I often finding myself cooking for guests who don't share my affinity for spicy food. That usually means either cooking two batches or cooking just one batch and topping mine with fresh peppers. In the world of spicy cooking this might be cheating but in this case, the isolation between the soup and spicy crunch of fresh jalapenos couldn't have been played better.
Tortellini is a classic stuffed pasta shaped in the image of Venus' navel. In this dish, it's paired with sausage, porcini mushrooms and fennel. It's served in a light cream sauce with parmesan cheese, arugula and a little heat from ghost pepper powder.
Cooking Disasters: A Plunge in the Fryer
Don't try this at home.
Everyone has stories about kitchen disasters. Loose caps, too much hot sauce or mislabeled packages all lead to funny and sometimes painful cooking disasters. Most kitchen blow-ups are harmless but there are some that are downright dangerous. In fact my worst kitchen disaster could have been a serious tragedy but I got lucky - really lucky.
When I was 17 I worked at Steak Escape in the food court at a local mall. One day at around 11 o'clock I was blanching the potatoes that I had just finished cutting for the french fries. I still remember what time it was and you'll understand why when we get to the kicker.
By using one of those wall mounted fry cutters I was able to turn 100 pounds of potatoes into uncooked french fries using nothing more than brute force. My left arm was throbbing and weak from the fry cutting workout but I still had to blanch them in the fryer one batch at a time.
I had already blanched several batches and I was just about to put another into the fryer when I heard a small voice behind me. I turned around and there was a beautiful young girl on the other side of the counter. She was asking me for the time.
In my mind I was scrambling to be cool; on the outside I was perfectly smooth. In fact, I was utterly convinced that it wasn't any other way. I was going to blow this chick's mind once I devised a suave reply to her rudimentary question.
Naturally, I was wearing my latex gloves which were still slick with potato juice and oil. So, with typical 17 year old bravado I planted my left hand and leaned to support my weight on my fry crushing, pumped up, manly left arm. After all, I needed to look truly debonair as my hand slid on the edge of the fryer and went straight into the fry oil.
I'm not exactly sure of the details at this point. I'm pretty sure panic had set in and my mind was trying to shift gears as quickly as possible. Although I received no reports that I screamed like a woman, I still think it's a possibility. In fact it's entirely possible that I invented several new obscenities on the spot.
I have no idea what that means but it's probably what new obscenities would sound like. My brain shifted from Don Juan to Bobcat Goldthwait in a split second. It was the type of traumatic situation that tricks your brain into thinking ten minutes had passed when in reality it was less than a second.
I pulled my hand out of the fryer as quickly as it went it in. I remember everything very clearly at this point forward. I held my gloved hand in front of my face for a moment. The fingers of the glove were about 6 inches long were and getting longer. The glove was melting right off my hand. I managed to pull it off and plunge my hand into a bucket of lemonade with one flowing movement.
Through some miracle I was not seriously burned. It wasn't any worse than a burn from a hot shower. It was very fortunate that I was able to react so quickly following my brief Bobcat Goldthwait-esque freakout. I was also fortunate that I was only blanching the fries which means the heat was much lower than full-on frying.
I had, for obvious reasons, all but forgotten about the girl that had inspired such a graceful dip in the fryer. Surely she had been impressed by my leap to action in a crisis situation or by the official nature of my Steak Escape Polo shirt. It wasn't until I pulled my hand out of the lemonade that I thought to turn around. I was curious at this point as to whether she was looking on in horror or on the floor laughing.
It turned out to be neither of those possibilities. I think once she realized I was alright she found mercy in her heart and simply walked away. I've since managed to work out several other moves that are much more elegant with which to impress the ladies. And they are the real thing. I do all my own stunts.