Sometimes it’s just not a masterpiece…
July 26, 2011
Sometimes you make a dish that doesn’t really work (that’s the royal ‘you’ – employed here to refer to me). Despite giving it your best, the end result is bland, unsatisfying, or maybe even kind of gross. Lately vinegar seems to be the bane of my existence. Okay, I suppose that is a bit of an exaggeration – let’s just say that vinegar has been making things difficult in my cooking life. I love vinegar, and use red wine vinegar in Fattousch salad, balsamic vinegar in insalata caprese, sherry vinegar in bruschetta, apple cider vinegar in coleslaw – all with great results. But I seem to be overdoing it in my pickle recipes, or vastly overcompensating and under doing it. And I’ve had two less than successful vinegar-related attempts at making a sauce for the Pappardelle’s Pacific Rim pasta I got at the Farmers’ Market.
The Pacific Rim pasta blend has a mix of of different types of pasta with Garlic, Cayenne, Cilantro, Curry Chive, and Lemon Ginger flavors. There is a note on their website that says with sesame oil, this pasta makes a ‘simple, yet delectable side dish’. I, however, wanted to make more of an entrée. So instead of listening to their wise suggestion, I glanced at what types of things were in the more complex recipes on the site, and decided I’d make something up on my own. The first sauce I attempted was made of sesame oil, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, and hoisin sauce. Now this one didn’t actually taste bad, but it completely overtook the flavor of the pasta, and I realized as we were eating it, that I had pretty much made a nice Americanized Chinese lunch buffet dish. The sauce was nice and thick, and very sweet. Hmmm…Not completely what I was going for.
The second time, I planned to use some yellow squash, shiitake mushrooms, red pepper, garlic, and onion, with a nice, light sauce that would let the pasta flavors shine through. Originally I planned to serve it with some grilled shrimp, but it was one of those days at work, and I was pressed for time, so I decided to use frozen edamame (well, thawed frozen edamame, of course). I had some extra red chard, so I got that all prepped, and stuck it in the fridge while I prepared the rest of the dish.
For the sauce I started with oyster sauce and a bit of soy sauce. It needed something to brighten it up, so I added white wine vinegar. And it actually tasted pretty good when I tried just a tiny bit of it with a spoon. And it might have even been okay had I not dumped the entirety of what I made (about 5 Tbsp worth) into my sautéed vegetables. It didn’t reduce down enough – and was already too concentrated a flavor as it was. After eating an entire dish, it was vinegar overload. And I completely forgot the red chard that I was so careful to prepare. Okay then – note to self: If I buy Pacific Rim pasta again, just a bit of sesame oil is the thing to use.
And I learned a couple of good lessons – be careful with the vinegar and you really need to dial it back so you don’t overpower flavored pasta with things that are too strong. Plus, it wasn’t all bad – I had the best success I’ve ever had cooking mushrooms – on medium high heat and using sesame oil which has a higher smoke point than olive oil. So that’s a positive. And, it was rather pretty:
I was delighted to find that one of my new favorite food blogs, The Table of Promise, is featuring a blog carnival on this very topic! So see, this wasn’t a bad food week after all!