Friday, February 26, 2010

Sirs, I think you need a second opinion.

Fellow conquistadors! Friends! Guy who carries the cooking gear through the foodie jungle! Yes, you too, Mom!

I have an exciting announcement. The Culinary Conquistador crew is to be expanded! No, I don't mean a special guest star (though we'll surely have more of those): Pat Deering, one of our most... colorful friends (cool it folks, not that sort of colorful)... Has come up with a, in my opinion, sweet idea. He wants to take the Conquistador recipes and actually test them out!

SCIENCE!!!!!

Hang onto your lab coats boys and girls, Deering plans not only to see if our recipes can be reproduced, but to check their edibilty himself. He will be creating the same dishes we've featured in the past according to our instructions and will be sharing them with new people in new places. He is clearly putting these carefully controlled variables in place for the good of all, helping to investigate whether our concoctions are legit. It's definitely not because he's on a college campus and has spare time on his hands and lots of mooching friends. Definitely not.

Whatever the case, we're excited for a few reasons. First, more authors means more content. Deering is a funny guy with the ability to add a wacky twist on everyday life, so it'll be fun. Additionally, Deering is a good cook. If you go back to the Summer 09 archives, he was a guest once or twice. He has worked in nice restaurants, knows a lot more about cooking than we do, and is full of insightful tricks. Finally, we're excited because we'll learn along the way and will remain motivated to stay on top of the blog as well.

All around, this should be fun. This weekend Matty and I will be making goulash; who's to say what Deering will do? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Technorati

Hey Conquista-fans!

Alright, so I updated you not long ago on the forays we're doing into the social media world... You may recll that we have:

A Twitter account for you to follow, @CulinaryFTW

A Facebook page through which you can become a fan of this blog. Check out "The Culinary Conquistadors"

An email address to field all of your comments and questions, twotreus@gmail.com

To further our outreach efforts, I'm listing the blog on Technorati.com as well. We are doing our best to expand our reach and broaden our content. Great sites like Dessert Stalking, Food Gawker, and Taste Spotting ought to help.

There! One more way that we're trying to get the word out. Look at it this way; the bigger out audience, the more likely we'll work on saying something interesting and innovative!

Here's to a brighter, tastier tomorrow.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The New Alamo Soup

Don't worry; it's nothing like the original Alamo Soup.

For those of you who remember, the Alamo Soup (http://twotreus.blogspot.com/2009/08/we-all-make-mistakes-alamo-soup.html) was a tragedy. An abomination. A hideous freak of nature that should never have been created. Still, our motivation for creating it was sound; Udon noodle soup is pretty delicious, and we wanted to try something Japanese that didn't look too difficult. Our problem was that we went about it entirely the wrong way, and decided to just wing it.

Well, this time, we decided to just wing it after researching it a little bit.

Surprising how much of a difference that can make! Instead of just a guess at what should go in, we had more of a hypothesis... in that it was an educated guess. We looked at a few different recipes, and just sort of mixed and matched a little bit; a lot of it came down to how much we could find at the local Heinen's. Nevertheless, the New Alamo Soup turned out to be a triumph! It was authentic, tasty, and relatively easy to make. Luke and I both said that we would eat it again, as did Luke's friend Chuck who happened to show up just in time for some of the tasty Conquista-soup.

Ingredients

We had an interesting time gathering the ingredients, since many of them aren't domestic; we spent some quality time in the Asian aisle (mostly searching for ingredients that ended up being elsewhere.) If we couldn't find something, we just substituted it for something similar; it worked out fine! Anyways:

Basically what we're making is a very noodley soup with tempura shrimp and vegetables in it. Udon has a somewhat sweeter base, which you can adjust by adding salt or soy sauce. The tempura shrimp and veggies give it some substance beyond the noodles. Perhaps it's just the novelty of it that makes it taste good; or maybe it's just good.

For the soup:

~ 10 oz. Udon noodles - they're usually thick and round, but the only kind that we found was flat. It really doesn't affect it at all, but if you're a texture person, do what you gotta do. We bought ours uncooked; I'm sure precooked works just as well (precooked noodles would probably weigh more than 1o oz? You can always add or subtract while cooking.)

~ 1 green onion - otherwise known as "scallions." ~ about 3 large fresh shiitake mushrooms - we had a choice between fresh, kinda fresh, and dried; we took the fresh ones because we only needed a few and we were using them that day; plus it was cheaper that way. Grabbing them out of the mushroom bin without packing is greener too, right?

~ Soup base - most recipes recommended "Dashi stock," but we couldn't find that anywhere, so we just used a couple packets of White Miso Soup Base. Get as much as you need; about 5 cups worth. We probably didn't get enough, but that problem can always be solved with soy sauce.

~ 4 tbsp. Mirin - a sweetened sake. Don't use regular sake; mirin is sweetened for culinary use.

~ 5 tbsp. Soy sauce - "67% less sodium? What is this junk? Gimme the salt!" -Luke

~ 1/3 tsp. salt - you can also add salt to taste after serving. If you went a little heavy on the mirin, you should probably throw some in there. For the tempura:


~ 1/2 pound cooked shrimp* - easy to find, they're usually in a bag in the freezer department. Some recipes recommended fish cakes; we couldn't find those.

~ 1/2 pound sliced zucchini and yellow squash* - that's what we used, feel free to experiment with anything you find appealing.

~ Tempura batter - we used McCormick.

~ Vegetable oil (a generous amount) - for frying the shrimp and such. * you can use just a pound of shrimp or just a pound of veggies; we wanted to try them both, but it's up to you.

Preparation; Cooking

~ Slice n' Dice - Chop up the mushrooms (we used three large ones) and a green onion. Mushrooms should be cut into strips, the green onions should have the root part cut off and the green part sliced up diagonally.

~ If cooking noodles - bring some water to a boil and put in the uncooked noodles. Drop the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Again, remember the Alamo; asian noodles cook fast!

~ For the tempura - follow the directions on the box. For the stuff we used, we mixed a cup of the batter with 3/4 cup ice cold water. Then we heated some oil in a frying pan (a good amount of oil,) dipped the shrimp in the batter one by one and put them in the frying oil. Leave them in there for 3-5 minutes, flipping once. You can eyeball them to see when they're golden brown. If you're tempura-fying both shrimp and veggies, do them separately.

~ Soup - if you got your hands on some Dashi stock, bring 5 cups of that to a boil. If you are using the white miso soup base, bring about 5 cups of water to a boil and add the base. Toss in onion, mushroom, and cooked noodles; simmer. Add mirin and soy sauce, stir it all up, and it's ready to serve.

~ Serving - I recommend putting your tempura stuff in the bowl first and pouring the soup over it. If you want to feel really cool, you can try eating it with chopsticks; otherwise, I'd suggest a fork.

The Consensus

Both Luke and I went into this one with low expectations, given our previous "experience" with Udon noodle soup and our failure to find some of the right ingredients. In the end, however, the New Alamo Soup makes up for the failure of its forbear; it's a tasty, noodley soup that also makes you feel pretty cultured after making it. Granted it's not a massive success or by any means our greatest achievement, but we would both make it again, and it's an interesting and different addition to soup month.

Alamo Soup now has a new meaning. Rather than "always remember to stay away from burnt chicken and random onions," we can now see it as "always remember that you can arise from your mistakes with a little investigation and enough soy sauce." That's how Texas did it, right?

Luke has a plan for next week in soup month! I'll give you a hint... it's Austro-Hungarian, it's decently weird and lumpy, and it starts with a "g" and ends with an "ulash"! Keep in touch, folks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gumb-owned.

When we started this blog back in the summer, we never really expected it to go much of anywhere. We were bored, to be honest. I had graduated from Wittenberg University, Matty was out of school for the summer, and we hadn’t written much of anything for a while. Never did we think we'd post anything that could be considered overly useful let alone “timely”.

Oh, how we’ve grown. *sniff*

If you watched our Chicken Crab Valentine video, you know that we assigned February a theme: Soup Month. Unlike Austrian Month where we actually created a few Austrian dishes before becoming simply too lazy to post our findings, this month we fully intend to follow through on our promise. Today's dish IS a soup of sorts: Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Gumbo.


Our decision to feature gumbo, when combined with our previous arbitrary selection of jambalaya, might lead one to believe that we possess some semblance of clairvoyant powers. Pursuing two of New Orleans’ most iconic dishes directly prior to the Saints upset victory against the favored Colts in the Super Bowl last week does seem suspicious. Can it be that we truly have the gift of future sight?


I wish. Or maybe I don’t wish. What if the future is a terrible place and knowledge of its existence sank us so deeply into a pit of depression that we never wrote again? What if we realized that all of our time spent writing this blog never got us anywhere? No, I suspect one doesn’t require the ability to see the future to glean that bit of info.


I'd hope that if we were clairvoyant we'd have a better use for our time than messing up recipes and writing about it every now and then. To be honest, I watched the big game surrounded by a sea of blue Colts jerseys in Indianapolis a few hours ago actually. I was as surprised as anyone that New Orleans won.


ANYWAY [back to the actual cooking part of this blog], our true reason for featuring Cajun food of late is simply because it is delicious. If you need one more reason to make gumbo, "Fat Tuesday" is less a week away! Make your Mardi Gras awesome* and get you some gumbo.
*Gumbo probably won’t make your Mardi Gras awesome. More likely you’ll feel vaguely authentic, as if you were wearing a grass skirt in a Hawaiian hotel.

Now before you read this recipe and think, "Hot diggity! How am I gonna afford all of this?? 12 cups of onions? Daggum! Bump this malarkey**!", take a deep breath.
**Using proper cooking language, of course.

We know. It says it serves 16 for a reasons. If you live somewhere other than an Army base and/or on Bourbon Street,we expect you to be halving or even quartering this recipe. Yes, this requires division and multiplication, something that we are notably poor at (see Chicken Crab Valentine as a reference point). We managed well enough though, so take heart. We made half the recipe for 4 people and ended up eating it on 3-4 separate occasions, so consider yourself warned. This recipe makes a ton no matter how you look at it.

Also note that you can prepare this stuff ahead of time. We didn't read that part and Matty spent a woeful few hours chopping vegetables with our special guest stars (ok, it's our mom and sister) before I ever even made it home from work. Don't make this mistake - split the task of making gumbo up and it will be much, much less stressful for you than it was for us.


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From Epicurious.Com. If you're interested, here is the recipe as listed on that site.

Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Gumbo
As described in the December 2006 issue of Bon Appétit magazine


“A cook's dream: The base is made ahead, and the shrimp are added at the last minute. Best of all, the gumbo tastes even better the second day.” <-- Unlike us, I suggest you actually read this part ahead of time.

Yield: Makes 16 servings --YES, SIXTEEN.

Ingredients
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
6 large onions, chopped (about 12 cups)
6 red bell peppers, seeded, chopped (about 7 cups)
8 celery stalks, chopped (about 3 cups)
16 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
4 8-ounce bottles clam juice
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 pounds andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 16-ounce packages sliced frozen okra

4 pounds peeled deveined medium shrimp
Minced fresh Italian parsley
Steamed rice
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Preparation

Phase I : This phase can be done up to two days ahead of the intended consumption date.

Step 1: The Vegetables: Cut the heck outta some vegetables. There's a lot of 'em, so take them out as best you can.

Step 2: The Base - Heat oil in heavy 13-quart pot over medium-high heat until very hot and almost smoking. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is dark reddish brown, about 5 minutes. Add chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, and chopped celery and cook until onions are soft and brown, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne and stir 2 minutes. Add wine, thyme, and bay leaves; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes with juice, clam juice, broth, sausage, and chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add okra and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

If you are making the soup base ahead of time, cool slightly at this point. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring base to simmer before eventually continuing.

Phase II : Finishing Up

Add shrimp to pot and cook shrimp until just opaque in center, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season gumbo to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with minced parsley and serve with steamed rice alongside / underneath.

Enjoy.

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Tips
  • This recipe is pretty straight-forward. You chop, you make the base, you toss in the shrimp at the end. IF you follow the directions and don't do everything at once, you'll have fun. Learn from our mistakes.
  • Also, make sure you really have all of the supplies that you need. We had to substitute Italian sausage (NOT the same, mind you) for half of the andouille because Heinen's only had one pound when we went. Be prepared.
  • We recommended this recipe to someone on Twitter who made it for 15 people and had huge success with it. He said he added a Tablespoon of extra cayenne pepper to kick it up a notch - you may want to as well.
  • Do not reheat too many times once the shrimp is in! They quickly become soft to the point of becoming a pretty gross texture.

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Our Results

It was pretty good, we both decided, though we made our share of mistakes (see the Tips).We would make it again, assuming we got it right. After all, it has okra in it. Mmmm... okra. If you made this recipe as we now have it edited, we believe you'll have a hootin'-good, delicious time. I estimate it will go something like this:


We certainly hope you have a blast.

We anticipate this being the last publicly available recipe we'll be using for a while because, to be honest, things are a lot more interesting when we either find some obscure recipe in an ancient tome or straight-up invent a dish based on what we found in our cupboards. Expect a return to our roots...

Until next time.
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P.S. If you're REALLY bored, feel free to watch our step-by-step video of the undertaking! It gets... interesting.



video