Hey Babe, Take A Wok On The Wild Side

My Wok Down Memory Lane
True enough you have to crawl before you can wok. I was reminiscing with my daughter about some of her toddler escapades and through the myriad of cobwebs of the memory banks crawled the story of my first wok. That and the glass bottle of sesame oil she found. The wok is a remarkably versatile piece of kitchen equipment and now I use it with an above novice status. But before I could Wok on the wild side, both my daughter and I had to crawl.
My kitchen has always been a sort of laboratory for me. It’s where I have created many culinary delights that bordered on creations born of divine intervention. Frankenstein’s monster was created in a lab. Thousand of real creations came out of labs a well, like Edison’s lab, Curies lab, Pastures lab, and Hoffman’s lab. Okay Hoffman created LSD and maybe shouldn’t be in with the other labs, but it was still a creation. Actually many creations when I think back on some hallucinations, but that’s for a different blog entirely. But back to my lab. So I love to experiment and I encourage anyone who loves to cook or bake to widen their horizons and always be willing to try new equipment, techniques, and food products. So back in the 80’s when the western world was finally figuring out what those huge metal cooking bowls in Chinese restaurants were, woks became all the rage.
I did what I always do when experimenting. The very first thing I did was intensive research so I would understand what a wok is, and how I could best put it to use. The wok is a cooking vessel from China and has way more uses than I had thought. Not just stir frying, but one can pan fry, deep fry, boil, poach, stew, and sear. The gifted eastern chef can also braise, roast, and even smoke food in a wok. But my intended use was to stir fry like a “real” Asian cook. I bought all the proper utensils, and various oils and seasoned my wok for one week before even attempting to make anything. Then I began to stir fry and I turned into a stir fry maniac. I stir fried everything, everyday for about a month. I went into my wokking with my trademark well informed reckless abandon. It was ideal for me as I had a gas stove and could regulate the heat pretty well. It was also very efficient, using the sole vessel to create entire entrees worthy of an aspiring chef. I was going to cooking school at the time and was the envy of my classmates. I lived off campus because I had a wife and a two year old at the time.
I had a special place where I kept all my wok experience enhancing accoutrements. In a cabinet along the floor I had my bottle of sesame oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, soy sauce, tamari sauce, fish sauce (that took some getting used to) oyster sauce, hoisen sauce and a slew of flavor agents like Sirachi sauce. Yep, thats right. I used Sirachi BEFORE it was a thing! I was having the time of my life preparing all sorts of dishes. I was also an involved father so my daughter spent much of her time with me in the kitchen. Crawling around, pulling on my leg, attempting to engage me in the never ending game of peek a boo, climbing in and out of the cabinetts, and all the usual practices of a toddler times two. Time two because she is a true Gemini and as fast and adventurous an two kids. On one particular day her attempts to make me chase after her were on the extreme side. I was making some spicy shrimp stir fry which cooks exceptionally fast. It became eerily quiet which unless its nap time is very rarely a good thing. Thinking she had snuck out into the living room I tuned off the stove and went in search of my rebel baby. Not under the table, not behind the couch. I listened carefully to ee if her constant state of energy would betray her hiding spot. The silence ended its frightening reign with impunity and evolved into an even more frightening stage. The loud crash and sound of breaking glass followed by a shriek. That shriek was the familiar cry of my little girl calling DDDaaaadddddy!!!! Into the kitchen at lightning bolt speed. I turned the corner into the kitchen the sight made me question my parenting skills. My baby girl on her hands and knees surrounded by broken glass and some dark brown liquid. With my rapid surefire detection skills I ascertained immediately that it wasn’t blood. But what the Hell is it? My keen detective skills immediately focused on the olfactory glands for confirmation. Sesame! My baby girl was kneeling in a puddle of viscous dark brown sesame oil.
Of course I quickly scooped her up to avoid the broken glass and held her tight as some of the strong scented oil jogged own her legs and jumped onto my jeans leaving a noticeable stain. I changed my sweet little explorer and then turned my attention to the mess in my kitchen. I was able to remove the glass and most of the oil but a very faint remnant of oil had settled in the tile floor and created an almost invisible community that would give off its treasured sesame smell for weeks to come. That sweet stench of a community thrived and serve as a reminder to me for the rest of my parenting while cooking regime. My wife commented daily that our kitchen smelled like a Chinese restaurant and I secretly smiled a smile of pride because my food had also taken on the status of being compared to restaurant food.
To this day my daughter calls me whenever the smell of sesame make an appearance near her and it’s a story we laugh about constantly. I have since become very prolific in wok cooking, both Asian an American style dishes and although as durable as a wok is, its not the same wok. I highly recommend cooking and experimenting with woks, I use it as a deep fryer, making sides like rissole potatoes, and lately sauté veggies and chicken or appropriate protein, a sauce of my choosing and pasta. Let me tell you, stir-fried or sautéed angel hair pasta from the wok is a tasty and versatile entrée. Explore, try new things, break rules, and constantly challenge yourself. Do yourself a favor and if you don‘t own one, go out and buy one. Then you too can Take a wok on the wild side…………PEACE

Baked With Love

I don’t use recipes because I am an existential cook. For me recipes are merely suggestions, a list of potential ingredients with chronological preparation instructions most commonly used for a successful reproduction of a culinary creation. I didn’t stay in the lines when I colored (or color with conventional pigments for that matter) and I have problems following directions. Not jut the “guys never ask for directions”, or throw out the directions and put furniture together incorrectly type of following. Although I will confess to harboring both of those qualities I mean recipe directions. As an existentialist I cannot in good conscience merely make a replica of a dish, I have a burning desire bordering on an intense need to recreate said taste temptations on my own terms. In addition recipes invariably ignore the intangible ingredients and techniques. That’s not meant as a put down, I would be hard pressed on how to integrate ingredients that are metaphoric or theoretic in nature in my lists. I am speaking of the intangibles of human emotion. That and my belief that the universe has the power to effect balance on levels we will never understand. So how many teaspoons of humor should one add to insert a touch of whimsy to the dish. One cup of what exactly will cause the one enjoying the creation to smile involuntarily. The use of emotional ingredients is out there in the universe waiting for the enlightened cook to grab its gusto and impart it into the organic creations of our trade. Of course the one emotional ingredient many of us are already familiar with (maybe even on a sub-conscious level) has been implemented by our own mothers for as long as we can remember. Love.
.No doubt Moms add lots of love to whatever they make. Damn Mom, how come everything tastes so much better when you make it? What cosmically balanced secret ingredient do you add? My Mom always told me she “added TLC”. Much more effective and safe than MSG, she imparted TLC, Tender Loving Care. Moms instinctively know how to add love to everything they make and you won’t find it in on any shelf in the supermarket, or on any recipe page. Not even her “Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook“, or “The Joy of Cooking” list TLC in the recipes . When I graduated from CIA I fancied myself a superb chef already. Damn I thought, I learned so much and now I am a helluva cook. I couldn’t wait to show off, especially to my Mom, who was so profoundly proud that her number 5 son was a chef. I dazzled the family with chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce, pommes Anna, and a gratin of roasted veggies. Not to toot my own cornucopia but that dinner was the shit (that’s a good thing). Something however seemed missing. Something always present in Moms dinners was void in mine. I was humbled and to this day I make it a point to NEVER compete with a mother in cooking. My dinner, while tasty as all hell (again, good), had a distinctive aftertaste of cockiness and arrogance (not good). It didn’t ruin the dish but it did make me aware that whatever Zen I put into came my food will come out of it. That’s when I began my quest to use my existential philosophies as an ingredient and apply them whenever possible to my techniques and recipes, or “Lists of Ingredients“. That’s how I use existentialism and positive emotions in my kitchen and when sharing lists or suggestions of preparations.
In my professional kitchen that’s a more difficult task than it would seem. As chef I am not only in charge of my own Karma, but the Karma of my staff as well. For starter I never allow them to call me boss, because that would suggest that I am in some way superior. On a person to person level we are equal, I am merely the guide an the one who will take responsibility for the good, the bad, and the ugly. I would estimate that 95% of kitchens I worked in over the years, while sharing many a laugh was a personal hell to work in. I have been called names that could make a beet blush and in at least four different languages. I was a ’Grand Pederast”, a “Puttana Basterdo”, a “Pendejo”, and a “Gamozo (still not sure what that means). After years of humiliation and dehumanization I made a conscience choice to run my kitchen empathetically and effectively. I have empowered my staff, taught them all to be pro-active, and they follow my lea of being result oriented as opposed to the blame and discipline oriented philosophy I grew up in. As a result my kitchen and my staff remain as positively focused as possible. Mistakes are still made, but instead of trying to hide them they ask what they can do to fix it. That small piece of good feeling and positive vibration are a key ingredient in our cupcakes. When we say they are baked with love, its not just a tagline. Our goal is to make good feelings come out of every bite. It’s about Love!
Love is by far the most mysterious and powerful of our emotions. Love can be mis-used, abused, refused, and bemused. Love can enhance you chance, put you in a trance, make you dance, and take a stance. When you are in it about nothing else matters, and if it lasts you are as lucky as one can get. On Thursday we all have the opportunity to express this mysterious emotion collectively. Like noetic science which studies the power of collective conscience we all share the power of love on the same day. Valentines day is the one day of the year we can all align our Jupiter’s with Mars and allow love to steer the stars. Power in numbers. That’s why it’s important to get it right. So starting Wednesday, Mistress day…(I don’t make this crap up don’t shoot the messenger) we will have an array of treats with an extra concentration of love from the kitchen, prepared with passion and caring. We throw in a little whimsy as well.
Now comes the shameless plug, the moment of truth for Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes. Of course I use only the freshest and most aphrodisiac enhanced ingredients, and I always bake with love and passion and what one puts into cooking come out ion the eating. So just bringing home some of our delicious stuffed cupcakes will open some doors, but here at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes we are true romantics at heart (get it??) Therefore we are offering some extra special valentine choices. If you don’t celebrate, of if you find yourself alone on valentines day we have you covered as well. So here they are.
In addition to our crowd pleasing Red Velvet and our assortment of delectable chocolate and vanilla cupcakes we are offering some lovers specials. The “C’mon Baby Do the Casanova” is a vanilla cupcake stuffed with banana’s foster (banana’ cooked in spice rum) and vanilla cinnamon icing which has been falsely reported as the treat Casanova used to seduce Brazilian Bossa Nova dancers. Brining cupcake love to a new level is our “Just Like Romeo And Juliet“, an Amaretto cupcake stuffed with a raspberry champagne custard and covered with a sensuous dark chocolate icing. And speaking of Elvis we will have the “All Shook Up“, a banana chocolate chip cupcake stuffed with peanut butter mouse an topped off with vanilla icing. The perfect compliment for your little “Teddy Bear”. In addition to just cupcakes we will have some other creative and seductive treats including our annual tradition of fresh strawberries dipped in Belgian Chocolate or White Chocolate.
Like I said, if you don’t like Valentines Day and don’t celebrate it or are in between relationships we have you covered as well with two special Anti-Valentine Day cupcakes. Buck the tradition with the all new “Love Stinks” the cupcake inspired from the classic cliché of sitting on the couch dipping a cookie into an ice cream sundae to peel away the guilt laden layers of being a solo artist, it’s a half chocolate half vanilla cupcake with a chocolate chip cookie baked into the center, covered in chocolate whipped cream and topped with a cherry. It’s a cupcake that simply drips of self indulgent bliss! Even if your not alone this is a crazy good treat because even if love does stink, the cupcake does not! The other Anti-Valentine Day cupcake is the “Emotional Rescue” a cupcake originally designed to offer a bit of emotional rescue to some special friends who needed it. The Emotional Rescue is a red velvet cupcake filled with Heath bar custard an finished off with a cherry brandy whipped cream. I have no doubt The Rolling Stones would be proud to sing a song about it.
Have a fantastic Valentines day and fill all your days with lots and lots of love……PEACE