Coconut Milk = Eeehhhhwww…

COOKING ADVENTURE #55: Cuban Chorizo Stew

Cuban Chorizo Stew

Part of the fun in cooking is trying new things, including combinations that you wouldn’t often think would go together. I found this fun recipe for Cuban chorizo stew on Pinterest a few weeks ago and decided that I wanted to give it a try. After all, it uses chorizo, which is just short of being the most delicious thing on the planet. (Bacon gets that number one slot, of course.) I wish that I’d paid a little closer attention to the other ingredients that I would be adding to this though… as well as the quantities. This recipe makes a LOT of stew… too much stew for me alone, I’ve realized. I could have had a party with this stuff and still had some left over. But when it comes right down to it, there will always be those times where you’ve slaved your way through most of the recipe only to have this bubbling cauldron of deliciousness staring up at you, steam practically searing your vision despite how wonderful it looks. Then… you add that last ingredient and sure enough, it ruins everything. Coconut milk. Once added, it spurned on this Ernest P. Worrell reaction, one that I reserve for only a few truly gross culinary combos: Eeehhhhwww.

To be honest, I wasn’t feeling all that great yesterday to begin with. I’d been fighting off a migraine (a fight that I didn’t end up winning) and knew that I wouldn’t be getting much done other than a Cooking Adventure. Rolling up my sleeves and throwing on some “West Wing” to watch in the background, I set about doing the deed. The first ingredient in the stew calls for onion: a devilish vegetable to be true. The recipe calls for one medium one chopped into small slices. I had the remainder of a large one in my fridge that I was only too happy to use up. Well, try to use up. I still had a ton left over. I also tried to cut the onion with my santoku knife only for the entire thing to fall apart on me. I ended up hacking at it to get the last few slices done. I immediately looked like one of those pathetic people on the infomercial for a super-duper new veggie chopper that can’t properly use a knife.

I heated up a pot on the stove top with a little bit of vegetable oil in it and tossed the onions in to simmer. While those were going, I crushed and sliced up a couple cloves of garlic and added those to it. Lastly, I pulled out my carrots from the fridge, sliced them into tiny little discs and tossed them in as well. The carrots were supposed to have been full-sized but I’d bought baby carrots instead… I didn’t want to have to peel them, okay? Laziness was a factor.

Once all of these veggies had been browning in the pot for a while, I went to add the chorizo. The recipe calls for two links of chorizo. That is a whole LOT of chorizo, much more than I’d anticipated. And it was supposed to have the casing removed. This step left me with slicing it into little rounds and stripping it, slice by slice. I didn’t add two links though. I only added one and a half, which I thought was more than enough. Sure enough as I added the slices, the wonderful spicy aroma rose like a cloud and immediately took over the kitchen. I let it cook and placed the left over ingredients back in the refrigerator. I scooped the onion into a plastic sandwich bag and put it on the top shelf of the fridge. Bad idea. I should have put it back in the onion keeper…

Once the meat and veggies had cooked properly (after another ten to fifteen minutes), I opened a can of black beans and added them to the stew. I love black beans. I’m just going to make that clear right now. I, however, don’t like the way they manage to turn whatever your making with them a sickening dark color, which is precisely what they did to the stew. I’d received a nifty little pot stirrer from a friend a couple weeks ago which I happily used to mix the beans in. It was at this point that it was time to add the tomato. I peeled open a can of crushed tomato and added it. Just as the last of it glopped into the pot, I realized that this ingredient didn’t seem right. I checked the list again and face palmed as I realized my mistake. Diced tomatos… not crushed. Damn it. Still, I figured, after I add in the broth, it will still be okay. The combination in the pot looked fantastic, but was definitely not liquidy enough to be a stew… more like a stir-fry.

There were a number of spices that were also supposed to make their way into the stew. The number one of these was cumin, which I was under the delusion that I already owned. After all, I have every other spice known to man since starting my Cooking Adventures last January. However, cumin isn’t one of them. I was pretty disappointed. Another that I don’t own is Bay Leaves, something I didn’t think were really necessary and probably would have been something that I’d never use again. And of course the last is the tricky Cilantro, which the store actually had… at one point. But by the time I got there, they were all out. Son of a…

That left the very last ingredient: coconut milk. I’ve never cooked with coconut milk before. I’ve always assumed it had a very sweet taste and was more for Thai dishes or dessert foods. It never occurred to me that it would actually go into a stew. But, once I’d added it,  and saw the milky white swirl into the red crushed tomato, I felt my stomach flop. Soon enough, the entire thing smelled like coconut. It lost that chorizo bite that had been luring my nose closer and closer. It looked gross. And Ernest P. Worrell’s characteristic “Eew” sound is the first thing that popped into my head the moment I saw it.

Reluctantly, I let the stew bubble while I turned my attention to getting some Jasmine rice going. I’d just bought a new bag of it because for some reason, all I have in my possession is brown rice, minute rice, and a tiny bit of saffron rice that is probably the most wonderful rice in all the world. After adding a couple cups of water to a pot, I opened the new Jasmine rice. The plastic tore straight down and rice skittered all over the counter top and onto the floor with a rush similar to a rain stick. Great. After I cleaned up the mass exodus of rice, I poured the required amount in the pot and let it come to a boil. At this point, my headache had become so bad that I had to snag an ice pack and sit in the other room. The moment I opened the freezer, the stench of onion wafted out to me. Apparently, the fumes had risen into the freezer after I’d put the bag of left over onion in the refrigerator. Wonderful.

Sitting in the other room with my onion-sprayed ice pack, I lost track of the rice on the stove. However, serendipitously,  I made it back in time before it had burned to the bottom of the pot and removed it from the heat. The stew by this time had also come to a boil so I took that off the heat as well. In a little bowl, I ladeled out a small helping of the stew, making sure to get plenty of chorizo, and then placed a dollop of rice on top. In addition, I also made a couple pieces of toast with some french bread to enjoy it with. I’ve been wary of my stomach ever since last summer’s ulcer. I want to make sure there’s an even ratio of solid bland food to hot spicy stuff. I ate a little at a time. It was definitely a different taste, one that I ultimately liked but wasn’t sure if I could eat for the next several days. I retired to my bed shortly after, the migraine not necessarily making me feel great about my choice of food.

Next time, we’re making some comfort food, something that I know will be tasty… if it comes out good. I’ve never made it before, so this should be interesting. Lasagna is next week. Stay tuned!


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