Adventures on the Internet: One out of three ain’t bad

The Web can be your best friend when you’re looking for a recipe. Or it can resemble a movie trailer that promises something it can’t deliver.

I had both experiences Thursday when I was in mission mode, trying to re-create two dishes that recently intrigued me.

First, at a meeting Tuesday, there was a penuche candy bar cookie (penuche, which may be of Italian or Mexican origin, depending on which source you believe, is known in the south as brown sugar fudge, a name that paints an accurate word picture of this old-fashioned confection). The cookie had been donated by a caterer who, I’m told, doesn’t share her recipes (and why should she? They’re her living.). Served in small, rich squares, these cookies begin with a buttery bar cookie base (flour, sugar, salt, butter) topped with a penuche layer packed with half-melted chocolate chips and studded with whole or halved pecans.

I found two penuche bar recipes online, one of which sounded like it would be close. But this one produced a not too bad accident: not what I wanted but something indulgently good. The butterscotch-chocolate melange refused to set up, ending up scoopable but not cuttable. However, when I tasted it still warm from the oven, it made me wish there was vanilla ice cream in the freezer. My husband, however, found it too rich. The second recipe — in which I used flake coconut because I was short on chocolate chips — was more of a blondie than the candy-topped bar. Husband liked it.

However, both tasted more like butterscotch than penuche, which has a distinctive if indescribable flavor. Nothing daunted, next I’ll try making stovetop penuche, stirring in the chocolate chips, pouring it on the cookie bar and pressing the pecans on top.

My third effort was met with spectacular success. The very first recipe that popped up  under “miso-ko chu jang sauce,” from justhungrey.com, was pretty much IT. I’d had the sauce in a slightly firm, scoopable form on vegan bi bim bap at Peace Cafe. But, in this preparation, the sauce is thinned with water to a Thousand Island dressing consistency then slathered over boiled and fried potatoes. (BTW: Ko chu jang is spicy bean paste, which, along with sesame and kim chee, is the taste of Korea.)

One caution: When you fry the sauce on the crusty potatoes, keep the heat at medium or below; the sauce caramelizes to nearly black rather quickly. This one my husband heartily approved, eating a generous serving even though he claimed not to be particularly hungry.

To make this into an entree, serve with baked tofu, silken tofu over brown rice or greens, grilled seitan (wheat gluten) or tempeh (soy cakes) or with grilled fish or chicken. Next time I make it, I think I may add a bit more red miso.

New Potatoes with Miso-Ko Chu Jang Sauce

1 pound “new” or “salad” potatoes (such as White Rose), washed, skin-on

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons miso, preferably red miso
1 tablespoon. ko chu jang
3  tablespoons raw cane sugar or light brown sugar (or white sugar )
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Minced green onions for garnish (green only)
Boil the potatoes in their skins until they are tender (readily pierced with knife or fork).
Heat a large frying pan or work and heat the sesame oil. Add the potatoes, and pan-fry them until brown and crispy.
In the meantime, combine the miso, kochujang, sugar, grated garlic and ginger in a bowl with enough water to make it into a smooth, loose paste, about the consistency of ketchup. (Use a microplane to grate the garlic and ginger.)
Add the sauce to the hot pan and toss the potatoes around rapidly to coat them well. The water will evaporate and the sauce will turn very sticky. Take off the the heat before the miso burns.
Serve sprinkled with lots of chopped green onions.

I served this with storebought cucumber kim chee and poke-cut ‘ahi fried in a little butter finished with a splash of shoyu, served on a smear of wasabi mayonnaise with a sprinkling of of furikake. I’m eating the leftovers for breakfast!

<strong>Tomorrow: <strong>

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