Sunday, March 24, 2019
I began my first starter in the Tartine method. The author recommends you begin with a 5 lbs. Mix equal parts white flour and whole wheat. I don’t have the storage space for this, so I created a 450 gram mix of equal parts to begin feeding my starter. Robertson advises you mix until a thick batter is formed beginning with a small dish of lukewarm water, adding your 50/50 mix until that batter is formed. Now, we cover it and wait.
This is my first experiment with a starter, and I am a little nervous about the results. If it goes awry, I’ll have to start again. I considered doing two and choosing the one I felt most confident in after the first round of fermentation, but I don’t have the space in my kitchen to keep two starters where I will remember to feed them.
Robertson suggests you leave your culture for two to three days, feeding it only when you can see bubbles have formed on the sides and the surface. For this reason, a glass or clear plastic bowl will be best. I will check back on Tuesday to see how my starter is shaping up.
So about a week before NaNoWriMo started, I booted up Netflix again to discover that ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’ of cookbook stardom had a Netflix documentary iteration staring it’s creator, Samin Nosrat. It was this show that inspired me to make our December cookbook of the month Samin Nosrat’s book of the same name. The more I sat down to watch Samin explore the world of food based upon her essential elements of cooking, the more I realized that this may be the book for me.
I binge through everything. I watched the new Netflix season of Great British Baking Show in three days. If I baked as much as I watch TV, my husband and I would be grossly overweight (I’m already getting there, but that’s besides the point). Sitting down to watch Samin cook and explore food in places like Italy and Japan is an inspiring experience for any budding chef or home cook.
She begins her cookbook stating that it is not your average cookbook, and after seeing her documentary, I can believe it. Following her philosophy of cooking in my own kitchen will be a delight. There are, however, several recipes she considers experiments in the four separate elements of cooking. We’ll be going to play with salt, fat, acid, and heat several times over the next month.
Now you may be wondering whatever became of Momofuku for November. I’ll be honest, I didn’t cook a single dish out of it. November was a very busy month for me keeping up with NaNoWriMo, and the dishes in Dave Chang’s book require such a lengthy amount of time to create the stocks that I could not give it the proper dues. We’ll return to it after the holidays.
Cookbook of the Month, November 2018
At first look, calling the Momofuku book a cookbook is a disingenuous description. Momofuku begins with an introduction by Peter Meehan that prepares you well for what you’re about to face. There are recipes peppered into long sections of writing about the restaurant’s history, broken down into sections for each that had been opened at the time of writing. For example: the noodle bar as a prominent section at the beginning, followed by his Ssam bar. By now, the breakdown is a little bit out of date. There are Momofuku locations outside of NYC, and now Majordomo is open in LA.
In early September, I had the pleasure of eating at Momofuku at City Center in DC, where I got this book. We ate some intense food. I was absolutely over the moon to be in that building after watching Ugly Delicious and Mind of a Chef season one with Dave Chang. There’s something compelling about the story of the whole business, and this book is an opportunity for someone like me to learn more about it and the recipes that made it into what it is today.
October has come and gone. I cooked out of Lucky Peach for every other meal I made, and I can tell you with certainty, this is a cookbook that I’ll be returning to for years to come. There are many stand out recipes, good for the home cook. That’s what special about this book. No matter where you are, you’ll have to amazon order maybe two or three ingredients, and if that’s too much for you, there’s plenty there you can do out of your own grocery store.
I’ve become obsessed with the slow cooker beef pho recipe out of this book. I’ve never have pho out of a restaurant, but the ease with which this recipe comes together has made it something I made at least once a week during my time with Lucky Peach. It lasts my husband and I for two meals, and the flavor is tremendous.
As a home cook that uses fried rice and won tons to clean out my fridge, it was good for me to get my hands on some other asian inspired recipes. There are flavors here that I’ve never combined, such as using cinnamon for savory applications. It forces you to get comfortable with that ever misunderstood fish sauce. It gives you something different to do with your pork roasts and your whole chickens.
We’ve talked about the origins of Lucky Peach, and now that I’ve had a good look at the cookbook, I’m sad that the magazine is no longer running. If this is a collection of what used to appear, I know I would have got myself a subscription right away.
If you want a cookbook that has both challenging and simple recipes, Lucky Peach is for you. You will learn in its pages about a style of cooking that is sometimes treated as lesser. You’ll learn that its anything but. These recipes will change your kitchen. I’ve never had miso in my kitchen, nor whole cloves or cinnamon sticks or star anise. Now, they’re a staple of my kitchen. They’ll be replaced when they run out, because I will use almost all of it revisiting that great slow cooker pho.
What’s comforting about this cookbook is that it doesn’t pretend to be authentic. It makes me feel better about substituting ingredients where I have to. Although they do not personally tell you what you can substitute, the internet is full of suggestions if there is a certain cut of meat or spice that you can’t get at your local stores.
Lucky Peach will be one of the first books I go to when I’m looking for something new to try for a very, very long time. Thank you, David Chang and Peter Meehan, for a cookbook that makes a little white girl like me more comfortable with flavors I did not grow up with.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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