What is the secret to excellent restaurant cooking? My never ending quest is to make dishes soo good that you’d think they belong in a reasonably nice restaurant. Often I succeed, often I don’t. The difference between these two poles can be a very thin line and determining which element or ingredient that pushes it over still eludes me.

In this, my most constant guide is my wife–whose palate is sensitive enough that most of the time, I’ll listen to her culinary observations. Of course, determining what criteria she’s using–her particular preferences or her more astute this-needs-more-acid or the-pork-should-be-cut-more-bite-size, well…remember her general items on The List:

No to cumin.
No to chili peppers.
No to cardamom.
No to tarragon.
No to cilantro.
No to risotto.
No to curry.
No to spicy.

Oh, there is a longer length to this list which space doesn’t allow me to share, but her wonderful, experienced palate has its kryptonite which centers around Middle Eastern or some Mediterranean cuisines. To paint a fair picture, I have served her foods which contain the proscribed ingredients and watched with quiet mirth as she might gush over how tasty the dish was (Bwa ha! It had cumin and cilantro, baby!) and to give her further credit, my guacamole and Mexican salsas often contain cilantro and a bit of cumin and she is quite happy with their tastes.

And as for spicy, she does have a peculiar auto-immune deficiency that can get her gums in a rash which now gives her medical excuses to forego spicy.

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Tonight my dear one came home perfectly on time for a quick Pork, Bok Choy, and Cashew Stir Fry meal. This was simple enough fare; garlic and ginger quick fried in a teaspoon and a half of oil, followed by the pork strips. These are then removed, and the sliced Bok Choy leaves and all are added with a bit more oil till wilted. Return the cooked pork, add the cashews, mix, heat up some Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice to serve it on, and vavoom–dinner from one bowl.

Wife found it delicious and well done (though I agreed that making the pork pieces more bite-size would be best next time) and she was well pleased. For me, I found it a bit underseasoned for salt, but given general health concerns, I opted not to up my sodium content for the day.

There was enough for me to bring to work for lunch today so that will save me several bucks.

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