Sunday, September 27, 2015

And Now, The Day Is Done

Three months ago, I bought a food truck.

Today, WanderLunch (yes, shameless FB plug) opened for its first day of service.

To quote the oft-quoted Jerry Garcia, what a long, strange trip it's been.

Frankly, I thought this day would actually never come.  Between truck repairs, licensing issues, and general business and food information gathering, I felt like I was playing around for the longest time.

Until today, that is.

After spending much of Thursday and Friday working on food truck preparation, we rolled out and pulled up to the parking lot of the Cellar Peanut Pub at 8:00 a.m.  Our first order was taken at 10:55 a.m.

In the end, five hours later, we'd sold 75 sandwiches, and poured a couple dozen cups of Cream of Tomato soup.  The food truck has no cooling system, so we sweated it out in 90-some degree kitchen heat.

And it was so much fun.  We played music, we joked around, we talked with people.  Yeah, I'm wiped the hell out.  My legs hurt, my rear end hurts, and my eyes are tired.

But, damn, it was one of the best days of my life.  I have some pictures.  Some I've borrowed from folks on Facebook.

Early morning, parking the truck, the Cellar in the background
The menu chalkboard, artist credit goes to Kirby Nelson

Ann Hafar (FB) ordered the "Midwest of Eden", a Granny Smith apple-white cheddar combination
Ruthi Rogers treated herself to the California Dreamin', a pepper jack, bacon, tomato, and avocado grilled cheese

A very satisfying day, indeed.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Might Be The Biggest Week of My Life

Yes, I just invoked *that* level of intensity.

This week is the "make-or-break" week.  Well, no, okay, not really...but it's pretty damned important.

First of all, my mobile unit business (aka Food Truck) is very nearly all-systems-go.  One last visit to the truck doctors and WanderLunch will be ready for its Kickoff Week.

Yeah, no more messing about.  Time to get real.  Or something.

To start, though, I'm catering a private business function on Tuesday, and the menu looks like this:

Hummus and Vegetable Cups
Butternut Squash and Sage Pesto Bruschetta
Caprese Cocktail Meatballs
Dulce De Leche Bars
Mini-Strawberry Mousse Parfaits

For visuals, this is what I mean:


my private archives

The request was for simple fingerfoods, and the time frame is 4-6:30.  Early evening...which to me, screams for light fare.  Hence, the above.  There's quite a bit I can make ahead and prepare in advance, which will make Crunch Time no so crunchy.

That's Tuesday.  Let me get through it first, and then I'll come back and tell you about the rest of it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Curry For You, Curry For Me...

Here's your history lesson today.  It's well-known that India was under British control for many years before the middle of last century.  And who knew? Imperialism is a two-way street.  While many Indians adapted and assimilated the English, the Brits found certain aspects of Indian life appealing as well...namely, their cuisine.  Dishes like curry and chicken tikka masala are as common in England as fish and chips.  It's quite interesting, though, that the Indian cuisine popularity did not quite extend across the pond here in the US.

Oh, to be sure, curry is ubiquitous here in the States, but not to the extreme that it is over the Sea.

I think most people associate curry with spice, and that is true.  However, the spice is different from say, a Mexican habañero spice.  Curries contain spices like cumin, cinnamon, ginger...which give it a more "warm" spiciness as opposed to a complete burning off of your taste buds.  We've been to Indian restaurants though that ask us what "level" of spice we want in our dish...and extra chilli here and there ratchet up the heat factor significantly, but it's not necessary.

That's good news for our house.  We have about three different levels of heat tolerance here at Chez Nelson.  Kirby, the 14 year old, love spice.  The spicier, the better, is her mantra.  I'm about one level below her, and the menfolk are somewhere down the scale.  Elliot, the youngest, prefers as little heat as possible.

Good deal.  In a dish like curry, I personally think it's best to keep the heat at a minimum...then the curry and cinnamon flavors prevail.

During my recent trip out West, my aunt gifted me with several "pamphlet" style cookbooks.  Most of them are crap, some make me laugh ("Bodybuilding Meals For Children"), but a couple are interesting.  The curry recipe I used was from a Bon Appetit book called "Tastes of the World".

Let's discuss it, shall we?

But first, let me show you my new toy.  It's the first Cuisinart appliance I have ever owned.  Actually, it's a business purchase for WanderLunch, but of course, I must test it out.

And it works beautifully.  And simply.  Yes!

This is the beginning stage of the curry process.  Blend a bunch of yummy things together for the curry sauce.  I was disappointed this particular recipe only included red pepper flakes, curry powder, and cinnamon...after all, the beauty of curry is the complex combination of spices.  Alas.

Because I'm a fan of garlic and ginger, I might have had a heavy hand when measuring out these ingredients.  But, it's my party and I'll cry if I want to!

About to be pulsed into the great beyond.  Another issue I had with the recipe comes in here.  It instructs me to coat the chicken thighs with the paste that results from the processing, and then brown the thighs in a med-heat skillet before the braising.

However, upon browning said thighs, I noticed the paste was burning quicker than the thighs were browning.  Made the chicken seemed a little burnt, it did.  And I'm not a real fan of that asthetic.  So, for future, brown the chicken with only a bit of salt and pepper and add the paste to the coconut milk, broth, etc later.

Curry is a great dish that requires two separate cooking techniques.  First, the sautéeing of the chicken, then the simmering/stewing of the chicken in the curry sauce.  Each technique imparts a special little level of flavor.
While the curry simmered away in the skillet for a couple of hours, we had time to make the jasmine rice and naan flatbread.  If you've never had naan, you should some day before you die.  Think of those Subway flatbreads, but thicker, more pillowy, and chewier.  And easy too.

I know, I know.  I missed taking pictures of the stewing, etc.  I get SO distracted, you know?

At any rate, this is what the dish looked like at the end of it all.  I used whole, bone-in thighs, and the meat practically fell apart...perfect mix-in with the rice and sauce.  Oh, yeah.  The sauce.  When the chicken reached the appropriate temp, I popped them into my oven (on the lowest setting), then I let the sauce boil down and get thicker (about a half-hour, mayhap).

And naturally, nothing goes with an Indian dish than an India Pale Ale.