Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I don't like limoncello. There, I said it. The default response to this is usually, "Dude, you haven't tried the real stuff from Italy." Well, I don't care! It's too fucking sweet! I'll sip my bourbon, thank you.

the removed zest peels were pale and brittle

I've tried it at several parties, each sampling of varying quality. I actually have tried a bottle from Italy- it was a gift- and I'll admit the lemon component tasted significantly better, but it was still like drinking candy. And that's the whole point! I'm not big on a lot of really sweet things, particularly my booze.

filtering before adding the simple syrup

So why the hell have I been trying to make this at home? I thought I could do it better, get that real lemon flavor in there and play with the sweetness. The revelation hit me as I was pouring this absurdly viscous simple syrup into the lemon-infused grain alcohol and I was like, holy fuck, there's no way I can turn this into something I would like. Trying to reduce the sugar in limoncello is like taking the cheese out of a cheeseburger and expecting it to be the same thing.

yeah, that quart jar has been around...

Additionally, the last short batch I made (pictured above) tastes like Lemon Pledge. 100 proof Lemon Pledge, to be precise. Which is hilarious when you present the frosty mason jar to a group of friends and they're all like, "oooooooooh," and then you serve it to them and there's this collective, "OMFG WHY!?" I've confirmed this general reaction at numerous social gatherings over the past two weeks. Needless to say, this has produced more entertainment than pleasure on the palate.

Still, I have another unopened jar that I'm going to let sit for a couple months before I filter and syrup-ize it. Maybe this one will taste better to my friends and they won't hate me, anymore =D

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Michael Pollan and... Rachael Ray?

I need to test some waters before I take a leap of faith. I'm about to debut a project that focuses on a way of cooking that I find to be easy, delicious and responsible. Not going to say much more than that about the project itself, but I had to do a lot of soul-searching in the past month. I needed to figure out what the hell I could do with my love and understanding of food in order to help people, because after all, all that any of us want to do is to help people, right?

This is going to be a shocker for people that know me, if they're even reading this, but while my favorite people in the food business are Harold McGee (for his scientific curiosity), David Chang (for his ability to deliciously blur the line between Asian and American), Dan Barber (for his fresh intellect), Ina Garten (for her fabulous entertaining), David Wondrich (for his astute alcoholism), etc... one of the food personalities I admire the most is Rachael Ray.

Yes, the woman with the annoying, hoarse voice. Yes, the woman with no "real" culinary education. Yes, the woman whose success may have single-handedly turned the Food Network into a low-brow circus for stay-at-home moms, the unemployed, and procrastinating college students. Yes, her.

In July of 2009, Michael Pollan wrote a fascinating, if not scathing, criticism of the decline of contemporary food television for The New York Times Magazine, declaring that "The Food Network has helped to transform cooking from something you do into something you watch." For the most part, I don't disagree with that statement, but from what I've witnessed (I actually don't watch TV much at all), there is a lot to be learned from at least some of the network's programming, and judging by the success of Rachael Ray's empire of books, shows, magazines and products, she's got something going on.

It's called easy. I don't agree with all of her ideas. Her interpretation of a lot of Asian foods makes me want to barf, but my understanding of her work is that she's actually getting people back into the kitchen and cooking for themselves, which I think is extremely important, and speaks much more than what Michael Pollan has created in indignant "foodies" who will pay exorbitant amounts of cash for a pile of uncooked, uninspired, but completely natural, entrees in fringe neighborhoods of mildly acceptable gentrification. No, I'm not bitter. The meal was.

There's a disturbing disconnect between the Michael Pollans and the people that they hope to influence. How do we get real people to cook at home, cook fresh, and reduce the amount of processed foods in their diet? How do we get real people to think about where their food comes from (without the painful grimace)? How do we define responsible eating in regards to our consumption of meat? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but it is my intent to explore these issues in the months to come, assuming I can make my day job(s) work. Some people actually have answered these questions, but it's just "blah blah blah" to most ears.

It is my hope that despite all the green-washing and hype in the media, that somewhere between the Michael Pollans and the Rachael Rays, truly good, real food is being enjoyed with friends and family.

Please Note: I'm not bashing Michael Pollan. I actually really do love his work and I've read most of his books. I think he's taken a strange turn, but if there's any single book of his I'd recommend, it would be Second Nature. It speaks nothing about food, but rather philosophically explores our humanity in the context of nature.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cold Beef Shank and Watercress Salad

Whenever I visit home, Mom always sends me off with some delicious food that will survive the flight. This time she gave me some beef shanks she had braised then chilled, and then frozen. These are typically served as a family style starter dish by thinly slicing and tossing in a spicy soy/garlic/cilantro type of dressing. If Szechuan style, add the numbing peppercorn-infused oil and hot peppers. But here's my take on it for dinner tonight:

cold beef shank and watercress salad

I had some watercress in the fridge, so I trimmed those up and decided to add them to the mix. Carrots, too. I finely julienned those. For the dressing I used equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar. A small bit of hot sauce. Chopped cilantro, finely shredded ginger, minced garlic. Some sugar. Toss with the sliced beef, watercress and carrots and there's a tasty salad!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Metal Makes It Okay

There are two things I'm not in favor of in this video: vegan and poor spelling. But it's forgiven because it's pretty hilarious.

David Chang

"It's a shame we know more about dinosaurs than about what Native Americans ate," at the inaugural fundraiser for MoFAD

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Welcome Back to Flushing, Queens

The real purpose of my trip to New York is for my sister's graduation and spending some time with family. And how better does my family spend time than around the dinner table? To celebrate my sister's completion of six years for her Pharm.D, we went out to what my Dad calls a "New" Cantonese style restaurant in Flushing right off of Main St [fill in details later]. Where there's FOBs, there's always really good food. [more after the jump]

Click images for enlarged goodness.

Peking Duck

Clams in a Crack Black Bean Sauce

the spread

the mango cake, though they spelled Hening's name incorrectly

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome to Flushing, Queens

Land of delicious Chinese food. And FOB's.

it's more sustainable, and in a town called Flushing!
room for cream?

i wonder if she knows she's on a box that says "been paste bread"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fresh Spinach Rice Bowl

Mmm, this one came out real tasty. Fresh spinach, steamed rice, slices of roasted pork, sweet cumin carrots, avocado, sheets of seaweed and a sprinkle of scallions.

nom nom rice bowl

Spice for Spiced Food


The previous post's title was a reference to this item in my spice cabinet: SPICE FOR SPICED FOOD. Such a descriptive title, haha. I use these little baggies to braise pork butt, pork belly, beef brisket, ribs, firm tofu, you name it. The ingredients verbatim are: "Cinnamon Fennel, Ginger, Cumin Clove," though I'm pretty sure there should be a comma between the cinnamon and fennel. Find it at your local Chinese grocery/purveyor. I'm pretty sure that I've seen it on Buford Highway here in Atlanta, but this here was sent to me from my mother in New York.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meat Glaze For Meat

Dinner tonight was ridiculously fabulous. Pork chops with a fragrant anise/ginger meat glaze (same glaze I had used for the chicken wings a few weeks ago), roasted beets tossed in fresh squeezed orange juice and garlic roasted asparagus. We started with a super tasty potato fennel soup. This was mostly Michael cooking. My contributions were the anise/ginger meat glaze and the asparagus. And then some obese macerated strawberries to finish :)

roasted asparagus tossed with minced garlic

potato fennel soup

pan seared pork chops with anise/ginger meat glaze, roasted beets tossed in fresh squeezed orange juice, roasted asparagus tossed in minced garlic.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Shit's about to get crazy in exactly one week.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What's the Deal With Artisanal Salt?

Last month, in one of my favorite columns at the New York Times by Harold McGee, The Curious Cook, he wrote about the mysteries of salt. McGee is always a fascinating read and this was no exception, but I think I may have to wait until I'm making a bit more money before I throw down cash for artisanal salt. The flavor nuances are a little too subtle for me to seriously cook with it at the moment.

I'm going to stick to my kosher salt, not because it tastes better but because it generally comes in a more manageable grain size (and it's cheap). Course salt is too course and fine table salt is too fine for consistent pinching. Kosher salt is sized in that happy medium where a pinch is pretty close each time and if you use a dredger like I do, the grains are closer in size to the holes in the lid. So ignore the people on TV that say kosher salt tastes better or is higher quality. Both false, but it is practical.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Holy Shit I MADE Bacon!

Finals week. Random food in the fridge. Leftovers. A small block of that pork belly I had roasted last week... Wait a minute, I had cured that thing overnight, so technically, isn't that bacon? Oh em gee, it is! More or less, it's bacon that hasn't been smoked.

homemade bacon with pickled daikon on garlic sauteed kale

I sliced that baby up real thin and put it on the pan just like I would with store-bought bacon. Not much of a difference here except the grease spattered a bit more than you'd expect, but that makes sense because it hasn't been dried the way the store stuff is. Flavor was there. Texture was there. Huh, wuddya know?

Comice Pear Tart

Last fall, I made this delicious Comice Pear Tart with an all-butter pastry shell and a drizzle of orange blossom honey. Just wanted to share. And pre-meditate a summer berry tart in the near future :-)

Comice Pear Tart with orange blossom honey in an all-butter pastry shell