Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time Pressure: Chicken Teriyaki

Sometimes you just need to put something on the table, quick. Or you just want to put something on the table, quick. Or maybe it's a lot of times. Marc Matsumoto's skillet teriyaki chicken is a great one for a quick weeknight meal. Combine with some briefly boiled vegetables (so they're just tender-crisp; and toss with whatever you want, if you don't like them plain--I actually do) and steamed rice (rice cooker, duh) and you're good.

Need it faster? Use boneless chicken legs or thighs instead of deboning them yourself. I happened to have bone-in chicken legs on hand at the time, so I had to debone mine. A little clumsily with my chef's knife--another instance (which happens every once in a while) where I wish I had a boning knife. (Side note: I also wish I had more thorough and actual knife skills training. I may take a class eventually.)

Also, Matsumoto calls for honey in his recipe, but you can easily sub in an equal amount of brown sugar for it, as I prefer; I don't like having to clean honey off of things if I don't have to. Brown sugar's also cheaper. You could even do a little less sugar/honey, if you don't want your teriyaki too sweet.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thai-Inspired Caramelized Carrot Omelette

I'm definitely getting better at improvising. Or at least cooking without recipes. This dish was inspired by a dish I had at Little Serow, a Thai restaurant. The dish in question had squash (or maybe it was sweet potato...can't remember) stir-fried with carrot and egg, with the egg done in large, but broken up curds. I didn't have squash on hand, and wanted something that would be quick anyway, so went for caramelizing carrots to go with the very savory egg with fish sauce. It worked out great. No sugar is necessary to round out the fish sauce's flavor since the browned carrots are so sweet, themselves. If I wanted bigger curds, then I could have beaten in a little water or broth to the eggs.

Caramelized Carrot Omelette

2 eggs
1 tsp fish sauce
dash of white pepper

1 medium carrot, julienned

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1 scallion, chopped, whites/greens separated

1 TBS peanut or vegetable oil
  1. Beat eggs with fish sauce, white pepper, and scallion greens, and set aside.
  2. Heat skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and swirl around pan—it should flow quickly if the pan is hot. Spread julienned carrots around skillet and leave to brown, tossing occasionally (several minutes).
  3. Once carrots have begun to brown, add garlic, ginger, and scallion whites and stir-fry until fragrant and starting to brown, about a minute.
  4. Turn heat down to medium. Pour egg mixture into the skillet, tilting the pan to let the egg cover the whole surface. With a spatula, push egg gently from one side of the skillet to the other. As the egg bunches up, tilt the pan to allow still liquid egg to flow to the revealed hot skillet surface—as you might when making scrambled eggs. Continue doing this until the egg has formed into a mass of curds, but is still moist. Remove from heat and serve over freshly steamed rice or congee, or by itself.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Unfunking Quinoa

Quinoa smells/tastes funky to me; there's some kind of metallic twang to it. And it's not just me. I know, I know, it's a superfood, and a complete protein, and eating it gives you x-ray vision and telepathy. But for me it's just unpleasant to eat, unless you somehow deal with the funny flavor.

As those links above will tell you, though, there are a number of things you can try:
  • washing it before you cook it,
  • soaking it for a while or overnight before you cook it, 
  • cooking it with a soup base of some sort (chicken stock, pork stock, vegetable stock, etc.) instead of plain water, or
  • toasting it
I have to say, except for using chicken and pork stock to steam (only mitigates the flavor issue a little), I haven't tried any of the others (will do in the future; soaking sounds promising). But, I'll add another one to the list: stir-frying it after steaming it (alright, this is kinda like the toasting technique). Of course, you still need to season the quinoa, but the quinoa and bean stir-fry I made was excellent. Deliciously earthy with a nice, fluffy-with-crisp-bits texture. On the other hand, I stir-fried it in pork fat, which generally makes everything taste better.

This was one of those on-the-spot experiments of mine, though, from the Middle Eastern influenced chickpeas and red beans to the subsequent stir-frying with the quinoa. As such, unfortunately, I didn't keep good track of the exact proportions of ingredients. I'll have to come back with a recipe in another post.

But--I can point you to what made the chickpeas Middle Eastern, which is a new seasoning combination to me and a nice discovery: Za'atar. Here are a few recipes, each with slight variations in proportions and what the herb is besides the universal sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. So basically, the exact proportion doesn't seem to be critical, but similar amounts of each, and less salt than the other ingredients.

Friday, January 11, 2013

And We're Off

Time slips by--we're already 11 days into 2013! Hope the new year's kicking off well for everyone.

I have a little good news to share: one of my savory oatmeal recipes is part of a recipe slideshow on Shape Magazine's website! Many thanks to Shape for reaching out with this opportunity.

A little musing, though: this marks the two-year mark for Escapades in Cookery. I'm starting to think I might have to rename the blog, though. You see, when I first started it, I was just looking to catalog my amateur cooking efforts. Tracking your progress helps to motivate you, sort of pressuring you to be more consistent in effort, as well as providing a history of progress to look back on, and helping to organize and develop your thoughts as you write. Turns out I got deeper into cooking as I went, and feel like "escapades" may not describe my cooking attempts anymore. I've developed enough that I no longer feel like my cooking is just an ignorant adventure into the unknown. Well, we'll see if I can come up with something better, and when I find time to do a redesign, and whether I can figure out a good way to keep Escapades linked to a potential new blog, since there's still content here that people seem to be seeking out (thanks for looking!).

As for the pretty picture below, it's just some cornbread (gluten-free of course) and homemade soy milk. Almost like that classic Taiwanese breakfast of soy milk (savory or sweet) and you tiao (oily, airy breadsticks) or shao bing (a sesame seeded flat bread). Yes, unfortunately both you tiao and shao bing have gluten, and no, I don't eat them anymore. Sad face.

This was my second attempt at cornbread, and something's just not been appealing to me about both attempts. I think it's just the cornmeal I'm using is medium-grind, so there are these coarse grains dispersed throughout the bread. It may also be the cornmeal that's got a certain twang to its flavor. Will have to try with another brand eventually (this brand was Bob's Redmill), but I don't often bake.

As for the soy milk, if you make your own, you can get a much clearer and better bean-y flavor than the American soy milks you can find in the store. Of course, they're probably trying to mask it to make it more similar to cow's milk, not to mention thickening it for the same reason. If you don't want to make your own and need soy milk for Asian recipes, I've found Westsoy's unsweetened plain soy milk to be good for cooking with if you don't have easy access to Asian grocery stores.

If you do want to make your own, here's the recipe I followed. I simplified things a bit by not blending the beans to a pulp (I don't have a blender, but only a food processor), which also allowed me to just use a plain, fine-meshed sieve to strain the soy milk afterward.