Archives for the month of: February, 2012

Tuesday was Valentines day, and my boyfriend took me to one of the best Asian restaurants in Austin, Uchi. The dessert was this deconstructed cream and berry course and I loved it. When I asked Mark what he thought of the dessert, he said “It’s okay, it’s not as good as the Pineapple updside-down cake you make”. I asked him what he would like to eat with his Pineapple Upside down cake, he thought about it, and said “Oysters, Lobster, and Pasta”.

I started with the Pineapple upside-down cake, since I’ve made it before and it can sit while I make the rest of the menu. The recipe is from Flour, which is a bakery in Boston started by an ex-chemistry major. Since my boyfriend is a huge fan of pineapple upside-down cakes (his mom made it for him for his birthday when he was little), I’ve experimented with several different recipes, and this one he loved the most and would request all the time.

The recipe starts with making the caramelized sugar sauce for the pineapples. Caramelizing sugar is something that is not hard to do, but is easy to mess up. Some people prefer adding a lot of water to the sugar and boiling it gently so that they have plenty of time to check on the sugar, and make sure that it doesn’t burn. I actually prefer Flours method, which is adding enough water to make sure all sugar is moistened, then setting the pan on high heat and not stirring or shake the pan until you see a smudge of color on the edge of the pan. Then you swerve the pan to ensure the sugar gets caramelized evenly and not burn. It takes much shorter time than if you add a lot of water. It’s always a good idea to use a pan with a bottom that will show the color of the sugar, so a metal colored bottom or a white colored bottom pan is the best. I’ve used black bottomed pan and a gold pyrex pan before and it was always really really hard to tell what color the sugar is.

Also remember that your burner, either gas or electric, will not have completely even heating, so I’ve noticed that it’s always one edge of the sugar that starts browning before the other. It’s very important to watch your sugar as it cooks, because the turning point between bubbling clear sugar and burnt caramel can take less than 30 seconds.

After the sugar becomes a golden brown, verging on dark brown, butter is added to the caramelized sugar to make caramel, and fresh pineapple slices are added to the caramel and cooked on low heat until golden. The pineapples are removed from the sauce and set aside.

The sauce is then reduced on medium low heat for 15 minutes, then the Pineapple chunks are placed in the bottom of a 9 inch baking pan, and the sauce poured over the pineapples.

A batter made from butter, sugar, and flour is poured over the pineapples and sauce and baked in 350F oven until the top is golden and springs back when you press on it. You want to check on the cake near the end of the baking process since the recipe called for 50-60 minutes of baking, but my cake was done probably around 45 minutes.

After the cake is done, it needs to rest in the pan for at least 30 minutes. If you pop it out right after it’s cooked, there is a good chance it will fall apart. After you flip the cake out of the pan, it still should rest another 30 minutes on a plate before you serve. The cake will be good, covered, in room temperature for a few days. I’ve also frozen the cake for two weeks and came back to it tasting delicious.

For the Lobster, I found a recipe for Lobster à l’Américaine, which is a classic French Lobster recipe of lobster meat in lobster shell sauce, from the now closed Aix Brasserie in NYC. Live lobsters are flash boiled, then chilled in ice water to stop the meat from cooking, de-shelled, and set aside. Cracking lobster shells can be bad for your hands, so tools like kitchen scissor, lobster claw cracker, and a hammer or mallet is always recommended along with good thick kitchen towels.

To make the sauce, the larger pieces of shell are cooked over high heat olive oil, then cooked on low heat along with diced, celery, shallots, carrots, and tomato paste.

After about 10 minutes of sweating, cognac is added to the pot and cooked for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, a puree of wine and tomatoes, rosemary and tarragon and parsley stems, and onions are added to the pot.

The sauce is cooked over medium low heat for about 30-40 minutes, and then strained of all solids, pressing on the shells to extract as much liquid as possible. According to the recipe you are supposed to cook the lobsters in a oiled pan and then add the sauce to the Lobster and serve with rice. Since Mark wanted pasta, I took the strained lobster sauce, then added about 1 cup of whole milk to it, and cooked it on low heat for about 20 minutes to reduce it a bit, then tossed the cooked lobster meat, and cooked al dente pasta with the sauce. It was a great alteration and my boyfriend loved it.

I finished up the Menu with a French inspired Sugar snap pea and Endive Salad. The crunchiness of the snap pea and endive contrasted nicely with the creamy Parmesan dressing. It definitely was a nice refreshing start to the meal.

Lobster à l’Américaine Recipe: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/lobster-a-l-americaine/
Sugar Snap Pea and Endive Salad: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/sugar-snap-pea-and-endiv/

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It’s been a very mild winter in Austin, but it finally got chilly Sunday and we even had some styrofoam-like snow in the afternoon. I love winter months because I like eating hearty soups, and nothing feels more comforting than having a hot bowl of soup on a cold gray winter day.

As I was scanning my pantry for ingredients that I already have, I noticed these Vidalia Onions that I’ve had for a while, and the thought popped into my head to make French Onion soup. I have never made, nor have had french onion soup, mainly because I thought a soup composed of onions must be pretty boring. My boyfriend got me a French cooking book a while ago, and the recipe looked pretty interesting. I also had a pack of fresh shitake mushrooms left over from the Vegan Enchiladas I made the other night, so I decide to adapt the recipe into a French onion and mushroom soup.

The basics of the French onion soup is to sweat thinly sliced onions in some butter or olive oil on low heat for 30-40 minutes until the onions are lightly browned. I added the mushrooms about 10 minutes into the onion cooking process, since I think mushrooms takes slightly shorter time to brown than onions.

After about 30 minutes, your onions should be translucent and very pliable, and your mushrooms should be very soft as well. Keep cooking until you see brown spots on either the onions or the mushrooms like below.

I added about 4 cups of vegetarian broth into the mushroom/onion mixture, and let that sit for about 15 minutes on medium low heat.

The recipe called for the onion mushroom soup to be pureed in a food processor, but I personally prefer being able to eat bite sized mushrooms and onions with my soup, so I only pureed half of the onion mushroom soup and mixed the whole pieces of vegetables back in afterwards. It’s important to taste, and season the soup at this point.

The finished soup is ladled into individual soup bowls or large ramekins, topped with toasted pieces of bread and sliced grueyer cheese, and popped into the oven to broil for about 5 minutes. You want to watch the cheese on top carefully because it’s easy to burn the toast and cheese.

The cheesy toast on the top of the soup actually turned out to be my favourite part of the dish, it was crunch near the surface but soft and juicy on the bottom where it soaks up the onion soup. It is definitely something I would make again. I served the onion soup with some corned beef reuben sandwichs and pared it with a fruity Pinot Noir.

The French onion mushroom soup is vegetarian by it self, and I could definitely have eaten it with some chunky hot bread and called it a meal.

The French onion soup recipe I used is from the Complete Robuchon cookbook.

I’m not a Vegan or a Vegetarian. I love meat. I also believe that if you love food and cooking, you should love and cook all types of food. One of the lessons I’ve learned from cooking and watching cooking shows is that people are forced to be more creative when there are restrictions placed on their projects. I’ve been thinking about doing a Vegan/Vegetarian dinner party for a while, and while I was researching for recipes, I came across the Vegan Enchiladas one. There was no photo to go with the description or the recipe, but based on the ingredients list, it looked like something that would be very interesting to try.

There are 3 main components to this dish. The cashew “sour cream”, the Tomatillo enchilada sauce, and the filling for the enchiladas. The cashew “sour cream” is what interested me the most, and also what ended up being the best part of the dish. Cashews are soaked in hot water for 2 hours, then pureed with some lime juice, vinegar, and smoked hot paprika for heat (You can find smoked sweet and hot paprika from Central Market). It was so simple, but so tasty. My boyfriend, who is raised on Tex-Mex food, was surprised by how rich and flavorful the vegan “sour cream” was. One issue I had with the cream was how much thicker it was than actual sour cream, so I had trouble spreading it on the final Enchiladas. I would suggest adding a little soaking water to the cashews while blending to lighten the viscosity.

the Tomatillo sauce is made from chopped Tomatillos, onions, Serrano (or Jalapeno) peppers. The vegetables are cooked in a vegetarian broth for 15 minutes on medium heat, then pureed.

Seasoning (salt and pepper) can do wonders for food. People tend to think that a dish without fat or oil will be bland, but with just the right amount of salt and pepper, you can dress up any dish. For those of you that follows Top Chef Texas, Paul Qui won the elimination challenge for the finale by making a vegetarian soup. A SOUP! It goes to show that you don’t need meat or bacon to give a dish flavor. Just add salt and pepper, and let the vegetables speak for themselves!! On that note, don’t forget to season your Tomatillo sauce.

Now the filling of the Enchiladas is composed of a sauteed mixture of onions, shitake mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, fresh corn (or frozen if you follow the recipe), and swiss kale. The butternut squash is cubed and roasted for 15 minutes in a 400F oven.

The onions and shallots are sweated in a heavy skillet, then sliced shitakes are added and sauteed until lightly browned.

The kale is finely chopped and added to the skillet along with the corn.

Once the kale has wilted, the skillet is removed from heat, and the roasted butternut squash is stirred in. Remember to season the vegetables to taste.

Corn tortillas need to take a quick dip in hot oil before using. If the tortilla is not quickly fried, it will not roll easily and will break when filling. Be careful not to leave the tortilla in the oil too long though, they will get too soft and break apart; just a few seconds on each side will work.

The tortillas should be drained on paper towels and set aside until all tortillas are ready for Enchilada assembly. The tortillas should not be filled too much. I used 5-6 inch diameter corn tortillas, so about 1/3 cup of filling was enough.

About a cup of Tomatillo sauce is spread on the bottom of the baking dish, and then the rolled Enchiladas are placed in the dish in rows.

The rest of the tomatillo sauce is poured over the enchiladas in the dish, covered in tin foil, and baked for 25 minutes in 375 oven.

After baking, the enchiladas should look puffy. I spread the cashew “sour cream” over the Enchiladas, and sprinkled some red onions, cilantro leaves, and pepita seeds.

I also made a simple chickpeas salad with yogurt, cumin, and pepita seeds to go with the Enchiladas.

I will definitely make the Enchiladas for my future vegan/vegetarian dinner party. The vegetables blended together really well, with the mushrooms and squash giving the Enchiladas a savory almost meaty flavor. The cashew “sour cream” was incredible, and I think you can almost eat it as a vegetable dip, similar to hummus.

Vegan Enchiladas: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/vegan-enchiladas
Vegetarian Chickpea Salad: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chickpea-and-arugula-salad-with-creamy-cumin-dressing-and-roasted-pumpkin-seeds

Since I cook a lot, we always have leftovers. I had about 1 lb of pulled pork left over from Sunday’s Momofuku Ramen bowl, so I wanted to use them as an ingredient for Wednesday night’s dinner. Initially I thought about making Cuban Sandwiches, but I came across this recipe for a Supersize Cemita Sandiwich that seemed perfect for what I had. A Cemita Sandwich is a Mexican style sandwich made with a big sesame egg roll, avocados, lettuce, mexican style string cheese, meat, and a red sauce. The sesame seeds in the roll is the differentiator between Cemitas and the more well known Torta sandwiches. The meat can be prepared in many different ways, some times a thinly pounded piece of pork or beef steak is breaded and panfried, other times slow roasted pork or beef is used.

You can follow the recipe to make the pulled pork, but since I already had some on hand, I started on the sauce.
The red sauce is made from Chipotle peppers, orange and lime juices, honey, tomatoes, and onions. The recipe I found used dry Chipotle peppers, and while it’s probably more authentic, I didn’t have the time to make the sauce from scratch. Instead, I used one small can of prepared Chipotle pepper in sauce, blended it with a 14 oz can of tomatoes, 1/2 an onion, 2 TB of lime juice, and 2 TB of honey.

After the sauce was made, I warmed up the pork and the sauce in a pot for about 15 minutes on low to medium heat. You want to gently bring up the temperature evenly and make sure that the pork and sauce are heated through. Then I transferred the pork into a small baking dish, spread about 1/4lb of Oxacan string cheese all over the meat, and stuck it in a 300 degree oven for about 10 -15 minutes. You want to get the cheese melted and soft all over before taking it out. You can use Panela, or even mozzarella cheese if no specialty cheese is available.

I bought two giant (almost 8 inchs diameter) Muffaletta rolls for the bread. Traditionally, you use Cemita bread from Mexico, but I think any soft rolls with sesame seeds on top would do.

The genius aspect of the Cemita recipe I used is that it calls for refried beans to be spread on both sides of the bun. Instead of making my own, I walked down the street to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant and got a side of refried beans. You can used canned refried beans or make your own if you have the time.

The warmed pulled pork and cheese is then placed on top of the bottom half of the roll, then topped with lettuce and avocado. I really like pickled jalapenos, so if you feel like adding some kick to your Cemita, you can add some jalapenos or fresh sliced tomatoes to taste.

Now since these are very large rolls and they each have about 1/2lb of pulled pork plus the toppings, it’s a good idea to cut the sandwich in half. To aid in halving the sandwich, I first wrapped the sandwich in wax paper, then I wrapped it again in foil. This really helps hold all the ingredients and the layers of the sandwich together, and the layer of wax paper keeps little pieces of tin foil from getting mixed up in your sandwich.

Overall, it was a success, and it is a recipe I will visit again. There are many different versions of Cemitas out there, and I think it’s worth it to mix things up and do it to your personal taste. A vegetarian variation is to substitute fried tofu for the pork, which I think will work very well.

NYMAG Supersize Cemita Recipe from Cabrito: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/supersize-cemita/
Epicurious Cemita Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chile-Marinated-Pork-Sandwiches-on-Cemita-Rolls-109444

If you thought the wing recipe was long, it still pales in comparison to the time and attention paid to the Momofuku Ramen Noodle Bowl. A bowl of ramen at Momofuku cost $16, and now knowing how much time and energy goes into the construction of the bowl of noodles, I’d say it’s well worth it.

Making the broth is a time consuming process, and I would suggest starting in mid morning so by dinner time, the broth should be ready. I also believe that if you chill the broth overnight, the flavors will meld together even more the next day, so starting a day or two early is never a bad idea with these recipes. There are 8 or 9 different ingredients that need to be simmered, most of them one at a time, and the entire process takes about 8 or 9 hours.

To make the broth, you start with boiling and seeping a piece of kombu, or seaweed, which lends a savory and salty flavor to the water. The kombu only needs to be seeped for about 10-15 minutes after the water boils, and is discarded afterwards.

Dried Shitake Mushrooms are simmered in the kombu broth next to lend the golden color the very distinctive mushroom flavor. You can buy dried Shitakes from Asian supermarkets and I’ve seen them sold at Central Market as well. They are a lot cheaper and has a stronger flavor than fresh Shitake mushrooms, and they keep a lot longer as well. A lot of Asian recipes will call the use of Shitake mushrooms and they are all made from re-hydrated dried Shitakes. The shitakes are taken out after 30-40 minutes in the broth, and you can use these to make pickled Shitakes to put in the Ramen bowl.

Next ingredient to get a bath in the broth is chicken, and the recipe says to use a whole 4 lb chicken, but since I was only making half the recipe for the broth, I decided to use drumsticks. You want to use chicken pieces that have bones it for the broth, and drumsticks are a cheap option. After 1 hour of simmering, the chicken drumsticks are taken out, and you can shred them and use them later in the Ramen bowl. It’s important to add water as needed to keep the chicken covered.

Once you start placing meat in the broth, you will find that natural fats and blood remnants released from the skin and the bones of the meat will rise to the surface and form scum. It’s very important to continuously de-scum the surface of the broth for any oils if you want a clean tasting broth. Like I said before, it’s a very time consuming project that needs to be babysat constantly.

While the chicken is simmering, you should start browning pork bones for the next addition. You can buy pork bones from Asian or Hispanic supermarkets and like the chicken bones, they are very cheap. I tried substituting beef bones the first time I made the broth but the taste was just off.

After the chicken is done, the browned bones and smoked bacon are placed in the broth, and here the de-scumming becomes even more important, since bone marrow and bacon both are high fat ingredients. After 45 minutes, the bacon is taken out and discarded. Then the bones are simmered for 6-7 more hours, or as long as your schedule allows, adding water as needed to keep the bones covered.

During the final hour of cooking, onions, carrots, and spring onions are added to the broth.

When the broth is finally done, discard the bones and the vegetables, and strain the broth into a large bowl for when you are ready to use. You can either refrigerate the broth or freeze the broth in freezer bags for later use. They will keep for at least 2 or 3 months. If you decide to chill the broth in the fridge, you will find that the broth may chill to a gelatin consistency the next day, which is okay. If there is a layer of congealed fat on top of the chilled broth, you want to remove that to make sure that the broth is as clear as possible.Before using the broth, you want to reheat it gently and add the Tare to season the broth. How much to add is completely a personal preference. The Tare is very salty so start small and build from there.

When reheating the broth, you may want to add a cup of water (or more) to thin out the broth a bit, and re-season with the Tare to taste. The finished broth should be a golden brown color, not cloudy. I continued to de-scum the broth until it was ready to serve.

In the ramen I had at Momofuku, there was both pork belly and pulled pork. I decided to make just pulled pork since I’m only making the ramen for two. If you do decide to make the pork belly, you can use the leftovers to make Momofuku pork buns, which is also excellent. Compared to the broth, the pulled pork is pretty easy to make. You marinate the pork in a salt and sugar rub for 6 to 24 hours, then slow braise it in the oven for 6-7 hours. I was feeling lazy this time, but next time I would considering smoking the pork shoulder. The pork can be served shredded or in slices.

The brown stuff at the bottom of the pan left over from roasting the pork, also called fond, is something you want to think about keeping. It’s basically concentrated flavor. French cooks likes to mix it with wine and broth and cook it until it’s thick for sauces or flavoring or even foundations for broth. You can use the same method I used to make the Tare and start experimenting.

For the pickled vegetables, you want to make pickled thai bird chili first if you like adding heat to the veges. These are very easy to make and will last forever if you keep them in the pickling liquid in the fridge.

The pickled Shitake and seasoned bamboo shoots both use 1 or 2 pickled Thai bird chilies. These pickled vegetables can be used in other Asian dishes like sushi/kimbap, bibimbap, etc (see my previous entry on Korean food).

The noodle I used is just fresh Chinese egg noodles you can pick up from Asian supermarkets. They take 1 minute to cook in boiling water, then I drained and ran them in cold running water to stop the cooking process. I tossed the noodles in some sesame oil and set it aside until I’m ready to serve the bowls. When you are ready to serve, place all the individual ingredients in an assembly line to add to the bowls.

After approximately 12 hours of work total, I’d say that the result was well worth it. I was also very satisfied with the way my broth came out, much better than last time.

I love college football because I went to a big football university, the University of Florida, home of the Gators. I usually don’t care for professional football until recently when former UF players started showing up in Pro teams. Aaron Hernandez and Brendan Spikes both currently play for the Patriots, and of course their much more famous former team captain Tim Tebow is the quarter back for the Broncos.  For this year’s Superbowl, I wanted to make chicken wings,  a staple for Superbowl parties.

When I thought of chicken wings, the recipe from Momofuku’s cookbook came to mind immediately. It’s described by David Chang, the author (and owner of Momofuku restaurants in NYC), as the world’s longest chicken wing recipe, and man is it worth it. The wings are brined, cold smoked, confit-ed in lard, chilled overnight, reheated and seared, and finally tossed in a sauce that is made from chicken carcasses, sake, and soy sauce. You want to start this recipe at least a day beforehand, and especially since the chicken can chill in the pork fat for up to a week.

My first experience with Momofuku’s came about 3 or 4 years ago visiting one of my best friends from highschool in NYC. She had told me about this restaurant that serves the best Ramen noodle bowls in the world. Prior to this I had no inkling who David Chang is, but after the visit, I became a super fan of this man and all of his restaurants, recipes, and publications.  The noodle bowl came with braised pork belly, pulled braised pork shoulder, pickled vegetables, fresh peas, Nori, and a soft boiled egg. The broth that held it all together was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had: salty, meaty, smoky…

I pre-ordered the Momofuku cookbook as soon as it was announced, and I tried the Ramen recipe immediately after I got the book. I did not fully understand how much time was required to make the broth, so while the individual meat and pickled vegetable and eggs tasted great, the broth was not there. Since I was going to make the Momofuku chicken wings anyways, I decided to give the ramen recipe another go.

Starting with the wings, the first thing I decided to make is the Tare, which is the sauce made out of browned chicken carcasses, Sake, and Soy sauce. The Tare is also used as the seasoning for the Ramen broth. The recipe called for roasting chicken carcasses in the oven for 40 minutes, then cooking the burnt goodness on the bottom of the pan up with sake and light soy sauce until it’s thick. You can buy chicken carcasses from Asian supermarkets for very cheap, and I think if you ask butchers in stores like Whole Foods or Central Market, they will sell you some as well. You can also toss in the wingtips from the chicken wings if you’d like. It’s also very important to use light soy sauce as regular soy sauce will be too salty. You can buy light soysauce in Asian supermarket or Japanese specialty stores, or you can probably thin it out with water. The Tare recipe in the cookbook will yield way more than you need for the chicken wing recipe, but like I said, you can use it for seasoning for the Ramen broth and almost anything else.

The photo below shows the stage where I’ve just put in the sake and light soy sauce in the browned bones and I’m scraping up the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan.

After sectioning and cleaning up the chicken wings, they are put into a brine of salt and sugar for at least an hour but no more than 6. I then smoked the chicken for 45 minutes in a 150C grill to give it a smoky flavor but not cook the wings. The wings are then submerged in lard (or you can use grapeseed oil, or any neutral tasting oil) and confit-ed in a low heat oven for 30 minutes.

Then the chicken wings need to chill overnight in the fat until you are ready to use them the next day. If using Lard, the lard will congeal and turn white, if using oil, it will stay clear and fluid in the fridge. When you are ready to use the wings, you want to heat up the container a little bit and melt the lard enough to be able to pull out the chicken. Drain the chicken wings before cooking.

The wings are seared in a hot cast iron pan, and I put another smaller cast iron pan on top to press the wings down to make sure it gets a good brown sear.

The wings will take approximately 3-4 minutes on each side to sear, once it’s a nice dark golden brown, it’s ready to be sauced.

The Tare is heated up with some garlic and pickled Thai bird chilies, and poured over the wings to cover. I let the wings simmer for a few minutes longer in the pan to get the sauce nice and thick.

The wings were smoky and tender, and the sauce sweet, salty, and finger licking good. You can find these recipes from the Momofuku cook book. There are also a lot of websites dedicated cooking all Momofuku recipes such as Momofukufor2.com that you can check out to get recipes and ideas.

Since moving to Austin, I’ve been missing some good Korean food. Dallas has a much bigger Asian population and therefore more choice in Korean restaurants.  The one decent Korean restaurant in Austin (Not Korea House, it’s not a Korean joint unless they serve SOJU!) is Chosun Galbi, but it’s a good 20 minute drive to the restaurant from where we live,  and since we usually workout after our jobs, most of the time I rather cook at home than deal with Austin traffic and driving home after drinking on a weeknight.

Tonight I decided to make Bibimbap, Kimbap, Beef Bulgogi, and Seafood Pancake. For the Bibimbap, I used a recipe that was relinked from Rasamalaysia.com. Rasamalaysia has authentic Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Malaysian recipes (the hostess is Malaysian-Chinese). I’ve tried many many of her recipes and they are easy to follow and very good.

Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish composed of seasoned vegetables and Korean Gochujiang (red pepper sauce). Regular Bibimbap is served in a cold dish, while Dol-sot Bibimbap is served in a hot stone or ceramic pot with a raw egg on top. The hot stone pot will give the rice a crispy bottom which adds to the texture of the dish.

Making Bibimbap is about patience and organization. There are 7 mini-dishes that make up the ingredients from the Bibimbap I made: seasoned spinach, seasoned carrots, sauteed seasoned soy bean spouts, sauteed fern brake, pickled cucumbers, pickled shitake mushroom, and the fried egg at the end. There is a lot of prep work on the vegetables to begin with, then each vegetable has to be cooked in their own way. Since I usually make a little bit more than what I need in the Bibimbap, I decided to make Kimbap with the extra ingredients.

Kimbap is basically Korean Maki sushi, where vegetables and rice are wrapped in Nori. I’ve made this recipe before with ground beef in the middle, but I decided to make it completely vegetarian tonight since I was making Beef Bulgogi anyways.

A bamboo Sushi rolling thingy is very helpful when making Kimbap or any Sushi with Nori. Keep in mind your roll should be about bite sized, so don’t overload it with ingredients, otherwise it will be hard to assemble. After rolling the Kimbap roll, it’s a good idea to brush some sesame oil over the Nori to keep the surface of the roll flexible and shiny. Use the sharpest knife you can find to cut the roll.

Since me and my boyfriend are both meat eaters, and personally for me, a meal is incomplete unless there is some sort of flesh protein. Bulgogi is thinly sliced sirloin marinaded in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, scallions, Korean chili paste, korean chili powder, and sliced Asian pear.

After 1 hour of marination, the meat is cooked on a hot skillet and served Fajita style at the table. You can eat it with white rice or lettuce wrap; I just mixed it into the Bibimbap.

The last thing I decided to make is Korean Seafood Pancakes. The batter is very simple with flour, corn starch, and ice water. Once you ladle the batter into the hot pan, you add scallions, carrots, and a seafood mixture of squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, and whatever else you’d like. I’d suggest buying one of those frozen mixed seafood medley bags, so you don’t have to buy 10 ingredients separately. You do need to defrost the seafood before hand and make sure there is as little water on the seafood as possible.

When you flip the pancake over, you want to let it cook for a few minutes longer than the first side to make sure that the seafood is cooked and the green onions are nicely caramelized.

I started preparing everything at 6PM after working out, I cooked at a casual pace, and we were eating by 8:15PM. I think cooking helps me unwind mentally after a long day of work, and it’s good to have some time for your self to do something you really enjoy and be rewarded for it.

Bibimbap Recipe: http://rasamalaysia.com/bibimbap-recipe/
Kimbap Recipe: http://rasamalaysia.com/kimbap-recipe/
Seafood Pancake Recipe: http://www.hannaone.com/Recipe/haemulpajeon.html
Bulgogi: http://eatingandliving.blogspot.com/2010/05/bulgogi-korean-bbq-beef.html

The Sentinel is a popular gourmet sandwich shop in San Francisco Bay area. I came across their recipe for a Focaccia Reuben sandwich a few months ago when I was looking for a quick and simple dinner recipe. My boyfriend had requested that I make the sandwich again for dinner Wednesday, and while I was checking out at Central Market, I was thinking how cheap my bill was. After I got home, I decided to calculate about how much each of these sandwiches would cost.

I had bought the corned beef on sale (~1/2 lbs);  the nice deli lady sliced a small brick of Gruyere Cheese for me (which came to 8 slices); instead of Focaccia, I bought store made Ciabatta (a bag of 4); CM sold cabbages by the half; and I picked up 2 potatoes to make oven fries as a side with (1.75 lbs).

When I broke it down, the bread came to $0.75 per piece, I used only half of the half head of cabbage, which came to $0.39, The meat came to $1.8 split between 2 people, and the cheese was 0.35 per slice (2 slices per sandwich). You can make one of these Ruben sandwiches for a total $3.64. There is a ketchup and mayo spread that I didn’t bother factoring the cost into, since the amount used was very small and ketchup and mayo are pretty cheap. If you round that up to $4.00 and add $1.00 for the fries (which is more than enough) you can have a nice meal for $5.

This same sandwich at the Sentinel in SF, without the potatoes, will cost you $9. Granted that they use local corned beef and make their own bread, I think my $5 version is just fine.

I pressed the sandwiches between two cast iron skillet to create the Panini look, the end results where very satisfying for the taste and the price.

For the oven fries, I added parsley and a little shaved parmesan on top. I soaked the cut raw potatoes in cold water for 1 hour before cooking to wash off the additional starch. The starch is what turns the potato rusty-red if it’s cut and if you want to fry the potatoes in oil, the starch may also make the fries stick to each other.

The Sentinel’s Focaccia Reuben Recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/focaccia-reubens
Oven fries: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/oven-fries-with-roasted-garlic

It was a Monday evening around 5pm, dinner for 2 suddenly turned into dinner for 4 or 5. The additional guests also include one who did not eat red meat, and it’s all going down at 7PM. Thankfully, I had planned to make Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with fresh clams) to begin with, and all I had to do was get a whole loaf of bread, and pull together a simple salad to make it work for a few more people.

I also bought some fresh oysters on a whim at Central Market, which I thought would be a good appetizer. The challenging part now is shucking these suckers.

There are a lot of information online about how to shuck an oyster. The one that worked for me, which I’ve gone back to pretty much every time I have to shuck oysters for a refresher, is a 4 minute long youtube video from a seafood chef from Boston.

I bought a dozen of oysters and was only able to shuck 8 on the first day, because my guests were arriving and I was running a little behind. The unshucked oyster will keep in the fridge for at least 1 day (and maybe longer), you only need to rinse and scrub them in tap water before you shuck them. Some people suggest putting the oysters in the freezer for a few minutes before shucking but I’ve not tried that.

As for the main course, I had made this recipe before and I loved the simplicity of it. Fresh Clams, white wine, parsley, olive oil, tomatoes, and a large pinch of red pepper flakes if you prefer a bite. The sauce is excellent for dipping with bread as well.

I cooked the pasta about 2 minutes less than the box suggestion for al-dente (which would come to 5 minutes for the linguine), then I drained it, tossed it in the sauce to finish up cooking. The clams will take around 7 minutes to fully open, so I would usually set the pasta water boiling before hand, make the sauce, then put the pasta in the water about 5 minutes before the sauce is timed to finish. Otherwise either your pasta gets cooked to early or your clam sauce is too done. Also when you watch cooking shows you always see people tasting the food, you want to do that as much as you can during the cooking process. Wondering if your pasta is done? taste it. Need more salt? taste it first before you add the salt. It’s the best thing cooks can do to gauge their cooking since your food is changing constantly as you cook it.

Youtube video for shucking oysters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy-rbEXFwLw
Linguine with Clams Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Linguine-with-Clams-em-Linguine-con-le-Vongole-em-350683