Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Creating Recipes (and Menu for 2/27/11 for Dude2)

I decided to make a new recipe today -- a salmon and coconut milk timbale wrapped in a wilted collard green leaf, with Thai-style seasoning.  I had some leftover salmon from a while back, and I was feeling the creative bug.  The flavor was good, but the timbale part didn't work out  so well.  I'll post a recipe when I get that part figured out.

Creating recipes is an interesting challenge.  You start with a concept -- for me, I wanted to make a molded entrĂ©e wrapped in the boldly veined collard leaf, with some hints of Thai-style coconut curry.  You then try to make it happen with real world ingredients, and at least in my case it pretty much has to be improvised from what I have in my kitchen at the time (it's a long drive to the grocery store now).  I decided to try making a custard base out of full fat coconut milk and egg yolks, then add salmon, cilantro, coriander, tamari, a touch of vinegar and possibly some hot peppers.

I steamed the collard leaves first to soften them, then lined the dishes with the leaves and poured in the custard mixture.  The idea was to get everything to set up in the right shape, then invert the dishes onto the plate for a nice dramatic presentation:

Then, because I don't have an oven, I attempted to cook them in a steam bath.  I've done this before and it worked, but I believe I need more "setting agent" (i.e. egg yolk and white) to get it to happen here:

The spice blend was good -- I omitted the hot peppers in deference to the youngest member of the household, but I think I'll try them next time.  The main problem with this rendition of the meal was the consistency.  I wanted something fairly firm, but it was very soupy.  I had used one can of whole coconut milk plus about half a cup of cow's milk, and four egg yolks.  This would have been sufficient to set up a dessert custard, but it didn't do the job in this case.  I think a significant factor was the way I cooked it:  dessert custards are generally baked, and I had to use a stove top steam bath instead.  A side effect of this is that the molds were being jiggled about constantly from the bubbling, which I suspect interfered with it setting up. Next time, I will try using whole eggs instead of just the yolks -- this should make a much firmer texture while adding protein at the same time.  I will also omit the cow's milk, so as to concentrate the coconut flavor a little more as I found it a bit weak in the final dish.

I'll try this again, and hopefully next time I'll have a recipe worthy of posting!  I'm open to other suggestions by the way, for spice combinations or molding techniques or any old thing.  Just drop a comment in and I'll give it a shot.

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