Monday, February 20, 2012

UnRecipe/OMG a Recipe: Meat + Potatoes 4EVER

Despite the holiday being "so last week ago," you're probably sick to death of all the ooey-gooey annoying-ness that is Valentine's Day, even more annoying since the blasted month has an extra day! Curse you, Leap Year... and you're little dog too! But I have to say the best couple ever, more heart-worthy than Romeo + Juliet, Caesar + Cleopatra, Julia + Paul, even Brad + Angelina, is Meat + Potatoes. Why? Because you can celebrate their divine pairing even when it's not the most loving/annoying time of the year. No fat baby cherubs with bows n' arrows required.

When Potato Met Pork... a love story - Photo by Wasabi Prime
To be honest, we've been enjoying the joy of meat and potatoes all month, indulging in thick protein-y wedges of meat with starchy, creamy spud goodness. And real potatoes, not the sweet potatoes or yams we usually get, as they tend to be more healthy and less starchy. February has been our month to indulge, enjoying sweets given by friends or ones that came fresh-baked from our oven. It's hard not to give in to food cravings during the month that's all about eating rich treats, and watching the Food Network when they spend a whole day showing the 1001 ways you can eat chocolate certainly doesn't help. We were the very happy recipient of some Jonboy caramels, which are an absolute favorite -- they're handmade in Seattle, available throughout the city and as far as Oregon, produced in small batches and they come with a freshness date. A little box of those, plus some sweet Valentine cards from friends -- how can you not fall in love with Love? Or junk food, for that matter? 

Sweet Overload!! Valentine goodness everywhere - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And of course, once the sweet tooth gets going, everything just goes sideways, so I made some peanut butter cookies with peanut and bacon brittle I had sitting in the pantry. It's what any sane person would do, right? I originally bought the smoky bacon peanut brittle from Foodzie, and I noticed the freshness date wasn't looking so fresh, so instead of just sitting on the couch and snarfing it down in an act of Old Yeller food mercy, I thought putting it in cookies would be a better way to enjoy them in a slightly more civilized and prolonged manner. Woe to my rapidly widening thighs that I made this right before Valentine's Day, as we were already awash in sweets, ready to have more with our respective gifts to one another, and I still had other dessert plans, incuding an Epic Carrot Cake which is so epic, I'm saving it for another post (stay tuned...). Le Sigh. St. Valentine needs to change his moniker to be the Patron Saint of Muffin Tops, or very possibly Tooth Decay.

PB and B cookies - peanut butter and bacon brittle cookies! - Photo by Wasabi Prime 
For several meals, including Valentine's Day, I was trying out some recipes from John Howie's new cookbook, "Passion and Palate: Recipes for a Generous Table," a new book that came out late last year and gaining momentum in the rrrrowrrr-worthy Year of the Dragon. Aside from the fact he includes a recipe from one of my favorite things at his restaurant, the ahi-topped deviled eggs, it's a book to take note of in the fact that it's part of the growing trend of independent publishing. It's a real honest-to-goodness book, not an eBook -- you can flip through the pages and drool over the food photos like any of your other favorite cookbooks. It's a really lovely collection of recipes, very high production quality and the photos are beautiful -- it's part of the new wave of self-publishing that's kicking the reputation of indie books looking too homemade, right to the curb. If you live in the Washington area, you can get a peek at the book in John Howie's restaurants, available for purchase there, or online.

Valentine's Day, celebrating our love of creamy potato dishes - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The OMG a Recipe part is the fact that I put together meals based on recipes (which I won't list, as I do believe you should support cookbooks, but the recipes are all in there!), but the UnRecipe part is of course that I made some substitutions, so yes, shame on me. I did a variation of John Howie's pork chops and herbed cheese potatoes -- I didn't have a cedar plank to roast the pork, which I know would have made it extra flavorful, so I just seasoned accordingly and fnished it with a Marsala pan sauce. I roasted the potatoes minus the cedar plank, but with the listed seasonings and got some very tender, crispy starch-a-riffic goodness. I realize a signature element (cedar plank) was taken out of the mix, but the resulting dish was no less delicious, which I think is a nod to a cookbook's recipes being flexible and being able to handle swaps and substitutions with ease. I know, Boo to Wasabi for excluding such an important flavor element, but the resulting dish wasn't disappointing, and very doable on a weekday time budget, which this combination was perfect for, with the stove doing some of the work and the oven doing the lion's share.

I used the creamy potato lasagne recipe from Passion and Palate for Valentine's Day, to go with a seared flank steak crusted with blue cheese and breadcrumbs. The flank steak wasn't part of the book, I just wanted something basic so that I could focus on the potatoes. Layers of creamy potatoes with caramelized onions, to go with a meaty steak? That's heaven for Mr. Wasabi, who is a manly-man, and manly-men are fine with a simple meal of meat n' potatoes, so why mess with this logic? I admit, I modified the recipe -- I added crumbled bits of bacon on the finished potato dish. And I went heavy with the onion caramelization, but that's just my preference, as I love that super-sweetness of cooked onions. Regardless of what I pushed/pulled/substituted -- the result was so om-nom-nommy that it put me in a food coma that had me passed out on the couch by 10pm. The wine probably contributed a bit to that, as would a day spent prepping the meal and getting the house Valentine-Ready for when the Mister came home. But hey, it was worth it. Even if Indy felt a little left out of the festivities.

Dueling Valentines - whose is better? Correct - long live the Dark Side - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And yes, that is a bedazzled ultrasuede black heart-shaped box of chocolates with Darth's head on it. Ironically, it was filled with milk chocolates, not dark chocolates (Target, you should have been more clever!). That, some robots with hearts-themed socks and some really geeky Downton Abbey/Supernatural-themed Valentine cards is a recipe for True Freakin' Love. Brock, of course, went the traditional route and got me an amazing, beautiful box of hand-picked chocolates from Fran's. Because chicks dig it the most and he knows it's one of my favorite places to get special sweets. You can decide who wins the Dueling Valentine gift war, but I think it just goes to show that even a silly commercialized holiday can still bring out the best in people and remind you that no matter how weird you are, you know each other's hearts best.

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