Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Streaming My Cooking Consciousness

I’m starting a Tumblr blog for my cooking and food musings since I’ve long liked the simple, abbreviated posting that Tumblr encourages. I’ll often come across something, an article, a dish, or make something that I don’t feel like merits writing a full blog post on. But I like the flexibility Tumblr offers over the super terse Twitter posts. Just right for what I’m looking for, I think.

For the time being, I’ll keep my recipe posts here on Escapades. We’ll see how things evolve, but you can check it out over at Will's Plate!

I'm also going to start another Tumblr blog analogously named "Fail's Plate", too, for short posts about the inevitable fails I have when experimenting. Really struggled between that and "Failscapades". I think it can be even more helpful to hear from people what not to do and why, rather than just what to do to get a certain result. Should be fun and educational. :)

Happy holidays, everyone, and see you in 2015!

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, 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. [UPDATE: it doesn't work! Keep the flour:water ratio unless you have a stand-mixer or a motor arm and want to go for the gelatinized buckwheat described here.]
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.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Karasumi/Wu Yu Zi: Salted Mullet Roe

Here's an interesting one: karasumi 唐墨, or wu yu zi 烏魚子, salted mullet (a type of fish) roe in Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine, respectively. Apparently very similar to the Mediterranean botargo, which is also salted typically mullet roe. What makes this intriguing to me is that the Taiwanese link raises questions as to the food's origins.

One might think that Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine share this dish due to cultural exchange in one direction or another during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. Apparently, though, mullet fishing in Taiwan can be traced back to when Taiwan was a Dutch colony! (Back in the 17th century) So maybe the dish was introduced to Japan via Taiwan. Or maybe there was independent development of the dish. Or maybe something else complicated.

The botargo link is intriguing also, due to the Dutch-Taiwan link, except that Holland is far from the Mediterranean. And then again, there's a whole lot of salt curing in a variety of foods in many different cuisines.

I dug this all up because I recently came across an excellent karasumi daikon dish at a yakitori place in the South Bay, which reminded me of how my (Taiwanese) grandmother used to often serve karasumi/wu yu zi as part of meals when I was a wee 'un.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WIP: Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crêpes

(WIP = Work in Progress), but in general these allergy friendly buckwheat crepes worked out pretty well. There is no dairy or wheat or nuts of any kind (since coconut or other tree nut-based ingredients are often part of dairy- and wheat-free foods) in the batter--but there is egg. The recipe is very simple, with just buckwheat flour, egg, water, and a pinch of salt. They're probably more brittle than if you include dairy in the batter, but otherwise they function as crepe skins and have a nice flavor to them. And really, I think you could probably do the same thing with other flours, or a mix a flours. You could probably even put in a pinch of xanthan gum or guar gum if you wanted it to be a little more flexible a crepe skin. Again, work in progress; I'll be playing with it from time to time.

Huh, look at that--turns out buckwheat crepes are a food with some history in France, generally savory and called "galettes". And looking a little further, it seems that actually, if you work the batter a lot, buckwheat will gelatinize. ...maybe I will get a stand mixer one day after all. There was a time, before I sussed out my dairy and wheat issues, that I wanted one in order to explore hand-pulled noodles and pastries. Of course, I shelved all that (and saved myself the money) when I figured out that they caused my system problems. Anyway, between this and the pistou discussed in my previous post, it seems that French cuisine has more to offer me than I knew--not that you ever really see these parts of it in the U.S. Though, there is a cafe serving galettes in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Pictured above, I made a savory crepe and a sweet crepe for breakfast this morning. For the savory one, I filled it with some of the scallop sautéed kale from the previous night, along with some pear/teardrop tomatoes. For the sweet, I filled it with bananas and local alfalfa honey. Both were really delicious! If I were just making sweet ones, then I'd think about incorporating cinnamon or other things like lemon zest into the batter possibly. And for the savory, maybe other spices, if I wanted to be elaborate. The simplicity and speed with which you can mix up the basic batter is really appealing to me, though.

What's that? My banana crepe looks funny to you? (It's okay, banana crepe, I thought you were delicious.) Well, yeah, the relative brittleness of the crepe meant that when I messed up my flipping technique, the crepe ended up breaking, so I had two half moons instead of a full moon.

[Technique note:] I think next time I'll just flip once and use the originally-top side (now bottom side after the flip) as the outside of the crepe; it's smoother and looks a little nicer than the wrinkled surface of the originally-bottom side--at least at the heat I was cooking at this time.

[UPDATE: added a note about the recipe proportions to adjust servings made and thickness of the crepes. Also edited the ingredients list and instructions slightly to incorporate what I learned in later attempts.]

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. [UPDATE 2: it doesn't work! Keep the flour:water ratio unless you have a stand-mixer or a motor arm and want to go for the gelatinized buckwheat described in the linked page above.]
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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jammin': Pesto Seared Scallops and Kale

David Chang once said that it's easy to cook delicious food with high quality ingredients. What's challenging is to make delicious food with low quality ingredients.* And definitely, I find that the better your ingredients, the less you have to do to make things taste great. Here in Sacramento,** the produce is so much fresher than in D.C.,*** and I'm continually pleasantly surprised at how flavorful everything I make seems to come out, even with very simple preparation. Well, I'm sure I'll get used to it soon, and come to expect it, ha.

*Sorry, I can't find a link to the quote--it was several years ago.
**Wow, this is now my fourth cross-country move, not to mention a trans-Pacific move and back.
***Which stands for District of Columbia, and not David Chang, despite its being his hometown.

Pictured above is a seared scallop dish I made, with a simple parsley pesto* and sautéed kale. The scallops and produce came from one of the local farmers markets. I was particularly impressed with the savory flavor of the scallop deglazing, which went fantastically with the sautéed kale.

*I don't add nuts or cheese to my pestos due to reactions. But, interestingly enough, it looks like my nut- and cheese-less variations of pestos are like pistou from Provencal, France. Looks like I'm really going to have to write that blog post I said I would previously, about similar pastes in different culinary traditions.

This is still a work in progress (isn't everything?)--so, like posting a sketch. I haven't actually tried making seared scallops before (they're expensive), so there are more variations I'd want to try in terms of technique, like not cooking the seared scallops in the sauce in order to keep the surface crisp. But in case you're interested, I'm posting what I did below.

Pesto Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale
Serves 2

½ lb. large scallops, defrosted, patted dry
¼ cup white wine vinegar
parsley pesto (recipe below—makes more than is needed for this recipe, so you can save extra for other uses)

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 6 cups, loose)

vegetable oil

  1. Season scallops with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface of the pan. Add scallops to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Let them cook undisturbed until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 to 1.5 minutes. Flip scallops and cook on other side until similarly browned.
  3. While the scallops are searing on their second side, add small dollops of pesto to the tops of each scallop. Once the second side is done, turn down the heat to medium-low and flip the scallops again so that the pesto’ed side is down. Add white wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits and mix with the vinegar and pesto. Cook for another minute, spooning the sauce in the pan over the scallops. Remove scallops from pan and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  4. Turn heat back up to medium. Add chopped kale to the pan and toss until it wilts and is a vibrant green color. You may have to do this in two batches. With the second batch, add a little more pesto and white wine vinegar to the pan so that the kale is seasoned and has some steam to wilt it. Once wilted, toss all the kale together. Divide kale into individually portioned bowls or plates, top with scallops and serve immediately. If desired, serve with freshly steamed rice with scallop and kale cooking sauces spooned over the rice.

Simple Parsley Pesto

1 cup parsley (loose, not packed), chopped
8 cloves garlic
½ - 1 tsp salt (if 1 tsp, the pesto will be too salty to just eat spread directly on a filet of fish, but great to use as a seasoning paste while cooking a dish)
1 tsp Korean chili powder (if you use a different kind of chili powder, you may want to reduce the quantity since Korean chilies are mild, unless you want more heat)
extra virgin olive oil, enough to form a paste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in bursts, scraping down sides and adding olive oil as needed, until paste is formed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cooking Efficiently

Bittman raises an excellent tip about cooking efficiently in this recent article of his.

Many of you (ha, as if there are even "many" of you reading my blog!) probably already do this, but essentially the point is that although recipes (mine included) often list ingredients out with the preparation notes incorporated into the list rather than narrating out the prep work in the steps, when you're actually doing the cooking, it's most efficient to do the prep of various ingredients as you go along rather than doing all the peeling, cutting, etc. beforehand and then executing the steps all at once (an exception to this is if the cooking takes place very quickly and you wouldn't have time to do any prep between steps, like with high heat stir-fries).

For example, you might slice onions and set them to sweat or brown in the pan while you prep other ingredients because it takes several minutes for the onions to get to the point where you want to add the next ingredients to the pan. Especially when you're just cooking for yourself, you can be more flexible about the timing and results, meaning you can be more free-flowing in your prep and cooking, and ultimately more efficient in getting your meal on the table, time-wise at least.

Anyway, hopefully that's helpful to you if you don't already do it. I will add, though, that it's much easier when you've got more familiarity with cooking and don't need to rely on recipes very closely.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Food As Sex Or Drugs

Interesting article on the New Republic about what foods get analogized with sex and what foods with drugs.

Just wanna say, I don't think I've ever analogized a food with either sex or drugs, and plan never to do so. You're welcome.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Will's Spicy Chicken Soup

Spicy beef noodle soup (niu rou mian) is a staple of Taiwanese cuisine, but I generally avoid cooking with beef for environmental and health reasons. However, this chicken version I made was a resounding success--so much so that I don't mind not making the beef version!

[Ugg, lost a lot of the red spectrum from the photo when converting to web use. Yes, I did convert to sRGB format first.]

I think a couple things contributed to the soup's deliciousness. One is that I used a whole chicken, so the bones and skin all contributed to the soup's full flavor (though I removed them once cooked). The other thing is that I used a pressure cooker, which I find retains more of the nuances of flavor in whatever you're cooking.

The young mustard greens I tossed in also paired wonderfully with the spicy savory soup. I think you want to avoid older mustard greens, though, as their flavor can be overpowering. The soup works great with a starch tossed in, too, whether noodles, rice, or dumplings.

See below for my recipe. You may not have yellow rock sugar in your pantry, but I'd recommend getting it from a Chinese or other Asian grocery since its flavor is clearer or brighter than white or brown sugar. As Andrea Nguyen puts it in the context of making pho, yellow rock sugar "rounds out all the rough edges and brings the flavors together. Many Viet cooks in the past used granulated sugar and the flavor is just sweet and flat."

Will’s Spicy Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken, giblets, kidneys, and excess fat removed
salt (~1 TBS)

1 pod black cardamom
2 pods (16 points) star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1-inch of ginger, sliced into coins
4 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
4 dried Chinese chili peppers, seeds discarded (add more or less to taste)
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar
1 TBS (gluten-free) soy sauce or tamari
2 TBS spicy douban jiang (spicy broad bean sauce)
2 quarts water

additions to the soup to taste
parboiled or steamed bok choy, young mustard greens, or other leafy greens
chopped scallions and/or cilantro
chopped pickled mustard greens (suan cai)
noodles of any sort (rice, cellophane, wheat)
steamed rice

  1. Place chicken in pressure cooker pot. Rub salt under the skin of the chicken all over the breasts and thighs, and onto the back of the chicken.
  2. Place cardamom, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns in a disposable tea pouch (this makes it easy to remove them after cooking, but isn’t necessary) and add into pot along with ginger, garlic, and dried peppers. Add rock sugar, soy sauce or tamari, spicy douban jiang, and water to the pot. Water should just cover chicken. 
  3. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. Allow for natural pressure release. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, bring to a low boil and simmer for an hour, adding more water as needed.) Chicken should be fall-off-the-bone done. Strip the meat from the bones and shred. Discard the bones, skin (if desired), spices, ginger, and garlic.
  4. Serve in individually portioned bowls with greens, rice or noodles, and garnish.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jammin': Omurice, Latin Edition

This is about as "Williamese" as it gets (my cheesy label for the creative, cross-cultural concoctions I come up with): omurice filled with carnitas and arroz rojo, topped with some chimichurri. These things come about not because I'm specifically trying to make something "fusion", but because when you cook, you end up with excess and leftover components--sauces, sides, stocks, parts of main dishes, raw ingredients--that you can use in preparing your next dish. If you happen to draw on many cultural traditions in your cooking, as I do, then you'll end up combining concepts in novel (and delicious) ways. And really, a lot of concepts carry over between cuisines. Take Argentinian chimichurri, for instance, which I actually plan to write on some time because of this. It shares a similarity in concept to other sauces that I find to be extremely versatile and tasty with many things, like the Chinese scallion-ginger sauce, and the Italian pesto. Well, I'll elaborate next time.

Oh, one more thing: this time with my omurice, I did the roll-up approach, instead of the blanket approach I used last time. Didn't I say the concept's flexible?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jammin': Stuffed 8 Ball Squash

There's never a neat way to eat these things. The round ones you can't eat like a hot dog, and when you try to slice them into smaller pieces, it's easy for the stuffing to separate from the squash. That's alright, stuffed squash, I forgive younomnomnom.

Well, it's the season of squash, and a friend gave me some of his excess eight ball squash to work with.

I happened to have some Mexican chicken and black bean rice on hand, so I scooped out the innards and stuffed the squash with the rice and baked them until they were tender (about 25 minutes at 400F in my oven).

What'd I do with the innards? Chopped them up, blanched them, and ate them. I already had simmering water going for blanching some excess spinach I had (tossed with garlic and sesame oil, destined for combination with a microwave poached egg in the morning) so it wasn't extra work just for squash innards.

The stuffed squash turned out well. I'm still not entirely sold on stuffed squash as a concept, though. It seems like mostly a presentation thing to me. You end up having to cook the filling separately or it won't cook through while baking in the squash. Some recipes even have you just bake the squash by itself before stuffing with the cooked filling. This just serves to emphasize that you could really just cut up the squash and incorporate it into the filling component directly. It is a very neat presentation, though.

Like my leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Where'd the lids go? I ate them so everything'd fit.

Pilipino Pop-up

How cool is this? MC Prometheus Brown and his wife in Seattle do monthly Filipino food pop-ups!

Seems like a more appealing idea to me, since I don't think I ever want to run a restaurant. Though even a pop-up's probably bigger scale than I ever want to do.

/more Filipino food in my area please.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Miso-Glazed Broiled Salmon

Oh man, broiling fish is so easy and quick that it almost feels like cheating! All you have to do is season or marinate your fish, put it under the broiler for several minutes, turn once and keep broiling for another several minutes, and that's pretty much it. If you're working with filets or whole fish (which your fishmonger scaled and gutted for you), then there isn't a lot of fussy prep work you have to do if your seasoning ingredients aren't too complicated. Really, at a minimum you could just salt (and a bit of oil) your fish and it'd be delicious, like with mackerel, as in Japanese cuisine's saba shioyaki.

If you're barbecuing this Independence Day weekend, miso based marinades are great for the grill, too. Happy 4th!

Miso-Glazed Salmon

1.5 lbs side of salmon, skin on, scales and bones removed
2 TBS mirin
2 TBS soy sauce (use gluten-free or tamari if desired)
2 TBS white miso (see kitchn's breakdown of what to look out for if gluten-sensitive)
1 TBS brown sugar
1 inch of ginger root, peeled and grated (1 TBS or so)

1. Place the filet in a large baking dish or pan (line with foil for easier cleanup afterward) and score the filet with 1/4-inch deep cuts about every 2 inches.
2. Stir marinade ingredients together until miso and sugar have dispersed. Spoon/pour over the salmon, covering completely. If the filet is too long, tuck the tail end back underneath the filet after pouring the marinade over. Let the salmon marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Set oven rack at highest level (about 4 inches from the broiler elements). Broil for about 12 minutes, turning the baking dish halfway through, until marinade has browned and started to char. Inside the thickest parts of the filet should have just turned opaque. If not quite opaque in the center, you can still just let the salmon rest 5-10 minutes to finish cooking through. Alternatively, if you want the salmon to just finish cooking through as it cools, you can pull it out of the oven after a total cooking time of 10-11 minutes instead, and then let it rest to finish cooking.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Puy Lentil Black Rice Salad

Doesn't that look fancy? I'm definitely not generally so trendy in my cooking, but that's a puy lentil, black rice, microgreens, and marigold salad. I had some lentils and rice left over from the batch of puy lentil black rice salad I'd made, and just needed some more greens. The local farmers market had a nice carton of microgreens and marigolds packaged together, so I thought I'd give them a shot.

The "normal greens" version of this salad is one of my favorite things I've made lately, and the microgreens and marigold version was excellent, too. I haven't had marigolds before, but they're a nice accent to add. Marigolds have a developing flavor that starts citrusy followed by a more floral flavor. Microgreens are apparently much more nutritious than their mature counterparts, at least as far as preliminary studies have found. Give them a try if you haven't before. I'll be keeping an eye out next time I'm at a farmers market.

Puy Lentil Black Rice Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 ½ cups puy lentils, picked through, rinsed (about 300g)
1 small onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
1 anchovy filet, mashed to a paste with a fork (omit to make this recipe vegetarian/vegan)
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
water (or chicken or vegetable stock if not using anchovy)
1 tsp salt, to taste
cooking oil (vegetable, peanut, other)

1 rice cooker cup (about ¾ cup) black rice, or half black and half brown rice, soaked 20-30 minutes, steamed

  1. Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt, and sauté until softened. Add mashed anchovy (if using) and sauté until fragrant. Add herbs and bay leaves and sauté until their aroma comes out. Add lentils, 1 teaspoon salt, and enough water (or chicken or vegetable stock) to cover the lentils by about an inch. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook gently for about 20 minutes, until lentils are done. Taste the lentils and add salt to taste. Pick out the bay leaves to discard, and drain the lentils.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, or even before you start preparing the lentils, depending on how fast your rice cooker cooks (or your stovetop rice cooking), rinse, soak, and steam the black rice.
  3. Once both lentils and rice are ready, toss together in a large bowl. You can enjoy these tossed with a vinaigrette (a basic one is described below) or with salad greens added in as well.

For the Salad:

several handfuls per serving (about 2-3 oz): salad greens, microgreens, any sort you like
1-2 cups lentil and rice mixture

Optional Additions
shallots, thinly sliced, steeped in lime juice or cider vinegar and a pinch of salt for 30 minutes or longer
cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced, steeped in lime juice or cider vinegar and a pinch of salt for 30 minutes or longer
scallions, thinly sliced
Thai basil leaves
marigold or other edible flowers

4 parts olive oil
3 parts balsamic and/or other vinegar

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified, or combine in a sealable container or bottle and shake until emulsified.

Fry Your Own Tostadas

This is an addendum to my previous post on chilaquiles. Try frying your own tostadas--it's very simple to do!

You just need about 1/2-inch of oil (use one with a high smoke point like peanut or a vegetable oil of some sort as opposed to olive oil) and an 8-inch skillet ideally. I used a 10-inch, since that's what I've got, but an 8-inch skillet will be closer in size to a 6-inch tortilla, so you won't be using so much excess oil.

Lay out your tortillas in a single layer to dry out before frying. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the oil sizzles when you dip a tortilla in. Then just place tortillas in the oil, frying 15-30 seconds per side, until lightly browned, frying one tortilla at a time. When the bubbling subsides, remove from oil, let excess oil drip off, and lay on paper towels to cool and drain. Tortillas should be completely crisp.

Enjoy these as tortilla chips (you could tear or cut them into triangles before frying if you like) or in other recipes--like chilaquiles or tortilla soup.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Now this is a fantastic comfort food dish. Thanks go to a friend for telling me about it so that I'd go and look up recipes and make it for myself. If you can have cheese, it's just that much more delicious, but in my opinion, the real heart of the dish is the fried corn tortillas softened in salsa. You get a great contrast of textures in the crisp parts of the fried tortillas against the chewy softened parts. Then the egg and onion mixed in seem pretty standard, too. But other than those components, you can really add whatever you want. I've added black beans and scallions in my rendition pictured above. Thing is that chilaquiles is like fried rice in that it's an endlessly flexible dish meant to use up leftover ingredients like extra tortillas and salsa.

Here are the three recipes I referenced in getting a grasp of the concept before doing my own version. You can see that they vary considerably in approach. The first one calls for 30 (!) tortillas, which is just way too much in my opinion. 10 tortillas seemed about right for my 10-inch skillet.

Give it a shot!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jammin': Omurice

Just some Saturday morning improvisation. Made a simple spinach omurice as well as played around with rolling a tamagoyaki in my pan. Topped with sriracha sauce instead of ketchup or other ketchup based omurice sauce, since we don't tend to have ketchup on hand. All tasty!

Didn't follow a recipe since you just need to know some technique and otherwise the concept's very flexible (fried rice with a sheet or egg draped on top or wrapped around it). There are many recipes online, but if you're curious about what I did here:

For the fried rice:
leftover rice
a couple handfuls of spinach
mixed together for seasoning sauce:
pinch of brown sugar
drizzle of soy sauce
drizzle of black vinegar (I must blog on this some time)

For the egg:
1 egg beaten
about 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water (or milk or soymilk; mixing in fluid makes the cooked egg lighter)
(I actually did 2 eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons water, but half went to the tamagoyaki. Yes, traditional tamagoyaki is with dashi and other ingredients, but I was just seeing how the rolling went)

Use medium-low heat so the egg cooks gently and stays nice and soft. As always, it's best if your eggs have a little time to warm up outside of the refrigerator to avoid sticking if you're not using non-stick as I don't.

Bonus technique observation:
For tamagoyaki, the egg probably needs to be very well beaten, else little clumps of egg white don't spread as smoothly in the pan.

Friday, May 2, 2014

What The Fagor!

Ugh, a little plastic component of my Fagor 3 in 1 Multicooker has already broken! It's not even a moving part, but the frame into which the removable steam cap inserts. I don't know how this could have happened, except if the steam coming through the metal tube somehow degraded the plastic outside it, or if the physical resistance the frame provided against the twist motion to serve as a locking mechanism worked to break the frame--both would indicate design flaws.

Clearly one instance doesn't make a trend, but take my one data point into account if you're looking to buy. It's still well within the 1-year warranty period, so we'll see what Fagor says... And if they don't pay for shipping it back to them, then I don't know that it'd be worth it, because I could probably just superglue the part back on. Annoying!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Steel-Cut Cakes with Banana and Cinnamon

I mean, come on! What's not to love? Classic banana, cinnamon, and honey to top your steel-cut cakes. I confess: I half cut into one cake before realizing I wanted to take a picture. Ahh, so homey...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Steel-Cut Cakes!

So, this is my new favorite thing. And I already blogged about it last time, but I wanted to give it a nicer photo treatment, so feast your eyes! Part of my complete breakfast. Alright, I'm coining it: these are steel-cut cakes.

And so you have the whole recipe laid out, here it is:

Steel-Cut Cakes
cooked in a rice cooker (alternatively, however you normally cook your steel-cut oats)

~110 grams steel-cut oats (about .75 cups)
~450 grams water (about 1.8 cups)
salt to taste
splash of soy milk

oil for pan-frying
honey, maple syrup, fresh fruit, cinnamon, whatever you like for toppings. If you can have dairy, then I bet butter or whipped cream are great--pretty much anything you'd have with waffles, pancakes, and the like.

  1. Add oats and water to 5-cup rice cooker (I think these measurements are scaled to Zojirushi’s 5-cup model rice cooker to avoid foaming action’s clogging the vents), set to "porridge" setting, and press cook. Note Zojirushi's warning that if yours doesn't have a "porridge" setting, you should watch it while it cooks since it my overflow while cooking (and in that case isn't so handy a method over the normal stove-top method). Alternatively, set timer to finish cooking when you wake up, if your rice cooker has the function.
  2. Once oats are finished cooking, add pinch of salt and splash of soy milk and mix well. Don't add too much extra fluid or the oatmeal won't set as thickly, which you want in order to fry your cakes; just a splash for some creaminess. Pour oatmeal into a container with high sides, pack it down using a spoon or other tool, and set in refrigerator to chill for several hours or overnight, until completely cooled and set.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, prepare the oatmeal into cakes. Run a spreading knife around the edges of the container to loosen the cooled oatmeal and then invert container over cutting board to plop out the oats. Slice into thick "pancakes". Place the slices into the hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides (5-7 minutes per side depending on how thick you sliced your cakes and how hot your pan is). Remove to a plate, add your preferred garnishes and enjoy.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Easiest Steel-Cut Oats and Fried Steel-Cut Cakes

You can buy oatmeal in three forms as a cereal: instant, rolled (old fashioned), and steel-cut. Instant oats cook quickly--in a minute. Rolled oats take [update: anywhere from around 5 to 15 minutes depending on the fluid you cook it in--blog post forthcoming!]. Though, really, it's more of a gradient from instant to quick-cooking to rolled just varying by how thin the grains are rolled (with instant crumbling into pieces because it's been rolled so thin), as described in kitchn's breakdown of the varieties. And then there's steel-cut, which takes some 30 minutes or so.

I like all three, from the formless mush of instant oats, to the more substantial rolled, to the thick and hearty steel-cut. When it comes down to it, though, I prefer rolled oats over instant for their lower glycemic index and because I like more body in my grains, and rolled over steel-cut because steel-cut just takes so freakin' long to cook--not helpful at any time, but especially for breakfast when convenience is a bigger factor.

Enter the rice cooker. Or more specifically, the rice cooker with timed cooking feature. If yours doesn't have it, tough luck! Even better, rice cooker with timed cooking feature and porridge setting (meant for slower cooking applications like xi fan/congee and steel-cut oats). Add the oats and water to the rice cooker, set it to finish cooking when you wake up, and then press "cook". Go to sleep and wake up to perfectly cooked steel-cut oats!

If you've got a nicer one (as opposed to the basic kind that just has a glass lid with hole for a steam vent) then you may need to be more careful not to cook too much at a time to avoid foaming and clogging the vent. Zojirushi has this handy recipe for a 5-cup model. Note that they're using their rice-cooker "cups" and not standard cups (roughly 1 rice-cooker "cup" to 3/4 standard cup). I measured out the weights, though, and have included that in the "recipe" below. I mean, it's about the least involved recipe you can have.

But that's not all! Pictured above are steel-cut oat "cakes" I pan-fried with chilled, cooked steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are very thick once cooked, and after refrigeration can hold their shape pretty well. You still need to be gentle with them, though. Plop them out of their container and slice into flat pancake-like shapes, and then you can cook them as you would fry or brown any old pancake, filet, or steak. The result is a delicious crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside oatcake without any flour needed to bind it (as all the recipes online seem to have). I topped it with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkle of blueberries.

Rice Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

~110 grams steel-cut oats (about .75 cups)
~450 grams water (about 1.8 cups)
salt to taste
splash of soy milk

brown sugar, honey, other sweetener if desired
squeeze of lemon juice if adding sweeteners
fresh fruit
thai basil (my favorite is with pineapple)
  1. Add oats and water to 5-cup rice cooker (I think these measurements are scaled to Zojirushi’s 5-cup model rice cooker to avoid foaming action’s clogging the vents), set to "porridge" setting, and press cook. Note Zojirushi's warning that if yours doesn't have a "porridge" setting, you should watch it while it cooks since it my overflow while cooking (and in that case isn't so handy a method over the normal stove-top method). Alternatively, set timer to finish cooking when you wake up, if your rice cooker has the function.
  2. Add pinch of salt and splash of soy milk and mix well. Garnish with desired additions. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Crisp Roasted Broccoli

Turns out roasting is a really great and easy way to prepare broccoli. I don't think I've had crisp broccoli before (unless you count fried breaded broccoli), but was pleasantly surprised by the crispy fringes of the florets that came out of the oven. All you have to do is cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets, toss with some oil, and roast for 15-20 minutes in a 500F oven. Toss with salt to taste.

Check out the Brussels sprouts/broccoli section of Kenji Lopez-Alt's great primer on roasting fall and winter vegetables. I've tried this with Brussels sprouts, too, but don't like the results anywhere near as much. Certainly you do manage to avoid the off-putting sulfurous aroma, but the Brussels sprouts just ended up mushy for me. After refrigerating, they regained a more pleasing texture. But I was hoping for something like the showstopping, crisp fried Brussels sprouts I've had before. Guess you have to fry them to get that.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pho Success!

The broth was perfect this time! I think the key point was to be sure not to skimp on the rock sugar. I'm not saying to use extra, but don't use too little, either. This is hard to be precise about because of rock sugar's irregularity and its coming in hard, discrete rocks. I suppose if you have a scale you can weigh them, but if they're not right, you still have to imprecisely break the rocks. Anyway, it's cooking, not baking, so you don't need to be super precise. Just don't skimp on the rock sugar.

Also of note to discuss is that this time I used oxtail to make the stock. A friend suggested it because of its high gelatin content and its having meat on the bones for flavor. The caveat is of course that oxtail costs more per pound than other parts you could make the soup with. So now that I've gotten this great rendition out, next time I'm going to go back and see if I can get the same result using beef toe plus a cheap slow-cooking cut of beef. One thing I noticed was that the meat on the beef neckbones I used last time were very tender and packed with flavor. So toe for gelatin plus brisket or whatever cut of meat is cheap and slow-cooking (and flavor rich) seems to make sense. I wish I had beef shank readily accessible.

You can see my previous post with other thoughts here.

More on "Authenticity": Wramen

It's an interesting question at what point a variation of a dish has been stretched so far that it can no longer be considered a member of that dish set. A recent article in the Seattle Times referenced a blog post by Jay Friedman proposing that we distinguish between ramen, which is to be "authentic" (my quotation marks), versus Wramen, for when someone is trying to create something new.

Now, I definitely have strong puristic tendencies and appreciate the desire make such a distinction. You get into a bit of eye-rolling territory when restaurants slap together their own me-too fancy or homey high-concept versions of whatever is the latest hip dish or cuisine without really appreciating what actually goes into traditional versions of that dish and its culinary context. Ramen is the obvious example, but consider also maki sushi (which Friedman also mentions), tacos, pizza, and I think bibimbap shows potential to have this trend, too.

However, I also highly value creativity and appreciate the arbitrary nature of setting down bright line definitions of dishes and cuisines. The same dish will vary between individuals, and approaches evolve even within one individual over the course of time and as we are exposed to new things. I'm glad Friedman makes sure to express that he likes both ramen and Wramen. It's not that taking foods and ideas out of their existing boxes is a bad thing. Rather, there's a point beyond which you can't really call a noodle dish "ramen" anymore. Or beyond which you can't call a dish "Chinese food" anymore. Or beyond which a dish is really a variation of a hamburger steak or a sandwich and no longer a "hamburger". And of course the next question is "where is that point?" And that's another subjective and arbitrary question to ponder.

But wait, you say, pizza, in all its crazy diffusion has become a unique American product distinct from its Italian prototypes. And that, I think, is exactly what Friedman wants to distinguish: American takes on ramen, or Wramen, as opposed to traditional versions of it.

Where I think Friedman runs into trouble, though, is the question of why it is that all the creative exploration and evolution of ramen in Japan--which is ongoing--is all automatically "authentic" while foreign explorations are not. If a Japanese chef adds real Chinese cha shao (which is roasted) to a ramen instead of Japanese cha shuu (which is braised and actually is a sweeter version of what is called kong rou in Chinese), would it be "authentic"? Because Friedman calls out one Seattle chef's take on ramen that has Chinese cha shao and kimchi brussels sprouts as being Wramen. Or was it the kimchi brussels sprouts that made it Wramen? If a Japanese chef had put that together would it still be Wramen? Or would that be Jramen? Or ramen?

Ultimately nomenclature and classification is useful in that it enables us to discuss and compare things meaningfully. But I'm not sure getting people to say "ramen" and "Wramen" is going to help.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jicama Celery Salad

Wow, this was a surprisingly awesome salad. Surprising because I'd never made it before or even worked with jicama before. Too bad all we've got to look at is this half-demolished ruin...wait, people like looking at those, too, right? I'm just going to muse on the various things that went into this salad for this blog post, and the loose recipe is at the end.

Celery was the breakout star in this salad, to my surprise--actually, the celery's role in making the salad great was the big surprise. You need to make sure to peel off its stringy fibers, though, and then it's got a great crispness and doesn't get in the way of enjoying the flavors and textures of the salad. For some reason it just really harmonized and came out well with the lemon, balsamic, and egg.

Jicama is great! It's actually a lot like some varieties of "Asian pears" in both texture and flavor. A little harder, though, and a little more mild in flavor. In this salad it was nice in that the celery and jicama echoed each other in texture, but had a nice contrast and harmony in flavor. Next time I'd cut it into thinner "matchsticks" for use in the salad. Maybe 1/4-inch-ish rather than the 1/3-inch-ish I had here.

Spinach I find has a stronger flavor than other salad greens and a certain...spinachiness that for me works best with balsamic vinegar's stronger flavor and sweetness, as opposed to rice vinegar, which I like better with the chard/baby kale/spinach mix I had previously been buying.* But with just a little balsamic, the spinachiness of spinach and the sweetness of balsamic are both tamed and balance each other out wonderfully.

*Spinach is cheap by itself! And I have something like this simple salad as part of my complete breakfast every morning, so that's a big plus.

Jicama Celery Salad

a couple handfuls of spinach
jicama, peeled, cut into long 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
celery, peeled, cut same length as jicama
a good squeeze of lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
an egg, soft-boiled, fried, or poached (you want a little yolk still to be runny)

Toss all ingredients together and enjoy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Alternative Methods For Pho

Now that I have a pressure cooker, I've been revisiting soups like tonkotsu ramen broth and pho, since the pressure cooker drastically reduces the time and upkeep necessary to render stocks and broths. I last wrote about pho a long while back, using Andrea Nguyen's recipe, which appears to be the base recipe for every other recipe online--it is the mother of all pho recipes online, so to speak.

Well, this time around, I found a couple other recipes, including this one, which references both Nguyen's and Steamy Kitchen's (which also is based on Nguyen's) to look at, and did things slightly differently. As mentioned above, of course, I used a pressure cooker instead of the stove, which sped things up. The other big thing, though, was that I used my broiler to char the onions and ginger instead of a gas flame. This was much more convenient to do and very effective in getting a thorough char. By using a baking sheet/pan and broiler, you don't have to individually hold and turn each piece of onion and ginger. Actually, I no longer have a gas stove/oven, but the electric's been working just fine, and better yet, I actually have a broiler now, which has been very useful.

Lovely! Charred onions and ginger smell amazing.

Look at that beautiful color. Intriguingly, though, this time around the soup was much less rich than last time (which was too rich).  Maybe it had to do with the type of bones I used.* I didn't have thigh or knuckle bones this time, and made the soup with neck and toe bones.There was plenty of gelatin, and the toe bones had deliciously softened cartilage after pressure cooking (thank you, new toy). I just wish the richness was somewhere between what I had this time and last time. I'll have to play with it some more.*

*UPDATE: It wasn't more richness I was missing! I was forgetting to add the sliced onions for the final broth, which is critical in rounding out the flavor. Don't omit the onion!

Mmmm, cartilage...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pressure Cooker Risotto

Holy crap, if you have a pressure cooker and haven't yet tried making risotto with it, do it. Do it naaow! It cooks the rice perfectly: done through al dente without a chalky core. Best of all, though, no need to stand over your rice and stir forever.

Check out Hip Pressure Cooking's breakdown. Pazzaglia makes the intriguing assertion that actually what makes for the creamy texture of risotto is the toasting of the rice before the broth is added. As she also notes, Bittman also finds constant stirring not necessary.

The recipe at Hip Pressure Cooking is aimed at stove-top pressure cookers. Electric ones are different, and whatever kind you have, it all depends on the pressure your cooker can achieve. Rather than the 7 minutes Pazzaglia's recipe calls for, my electric one needs 10 minutes on high pressure.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pan Fried Sticky Rice Dumplings

Huh! So I've previously written on pan frying sticky rice dumplings. Last time I used a non-stick pan, but this time used stainless steel and still had no problem with any dumplings sticking to the pan. The starch "skin" released with no trouble, either. Also, last time I noted that they seemed to come out too sticky with the skin taking too strong a presence in the final product. Intriguingly, I found that this time that was not at all the case. There was a nice play of the crispy bottom with the sticky sides, without the skin's being too strong a presence. I think I probably made the skins thinner this time, making it so that the pan frying approach worked just fine.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Under Pressure

Pressure cooker, this is the beginning of a great partnership.

Getting a pressure cooker opens up new horizons. Chicken stock, done in just one hour without having to watch it! Pork shoulder tender in just one hour!

The quick and quality stock making capabilities are particularly appreciated. I can pick up chicken backs for cheap and make a batch of chicken stock that is cheaper and better tasting than the store-bought stuff without too much trouble. But also, I'm excited to revisit pho and tonkotsu soups, now that I won't have to watch the soups for so long.

Also intriguing was that the carrots I threw in with the pork shoulder had more concentrated and different flavors than I've ever tasted in carrots before. There was an almost floral quality to them, a little bit like with parsnips, though not quite so distinctive. Also, because pressure cooking prevents fluids from boiling, potatoes and carrots don't fall apart as they cook, and chicken bones don't release a lot of residue making the resulting stock relatively clear.

Anyway, looking forward to learning to use this new tool.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting More Out Of Your Rice Cooker

I figured out a really efficient way to use my rice cooker! The steamer insert holds your vegetables, dumplings, whatever you want to steam over the rice as it cooks. With rice cooking underneath at the same time, this is already doing two things with the push of a button. What I realized, though, is that I could take advantage of this setup, with the holes in the bottom of the steamer insert (which allows steam to rise through the insert, cooking the insert's contents on its way out the top), to allow the savory juices that come out when you cook meat (pictured above a sort of pork meat-loaf-patty-disc) to drip directly onto the rice cooking underneath.

What's also nice about using the rice cooker this way is that with the steam outlet built into the cooker, you don't get all that condensation coming back down on the food you're steaming. If you were doing a steaming setup with a dish set on a rack inside a large pot, for example, you might end up with diluted meat juices in the dish at the end, which wouldn't be quite as good poured on the rice. Supposedly you can get around the condensation issue by placing cheesecloth or other thin cloth across the top of the pot, but that means your steaming setup is ever more complex.

Of course, maybe you want to keep your rice sans juices, in which case steaming the meat separately or in some kind of dish would be better (though maybe wouldn't fit in the rice cooker insert).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Simplest Poached Egg Salad

I've been really digging this simple poached egg salad as part of my complete breakfast lately (complemented with a bowl of oatmeal). All it is is some salad greens (I like the baby spinach, kale, chard mix that Fresh Express has, as well as baby spinach, arugula), a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar (balsamic, red wine, rice, sherry, what have you), and a quick microwave poached egg on top. The runny yolk coats the greens and mixes with the olive oil and vinegar for great deliciousness. Give it a shot!