Friday, March 20

Great Expectations and Yams

There are certain things that inevitably make me happy. Planning a trip somewhere new. Getting long emails from old friends. Eating trout in a lovely mountain-side shack. Seeing pictures of a frijolito looking shockingly human. Watching a hip, tough-looking twenty-something Mexican boy carry around his bag that says "Be the Prom Queen" (this one makes me happy over and over again).

I've been fortunate enough to have several of these pleasing moments this past week. Whether they were pleasant surprises, ridiculous things that cross your path, or the rare ones--a wave of inspiration that results in something that actually matches up to your imagination, they make me so satisfied and content.

Imagination and expectations have been something I've always reveled in and simultaneously struggled with furiously. Planning things (I think I've mentioned my obsessive party planning) and picturing the way things will be is half the enjoyment, but sometimes if the outcome doesn't match up it can be quite crushing.

When I was a kid, my family had this great alphabet cookbook that we got from sending in flour proofs of purchase (Gold Medal...? That's flour right?). It had an "A" is for Apple Pie recipe to alphabet breakdown accompanied by these fantastic illustrations that I would drool over.

"H" was for Honey Comb Cookies (or something to that effect) and had a picture of a beehive, drops of honey, and the most delicious-looking, golden cookies. They looked like the cookies that the Berenstain Bears were always eating and with the alphabet cookbook they were within my sweet-butter hungry reach.

I built up in my mind that these cookies would be everything I loved about honey and cookies--which was no small feat mind you. But with an illustration like they had and the Berenstain Bears' apparent enjoyment, how could they not be?

The cookies were made. They were soft, not crisp. They didn't carry the buttery honey crunch of which I'd dreamed. They did not remotely resemble the cookies that Brother and Sister Bear ate. It was crushing. I had dreamed of honeycomb transformed into something less messy and sticky and more buttery (almost like a honey shortbread. . .mmm which gives me another idea), but all I got was a bland, dark brown (couldn't even be called tarnished gold) rounds. I even had a real name, not just my familial relationship title, and I still couldn't get the cookies I wanted? That's when I first bitterly understood the obnoxious advice "I know it's not fair, but sometimes the world's not fair." Oh, didn't I know it.

Years later, when my friend Jess and I were touring London, I think I found what I was hoping for in those cookies in a British candy bar she introduced me too (and has my eternal thanks for). Even with this eventual resolution, since the early honey-cookie disappointment I've tried (and generally failed) to have a little restraint in my recipe hopes.

So last week when I had a couple of yams I needed to use up and decided to concoct a coconut curry around them, I tried not to get too carried away with my expectations.

The recipe was inspired by a butternut squash curry that my former filthy, Louisville-hippie mansionmate, Liz, would talk about. Not talk really, but have a Pentecostal-worthy spell about. I decided that the yams would be a nice starchy staple-substitute for the squash and could be balanced with some poblanos and calabacitas (similar to zucchini) to give it a little green and crunch.

My plan was initially bogged down by thick, syrupy coconut cream which I had purchased thinking it was coconut milk. I was able to remedy this by mixing a small ammount of the cream with some chicken stock to cut the sugar, but retain the coconut flavor, so keeping that in mind, use this recipe loosely, because I would recommend using coconut milk and maybe adding just a little honey. In spite of this setback, it turned out delightfully, I was incredibly pleased that it turned out as delicious as I'd imagined--serious catharsis for my experience with those damnable honey cookies.

Yellow Coconut Curry with Yams
4 Tbsp oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 chiles de arbol, crushed (keep the seeds--easiest to crush straight in the saucepan)
2 yams, peeled and cubed
2 poblano peppers, seeds and stems removed, cut into large chunks
2 medium zucchini (I'm not ready to introduce you to another "mystery" yet.), cut into chunks.
1 can of coconut milk*
1 C of chicken stock*
2 Tbsp honey*
3 Tbsp yellow curry powder
*like I mentioned, I accidentally purchased coconut cream and had to make adjustments for that--so dip your fingahs in and figgah out how much you need of what.

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add cloves, onion, and chiles. Saute for 1 minute. Add yams and saute for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep yams from sticking to the pan. Add the poblanos and zucchini saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and turn heat to medium-low. Cook until yams are desired tenderness--15-20 minutes. Serve with rice and flatbread.

I didn't have any, but I think some basil would also go nicely in this dish, mmm and maybe some raisins and almonds. Oh man, I got to go eat!

1 comment:

  1. Your honey cookies made me think of the treat the maple waffle cookie they have here. I don't believe it's Irish, but they sell them a lot of places here

    Yum. I have seen some fun dinners made in some of these hostels. Makes me want to get creative.