Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sizzle Burn and Smoke

I wasn’t even aware there was that particular hole in my life. Looking back I can say that it was definitely not a chasm of a gape, all echo and need to be filled, but more like the spot left after a book is withdrawn from a shelf. There is evidence of a departure, but in itself the action quiet and therefore of seemingly little relevance. Nonetheless- and this may be a bold statement, I feel as though a subtle dimension has been added back to my life expanding the colors of my Crayola pack from 96 to about 102. What is the commotion, the sizzle to my wizzle, the Blizzard Blue to my Carnation Pink? It is what other folks besides me have been talking about since 1995, namely the formidable and affordable George Foreman Grill.

Now I like food related gadgets and gizmos, doo dads and wing-dings as much as the next cook. But two moves later, with my ever reducing kitchen-- truth be told, the last accessory I acquired was a Microplane in 2001. There was also a very nice rice paddle made from coconut shell in 2005. Simple compact efficient niceties that make the food prep a bit more pleasurable. For the moment gone are the hours of elaborate cooking in the kitchen. With the realities of having four other people with varying knife skills prepare my food; my culinary adventures are curbed a bit. There will be no pizzelle making, no homemade pâté wrapped in caul fat, no interpretive dance in spun sugar, in fact nothing that requires the attention, adept precision, or sequins of a Cirque de Soleil acrobat.

But similar to the sentiment expressed when a friend mused over how shocked he was when he donned his first pair of glasses and realized that trees weren’t just round lollipops, but were actually made up of individual leaves; I too realized that over time my cooking had become somewhat generic and flabby the result of a multiplicity of shortcuts. With the first auditory sear of poultry on heat, a satisfying amalgamation of primal fire, the thrill of the hunt, and immediacy; my heart quickened a little. In the attempts to create a cooking process which would not befuddle any caregiver regardless of whether they had ever cut a carrot stick, heard of an avocado, or baked brownies from scratch, I have unwittingly manufactured a defensive style of cooking- anticipating the lowest culinary skill set and simplifying every aspect of the process. In the absence of nuance and feel, at the worst my food has become ponderous and removed from its source. Aliveness, spontaneity and panache sacrificed to the gods of ease.

Sent from up above, the lean clean grilling machine is a dream when it comes to efficiency coupled with the ability to approximate the sensatory experience of barbeque. Over high heat, food is quickly seared driving moisture in, ensuring a moist and flavorful convincingly grill-marked product. Yet there is no danger of smoke inhalation or teary blood shot eyes, no sunburned necks, or the tempting ingestion of charred carcinogenic bits. Short cooking times and that clever clamshell design mean that doneness is easy to check and difficult to overdo. Perhaps secretly best of all the non stick heating plates are effortlessly wiped clean rather than hopelessly accruing an additional layer of grime to be ignored until later, which is perfect coming from a gal who admittedly feels that food mess interferes with eating pleasure. Save the white molded plastic design which is more postmodern convenience than rustic outdoor charm and the absence of lingering wood flavor which could be ameliorated by a drop of liquid smoke, this accessory fits that unnamed space left behind.

The creative process at best takes one further than point A to point B; it also creates a story, a place to inhabit more fully. I am slightly embarrassed to say, but my GFG of infomercial fame does just that. After weeks of excitedly formanizing chicken cutlets, tofu steaks, veggie burgers, mushroom caps, ham and cheese Panini, and my latest mu-shu eggrolls, I was not surprised to read about the grill’s popularity in an NPR article on hidden kitchens. The cooking accessory has filled an unexpected niche amongst college students, inhabitants of shelters/single room occupancies and those that are homeless. Like a Murphy bed, this easy to use invention becomes a working kitchen which can later be conveniently stowed away. In a different way yet similar to me, this tool has opened up the cooking experience to those who have intentionally or unfortunately been quietly removed from the hearth. Listening to the crackle and sizzle of my modern day Promethean Fire I am enfolded into the heart of community, back into the warmth and the glow of that which I love best.

Mu-Shu Ham Thing: Formanizing has inspired a flurry of ideas tossed onto the grill and served up fast. There has been little time to assess whether or not the ideas ultimately pass the so-what test. This creation is nod to an impressive ham sandwich eaten at the Everson Museum long ago. It is also homage to hoisin sauce, mu-shu pork, and finger food served up hot. Authentic it is not.

Mung bean sprouts
Shredded carrot
Slivered green onion
Crushed garlic
Sliced ham
Sliced shitake mushroom
2 eggs

Eggroll wrapper
Grapeseed oil
Hoisin sauce

Directions: Take up a large pan and heat it up good. Add a little oil, toss in some shredded veggies and ham until desired doneness is achieved. Crack an egg or two over the top and vigorously stir until golden webs appear. Do not overcook. Stir in a small dollop of hoisin sauce. Cool off mixture. Heat up Foreman grill. Place one eggroll wrapper on a clean surface, pointy side facing your bellybutton. Spoon veggie filling into a log shape in the center and wrap envelope style or eggroll style (there are diagrams on the back of the package to assist). Lightly brush the packages with oil, place on the grill and press the top down. Peek every once in awhile to get the gist of how fast it is cooking. The wrapper will get golden brown and crispy. Eat up with some more hoisin sauce drizzled on top or dunked in a quickie soy- vinegar sauce. Take that Rachel Ray.


jbir said...

Having read the George Forman biography, he would be so proud of your fine culinary experiments on his grill. :-)
Wow....who knew of all the possibility out there to be "formanized". Grill on, chickie.

Anh said...

yes, the grill. I have used it extensively during this period. I love the idea of your sandwich, too. Something delicious and simple!

Gattina said...

After reading your great post, for those who never own a grill will immediately go get one! And I'd never imagine cooking the wrappers in such way, really lovely! Calli, I'm just back from New Jersey, although the holiday's season is ended, there is always a time for your better-late-than-never fruitcake. Will try it this weekend.

Ellie said...

Honestly, the George Foreman people should immediately hire you to write their ad material - after reading this exquisite post, I am absolutely ITCHING to run out and buy one even though its *checks the time* 3am in the morning! I'm glad that your latest acquisition has brought such joy to you :)

P.S. Still interested in a redesign? My timetable is free, but not sure for how long as I'm in the midst of job interviews, so you've got me for a week or two if you want me!

nansita said...

If it's in your kitchen, it's gotta be good! A few years ago I finally added a Toast-R-Oven to my appliances and thought it would see more kitchen-hours than it has. It's OK for heating up day-old cornbread or slices of pizza, but I'm not roasting any potatoes or small birds in it -- it smokes! Heating up the whole giant oven seems crazy for small things. I'm going to take a look at George and see if he might do me better.

sher said...

Oh yes! George needs to read this! :):) I've NEVER heard anyone say anything negative about this grill, and now that you've endorsed it--I feel very deprived not having one. I love the taste of barbeque, but hate firing up the grill. Perhaps....I should buy one?? George, are we fated to join forces in the cooking of meat?

Lydia said...

George Foreman needs to hire you immediately -- I'm ready to go out and buy one of these right now! I love that you are "formanizing" your favorite dishes. And why not? When you find something that works and can take the place of many other appliances, you should have fun with it!

Callipygia said...

jbird- This is a situation where the only limitation is one's imagination! I'm thinking bread pudding...

anh- Do you use a small hibachi style or the Foreman Grill?

gattina- What do you think about grilling a slice of that fruitcake? Now that would be something! I hope your Jersey trip was terrific.

ellie- I think you should get one, think of how fast you could cook bulgogi, as for your services, still interested! Let's be in touch.

nansita- I know what you mean, I loved my toaster oven...actually, gads- the foreman grill wouldn't work so well with a cornish game hen, maybe a quail. I don't think you'd be able to get the lovely nonstick surface lid to press down sufficiently...

sher- You and george are definitely meant to be! Anyone that hates firing up the grill, will absolutely giggle with glee upon hearing that first tszzz- sound.

lydia- Actually you should have been credited for the eggroll thing as well. I had always wondered if they could be baked and I remembered reading about that on your site...which made me think to try them grilled- imagine them squashed with little grill marks!

jbird said...

Bread pudding w/ some big granulated turbinado sugar crystals, that would most certainly ROCK!!!

Lucy said...

Ah, the pleasures of late night info-mercials...this is a wonderful homage to your Foreman Grill.

'...no interpretive dance in spun sugar...' - thank goodness for that.

I could eat Hoisin straight from the jar...indeed, I have been known to do just that when I think no-one is looking.

Happy new year, Callipygia. May it be marvellous.

Callipygia said...

jbird- I was thinking of your blueberry creamcheese french toast w/ the sugar.

lucy- That is what sold me about mu shu pork, the hoisin- ethereal stuff.

jbird said...

And that stuffed blueberry french toast be thinking of you too!
yeah, that would be perfect given the cold weather, but I would warm against formanizing it, as it would create one big mess....
oozy cream cheese, bursted blueberries, syrup....oiy vey.