tremens beer glass, which just seemed a bit silly. The flavor was definitely sweeter than I had remembered, perhaps from the Grenadine, but the sake and vodka left subtle notes at the end of every sip. The flavor was ok, but I think the drink overall would have benefited from the spirits being chilled a bit longer than they were. But, in the end, it was pretty enjoyable. I will probably, however, be venturing out the next time a hankering comes around as Benkay did this drink much more service than I could at home.
**Thank you to Kate and her "Hipster Lemonade" post for reminding me that I wanted to write this up.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
1) Small framed women have a secret hidden power when it comes to the Lithuanian Easter Egg Smackdown. The pig fell quickly and winner take all was the Mrs.' cousin
Winner is the smashee, her mom was the smasher.
2) You can NEVER have enough cold cuts. The table resembled a Polish deli counter menu board.
3) If you add Peeps to hot cupcakes, they will turn into a substance suitable for wetsuits. It was determined that, after many attempts to squish them only to have them regain their shape, they must have the same chemical structure as Neoprene.
4) You can make take 5 highly intelligent women, add in several glasses of wine and champagne and put them at the table with filled with sugary goodness and unexplainable silliness will occur.
Like dressing up Peeps and Lindt chocolate bunnies like extras on 'Jersey Shore.'
6) Michael Psilkais "Roasted Leg of Lamb" recipe is off the hook.
I marinated the flattened, boneless leg--3 3/4 pounds for about 14 people--in:
Smashed garlic cloves
Ras el Hanout--purchased at the Portland Winter Market from Gryffon Ridge Spice
Then when patted dry, and after it was stuffed, it was rubbed with a mixture of kosher salt and the Ras el Hanout.
7) We have started the Easter Baby tradition. In honor of my Aunt-in-law, whom was quite angered by being shafted out of a King Cake Baby this past February when her Whole Foods Mardi Gras cake did not have said baby anywhere in it or the box, we have started the Easter Baby. To start this new tradition, I hid a small plastic baby inside of the Pashka that I made. Next year...who knows where the baby will appear...Roast Leg of Lamb
For the Stuffing: 11/2 cups large, plump sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted(I used caperberries, instead) 1 teaspoon minced rosemary Leaves only from 3 small sprigs thyme 1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 15 cloves Garlic Confit or 1/3 cup Garlic Purée (I used raw garlic) 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 11/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar About 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper For the Lamb: 3 to 31/2 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to flatten, some of the fat trimmed off Kosher salt and cracked black pepper Extra-virgin olive oil 11/2 cup water 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon Garlic Purée, or 2 to 3 cloves Garlic Confit (CLICK HERE for recipe), if you have it 3 large sprigs rosemary 3 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)
In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing and purée to a smooth, thick paste, about 45 to 60 seconds. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing.
Lay the lamb out on a work surface with the fattier side down. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and spread an even layer of stuffing over it, pressing the stuffing down into the crevices. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roll the lamb up in a spiral, seasoning the fatty side with salt and pepper as you roll. Tie in 3 or 4 places crosswise and 1 or 2 places lengthwise (twist the string around itself 3 times instead of just once before you pull it tight, so it won't loosen as soon as you let go). Ideally, allow the meat to sit on a rack, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight, to dry the surface well and develop all the Greek flavors.
Bring the lamb to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small roasting pan, whisk the reserved stuffing with the water, mustard, and Garlic Purée. Throw in the rosemary sprigs. Place a rack in the pan; the rack should not touch the liquid.
Again, season the lamb on all sides very generously with kosher salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the lamb well on all sides, using tongs and leaning the meat up against the sides ofthe pan to sear the thinner sides and cut ends. Transfer the lamb to the rack seam-side up and roast for about 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the pan liquid. (When the meat is medium-rare—140°F—a skewer inserted at the thickest point should feel warm when pressed against your lower lip.)
Rest the meat for about 15 minutes. Slice 1/4-inch-thick pieces, drizzle with the pan sauce, and finish with a little extra-virgin olive oil.
It's not so pretty when you unearth from that much cheese.
Not one bit.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
However, that has long since changed since being adopted into my girlfriends Lithuanian family who live much, much closer than my own. Jugs of wine and Gennesse have been replaced by Krupnik and other things done in shot form. This year I'm making the Pashka recipe found in the most recent Saveur and stuffing a leg of lamb with as-yet-undetermined ingredients.
But the best part of it, which I am told MUST be done slightly intoxicated, is the decorating of easter eggs.
Lithuanian Easter eggs are essentially regular Easter eggs with a lot of intricate patterns made from hot wax
usually applied with a small tipped pin or different size nail heads that are placed onto the naked egg
dipped into the dye
and then the wax is peeled off.
Then a game is held where you stand in a circle, egg in hand, and tap your neighbors egg with your own as you go around. If your egg breaks the others, without cracking, you go on to the next and so fourth. If your egg cracks from being tapped, you're out. I'm not sure exactly what the winner gets--something like a lucky year or the bottle of Krupnik--but there's something.
Partially because I'm not artistic and partially because I'm an ass my four eggs that I decorated in anticipation of their entry into the Egg Terrordome are not ornate or even remotely artistic. They are crude and silly.
Like my attempt at this pig, here. One says "Eat Me" and the other is a Grateful Dead lightning bolt. I'm thinking the pig may take it this year.
So, if you're dying eggs over the next few days go get yourself some parafin (it came off easier than bees wax), small nails or pins, some Paas or natural dyes, something to make the time consuming effort a bit more festive and give your eggs a different spin this year. Actually, there are much better, and more in depth, instructions by someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
I'll have pictures of what we actually ate next week.