Monday, May 26, 2008

Mediocre Results

I had such great plans for this weekend. No, not "things to do" plans, more meal plans. I'd been surfing Epicurious the last few weeks and picked a few recipes I really wanted to try out, and I figured the holiday weekend would allow me the chance to try them. I'm really trying to make and eat new things, otherwise I find myself in a rut - making the things I know, and know I like.

I left work early on Friday, and did all my grocery shopping. I had multiple stops to make, but my hope was that I wouldn't have to return to the store for the remainder of the weekend. This was my meal plan for the weekend:

Friday Dinner: Gorgonzola Burgers with Portabella Mushrooms
Saturday Lunch: Tuna Melts with Tomato, Potage a l'Oignon
Saturday Dinner: Salmon with Fennel, Steamed Broccoli, Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chip Streusel
Sunday Lunch: Mixed Green Salads with Grilled Chicken
Sunday Dinner: Chicken in Riesling, Chocolate Ice Cream
Monday: Salmon Spring Rolls with Coriander Dipping Sauce, Mixed Baby Green Salad with Ginger Dressing, Asian Style Pork Spareribs with Jasmine Rice with Garlic, Ginger, and Cilantro, Mango Sorbet

Ambitious, right? I had deserts and everything! I tried to balance the meals so we weren't eating heavy foods for both lunch and dinner, and with Monday, I was making an attempt at courses. I like the idea of courses, of small portions of variety. Bobby's never hungry in the morning, so I wasn't planning breakfasts - that would just be random.

The Gorgonzola Burgers were good. I just chopped up some red onion and crumbled Gorgonzola in with the meat, grilled the patties and the mushrooms, and added a slice of Provolone on top of the patties. In hindsight, I think it would be better to make a paste out of the Gorgonzola and melt it on the top of the patty after flipping it, rather than grilling it inside the meat. Other than that, it was pretty tasty. I wanted a vegetable, so I grilled some halved endives to go with the burgers, since I'm trying to avoid fries.

My Tuna Melts are always good. Albacore, chopped red onion, garlic salt, pepper, mayo, always on (buttered) sourdough bread (large peices, from the bakery department), always with sliced tomato, and various cheese. I almost never use cheddar or jack. Bobby loves PepperJack and other spiced cheeses; I prefer Provolone, Gouda, Edam, and other milder cheeses. I layer them - bread, cheese, tomato, tuna, tomato, cheese bread. I also tend to put almost a can on each sandwich, so I have to cook them on relatively low heat for awhile so the heat gets all the way through. I usually eat half of one; Bobby eats his and my other half. The soup is a great compliment to the tuna, and I've made it before and know its delicious. I highly recommend it.

Dinner on Saturday - not so good. I'd never had Fennel before. I knew it is anise-flavored (read: licorice flavored), and I've never been fond of licorice (in fact, I can't stand it), but I think it is such a pretty looking vegetable, and it's in season right now, so I thought I would give it a try. I figured it would be a lighter flavor and just maybe...

Unfortunately... No. The whole kitchen smelled like licorice. I skipped the Pernod (I didn't want to buy a bottle of liquor I'm never going to drink, and I wanted to lighten the anise flavor anyway), and it was still too licorice-y. The salmon at least came out ok, and since I had the broccoli we could just avoid the fennel. I won't be making anything with fennel again.

Lunch on Sunday was again something I've made before and liked; also just very simple. Jon came over to chat for a bit, and I just happened to have one extra chicken breast, so he joined us for lunch as well. I just cut the veggies and grilled the chicken, then gave everyone cheese, nut, and dressing options.

The Chicken in Reisling was okay - not great, not bad, just there. I think I would make it again, but use onion and garlic as well, and flour the chicken or add something to thicken the sauce some. I can tell I didn't use enough salt as well. Since it was just the two of us I just used two chicken breasts, instead of a whole chicken, but next time I think I'll use thighs, or something smaller; maybe even just some boneless breasts - the breasts I used were so large that they stuck up way out of the sauce.

I knew that if I didn't use them up this weekend, all the leftovers in the fridge would just go bad in there, so instead of making something special for lunch on Monday, I just made some tacos with some leftovers from earlier in the week. I was really excited about the Asian style meal I had planned. I love spring rolls and was eager to give them a try; the spareribs recipe was something we'd had the week before at my parents, and I called for recipe on Saturday morning.

Sadly, this was my most disappointing meal of the weekend. The spring rolls completely fell apart in the oil, and the wrappers didn't even crisp up - just got gooey. The salmon at least cooked, and didn't come out greasy, but it was just salmon - not spring rolls. Not an appetizer. I tried dipping the salmon in the dipping sauce, and that was not so good. The sauce was simply too strong.

I used a little too much ginger in the dressing for the salad - it simply wasn't what I was going for. Bobby hated the dressing, and opted for blue cheese instead. The spareribs were in the oven too long, so they didn't fall apart the way my mom's did, but they weren't tough either. They tasted okay, but not great. I completely forgot to make the rice. The Haagen Daas Mango Sorbet was the best part of the meal.

I think I will try the Spring Rolls again, but use won ton or lumpia wrappers instead of the spring roll wrappers. I will have to edit the sauce. I was sad though. I had wanted to make wonderful meals all weekend, but alas, my attempts at something new were both lackluster. Perhaps next time...


Mimi from French Kitchen said...

I'm glad the soup worked out!

Fennel is a tough one - I have made it sautéed with carrots and loved it.

Keith said...

Sorry to hear your Culinary expedition didn't go perfectly.

We eat Fennel here like it's going out of style - and Tania doesn't like licorice either. In a typical week Tania will buy 4-6 Fennel bulbs. Most of what we eat is fresh, sliced thinly into salads or cut so we can dip it into fresh olive oil with garlic salt and pepper or pseudo ranch dressing, but occasionally it's sauted or gratined... Looking at the recipe the Fennel seeds have a MUCH stronger flavor than fresh fennel does. If you were following the recipe that butter with the fennel seeds would have imparted a much stronger licorice flavor than otherwise was present in the raw vege. You should try it raw, sliced very very thinly on a salad before writing it off all together.

The Salmon spring rolls... when I think of spring rolls, I think of raw rolls, usually with mint, vegetables and rice vermicelli, not fried. They are named spring rolls because they contain the "new" vegetables of spring... so this sounds more like an egg roll. But anyway, regardless - they can fall apart if you have the wrapper too wet or if the oil temperature is too low. You need to soak them to re-hydrate them, since they start completely dry and hard, but after you've soaked them you have to completely pat them dry, at which point they get kinda sticky. It is in this mode that you can then easily roll them up and they stick together. Let them sit for a bit to "weld" together the edges that were sticky before putting them into the oil. Using a wire ladle lower them into the oil in the pan - don't just drop them in. It sounds as if your oil wasn't quite hot enough if the wrappers got soggy. To test the temperature when you're heating up your oil dip the edge of one of the wrappers into the oil. You should see it start to immediately sizzle and large bubbles should be coming off of it. Low oil temperature is usually the culprit with soggy food - instead of shocking the food into creating a crust, the oil just peacefully enters the food, leaving it soggy and un-appetizing.

Hope this helps... Better luck next time!