January 10, 2013

Brave New Year
(+ Vietnamese Pork and Mushroom Omelet)

New Year's Resolution #1 was to work on my punctuality.  

Then it took me 10 days to get out the first blog post of the year.  

So...at least we managed to bypass the lamest phase of the year.  No more do-gooding.  No more self-improvement.  And no having to start the year with some recipe with kale or quinoa or the word "slimming" in it.  We're moving right in to eggs and pork, people.  You're welcome.

Sure, there are ways I'd like to improve myself this year.  I'd like to polish up my wife-ing skills.  Or at least try to be the one to replace the toilet paper roll once in a while.  I'd like to make more responsible food choices.  Or at least save my gluttony for something worth its calories.  Example:

Seven-course tasting menu at our favorite restaurant?  Let's do it.  Remember to pack the wheelbarrow to roll me out afterwards.  

Filling up on the frozen crumbles of breading left at the bottom of the bag while impatiently waiting for the chicken strips to cook?  Maybe we could try to limit that to once or twice a month now, hmm?

But for the most part this year, I'm not going to concentrate on vowing to fix myself, because

(a) Dude, it's a new year.  Not a magic wand.
(b) Just writing out a list of that length is going to leave me an unmotivated puddle of self-loathing.

So, instead, I'm going to work on broadening my horizons.  Trying new thingsGetting back to the point of the name of this blog: being fearless in the kitchen.  Because lately I, like so many of us, have gotten into a bit of a cooking rut.

Which brings us to this recipe: my first foray into Vietnamese cuisine.  Delicious, surprisingly simple, and utterly new.  What a beautiful start to an adventurous year.  

Well, maybe not beautiful.  But nicely browned, anyway.

Interested in what else I'll be exploring for the first time this year?  Here's my top-ten checklist:

1.    French Onion Soup. Because how have I never done that yet?
2.    Fried Avocados.  Maybe in tacos.  Who am I kidding?  Of course in tacos.
3.    Duck.  Shouldn't seem as scary as it does.  But it is.
4.    Boeuf Bourguignon.  Back to the basics.
5.    Garlic-Parmesan Fries.  I had a transcendental experience at a food truck in November.  It's 
       something everyone should get to experience.
6.    Caramel Apples.  Because it's a whole year before I can get another one from Aunt Laura at 
       Christmas.  And that's about 11 months too far away.
7.    Indian Food.  Yes, in general.  I've got a lot to learn.
8.    Take-Out-Style Orange BeefNot the way it ever comes, of course.  The way it should be.
9.    Jam.  Nail-biting terror that needs to be overcome.  Not promising I'll can it.  Baby steps
10.  FondueBecause I've owned the pot for 10 years.  It's probably time I learned how to use it.

Hope you'll come along for the trip!

Vietnamese Pork and Mushroom Omelet
 from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen
by Andrea Nguyen

This was my first foray into Vietnamese cuisine, and I was blown away.  The method for this dish is simpler than the omelets I'm used to, cooked as a pancake with the other ingredients instead of filled and folded.  And while the ingredient list is short and simple, the overall impression of the omelet is amazingly satisfying.  I suspect this has something to do with umami, that magical fifth taste element that gives a "meaty" or "savory" effect - I know that it's found in both meat and mushrooms, as well as in soy sauce.  Whatever the reason, each bite was mysteriously satisfying.  We'll be doing this again soon.

Ground Pork  [ 2/3 pound, coarsely chopped to break it up ]
Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms  [ 2, reconstituted, trimmed and chopped ]
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms  [ 3, reconstituted, stemmed and chopped ]
Scallions  [ 3, both white and green parts, chopped ]
Salt  [ 3/4 teaspoon ]
Black Pepper  [ 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ]
Eggs  [ 5, beaten ]
Vegetable Oil  [ 2 tablespoons ]
Soy Sauce  [ for serving ] 

1.    Mix together Pork, Mushrooms, Scallions, Salt and Pepper with a fork, breaking Pork into small pieces.
2.   Add Eggs to Pork Mixture and mix.
3.   In an 8-inch nonstick pan over Medium-Low heat, heat 2 Teaspoons Vegetable Oil.
4.   Pour half of Egg Mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Cook until mixture bubbles at its edges.
5.   Cover pan and cook until omelet top is opaque, about 4 minutes.
6.   Uncover pan and cook until bottom of omelet is golden brown, another 3-4 minutes.
7.   With a spatula, flip omelet over.
8.   Drizzle remaining 1 Teaspoon Vegetable Oil down the side of the pan, to slide under omelet.
9.   Cook omelet until browned on the second side, 2-3 minutes.
10.   Remove to a plate.
11.   Repeat to cook the remaining egg mixture.
12.  Cut omelets into wedges and serve with rice and soy sauce for dipping.

Makes 2 omelets, enough for 2-4 people, depending on appetite and number of other dishes in the meal.

[  (1) My supermarket didn't carry wood ear mushrooms, so I substituted Porcini.  I don't know how it compares in terms of authenticity, but it tasted great.    (2)  Nguyen also suggests fish sauce as a dipping alternative, and proposes adding sliced serranos or Thai chiles to either dip.    (3) The flipping of the omelet can be daunting; don't let it defeat you.  Just grit your teeth and do it quickly.  It'll turn out just fine.  ]

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