Monday, April 5, 2010

It is all about substitution and timing

We were invited to friends' for dinner on Saturday and my assignment was appetizers.  I started planning around noon on Saturday and chose two dishes.  Smoked Trout Spread sounded really good especially since I had smoked steelhead trout that son David had caught and smoked himself.  [Librarian Note: steelhead trout are the same as rainbow trout except that the steelhead head to the ocean and rainbow stay in fresh water]  I read through the recipe and it sounded pretty simple.  I did observe that it would not have the proper chilling time of 8 hours but since nothing needed to be actually heated I figured I could fudge on the chilling time.  The recipe said that it needed to chill that long for the flavors to blend.

The other dish I chose was  Rice-Studded Chinese Meatballs - it only required 2 3/4 hours from start to finish.  But it did require Chinese or Japanese short-grain sticky ("sweet") rice.  Not a type of rice carried in our local grocery store.  Fortunately there is an Asian market in town and I headed there for the rice.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would not come in a 5 pound bag since I only needed 1 cup of rice.  I found the rice and it came in 1 pound bags - a bit more than twice what I needed and it only cost $3.00.

The rice needed to sit covered in cold water for two hours.  As I put away the unused rice I wondered what I would use it for and how long would I be storing it.  The pantry is getting a bit crowded with half used containers of rarely used ingredients.  As luck would have it I did not have to worry about the excess rice!  Right after I sat down to read and wait for the rice to soak my dear husband decided to do the lunch dishes (a good thing) and promptly poured out the soaking rice.  He was very apologetic.  I laughed - fortunately the rice had just started soaking and I had extra. His timing was perfect!  I would have been a bit ticked-off if he had waited an hour or two before tackling the dishes.

The recipe also called for 1 pound of meatloaf mix (equal parts ground beef, veal, and pork).  I am beginning to think that meatloaf mix is an East Coast thing or maybe a big city thing.  It certainly isn't available the shops I frequent.  I decided to use ground pork as a substitute.  A mixture of ground pork, turkey, and beef might have been a good alternative but they were all pre-packaged in 1 pound weights.  I am trying hard not to fill the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer with partially used ingredients.

The end results:  The trout spread was a bit bland and looked like it had been (sorry, this is gross) regurgitated.  Maybe 6 hours of chill time was really necessary to improve the flavor.  And as to the appearance - I used cold butter instead of softened (i.e. room temperature) butter.  I think this was my mistake.  I served it with the usual crackers and 1/4 inch cucumber slices which was a really good combination.

The meatballs were good but a bit too salty.  The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of salt for 1 pound of meat which doesn't sound excessive to me.  The only thing that I can think of is that the canned water chestnuts were salty but that doesn't seem right...  I'm puzzled because there isn't anything else like soy sauce that would would have extra salt.  Additionally,  the rice didn't stick well to the meatballs.  Half a meatball was really good on a slice of cucumber - the raw cucumber toned down the saltiness.

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