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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shitake Rissotto Rocks

Jason Hagen makes me dream about food. A recurring dream is a Risotto he talks about...I don't think I've ever had his, and I've never made my own, but Sunday night was the night and it all went very well.

First off, I got a pot going and a pan going. Here's the low down...


About 6 or 8 cups of chicken broth. After trying many brands and reading up in various places, I've settled on Swansons as being the chicken broth of choice. To the broth, I added some tarragon, chopped onion, shitake mushrooms and shallots. Simmer on low heat while you prepare everything else.


Get a nice wad of butter in your pan on medium heat and drop in 1 chopped onion. Fry up for about 7 minutes, then pour off into a bowl. Add some additional butter and about 10 chopped Shitake mushrooms. Fry up for about the same amount of time. Make sure the mushrooms release their water, then fry up. I also gave my mushrooms a nice shot of cracked pepper on this stage. Pour that off into your bowl with the onions.

Add more butter and drop in about 2 cups of rice. Arborio rice is the rice of choice for Risotto, but I had none on hand, so I went with short grain. Stir it up for about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup white wine and stir it up for another 4 minutes or until wine is absorbed. Now pour some broth through a strainer into your rice...maybe 3 or 4 cups. Stir that well. Let it cook up for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and watching for the rice to absorb the liquid.

I think mine took a bit longer than your normal risotto - possibly my rice choice. Anyway, I continued to add broth in 1/2 - 3/4 cup increments about every 2 or 3 minutes, always through the strainer. I added my mushrooms and onion mixture about the last 10 minutes. Taste it often, because you'll find al dente when you find al dente.

When you're there, off the heat and stir in another wad of butter. Finely grate parmesan cheese into the stir to make a creamy mixture.

Give it a shot and enjoy!

~ Brock

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peruvian / Argentian Sauce for Steak

In Argentinian cooking, it's called Chimichurri. My neighbor is from Argentina, and I've had it many times with Argentinian BBQ. It's an amazing sauce, but I wanted to try a variation that used less liquid, more garlic, and possibly a cross-over with the Peruvian green sauce known as Aji Verde (I mean of the consistency, not of the taste).

Anyway, this is excellent with steak.

1 bunch parsley
8 cloves garlic
a little white vinegar
a little water

Blend or process until liquid. Keep in mind that this sauce will start to separate into a frothy top if you don't use it right away, so use it right away and well mixed.

Here's a use on my flank steak.

~ Brock

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quick and Healthy Chinese Stir Fry

My mom used to make stir fry when I was growing up, and it was always a welcome excuse to eat vegetables. To be honest, I can't say that there's much that's really Chinese about this other than the fact that it uses some technique from Chinese cooking and has Oyster Sauce in it. Just like Panda Express isn't really Chinese food, neither is this, but that's what I'll call it.

Dice chicken and marinate in 1 part soy sauce, 1 part Chinese cooking wine, a dash of powdered ginger, and a bit of sugar.

Chop some vegetables. As you can see, I used carrots, celery, and Edamame beans. Have those ready in one bowl, and chop up a few cloves of garlic in another small bowl.

In a small cup, mix some oyster sauce with some water and corn starch. Stir very well.

Heat a wok or pan to smoking hot with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Fry up your vegetables until cooked, but still crisp. Remove to bowl.

Return heat to smoking hot and fry up chicken until cooked through. Drop in your garlic and continue to fry for another minute. Add all your vegetables and continue to fry for one more minute. Spread a hole in the center of your pan and pour the contents of your cup into the center, stirring rapidly. Let it bubble first, then stir everything in the pan to coat. Remove and serve.


~ Brock

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Gazpacho is interesting for many reasons, but the primaries are that it's amazingly simple, good and versatile. It originated in Spain and can be made so many ways. I've even seen a recipe for White Almond Gazpacho. I think people are used to seeing it with thick chunks of tomato and cucumber, but that didn't sound appetizing to me. How I made it is how I wanted it, so if you don't like it, don't try it.

1.5 pounds vine-ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber, skinned, seeds removed
1/2 red bellpepper
7 cloves garlic
2 handfulls of the inside of French bread (i.e., no crust), soaked in water and slightly squeezed of liquid
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
A few solid glugs of good olive oil

Chop everything course and throw it in a processor. You might need to work in two batches, because you don't want the liquid shooting out the top! Process it until it's as smooth as you can get. If you study recipes, you find some that have you peel the tomatoes before they get processed - that's your call. I prefer the taste that comes from skins left on, and the cheesecloth deals with the solids left over. I also have a good feeling (though I haven't confirmed this yet), that if you roasted the tomatoes, red bell pepper, and garlic first, this would be even more amazing. Let me know if you try that on.

Lay out cheesecloth across small colander, and pour a batch into the cheesecloth. Strain this over a large bowl, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Work with as many batches as you need until you have only liquid in the bowl. Meanwhile, get a large cup of ice water going and stir it into the liquid, to taste. You might need to adjust the vinegar, salt and pepper at this point also.

Stick it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with 1/2 cucumber skinned and chopped. Some like to add ice into their soup - I don't.


~ Brock

Monday, August 10, 2009

Salmon, Shrimp & Artichoke Heart Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

A fairly simple, yet flavorful pasta dish. This one takes a few pans, or it takes one pan and a few turns (plus two pots). I'm still not the greatest fan of pasta, but sometimes I crave it. When I do, I don't want just spaghetti...I need to make something unique. I find that pasta lends to extreme creativity and flexibility. You can do hot or cold pastas, all different shapes and sizes, baked, boiled and/or steamed...there are just so many alternatives, it's a hard base ingredient to ignore.

Anyway, I wanted salmon and shrimp, and needed a vegetable. I had some canned artichoke hearts on hand. Here's what you do:

Chunk your salmon and season it liberally with your favorite spices. For mine, I wanted an Italian-styled blackened spice mixture - salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, basil and oregano. Work it in with olive oil and set aside. Next, spice up your shrimp the same way or a different way - don't rely on me to hold your hand. Experiment...try something different.

Heat up a skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil until smoking and fry the artichoke hearts for 3-4 minutes until browned on sides (release the liquid BEFORE you cook them). Set aside. Add a little olive oil and fry the shrimp. Opaque doesn't mean sold white...if you're not sure, take a risk and eat it before you think it's done (though if you get sick, it's your fault for not being prudent - I am a lawyer, afterall). Set those aside. Wipe your pan out and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry your salmon chunks - a couple minutes per side - don't burn and don't overcook. It's okay for the salmon to have a slight translucent appearance internally. Set aside.


Boil 1/2 Cup white wine, 5-7 slivers of lemon peel, and juice from one lemon in a small pot. Reduce by about 1/2, then add 1 Cup chicken stock and some fresh basil. Boil, then reduce to about half the amount. When you're pasta is ready (NOT before), you'll add a couple of pats of butter with the heat off, stirring to mix.


Cook pasta according to instructions. I used angel hair pasta. Meanwhile heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry about 5 cloves of garlic, chopped. Add cooked and drained pasta and mix well. Add salmon, shrimp and artichoke hearts, being careful not too make a shoddy mess of the whole thing.

Serve into a pasta dish and top with fresh minced basil and crushed red peppers. Spoon over some lemon butter sauce.


~ Brock

Gorgonzola Burger with Spicy Roasted Tomato-Mango Salsa

You ever have those days when you must have a burger. I've needed one for weeks, but haven't got around to it. Then a friend told me about a 50/50 he experienced at a local restaurant (50% beef/50% bacon) and it sent me over the edge.

The patty:

Take a slab of ground beef and spice it up heavily with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic. Cover your hands with olive oil and work the spices into the meat. Have a few tablespoons of whole milk handy (have it handy before your hands have raw meat on them, you nasty man or woman), and incorporate that into the meat.

I know many people prefer to make a paste with milk and white bread, but I didn't really notice a major difference when I've tried that. It's your call...try it both ways and see which you like.

Once you've worked up the meat, form a thin patty and sprinkle gorgonzola on the middle of it. Form a pouch and then a ball, then work that puppy down into a new, thick patty. Put it on a plastic or wax paper sheet until you're ready to slap it on the'll be happy you did. Meanwhile, heat the grill to Death Valley hot.

Spicy Roasted Tomato-Mango Salsa:

5 vine rippened tomatoes with tops cut off
1-2 jalapeno peppers, tops off, seeds out and halved length-wise

Put all this in a broiler very close to heat and let em roast until you start getting charred marks. Turn it all after about 10 minutes and char some more. Maybe 20 minutes total. Remove straight into a processor.

Chop up 1 red onion and fry it in a super hot dry pan, along with 4 whole cloves of garlic. You'll see some smoke, but just breathe it in. Drop that mixture into the processor also.

Chop up a whole mango and drop it into the processor. Then add salt, pepper, 2 glugs of olive oil.

Wipe out your dry pan and add 1 tablespoon of whole cumin and the same amount of whole coriander. Dry roast them, then grind it all into a powder...add it into the processor.

Process this spicy goodness into a smooth salsa, then package it up for the needs to cool and blend for at least 1 hour before use. The longer the better.

Back to the grill:

It's on high and you're ready with your burger...slap it on there. Lay a strip or two of bacon across the top, close the lid and let the fire work magic. Check it back in about 5 minutes and flip it, putting your bacon on the other side now. This will impart a nice taste and moisture, but you don't need to eat that bacon if you don't want. Let the burger cook another 5-7 minutes on that side and it's done.

Top your burger with your favorite condiments. Be careful, because the gorgonzola creates these little pockets of super-hot oil that can spray your face and burn you. Handle with care.


~ Brock

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A & J Rocks Irvine

I'm easing into a series on restaurants. Today is as good a day as any, so I'll start with A & J restaurant in Irvine. This is authentic Taiwanese food (yes, I've been - Taiwan and A&J) and it's dirt cheap. There are plenty of good write-ups on Yelp and I'd agree with most of them.

It's not the cleanest looking place, but you can't beat the food. As noted, the spicy beef noodle soup is bomb. Other items of note: pan fried dumplings, sour & spicy noodles (or wontons), tofu with peanuts, spicy hot cucumber, pan fried meat bun, green onion pancake, fried pork chop, and, of course, anything on the breakfast menu.

They're located South of the 5 freeway on Jeffrey Road. Across the street is 99 Ranch Market and a bank, so spend the day.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Curried Steak Salad with Candied Walnuts, Gorgonzola and Fuji Apples

Sometimes you just want something quick and fresh. Yeah, yeah, your first thought being, "but steak doesn't sound quick or fresh." It is, though...or at least, it can be. Particularly when you couple it with a cold salad. Here's a good rendition, although there are 50 ways you could change it up.


I prefer flank steak. It's low-fat, very adaptable, and works well with a salad. I usually buy a large pack at Costco and cut it up into strips about 4" - 5" wide (just individually wrap, then bag and freeze the pieces you won't use immediately). Seasoning on this one I'll give in ratios, since I don't know whether you're using one piece, 2 pieces or whatever of steak. The key is to really spice it up. It seems like so many people are scared to use a lot of spice...go ahead and get down with your bad self, you'll appreciate the effort.
1 1/2 - curry powder
1 - cumin
1 - coriander
1/2 - pepper
1/4 - salt
1 - garlic
1 - paprika (I used Hungarian sweet, but you can do smoked as well)
Grind all this in a spice mill and slather it on your steak. Let the steak sit on the counter for about 1 hour before you cook it. I've found that this is a key to cooking good steak of any type - letting the temp raise before you cook. Turn your grill on high and sear for 4 minutes, then flip and sear another 4 - 5 (medium rare). Remove, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Candied Walnuts:

1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
1/4 Cup sugar
2 pads butter

Melt and stir on low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir often and don't let burn. Cool on a tray and stir/shake often.


Romaine lettuce, sliced
Fuji Apple, skinned, sliced
Gorgonzola (I buy a small tub at Trader Joes), crumbled over
Shake walnuts over the top
Top with a few slices of steak

As for dressing, I really like Girard's Champagne Dressing, but you can pretty much use your favorite or make your own.


~ Brock