Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hamentaschen!

Why the exclamation point?

All right, some folks might naturally show enthusiasm for hamentaschen, either because the holiday of Purim is a time for extreme merriment or because they genuinely like hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen, incidentally, are triangular cookies with a fruit filling inside. I tend to regard them in about the same way I think of gefilte fish; they're fine in theory, but a mass-producing culture that dumps a lot of inferior product on the market to be consumed in bulk mars the good name of the food.

If the problem is just that I haven't tried your hamentaschen, then it's okay for you to send some over to prove that point. :-) Also, we did get a few very tasty batches of hamentaschen from friends this year.

Also also, this year I made hamentaschen dough at the school where I work. I used this recipe, which created delicious, amazing dough. (I didn't make the filling though, so I can only attest to the dough.)

As you can see, the recipe calls for the zest of an entire orange and an entire lemon. That is doubtless why the recipe is so delicious. I sextupled the recipe for the sake of the 40 students who would be making hamentaschen and I only tripled the amount of zest, so a full complement of zest would likely be mind-blowing.

Ramble, ramble. The school-made hamentaschen are not the source of my hamentaschenal enthusiasm. Instead, last week (the week of actual Purim) my Facebook "friend," Crumbs Bake Shop, posted a picture of the hametaschen they were selling. I love crumbs for their big, elaborate, excessive cupcakes. It looked like they were doing their hamentaschen the same way. And with sprinkles!

I don't see any Crumbs shops in my day to day life, but S--- walks past one every day on his way to work. (It is probably a very good thing that our situations are not reversed.) As soon as I saw the Crumbs hamantaschen, the Monday before Purim, I asked him to pick some up. He implied that he might get some that day, or maybe the next.

Then he forgot. And forgot again. The whole week of Purim was over, and there were no giant, sprinkly hamantaschen.

I had given up. And then last night, S--- came home. I walked into another room, and when I came back into the dining room...


Hamentaschen!

The Meal that Went with the Chutney

At this point the chutney is only a week and a half old, so I seem to be moving at a reasonable clip, given general scheduling issues. (It's possible to make a jar of chutney as well as the following meal in a single night, but uploading photos is too hard.)

As I mentioned, my two greatest inspirations for dinner were
1) a whole lot of very sour mangoes that I didn't want to go bad, and
2) a conviction that mangoes and ground lamb were sure to go well together.

The outcome was, eventually, this!
That would be ground lamb rolls, mango chutney and fresh peas cooked with fennel and duck fat.

The lamb rolls, like the chutney, were an internet amalgamation of a few recipes. The recipes I read suggested laying out a sheet of phyllo dough and rolling up the lamb in it, but we didn't have phyllo dough. The dish might have been better with phyllo, but I put together a vague pie crust instead and rolled the lamb dough up in that.

The lamb was not very spiced, even though we both enjoy very spicy lamb, because the chutney was very, very intense and jealous of competition.

The peas were very fun. They were left over from the weekend, and as I mentioned - fennel and duck fat. (It's been very exciting, now and then, to have a container of duck fat lying around the fridge. You never know when it can be used in some interesting and tasty new way, such as flavoring peas!)

This spur-of-the-moment meal was brought to you by a hilariously well stocked fridge, and the letter M.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What do you do with a thousand sub-par mangoes?

Happy to start the blog with a hyperbole!

It's the end of mango season at H-Mart, where I like to buy produce. Because of this, last week I picked up a crate of champagne mangoes (about 24) for just $6. However, they were the sour kind. As in, you bite one and, if you have the mental wherewithal, you start wondering how this lemon managed to masquerade itself as a mango! They also weren't too terribly pretty.

Some fraction of the mango supply
I quickly peeled and pureed the softest half of the collection, assuming I might freeze the pulp for future smoothies. Or.... I also gave thought to savory dishes. Surely mango-that-tastes-like-lemon and lamb go well together....

Typing "sour mango ground lamb" into Google, I found a lot of suggestions involving chutney. I've only eaten chutney a few times (that I know of), and it's not something I've given much attention to. Still, I knew it had strong flavor, and these mangoes had strong flavor, so maybe that meant it was a good idea.
Know what else has strong flavor? Every single ingredient in chutney!
This blog is going to be somewhat useless as a food blog, because entries will all pretty much look like this:
I went to a couple websites to read about mango chutney, including this one, and once I got a sense of how it all works and what the proportions should look like, I started assembling ingredients. I added stuff they didn't mention and left out some of their ingredients, and played it by ear.
Alternately though, I could say that making chutney involves simmering a whole lot of vinegar, mixed with a couple kinds of sugar, and really strong flavored stuff (see ginger, garlic, habanero above, along with relatively mild-mannered lemongrass). Add other stuff, to make up a beverage that would happily dissolve Cleopatra's entire pearl supply.

Add cut mangoes. Boil, simmer. Later add bag of mango puree. Simmer.

In the end, there was enough for a giant jar of chutney, as well as a large serving to go with the fancy lamb dinner of that evening.

Stay tuned for the fancy lamb dinner.