Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Heavenly Duo: Fried Smelt and Kimchi Fried Rice

This is really eclectic, but a really great harmony of flavors. Pictured above is fried smelt on the right, dredged in corn starch, salt, and white pepper, drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a bit of sliced chiles, and kimchi fried rice on the left (and some steamed broccoli tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, but that's not what we're here to talk about).

I know, not super commonly seen together, but if you've got a chance, trying pairing them--their flavors sing together! Something about the rich oiliness of small fry smoothly marries with the stronger kimchi flavors.

A fried egg on kimchi fried rice is fantastic, too, but y'all probably already know that. Similarly, the rich smoothness of the egg blends with the stronger kimchi flavors really well. I'll be writing up my kkakdugi (radish kimchi, and from whence this kimchi fried rice eventually came), probably next.

I went through the trouble of gutting the smelt (it's really easy), but noticed the guts looked like eggs--and they were! D'oh! I should've just left the heads on and eaten them whole! Totally was going to do it from the get-go, but the recipes I saw all seemed to have the smelt gutted and beheaded. Should've stuck with my Asian instincts. Next time, Gadget...next time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Shirasu Tiny Dried Sardines

Had a very northeast Asian dinner last night. Besides the kimchi and kkakdugi (radish kimchi), I also prepared a little stir-fried shirasu (dried baby sardines in Japanese cuisine, but smaller than niboshi). The humble nature of this meal--small fry and fermented veggies--gives me a certain satisfaction. Doesn't mean it's not super flavorful, though!

I had shirasu a fair amount growing up at my grandmother's, though just plain (dried and salted, as they come in the package) on rice. Salty savory goodness.

Here's a handy link describing niboshi, shirasu, chirimen-jako, and iriko, all dried small sardines of varying size and dryness.

Or are they anchovies? There seems to be some confusion about this...anyone know for sure?

There's also an analogous dried baby anchovy/sardine in Korean cuisine called myeolchi. And when you stir-fry it, the dish is called myeolchi-bokkeum.

Here's the spicy-sweet-savory stir-fry I did:

Spicy Sweet Shirasu Stir-Fry

4 oz. shirasu
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, sliced or minced
4-6 Chinese dried peppers, cut in half, seeds shaken out (called tien tsin peppers by some transliteration? In any case, the kind you see in your gongbao/kungpao chicken dish)

1 TBS soy sauce (gluten-free if desired)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 TBS rice wine

  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet or wok over medium heat until it flows quickly over the surface. Add sliced shallot, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry until fragrant and beginning to brown.
  3. Add shirasu to the pan/wok and pour sauce over everything. Stir-fry to distribute the sauce evenly, and continue cooking until the sauce has dried out. Remove from pan/wok and serve over freshly steamed rice.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Buckwheat Crêpes Encore

Much prettier than last time! Basically, you just need to cook the crepes on medium-low heat rather than medium heat. This keeps the crepe skins from cooking too quickly and wrinkling up.

Hmm, looks kind-of like injera. But these aren't sour and are less thick and spongy.

I've edited my recipe to incorporate what I've learned, included at the end of this post (and edited in my previous post).

(Also, I have plates finally!)

Above, a savory crepe filling and a sweet one, sautéed chicken liver and hearts with vegetables and sautéed banana slices with honey and cinnamon, respectively. I have to say, I find savory fillings to work better with buckwheat crepes than sweet fillings do. The earthy flavor and stronger texture of the buckwheat crepe just melds with savory fillings better than with sweet fillings, where the flavors don't mesh as well.

Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crêpe
makes batter for 2 crepes

You can actually scale this recipe up to maybe four times its current proportion while sticking with the one egg. As it stands, the crepes cook up a little thick because of the egg and flour to water ratio. Increase the amount of water relative to the flour and egg for a thinner batter and thinner crepes. If the crepes are very thin it’ll be easier to flip and release from the pan if you have an actual flat crepe pan with its low edges. I don't have such a pan, so it's easier to work with if the crepes aren't so delicate. And because I'm usually cooking for one, it's easier for me just to use one egg and have thicker crepes rather than make too much batter.

50g (about 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
100g water
1 egg
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
vegetable oil

  1. Thoroughly whisk together ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup for ease of pouring.
  2. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes to bring the pan to cooking temperature. Use a paper towel folded over several times to wipe a thin layer of oil over the surface of the pan. Pour half the batter into the skillet and tilt the pan around to allow the batter to cover the surface in a thin layer. Cook until the crepe has set (about a minute). Slide a metal spatula underneath the crepe to release it and flip to briefly cook the other side.
  3. Add your filling, fold, and plate, or remove crepe from pan and fill afterward.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Spatchcocking Lives Up to the Hype

By now, you've likely heard of spatchcocking, maybe in the context of roasting a Thanksgiving turkey, since it can greatly reduce the cooking time. (It's late, but Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.) Well, I didn't need or want to prepare a whole turkey, but I did want to finally give the technique a shot after seeing it pop up every year around Thanksgiving for a while now. So, I went for spatchcocking a chicken, which as Bittman notes, was a thing before he started doing it with turkeys.

It works! Cooking time is faster, and the white meat doesn't dry out before the dark meat is done. On cutting off a slice of the breast meat, I was pleased to find it glisteningly moist. It was also tender and really easy to cut, even with the dull, non-steak knife I was using. Total roasting time ended up being about 40-45 minutes for my 4 pound chicken at 400°F.

Pro tip: put your chicken into the oven legs facing inward so they'll cook at a faster rate than the doorside-facing breast meat. It's hotter toward the back since when you inevitably need to open the oven door to check on things or add things to the pan, it's the front part of the oven immediately exchanging heat and air with the outside. I'd guess the door is itself less insulating than the back of the oven, since there's the glass and the sides, too. I didn't have to rotate my chicken at all, and by the end, the legs were 20°F hotter than the breasts (170°F and 150°F, respectively).

Here's a helpful short video of Bittman spatchcocking a turkey. Same process for chicken.

Here's the recipe I used, which was delicious. Substitute Earth Balance or other butter substitute to make it dairy-free, or alternatively just use more olive oil in place of the butter she calls for. Use the soy-free Earth Balance to avoid soy, or again, just use olive oil.

I salt underneath the skin to season the meat more directly and avoid making just the skin salty. If you salt ahead of time (dry brine), it also helps meat to retain moisture by denaturing the proteins, keeping them from contracting as much during cooking, and thus squeezing out less moisture.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jammin': Dried Porcinis, Black Garlic

Just playing with some new ingredients: dried porcinis and black garlic. Okay, so I've worked with dried porcinis a couple times before, but these ones that I bought from my local coop's bulk section were just stunningly fragrant and savory--worlds apart from the packaged Lucinda's stuff I'd used before.

I just soaked the sliced, dried porcinis in water to rehydrate, and then stir-fried them with garlic, bok choy, and a little salt and pepper. Fantastic!

As for the black garlic, it is super tasty stuff. Fruity, savory, and earthy all at once. There were recipe cards for a black garlic vinaigrette at the store, so I just made that and doused a salted slab of salmon with it and steamed the fish. I then spooned some more uncooked vinaigrette on the fish afterward to get the fresh, stronger taste of the uncooked vinaigrette in the dish. Also great!

This was also the second time I've microwave steamed a slab of salmon (by which I mean about a 1.5 pound filet), and it's just about the easiest way to cook fish--and comes out perfectly. You basically just need to put your fish in a microwave save dish, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and then microwave on high for about 4 minutes per pound of fish (mine is a 1000W microwave, so take that into account, too, if you try it). Depending on your dish, there could be more process after microwaving, or maybe you only need to add your seasoning before microwaving, but the fish itself is cooked (flakes easily, not overdone or dried out) after a couple minutes with the push of a button.

Dried Porcini Bok Choy Stir Fry

1 oz dried porcinis, soaked in water for 30+ minutes
1 lb. bok choy, stems cut off, leaves separated
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS peanut or vegetable oil
  1. Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface. Add porcinies and stir-fry until lightly browning.
  2. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper and stir-fry until garlic is starting to brown.
  3. Turn up heat to high and add bok choy and a couple tablespoons of water, which will create steam to cook the leaves. Continue stir-frying until the bok choy has wilted and is a vibrant green color. Season lightly with a little more salt and add small dashes of water as needed, when the pan dries up, to continue cooking the bok choy if it's not yet done.
  4. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Black Garlic Vinaigrette
adapted from Obis One's recipe card

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
1 TBS shallot, minced (not having any on hand, I used yellow onion, soaked in gold water for 30 minutes to remove some of its harshness)
6 black garlic cloves, minced
1/2 TBS salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (not having any on hand, I used korean chili powder)
1 tsp thyme leaves

The original recipe just has you throw whole cloves in the food processor, but given the dense, gumminess of the black garlic, it just ended up stick to the blades and being pushed around, taking a long time to process. It's be much simpler just to mince by hand before combining with the other ingredients.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until emulsified.