Sunday, November 10, 2013

Would you like that a la mode?

RHYS BOWEN: When you see pregnant women on TV they are always craving things like ice-cream and pickles (and their hubbies are always rushing to the store at 2 a.m. to satisfy this craving). I don't remember craving anything when I was expecting--this is probably because I knew my husband would never rush out to get things for me anyway.

When I came to America the mixing of sweet and savory was new to me. Pancakes with bacon and sausage for breakfast with maple syrup all over them, jello salads with a meal, or my worst nightmare, candied yams with turkey. I'm still not keen on any of the above.

Recently more sweet and savory or just plain strange combinations have been showing up all over the place.
Bacon cupcakes are big now, aren't they? Bacon with everything, actually. Salted caramel ice-cream (which I adore). But I've been to some upscale restaurants where they are clearly trying to appear avant-garde by coming up with new and strange combinations of food. I can picture the chef saying "what if we put cuttlefish with rhubarb?" Sometimes it works, more often not. Brussel sprout puree really doesn't enhance salmon folks. Figs with meat? Chili with everything?
Now I know the Reds are absolute gourmets so I'm hoping you can suggest some unusual combinations you've tried that work well. Recipes if possible.

HALLIE EPHRON: Cuttlefish with rhubarb? Ick. And I'm not big on nut crusts for fish. Seems like food that's been over-thought.

But figs with meat? Most definitely. Can imagine it easily with pork or duck. Right now I'm in California where figs are in season. It's nearly impossible to get really sweet ones in New England. Ever.

Recently I discovered smoked and hot smoked paprika. I use it in chowders. Chiles. And as part of a rub on chicken. It's scrumptious. And I'm a sucker for salted caramel anything, too. And have you noticed how restaurants are serving a coddled egg on all sorts of dishes? So far I haven't found one that I don't like.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I once had some sort of apple dessert with black pepper-vanilla ice cream at a Very Fancy Restaurant. Personally, I think someone in the kitchen must have spilled the black pepper into the ice cream and this was their "Oh, look at the Emperor's new clothes!" way to get around it....

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   This year, in the midst of book tour chaos, it briefly crossed my mind that we should go out to dinner on new years eve. So I looked at the menu of a restaurant we adore--and in the list of the appetizers at this wonderful restaurant is this dish:

 Squid, Chinese sausage,and pickled mustard greens, with chow foon noodles. 

I cannot even begin to imagine this. Or maybe I can. Which is why I wouldn't order it.

I do love chocolate and caramel and salt.  And my secret Kinsey Millhone combo is cottage cheese with applesauce .  Yum. It's a completely different taste than you'd predict.

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Hank,  you mean everyone doesn't eat applesauce with their cottage cheese?  I grew up on that!  I seem to have missed the whole salted caramel boat, however.  I have tried the salted caramel hot chocolate at Starbuck's.  Not crazy about it--too sweet.  And I haven't even had salted caramel ice cream!  Must try!

I asked my daughter is she had any weird food combinations, and she said her hubby eats bacon-wrapped pickles. Hmmm.  But she also said that a friend makes bacon-wrapped water chestnuts with barbecue sauce... That might actually be pretty good.
RHYS: That's exactly what I'm talking about, Hank. Things that sound so yucky together that I wouldn't want to try them! Although I do go to a restaurant that serves sheep cheese with some kind of sharp sweet jam and it is delicious.

So what are the strangest combinations of food you've seen? Any that actually taste good?


  1. Well, I am not a fan of caramel, so I’ve not tried all those salted-caramel-and-whatever things that are all the rage these days. Smoked paprika, however, is a great addition to my spice cabinet, as is the Roasted Ground Coriander.

    I’m much happier with all these new “bacon in everything” things that keep popping up. Brussels sprouts with minced garlic and bacon are so good. I’ve had bacon chocolate chip cookies that I expected to be yucky, but they were actually quite tasty. And new to me: bacon jam. It’s absolutely amazing on a hamburger. I have a recipe for corn meal waffles with bacon cooked right in the waffle . . . pour on the maple syrup and it’s heavenly. Here’s the recipe: Slightly beat two eggs; add 1-3/4 cups milk. Sift together 1 cup cake flour [or 7/8 cup regular flour], 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 cup yellow corn meal. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a few strokes. Do not overmix. Add 5 tablespoons melted butter or bacon fat. Cut thin-sliced uncooked bacon into halves or thirds, depending on your waffle iron size. To cook: preheat waffle iron . . . pour batter, place a slice of bacon on each waffle iron section . . . cook approximately four minutes or until steaming stops. The bacon will have cooked as the waffle cooked. Serve with warm maple syrup.

  2. I agree that some of the food combinations these days do just seem over-thought.

    I am a very boring eater - I still love the foods our mothers (and grandmothers) cooked. Plain, simple (but probably not all that healthy) things like meatloaf, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.

    I do like a lot of sweet and savory combinations like pancakes and bacon, and I like potato chips with my vanilla ice cream (but not pepper). And while I do love bacon, I cringe at some of the things being done with it now. A bacon cupcake just seems sooooo wrong to me.

  3. Peanut butter and guacamole on pita bread.

  4. There are a lot of cultural sweet/savory combos: Thai, Indian, some Peruvian. I remember going to a dinner party in the late 70's where each diner made their own "Javanese Mountain" plate, with chicken, cheese, tomatoes, coconut, pineapple, and a bunch of other sweet and savory ingredients, each in their own bowls. The idea was to make a "mountain", and then dig down into it for the mingled flavors. I don't think it's an especially new thing to combine sweet and savory, or even uniquely American.

    But this bacon thing, it's everywhere, isn't it? One of my daughters is boycotting anything with bacon in it, on the grounds that bacon overtakes all the other ingredients and that's all you taste.

    A friend in the 70's introduced me to the sweet/salty combination of potato chips or salted nuts and chocolate, and that has been a favorite ever since. (Trail mix! Who doesn't love that?)

    For Christmas luncheon I used to make this amazing pork roast with dried cranberries, apricots, and prunes, plus tons of garlic cloves. It's still a family favorite, although I haven't made it in awhile, since my kids only get home at Thanksgiving these days.

  5. The only odd combination I have tried so far is a salted caramel brownie. Yuck. Never again. I suppose it doesn't help that I am not a fan of salty tasting foods and my idea of cooking with salt is to sprinkle a few grains of salt in my hand, remove about half,and put the rest in whatever I am cooking or baking.

    This post today erminded me tha when we were kids my brother would often dip Fritos or Cheese Doodles in his milk. I STILL think that is strange.

  6. The only food thing I've gotten from Kinsey Milhone is her world famous peanut butter/dill pickle sandwich. Love it as a treat. The other stuff mentioned on here? Sorry ladies, but I'm an old fashioned southern country boy. As a kid I had fried fat back with everything. Not since. Not a bacon fan. Too much grease for me. Thanks for this great post. Jesse

  7. When we lived in New Mexico, one of our favorite desserts -- once we were brave enough to try it -- was green chile frozen custard. It sounds horrible, but there's just enough bite from the chile that's complemented by the sweetness of the custard to make it truly addicting. We miss it, honestly. But it did take a month or two of working up to it before we were brave enough.

  8. Squid, Chinese sausage,and pickled mustard greens, with chow foon noodles. Actually: YUM!

    And that chile frozen custards sounds fabulous!

    At the New England Crime Bake which just wrapped up, a Hawaiian themed banquet dinner had a green salad with mango which was delicious.

  9. That's so funny, Debs! I thought I made it up.

    And Hallie--REALLY? Now that is interesting. Are you kidding??

  10. Chocolate and chili combo is very common in Mexican/Mesoamerican cuisine, and it makes a delicious pudding or hot chocolate. I grew up in the Southern Plains eating cooked fruits of various sorts with meat--ham or pork roast with cherries or pineapple or apple, for instance. And Indian food is a symphony of sweet/savory combos.

  11. p.s. don't like the idea of chocolate-covered potato chips, though. I saw a can in a store recently. Might as well eat a bowl of salted lard.

  12. I love Indian food with the sweet, spicy, and savory. And what about Mexican mole--spicy with cocoa? Yum! And I love chili rellenos with raisins an pecans...

    Fran Fuller, I think the green chili custard sounds wonderful!

  13. My favorite midnight snack (afternoons too) was left-over boiled potatoes, sliced thin and layered with thinly sliced raw onion sandwiched between mayo-slathered white bread!

    My offspring are perfectly normal and healthy in spite this.

  14. When I was a kid (1950s, 60s) we had applesauce on our pork chops or sausages as a matter of course. Can't imagine why, but it was good. Apparently that's standard.

    But now, my partner tries to put applesauce on perogies. Huh?

    I've had garlic ice cream. It was curiously good, but I don't thing I'd make a habit of it.

  15. I eat applesauce with just about anything (homemade applesauce)

    Goes great with all foods and yes I def eat it with cottage cheese, rather thought that was the norm

    One thing I never developed a taste for was apple pie with slice of cheddar them both but not together

    Before I developed a zillion food allergies and could eat Chocolate....I LOVED pretzels with M&M's mmmmmmmm good, but then not much Chocolate doesn't go with

    Growing up, every holiday we had Daddy's heavenly hash with our meal......marshmallows (cut in pieces, no mini's back then), drained mandarin oranges, drained crushed pineapple, cut up marcshino cherries all mixed together, then before serving make homemade sweet whipped cream and mix it yummy as I got older, I started using coolwhip as it does not breakdown like whipped cream...goes great with Turkey and Ham dinners and if you use coolwhip you can make xtra and put in fridge to have with the leftovers from holiday meal :)

    I also put drained crushed pineapple in my coleslaw

    Pork roast, always cooked on a bed of sauerkraut, crushed pineapple, pour some apple juice over that, sprinkle liberally with brown sugar then the good

  16. I am also a big fan of bacon jam...had it on pork chops last week..that's really gilding the pig isn't it? Love crushed potato chips on my tuna sandwich and had a friend who put strawberry jam on his....Bleahh!
    Pretzels with neopolitan ice cream and Fritos with fudge bars...yum!

  17. I was a day student at a day/boarding high school. If day students forgot to bring a lunch we could order a actual cafeteria for day students...just a lunch room...and we could pick it up at lunch time. I think we generally ended up with the same food the boarders ate. I seem to remember deliberately not bringing a lunch if one of my boarding student friends told me ahead of time that the lunch for the next day was something I liked. Frequently the sandwich would be home-made peanut butter (yummy) on a homemade grain bread (also yummy) AND the sandwich also had lettuce. Weird combination, but I actually began to like it and would look forward to it if I heard from a friend that "tomorrow will be peanut butter and lettuce day". I haven't had it since graduating from HS. Maybe I ought to give it a try again.

  18. Potato chips with vanilla ice cream???? but I would love to join you on the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans:)

    I'd really rather keep my salted food separate from sweet--except for salted caramel, which is divine.

    There is an outstanding shop in Key West called THE GLAZED DONUT. Their glazed donuts are killer, but the ones with candied bacon on top are too much. Hayley Snow does sample them in MURDER WITH GANACHE--even she thinks it's too much!

  19. For at least four generations in my family it has been ketchup on French toast. It always made us a big hit at church camp! :-)

    Mary L Allen

  20. My own creation, as far as I know: Spaghetti and croutons. If you eat pasta with bread on the side, this is like having your bread in the bowl. The croutons' crunch nicely contrasts the textures of spaghetti and sauce. The smaller croutons allow for better portion control/calorie counting than your average roll.