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.