Monday, January 31, 2011

RECIPE: Garlic Cooked Slaw

When I was thinking about what to put in my tacos this weekend, I had already decided on a Chinese style pulled pork. Slaw seemed like a natural accompaniment, but it didn't make sense to me to use the typical mayo or even vinegar based slaw. I wanted to complement the Asian theme in flavor. Even using a soy/rice vinegar sauce still didn't seem right. I began to recall this simple dish my mom makes at home which involves shredding cabbage and carrots and sauteing it with garlic, much like the way we prepare many vegetables. I took this as a launching point for experimentation.

The closest thing I can compare this to is perhaps moo shu pork? In the Western tradition, I've observed that cabbage is often either braised or left raw for slaws. I like this in-between compromise where you've still got some of that raw flavor and some crunch, but also some yield and tenderness. Think Venn diagram comparing cabbage and brussel sprouts.

  • 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp soy
  • 1 tsp dry sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine the soy and dry sherry and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil on high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic. As soon as this becomes aromatic, add the cabbage and continuously toss for about five minutes or until they've passed the wilting point and become slightly translucent, but not completely limp. Take off of heat and immediately drizzle the soy/sherry mixture over the cabbage, deglazing the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Picnic in the Park

Atlanta has had a sudden string of golden weather. Two weeks ago the city was covered in snow and ice.  This weekend was 70 and sunny. Why not enjoy a picnic in the park? Inspired by the Hankook Taqueria's Korean tacos, I took a similar direction and made my own. I roasted a boston butt for a few hours to make some pulled pork, seasoned that with some Chinese BBQ sauce. Then I made what I call a garlic cooked slaw which is a spin on what my mom would make all the time back home.  And then I mixed up a honey Sriracha mayo for a quick sauce. Easy and damn cheap.  About six people showed up and there were leftovers.  All for about 10 bucks.

Chinese BBQ pulled pork tacos with garlic cooked slaw and honey Sriracha mayo

Friday, January 28, 2011

I [heart] Oranges

And I love Friday mornings because I don't have class until noon and that means I have time to make a proper breakfast. This morning I put together an onion and red pepper scramble with some Sriracha drizzled on top. It doesn't look amazing, but it was really good.

onion and red pepper scramble, chopped oranges

The oranges I chopped up were insanely good- extremely juicy and sweet, verging on candy-like. I tried to identify the variety on the bag I got from Publix, but it only said Florida Oranges. Suspicious, but they were so good I don't want to ask too many questions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reports from le Week-end

It's been a few days since the last post, but that's because it was a rather busy weekend (minus Sunday).  And a delicious one, at that.  My friend Kavitha and I had a little dinner and catching up Friday evening over some Chicken Adobo.  Sam Sifton of The New York Times had posted an enticing recipe.  The result is nothing short of fucking amazing... one thing, though- I took one look at the recipe and decided that it needed onions. I'd like to think I was right because it tasted fucking amazing, but I haven't tried it without them for comparison.

chicken adobo, steamed broccolini with ginger, steamed rice

To start, Kavitha had also made this really tasty warmed goat cheese rolled in chives and topped with fennel cooked in truffle oil and honey. Spread over crackers, this was a rather welcome attack on the taste buds.  Totally have to try to make this.

warm goat cheese, chives, fennel in truffle oil and honey

And to finish, flambeed crepes suzenne! I had never made crepes before, so she let me do the honors with the actual cooking part. My dexterous wrist action is apparently renowned. All this needed was a dollop of whipped cream...

crepes suzenne

And of course, I couldn't help but show off my crepe-making skills and made about 45 of them the next day for a GTKayak party.

i am a crepe master!

Sunday was a lazy day with a minor hangover. Good leftovers to be had, though.  There was still some of the braised beef ribs remaining in the fridge.  Added a chopped onion omelet, steamed some broccoli with miso paste and ate it all over a bed of rice noodles and ramen stock. Lazy Sundays are good.

leftover braised beef ribs,  onion omelet, miso steamed broccoli over rice noodles and ramen stock

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rice Bowls with Leftovers

More leftovers: braised beef ribs, brussel sprouts and carrots, leeks and a freshly fried egg.

rice bowl: braised beef ribs, brussel sprouts + carrots, leeks, fried egg

RECIPE: Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Carrots

Many can't get over the bitter flavor of brussel sprouts, which is definitely something I encountered as a child. Out of curiosity, my mom made brussel sprouts only once. She just dropped them whole in a clear broth soup she was making and let them boil away. That was an epic fail because after a prolonged cooking time, the bitter flavor only enhanced. I've since explored this territory on my own and I must say- if you're not a fan of brussel sprouts, I will convert you. My success rate is pretty damn high, something like 100%, and that's more than a few people.

At any rate, many of my friends have had my garlic pan roasted brussel sprouts and I've continued to find ways to improve the recipe further. The addition of carrots offers some sweet contrast and the use of dry sherry and a little soy to deglaze the pan at the end is like the MSG you don't feel bad about. Or at least I don't.

  • 1/2 lb brussel sprouts, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 lb carrots, cut in 1 in. pieces, split lengthwise
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp tamari soy
  • salt and pepper

It is critical to use high heat for this recipe. Ventilation fans: GO!

Prepare a medium size pan on high heat with a tablespoon of neutral oil, like canola. When the surface of the oil starts to ripple, add the brussel sprouts, carrots and garlic. Stir to coat everything evenly in the oil, then bring the heat down to medium-high. Keep stirring every minute or two to prevent things from burning, which they will if pieces aren't turned (I prefer this process to roasting in the oven only because I can be this particular).

Once an aesthetically pleasing browning has occurred over most of the brussel sprouts and carrots, turn the heat down to medium. Add a little pepper and then salt liberally, but not too much your first time, obviously. Test one to see if it's still crunchy and a little tender. You don't want to cross the threshold where it's too tender, though. A little crunch is good.

At this point, combine the dry sherry and soy in a small bowl. Bring the heat on the pan back to high. Once you're convinced the pan is fucking hot again, drizzle the mixture over the pan WHILE stirring the vegetables. This will at once deglaze, caramelize and evaporate all at once. Immediately turn the heat off and transfer everything to a serving plate. Et voila!

Wow, that was a lot more difficult to explain than I thought it would be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

FAIL: Braised Beef Ribs with Fermented Black Beans

Tonight's dinner wasn't such a success- not bad, but not what I was hoping.  I usually use a jarred garlic black bean sauce from Lee Kum Kee when I braise beef ribs, adding ginger and some chicken stock to round out the flavors.  This time around I was hoping to emulate the flavors of the jarred sauce on my own because I can't help but be suspicious of the MSG content in there.

No success = no recipe, but I'll detail the process none-the-less.  Chopped onion; about a quarter cup Chinese fermented black beans; six garlic cloves, minced; two thai chili peppers, finely chopped...

chopped onions, minced garlic, fermented black beans, thai chili peppers

Deglaze the pan with a half a cup of dry sherry and a quarter cup of tamari soy sauce.  Add ribs and then add stock to cover.  I think there was my fatal flaw- I used water and not stock.  Stupid me.  I could have just added salt to remedy the problem, but I always feel like that's just cheating.  Ugh.  Whatever.  Braise for 2-3 hours.  It was super tender and the flavors were alllllmost right.  I also didn't have any ginger.  Next time... next time...

braised beef rib fail, garlic brussel sprouts and carrots

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Improvised BBQ Pork Fried Rice

I have to say that this one came out pretty damn good. A week ago, I made a ramen soup stock using pork bones. I always save the scrap meat from those bones because after cooking in that stock for hours, the meat pulls right off, just like pulled pork, maybe even more tender. I also had about two cups of leftover steamed rice in the cooker and onions and scallions on hand.

scraps from pork bones with Chinese BBQ sauce, Sriracha

Too fucking easy. I tossed the pork in a Chinese BBQ sauce, sesame oil and some Sriracha, put it under the broiler to toast up and char. Sauteed some chopped onions, added the rice, then incorporated the pork and some scallions. Done. And ridiculously delicious.

leftovers come together for an improvised BBQ pork fried rice

Orange Pound Cake

So it came out okay, more or less. I used the wrong size baking dish, so it turned out a little flat, but the ultimate result is incredible- sweet, slightly tart and unmistakably orange with the velvety texture of butter to cut the grain. Thank you, Saveur!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Night Beating

I've been in a bit of a poo-mood lately, and not in a good BM type of way. Don't feel like going out, so this Saturday night I'm baking. But I hate baking. It's formulaic. It's measured. It's chemistry. I didn't do so well in chem. At any rate, Saveur has this recipe for an Orange Pound Cake that intrigued me. It's pretty straightforward except I don't have an electric stand mixer. Michael's is with him at his boyfriend's house. So I beat this baby by hand. My wrist hurts! Thank God for bourbon. This had better turn out tasty.

Friday, January 14, 2011

RECIPE: Poached Whole Chicken

I honestly don't know where I first got the idea for this. I may have read it somewhere, but I definitely don't remember my mother or anyone in my family preparing a chicken this way. The basic concept is to take a cold or near room temperature chicken and place it in near boiling water (off the heat) and let them reach equilibrium. If you "tease" the chicken, so to say, towards doneness, it's a more gentle way of cooking the meat and won't overcook the outer layers of protein before the inside gets done. The result is a perfectly done chicken in all respects. The thighs and legs are juicy, the breasts are almost impossibly moist and the entire ensemble carries an intense chicken flavor.

Note that the larger the pot you use for this, the longer it will take to get the water to boil, but the massive volume of the water will mean less iterations as equilibrium is reached.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, crushed
  • salt

Place chicken in large pot or stockpot and fill with just enough water to cover the chicken. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat, drain, and refill with water 1 inch below rim of pot. Add ginger and salt generously. Bring to boil, cover, then take off heat and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Check with meat thermometer to see if the internal temperature has reached 165 (note that this is lower than recommended by FDA, but I'm still alive). A knife can also be used to cut a slit in the thigh and if blood emerges, it's not done. If done, remove from pot and serve immediately or chill. If not, bring the water back to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let it reach equilibrium again, about another 1/2 hour or however long you think it might take to reach the temperature for doneness.

It's definitely a process that involves several tries and some intuition, but once you have it down, it's really quite easy and the result is incomparable. I recommend serving with a ginger/scallion oil or a ginger vinegar soy.

Poached Chicken with Ginger/Scallion Oil and Sauteed Leeks

Please tell me this isn't a frightening sight?  I went to the Midtown/GT Publix after work and the place still hasn't recovered completely from the blizzard that hit us on Sunday night.  It's now Friday!  Produce seems to have been slightly replenished, cereal is bleak and while beef and pork seem to be in stock, chicken is practically GONE.  Luckily, I know a thing or two about how to prepare a whole bird.

no chicken at the Midtown/GT Publix
Looking for the easiest tasty way to get the bird in my belly, I opted for poaching.  It takes some time, but it's extremely carefree.  The results are ridiculously juicy, perhaps the best way to keep a chicken breast moist.  I topped it with some ginger/scallion oil (magic sauce) and paired it with some leeks sauteed in garlic with mini dried shrimp.

poached chicken with ginger/scallion oil, sauteed leeks

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Power of Memory on What We Eat

It was when I moved to college in Atlanta that I learned a lot about the importance of comfort foods, especially those that we consumed growing up.  Though I owned cookbooks, I rarely cooked from them.  Memories of my mother's cooking persisted, like lo mi fan, which is a savory sticky rice made with shitake mushrooms, fresh cilantro and fragrant chinese sausage, or a simple lamb and winter melon soup to cozy up the winter, or the Sunday morning ritual of crimping pork dumplings to consume that evening.

I've attempted to make these foods, some with more success than others, always consulting my mother.  She would assure me that I was doing it right, that there was probably something wrong with the ingredients I was getting in the South.  I was sure she was intentionally leaving information out to keep me coming back home.

But success wasn't always measured in how accurately it compared to my mother's version.  Memories produced a profoundly stubborn desire to imitate the past, but I would find that sometimes a perfect re-creation was met with a less than enthusiastic response from my friends.  Taste is subjective, and just as I don't always find the childhood foods of my friends all too appealing, they are not always receptive of mine.  Not one to give up, I've acquiesced to social whoredom and made modifications over the years to lure friends back into my kitchen.

Noodle Bowls Made With Leftovers

Here's an improvised variation on what to do with that ramen stock.  I had some leftover chicken thighs in the fridge that I had braised in a fermented black bean and rice wine sauce.  In addition to the noodles I have pre-cooked in the fridge, I sliced up the meat, cooked the sauce with the stock, poached an egg in it, and voila, breakfast (yes, breakfast).

improvised noodle bowl breakfast

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

RECIPE: Ramen Soup Stock

There's three tiers of ramen in my book: dirt cheap college-grade instant ramen, legitimate instant ramen that sells for about $2 a pop (like Shin Ramyun) and restaurant or homemade ramen, which is essentially just noodle soup.  I admittedly usually keep a stock of Shin Ramyun in my cabinets if I need a quick meal and I always have some vegetables on hand to top a bowl off with a poached egg.  Not ideal, but at least it's a complete meal.

Every now and then I want to make some really good ramen from scratch, so I'll pick up some pork bones from the market.  Add some ginger, onion and umami, and you got a pretty awesome base for a great noodle soup.

  • 2-3lbs pork bones (neck, whatever...)
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, smashed
  • 2 sheets dry kombu
  • salt and pepper

Place bones in a stock pot and fill with water to cover one inch above them.  Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for five minutes.  Drain pot, rinse bones and then refill with water 3/4 high up the pot.  Add onion and ginger.  Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for four hours, covered.  Continue adding water to maintain 3/4 depth.

Rinse kombu under faucet and then add to pot.  Simmer another 45 minutes and then remove kombu and ginger.  Season with salt and pepper, but not too aggressively.

Remove bones and save if you'd like to use the scrap meat.  Strain remaining stock and there ya have it!  Store in refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for months.  When serving, add soy sauce and/or miso paste to taste.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

RECIPE: Roasted Pork Butt

I first found the recipe for this from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook.  The recipe was conceived for Korean style BBQ with lettuce wraps, kim chi, oysters and the whole shebang.  While I haven't changed the preparation for the butt, I've changed up how it's served- whether over rice, in soup, the suggested lettuce wraps... my next foray may be in tacos...

  • - 6-8lb boston butt, with fatty skin intact
  • - 1 cup kosher salt
  • - 1 cup sugar
  • - 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • - 1 tsp salt

Combine first cup of salt and cup of sugar.  Rub all over your butt and let sit and cure in refrigerator overnight.  Rinse off your butt, dry and place in a Dutch oven, fatty side down.  Cover and roast in 275 degF oven for five hours or until meat pulls apart easily with fork.  Baste with bottom juices every 45 minutes or so.

Remove from oven.  Combine brown sugar and tsp of salt.  Sprinkle generously on your butt.  Place under broiler uncovered for 10 minutes or until sugar caramelizes nicely.

Serves a lot of people, or not very many in the case of my butt-greedy friends.

Roasted Pork Butt + Noodle Soup Stock (ramen)

Atlanta is suffering from a lack of motivation in clearing snow/ice from the roads, so the entire region has been shut down.  The first two days of school at Georgia Tech have been cancelled, so I've been cooped up in the house cooking.  Luckily, the fridge is well stocked from my trip to the Dekalb Farmer's Market on Friday.

Lots of pork.  First, the 7lb pork butt was cured and then roasted for five hours and finished off under the broiler with a brown sugar glaze to caramelize.  I invited a bunch of folks over for a snow-in party with board games and was surprised that most of them trekked through the snow/ice to make it.  Popular butt.

Roasted pork butt with caramelized brown sugar glaze

I served the tender, savory, pulled-pork style meat over steamed rice with a magical ginger/scallion oil, cumin carrots and sauteed spinach.

Simultaneously simmering throughout the day was a ramen stock I like to make using pork bones from the market and, if I have any, scrap chicken bones from the freezer.  That cooks for at least six hours with ginger, onions and kombu (seaweed) for umami.  It produced about three quarts that I have in the fridge now.

Home-style ramen noodle bowl

Silky soft scrap meat from the pork bones, Chinese wonton noodles (egg noodles), a poached egg and a dash of tamari soy combined in the soup stock produced a veritable ramen noodle bowl for my breakfast/lunch today.  It's simple wintry comfort food at its finest.

A New Beginning

Anyone who's known me for at least a few years knows that I've tinkered here and there with food blogging with minimal success.  It has always been a forced effort, scouring the interweb for "relevant" posts, cross-referencing other blogs, etc... At times, it has felt more like a marketing/PR exercise than a coherent collection of posts.

I'm going for something more focused and personal this time.  It will be an attempt to trace the roots of my cooking interests, from my parents' restaurants to college survival to the social value I found in food.  Current cooking explorations to be posted, as well.  Organization is not a priority, nor is a plan.  I'm just going with the flow and maybe at some point in the process, I can look back on these posts and find something to do with them.

Wish me luck!