August 26th, 2007

Summer's almost over

I almost made it through August without a post!  Well, it's been a lousy summer vacation.  Networking 725 killed the nights M-Th 6-9 sharp.  Each Thursday before class we went to Wings, a local place, for a few pints and some pretty good wings.  Avoiding the carbs really worked out well- I was able to stay awake through the entire class after I ditched the bread with dinner.  Staying focused, however, was another matter.

Never have I drawn so many wasted pages away in a notebook.  And with no good merit- no good plans to improve upon, or sketches of a future house to be, or really anything of splendor.  I did, however, realize I've been getting better at drawing.  My friend Erik told me once that a good artist doesn't draw what they know what is there.  They draw simply what they see.  That was some number of years ago that he told me that, and it certainly improved my ability overnight.  Anyways, I'll never be an artist of that sort, but it's been amusing to watch any characters I draw assuming more dynamic poses.

So, I actually logged on for the next post, which is some soup I made.

Tom Kha Gai

Tom Kha Gai

Or at least, my New England interpretation, which omits about 9 ingredients.

So, Jenna and I got 140 dollars worth of groceries last night.  That's rather unlike us, but we really needed to restock a few things.  About 40 dollars were pure impulse items.  We decided that she was going to make Pad Thai for dinner, which I might add she's getting really good at.  She uses cubed soy for the protein, which is almost as good as chicken.  Actually, I eat so much chicken that I prefer the difference.  Anyways, she made Pad Thai, all the while remaining mute on how obnoxious I must have been, dancing around in the kitchen trying to make Tom Kha Gai at the same time.

Well, what is Tom Kha Gai if you ditch the pretentious Thai name?  It's coconut soup, and it's fantastic.  At least, the 10 dollars a cup stuff in some fancy downtown hole in the wall Thai place is going to be.  Mine?

2 coconuts, not ripe (more milk)
1 cup of chicken broth
1 lime
1 stock of dried lemongrass
some black peppercorns
some small, hot colorful chili peppers
pieces of cooked chicken

Heat up the broth.  Toss in the sliced mushrooms, all the juice from the lime, and the "zest" of the lime (scrape the hell out of the peel and toss it in with the juice).  Have the lemongrass soaked for a while (I'd rather try fresh!) before you smash it with a rock or something, and throw that in along with the smashed peppercorns.  Fry the peppers on a dry skillet to char them a little bit, and then smash them and toss them in as well.  Meanwhile, suffer greatly by getting the milk out of the coconuts.  If they aren't ripe, don't bother getting the meat out, cause it's not tasty.  I got about 2 entire cups out of of 2 coconuts.  Anyways, let's assume you've got the stuff boiling on the stove, and you have the coconut milk ready.  Well, pour it in.  Toss in the chicken too, and some scallions, diced up short.  I let it boil for about 10 minutes to soften up everything a little more, and to get the flavors out.

I didn't have some key ingredients.  The biggest two were fish sauce and ginger.  And well, something else called galangal or something.  Never heard of it.  I would have put soy sauce in as a substitute for the fish sauce.  Instead, I used some regular salt.

The end result?

Presentation wise, it looked really good.  It wasn't what I wanted, which was the almost pure white that a restaurant seems to serve.  Mine was clear, sort of a light brown.  Basically, the color of chicken broth.  I suspect that using real coconuts had something to do with it.

The taste?  It was much closer than I would have assumed it would turn out.  I am very sure that the lime/coconut/broth base is the first 90% of the flavor, and as such, it was spot on.  The chili peppers let their oil out enough to give it some kick, although I honestly was expecting something three times hotter.  Drinking the broth at the end became almost unbearably hot, so it was a good balance.  The mushrooms could have been a little more cooked, and the chicken a little less.  If those two had occurred, I would have payed for it at a local Thai place.  (But not a fancy one).