Thursday, March 31, 2011

Miso Pork Stuffed Peppers


Stuffed peppers (stuffed everything) is such a great concept. The last (first) time I tried making stuffed peppers was several years ago and didn't work out so well. I was going for an egg-stuffed version, and tried to steam them in an electric pot (a Chinese appliance used for steaming or cooking). It was not quite big enough, and I had the timing off as I tend to with steaming. This time I went for baking them instead.

Recipes online tend to call for beef, rice and tomatoes, or something like quiche. I went for a kind of Pan-Asian pork angle. I don't know if people usually cut more off the top of the peppers, but I like to preserve more of the vegetable for the dish. There were holes in a couple of them! Alright, so one of the holes was my fault. There was this nub in the bottom of the pepper so I tried trimming it down. Turned out the nub was the convergence point of the bottom. Woops... The other one just...had a little hole in it. This was a slight problem because the juices and egg I had in the filling leaked out of those ones. Hmm, well, that's a reason to cut the peppers lengthwise, but that doesn't look as good, to me.

Ingredients for the filling, ready to sauté

Bell peppers, tops, seeds, and ribs removed.

Regardless, things turned out pretty well. The peppers were surprisingly juicy and tender. I'd anticipated their being drier due to the baking. The flesh of the peppers also seems to insulate the interiors a fair amount (good thing I sautéed the filling beforehand). I wonder, though, if the egg would have cooked properly or if the peppers would have dried out, depending on the timing, if I'd had more egg. This time I had too little egg, so couldn't really tell (though the egg that leaked out was cooked fine, ha). Anyway, not the fastest thing to make, due to the various steps and the baking, but a very flexible concept and cool conceptually and visually.





I had too much filling for the number of peppers (4) that I had, and the amount of egg was insufficient, too, so I've adjusted those points in my recipe, below. Not sure about how more egg would turn out in the same baking time, so that's just something to pay attention to.



Miso Pork Stuffed Peppers

INGREDIENTS

4 bell peppers

the filling
½ lb. ground pork
½ block firm tofu, drained and diced small
½ yellow onion, diced small
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water 10-15 minutes, chopped small
1-inch piece ginger, grated

6 eggs, beaten

the sauce
1 TBS miso paste
½ TBS soy sauce
½ TBS rice wine
½ TBS brown sugar
½ TBS chili garlic sauce


DIRECTIONS
  1. Soak shiitake mushrooms and drain tofu while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  3. Dice half-onion into small pieces, beat eggs, grate ginger, set aside separately.
  4. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. When mushrooms have softened and tofu finished draining, cut mushrooms and dice tofu into small pieces.
  6. Cut off tops of bell peppers, remove seeds and ribs, set aside on baking tray.
  7. Heat oil in pan or skillet on medium-high heat until shimmering.
  8. Add onion and mushrooms and stir fry until onions are translucent.
  9. Add pork and ginger, breaking up the pork, and stir fry until no longer pink.
  10. Add sauce and toss to cover all the meat.
  11. Add tofu and mix gently to distribute sauce and remove from heat.
  12. Spoon filling into the peppers.
  13. Pour egg over the filling in each of the peppers.
  14. Put filled peppers in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until peppers are tender and egg has just set.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ceçi n'est pas un black bean


They are black, and they are beans, but I don't think they're "black beans," or at least "Mexican black beans." I bought them a while ago at the Korean supermarket and they came in a bag labeled, "BLACK BEANS," along with a bunch of Korean text.

I branched out and tried making some Mexican rice and black beans because I had a craving for Mexican black beans. Well, "black beans." But these beans don't soften the way the black beans I was thinking of normally soften. I pre-soaked and cooked for nearly two hours and still they had a certain "crispness" to them. I don't have a word for it. Same thing when I used them in my gamjatang. Hmm. Well, lesson learned; I'll pick up Mexican black beans next time I want to make 'em. The question is what to do with the rest of these Korean black beans. In any case, the flavor was pretty good, but could have been stronger. More cumin. Maybe I should also have added more salt (same with the rice. I tend to go a little less than is asked for). I wonder if these beans acted differently than Mexican black beans would have.

As for the rice, aside from needing a touch more salt, it turned out pretty well, too. Well, I burned the bottom layer of rice in the pot. I should have turned the heat down lower, but I haven't cooked rice on the stove before! All the Asian families I know use rice cookers. Also, using long grain rice and baking it in the oven would have helped it be less moist, which I think is what's expected. But I don't have a Dutch oven. Would it be safe to put a normal pot into the oven? Would it burn the food? Alright, so I also kept the onions and tomatoes just diced and not puréed since I like that, whereas the poster of the recipe seemed to disapprove of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GENIUS



I'M A GENIUS!

Black Sesame Banana Mini-Muffins.

It's brilliant, I tells ya. (If you came up with this idea before, you're a genius, too.)

Mini-muffins rather than full sized ones because I don't want to eat large quantities of pastries at one time. I mean I do, but I don't. My roommates aren't big consumers of baked goods, either, so I can't just push excess baked goods off on them.

I was originally thinking about making black sesame 湯圓 tangyuan, and then I thought of this instead (I'll make the tangyuan another time). Half the batch is just black sesame without banana (yeah, that was a pain, calculating odd fractions and converting between measurement types to mix two tiny batches of ingredients, but I wanted to test with and without banana at the same time). Both are good. I just added black sesame powder the way you might add cocoa powder and it worked great. Actually, probably could have added more powder. Next time I think I'll try making them with black sesame paste filling. It'll compound the genius, maybe into madness.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pad See Ew...Scrambled...



Well, at least it tasted good. I didn't manage to keep the noodles mostly intact. Taking them out of the freezer, they were pretty brittle. I soaked them in warm water for a while, which helped. You normally wouldn't have to soak fresh noodles (bought from store, but not dried noodles). Damn the blessed freezer. Or bless the damned freezer. It's very helpful but also messes food up, too. If the Asian grocery stores weren't so far away, I wouldn't have to freeze foods so much...

Anyway, this recipe was another one from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. I used chicken for the meat. The flavors were good as far as I know, but I'm no expert on Thai food. No process pics; this one moves pretty quick once your prep is done.



In other news, I tried making that Indian eggplant curry from a while ago again. It turned out much better this time.

 in progress

Well, I actually had all the ingredients this time, including the unsweetened dried coconut, which turned out to be pretty important. I didn't add the last bit of oil, which really isn't necessary--it's already a very oily dish.

Actually, just having a sharp knife turned out to be very important to the dish's success. Last time I made it, I was using one of my roommate's knives. This time I had my own, which I hone regularly. The sharp/straight edge allowed me to slice the ginger slivers very thinly, whereas last time I didn't cut them as thin. This meant that this time the ginger slivers shriveled and wilted better so that their flavor and presence weren't overpowering like last time.

A final note: eggplant always takes much longer to cook than I expect. Daaamn.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Will's Wok

 


I'm sure there's a restaurant named Will's Wok somewhere, hah. Around the Seattle area we already have a Johnny's, Yea's, and Rocking Wok.

I bought a carbon steel wok a while ago and have recently been working out how to stir fry with it correctly. I think I'm getting there now, after doing variations on one dish three times. Well, the other thing was messing with "salted black beans," which are very flavorful. Anyway, as for the wok, traditionally they were cast iron, though carbon steel has become common. Ideally they should not have non-stick coating on them because the high heat required for stir frying makes the material break down. This means the wok has to be seasoned to avoid rusting as well as imparting a non-stick quality to the surface of the wok. I'm not sure about the details, but as you cook with it (and heat oil in it), oil is absorbed into the steel, and carbon from the food binds to the surface. A well seasoned wok will be a matte black in appearance rather than shiny and metallic.

This most recent attempt really started to show me how stir frying with a wok is much better than with your typical non-stick skillet. There was a really crisp juiciness to the peppers, and the umami throughout, but infused especially into the onions eaten with the chicken was mouth melty. I think it has to do with the higher heat and Maillard reactions--basically, the better carmelizing action of the wok made things more delicious. [This is a good place to plug an excellent book I've started reading called On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. An tome of scientific and historic knowledge on everything food and cooking. Here's a teaser: searing food doesn't "seal in the juices!" Thanks to my friend, Joann, for recommending both the book and getting a carbon steel wok!]

Pics and concluding lessons learned to follow. Maybe a recipe, too.

Cooking the veggies first


Searing the chicken in batches


Plated

The main thing I learned was that I need not be afraid of putting the heat too high with the wok. In fact, I probably should have put it even higher than I did this most recent attempt. This time it was high enough for the carbon seasoning to happen correctly, though. At least, I think it's right... We'll see if the texture of the meat can stay more crisp on the surface if the temperature's higher. It always softens once I add the vegetables and meats together, I guess because of the moisture from the vegetables.

Once you're used to taking care of the wok, it's not much trouble at all. I highly recommend getting one if you're into stir frying (they're also convenient for steaming things if you get a steaming rack, though I think making stews and soups will tend to remove the seasoning of the surface).



Chicken and Chinese Salted Black Bean Stir Fry

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS rice wine
1 tsp oyster sauce

1 medium onion
1 green pepper
2 carrots
a couple handfuls snow peas

several cloves garlic
~1 TBS Chinese salted black beans

splash of soy sauce


  1. Cut chicken breasts in half cross-wise, and then slice thinly what was lengthwise (roughly between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick)
  2. In medium bowl, toss chicken with soy sauce, rice wine, and oyster sauce. Set aside to marinate.
  3. Core and seed green pepper, and cut into thin slices. Cut onion into thin wedges. Peel and slice carrots into thin slices, on the diagonal. Trim and wash snow peas.
  4. Peel and smash garlic cloves lightly with flat of knife. Put black beans in a small bowl with water and stir a bit to knock loose extra salt and debris, and drain (so they’re not too salty).
  5. Heat wok to medium-high heat, swirl in oil. (Use a large skillet if you don’t have a wok).
  6. Add garlic, toast lightly.
  7. Add salted black beans and stir.
  8. When it’s fragrant, add in the onion. It’ll start smelling really good now.
  9. Once the onion are coated with oil and started turning translucent, push the garlic, beans, and onion up the side of the wok.
  10. Add the carrots and green pepper and stir fry until tender crisp.
  11. Stir all the carrots, green pepper, onion, beans, and garlic together and toss several times. Removed from wok and set aside for later.
  12. Add a little oil and turn heat up to high.
  13. Add chicken in batches so that the wok doesn’t cool too much (you need to maintain heat so the meat sears properly). Spread the meat around the bottom of the wok so that all pieces are touching the wok (this sets a limit to the size of your batches). Let sit for a number of seconds until the bottom has seared and the meat has relatively unstuck itself, then toss to brown other side. Remove from wok and continue with next batch. If needed, rinse out your wok with hot water (no soap), gently removing burnt remnants. Return to stove and let the heat dry out the wok before proceeding.
  14. Once the meat has all been seared, add the snow peas and the meat that you set aside and toss.
  15. When the snow peas are bright green, return everything, meat and vegetables, salted black beans and all, to the wok. Add a splash of soy sauce (about 1 TBS) and toss over high heat.
  16. Remove from heat and serve.