Only people who know me incredibly well know that I can be a perfectionist. I try my best to hide it with cloak of nonchalance but sometimes people still get a peek.
Probably the main way that my perfectionism comes out is that I have the hardest time challenging myself. One time I won a Guitar Hero contest at a bar in the medium level bracket. I got 100% on a song I’d never even heard before. (I won a rubik’s cube and about 20 minutes worth of bragging rights.) I’m so ready for a harder level that it’s borderline pathetic but I just can’t bring myself to make the leap!
Basically, I have the hardest time bringing myself to do something that I might be mediocre or even (*gasp*) fail at. I’d rather not attempt something than risk the possibility of failing at it.
For a while, it’s been time for me to take the next step in my bread-making. It’s been time for me to tackle the world-renowned baguette.
The first time I tried my hand at making baguettes, I tried the technique in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book that I won’t stop talking about. (It was even recommended to a caller by Lynn Rosetto Kasper on this week’s episode of The Splendid Table, so it must be good!) They recommend rolling some refrigerator dough out into a 2-inch wide tube, letting it rise for 25 minutes, and then baking it on a preheated baking stone.
Well, I tried this technique but I don’t have any photos of the results. I don’t have any photos because, quite frankly, the baguettes were awful! They were horribly lumpy and misshapen and far too flat. To top it all off, they had neither the crunchy crust nor the soft interior that baguettes are known for.
What was that I said again about how I feel about failing?
Thankfully, this is one kitchen mishap that can be avoided with the proper tool. A baguette pan.
We received this baguette pan from Nate’s uncle Mark as a wedding gift. It’s non-stick, perforated and it will cook up the crustiest, tastiest baguettes you’ve ever made (although I confess that in my case that’s not saying much). What I especially love about this pan is that you proof and bake in the same pan; there’s no need to make a complicated transfer and clean up is easy (just remember to hand-wash it)!
My baguettes still aren’t the prettiest things ever. They’re still a little knobby and misshapen, or as Nate said “funky and chunky.” I prefer to think of them as “rustic.” Whatever their looks may be, they definitely taste like winners.
So then what do you do once you have fresh, homemade baguettes? You partake in the current culinary craze and make banh mi.
Everyone is always ragging on colonialism (myself included) but banh mi and other fusion foods are, I believe, concrete examples that there are some benefits to imperialism and globalization. The combination of French baguette and Vietnamese fillings is awesome; if you haven’t had banh mi before, there is no time like the present to remedy that.
The banh mi you see here is a homemade baguette topped with mayo, sauteed mushrooms and onions, grilled marinated tofu, pickled carrot and daikon radish, plus chopped fresh cucumber, cilantro, and jalapenos. Don’t worry, it sounds like way more work than it actually is! That said, there is a lot of chopping so this recipe may be one to make with a cooking buddy if you aren’t super speedy with a knife.
Both the pickled carrots and daikon and the sauteed mushrooms and onions were made using a banh mi recipe from my lovely and hilarious friend Caroline. We added grilled tofu to her recipe because we were hungry. For the tofu, we grilled it in a grill pan on high heat after marinating a few large slices in a mixture of rice vinegar, Sriracha hot sauce, brown sugar, and light and dark soy sauce. If, like us, you have left-over fillings, you can cook up a little jasmine rice and, wham-bam, you have a perfect lunch (or two) for the next day.
The coolest thing about this recipe is that you don’t even realize that it’s vegetarian. If you leave off the mayo (or use a vegan product instead), this would be a very satisfying vegan meal.
Actually, I take that back. The coolest thing about this recipe is how freaking good it is. Feel free to add extra Sriracha to taste (Nate certainly did)!