Monday, December 27, 2010

Antigua and Barbuda


(Originally posted here.)

Antigua and Barbuda

Spanish for "Ancient" and "Bearded"
Between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean
Size: 442.6 sq miles
Population: About 87,000
91% black
Tourism dominates their economy
The recession hit them quite hard


Bah, isn't a break supposed to be restful?  I was going to write this during that time.  Instead, Christmas was skiing, skating, wrapping, and a lot of shopping.  Oh well, better late than never.

Originally I was worried about finding a recipe for this small island nation.  The problem?  I don't like seafood.  That can be an issue when you are talking about a nation that is surrounded by water.  Especially one that personally I had never heard of before and therefore I figured was more secluded.  However, I didn't have to look very long.


For those of you who didn't actually click the link: Pork Chops with Bacon and Bananas!  Holy crap.  Could there be a more amazing combination of things?  Had I hit the jackpot?  There was no way to screw this up, right?  And best of all, I regularly have all of the ingredients for this around other than pork chops.

So let's get started, shall we?
Bacon is pretty!
We have a nice flat pan for bacon that works really well.
At this point I realized that I didn't have everything I needed.  In getting all of the food ingredients, I hadn't thought about the fact that I didn't have anything to hold the bacon and bananas together.  No toothpicks, no skewers, nothing.  This time I was in a bind.

What will work?  What will work?  Wait, didn't I just buy things to hang up Christmas ornaments with?
And yes, I will end my sentences with prepositions.
Brilliant!
Amazing?  I think so.
At this point, I had also been "marinating" the pork, although it was quite thick and not really something that marinated in the typical sense of the word.
It smelled delicious.
I also did, of course, go for the optional addition of beer.
Yuengling - One of the biggest benefits to living on the East Coast!
The plan was to cook this all on our grill.  It has a guide that goes with it that explains how long things should be cooked.  However, this guide didn't have pork in it.  I just went with what the recipe said because didn't have anything else to go by...
Yummy pork.
At this point I also put the bananas on the grill and sat for a bit.  What were the others doing at this time, you ask?
Checking on the food, looking good.
Kevin: reading material for the work trip he was about to leave for.
Tesla: Being adorable.
Time for everything to be done now!  I am super excited!
............
Sh*t.

I messed up, and big time.  The bananas did not hold up under the weight of the grill that went above and below..  Secondly, some of them had completely disintegrated.  The other thing I didn't account for was that with the heat from both sides the time should probably have reduced in half.  I was pretty devastated.  This was by far the recipe I had been most excited about by now.

:-(
Set table.
At least it looks decent.
End result?  Burnt and disappointing and dry and sad.  The pork chops were so overdone that you couldn't taste much of anything.  The bananas were mostly gone.  The bacon was...well, that part was fine.  And the little you could taste of the banana and bacon mixture was actually quite good.  There is a silver lining on everything, right?

I would definitely encourage other people to try this one and tell me how it turns out when done right.  It is so simple, maybe I will try it again someday.

Hopefully next time I write it will be from a blog, but we'll see.  Sarah-Anne is visting right now, so I may not get to research it yet.  I will try to respond to people I haven't next time, hopefully while not feeling like I am getting sick.  Get excited, though, Argentina is from on the road!

Last time: Angola
Next time: Argentina

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angola

(Originally posted here.)

Angola

 Rebuilding after a 27 year civil war that ended in 2002.
Gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
Size: Over 1.2 sq km, 23rd largest in the world, slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Water: 0 sq km
Location: South Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean
Population: Over 13 million
Second-highest death-rate in the world
Religious followings: 47% indigenous
Literacy rate: 52% for women

Angola started out very promising.  I was able to find a large number of recipes.  After going through a lot of websites and a lot of different stuff, I settled on this one for Chicken Muamba.

It seemed fairly simple while using stuff that I wouldn't normally used.  Besides, I also found it on other sites as well.  Seems like a recipe for success, right?

I went ahead and made a list and went to the store.  Chicken?  Check.  Tomatoes?  Check.  Okra?  Wait a minute.  No okra here.  Nyembwe sauce?  Nope.  What about palm nuts?  None in the store.  The other substitutes I found?  Nada.  So let's try Whole Foods!

Not there either.  Harumph.

That's when I came to you guys!  Thanks for the help.  I decided to go with this recipe (Thanks Aunt Bonnie!)

I remember finding this before, and then I remembered again why I hadn't picked it again.  I didn't have a broiler pan.  Only one way to solve this.
Thank you, Target!
And so we were off.  I don't even think I had to go to the store to pick up any ingredients.
It was a bit difficult to do, since there really wasn't much direction.  Just, mix these things in some quantity and go.  I'm not so good at that stuff yet.  We went with marinade 4 and used paprika instead of pepper, since I don't like spicy things.
Mixed!
I didn't have time to let it set overnight, but it was there for over an hour.
A little direct paprika for extra flavor.
Then...cook.  There isn't much to show in this recipe since there wasn't much to do.
Done.
So, I guess it is time to set the table.  Not very exciting, eh?
Yes, that is the leftover Andorran rice, what do you want from us?
Tupperware servers.
The verdict?  Meh.  The flavor didn't penetrate.  It just tasted like generic, boring chicken.  Ho hum.
Probably not enough marinade.  Probably not left there long enough.  Probably should have used a smaller piece of chicken.

Ugh.  I wanted to try one of the other recipes.  Something a little more exotic and exciting.  Wasn't that what this was supposed to be about?  Hopefully I can begin to find fun and new things.

Anyway, onto what I said I would talk about.  Here is a LiveJournal entry from Sylvie's friend:

http://illadore.livejournal.com/30674.html

I would recommend looking at some of the links and other information too.  Neil Gaiman wrote about it, and other famous people as well.  It is interesting...and also ridiculous.  Bah.

Also, I kinda like the blog idea?  It might be easier to use than Facebook.  Know of any good ones?  Ones that will also let me post it to Facebook in any way?

Next one should be coming up soon...already cooked and ready to write.  And some of them after that are in my recipe book!

Last time: Andorra
Next time: Antigua and Barbuda

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Andorra

(Original post here.)

Andorra

History: From 1278 to 1993 Andorra was co-ruled by leaders from Spain and France.  In 1993 it switched to parliamentary rule but retains the Spanish and French rulers.
Economy: 80% tourism
Size: 468 sq miles, 2.5 times the size of DC
Population: 84,500
Literacy rate: 100%
They do not have a military, and defense is the responsibility of France and Spain.

Andorra was...difficult.  They are so small that their recipes don't proliferate very much.  I looked for quite a while.  In fact, in my looking, I found other people complaining about the same thing.  Apparently this is not untreaded territory.  I was a little sad not to be unique.  But oh well.  This is about experiencing it, right?

Eventually, I found my way to the Andorran website.  The one ran by at least 1/84,500th of their population.  And there were recipes.  Perfect, right?

Not really.  A lot of them were veal.  We recently did that, and I would like to avoid it whenever possible.  Also, the directions were...vague.  Most of them didn't have amounts.  But that wasn't going to stop me, right?

I picked this recipe.  Oh, ye of little knowledge.  I did not know that morels were so expensive.  Or that that sausage would be impossible to find.  But I looked.  And looked and looked.  Just when I was ready to give up...

I did.

Onto a new recipe, I guess!  This time I went with something simpler.  A side, even.  It had measurements too!  I cut the recipe to 1/3 because...wow.


It doesn't sound very adventerous, and it really isn't.  But it is Andorran.  But there was something else that caught my eye, something to make it more complex.  That's right...3 liters of mulled wine!  And we get to set it on fire!  Let's get started, shall we?

First, we also wanted to make some chicken so that there was also a main course.  I wanted something that could at least be from that region.  Out of our 5 marinade choices, here were three of them:

Andorra is on the Equator, right?
Zesty herb it is!

This week Kevin helped the whole time.  There was wine and fire, what did you expect?  Also, all three of us (with the cat) had been sick that week, so help was good.
Pajama day for the sick.
Bota Box!
I got to working on the rice.  We didn't have the kinds of mushrooms they recommended, so I got a few different ones.
Triumverate.
We used a website to translate the European measurements for us this time.
Usually, when I cut mushrooms, I use an egg slicer.
Fancy.
It didn't really work this time, though...so everything was hand cut.
Everything put together.
Back to the wine!
There spices from Grenada come in handy again and again.
Swirl!
Orange peels float.  Dried apricots sink until it is boiling.
Because two things aren't enough, we also have the chicken!
Marinating.
The grill my parents got Kevin...it works great!
We're done, right?  Oh, there hasn't been fire yet!  We were a little worried because there wasn't a lot of alcohol in there.  There was sugar though...
Fwoosh!
Flame!
And...video!  Man, that thing went up fast.

Now that the fire is done, we can eat...
Serving mulled wine is difficult.
Drinking it is not (except for the burning).
Set table.
Rice.
Tesla ate too.
Final verdict?  Meh.  The rice was prety bland.  Maybe as a good side for something super-flavorful.  Not bad, just boring.  The wine was sweet, and I liked it.  Kevin didn't.  Over the next few days it got less and less sweet.  Therefore Kevin started liking it more and I started liking it less...c'est la vie.  Even with the recipe cut we still had a ton of leftovers.

Dan - Funny you should mention recipe plagairism.  More on that next time.
Nick - I'm glad I motivate people to log on!
Sylvie - I put kitchen scale on my Christmas list.  And I'm thinking of your friend with the plagairism thing.  How do you know her?
Laura - Come visit me!

Things will be getting busier soon, but I will hopefully try to keep up this pace...

Nap time?
Cat says yes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Algeria

(Originally posted here.)

No last minute runs to Whole Foods this time.  Hah!  I win!

Algeria

Gained independence from France in 1962.
Borders the Mediterranean Sea.
11th biggest country for land area, second largest in Africa.
Only 3.17% of their land is arable and .28% is permanent crops.
34.5 million in population.
99% Sunni Muslim
There are 90,000 refugees from Western Sahara in Algeria.
Cuisine: Fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences.
National Dish: Couscous

Sources: CIA Factbook and Algeria.com

I was really hoping that my international cookbook would have a recipe for Algeria, since it has "Northern Africa" as an area for recipes.  Nothing there, though.  I'll let you know how the cookbook works when I can use it.

Instead, I decided that wanted to make something with couscous since that was the Algerian national dish.  So I started looking.  I ran into some of the same problems as last time: I would find the exact same recipe, with the same misspellings, on multiple websites.  In the end, I decided to combine two recipes.  Crazy, isn't it?

This was the recipe I found multiple places, so it has to be authentic, right?
Algerian Chicken Couscous

But I liked the sound of this couscous better.  The other one was just plain, where this one had extra flavor:
http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-chicken-couscous

Aunt Bonnie, thank you for your help, but I had already picked this out by the time you sent your research.

I wasn't sure whether they would work together, but I thought it was worth a try.  Hopefully I am not ruining the national dish of Algeria or anything.

Kevin and I went shopping to the commisary to get the food.  There are benefits to marrying a man in the Navy.  :-)  Not a lot of couscous choices, though...

This dish called for a lot of produce, which certainly makes for a lot of color.
The yellow pepper was not harmed in the making of this dish.
It was also cool because the dish called for a turnip, which I have never worked with before.  I had to look up how to chop it.  Other things I have become a pro at, however.
Best way to cut an onion for sure.
Our red pepper had a green one growing inside!
I have become really good at chopping garlic too.  One, because it is my favorite seasoning.  Two, because I have a garlic press.  I highly recommend them.  Thank you Patrick Michael Truskowski for the Christmas gift from last year.  :-)
Peel the cloves...
...put them in the press...
...and viola!
I did most of this prep work ahead of time, which is good, because there was a lot of chopping involved.  It meant I didn't have to worry about other things simultaneously.
They may have chosen the veggies in this recipe based on color...
Now for this week's edition of "what was Kevin doing?"
Can't you tell?
He is simultaneously playing with the cat and watching the Broncos game.  Multitalented?  Yes, this also means we got a kitten.  His name is Tesla!
Too cute for his own good.
Anyway, back to the cooking.  Next step: spices!  There was cumin in this, which I like. It always reminds me of Indian food.  The spices combined smelled really good.
Fun with colors.
In Grenada, one of the spices we got was nutmeg.  But not traditional...we got whole nutmegs.  I got/had to shave it myself.  It ended in me wearing a bandaid for a while...

Hopefully no blood around?
Time to start putting stuff together and making the kitchen smell AMAZING.
Cinnamon and garlic make onions much better.

Celery is green!
Once more with chicken.
What about the couscous?  Well, there was a small problem.  How was I supposed to measure that amount of raisins?  I don't have a scale.  This Kevin had an epiphany.  "That's about the size of one shot glass!"  So that's what we did.
No really, we did.
Thanks for the shot glass, Laura!
With just the right amount of raisins!
Table set, complete with wine and Christmas place settings.
It soaked up some of the liquid as it set.

This meal looked and smelled amazing as we set the table.  And you know what?  Unlike last week, we weren't disappointed!  There was a lot of flavor and it was a nice one pot meal.  There was a bit too much cinnamon, probably because I combined two recipes which both had cinnamon in them.  Also, I would recommend cutting the zucchini smaller...it is too easy to eat around it this way.  And finally, don't have it with a flavorful wine...way too much.

Overall however, it was very good.  It made good leftovers too.  The chicken was very tender and you certainly couldn't say that it was bland.

Now on leftovers...

Obviously, most of this food makes a large number of servings.  We would like people to come eat this stuff with us.  If anyone is ever in the DC area and would like to partake in our culinary journey around the world, let me know.  We would love to have you.  I just need to know sufficiently ahead of time to start planning...

One more picture to leave you with...
Tesla in a beer box!
Last time - > Albania
Up next - > Andorra