Monday, January 29, 2007

Kitchen Convention: I before E, Except After Bread Pudding

There are two sets of rules in cooking. There are the science-based rules—a widely accepted canon including the likes of: never add flour as a thickener without first cooking it in a hot fat, or you will have a lumpy, gummy thickener on your hands. Or: when cooking rice, the standard ratio is 2:1; liquid to grain. Then there are your own rules that develop over the course of your culinary adventures, which govern the nuances of how and why you cook the way do. Why you prefer to use one brand over another, or why you always add a dash of this to that; why you serve a salad before a main course, or why your menu has a well-rounded combination of starches to protein to vegetables. It's a highly individualized rubric, a bit trial-and-error based, a bit passed down, and a bit chalked up to social norm, and often we don't even realize how ingrained these rules have lodged themselves into our culinary sub-consciousness until someone brings them to attention with an alternative or asks, why? And I find it is precisely when this happens that the exceptions to our own rules are born and our culinary language expands for the better. Our habitual sense of order and structure in the grammar of our kitchen—from prep work, a midday snack, or even an all-out sunday brunch—is made more complex, a more difficult dialect to consume, enabling all-around, deliciously improved upon ways of eating.

Yesterdays brunch menu was based on exceptions, and simply divine.

Pecan Apple Bread Pudding
(Rule: bread pudding is a dessert, except when making with whole grain wheat bread and layering with apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and substituting Lactaid into the egg mixture; it's now a healthier dish much more appropriate for brunch and/or lactose-intolerant guests)

Poached Eggs with Sautéed Veggies & Veggie-sausage Medley
(Rule: Vegetarian "meat" products are not as good as the real thing, except for Morningstar breakfast sausage patties , which, chopped up and spooned over poached eggs, offer a savory meaty-less burst of flavor.)

Vanilla Infused Pancakes with Vanilla Panna Cotta Syrup
(Rule: Pure maple syrup is the best sugary topping for pancakes, except when you have left-over chilled vanilla panna cotta pudding to spoon onto the hot cakes for an extreme vanilla alternative.)

Canadian Bloody Ceasars
(Rule: never drink anything with Clamato juice in it, except when drinking Ceasars, which is essentially a Bloody Mary with a few fun tweaks, and, in my opinion, just as yummy.)

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