Turns out, I was wrong. Cilantro is not a foul, parsley-pretending motherf*cker that tastes of soap and hamster-greens. I always thought it was, but it turns out I just hadn’t unleashed its full potential.
This has happened a lot in my adult life. For example, I once thought of cardamom AND nutmeg as “the spices that you forget what they taste like, and then a recipe calls for them and you put them in and then the whole blueberry cheesecake ends up tasting like it fell on the floor of a Moroccan market, and nobody saw so you just picked it up, half-heartedly blew any visible pieces of camel fur off the top, and then went about serving it.” They are not just the musky flavor equivalents of moose testicle. They are, in fact, lovely in both sweet and savory applications. The other day I made white chocolate/dark chocolate brownie/blondie bars that were featured in the King Arthur Flour catalog, and the recipe called for a healthy smattering of fresh nutmeg, and I absolutely put it in, and the best bites of the ambrosial bars were the bites where it was only white chocolate and nutmeg and gooey, slightly underdone butter-dough.
And cooked spinach is not the consistency and color of the puddle that would surround the Grinch if the Whos down in Whoville had had enough of his evil, anti-Christmas behavior and taken the Christmas tree axe to his femoral artery, leaving him to bleed out at the top of the pointy mountain. Sometimes, in fact, cooked spinach is a tangle of adorable baby spinach leaves, whose folic acid and Popeye strength has been sauteed for a grand total of 10 seconds in butter and garlic and sea salt.
So it shouldn’t have surprised me that I had a burgeoning love for cilantro creeping around the back of my brain, waiting for me to embrace it. Cilantro on its own is still a little bit like licking a Rainforest Fresh Glade Plug-In. But in salsa and pho and Thai curries and vinaigrettes it adds flavor that can’t be replicated. Period. A good flavor, I mean. And what versatility, right? To be able to be an integral part of both Asian and Central American cuisines? I’m frankly impressed.
And was even more impressed when it made bitchin’ hamburger rolls who on night one held a chipotle-bacon burger with Avocado crema, and on night two re-appeared as happy holders for coconut-crusted chicken thighs and broccoli slaw tossed in a coconut-peanut satay sauce.
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons softened butter
3 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast (I use SAF brand with great success)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped fairly small
Either put all of the ingredients into your bread maker (except for don’t add the cilantro until partway through the kneading process–usually your machine will beep to let you know it’s time) on the regular dough setting.
Knead the ingredients together (except your cilantro) using your hands or your stand mixer until the dough is very smooth and elastic, stopping partway through to add your cilantro and continue kneading until well incorporated.
Allow to rise until the dough doubles in volume. Punch it down and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Then pat the balls down and stretch them gently to make flat (1″ in thickness) circles that are about 3-3 1/2″ across. Allow to rise on a parchment-lined sheet tray until fairly puffy.
While they’re rising for the second time, preheat the oven to 425 F. When the rolls have risen to puffy glory, bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown (check them at 8 minutes, just to be sure they’re not done). Brush them with butter and sprinkle with salt immediately after you pull them out. Let them cool a few minutes, et voila!
Put whatever you want in them. You can use shredded pork, burgers, chicken breasts, grilled portobellas, whatever you feel like. Because cilantro is VERSATILE. And it only tastes a little bit like Dawn liquid detergent, and we all love Dawn liquid detergent because it cleans oil spills off of sea otters and ducks (or so my tv would have me believe).