Dark Caramel-Cashew Pralines

There is something pleasantly meditative about making sweets late at night, even if you burn the first batch a little. I forgot that my burners are misaligned and run hot (long story), so that even when I’m using my own recipe, I need to notch everything down a little — when I say ‘medium-high,’ I mean ‘medium’ on my own stove.

But it’s okay — milk toffee with cashews is still delicious even when it’s turned into dark caramel-cashew pralines. I wouldn’t serve it to Sri Lankans expecting our milk toffee, but otherwise, we’re good.

Melissa Elsmo Supper Club

On Friday night, I visited an Oak Park underground supper club. It’s called Kindred, and it’s someone cooking out of a private space; I gather this is quite a thing in big cities these days? But I’ve never been to one before, and it was fabulous. My favorite bite was perhaps the chicken sausage and sweet potato in the second course; my favorite presentation was probably the third course salad of edible flowers, micro greens, and soft cheesy dressing, served in a little glass cloche. But it was quite wonderful all around.

  

  

Usually Chef Melissa Elsmo does 12 courses; we only did 8, because we were intercutting it with the other event of the night, a powerful and moving storytelling session organized by Cynthia Martz. I was deliciously replete by the end, and also emotionally rejuvenated by the honest storytelling and warm fellowship of the women Cynthia brought together. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it handed to you.

This was just splendid, and I’m hoping to take Kevin for supper there another time, perhaps for his birthday, if we can arrange 6 friends to come with us. (She also puts together blended tables, if you don’t have 8 people on hand.)

More about Melissa here: https://www.oakparkeats.com/…/meet-the-ope-t…/melissa-elsmo/

Find her on Facebook and send a message to reserve your spot!

Curried Tamarind Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

I wasn’t sure if this would work, and I have to say, it’s a little nerve-wracking taking a great big pot of delicious pork curry and adding something to it that might ruin it….but I do love pork and apples and pork and sweet potatoes, so I thought maybe, just maybe, adding sweet potatoes and apples to my traditional Sri Lankan curried pork would work nicely. And it does!

Minor modifications — used apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, added an extra cup of water when I added the sweet potatoes (just as the pork was becoming tender), because the sauce was getting a bit thick and I wanted to be sure there’d be enough liquid to cook the sweet potatoes, added the apples about 15 minutes after the sweet potatoes and cooked 15 minutes more — which was a little too much; they started to dissolve, but I just used the somewhat soft apples I had on hand. But with firm cooking apples, I think 15 minutes would be about right.

(1 1/2 hours, serves 6-8)

3 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1/3 cup ketchup
1 T tamarind paste
1 heaping tsp salt
3 pieces cinnamon stick
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 dozen curry leaves
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 inch pieces
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. red wine
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 apples, cut into large chunks

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, tamarind, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves.

2. Add pork and stir on high for a minute or two, browning the meat. Add vinegar & wine and stir well, scraping to deglaze pan. Cover, turn down to medium, and let cook one hour, stirring occasionally.

 

3. Add sweet potatoes, stir well, and cover again (adding water if needed). After fifteen minutes, stir in apples, cover again. Cook until sweet potatoes are cooked through, adding water if needed to maintain a nice thick sauce (and to keep food from burning), stirring occasionally. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Weekend Cooking

If I make them every week, eventually I will be able to make them perfectly every time, right? Sometimes my batter is too thin, or too thick, or not fermented enough. Out of a dozen hoppers this morning, this was the only one I liked the look of enough to photograph.

They were all excellent to eat, though. Jed had his with leftover saag and the last of this week’s batch seeni sambol. Kevin and I had ours with leftover lamb vindaloo. The kids tried them with maple syrup — Kavi didn’t like it, but she doesn’t like anything she eats this weekend, so we’ll try again. Anand only liked the lacy crispy bit, not the spongy sourdough part. If I make them every weekend, though, they are going to learn to love them, right? Well, we’ll see.

#weekendsareforhoppers

Tandoori Chicken & Pasta in a BĂ©chamel Sauce

Kavi: Can I learn to make something today?

Me: Sure? Like what?

Kavi: Maybe cooking?

Me: How about I teach you how to make a white sauce? We have some leftover pasta and tandoori chicken to use up.

Kavi: Okay!

Me: You know, this is going to make your college roommates very happy with you.

[continuing with snooty accent]

They’ll be all, “Oh, all we have is some plain pasta and last night’s dried takeout chicken. Sad!” And you’ll be all, “No problem! I’ll just toss together a bĂ©chamel!” And they’ll say, “What’s a bĂ©chamel?” And you’ll say, “Oh, it’s just one of the French mother sauces, you know. If you can make those, you can make anything!”

Kavi, barely restraining her pre-teen eye-roll: I’m sure everyone in college talks like that all the time.

Basic bĂ©chamel recipes are all over the internet, but essentially, warm milk in pan or in microwave. Then in separate pan, melt butter on medium heat, stirring (careful not to brown). Next, make the roux — add an equal amount of flour (about 6 T butter to 3.5 T flour is standard, with 2 c. milk, though I admit, I mostly eyeball it), stir until it’s a bit clumpy. Whisk in a little of the warm milk to smooth it out, then add the rest of the milk and whisk whisk whisk, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in your cooked pasta, shredded leftover chicken, maybe some frozen peas, and you’re good to go. 10-minute easy delicious & nutritious meal to feed a hungry college student and her roommates.