Thursday, December 4, 2008

Live at the Improv

I started this blog mainly because I was having so much fun exploring the food adventures of other bloggers, getting inspired by their experiments, or just searching the blogs, chowhound, epicurious, or whatever for something to do with an interesting new ingredient. But much of the time, it's just looking in the fridge, thinking about what's in the pantry, and creating something tasty. Most of the time it works well, occasionally I wonder what I was thinking. This time it worked well, and the need to improvise had become extreme.

I had almost reached the point of "read my lips, no new food". The fridge had aging veggies. The freezer was overflowing. It was time to purge. So...

Red cabbage (1/4 head)
Yellow onion
Small red potatoes, 3
Habanero pepper, half, seeded, minced
1 carrot, sliced thin with mandoline
Kielbasa, half, cut into bite sized pieces
Pea tendrils, handful
cilantro, 4 or 5 sprigs
1 cube frozen roasted tomato sauce, made in early fall.
salt, pepper

I pulled out the trusty wok that I've had for going on 30 years. I'd been avoiding the wok for awhile in favor of the cast iron skillet because I'd been polluted by an article I read in Cook's Illustrated where they compared the heat-inducing behavior of home woks (as opposed to restaurant woks) versus flat bottom skillets and concluded that the flat bottom skillets were far more effective at transmitting heat, and getting to hot hot wok searing stir fry temperatures.

But I'd been thinking that I really like the way you can toss stuff around in the wok with wild abandon. With the skillet, the food pops out easily and messes up the stove. And what I really wanted to try was sauteing food in the wok, rather than blasting it with high heat.

Which is what I did with the above. The trick to this kind of cooking is to cook the tougher things first, adding items as they became more tender. The onions typically go first, because they need some time to soften and develop a sweet flavor. This time, since I was sauteing, and I didn't want to over do it, I didn't wait very long before I added the cabbage and the kielbasa, and then the carrots. I didn't want to overcook the cabbage, and I was hoping to get some carmelization on the kielbasa. The habanero got tossed in at the same time, and I beeped the potatoes in the microwave till they were barely cooked....quartered them and tossed them in.

When things were pretty much where I wanted them, I tossed in the defrosted cube of tomato sauce, the pea tendrils and the cilantro, just warming them up a bit. Stir around a bit, add some salt (not much....the kielbasa is salty) and pepper. The kielbasa also carried along some garlic, so there wasn't the need for any more flavoring.

Served with some bulghur done in the rice cooker, and I had a meal. Several actually. I think I got a second dinner and a lunch out of this.

Will I ever make this again? No. Will I make something else, someday, with interesting things that I have in the house? Of course....many times!

Welcome back into the fold, wok. Sauteing works very well!

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