How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Busy Kitchen

Monday morning was spent dodging (not very effectively) downpours as we went into Boston for errands, mainly the provision of a travel visa for our daughter's upcoming service trip to China. The late afternoon found me in the kitchen juggling (somewhat effectively) three little projects.

I began with a slight variation on a very familiar recipe -- a smoked pepper dip for a small gathering on Tuesday. It is a perennial crowd-pleaser that calls for roasted red peppers and commercial salsa. I always try to use a chipotle salsa -- usually from Trader Joe's -- supplying even more roasted peppers. This time I used Arriba! Fire-Roasted Mexican Chipotle Salsa, available at my local grocery, and decided to roast the additional peppers myself.

I had been intimidated by this process for years -- which is why I have not yet made my own mole from scratch -- but tried it a couple of times in the past year or so, and I am now fairly confident putting an entire bell directly on the front (super) burner of our stove. The keys are, I think, to turn the peppers frequently and to be unafraid to char them quite thoroughly. In this case, I roasted one bell pepper and one jalapeño, giving the dish a bit of extra piquancy.

A strange but important part of the roasting process is the sweating -- the peppers go into a sealed bag for about ten minutes, after which it is a simple matter to remove the vast majority of the charred patches of outer skin.

The resulting dip was delicious -- a few test bites had to be taken -- probably one of the best I have made -- and I have made this dish at least 100 times. It can be served either warm or cold; since I was almost a day ahead, I set it aside to cool and then turned my attention to brewing some raspberry whitbeer -- my first foray into fruit-flavored beer. I am still a novice brewer, but competent enough to keep the kitchen relatively clean while progressing through the various steps required to create wort (unfermented beer) and get it set up for initial fermentation. Once I was done with steeping the grains and adding the malt, hops and spices (a first for me), I put the whole shebang in sink full of ice water to chill it for the final step.

Because it was starting to get late (by our early-bird dinner standards) I decided that I could continue brewing and still get started on our dinner, which was made possible by two things we had picked up on Sunday. The first was one of those little recipe books from the grocery store. We had gotten rid of many of these when we cleaned up the cookbook cabinet a few months ago, but could not resist one entitled Cooking with Beer. Pam had thumbed through the booklet as I drove us to Fresh Catch in Mansfield, and we settled on an intriguing recipe involving sea scallops.

The recipe called for hoisin sauce -- which we had never used -- and other ingredients that we already had on hand. I made one unusual error. I did not notice that the recipe called for drained beans, so when I blended the beans with a few other ingredients for a sauce, I did not realize that it was way to thin. Ordinarily, I would just keep cooking to reduce the sauce, but it was far too thin, and sufficient cooking to reduce the sauce would have overcooked the scallops. Fortunately, Pam suggested corn starch as a compromise, and it worked fairly well.

The scallops went beautifully with an Argentine Malbec called Loca Linda (I called this "Pretty Crazy" but the company prefers "Crazy Beautiful"), which we purchased at currentVintage, a dress shop on Nantucket that is also one of our favorite wine stores.

After dinner, I pitched a little yeast into the wort, gave it a stir, and covered it with a lid and airlock. As I write this just over 24 hours later, the dip is mostly gone (a crowd-pleaser for the small crowd we entertained this evening), the scallops are a scrumptious memory, and the beer is fermenting in the next room, bubbling up about twice each minute to assure me that the yeast are now working overtime!

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