Sunday, January 3

All we ever get is Gru-EL!!

No, this picture isn't what I made. I wish.

So, if I post twice in four days about food, does that make me a culinary blogger? No, I didn't think so.

My friend Jane's blog, now that's a food blog. And then, of course, there's that one that sparked that little movie about Julia Child. Oh, I think we can safely call that one a food blog too. What? You mean all of our blogs are not going to be turned into multi-million dollar films? Sure.

But today, I just feel compelled. So here goes.

So, the other night, I was feeling all ambitious-like, and I thought I'd make some thai food. In the past, I've made some killer good peanut sauce, which is important because I am one of those people who judge thai restaurants based solely on their peanut sauce, which, honestly, is really crappy about 90% of the time. I've rarely had a great one. One time, I made a great one myself, but it was through experimentation. A little of this. Taste. A little of that. Taste. It was kickass great. But of course I didn't measure anything and I don't even know what the this or that are anymore because I don't even remember which recipe I started from, which wouldn't really matter anyway since I didn't follow it. It was good though. No. It was Good.

Maybe it's that I love Asian food. A lot. And I'm really working on cooking more and saving money, so I figure I'll make it myself. Mostly, I was spurred into action a couple of weeks back (and a couple of weeks before that) when the holiday craft cooperative of which I am a member (I make jewelry) closed up for the season. Oh. I guess that was just last week. Well, whatever. It doesn't really matter because this isn't about the gallery (well, then why did you mention it Robin? Well, I'll tell you!). It's about the Chinese restaurant next door to the gallery.

On opening day of the gallery this year, which was back in early November, I had a customer who I liked a lot. She is an artist herself, making these fabulous things with eyes in them...oh, never mind, it's too hard to explain. But she was great, as was her husband. They came into the store, as did many people, while they were waiting for a table at the restaurant next door. I asked her if it was good, and she said it was pretty good, but that there was one standout item that I had to promise her I would order because it was the best one in the universe. I promised her. When it was time for me to leave the gallery that evening, I stopped in next door. And did I order what she told me to order? No. Of course not. What does she know from Chinese food? Please. So I ordered something else. It was so-so. I stepped on to the get-over-myself train just as it was leaving the station, figuring that my so-so food was punishment from the gods for breaking my promise to this anonymous customer who liked my jewelry, so she must have good taste in everything. I should have thought of that.

The next time I went in, I ordered them. I had to. I'm bold, but I don't really like to tempt fate too many times, ya know? Oh. My. God.

Thank god the gallery was open for almost two months. I was ready to trade shifts...hell, to volunteer to take shifts at the gallery even when they didn't need me...just so I could be there more often so that I could order the chicken dumplings in peanut sauce. This may have been the closest I have ever been to being a junkie. Oh. My. God. I know, I said that before. But it's now been more than a week since I have had them and I just can't be responsible for what I say anymore.

Oh. This isn't what I was going to write about. Oh, well.

Now, the location of the gallery this year is not somewhere that I typically frequent. It's not really close to home and there's just not that many reasons for going there....other reasons, I mean. And the gallery, which moves around from year to year, might not be there next year. So this is it. Me and the dumplings. We're through.

I'm just not that strong.

I figured I'd better learn how to make them. I figured out (I think), through an internet search, that they are called Hunan dumplings. Not at this place, mind you, but in general. They're kind of like the Szechuan dumplings in oil that I've had in New York, but they're in peanut sauce, which I think the ones in oil are, too, which doesn't really make any sense, but there you go. I researched, I found what sounded like a good recipe. I bought the ingredients, made the dumplings, put them in the fridge because I had to run my daughter to some activity, and they sat there for a few days because things got hectic and busy and then I was worried about the chicken and disease, so I threw them out. Yes, I know people are starving in India, but that doesn't justify salmonella.

I never even made the peanut sauce. I know, I didn't know this was going to be such a sad story either.

So, what I'm saying is that I had peanut sauce on the brain. And I thought of that other great peanut sauce I made way-back-when sometime that I also don't know how to make, and I got the great idea to make thai food for dinner. I'm actually known as a pretty decent and adventurous cook, so this isn't as out there as it sounds.

I made the peanut sauce. Not the dumpling one. The satay one. It was bad. And too spicy. I made genuine sticky rice, which turned out great with a couple of exceptions. I made a chicken in lettuce cups-larb kinda thing with basil which was yummy. I made some fried wontons for the girl, as a nod to the whole dumpling idea, and because she loves them. And I made some broccoli, because we love veggies. It was ambitious. It was so-so. But let's get back to those couple of exceptions in the sticky rice department.

Making real sticky rice like the restaurants serve is a big process. It involves a lot of soaking, steaming, and cheesecloth. I soaked too much rice, so after I filled the steamer, I still had some left over. I had read on the web that some people made their sticky rice in rice cookers, so I thought well, hey, I'll just make the rest in the rice cooker and see what happens. This is where the plot thickens, so pay attention.

I'm not going to go into the part where the cheesecloth that was hanging on the outside of the steamer basket caught on fire. Yeah. Fire. I'm not going to talk about that, except to say that it was handled so suavely that the kid in the next room never knew about it. Point for me.

The sticky rice (the sort of traditionally steamed one) was good, though it stuck like crazy to the cheesecloth, which I don't remember happening before. Did you know that little tiny threads of cheesecloth are indistinguishable on the palate from sticky rice? Now you do.

The meal was not memorable, but it was a good effort.

But I bet you're wondering, hey, Robin, how did that sticky rice in the rice cooker turn out?

Well, lemme tell ya.

In the true spirit of world community and true friendship and cooperation between nations, let me tell you that the result was a fascinating (Euphemisms R Us) blend of mochi, risotto, polenta, and congee. Mmmm. I threw it in a rubbermaid container and put it in the fridge.

Remember how, at the beginning, I said that I'm trying to cook more and save money? Yeah. I am. So I can't just be throwing out an entire pot of rice (or what was rice when it went in, anyway). I'll make something out of it! Again, to the computer. What do people do with....let's just say overcooked rice. (Oh, important detail: This is Thai Glutinous Rice. Not sushi rice. Not brown rice, not basmati rice...with the emphasis on the Glutinous, just so you know). One guy on some site said "Turn it into risotto"! It was the most palatable-sounding idea I had encountered. I know how to make risotto, I like risotto, I have all the ingredients.

Here's what happened:

And here's what it looked like coming off the spoon:

Yeah. I ate it. What's it to you?

For some unknown reason, I sang songs from Oliver all evening.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Anyone?

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