The Hungover Gourmet


Go Nuts!

So, here I am, back again after too lengthy an absence. I could blame the year-plus break in columns on a bunch of things, but work would probably be the biggest culprit.

You see, yours truly got seduced by the Dark Side and ended up having little or no creative energy for the last year or so. Luckily, things started looking up about two months ago with a creative position about ten minutes from home, realistic hours in a fun-filled environment, and the re-emergence of my "muse," we'll call it.

But enough therapy for one column.

The Patio CaddieFear not. For despite my low-tide of productive creativity (writing, photography, publishing, etc.) my food maturation has continued unabated in the last year. I've been mixing in traditional, stick-to-your ribs favorites with all-new adventures in cooking.

Frankly, the best food contraption to hit the THG offices over the last 12 months is the Patio Caddie, hands down. Since our palatial living/working quarters lack one key component (a yard), we figured that further adventures in grilling would be impossible. Mrs. Nitrate surprised us with the electric Patio Caddie one afternoon, and my cooking hasn't been the same since!

Forget what you know, or think you know, about electric grills. The PC features a round grill capable of holding: enough London Broil for six, plus several halves of summer squash; a whole chicken for slow roasting (one of my favorites); and, about two dozen fresh-from-the-bay clams courtesy of some generous houseguests.

One of the best dishes I've whipped up so far on the PC benefitted greatly from a product sample that I recently received in the mail. (One knock against e-mail: it's pretty rare that bottles of vodka show up in my In Box!)

Sorrels Pickard is a Kenny Rogers-looking country singer/songwriter who has penned tunes for the likes of Ringo Starr, Roy Clark and Slim Whitman (!). Luckily, Pickard didn't let his tunesmithing get in the way of his God-given talent: making one great peanut butter! Based on his family's own recipe, Pickard's Gourmet Peanut Butter (available in Creamy and Chunky styles) will make you forget what you ever thought you knew about peanut butter.

Forget Jif, Skippy or any other peanut butter you've ever tasted. We opened the Chunky jar for a taste test and almost didn't have enough for the recipe that follows. Mrs. Nitrate likes it so much that she'll sneak a spoonful when she's hungry for a snack, or bogart some when I'm whipping up my now-famous Thai Peanut Sauce (see below).

Sorrels Pickard Peanut ButterSorrels Pickard's Gourmet Peanut Butters are currently only available in the Western half of the United States, but I've been assured that they'll be available nationwide soon. Until then, get your friends in California or Seattle to grab some jars and send it your way. Believe me, it's worth the wait.

(a variation on Southeast Asian Peanut Dipping Sauce from Joy of Cooking)

I usually make up a large batch of this sauce and set some aside in a container in the fridge for later in the week. Here's a couple dishes we've used it for...

JUMBO PEANUT SHRIMP (appetizer or light lunch): get some jumbo shrimp or prawns, shell them but leave the tails on. About three or four per person will be enough. Take a sharp knife and split them down the middle. Wash and pat the shrimp dry, then place them in a large bowl and marinate with a little vodka or gin and some soy sauce for about an hour or two in the fridge. Spray wooden skewers with high heat cooking oil and place one shrimp on each skewer, threading them in a "wave" fashion. Baste the shrimp with the sauce and place on a medium-high grill. Close the cover and wait about three minutes. Brush the shrimp with the sauce and turn over. Close the cover and grill about three minutes. Serve hot with a dish of sauce for dipping.

PEANUT CHICKEN (light main course): wash and pat dry skinless, boneless chicken breasts (10-12 ounces each). Salt and pepper the breasts and marinate covered in vodka, gin or white wine with a splash of good soy sauce for about an hour or two in the fridge. Reseason and baste with the sauce just prior to placing on a medium grill. Grill for about 8 minutes on a covered grill, baste and turn over, grilling for about 6 minutes. Test for doneness: Chicken should be opaque with no traces of pink at its thickest part. Serve with a dish of sauce for each diner.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 small, fresh chili pepper, seed and minced
1 cup water
1/4 cup good quality soy sauce (don't use mass market makes a difference)
1/3 cup Sorrels Pickard Chuny Gourmet Peanut Butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped mint leaves)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and minced chili and stir for a few seconds. Add the water, soy sauce, peanut butter and honey and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint leaves. Let cool and transfer to a container. Place in fridge. Let the sauce come to room temperature before serving. Keeps for about a week in the fridge. Makes 1.5 cups.

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