Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sichuan, Rock Stars, and Seafood

This week was a bit unusual in that I actually left my apartment on Thursday (a work night!) to go see some friends in a band play their first paying gig at a bar in fabulous Billerica. They totally rocked (in a kick-ass 80's metal cover band kind of way), but I will give them anonymity here in case they are shy:
Sarah and I, along with a couple coworkers, decided to find dinner in Billerica before the show. After recovering from my shock/horror/indignation when somebody suggested that we eat at a certain chain that rhymes with "Billy's," a search of the interweb turned up Sichuan Gourmet, a (relatively) authentic Chinese restaurant not too far from the club where the band would be playing. I don't expect much from Chinese restaurants in small suburbs, and that's OK with me because I actually sometimes enjoy trashy Americanized Chinese food almost as much as awesome authentic stuff. In this case, though, I was really pleasantly surprised. Sarah and I ordered two awesome dishes to share, while the boys ordered these relatively boring chicken dishes:
The first of our awesome dishes was the Fish Fillets in Spicy Chili Oil. This is the dish that got me addicted to Sichuan food when I first tried it at a restaurant in Chinatown in LA (thanks, Qi!), and thus is the dish that I order in every single Sichuan restaurant I check out. This version didn't have the beautifully painful spice that the versions I've had in LA and Melbourne featured... but this isn't Chinatown. It's Billerica. Given that, and the fact that it was still totally delicious, I was pretty happy.
The other dish was the Cumin and Chili Dry Lamb. This dish was like something that had been designed exactly for my palate. I have a little spice grinder at home that I load with cumin seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, and a little sea salt, and I use that to season all kinds of things because it is pretty much my favorite flavor combination. Give me some lamb coated in those flavors (with the spice increased a couple notches, as it was here) and I am definitely a happy camper. Yummy.
I seemed to be in a seafood mood yesterday. I had been planning to do up some soy-and-ginger-marinated cedar-planked salmon for dinner, but couldn't resist the $2/pound mussels when I was buying groceries... I thought the mussels would be a good lunch, and cooked them Mark-Bittman-Style (no added liquid, just letting the juices from the mussels form an intensely flavored sauce with some sautéed shallot, ginger, garlic, and curry powder). I took a picture of the ingredients:
but, given that it was 4pm by the time I sat down to eat lunch (shopping was a bit of an adventure this weekend), I managed to forget to take one of the finished product... You'll have to take my word for it that it was awesome. Dinner was my first attempt at cedar-planked salmon served up on a bed of steamed bok choi.
The texture was absolutely fantastic (moist and tender), but I would have liked a bit more smokiness. I may have over-soaked the plank (since my 4pm lunch delayed dinner). I will definitely keep working on this one, though, because this attempt was pretty great even if it wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be.
Having gotten the seafood cravings out of my system, today I decided to go with something from the red meat genre. I made a Moroccan spice rub for a couple steaks, and also used it as a component in a yogurt sauce (along with greek yogurt, roasted serranos, and minced scallions). This was all supposed to go in a pita with some lettuce, but I didn't have the inclination to heat my oven (and, thus, my kitchen) for pita-making today, so I turned this into a salad instead. It was really light and fresh-tasting, and I think I actually prefer it this way to when I've made it before with the pitas... Not very beautiful to look at, but seriously delicious...
Other than all the grocery-shopping and subsequent cooking, the weekend was rather uneventful... which, after what ended up feeling like a pretty long week, was a good thing. Already looking forward to the next one...

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