Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 18 Feb 08 06:27
Quick recovery beams to your mother, James.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Mon 18 Feb 08 07:56
Yes, I hope that all goes well, and quickly. (Oh, and BTW, the people I'm staying with are so impressed with what's coming out of the cookbook that they're buying one.)
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Tue 19 Feb 08 17:35
I've got the beef rendang simmering away. Having a real food processor really helped with making the spice paste, although the dried turmeric was still a challenge. I'd suggest not using it in the future. One funny thing: I happened to be using two different types of coconut milk, Chaokoh brand and Bangkok brand. The Chaokoh poured just fine, but I had to take the top off of the Bangkok because it had separated. There was a hard, thick layer of fat on the top, and relatively clear liquid below. Now I just hope that it cooks quickly enough. I was thinking about something WRT the chicken rendang. The spice paste required grinding the lemon grass, ginger, turmeric, and galangal (plus other, easier stuff) to a paste. Assuming that an Indonesian cook does not have one, how do they do it?
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Tue 19 Feb 08 18:31
Is there any reason, when working with that type of spice mix that is going to be simmered in the coconut milk, not to just add enough of the coconut milk to the mixture to make it blender-able? I did mine that way for the potatoes rendang and after a good quantity of coconut milk (pre-reduced in the pan) it worked beautifully.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Tue 19 Feb 08 22:40
It would seem that you could do that for the beef rendang, but not for the chicken. I did soak the turmeric in water for several hours, but it only helped a little. The beef rendang, BTW, was a raging success. Much better than anything I've had in any US restaurant.
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Fri 22 Feb 08 14:10
JUST got back home--and back online. Mom is fine, relatively speaking. She had a heart attack (a first), which is a big deal whenever, of course, but especially when you're 83! When I get home tonight, I'll log back on.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 22 Feb 08 14:16
Oh, my. All healing and strength to her, and you be good to yourself too.
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Fri 22 Feb 08 20:06
Mortars and pestles, usually made from rough-surfaced volcanic rock, are the food processors of choice in Indonesia and Malaysia (less so in ultra-modern Singapore). The cook adds, then grinds, firmer ingredients--usually--like spices and lemongrass, then softer ones, like shallots and chiles. Though making a spice paste by hand can be a fun and earthy process, it's also quite a muscle-demanding and lengthy one. It can take up to 20 minutes to get a paste to a nice, smooth consistency--versus just a minute or two with a food processor. So.... As far as adding coconut milk goes: That's fine especially for pastes that don't have to be sauteed. The only problem is they can become a bit too oily/greasy if you add too much! And speaking of coconut milk: That fatty cap of coconut milk on top is a great sign (versus the variety that was completely mixed when you opened it)--that means it doesn't have lots of artificial emulsifiers in it, and the fat has naturally risen to the top (just like cream) when the coconut milk became cool. Just stir it up to mix!
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Fri 22 Feb 08 20:09
(Thank goodness, James, glad to hear it.) One of the things I love about your book is that along with descriptions of what good ingredients look like, you also give very specific recommendations for brands of ingredients, like coconut milk. It seems like not too many writers do that.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Sun 24 Feb 08 15:14
James, glad to hear that your mom is doing better. Thanks for the answer on the grinding. I figured that something like a mortar and pestle were used; I saw them used in Bali for making a fresh sambal. I still can imagine that it is lots of work. I finally had a chance to post photos of the beef rendang: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/smashz/sets/72157603980517267/detail/>
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Sun 24 Feb 08 18:58
Wow--that looks like some real, asli (genuine/native) rendang from West Sumatra. Really great-looking stuff. OK, here's a question: You've made that dish now, smash, basically the way a cook in West Sumatra would cook it. And I'm sure it may have been a little tricky the first go-round, but I wager after making it two or three or four times you won't even think twice about it--even the gathering of ingredients will be easy, now that you know where to procure. Why can't SE Asian restaurants in the US cook this kind of clean, direct, pure food? It's really not that hard to make, right? Congratulations on a job well done.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Sun 24 Feb 08 19:07
Easy, and amazingly tasty. The parts that were trickiest for the home cook--sourcing ingredients, and preparing the seasoning paste to an appropriate fineness of grind--should be slam-dunk for a restaurant. And the same prep of seasoning paste could be used for whichever meat or vegetable on a particular date, although the one tricky part would be the long reduction, having to be ready a reasonable time after the diner sits down and orders.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Mon 25 Feb 08 21:00
Yes, it will be easier in the future. Now that I know what to expect, it's not really difficult (assuming that I have an adequate food processor, which I did not for the last 2 weeks). > Why can't SE Asian restaurants in the US cook this kind of clean, direct, pure food? First of all, it takes and understanding and a commitment to use good ingredients and take the time. But, I can see that it would not lend itself to a restaurant. There is the chance for waste if the restaurant planned wrong and made too much. I'd imagine that one could make a batch, and stop it mid-way and refrigerate. Then it would not take long to finish it off.
fat and sassy and laying eggs (wiggly) Tue 26 Feb 08 12:07
And yet somehow restaurants throughout SE Asia do it. And I don't know about the meaty rendangs, but the potato one was great the second day, so partial cooking and chilling might work if sanitation wasn't an issue. James, what don't-miss food stops would you recommend for someone with 2-4 weeks to spend in the archipelago? Not just restaurants, but stuff like shrimp paste manufacturing, cooking lessons, etc.
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 26 Feb 08 14:07
Ooh, I'd like to know that too. James, switching gears a bit, can you tell us a little about your work at Saveur? What's it like to edit a huge circ, respected magazine? Do you have mostly staff writers, or is a lot of it outsourced to regular freelancers? How has the mag changed under your direction, as opposed to Coleman's? Give us a sketch of your typical day.
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Tue 26 Feb 08 18:27
Yes, but re. the rendang taking long to cook (and maybe that's why restaurants don't prepare real, hearty reditions of it): The thing is it keeps well in the fridge for well over a week (and in the freezer, of course, for longer). In fact, the food was allegedly designed by West Sumatrans for long jungle treks. It could travel, it was thought, for a few weeks without spoiling--it was their version of bacon. I'll post a mini diary of my day at Saveur tomorrow....
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Thu 28 Feb 08 08:42
OK, my day, yesterday. At 9, for an hour, I had a phone call with Saveur's art director, Dave, about a story for the May issue about a Vietnamese immigrant family in Brooklyn. Due to some communication glitch, roughly half of the photographs from the shoot two summers ago weren't accounted for, so we tried to get to the bottom of the problem. From 10:30 to 12:30 we had a staff edit meeting, fine-tuning the June/July issue, which is dedicated, largely, to American road trips of the culinary sort. The largest of the journeys is something that I photographed and wrote last year: Todd, the food editor, and I traveled from Chicago to New York and stopped off at a bunch of great, old-timey restaurants that have been around for decades. From 12:30 to 2 I met with the fabulous TV director/producer Irene Wong (she has been resonsible, among many other shows, for the "Everyday Food" show, Giada, and "My Country, My Kitchen," years ago on the Food Network). We're talking about doing a Saveur show. From to 2 to 4, I spoke again with the art director, Dave, about the May issue, and watched as box after box came were stacked outside my office: The boxes contained our library, which had been in storage for months, awaiting completion of our new office space. From 4 to 5, I had a conference call with the Asia Society about a series of upcoming evenings I'm hosting there from April to November. From 5 to 6 I sat in a stupor. At 6 I tasted a beautiful array of foods being tested for the May issue. The best was a tomato-y, lemon-y bulgar pilaf from Cyprus; I took the leftovers home. Do we use freelancers? Yes. Collectively we probably get about 25 pitches, from all around the world, every day! Has the magazine's vision changed since I took over? Not at all. Saveur's core mission--to celebrate food, that most beautiful expression of humanity--is much more powerful than anything I could inflict on it.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 28 Feb 08 11:48
Did you find the photographs?
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Thu 28 Feb 08 14:26
Well, sort of. It turns out that the photographer had unintentionally edited out a giant sequence of images. It also turned out that, for part of the shoot, it was too dark for the photographer to get decent images--the protagonists arrived two hours late for what was supposed to be a dusk shoot.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 29 Feb 08 08:21
ai yi yi! Sounds like a frustrating turn of events. Is this, like, a typical work day for you, James?
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Fri 29 Feb 08 14:20
fat and sassy and laying eggs (wiggly) Sun 2 Mar 08 07:41
Not sure if you missed my last post, but I'll ask again. No worries if you'd prefer not to address it. What don't-miss food stops would you recommend for someone with 2-4 weeks to spend in the archipelago? Not just restaurants, but stuff like shrimp paste manufacturing, cooking lessons, etc.
Which is better - one or two? (smash) Mon 3 Mar 08 15:32
When I was shopping at 99 Ranch, I saw frozen coconut milk. Is there any dis/advantage to using that?
James Oseland (jamesoseland) Tue 4 Mar 08 17:41
Sorry, I did miss that post. Don't-miss food stops: Penang, Malaysia: For SE Asia's best street food, plus (possible, though I am not certain) cooking lessons Singapore: Definitely cooking classes here, though I can't recommend any specific ones Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia: Home to what is arguably Indonesia's best food Central Java, Indonesia: Including Yogyakarta, Malang, and Solo (and countless villages in between), great food and sights Bali: Because in spite of all the mega hotels and foreign tourists it really is magical Regarding coconut milk: The frozen variety tends to be of very good quality--I highly recommend it.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 5 Mar 08 09:46
mmm... coconut milk... I have lovely chunk of butternut squash in my fridge, along with a couple of chicken breasts and some bok choy, plus a can of coconut milk in the cupboard. I'm seeing a Thai-ish chicken/pumpkin curry on the menu for this evening. Thanks for the inspiration, James!
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