Sunday, March 30, 2008

Som Tam

Or, as we like to call it, "Sometimes."

Okay, I'm really pissed because I made some delicious food last night but the photos came out hell of shitteh so I don't want to show them to you. I made the dish I was going to enter into this month's Joust, which I made only because the ingredients inspired me: seared sea scallops with kaffir lime-lemongrass gastrique and coconut foam, served with green papaya-chayote slaw (som tam) and fragrant jasmine rice. I even taught myself about soy lecithin and got all molecular gastronomy on that shit! And I served the whole thing surf-and-turf style, with medallions of venison tenderloin that I rubbed with homemade green curry paste and drizzled with a pho-scented jus! It was delicious, high-end Thai food. I'll make it again, but I just want to go on the record to say I thought of that dish.

The only good photos I got were before Tammy and Steve arrived. I wanted to shoot some of it once it was plated, but with every second that I contemplated a photo, the food was getting colder. I rushed two shots that didn't turn out, and decided to post the salad instead.

Som Tam (green papaya salad)
I made this my own way, using shredded chayote for some added green flavor and crunch. I also used crushed papaya seed for a bit of pepperiness. In Thailand chayote is called fuk maew. Yes, this looks like it should sound kinda like "fuck meow".

1 green papaya (I used an underripe strawberry papaya), seeded
1 chayote, seeded
2 bird's eye chilis, seeded
1 clove garlic
1 tsp of the papaya seeds
1/2 tsp pink peppercorn
juice and zest from one lime
2 tbsp palm sugar (brown sugar can substitute)
1/4 c rice vinegar
few squirts fish sauce

Run the papaya and chayote through the grating attachment of your food processor (or you can do it on a regular cheese grater, or julienne them). Transfer to a large bowl.

Prepare the dressing: Mince the chili and garlic, crush the papaya seed and pink peppercorn together in a mortar and pestle and stir together with the lime, vinegar and fish sauce. Add the palm sugar and heat in the microwave for about 30 second to dissolve the sugar. Use fish sauce to salt the dressing as needed. Toss dressing with papaya and chayote and let sit for at least 15 minutes so the flavors can mesh.

Okay, I have another disclaimer: this is the beginning of the busiest time of year in my field. I worked about 60 hours last week (in the field 8 hours/day, then come home and work on writing an Environmental Impact Report 'til 10pm every night), and that's why I haven't been posting real food. I ate both delivered and frozen pizza for dinner last week. Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for California to conduct rare plant surveys (our Sacramento branch is short on botanists right now), and will be gone all week. Home on weekends, rinse and repeat.

I'll try to get some good stories of road food, but that will probably be the bent I hafta take until May, when I get to come home for more than just weekends. I get a $35 per diem for meals, so I imagine tales of fast food and truck stops will ensue. Being alone in a hotel gives me plenty of time to write, but finding something to write about will be the challenge.


Norm Schoen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm Schoen said...

Hey, maybe you could do a down and dirty Rachael Ray take off called: "Heather on $35 dollars a day".
Although I think that Rachel is spending some "quality time" in the walk-in cooler with these chefs (if you catch my drift....nudge, nudge...wink, wink) to get some of her deals at the prices she claims to.

Heather said...

Uh, oh, someone accidentally double-posted! ;)

The lucky thing about Rachael Ray is, since she doesn't have a neck she can't get choked.

Pixie said...

Heather, first your salad sounds very creative and delicious. Second, it sucks that when photos don't come out the way you expected them to (You should check out all my crappy photos when I first started blogging)- I would have loved to have your recipe, so will look forward to the time you make it again and write it up.

What I like best about reading your blog is your honesty. Thanks for keeping it real!

Peter M said...

Simpatico indeed but I differ on the foam fad. What's the big deal about foam on your looks like the chef spit on the plate is what it is.

I've returned a meal at a restaurant because it had "foam" thanks, this looks like hork!

Your salad however, is refreshing and throw some chicken in and it's meal.

Emiline said...

So much to discuss in this post.

That first picture looks like a work of art.

I wouldn't mind looking at your pictures. We all know how that goes with pictures not turning out. But I understand if you don't want to post them.

You are able to get your hands on kaffir limes and fresh lemongrass? I need to move to Portland.
I appreciate your coconut foam, even though some people don't. I wouldn't know how to do that.

I will miss your posts while you're busy and away....hopefully you're bringing in the big bucks with your job.
Hope the frozen pizza was good. Totinos? I like Da' Baron.

Peter M said...

Post Script..if anyone can find material to write about, it's you.

Enjoy the road trip, explore fast food from independant diners and relish in the fact that none of them will serve you up foam!;)

Cynthia said...

I can't wait for you to make the dish again and show us the pics, it sounds absolutely fantastic. Just look at that salad!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Travel for work sucks!!! Although for me it would at least be a break from the mundane Mom things. LOL!

You should have posted for the Joust anyways. We all know not all photos turn out. It sounded so delicious and creative.

Whenever I cook my dinners I have started to think "wow Heather would never make that...I need to bump it up a huge notch", Very inspiring!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Oh yeah and did you see the crap I posted for the Daring Baker Challenge. I don't think your crappy pictures can hold a candle to that!

Peter G said...

As you know by now I love thai inspired food and the som tum looks great Heather. And the coconut foam certainly puts it in the hig end thai food category. Good luck with your "expedition" and I'm sure you will give us a great insight into diner food! Looking forward to it!

Bellini Valli said...

Not all recipes are judged by their photos...we have imaginations as well. I can imagine your dish and it sounds amazing to me...very creative:D I hope that you entered it in the Joust!!!!!!!!

glamah16 said...

I get a lousy per diem as well. Your dish sounds great, just wish you had more pics. Safe travels. I'll be gone too towards the weeks end.

Heather said...

Pixie - If nothing else, I try to always keep it real. :)

Peter the Greek - I think foams as just like any other protein matrix - do you gag at the thought of meringue? (Thanks for the PS - I will try to bring something interesting if ever I can)

Emiline - Thanks! You really need to find out where the Asians in your town shop. That's the hot spot. The pizza was Trader Joe's.

Cynthia - You are such a doll - thanks! The salad was very Caribbean-esque. :)

Judy - I'm tryna look on the bright side - I can escape from the hail storms for a week to basically get paid to hike around the Great Valley in 70-degree weather and look at cool plants. Not a bad living.

Petah in Oceania - I will try to get shots of something that you just can't find in Australia, just for you. :)

Valli - I might just wish everyone else good luck and not be a Nader! :P

Coco - You have safe travels too, darlin'. I'll make that dish again - it was a keeper! :D

Anonymous said...

To foam or not to foam, that is the question!

I have nothing against it as long it adds something to the plate. I had a few experiences in restaurants where it was like.. dishwashing liquid? So it depends on the cook i guess.

I worked in a fancy restaurant in NY years ago where we would make a very concentrated shellfish broth, turn it into a foam and serve it with a langoustine risotto, it was fantastic.

The Som Tam with the fuck meow sounds great! haha

michelle @ thursday night smackdown said...

cry me a goddamn river, why dontcha.

Tif said...

I love Som Tam, but I'm spoiled. We have an Asian market near our apartment that sells the papaya already shredded. One time though, they were out of the pre-shredded papaya and I learned from one of the kindly older ladies at the market that you should soak the papaya in water for about an hour after grating it. She said that it pulls out any bitterness that could be hiding in the fruit. It didn't sound like you had any problem with that, but I thought I'd pass on the knowledge. :)

Great idea for the joust by the way! I wish I had thought of it myself.


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

OK, I'll believe you about the scallops and all your jiggery-pokery. I think.

The fuck meow salad looks great. I need to serve that up just so that I can announce it to my fellow diners.

And I'm sure you'll find something to write about over the next few weeks. I mean, c'mon... If it's any consolation, I don't have a kitchen for the next 6 weeks (it's being gutted and rebuilt), so I'm in the same kind of boat. 'Cept without the travelling. So no whining, lady.

peter said...

I'm going to start writing posts about the insanely gorgeous food I made and then act like my camera broke, or the dog ate it. It's genius. Thanks for the inspiration!

(There will be foam.)

Catherine Wilkinson said...

It's so retarded when the photo ops don't turn out. Sometimes I feel like I'm a papparazzi trying to get a shot of Britney's crotch.
It's dicey, man.
Hey, I'd appreciate motel thoughts! I'd read what you had to say about the back of a cereal box!

We Are Never Full said...

man, that's totally happened to me before. sooooo annoying. i also sometimes am so friggin' hungry that i can't be arsed fiddling with the camera before i eat. i get pissed off later... but for the moment I'm happy to be chewing. your one pic looks great though!

Núria said...

I hate it when these things happen to me too!!! But the good thing is that if it was so delicious you will repeat the dish and we'll get to see the pictures!!! :D
I only photograph food when it's the 3 of us... if there's people invited then I don't... too much stress!!!
Sure you will come back with trip anecdotes :D
Take it easy Heather... suave, suave!

Leigh said...

yep yep yep i hear ya. All too often have i slaved over a hot beer all day only to get poor photos. It sucks. Its all in the lighting, i have been informed!!

Helen said...

Oh god I hear your pain! There is nothing more frustrating than being in a rush to take pictures and then not having them come out. That drives me crazy! I think you should post the pictures anyway, it's not like we don't all know what it's like - but on the other hand, I don't know if I could bring myself to do it either! Anyway, the salad looks delicious.

Simply...Gluten-free said...

Yum! This salad looks great.

Bo Stenberg said...

Brilliant site, over my culinary horizon but I'm used to it. I just now realized how much alimony I'd paid to bitches who were insanely hilarious. May you be flambeed in hell, etc.

This, on the other hand, may brighten your day (or you may already know)--"bird's eye chilli" in Thai (anglicized) is Prik Kee Noo. Prik is chilli (yesss), Kee is shit and Noo is bird.

Yeah--Bird Shit Chilli. Confirms everything you were afraid was true about the relationship of the facts to semantic 'enhancement' back in the real world.

You wouldn't happen to know if Phyllis Diller could cook...?