We call it “Adventure Cooking” because it is special, something we only do on special occasions, and when you have something like that you want it to have a special name.
Like “Adventure Cooking”.
Neither of us are actual cooks; Yvonne is much better than I of course, she tackles the dietary limits of the Seventeen Day diet with vigor and creativity, and ensures we always have something enjoyable to eat no matter how healthy and unremarkable the ingredients may be. I should emphasize just how healthy those ingredients are, so tremendously healthy. Utterly good for you, even if lacking taste and appeal. And yet she makes them not only palatable but enjoyable. Good. Something to anticipate.
But this is different. This is Adventure Cooking. With … techniques! And fancy recipes. And pictures. And adventure!
And so Christmas Day is spent together, teamed up in the kitchen, partnering our way through five recipes that are all way over our heads.
Thai Pumpkin Soup: Because pumpkin seems very Christmas-y
Parsley and Green Onion Potatoes: Because we need a starch and green is also very Christmas-y
Spinach and Parmesan Sformati: Because it is also green, and sounds delicious, and will be quite the adventure. My wife is a Top Chef fan but I’m not sure that factored in. Maybe?
Pork Loin with Olivada, Spinach, and Rice Stuffing: I picked this one, even though it is in no way Christmas-y. It just looks so very tasty, but even more, it looks ridiculously difficult to make. So adventurous. Perfect.
Chocolate Hazelnut Mouse Tart: Because tart, and because chocolate. Something about getting a recipe from Martha Stewart’s site bothered my Gamer Girl, but I am nonplussed. Top Chef, Martha Stewart, whatever, it’s the adventure of the component, not its source, and a chocolate hazelnut tart sounds quite adventurous. Did I mention that it’s a tart?
And so we are off, brining the day before, tarting the morning of, and then one long, uninterrupted, very adventurous cooking session that started at noon and ended with the most delightful meal around 3:30.
I have spoiled the ending; delightful. And it was.
The pork loin requires a special mention. It required butchering, applying something I can only describe as a double-butterfly cut that transformed the cylindrical loin into a flat, square plate of pork, one that could be covered in stuffing and then wrapped up like a jelly roll. First you cut from the left, then the right, making three equally thick portions that unfold like a road map but remain all of one piece.
Sounds great in theory, but in reality we had no idea how to make this happen and it was an expensive piece of meat. Nonetheless, at no point did we consider surrendering to the ease of the slo-cooker: if butterflying must be, then by the kitchen gods, so it shall.
I sharpened the knife like crazy, minute after minute, and then applied an additional 100 strokes to each side. My wife, unaware of my sharpening frenzy, came behind me and sharpened the knife again, for awhile. The tool gleamed: we might fail, but it wouldn’t be due to dullness.
And success! More or less. The pork was not perfectly plate-like, but sufficiently plate-like, and with sufficient uniformity. If not exactly so, enough so. Jelly rolling was quite possible and soon we had twine-trussed something that looked like it could feed forty.
We may have over-bought. Slightly.
The tart lived up to its adventurous billing too, requiring three different intricate bakings, each of which was followed by being allowed to cool to room temperature. When we finally completed the last step, it felt like we’d really accomplished something. And I supposed we had, intricate pastry baking. Adventure baking.
But it was the sformati that nearly did us in. We’d expected difficulty with the pork and the tart, but not so much with the sformati. But one seemingly innocuous step – removing the stems from spinach leaves – took only a few words to say but nearly an hour to accomplish, with both of us determinedly de-stemming as fast as we could.
The effort paid off though, as the sformati resolved itself to be unexpectedly souffle-like, rising in the oven, jiggling when cooked like a strangely spinach-y Jello. Very rich and souffle-tasting as well. Miniature souffles in individual sizes. Quite nice.
And that sums up the whole experience. Quite nice.
A lot of work of course, but that is the point: I like working together with my Gamer Girl. It is fun to cooperate with her on projects; she makes an excellent partner.
- The soup was good, excellent in taste and in texture, but could use a kick. Next time we’ll add more curry sauce
- The potatoes were very nice and need no adjustment. Perfect as is
- The sformati were delicious and very fancy; but also very rich, maybe better as a main course than a side
- The pork loin looked like it does in the pictures, and tasted even better, but was not as moist as we’d expected. Next time we will trust our meat thermometer more and worry about trichinosis less
- The tart was like nothing we’d ever tasted; chocolatey and bittersweet and salty, all at the same time, with a perfect mousse texture, remarkable! But the crust was a bit thick. Next time we’ll use the crust from last year’s tart recipe
Overall, most excellent, and our compliments to the chefs.
But the results were secondary to the process; in adventure cooking it is the journey that matters, not the destination. But it is even nicer when the results are outstanding too.
What a merry Christmas.
I couldn’t have asked for better.
🙂 😀 🙂