Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Aha, Aji!

The key ingredient, apparently, in the recipe that looked so nice in the picture was a ready-made sauce I'd never heard of. There were no suggestions for substitutions. This is a foodie kind of town so I thoroughly expected to find the sauce. But two good groceries didn't have it, and I finally Googled the ingredient and found one place in town that carried it. When I showed up at the address it was boarded up and two homeless men were curled up in their sleeping bags at the front door, like larvae.

It's a foodie and homeless-man kind of town.

Somehow I tripped over an international market on my way back home and there, miraculously, was a jar of my ingredient on the shelf with the yak butter and ground beetle bits. I brought it home and eagerly started my recipe. The sauce was a component of a chicken marinade that ultimately, as it turned out, gets scraped off the chicken. I felt a little cheated. I'm never sure about marinades. Are they the ghosts of food? (Answer: No. You're thinking of farts.)

So I looked for more recipes that use my Key Ingredient, and I found one. No problem!

Problem. The first ingredient on the recipe list: eight quail eggs.

Mind you, this wouldn't have been a problem in the old days, when we lived across the street from Kevin and Scott and they kept quail chicks in their basement. When the quails got excited they made the most impressive gargly bugle like they were shaking a bag of marbleized loogies and that always got Dave excited too, and then he'd be out on the front porch gargling right back at them, at the top or possibly bottom of his lungs, and we outlasted all the neighbors who witnessed that so who cares what they thought?

The point being we had quail eggs right across the street. First time we went over there after they got the quail, Scott, who is a master chef, offered Dave a dozen eggs for breakfast and asked him how he wanted them cooked, and Dave said "over easy," because for a big guy he can be a real little shit, and Scott calmly plated up twelve quail eggs over easy, because he has skills.

But we don't have ready quail egg access now and I don't know where you're supposed to find them. Furthermore they are supposed to be hardboiled and presented alongside of the main course, peeled. Peeled. I can't reliably peel a chicken egg without having it go lunar on me.

Fortunately, the recipe says the quail eggs are optional.

Unfortunately, one commenter complained that the whole recipe should be thrown out because the authentic version definitely calls for hummingbird eggs.

I've got limits. I only just learned how to skin a butternut squash and I ain't peeling no dang hummingbird eggs. If I did manage to do it, I'd devil the suckers. They would be adorable. I'd serve them with spider drumsticks and a dandelion-sepal salad.

13 comments:

  1. Your culinary skills are... interesting! I tried a recipe that required oyster sauce last week and I think I put a little too much in. Made it taste like someone snuck a small chunk of week old fish into it. Not enough to make it inedible, but I won't make that dish again.

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    1. Seems to me you're far enough north--aren't you?--to really like something that tastes like a bay bottom.

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  2. I don't know which recipe you were following, but when I googled aji sauce, the ingredients seemed pretty easy to obtain. Whenever a recipe I'm considering contains either an ingredient that is difficult to obtain or that I will never use for anything but this one dish, I just say "fuck it" and make something else.

    I am familiar with aji sauce, and it IS yummy. We once had a Peruvian chicken house down the street, and they had the BEST chicken I have ever tasted. Something about the marinade and the slow roasting on a rotisserie made it tender and tasty, but dipping pieces of it into the aji sauce sent it into another level entirely. Unfortunately, they went out of business due to spreading themselves too thin with opening other restaurants. I do have a recipe for this dish that I got from Cooks Illustrated a while back, and I made it and it was good. But rather a lot of trouble to go through for a lunch that Paul will devour in fifteen minutes.

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    1. I too had a terrific Peruvian dinner with aji at a restaurant last year so I was pretty excited, but when I actually taste the aji sauce on its own, it's awfully bland. Plus it got mold on it (in a jar in the fridge) within a week and I had to throw it out.

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  3. If there are more than three ingredients in a recipe, I pass it by. I am not and never wanted to be a cook so I'll leave the fancy stuff to you and my s-i-l the chef. However, I do know where to buy quails eggs within two or three miles of our house - at a store that caters to famers (need medicine for your horse or an electric fence transformer?) The bad thing is that they are in a jar. I think they are pickled, but maybe only boiled. I didn't try them, but fed them to Hunky Husband. (I ate house sparrow eggs as a child and didn't find them exotic.)

    More power to you and other people who actually cook!

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    1. Oh I'm totally in the learning phase. Gotta do something useful if you're locked down. House sparrow eggs??

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    2. If they are in a jar, they are pickled.

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    3. Yes, house sparrow eggs - from the nests I tore out of the rafters/eaves of the hen house a few times each spring. Even as a kid I didn't like to waste things. (Besides, the tiny eggs were cute!)

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  4. Well...Atwoods caters to "farmers" in case that isn't obvious.

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  5. I've thrown out every single recipe (and leftover ingredients) I had that called for an ingredient I would never use again, especially if said ingredient only came in a 500 gram jar and all I needed was a teaspoonful. As for your eggs recipe, if the eggs are optional, just make the whole thing without them.

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    1. I did. I don't think it was worth it. I need to go to that Peruvian restaurant again and JUST as soon as there's a vaccine, I will.

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