Sunday, October 25, 2015

Arroz Misto Rojo Stuffed Blue Hubbard Squash

This is one of the greatest things I've created. I think it's an even better take than the last time I posted about mixed rice stuffed squash. Also, that's a place spoon pictured above--thing's enormous.

It's a great combination of flavors and textures: bright and savory red mixed rice with a squeeze of lime juice; sweet, earthy, and soft flesh of the blue hubbard squash; and finally, the softened but brittle skin of the roasted squash.

Turns out blue hubbard squash skin softens enough once roasted that you can eat it easily (unlike acorn squash, which just stays unpleasantly hard, though it becomes more brittle as does hubbard squash skin). I was pleasantly surprised by the nice interplay between the brittle, softened skin and the creamy, softened flesh.

Blue hubbard cooks up a lot like kabocha squash, in flavor and texture, though kabocha's skin cooks up softer. Both are somewhat drier than butternut, but I like the thicker, almost creamy mouthfeel of kabocha and hubbard better than butternut's less substantial feel.

Here's what I did:

Arroz Misto Rojo

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 TBS canola or other neutral flavored oil

dash of:
chipotle chili powder
ancho chili powder
cayenne chili powder

1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, low- or no salt added

4 cups steamed, mixed rice

salt to taste

for garnish:
sliced scallions
freshly squeezed lime juice

  1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic, and lightly salt, and stir occasionally until beginning to brown.
  2. Add spices and sautée until spices are fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes and sautée until heated through.
  4. Add cooked rice and toss until thoroughly combined and heated through. Season with additional salt to taste. Add garnish as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, or use in another dish, such as stuffed roasted squash.

Simple Roasted Blue Hubbard Squash

½ blue hubbard squash, seeds removed
olive oil
coarse sea salt
ground black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 425F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
  2. Brush cut side and interior of squash with oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place on lined baking pan cut side down or up (down may keep it more moist through roasting than up, but I didn’t notice much of a difference trying it both ways).
  3. Roast for 40 minutes or so, until a fork pierces the flesh without resistance and the surface has browned.
  4. Serve directly (it’s delicious as is, eating it by the spoonful) or stuff with a seasoned rice dish, for example.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Becoming a Seasoned Seasoner (of Woks and Cast Iron Pans)

Finally, I've got a solid handle of how to properly season and maintain one's wok and/or cast iron pan. But really, this time.

I wrote about my struggles with this previously, and while my conclusions in that last blog post aren't all wrong, they're not all right, either.

But hey, instead of me taking the time to write out my experience in my words, how about I just refer you to this guide from Kenji Lopez-Alt, which will tell you all you need to know--and be correct, too:

With regard to the mysterious flaking (or scaling, as Kenji calls it) that bedeviled my earlier efforts, here's the key, buried at the bottom of Kenji's post:
This happens when you heat the pan too often without adding extra oil to it. Rather than coming off in microscopic bits like normal seasoning will, the layer of polymers sloughs off in large flakes. To reach this state, I stored my pan in the oven for a month's worth of heating cycles without reoiling the surface in between heating. It's easy to avoid this problem by regularly oiling the pan after each use and not overheating it (don't leave it in the oven during the cleaning cycle, for instance), but once it happens, there's no turning back—you'll have to reseason it from the start. [My emphasis added.]
That's it: Don't heat your seasoned wok or pan to smoking without adding oil or fat to it!

Also, when you heat up your pan/wok, swabbed with a very thin layer of oil, turn off the heat as soon as it starts smoking.

Other things about my previous post I'd amend:
  • The stovetop method of seasoning your cookware definitely works just fine. Just don't heat your pan/wok without oil.
  • Canola oil is actually a good oil for seasoning your cookware. It turns out the gunkiness that I (and others I've seen posting on the web) experienced with canola oil was due to not heating it to its smoke point when seasoning.
For more on the chemistry behind seasoning, and which oil is best, check out this blog post. She actually recommends food grade flaxseed oil, but it's expensive. But buried in her post is an allusion to how canola oil is decent since it's got some extent of the properties you want in the oil used for seasoning a pan.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chez Chen

Hey everyone,

Thanks so much for reading along with my unguided exploration and self-teaching of cooking. Just wanted to let you know that if you'd like to keep up with what I'm currently doing, check out my new Tumblr blog I've started over at:

There, I'll do short posts tracking my meandering cooking and food explorations in a sort-of stream of consciousness manner.

I first started Escapades in Cookery back in 2011, but lately I don’t really do long posts discussing my process and thoughts the way I used to, and which I find Blogger is better suited to. Instead, these days I find myself preferring the short format that Tumblr (and Instagram) are designed toward and facilitate, and a lot of what I’m doing no longer makes it onto this blog.

I also just feel like the tongue in cheek name I took for Escapades no longer really fits me–I started this blog back when I was first beginning to cook more regularly and felt like I was still basically flailing in the brush. It's turned out that cooking’s become one of my main interests, and something I spend a lot of time doing, as well as reading and thinking about.

It's possible that I'll still do longer posts here, but at the least, all my existing posts will stay up for the time being. Thanks again, I appreciate your attention, and happy cooking!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

More Uses For Cast Iron Pans

Check these awesome tips on more ways to use your cast iron pans:

Pizza stone! Sandwich press! Heat diffuser! Très cool.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sous Vide: Hajimaru

Got myself a fun new toy: a sous vide immersion circulator! Basically you can clamp the device to the side of a pot or cooler full of water, and it will automatically maintain a constant temperature in the water over time. What's so great about sous vide? I'll let Nathan Myhrvold explain. And here's a handy guide with Q&A about sous vide, specifically steak, but the questions are more generally put.

Definitely many things to try sous vide-ing in my future, but this first trial I just cooked a couple chicken legs I had already seasoned with salt. It was a good one to start with so I could compare against results from pan roasting. I'd made some of my latest favorite pistou (which I'll do a short blog post on in the future) to go with the chicken and decided to try two approaches with the sous vide: one I'd just put in the bag plain (salted), and the other I'd smear the paste under the skin before cooking. You don't actually need to add any fluid for the meat to cook properly, and actually, Kenji L-A notes in the guide linked above that extra fluids can actually serve to dilute flavor.

 Allow the water to reach temperature, immerse bags and squeeze out the air before sealing (without letting any water in), clip to the pot to anchor them in place, and away we go!

An hour and twenty minutes later, voilà! Just kidding; food comes out of sous vide with no sear, of course. As indicated in the pic above, I cooked the chicken at 165 degrees F—far below browning temperature. After you're done sous vide-ing, you have to brown your food (if you want to) by other methods (pan, broiler/oven, torch).

I used my steel skillet, and found that searing happened much quicker than it does with raw chicken. I think this is because the fat had already rendered out of the skin—which may also be why the fabulously crisp skin seemed thinner than you usually get pan-searing/roasting.

Except that it was different with the leg I put the paste under the skin for! The skin on this leg seared even faster than on the chicken leg with just salt before sous vide-ing. I left it on one side a little too long, not knowing this was going to be the case. But also very interestingly, the skin seared up with more volume, and was thus an even better crispy texture. Not sure why that was. They may just have been better contact between the skin and pan for this leg, which maybe created better bubbling. You can see the browned area is much broader.

Both legs turned out very juicy and tender, and very chicken-y. No bland chicken here. Of course, it also was dark meat.

More sous vide-ing to come!