I love this time of year. I think I am like many Thais who like to celebrate all kinds of holidays as long as it gives us an excuse to eat and celebrate. As long as it's fun, Thais will do it.
Now Halloween just passed and I am gearing up for my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. More cooking, eating, drinking will continue until the year passes! That means I have to come up with different appetizers to dazzle my friends with.
I love to cook but I am an optimizing kind of cook. My effort in the kitchen has to be met with maximum result. I will not make ten things to compose just one dish. I love to make one thing that can be spun into many different dishes. I have variety of sauces, pickled vegetables, condiments, cheese, waiting in my fridge ready to be transformed. For meats, I always have some sous vide pork belly, sous vide steak, sous vide pork butt, duck confit, etc. in my freezer. Homemade broths are also on a standby for soup emergencies. Most of the time, I can make something just at a drop of the hat which is very convenient because I do entertain a lot. My kids, when they were young, always complained that we didn't have enough "ready to eat" food in our house. Bags of chips, boxes of cookies, cans of soup, frozen "ready to eat" food, etc, were not to be found around here. If they brought some friends over and mom was not home, they were out of luck!
I can understand if you have to start from zero every time you cook, it will be quite a daunting task. I suggest you make some condiments, sauces, pickled vegetables to keep in your "food bank". For a dish to be divine, it has to have a balance of flavors, sweet, salty, spicy, sour, umami, and even bitter as well as different textures. The food needs to dance in your mouth. Go to your fridge and find what ingredients that have those flavors and put them together. For those reasons, I don't use recipes. Recipes/cookbooks are used as inspirations. It's more fun to come up with your own combinations, with what you have around, rather than running around town to chase down ingredients.
This morning, I convinced my husband to skip his fast to try my carnitas tostada with fried eggs. A few days ago, I sous vide pork butt seasoned with just salt and a little bit of sugar for 12 hours at 158F. This tender pork, still with good texture, can be used in variety of dishes. If I want to turn this into carnitas, I will rub it with some ground cumin, coriander, and chili powder before searing in a hot pan. This same pork can also be basted with teriyaki sauce, or shredded and mixed with some kind of BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches. Possibilities are endless.
I still have some pork left over from this morning and I want to use it to come up with a new appetizer. I still have corn tortilla so I cut it into little rounds (1 1/2 inch round) and deep fry them. I shred the pork and pan fry it until it has some crispy edges. I pile it on top of the tortilla rounds, topped with a sauce, a mixture of sweet chili jam and chipotle. Pickled red onions, red cherry peppers, and cilantro give this bite bright, spicy, acidic crunch and an herbaceous note. Finally I crumbled cotija cheese all over the top, for a little salt and creamy mouth feel. This appetizer has all the elements of a delicious bite with different flavors and textures. Next time I want to make it with duck confit with fig chipotle sauce.
Does that sound good to you?