Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gouda for You!

Grocery stores in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn are odd places. Real estate in New York City is fantastically expensive and grocers are forced to focus, to pare down their stock to the absolute minimum of what their customers are going to need to buy. As an example, the last time I went grocery shopping at the Key Foods around the corner from my apartment in Brooklyn before packing everything I owned into a U-Haul and trekking up to Massachusetts (a weird sort of reverse pilgrimage - I knew a dozen people who were insistent on making the move in the opposite direction) I discovered the grocer didn't carry yeast, a food-stuff so entirely basic that I had always assumed it was on-hand even if I had never actually needed it until I met a girl who adamantly insisted on teaching me how to bake bread.

So No Yeast Til Brooklyn - the neighborhood had decided that its denizens, predominantly lower- and lower-middle class black people with a smattering but increasingly scary influx of yuppies and hipsters gentrifying the hell out of the place, don't bake bread. I can buy that - baking bread is becoming more of an artisanal skill as time goes on - But here's the thing: that demographic apparently eats a lot (and I mean a LOT) of gouda. So much gouda is eaten in Bed-Stuy that it's actually cheaper per-pound than most of the processed American cheeses, beaten out (but only very slightly) by the store-brand cheddar. I had lived in and around New York City for most of my life and I had never, ever, bought gouda, so I started.

I became a little obsessed to be honest, which is especially problematic with gouda because, no matter how much of it you eat, it feels like you've always got more. It's a very rich and very flavorful cheese, and more than the slightest bit of it at a time can render you immobile in front of the TV without much effort at all.

For awhile my housemates and I were eating everything with gouda on it: Pasta. Sandwiches. Pizza. Crackers. Tomatoes and peppers. It took over our lives until one of them decided that enough was enough and threw the brick of it away when I wasn't looking.

So that was that, or so I had thought. Fast-forward to present day. Gouda was on sale last weekend. I couldn't help myself. I bought some. In my defense, I actually had a plan: I had realized that, while excavating in that brick of cheese back in Brooklyn looking for gold, I had never tried it on a salad.

This is what I came up with:
It was pretty fantastic, light but still satisfying as a meal on its own, intricately flavorful and elegantly textured.

The best part of it is that, the ingredients are all native (in a way) to Bed Stuy.

  • 2 chicken thighs, boned and trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly cut up.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • a healthy few splashes of hot sauce (Frank's Original, ideally)
  • half as much as that of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • Greens of your liking
  • 1 tomato, quartered twice into wedges
  • Gouda (of course), shaved
  • 1/2 tbsp lime juice (or half as much as that of apple cider vinegar)
The Gist:

Combine the chicken and onion in a bag with the marinade and let it sit for as long as you'd like - the longer it soaks, the better. Overnight is ideal.

When you're ready to cook it, heat some olive oil over medium heat in a pan before adding the contents of the bag. Keep the meat moving or it will stick, brown too fast or burn. Cook it all the way through. When it's done, add it to a bowl containing the greens and the tomato, toss it with the lime juice or vinegar, add the gouda to the
top, toss it again and you're done.

  • Frank's really is the best hot sauce for this - tabasco can be overpowering and chili sauce is too thick.
  • Be careful with the gouda - I wasn't kidding about it being rich. Two or three big slices or a light handful of it crumbled will do ya.
  • If you decide to marinate it for a shorter period of time, reserve some hot sauce and sage and add it while it's cooking to accentuate the flavors.
Comfortably will serve two of you, or one of me.

Enjoy, and let me know how it goes.

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