Saturday, September 17, 2016

Week 37 - Mystery Ingredients

For the mystery ingredients challenge, someone else was supposed to go shopping for you, and then you were supposed to make a meal with what they got. We decided to model the challenge after Chopped (meaning I would have to use specific ingredients but was free to use whatever else I wanted), and on our last Trader Joe's visit, A went around the store choosing 3 random items. Since we don't have a fully stocked pantry at home like they do at Chopped, I then picked up whatever else I would need on the same trip to supplement our pantry.

The ingredients A chose were:

- 3 portabello mushroom caps ($2.49)
- 2 ears of corn ($0.98)
- 1 package (4 sausages) of weisswurst ($5.99)

The other ingredients I used, some of which I picked up on that visit and some of which we already had at home, were:

- olive oil ($0.20)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.79)
- about a cup of shelled edamame ($0.90)
- 1/2 batch of scallions ($0.65)
- lemon juice ($0.05)
- freshly ground black pepper ($0.05)
- garlic powder ($0.05)
- dried sage ($0.15)
- a couple tsp of chopped fresh parsley ($0.45)

The total for the meal was about $12.75, a little more than we would normally spend for something like this, but quality weisswurst didn't come cheap. At least the bulk of the price was from the "starring" mystery ingredients and not what I used to supplement it.

My plan was to make a saute out of the corn and sausage with some other vegetables, and then top that with some grilled mushroom caps. I wasn't sure exactly what else I would end up using, since I wasn't sure what the weisswurst tasted like, so I picked relatively mild vegetables to start with. The prep took more time than I was expecting, but there was a lot to wash and chop - mushrooms, onions, sausage, corn, scallions, and parsley. I also boiled some water and let the frozen edamame sit in the hot water while I prepped other stuff.

For the mushroom caps, I just added some olive oil to our grill pan, added the mushrooms, and brushed them with olive oil. I grilled them over medium heat for a while, and then switched it to low while I waited for the saute to finish. I figured some extra time over heat would only make them softer (or at least that was what I hoped would happen). They were on the grill pan probably for at least 20 minutes.

For the saute, I started with the onions, then added the (already fully cooked) sausage to brown, followed by the edamame and corn, and finally the scallions. After some of the sausage had warmed in the pan, I tried it to see what seasonings I should add. The main ingredients in the weisswurst were pork, veal, heavy cream, parsley, with some other seasonings including salt, white pepper, and ginger. The sausage itself was really mild in flavor but what I did notice was a very lemony aftertaste to it, much more than I was expecting. The package had advertised it as a "traditional German holiday sausage with lemon and parsley," and the lemon definitely stood out.

Although it was the predominant flavor, it got more muted once the vegetables were mixed in, so I added some more lemon juice, along with black pepper and garlic powder. I tried it, but I still didn't think it had enough flavor, so I added sage, one of my go-to spices. Had I thought of it earlier before I put in the sage, I think I might have gone with herbs de provence. I added what I thought was a little too much sage, as more shook out of the jar than I planned, but I think it ended up being the right amount. To finish off the dish, I added some fresh chopped parsley after taking the saute off the heat.

This saute was relatively simple but it came out well. I was lucky that A was nice to me, and didn't throw in some completely random ingredient like mango cereal bars or gummy candy. Part of the reason was that he knew that we'd both have to eat whatever I ended up making, so it was in both of our best interests that it not be a complete cooking experiment fail. I actually really enjoyed this challenge for making me try to think more creatively on the fly. I don't usually go into cooking for the night having no idea what flavor profile I'm using, so this was good for getting out of the box.

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