The Flavor Manifesto

A blog about delicious food and food philosophy.

Holiday (or any day) Curried Beef Pot Roast

This recipe has been a Christmas tradition for the past five years. As those of you who know me are aware, I’m Jewish. How, might you ask, did a Jewish person come to have Christmas traditions?

Step one: spend the traditional holiday season away from family because you are the one person at work to whom that day doesn’t have a lot of meaning and so you work all the shifts around Christmas.

Step two: make friends who work in the restaurant industry, also live away from family, and fervently love Christmas.

Step three: jump on any excuse to eat, drink, and be merry with the people you love.

Step four: bring what you know of traditional holiday meals to a new holiday with new seasoning.

And before you know it, you and your friends have become family and you have years of delicious Christmas tradition. Every year since the first year I made this dish, my friend Kristie has requested–as much as Kristie requests anything about which she’s passionate, by which I mean has insisted– that I recreate this dish. This year she also had the brilliant idea to serve the roast (which is rather spicy) with her buttermilk mashed potatoes. While I was initially dubious having usually served curry dishes with rice, I must capitulate that the mashed potatoes were the perfect compliment to the roast.

This dish is meant for sharing with loved ones and warming you up on a cold winter night. So gather your people, hunker down with some games while the roast cooks, and then eat yourselves into a delightful food coma.

Curried Beef Pot Roast

The rub:image

4 Tbl. turmeric

2 Tbl. paprika

1 Tbl. fenugreek

1 Tbl. freshly ground coriander

1.5 tsp freshly ground cardamom

2 Tbl. freshly ground cumin

1 Tbl. ground dried ginger

1 Tbl. Freshly ground black pepper

1-4 finely chopped ghost and/or scorpion chilies (as mentioned before, ghost chilies tend to rate around 1 million scoville units; scorpion chilies rack up 3x that amount. How brave are your tastebuds and how much meat do you have? I defer to you.)

4-6 cloves minced garlic

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The roast:

One 2-5 lbs. roast (pot, chuck, most varieties of beef roast will work, but may change the texture and cook time)

One onion, sliced

2-4 bouillon cubes (depending on the size of the cubes and the roast)

2 Tbl. olive oil

2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 350. If the roast comes tied with thread, leave the thread on the roast. Grind and mix all the spices together. Line the bottom of a large and deep baking pan with onions, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. imageMassage the meat liberally with the rub, and place it on top of the onions. Sprinkle any remaining rub over the exposed onions and on top of the roast. Put the bouillon cubes in the pan with the onions, and fill the pan with water until it is half submerged. Then cover the pan with foil, stick it in the heated oven, and forget about it for an hour.image

After an hour, flip the roast and cover again with foil for 30-45 minutes. Continue doing this until the final hour of cooking, at which point remove the foil and flip the roast very 15 minutes. A 2 lb roast will likely take 2.5-3 hours to cook in the oven, a 5 lb roast 5-6 hours. The end goal is to reduce the liquid in the pan by half, and to have the meat falling apart. During the last 30 minutes, cut any ties that may be around the roast and begin to pull the roast apart with tongs if it is not falling apart on its own.

I do recommend serving with buttermilk mashed potatoes, though Kristie may not part with her recipe so readily. One can only hope, but I know there are other sources for tasty, if perhaps not-quite-so-excellent, buttermilk mashed potatoes.

Though this has been a Christmas dinner tradition primarily in my world, this roast can be an excellent reason to have an impromptu holiday celebration for any, or no, reason.

 

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Harvest Caprese Salad: Simplicity and Eating Alone

I hate eating alone. Generally, I don’t even particularly like being alone at all. I’m an inherently social creature, and I like to keep myself busy (hence why I have not had the time to finish a post, though I have started many, for a shamefully long time). For a long while, I perceived ‘aloneness’ more as being forced into solitary rather than as a gift and an opportunity to relax and explore myself.

My first summer after college I was alone for the first time. Really, truly, alone. Prior to that summer, I had never been alone for more than two hours. Someone in my family was always in the house, or I was at school, or living in the dorms with somebody just a shout or quick stroll down the hallway away, or in public. I had never had a space to myself and my thoughts and only my habits and desires to which to cater. Before then I had longingly dreamt of hours, days, possibly even weeks, to do what I wanted, when I wanted, because I wanted.

I was feeling rather emotionally alone at that time in my life as well, and even though I was in theory a full-grown adult of nineteen, fully capable of caring for and entertaining myself, I discovered that in practice I was somewhat wanting in these skills. I became antsy, anxious, and overwhelmed. I suffered through that summer of what seemed to me to be total isolation without gaining a more positive perspective of ‘alone time’ or taking advantage of doing what I wanted, when I wanted, because I wanted, or even exploring what that really meant.

Over time, I gained more experience with being alone. It was a slow, gradual process, and still is not something to which I naturally gravitate, but I have come to cherish those times, such as tonight, when my roommate is out and my plans have fallen through and I am mercifully and gratefully forced to be alone.

One of the hardest things for me about being alone was eating. Mealtime was always family time in my parents’ house. As a bratty teenager fighting tooth and nail to assert my independence from my family, I rued the hour at the dining table offering monosyllabic responses to my mother’s excessively detailed questions of my life and the progress of my education. In spite of this rebellion of teenage angst and my deep love of food, I found myself far into adulthood needing companionship in order to fulfill one of the most basic necessities of life: eating.

I love the production of a meal, the show. I love it because I am somewhat proud and egotistical, and cooking is one of the few things in life I can securely say I do quite well. As it is something that I do well, it is something I can offer to those about whom I care. I take pride in learning people’s preferences, indulging their cravings, and lovingly and specially creating something enjoyable just for them. In addition, I believe that food is, and usually ought to be, a communal experience. Eating is one of the few universal needs and pleasures with the potential to unify any and all people. But I digress.

Because a great deal of my enjoyment of one of my creations is gauging how much the people I am feeding are enjoying it, it is difficult for me to generate the impetus to create something when I am on my own. Nights like tonight, however, when I have not eaten all day and have a million delicious fresh ingredients in my fridge, I am simultaneously forced and allowed to create for myself.

Hence, my version of Caprese Salad. I like elaborate meals with a plethora of ingredients, but when it’s just me curled up on the couch with my dinner and the X-Files, getting back to basics can be a good thing. Some ingredients also just stand well on their own, and I highly recommend a trip to your local farmer’s market for these. So have an easy night, enjoy some quiet and some simplicity, and my take on a classic. Take half an hour, or three hours, or many more, to do something truly just for you, because you want to, when you want to. I greatly underestimated the empowerment gained from something as small as taking the time to cook something delectable for myself, but now that I understand its potential I relish the feeling of contentment from taking care of myself. I would be thrilled for you to use this recipe as an opportunity to do the same, or as an easy addition to a shared meal because, in spite of this dish being a celebration of alone time, in my reality people are always welcome at the dinner table and nobody goes hungry.

Harvest Caprese Salad Balsamic Reduction Ingredients

Balsamic reduction:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

4 cloves garlic

1/2 dried ancho chili

1/2 dried ghost chili

Pinch smoked paprika

Caprese salad:

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1 peach (I used white peach, but yellow would also be delicious)

6-8oz. fresh mozzarella

1 yellow heirloom tomato

1 red heirloom tomato

Several sprigs of basil

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Olive oil

To make the balsamic reduction, simply put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. As the vinegar is heating, mince the garlic and finely chop both chilies. As soon as they are all chopped, add the garlic, chilies, and the paprika to the balsamic vinegar. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar is reduced at least by half. It should take only 20-40 minutes depending on how high the heat is turned. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, and the better the flavor of the spices seeps into the vinegar. For a smokier, spicier reduction add full ghost and ancho chilies to the reduction.

While the vinegar is reducing, thinly slice the tomatoes, mozzarella, and peach.

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Layer them, alternating, on a plate or bowl. Then roughly chop the basil and sprinkle it over the tomatoes, mozzarella, and peach.

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Once the vinegar is finished reducing, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. Then drizzle the fresh ingredients with the balsamic reduction and a little bit of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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Autumnal Pumpkin Soup

Twas a dark and stormy night not long before All Hallow’s Eve,
When staring into my fridge I did perceive,
A lonely, half-used can of pumpkin,
Looking at me like a crazed country bumpkin.
Years ago, in my youth,
Pumpkin soup was rather uncouth.
While blessed with culinarily talented parents,
When my mother made pumpkin soup
I’m ashamed to say I rather lost my sense.
Not being picky, my distaste threw me for a loop,
Yet I could not escape my irrational fear
Pumpkin soup was the stuff of a nightmare.
Hidden amongst delightful meals,
My dinner terror would sneak and steal;
Dreaded pumpkin soup annually lurked
And my duty to clean my plate I would shirk.
So when I saw, so many years later,
That lonely can of pumpkin in my refrigerator
It gave me pause, I had to think,
Could I face it without a blink?
To master what before had been so daunting
I felt as though I was experiencing a haunting.
But yet again, twas late at night,
Not an open grocery store in sight.
My supplies were low,
As was my blood sugar,
Time to test how far my resolve would go,
To what extremes I would venture out of hunger.
I braced myself and took a breath
As outside the weather raged against my mental health.
As if possessed and in a daze,
My hands reached out and ingredients appraised.
In a flurry it all came together,
A blessed culinary accident like no other.
In one night my world was transformed
And the following recipe was born.
A life without fear was before unimaginable,
For the first time in a long time I felt stable.
So remember, readers, in this windy, dark season,
Simply face your fears with reason.
There’s no need at all for tears,
So long as one has pumpkins, friends, and beers.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Autumnal Pumpkin Soup

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 Tbl. butter for sautéing

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 Tbs flour

7 oz pumpkin (either canned or scraped from a grilled pumpkin)

2 bouillon cubes

7 oz water

1 1/2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

1-2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cumin

1 Tbs. curry powder

2/3 cup very thinly sliced mild anaheim peppers

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup grated/chopped carrots

Optional: Sliced ginger/sliced serrano peppers for garnish

Sauté onions in butter and add light salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add the heavy cream and the flour. Mix well to make a roux. Then add the pumpkin, bouillon cubes, water, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, and curry powder. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ten to fifteen minutes before serving, add the anaheim, celery, and carrots. The crisp, crunchiness of the veggies is crucial so be careful not to overcook them!

Serves 4. Depending on how much each person likes it. Also depending upon how hungry each person is. And if it is served with bread or other dishes. So really, serves 1-6.

Peanut Curry

FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH A PEANUT ALLERGY DO NOT EAT THIS!

There is a disturbing epidemic of The Peanut Allergy in the US; has anyone else ever noticed this? It concerns me.  I did warn that some of my recipes could be potentially lethal to those with a preexisting condition but with peanut allergies I feel it warrants another disclaimer.  My friend who is from Indonesia says it was absolutely unheard of, this Peanut Allergy, until he came to the US. What’s wrong with us?

In their favor, allergies are one of the few unexplained phenomena of the 21st century. When do you develop an allergy? When it feels like it. Why do you develop it? Because it feels like it. Will it go away? If it feels like it. In some ways, it’s beautiful. I believe that mysteries are necessary to our existence. They keep us fighting to discover more, to grow, to learn, and to adapt. On the other hand, this particular mystery is inhibiting some of my dear friends and fellow food lovers from enjoying one of my most widely popular recipes. Due to personal inconvenience (my mother also is allergic to a large portion of all edible things grown under the sun), I vote ‘Nay’ to allergies remaining one of the mysteries of the world.

The Peanut Allergy seems to be a particularly nasty and deadly variety, however. Not only might you develop an unsightly rash and a tickle in your throat, but many people are at risk of asphyxiating as a result of anaphylactic shock. Asphyxiating is perhaps my most feared method of dying, personally, so please, don’t do it.

Well, now that you all have been fairly warned about the risk of death to those with The Peanut Allergy, allow me to introduce one of my simpler yet still incredibly delicious recipes.

When six members of my Portland family were staying with me last summer, I made a massive amount of my peanut curry. Massive. Within 3 hours it was all gone. I cannot possibly describe to you how incredibly pleased I was by this. To me, as a chef, the greatest compliment any guest at my table could ever give me is a clean plate. A clean 7.6 L pot that three hours previous had been full of peanut curry…. There are no words. Without further ado,

The Peanut Curry:

Olive oil or peanut oil for sautéing

Ghost chilis, finely chopped (1-4 depending on how hot you like it…. If you are my father, for whom things are never hot enough and who spends months building trust with servers and chefs at local Thai and Indian restaurants to convince them that really, he can handle the heat, so that the curry/vindaloo they respectively serve him is actually spicy enough that he can feel it– use four. But maybe start with two, because ghost chilies tend to have a rating of over 1 million scoville units.)

3-4 Tbl. yellow curry powder

1/2 yellow onion

4 cloves garlic

1 can coconut milk (and please, none of the ‘light coconut milk’ nor 8 oz. of the coconut milk that comes out of the cardboard cartons. It just isn’t nearly as creamy or rich, and the coconut milk’s creamy richness is essential.)

2 Tbl. chopped fresh basil OR fresh grated ginger (both are good, but bring out different flavors in the peanut butter and other spices)

1/8-1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter (or more if you really enjoy peanuts!)

1-2 Tbl. paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2-5 vegetable or chicken bullion cubes

1 small broccoli crown, chopped into bite size pieces

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

Mushrooms, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 lb. chicken or beef (optional)

Saute the onions, garlic, and ghost chilies in olive oil in a large soup pot. If adding meat or tofu, also saute in the olive oil. Add the curry powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and ginger OR basil. Cook over med-low heat until the onions are just starting to get translucent/meat is cooked around the edges. Then add the soy sauce, coconut milk, peanut butter, bullion cubes, and 1-3 cups water depending on whether you like your curries thick or soupy. Bring the curry to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the veggies and allow to cook for 15-30 minutes over low/med-low heat until the vegetables are cooked but still slightly crispy. I have made the mistake of overcooking the vegetables, and while the curry is still delicious it is not quite as satisfying a meal on which to munch. Serve over rice.

Again, I recommend constant tastings of the curry and fiddling with the ratio of spices; please cater to your taste buds!

Generalísimo Manny’s Chicken

I met my dear friend Manuel one of my first days in college, sitting in my 200 level German class. I was glancing around the room, sizing up my classmates, when my eyes settled on a stout Peruvian with a fro. Yes, an afro. Perhaps the most glorious afro I had ever seen. I knew in that moment we were going to be great friends, and I took the necessary steps to ensure I was correct. The moment we were assigned to an in-class exercise together, I gave him my number. What freshman boy wouldn’t follow up on a phone number so readily given? At the time he couldn’t have known the wheels that had been set in motion down the inescapable path to becoming one of my best friends….

A year passed, and Manuel soon became ‘Manny’ to me, but, alack! alas! his beautiful, luscious afro became the stuff of mere memories, fleeting dreams of carefree times passed and forever missed. It was replaced with a standard buzz cut, varying between 1/8″ and 1/4″ in length (I know because I often cut it myself), and our acquaintance became a close friendship based upon our mutual love of food, language, and music.

For Halloween of our sophomore year, Manny decided to dress up as Fidel Castro during his younger years and sported a rather impressive mustache. I believe there were multiple reasons for this particular choice: first being it is a relatively easy costume to assemble, the second being it gave him an excellent excuse to smoke Cuban cigars, and the third that, well, he looked damn good in a fascist mustache. (If I ever obtain permission, I will post before and after pictures I promise).

Nearly five years have passed since I first saw Manny across that cramped German classroom, and yet we are still comrades in arms, on a mission to enjoy life to the fullest. For Manny and his relationship with food, this often entails a delicate balance between sweet and savory. The Sweet and Sour Chicken served in the sometimes dodgy Chinese restaurants in Old Town Portland epitomize this ineffable symmetry of flavor, and yet the unfortunate after effects prompted us to search elsewhere for what we desired. As we graduated from the dilapidated and dysfunctional kitchens in the dorms to the proficient if quirky ovens and stove tops of rented houses and apartments, we came to the realization that we could recreate almost anything found in a restaurant, and probably in such a way that would please our stomachs as well as our taste buds. Thus, one evening, on a stroll through the grocery store not unlike any other, Manny and I decided to embark upon an epic quest to create our own Sweet and Sour Sauce. It was a daunting task, and yet we faced it with great aplomb and courage. I dedicate this recipe to you, Generalísimo1 Manny (between the mustache and his devotion to Sweet and Sour, the title was inevitable), a slight and original twist on Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Sweet and Tangy Sauce:

1 1/2 Tbl corn starch

3/4- 1 cup brown sugar

6-8 oz. pineapple juice

6-8 oz. orange juice

3 Tbl soy sauce

Splash red wine

1/5-1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

6 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped

2-4 Tbl fresh grated ginger (fresh really does make a difference)

In a medium saucepan, mix together the above ingredients over medium heat until the sauce is thick and bubbling, stirring occasionally (I often had a hard time knowing what constituted as ‘thick,’ so my advice to you would be honey/molasses-like consistency). Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Chicken (or shrimp, or beef, or tofu):

1 lb. chicken (or other protein-source)

1/2 of a green bell pepper

1/4 of a red bell pepper

1/4 of a orange bell pepper

3/4 of a pineapple

1 1/2 cups pancake mix

Salt

Oil for frying

Heat a liberal amount of vegetable or canola oil along with a splash of peanut oil (if you’re not allergic, if you are just vegetable oil is fine) over medium-low to medium heat in a wide, deep frying pan.

While the oil is heating and the chicken is frying, chop 1 onion, 1/2 green pepper, 1/4 each red and orange bell pepper, and 3/4 of a pineapple into approximately 1/2″ pieces.

Mix 1 and 1/2 cups pancake mix with water until the mix is a thick liquid consistency, and then add a dash of salt. Dip 1/4″ cubes of chicken in batter until thoroughly covered. Test the oil with one piece of battered chicken. If it sizzles and the batter thickens immediately, it’s ready. Fry the chicken in batches and keep them warm in the oven at 250° F. When the chicken is finished, pour off most of the oil, then put the onion, peppers, and pineapple in the pan and cook until the onions start to become translucent but are still crunchy. It should only take a few minutes. Serve the veggies and chicken over rice and drizzled in sauce.

You may think that as my close friend Manuel is biased, but he was quite pleased with the results of this recipe and, as I explicated before, is very passionate about his Sweet and Sour Chicken. Being someone who is often on the fence about Sweet and Sour Chicken myself, I was pleasantly surprised. I hope you are as well.

1 Some of you may know that the fascist dictator in Spain responsible for vastly stunting its economic and social development, Francisco Franco (in power from 1939-1975, but whose unfortunate legacy lingers to this day) was often called ‘El Generalísimo.’ While I am saddened and shocked by Franco’s policies, I grudgingly respect his political acuity (many fascist leaders were brilliant in their own insane way). When I was in Spain, studying Franco’s reign became something of a passion for me and ‘El Generalísimo’ an affectionate nickname for those we encountered who mercilessly pursued a single-minded purpose. He also wore the fascist mustache.

Sassy Soup #2

The invention of a sassy soup was what initially inspired me to make a cookbook. I was making dinner at a friend’s, scrounging through the nearly barren refrigerator for usable ingredients. I have found that many of my best creations are born from the remnants of vegetables, meats, cheeses, and whatever else is at hand. Cooking as a college student meant many dinners between 12am and 4am when the grocery store was not open and I had not had time to stop by for days. While many chefs may see this as a distinct disadvantage, for those of us of a simpler persuasion it is the perfect opportunity for forced improvisation. On this particular occasion, the few supplies left combined perfectly into a “sassy soup.” I have dubbed spicy, pepper-based soups “sassy” because I went through a phase with such soups while I was feeling particularly free and strong-willed: sassy. The flavor and sensation perfectly matched my mood, and I do believe that food is an emotional experience.

This is not the original sassy soup recipe, although fear not, it will make an appearance on this page. I came up with this recipe one cold summer evening (thank you, Portland weather) while four members of my Portland family were staying with me in my one bedroom apartment. My mother frequently made soups when I was growing up and they have always been a source of physical and emotional warmth and comfort. I hope that this recipe provides the same for you, and is prepared in good health and excellent company.

Sassy Soup #2:

3-6 cloves garlic

1 onion

2-4 Tbl. butter

Salt, pepper to taste

1 tsp dill

2 tsp curry powder

2 tsp sage

1 tsp thyme

2 tsp rosemary

3 Tbl. flour

1 cup milk

3 potatoes

4 celery stalks

3 carrot sticks

Small crown of broccoli

1 each barker hot pepper, jalapeño, and poblano (or 3 of whatever kind of spicy pepper you can find)

5-10 bullion cubes (vegetable or chicken)

Grated mozzarella or similar cheese (optional)

Make a Roux: Mince garlic (3-6 cloves) and dice an onion while melting butter (2-4 Tbl.) in a large pot. Once butter is melted, sauté onions and garlic with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon dill, 2 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp red cayenne pepper, 2 tsp sage, 1 tsp thyme, and 2 tsp rosemary until onions are translucent.

Then add 3 Tbl flour and 1 cup milk. Stir thoroughly and add more flour/cook until a thick paste forms.

Chop 3 potatoes, 4 sticks of celery, 3 carrot sticks, and a small broccoli crown.

Also chop 1 barker hot pepper, 1 jalapeño, and 1 poblano.

add potatoes, peppers, and carrots to the pot.

add 4-6 cups water (or to cover veggies and then some) and 5-10 bullion cubes (depending on how much water you add).
Bring soup slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it boils, lower heat so that soup is simmering for a minimum of 30 minutes. 20-30 minutes before serving add the celery and broccoli.

I recommend that when serving the soup one adds some mozzarella or similar cheese to the individual bowls, and that bread is on hand. This is a great bread-dipping dish!

Also, please vent your attitude and your state of mind when preparing this. The quantity of the various spices will vary with your mood, and I do want this to be a personal experience (hence the often vague measurements). Enjoy!