Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day Six - Friday

We got invited to a potluck! My original thought was that it was out of the question. Or that we'd eat first and remain chaste at the actual event. But I came around to the notion that it was allowable. Call me self-interested. The basic idea of a potluck is really about people sharing their own dinner, so to speak, with others, who reciprocate, and thus, a large party is born, without anyone really spending any more than they would on their own dinner. It seemed fair given I could stay within budget. Speaking of "sharing dishes" - my dad's church used to call these events "Share-a-dish"s with all the syllables run together into one word so that for years I thought that there was a noun: 'sharadish.' Is that regional? Does anyone else call it that? Weird. Anyway, the moral of the story is that we went to a sharadish (I'm hilarious) and ate real food tonight. It was basically awesome. Our contribution, on the other hand, was decidedly not awesome.

We brought black bean burgers and roasted potatoes. It was one of those multi-day kitchen extravaganzas. The result? Meh. I've used the recipe before, and it was good so it was a real mystery that when all the fresh herbs were replaced with a teaspoon of dried basil it wasn't the same. Who knew? It's a Food & Wine recipe by Laurence Jossel. He wrote several recipes for the heirloom Rancho Gordo beans. I had a big crush on those heirloom beans there for a week a so. I'm fickle with food. Anyway, I am working my way through competent chefs and destroying their recipes this week and today will be no different. Here's my butchered version:

Black Bean Burgers
1 cup dried black beans
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup faro
2 cups water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
¼ cup onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1.5 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper.
Vegetable oil

I soaked the beans overnight, and then cooked them all day in the crockpot. When they were soft, I added a teaspoon of salt and cooked for 15 more minutes. Despite the fact that I only yesterday disproved this "salt makes beans forever hard" notion, I can't stop obeying - like maybe today it's actually true. Well, it might have been, and then I would have been sorry. So good thing I waited to salt. Then I drained the beans, reserved 1/2 cup of them, and blended the rest with the eggs in a cuisinart, and then mixed this goop with the whole beans.

Next I fried up the larvae

OK, really it's faro, but doesn't it look exactly like insect babies? Gross. I simmered them in water for about 20 minutes until they were fully dead and tender.

The onions, garlic, chili powder and red pepper flakes saute in a bit of vegetable oil and then I mixed everything together (bean mixture, drained pupae, onion mixture, bread crumbs, basil, salt and pepper to taste). I shaped this mixture into 12 mini-black-bean-burger-patties and left them in the fridge to "stiffen."

OK, now to make the buns. I was feeling really proud of myself. I mixed up some No-Knead Bread dough the night before, and then in a feat of ingenuity, shaped it into roll shapes instead of a whole bread loaf. They rose beautifully:

And then disaster struck. I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I mean, the recipe says to cook the bread in a covered casserole, but that was obviously not going to happen, and you bake it at 450 degrees. So if the bread is now 12 mini-breads do you bake it at a higher temperature? lower? and for how long? Who knows. This disaster would have been bearable except I'm in the middle of this 25-dollar-challenge, and if I mess this up, I will have no buns, no way of getting more buns, and will be un-invited to the potluck - the very potluck which I have been anticipating like no potluck in my life. The pressure was killing me. So I called my mom. Fortunately, my mom happens to be exceptionally qualified for just such a disaster as she is (a) my mother, and (b) a professional baker. Phew.

So I called home. No answer. Robo-voice answering machine. I called her cell phone, which she never picks up. The voice mail has been full for the last 18 months. And then I stopped and thought for a long time about calling her at work. When I was growing up we had a strict policy about calls to work. Seems she got fed up fielding our calls every 17 minutes, which went something like this: "Mom, where's my math book?" ... "Mom, do we have any more milk?" The only allowable calls after that had to involve "blood, bones or fire". This particular emergency involves no blood, no bones, and only the potential for fire. I thought about it. Then I decided, I'm a grown-up, which brings with it the decided advantage of getting to make up the rules, and clearly maybe-not-going-to-a-potluck-where-there-will-be-real-food-and-variety should appear immediately following blood, bones, and fire as a reasonable addendum. I called. She wasn't there. I considered asking her boss about my baking emergency, but decided against it - just guessing her many hundreds of loaves of bread were perhaps more needy than my single batch of buns. Sigh. I was going to have to take full responsibility for these little dudes.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. Who knows why. I just picked it. I had read on one of the Jim-Lehay-is-my-bread-baking-idol fan sites that if you throw a couple ice cubes in your oven, then you don't need to bake it in a casserole so I tried that. I baked the little guys until they were brown, pulled them out, and they were ROCK hard. Like little beach stones. They sat on the cooling rack for 10 minutes and magically turned into normal, crusty rolls. This is likely a completely predictable bread behavior. Bakers think I'm an idiot right now, but I'm not letting that worry me, because I can go to the Sharadish. Woohoo.

The black bean burgers cooked in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned on either side. I washed the rest of our lettuce and put the Lemon-Yellow-Mustard mayonnaise in a little dish and considered it done. See - make your own burger ....

I also made these boring roasted potatoes.

They're tossed in a bit of oil, salt, pepper, and cumin. The cumin makes them Mexican. Authentically so. No really, I just needed the cumin so they would pass the Mexican Food theme.

The potluck was delicious. I spent most of the night sighing over a seven-layer dip. I really thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever put in my mouth. AND they had these multigrain chips to eat it with which simultaneously satisfied my need for nutrients and high calorie density. I did have this vague feeling that I was cheating all night so I made sure to eat a burger and some potatoes. It only seemed fair. They weren't wretched. I just wouldn't exactly eat them voluntarily on a night with 7-layer dip in sight. Seriously, I couldn't stay away from the sour cream. THEN for dessert, our friend made flan - sweet, luscious, caramelly flan. Sigh.

One more day.

Breakfast: oatmeal, cinnamon, brown sugar, and sunflower seeds, half apple (A. only)
Lunch: bread with sugar/cinnamon sprinkled on it, banana, carrot, mayonnaise (for a dip), and sunflower seeds
Snack: bread and peanut butter
Dinner: Potluck!
Dessert: Potluck Flan!


Betty Ann said...

wow great burgers.

I have to learn to NOT be lazy and cook again.

I'm so busy with work; social life; exercising... and a 12 year old son (the other 2 graduated college and on their own); service work; and reading too much; and working on a book; and reading friends books; and dating... I'm just too lazy to cook from scratch...

The organic cans are way more money; but I save so much time....

Your dishes are so much more fresh looking.

Betty Ann said...

You did great except for Ramen dinner.... but been there and done that myself.

The amazing part is the time involved.. with you working too............ and I think I would still be hungry since NO MEAT... but actually better to not eat meat... too many americans are overweight.. meat has more calories...

Anonymous said...

I would have put the seven layer dip on the burger. Come to think of it, I would have put a little of everything on it!