Physical Challenge – Mole Negro

Here at Grimm Gourmet we bypass the childish dares and double dares. Our biochemically fascinating chefs are daring enough.  We get right to the physical challenges, the dirty work.

What is a Physical Challenge?  Each Grimm Chef will investigate, experiment with, and refine a recipe selected specifically for the challenge over the course of a month, and then submit their selection under our very own peer review process for selection as People’s Champion.

Rules of Engagement

Recipes will be judged by the following criteria on a sliding points scale (1-5 where 5 indicates exceptional performance):

  1. Creativity – Points awarded to the chef that reinvents the selected dish and provides the most unique interpretation.
  2. Authenticity – A counterpoint to creativity, authenticity ensures each chef remains true to the spirit of the selected dish.
  3. Execution – Can the dish be reproduced by other Grimm Chefs of varying skills and experience?  Aspects of execution include time of preparation, ease of procuring ingredients, etc.
  4. Presentation – Is the dish presented in an interesting, unique, attractive and appetizing manner?
  5. Taste – Each Grimm dish will be reproduced by the other chefs and a taste comparison conducted with a panel (up to 5 individuals) of the chef’s choosing.

All criteria will be summed, and the chef receiving the highest points appointed People’s Champion until the next Physical Challenge…

Today we bring you Grimm Gourmet Physical Challenge #1 – Mole Negro

What is mole?  Mole refers to a number of sauces in traditional Mexican cuisine.  The ingredients of mole can be grouped into five distinct classes: chiles, sour (tomatillos), sweet (dried fruits and sugar), spices, and thickeners (nuts and tortillas).  There are various types of mole, so to keep the Challenge on task, we will be preparing mole negro.

Mole negro (black mole) is a Oaxacan mole that traditionally takes days to prepare and has been served at the White House for State Dinners.  Our challenge is to bring the mole negro back from the brinks of power to the people!  A mole in a day!  For some background on the People’s Mole, how about a video from the Hairy Bikers Cookbook?

Check out Part 2 here to see “a fantastic place to watch sesame seeds toast, …the seeds of our mole.”

When is the deadline?  Each mole must be submitted to the Grimm Gourmet site by May 31st, and the competition and judging will commence in early June.

Do you accept?  If not, I’ve just wasted an hour writing this stupid post.

Lazy Pizzas for Animaniacs

It wasn’t too long ago that a pack of ravenous Grimms would sprint home from school, race down the basement steps, brave the freezerburn of icy metal cages and Christmas cookie tins, and emerge victorious with a Little Charlie’s deep dish pizza.  A conflicted Grimm then faced a choice — the expediency of the microwaved Little Charlie’s, mushy steaming cheese, threat level orange on a burned roof of the mouth? Or the craft of the toaster oven, crispy flaky crust, threat level orange on missing the first 10 minutes of Animaniacs (the only cartoon with a president in its opening theme, ever)?

The true nature of a Grimm revealed itself in his wait time for Little Charlie’s.

200 grams of fat later, a still bony but sated Grimm would step into the neighborhood, fueled up for a game of capture-the-roller-basket-soccer-tag with a roving band of Leverenz’s, Nouhan’s, and Berschback’s.

Why did we love Little Charlie’s?  Little Charlie himself can explain: “Extended holding capability; Unsurpassed consistency and versatility: same great results in almost any oven; Quick, easy, no mess preparation.”

I have no idea why “extended holding capability” is a virtue in frozen pizza.  I’m assuming that it refers to heat, and if you’re “preparing” frozen pizza, you’re probably not into the whole waiting around for your food to cool thing.

But I do love a good, quick, cheap frozen pizza.  It’s just that these days, a grown-ass Grimm might keep it real with some arugula and goat cheese:

And if we’re going the Boboli route because we’ve got a little time before Boy Meets Worlds kicks off on TGIF, that same Grimm might crank up the broiler and burn the top of the cheese ever so lovingly over an ornate pattern of zucchinis:

Little Charlie’s spirit; Grimm Gourmet style.

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The End of the Day Old Fashioned

I suppose for historical record I should clarify that I now live in Washington, DC, a bittersweet state of affairs given that much of the inspiration for these posts has come from New York – its markets and restaurants, bars and bistros, food trucks and counter delis.  Simply put, there’s no better place to eat. There’s no better place think about eating.  There’s no better place to think about eating, and then eat it, and then use that as  inspiration to exercise your amateur right to get creative domestically.  I’ll miss it terribly.  But I have a backlog of entries from 507 W. 111th St., so for a few posts at least New York is alive and well.

One of the many perks of NYC living was living with a roommate who was at one point living with a mixologist.  She had indispensable advice about where to eat and drink and an indispensable ability to make a mean Old-Fashioned.  Or two.

Roommatey conversational fuel

We shared quite a few of these drinks this year, winding down after work, low light of the lamp in the living room, served with a how’d your day go or a what are you up to this weekend.  Sometimes it was just ice clinking in a glass and laughs from the Daily Show.  Every time it was a sweet, strong sip, a slow evening crawl before the rush of the 2 train to the Bronx early the next day.

This is a simple enough drink, as its title would imply.  But the craft is in the technique, igniting the oils of an orange rind for a citrusy splash and a little preparational flare.  Rest assured this is not my handiwork:

Old Fashioned Technique from Mike Wolking on Vimeo.

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Le Grand Moutardier du Pape

Le Grand Moutardier du Pape - is he shitting mustard?

Today’s special is mustard. I have some brown and yellow mustard seed (senfkorner to keep the Grimm theme alive) and some mustard powder (senfpulver) in the pantry, which combined with cold water, salt and vinegar make mustard.

Did you know Romans would grind mustard seed and mix it with wine into a paste similar to the mustard we slather on everything from sandwiches to hotdogs today? Me neither.

Did you know Pope John XXII was a mustard fiend who brought his hometown mustard-maker to the Vatican because he was homesick for his local purple mustard? Me neither.

Did you know Junipero Serra laced the entire countryside with black mustard seed to mark his trail as he explored California while establishing his Rosary of Missions, then followed a golden trail of blossoming mustard flowers back south to Mexico on the return trip? Nope, but thanks Father Mustard Seed, that’s a pretty great image.

Did you know you can make mustard in 10 minutes using 3 ingredients with a million variations and never have to purchase mass produced mustard again?  Well I did, and here’s how. Continue reading

Peasant’s Polenta – or Ugali

Polenta is peasant food for folks like us. Make it up, add the cheese, season to taste, and serve. That’s it in a nutshell.  Except I don’t use creme cheese. Use parmesan, use asiago, use something a peasant would use, something that doesn’t require refrigeration. I don’t imagine many peasants with a package of Philadelphia Creme Cheese on hand.

My recipe:

  • 4 cups of water (or 2 cups water to 2 cups stock)
  • 1 cup of polenta (not instant – the peasant kind)
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 2 gloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese (or other peasant hard cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water (or water and stock) and when rolling, slowly add the polenta stirring to mix. When all nicely stirred in (~1 minute), add the butter and crushed garlic. Turn heat to medium/medium low, and stir frequently as the polenta thickens. You’ll start to see the wooden spoon tracing in the bottom of the pan, a sign that all is going well.  When thickened (~20-25 minutes), add the cheese and mix in thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve as is, with marinara, gravy, eggs, however you want to eat it.

In East Africa, folks eat a similar dish called ugali in Kiswahili – it’s a bit grainier in texture and made from white maize.  My point: if you cut out the butter and seasoning and simply serve thickened polenta in a beautifully sculpted mound with a side of fried greens and tomato gravy, you can eat it with your hands like a Tanzanian villager for Ethnic Grimm Fest.

Anafanya ugali nzuri leo... Asante dada, tupo pamoja - karibu Ethnic Grimm Fest!

Ciambotta: a southern Italian stew, Or, the art of the fond

Last Thursday I ended up meeting some friends at a bar called Rudy’s, where every drink comes with a hot dog, unless you order two drinks, in which case you get two hot dogs.  Throw in the $5  “Stimulus Package” — a shot of Bushmills and the beer of your choice — and we’re talking about an 75% discount over what I paid for a Coors Light and a depressing cheeseburger at a Mets game on Saturday.

This was all well and good, but then there was reflection on the matter of eating ballpark food at a bar and bar food at a ballpark within days of each other.  Something had to be done.  And it was this:

The erasure of mistakes past?

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