How often have you heard, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…” or this classic one-liner, “You are what you eat!”? Too much I’m sure, but guess what? It’s true! There is no doubt that one of the best ways to show your “friend” (a young lady, in our case) that you care is by whipping up some of your famous baked spaghetti casserole or PB &J, without the crust of course. These dishes may be acceptable to serve when, and only when the two of you are comfortable enough to______ (insert activity of choice here). Not so good for a lasting first impression.
If the statement, “You are what you eat” is true, then you most certainly want to make a meal that is reflective of the woman that she is, classy, elegant, and something that your mother would be happy for you to eat, no pun intended. You DO NOT want to be the guy who’s chasing the girl who is happy to always eat greasy sandwiches wrapped in foil. See where I’m going?
Now you may be asking yourself “How, Al? How am I supposed to do this?” It’s quite simple really. Here, is a great recipe for a Sweet Potato and Jalapeno Bisque. It is a quick and simple dish that is sure to gain you a few points with her (and her friends). The name seems odd but, then again, where has Grilled Cheese gotten you lately??
Wait! Before you go and try to impress her, you should make sure you have an understanding of what you are doing just in case she asks any questions. For instance, you should know that bisque, while commonly known as a “lobster soup”, is simply “any cream based soup in which the ingredients are pureed in a food processor or blender.”1 At the very least, you should be able to explain to her what you did or are doing (if she is there for the preparation.
The key to this dish is the use of sweet/spicy and salty/savory flavors. An odd combination, the duo plays well off of each other, lending a full, yet bearable, flavor to a palate which may be hesitant to oblige its services. With the technical stuff out of the way we can get to the good part. So get yourself an apron, and something to keep this magazine open with and let’s get started. Come on now, it’s ok, I’ll hold your hand:
What You’ll Need
* One (1) 5qt non-stick sauce pan. A smaller pan works but I find it easier when you have more space to work
* An immersion (hand) blender or a traditional countertop unit
* 8in chef’s knife. Again, any knife will do but ask yourself this, “Do I want use a butter knife and look foolish trying to dice potatoes?? Mmmm?? Didn’t think so.
* Cutting board. Essential in every kitchen. Makes cutting easier and keep things sanitary.
*4 large sweet potatoes
*2 cinnamon sticks
*1/2 cup, brown sugar
*1 tsp, ground cinnamon
*4 cups, heavy cream
*1 stick, butter
*1 tsp nutmeg
*2 large jalapenos, minced2
*Pinch, salt and pepper
*2 tsp, grated parmesan cheese.
*2 slices, wheat bread
*Jalapeños, for garnish
You want to start off by bringing the water to a soft boil. Make sure to have enough water that you will completely cover the potatoes but not so much that it will boil over. While that is boiling, dice your sweet potatoes in small, uniform pieces. This will allow them to boil faster as well as make them more manageable when it is time to puree them. Once your water is boiling, add the potatoes as well as the cinnamon sticks. Allow the potatoes to cook until they are fork tender. Using the colander, drain the potatoes and remove the cinnamon sticks. Return the potatoes to the pot and add the ground cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, butter, heavy cream, jalapeños, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Allow it to heat to a simmer. Once it has reached a simmer, you can use your immersion blender to puree the mixture right in the pot. If you are using a countertop unit, you may need to do this in batches to prevent the blender from over flowing or malfunctioning (Blenders have feelings too!). Once you have finished pureeing the potato mixture, TASTE IT. The goal is to serve a dish that needs very little, if any, altering. If it needs salt, add salt, if it needs sugar, add sugar etc, etc. After you’ve gotten the flavor and the heat where you think SHE’LL like it, return it to the pot to simmer a bit longer. Nothing is worse than cold soup. In the meantime, toast the wheat bread slices, removing the crust when they are finished. Cut the slices diagonally and arrange them on the plate. Try and make it look pretty. How you do it is up to you. I prefer to make them a tower by leaning the two halves against each other. Place a bowl next to the slices on a plate and when you are ready to serve, ladle the soup right into bowl, garnish with minced jalapeños and enjoy.
Now that wasn’t so bad was it?? Keep in mind that what really counts here is the effort. Don’t beat yourself up if the flavors aren’t perfect or the color just doesn’t seem right. Chances are that she will be so impressed that she won’t notice or won’t care, or that the flavor is, hopefully, so unique that she can say very few, if any, bad things about it. But, always remember that every person has different tastes, so it may not be a hit, no matter how perfect it is.
So, do yourself a favor, and show her that chivalry is not dead. Show her that you, my friend, are light years ahead of the competition. You are cultured, wise and not afraid to get you hands dirty in the kitchen. Let her know how special she is through your cooking. It may say that you’re domesticated but hey, if she’s worth it you’ll make the right choice. The rest you ask??? We’ll save that for another day…
Here some other tips that will help you on your journey….
o If you’re using a recipe, study the recipe before and do you best to memorize the steps, especially if you are cooking the presence of guests. You’ll be knowledgeable and your guests will be more confident in your abilities. Great chefs understand the dish and don’t need to refer back to a written recipe but don’t worry; Emeril reads from a teleprompter, so don’t feel bad if you need to reference it at some point during the process.
*Try a wine.
The best food should be matched with the right wine. It’s like putting regular gas in a luxury car. You just don’t do it. If you have access to wine then explore. It’s ok to substitute the Genny Light for a nice Chardonnay.
* Avoid heavy meals
Whether you’re cooking at home or eating out, nothing ruins the mood faster than being so full that you feel heavy, tired, or unwilling to do anything but run to the nearest bathroom. Keep it light. Entree salads, soups, light proteins like fish or lean cuts of beef properly portioned are acceptable dinner meals. Unless, of course, you know that things are going nowhere fast. In that case, order another steak and a round of beers.
o Do not down talk your dish by saying things like, “I know its not good”, “I’m not sure what it’s going to taste like”, “You don’t have to eat it if don’t want to.” These types of comment can be a turnoff and may draw attention to flaws in the meal the may have normally gone unnoticed. Have faith in what you’ve made and the rest will follow.
2 The spiciness of the jalapeños comes from the seeds and the white “veins” that you see when you cut open the pepper. You should remove all of the seeds but you can control some of the heat by removing the white areas. They contain a chemical known as capsaicin. This is what causes most of the heat, not the pepper itself!
Alvin J.B. Roberts, III