From upper left clockwise: turtle, lady godiva, red velvet, choco lover’s.
From Central Continental Bakery, Mount Prospect.
As we continue our exploration of the dark reaches of the fridge and what you need to stock a brand new one, let’s look at the sweet and the sour. A lot of sour (vinegar) is in my spice/pantry cabinet, but that’ll come later. I’m still avoiding spicy, although a few of the items on today’s list cross that line.
Oh yeah — the previous creamy and fatty dressings post probably should have included Butter as Essential. I have Margarine too, but that’s a bonus. It’s mainly there for when my kosher-keeping daughter-in-law is around, and there’s a dish that calls for butter with a meat-based meal.
Some of the sweet things below are dessert or breakfast, some are more savory. Asian spicy food seems to be complemented by sweet flavors. Some are homemade.
Sweet might be addictive, but sour really wakes up your mouth. Pickled items should be around just about every meal, especially as garnishes or appetizers. You wouldn’t think of a charcuterie plate without cornichons, or nachos without pickled jalapeño rings. Momofuku’s soy-pickled shiitakes are something really special, especially as they were developed as something to do with the dried, rehydrated mushrooms that had been used to develop broth. They’re sweet, sour, and umami. I keep meaning to puree them into a ketchup-like sauce. They’re great on sandwiches, ramen, salads, or just grab a couple slices with a fork.
4 cups dried shiitake mushrooms – get these at an Asian grocer or you’ll need a home loan
1 cup sugar
1 cup soy sauce (it says light, but I don’t stock light, and it works fine with regular)
1 cup sherry vinegar (I’m not sure if it would be significantly different with wine vinegar; I’ve found the best prices for this at World Market)
3-4 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 cups of soaking liquid (see below)
Soak the mushrooms in very hot (just-boiled) water for about a half-hour (you may need something to weigh them down to keep them in the liquid). They won’t be as soft as fresh ones, but they’ll expand beyond this in the steps below. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, then strain the liquid through a fine strainer to make sure there is no dirt or grit. Keep 2 cups of the liquid. Tear any stems off the mushrooms and throw them away. Using a poultry shears or knife, cut into 1/4″ slices.
In a medium saucepan, place the sugar, soaking liquid, soy and vinegar and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. When it’s dissolved, add the ginger slices and mushrooms. Simmer gently for about a half-hour, then allow to cool. You can discard the ginger, but I don’t see any reason to do so.
The recipe says it makes about a quart, I got three pints out of this. Pack into containers and cover with the pickling liquid, which is pretty good on its own as a salad dressing.