Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Experimental Cooking and CSAs and Chocolate

One of the things about belonging to a CSA that I find challenging is figuring out what the do with vegetables you'd never buy if you were making the choices yourself.

In some ways this is, for a cook who LIKES to cook (and I count myself in that number), this is a creative challenge. On a weekend...

But for a single dad with a finicky kid and a girlfriend who lives in the next town, and who eats out more than he'd really care to, sometimes it's just a drag. And I end up composting a lot of expensive vegetables. And now I'm the pickup point, which means that although I get my every other week box for free, I also have the "share" box to clean out, since it NEVER happens that everything in the "share" box ( a way of exchanging stuff you don't want for stuff you do) disappears by the time the last box gets picked up. I was raised by Children Of The Great Depression, and wasting food just Isn't Done.

This is a long-winded introduction to what I did with about a half dozen beautiful organic Poblano chilies last sunday.

I have, for the sake of my newly tender stomach (work stress and turning 50), stopped eating really spicy stuff, and I'd already made about a quart of hot sauce with the Habeneros and Jalepenos I got in the LAST box. So, I searched online. Most recipes for Poblanos used the DRIED version, which is a staple in Mexican cooking. But I found a recipe for Poblano corn chowder. No corn in the house. Time to improvise - chowder is the theme. But let's use up the vegetables we got. Potatoes, sure. Leeks - absolutely! Beets - hmm, I hate 'em, but they should add a little sweetness, not a bad thing to offset all those peppers.

Roasted and peeled the peppers, a mild PITA, but hey, it's Sunday afternoon, and I can research home networks and the Ethernet 10BaseT versus WiFi question while they roast.

Dice, saute, add the chiles, veggie stock, simmer until the rootsies are done.

Man is this shit HOT!!!! And not in a good way - no complexity, just like taking a mouthful of cayenne. Now, I know, but you may not, that if you make a batch of Chile whatever that's too hot there are two approaches - dilute the flavor with more of whatever neutral ingredients you have, or put a bunch of chocolate in it.

Yes, Chocolate. There are a couple reasons this works. FIrst, the bitterness and complexity of GOOD chocolate balances and rounds out the peppery note you're trying to tame. The other thing is the STRENGTH of chocolate as a flavor - it literally overpowers other flavors.

So, two handfuls of chocolate chips. A half bag of frozen vegetable medley in the freezer since the Bush administration - the Neutrality approach. About 2 cups of lightly steamed cabbage.

Now we are two bitter - the only chocolate chips in the house are dark chocolate. A handful of sugar. And, since we're almost approaching Mole anyway, about a half cup of chunky peanut butter.

I actually kind of like it. It's now mild enough, barely, for me to eat small quantities of it without it upsetting my stomach. It is really, deeply strange, but it works, after a fashion. It still needs something neutral, rice, couscous, some baguette to moderate it, but I pronounce it EDIBLE.