Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Revolution: Vindaloo to Incaloo

I finally got back to Jamie's Food Revolution this week. These recipes were more involved than the ones I'd made so far, but I think they both came out really good... once I fixed my remix. More on that in a bit.

Strangely, I can't find Jamie's vindaloo recipe online. Here it is:

  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 fresh chilis (I use serranos)
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root
  • "small bunch" of fresh cilantro (I take that to mean about a quarter of what HEB thinks a bunch is supposed to be)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • peanut oil
  • pat of butter
  • 1 3/4 pounds diced pork shoulder (but he said chicken's also fine, so I used chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Patak's vindaloo paste (check your international aisle)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • about 2 cups rice (I cooked mine in chicken broth, see below)
My remix was about a year in the making. Last August, the chefs on Top Chef Masters were challenged with making gluten-free, soy-free, vegan food for Zooey Deschanel (one of the few human beings capable of convincing people that such restrictions are more endearing than persnickety). The winning dish was quinoa spaghetti. After (or, more likely, during) the episode, I had to look into this "quinoa" stuff to see what the heck it was.

From the Wikipedia article and a few other sources online that I can no longer remember, I learned that quinoa is a grain that, at least according to its advocates, is easier to grow, more nutritious, and otherwise simply better than corn, but which the Europeans didn't understand and associated with non-Christian Incan religious ceremonies, and thus suppressed. It's higher in protein than other grains, and is thus very useful especially for vegetarian diets. It isn't every day that you get a chance to try a whole new grain, so I had to try it.

But, apparently, this need wasn't very strong. I put off trying quinoa until about a month ago, when it appeared  at the Central Market Cafe here in Austin in a salad of some sort. I don't remember anything else about the salad, but the quinoa passed that first test, and reminded me that I wanted to try this. I decided to mix it with other ingredients available to the Inca civilization that gave us quinoa, because, why not?

I replaced the ginger with turmeric, the lemon with a key lime, the curry paste with Peruvian yellow pepper paste (aka "aji amarillo" paste, since it's made from yellow aji peppers), and the meat with about 1.75 pounds new (small/baby) purple potatoes and a couple ocas (because I'd read that the people of the Andes ate ocas, and my grocery store happened to have them). I also added a tablespoon of cumin, but I forgot to do so until after my first serving. Do not forget the cumin! It is absolutely vital. I also replaced the rice with quinoa, which I again cooked in chicken broth. While that's technically cheating (since Incas didn't have chickens), using cuy broth seemed like it'd probably be going too far (and boiling a pan of just water indicates a lack of creativity).

Peel and slice the onions, turmeric, and garlic. Slice the serranos. Pick off a handful of cilantro leaves, then chop up the rest of the small bunch. It's probably a good idea to peel your ocas (if you used them) at this point, but keep those aside; they aren't part of this first batch of veggies.

Heat a large pan on medium-high heat, and add the pat of butter (optional and honestly probably unnecessary, and also kind of cheating since the Incas didn't eat dairy) and a "couple of lugs" of peanut oil (Jamie always puts it that way; it seems to mean about what it seems like it would mean when you start pouring the oil in and get that "glug glug" effect). Add the chopped veggies, and cook for 10 minutes.

While that's cooking, cut your potatoes in half, chop your ocas (I chopped them up like I would carrots), and quarter your tomatoes. Add the potatoes and ocas to the veggies once the veg is softened and golden, along with the pepper paste. Stir everything to coat, and add a little salt and pepper. Much more importantly, add the cumin. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, honey, and about 2 cups water (enough to just barely cover everything; it wouldn't be a terrible idea to use broth here, rather than water). Stir again, then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.

When you have about 20 minutes left, boil the broth, and then add about 2 cups of quinoa (check your packaging; you may, like me, have to rinse and soak the quinoa the night before). Reduce the heat and cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. It didn't seem to be super picky, so basically simmer it until everything else is ready.

I served it with yogurt in the photo, but I should have left that out to fit my self-imposed rules. I left it out when I had leftovers just now, and I don't think the recipe suffered for it. I don't show the key lime here, which I sliced in half and squeezed over the top (like you might a lemon).

The crazy thing to me about this is what a huge difference the cumin made. I was thinking last night that I'd have to break the rules and use some chicken or pork (or maybe cuy, llama jerky, or penguin, since those were among the Incan meats I could find) if I made this again. The cumin made all the difference. This definitely stands on its own without meat now. You could probably add some if you like, but I don't think it's needed.

Don't be fooled by the similar appearances of the dishes in my photos here. Despite some commonalities, the difference between the curry paste and the pepper paste + cumin was enormous. I definitely recommend trying both, though.