Open-Source Cuisine

This meal was sort of random, in that what we had hoped to eat wasn’t available, but happily it continued with the Korean-Spanish theme of the soup in the last post. I feel strongly that Korean food will be the next big culinary craze in this country, since it’s meat-centric, spicy, often grilled, and highly adaptable: perfectly suited for American eaters. It’s as accessible as Mexican and as varied as Japanese or Indian. Those trucks in LA are the leading edge of some major taste-changing.

I love escabeche, whether mackerel, chicken, or almost anything else, and I’m obsessed with Korean flavors these days. So I took the chicken thighs that filled in for plan A and dusted them with four seasoned with both smoked paprika and dried Korean pepper as well as salt. I browned them all over, then added a 21st Century IberiKorean mashup sauce of kimchi brine, gochujang, red wine, black olives and some of their brine, and a generous glug of black currant vinegar. As it all simmered together, the smell was pretty exciting. I chopped up some gai lan that I picked earlier and threw that in as well to wilt and meld with the thickening sauce. Then I took the pan off the heat and let it sit while I dealt with polenta cooked in fresh whey from the latest batch of Camembert that’s drying as I write.

I reserved the flowering tops of the gai lan, so to finish I threw them in a pan with a smashed clove of garlic and then hit them with a little salt and a little more of the vinegar. Along with some chopped garlic scapes, they provided a nice bright green finish. A simple meal, but a gratifying validation that two seemingly very different cuisines can in fact harmonize beautifully. Polenta cooked with whey has a lovely cheesy aura about it without getting too rich, and the gently spicy dark red sauce studded with shiny olives and silky greens was pretty marvelous. Best of all, the leftovers will be even better tomorrow, as all the flavors have time to deepen and penetrate the meat.

Just about anything can be made to go with just about anything. Genius chefs can make pretty much any combination work, and come up with others that work so well it’s amazing nobody else thought of it years ago. For the rest of us, I like to think of it more as fiddling with the EQ: nice and bright up top, good deep lows, plenty of rich and resonant elements in the middle and you’re in business. What matters is that the ingredients are as good as they can be, the methods are sound, and the seasonings are applied with some care and confidence. I like to think we’re moving past the “I feel like Chinese tonight” period in cooking. Globalism and the remix mentality mean we can invent, embrace and crave all sorts of new combinations whenever we feel like stretching out. We may all be eating Chickie Nubs™ soon enough, so I figure we should enjoy this exciting freedom while we have it.

2 comments to Open-Source Cuisine

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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