Monday, September 29, 2014

Reheating Triumph, Recounting Failure

I don't mean to brag, but I'm a virtuoso of reheating. When I'm really "on", I can do more with leftovers than many chefs can from scratch. It's a product of necessity; having authored enough guide books and nabe-survey articles for my refrigerator to have hosted a dizzying assortment of greasy takeout bags and boxes, I've invested way more time and energy into learning to reheat than I ever did learning to cook. My analogy is to hip-hop studio guys who sample, mix down and otherwise reuse preexistent material. They may not be able to compose or perform, but they've developed an uncanny ability to repurpose and recycle.

I wrote an article about my reheating techniques several years ago, but have never posted it publicly. I guess I'm hoping to one day publish it as an article or book. But last night I killed it so utterly - putting together an excruciatingly delicious dinner from so-so leftovers in under ten minutes - that I feel compelled to share.

My fridge contained:
One overcooked chicken breast
One takeout container of slightly dry hummus
One takeout container of marinated portobello mushrooms
Some scallions

I cut thin 1"x 1" x 1/4" slices off the chicken breast. I chopped the mushrooms and three scallions. I briefly sautéed everything in a pan with just a bit of olive oil at medium heat. I didn't manipulate anything (leftovers don't like to be handled much), didn't even stir the ingredients. I added only black pepper. Meanwhile, I steamed the broccolini.

I spread the hummus around a plate. I dumped the chicken/mushroom/scallop mixture on top of it. I drizzled fantastic extra virgin olive oil on the broccolini, plus some Turkish Aleppo pepper flakes (from Penzeys). If I hadn't used a nonstick pan, I might have deglazed to make sauce. But, really, it wasn't necessary (and I didn't sauteé long enough to gather much browned protein, anyway).

Sometimes the whole exceeds the parts. I live for such moments. In fact, it's literally all I care about. To me, that's magic; that's why we want to be alive; everything else is a function of humans-as-livestock. And this turned out to be a rather extreme example. So much so that I'm questioning whether I should even post this, given how prosaic and uninteresting every move I've described above seems upon rereading (remember "The Enigma of Von's Magical Cookies", where I struggled, unsuccessfully, to explain how a guy wielding the recipe on the Quaker oatmeal box was consistently able to produce the best cookies I - or any of his friends - had ever tasted?). How do you explain magic? As the Von tale illustrates, you can't - least of all the magician responsible! The meta-secret is that the magician never reveals his secrets because he has no idea!

As I scarfed this dinner, it sounded like the soundtrack for a porno movie. The deliciousness was a "10". But as with Von's cookies, it's likely that you couldn't recreate it. In fact, I probably couldn't, either (unlike Von, who reliably rang the bell every time). 

I launched into writing this with great brio, confident I'd be sharing something of serious worth. But there's nothing here. I have no insights, no connections...nothing*. I just know that I was (pleasurably) run over by an aesthetic freight train of my own creation, yet, like Von, I have no idea what the hell happened.

* - some pretty good links, however...

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