Shiftwork Bites: Travel Edition (Sort of)

When I was in Annapolis last week, I found the time to drink some beer, and work up a Brew Blog. I did not, however, manage to work in a road edition of Shiftwork Bites. I gave it some serious consideration, even worked up a few concepts, but never found the time to put a plan into action. I did, however, follow up this week at work, putting one of my ideas for a hotel-room edition of Shiftwork Bites into action, and following the same limitations that would have hampered me had I attempted do-it-yourself room service.

The first idea I had was generated via Twitter. A few weeks prior, I'd noticed, in passing, a very interesting-looking method for making Jell-O, posted by Chef Jose Andres. Given that his Café Atlantico was one of my dining destinations while near D.C., I thought it might be fun to run with that idea, and it sounded easily doable, even in a hotel room. I hit Chef Andres up with a few questions about the technique, only to receive his slightly pitying response "april first. . . ."

Yeah, so strike that idea. I then tried to enlist Chef Andres's assistance in replacing the gag idea with a real one, and he seemed game, inquiring as to the availability of certain small appliances. When I informed him that all I had to work with was a K-Cup style coffee maker, he disappeared. Chicken.

As I said, I never got around to making anything while out of town, but I took my idea for a savory porridge with powdered shiitake, miso, radish, and crispy wakame home with me. A few nights ago, I gathered the necessary ingredients and turned to the office coffee maker.

Step one was the powdered shiitake. It was a simple matter of taking some dried, sliced mushrooms and pounding the living hell out of them against the counter, using a sturdy bowl. It took a while, but I eventually had something that could pass for powder. I scooped some steel-cut oats and flax into the bowl, along with the shiitake powder, and added hot water from the Keurig, looking for a consistency somewhere shy of oatmeal, but certainly not soupy. To that, I added a small spoonful of miso, hacked (I was using a plastic knife) a few slices of radish, and sprinkled on some wakame seaweed.

It wasn't the worst thing I've ever eaten, but it was certainly the worst thing I've made for Shiftwork Bites. The flavors were all sharp angles, with none of them melding into one-another in the slightest. I think the instant nature of the dish did it in. Had the miso, mushrooms, and grains had the benefit of long cooking to bring the flavors into harmony, it might have been a different story. The wakame was probably a bad call, in general, tasting more brackish than anything else, and the radish faded completely into the background.

After I threw out half the serving, it occurred to me that I'd mentioned the idea for the dish to Chef Andres. Perhaps his silence was merely a wise distancing from the impending folly. I'm not giving up the notion of Hotel Room Bites, though. Next time I'm out of town, I'm making it a priority. I'll just make sure to have dinner plans in place, too, just in case.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall