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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seared Scallops with Miso-Sake Sauce, Corn Cakes and Roasted Maitake Mushroom


Getting all this in a format suitable for plating was tough. In fact, I'm not convinced this was the best presentation. Actually, I know it's not. It's sloppy and looks too heavy. But oh well! Cooking is sloppy, isn't it? I mean, what's the point of cooking, of learning, of growing as a cook if you can't mess things up...make it look like crap once in a while. Not that it's your goal, but if it happens to occur, live with it!

So I knew I wanted seared scallops and I knew I wanted corn, but building a dish around those two items is easy and tough. Easy in that you can do so many things with scallops or corn. Hard in that you can do so many things with scallops or corn ;).

I originally wanted to do something of a stack with the corn, but I imagined a drier approach with a chopped corn, not whole kernels. I couldn't come up with something for that, so I chose the next best thing - corn cakes.

I'm also really into mushrooms at the moment. Every time I walk into a grocery store these days, I'm checking what they have in stock. On this day, I came across this beautiful little floret of a Maitake mushroom, and instantly knew I had to cook it with olive oil, salt and pepper. In retrospect, I probably should have done some sort of chopped approach to the mushrooms, because that's what really threw this plate off. You have a nice corn cake, you have four seared scallops, you have a nice sauce...then you have this big chunk of a mushroom hanging out on the plate with nowhere to hide. If you try this dish, maybe do everything I did, but then take the mushroom and chop it, and set it on top of the corn cake?

You already know how to do seared scallops, so let's get to the miso-sake sauce and corn cakes.

Miso-Sake Sauce:

1 Cup sake
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs ponzu sauce
1 tsp miso paste

Boil the sake until reduced by half. Add broth and boil for a minute, add ponzu and miso, stirring well. Reduce heat to low and reduce about 10 minutes. Off heat and add 1 Tbs butter, mixing before you use.

Corn Cakes:

1 Cup corn (if you use frozen corn, make sure it's completely defrosted and drained)
1 piece of wheat bread
1 egg white
1/4 shredded parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, through a press

In a processor, turn the bread into fine crumbs. Add corn and process until chunk, but not a paste. Scoop out into bowl and add egg white and cheese. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic.

Form into cakes, and pan fry for a couple minutes per side.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fried Chicken Roll (Gi Jien)



This is a famous dish at our family Thanksgivings. A Taiwanese favorite, this is a hearty dish commonly wrapped in tofu skin instead of seaweed. But, I learned it from my wife's family and they do it with seaweed. I've done it both ways and will tell you about it.

From a taste perspective, I don't have a preference - they're both really good. From a prep perspective, the seaweed is much easier to work with, and your margin for error is much higher. Seaweed needs a simple bit of moisture to be pliable, and it can be overcooked, undercooked or perfectly cooked without any problems. Tofu skins, on the other hand, require a much longer moisture transfer (usually by a wet towel), and if they're not cooked long enough or on a high heat, the skins are tough and chewy.

My advice is to try both, and see what you like. If you use tofu skins, you might prefer a partial deep-fry (i.e., 1/2 deep of oil in a pan), instead of a slightly-oiled pan fry that can work with the seaweed quite easily, but doesn't provide ample oil coverage for a good, rounded cook of the tofu skin.

Also, if you want to prepare this dish, you're going to need to get into an Asian grocery store. Granted, I don't think Koreans or Japanese have this dish, but you can still find all you'll need in any variation of Asian markets.

You'll need:

1 lb Fish cake
1 lb Ground pork
1 large or 2 small Carrot
1 Onion
4 Tbs cornstarch
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs sesame oil
salt & pepper
seaweed and/or tofu skins

First thing you want to do is chop up the fish cake into tiny little pieces. Some people make this dish with fish paste (purchased from an Asian market) instead of chopped fish cake. I prefer chopped fish cake, but again, try both and see what you like. Put the fish cake into a large bowl, add the ground pork. Finely shred and chop a carrot and onion, and add that into the bowl. In a small bowl, mix the cooking wine, sugar, cornstarch, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Pour that into the largest bowl. Mix all of this really well.

Get a large cutting board and lay a damp paper towel on top. Have an extra damp paper towel nearby. Lay a sheet of seaweed down on the towel, then lay the other paper towel on top. Moisten the seaweed until pliable.

Scoop a portion of the fishcake mixture onto the seaweed and roll it. For you people out there aware of how to roll a burrito, now's your chance to use the skill on a Chinese dish. Roll it, set it aside, and do it again.

Once you've rolled all your rolls, you'll want to heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and put a few in, side-by-side. Roll them ever minute or so, and you'll take about 7-10 minutes to cook them through.

Once cooked, remove them to a cutting board, and slice into thick rounds. These are really good with catsup for dipping.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mushroom and Chive Dumplings with Plumb-Habanero-Sake Sauce


There are times when you're in a store, or maybe at a farmer's market, or maybe even at a friend's house, and you see something. Some food item that just blows your mind. This is the genesis of these dumplings.

I was walking in SF Market in Rowland Heights and saw these amazing mushrooms. Oysters, Kings, Shitake...loads of them, and they were all fresh and looked amazing. So, I grabbed some Oysters and Shitakes, and moved on. Boom - chives! Beautiful green, and you never find these in Stater Bros!! And as I walked towards the checkout, there they were - ripe plumbs. I had no idea what I was going to do with all this stuff, but I knew it would all wind up on the dinner table.

When I got home, I remembered I had some sweet rice dumpling wrappers I had picked up from a Korean grocery store a few days earlier. Instantly, the entire thing came together. Perfect for a starter or side, but would also work as a main dish. That's the beauty of these dumplings - they're flexible.

Mushroom and Chive Dumpings:

Take all your mushrooms and chop. You can use any combination of fresh mushrooms, but if you use dried, you need to soak them for at least 15 minutes in hot water before using. Set aside.

Chop a handful or two of fresh chives. When I say chives, I'm not talking green onions. Set aside.

Pour a bit of olive oil in a large pan and heat and swirl. Add mushrooms and stir well. Cook these up a bit, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, you'll notice they're starting to shrink down a bit. Add a swig of sake. Stir again. Cook the mushrooms for a few more minutes, allowing the liquid to release and cook off. Pour this into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook up a handful of chopped pancetta. Trader Joe's had a nice little box of chopped pancetta ready for use, and you can use that whole box. I dropped it into a small frying pan with a couple cloves of minced garlic. When this is cooked, pour it into your mushroom mix.

Press 3 cloves of garlic into your mushroom mix, and add some kosher salt. Mix well and set aside.

Wrapping the Dumplings:

Take your wrappers and have them right in front of you. Get a small bowl of water nearby. Take a wrapper, spoon in as much filling as you can fit in the middle of the wrapper, then take a finger into your water and run your watery finger along the inside edge of the wrapper. Fold over, then squeeze it together with your fingers. Here's a good video on wrapping dumplings. Place these on a sheet of wax paper and don't let them touch each other, or they might stick together. Set aside until ready to cook.

Cooking the Dumplings:

The great thing about dumplings is you can cook them multiple ways, depending on your needs. Steaming sounded good to me, so I steamed. I have a multilevel steamer pot. But, you could just as easily use a bamboo steamer, steaming basket, or any other solution for steaming (I've used a plate on an upside down bowl inside of a large pot for certain steaming uses, like large fish). One thing you'll want to do is put down wax or parchment paper, or some form of leafy vegetable, like Napa, and put the dumplings on top so as not to stick to the steamer. Be careful of using things like bamboo, banana, or taro leaves, since they can impart a strong aroma that may not be consistent with the dumpling ingredients.

I also like to put some aromatics in the steaming liquid. Given the ingredients in my dumplings, I figured a combination of lemon rinds and ginger chunks would impart a nice essence to the dumplings. I was right, and it made the kitchen have a great smell!

Plumb-Habanero-Sake Sauce:

Take about 10 fresh plumbs. Clean and take out the seed. Drop these into a pot with about 1/2 cup sake and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce. Add about 2/3 cup sugar and mix well. Let this break down about 20 minutes, mashing the plumbs with a fork or potato masher every few minutes. By this time, your plumbs should be super tender. You're going to use a wand mixer and break this down into a sauce. If it's too dry, add some more sake/water. Add some chopped habanero, according to taste. Cook another 5-10 minutes. Check for taste. You might need to add salt, sugar, or water, in order to adjust.

Assemble your dumplings on a plate with the sauce in a small bowl for dipping. This can be a single plate for everyone to share, or individual plates for each guest.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grilled Tilapia on Garlicky Pea Tendrils and Wild Rice with Apricot Cream Sauce



Aaaaaah, complexity. The sauce alone was a burst of 'every which way but loose.' But together? The fish? The pea tendrils? Garlic?? This dish blasted the palette with emotions.

I started thinking about it when I bought the pea tendrils. As stated in the link, you can pick these up at a Chinese grocery store. I bought a huge bag and had to share them with my friend. Got those, check.

Then I wanted to swirl those around and place them on top of a starch. Maybe mashed potatoes? Nah. But colorful brown rice? That was the ticket. And while searching the cupboard for wild rice, I stumbled across some dried apricots that have been yearning to be turned into a sauce. Boom! Meal 3/4 together.

A main? Could have been shrimp or scallops, but the thought of plating led me to want a substantial piece to lay against the tendril and rice stack. In retrospect, I think having evenly spaced seared scallops surrounding the stack would have been amazing too, but that's for next time.

Now, down to business:

Grilled Tilapia:
Rub some olive oil, ample salt and black pepper into all sides of the Tilapia fillet. Let it sit out of the fridge for about 15 minutes or so, while your grill heats up. You'll want to grill this about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

Garlicky Pea Tendrils:

5 cloves garlic, minced
A pile of pea tendrils, washed and drained (should pile about as high as a sourdough loaf)

Pour some olive oil in a large pan and heat on high. Add garlic and fry about 30 seconds. Add pea tendrils and stir quickly and constantly. Add kosher salt, stir. Add about 2 Tbs water and fry for another minute. To serve, you'll want to twist this with tongs and then left out, allowing the liquid to drain back into the pan before you plate it.

Wild Rice:

I buy this in bulk from Henry's Market. I use about 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Actually, I tend to use part chicken broth, part water. It's your choice, though. Bring the water to a boil (don't have your rice in it yet). Add the rice and 1 Tbs of butter. Mix, and bring back to a boil. Cover and lower heat - cook for about 40 minutes.

Apricot Cream Sauce:

Chop 1/2 large red onion
Chop 1 large handful of apricots
Chop 1 large carrot
mince 3 cloves garlic
Slice 1/2 ring of lemon
mince 1 tsp fresh ginger
Chop 3 stems chive (or use leek- about 1/4 of the white part, sliced in rings)
1 can chicken broth
Sake

Heat olive oil in a small pot. Add onion and fry for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring another 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add apricots, fry another minute. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add carrots and chive. Pour about 1/4 (or 1/2 cup) of sake into the mix and continue boiling. After about 5 minutes, reduce the heat til it continues to bubble. Cook this way for about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl, rinse out the pot if any chunks remain, and return the strained liquid to the pot. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and cook another 10 minutes. Pour in a small amount of heavy cream and continue cooking another 5-10 minutes. Off the heat and drop in a small amount of butter, and swirl to melt. This is your sauce.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yard House + Round It Up America = Good Work

Months ago I blogged about Yard House's new social justice campaign, Round It Up America. Initially, I saw the campaign and thought it could be better. Apparently, Yard House was alerted to my post and I received a call from the President of Yard House, Harald Herrmann, the same day. After speaking with him, I blogged again, sharing my content in learning that Round It Up America was designed to be a broad campaign, adoptable by every restaurant in America. Great plan!

And, Yard House moved on...so did I.

But a few weeks ago, Mr. Herrmann's office called me, inviting me to attend an award ceremony for the program. I thought the invitation was peculiar, but rolled with it. "Sure," I said. Then, a few days before the event, I received another call, asking if I'd be willing to hand over one of the checks to a recipient non-profit. "Sure," I said.

And Thursday morning I show up to this event. I don't know exactly what it's for, or why I was invited. But, I liked Harald and I like the program, so I was curious enough to jump in with both feet. I check in, grab some coffee and grab a seat at the bar. About 40 or so people milling around. All professionals. All smiling. And they all seemed to know each other. Everyone except for me.

So a woman walks up to greet me, and after introducing myself, she lets me know I'll be giving the first check. I'm really starting to wonder, "what is going on, and why me?" I've at least come to realize that there's money going out to charities today. I got that. And, it seems to that everyone there wants to be there, but I still haven't quite figured out my role in this little gala event. And then she asks me if I've met Harald. "Only by phone," I say.

I'm rushed away to meet him, his VP of Marketing, a founder of Yard House, and a few other people. And it turns into story time. Harald introduces me to everyone as the guy that wrote an email, challenging the model. And, he introduces me as a guest of Yard House. I'll be handing over a check to the first charity on behalf of all guests of Yard House. The people who actually 'round it up.'

Then it starts to come together.

The ceremony begins. Harald explains how this program came together. The difficulties. The hurdles. The impossibilities. How it took a village to raise this baby. And I see the look on his face and see the sincerity and I'm blown away. "This guy is for real!" He's excited because a program designed to give is actually working!! I look around and the people in the room are excited too. They're a part of something that works. Something that gives back to society. And they built it with their own hands, blood, and sweat.

I suddenly feel proud to be part of this little soiree.

You see, in retrospect, I've had people talk to me about pushing social justice in the business context because it's good for PR. Giving is the new keeping. It's a bandwagon. So you can understand if I'm a little skeptical. But what I saw with these guys was legit. At least Yard House. At least Harald Hermann. And legitimacy is the new...legitimacy.

The good news, Yard House did listen. To me? Who knows, but they listened to something bigger than their bottom line. And that's all I care about. They did remove their own branding and allow other restaurants to participate without competing (and without a reason to create their own charity campaign). The result will be bigger donations and bigger checks to charities. Broader participation and broader branding. It's brilliant.

Congratulations, Harald, and congratulations, Yard House. Nice work.

Next time you go to a restaurant, ask if they are part of Round It Up America. If they are, round it up. If they're not, ask them to visit Round It Up America and join. It's worth it and it's easy. And easy is the new easy.

Brock

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuscan Chicken on Grilled Portobellos





This is a bold and easy meal. It hits that spot for intense flavors, and can cook up in about 20 minutes. You'll want to marinate the chicken for at least a few hours, or before you leave for work in the morning, but it couldn't be much simpler than this.


Tuscan Chicken:

Marinate chicken thighs (or breasts or whatever part you like) in white wine, rosemary, lemon juice, salt and garlic.

Heat your grill, and throw this on for about 15-20 minutes. Top with lemon juice, salt and fresh basil.

Grilled Portobellos:

Rub olive oil, salt and pepper into both sides of the mushroom. Grill for about 15 minutes, turning often. This is meaty! You can have this as your main dish if you don't want meat, or if you want to go full vegetarian.

Side these dishes with some melon chunks and have lemon wedges for squeezing, and you're ready to go.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Braised Taiwanese Ribs with Wheat Nooles, Ginger Scallion Sauce and Grilled Soy Sauce Chicken




I was inspired for this meal by a picture of a guy eating noodles at David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar. It's amazing when even an image of someone else eating can inspire you to cook! Well, that's me. I'm inspired by many things, including pictures of people hogging down.

Anyway, I won't lie...the Ginger Scallion Sauce you see here is an exact replication of David's recipe in his book, Momofuku. Granted, I don't think the consistency in mine looks like the consistency in the images in David's book. But, maybe I'm wrong. And, to be honest, I was disappointed. It lacked depth, it lacked punch, and it lacked complexity. I can cook, trust me, so it wasn't my skills. And, I rarely, rarely follow a recipe point-by-point. This one time I did, and I was not happy with the outcome.

I don't know David, but I certainly hope he's not one of those chefs who leaves out key ingredients in his cookbooks simply so that people can't replicate his work. That's just plain stupid. The day a home chef puts a professional chef out of business simply because the home chef uses the exact same recipe at home is probably the same day an ostrich will fly. If you're that good, your skills will be greater than the sum of your ingredients.

It actually reminds me of why I don't follow cookbooks in the first place. Years ago, I bought a few Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, because the pictures looked amazing and made me think the recipes would be as well. They were not. They sucked...horribly. I think Williams-Sonoma saw an opportunity for product variation based on brand recognition and went for it. In my mind, an utter and complete FAIL! You want the best cookbook? Ask your grandma to write down her recipes. Start with that. Find someone who really cooks and will be honest with you. Have them write down their recipes, and that will be the best cookbook you will find. Why? Because it's real.

Anyway, that was a l o n g departure from the recipes here. And, you can bet that I won't leave out ingredients on purpose. Because my memory fails? Yes. But intentional - never!!

Braised Taiwanese Ribs:

This is inspired by the Taiwanese beef noodle soup found in many Taiwanese restaurants in the US, like Sim Ba La, and obviously in Taiwan. I adapted the flavors from that beef soup into a braise mix for pork ribs.

1-2 pounds meaty pork ribs cut into 2 inch sections (have your butcher do this, unless you want to cut through bone). Season with salt and pepper.

In a dutch oven, add some vegetable oil and brown the ribs on all sides, about 4 minutes. You may need to do this in two batches. Put those into a bowl nearby.

In the pot, add 1 chopped red onion. Fry for 2 minutes, then add 6 garlic cloves, pressed. Fry for 30 seconds. Add a couple star anise with seeds, continue frying. Add 4 chopped vine-ripe tomatoes. Stir. Add back in ribs and accumulated juices. Add 1 can of beef broth. I use Swanson's. Add 1/2 cup of soy sauce. Mix well.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let this braise for 2-3 hours. You can stir occasionally, but keep in mind that the longer the ribs braise, the more they will fall from the bone. You want to keep them intact, so don't stir too much.

When they're braised enough, they're done. I removed them with tongs and set them on my noodles. They'd be good with rice too. You can also use the braising liquid to spoon over.

Wheat Noodles:

For this, just pick a good noodle and cook it according to instructions. Toss with a tiny amount of sesame or vegetable oil. Set aside for use.

Ginger Scallion Sauce:

Chop ginger and scallions and add vegetable oil. Follow David's recipe, and add some of your own thoughts. For me, I'd use less oil, some salt, a red chili, and some sugar.

Grilled Soy Sauce Chicken:

Marinate your chicken in 1/2 soy sauce and juice of 2 lemons, plus some sesame oil and a splash of sake. A pinch of ginger, salt, pepper, and garlic. This is an intense marinade, so I like to brighten the flavor on the grill by squeezing lemon on the chicken while it cooks. Probably need 15 minutes of cooking time.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grilled Vodka Salmon and roasted tri-color potatoes with pancetta and salt


This is a perfectly acceptable "healthy" meal in my book. It has fish, a veg, and a potato that isn't fried. Argue if you want, but I don't see any reason why you can't eat like this every night of the week.

You already know that I'm a big salmon fan. I eat fish all the time, and salmon is one of the top pics. I'll tell you this, though. For the longest time - maybe almost a year - I've been eating salmon fillets. Then, a few weeks ago, I made a salmon steak. Wow! Wow! Wow!!! That extra flavor coming from the bones, fat, skin and other components you don't find in a fillet impart SO much more flavor. But, you can't beat the adaptability of a salmon fillet, so don't worry about making this dish with anything else.

So, I usually get into building fish dishes around Asian flavors because they meld so well. I just wanted something different, though, so I thought of building the flavor around vodka. I also had panchetta on hand and some tri-color potatoes, so I knew that would work with it. Snap peas were a nice color and texture balance, so I picked them for the trifecta.

Grilled Vodka Salmon:

Marinate the salmon fillets in enough vodka to cover halfway, along with the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, and a glug or two of olive oil. Let these marinate at least 1 hour. Take them from the fridge at least 20 minutes before going to the grill.

Heat your grill. Baste the fillets with the marinade, cooking about 3-4 minutes per side. Top with a pinch of kosher or other chunky salt. I used a pink Hawaiian salt, but I don't think you can catch it in the image.

Roasted Tri-Color Potatoes with Pancetta and Salt:

I picked up a bag of tri-color potatoes at Trader Joes. I also bought my pancetta there. In a roasting pan, I mixed a bunch of chunk-cut potatoes with olive oil, cubed pancetta and kosher salt. That's all you need. Roast on 350 for 20 minutes, then 450 for 20 minutes or so. Mix everything up once or twice during the cooking time, to ensure you're distributing flavors (pancetta) and nothing is burning or sticking.

Blanched Snap Peas:

Drop them into boiling salt water for 30 seconds. Drain and top with kosher salt.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crepes


Crepes are an interesting thing. They wow people, they're adaptable, and they rock the free world. But, they're also somewhat delicate. You can tear and burn them in a flash. You can also ruin them with too much of this or not enough of that.

I have a basic recipe for crepes below, and it's easy to make. But, the thing you'll learn about making crepes is not so much what goes into the crepes as much as how you make them.

Crepes:

2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs powder sugar

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. Pour this wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix well.

Put the crepe mixture into the fridge for about 30 minutes.

When it's time, bring out the mixture, mix it well again.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a large non-stick skillet. Pour the melted butter into your crepe mixture, and mix well.

The first thing you notice is that your pan has a lot of butter in it. That's a good thing! Your first crepe will be heavenly heavy, with a buttery sheen and plenty of depth.

Holding your mixture in one hand (I usually use either a small mixing bowl with a handle, or for larger batches, I use a plastic drink pitcher), and holding your hot pan in the other, start pouring the mix into the pan while you're moving the pan around to let the mix coat the bottom of the pan. You'll have to tilt it pretty far, because the batter will immediately begin to stick to the pan, so this is a quick process.

Sorry I didn't take a picture of this part of the process (I was using both hands at the time!), but think of having a basketball and setting your pan on the top of the ball. As you pour the batter into the pan, you would be sliding the pan around the sides of the ball in a full circle, so your batter moves in all directions.

You'll get the hang of this, trust me. At first your crepes will be thick. After a while, you can make paper-thin crepes with ease.

Second thing you'll notice is that they cook fast. I have a numbered gas stove, so I usually put it on 6 or 7 (out of 10). Medium or medium-high is the ticket. Unlike a pancake, you won't see bubbles form. You need to look at the color change and browned edges. Sometimes you'll flip too soon and sometimes too late. Don't worry about it, practice makes perfect!

The third thing you'll notice is that as you continue using your mix, the crepes appear a bit dryer. That's the butter in your pan being absorbed by each prior crepe. Maybe every 3 or 4 crepes, add a thin sliver of butter and whirl around.

The end result is spectacular. You an eat these with any type of syrup, jam or jelly. My wife loves them with rum-simmered bananas. I love them with white-wine-simmered strawberries.

Either way, you'll enjoy!

~ Brock

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Arroz con Vieiras y Alcachofas, camarones a la parrilla, y escarole


Spanish food rocks! I was inspired for this dish by Jose Andres and his Made in Spain show.

One thing you'll soon pick up (if you cook enough) is that recipes in books, TV, etc. are never what they seem. They tell you cook this for 10 minutes, and it really needs 50 minutes. They say add 1 tsp of a spice and you really need 2 Tbs. That's why you can't cook without some degree of intuition.

If you've ever followed a recipe exactly as stated and wondered why it tastes like crap, here's why: the recipe is a general idea of the sought after dish. It's a Cliff's Notes version of the real task of making something.

So here's what I'd like you to do. Take a recipe from your favorite book or TV show. Get out everything they tell you to do. Now double the spices, except the salt. Yes, DOUBLE THE SPICES. Try it. What happens? Well, for one, maybe you have a flavorful dish. Next time, cook whatever it is you're cooking for twice as long. See what happens. You'll be surprised, and you'll learn something in the process.

Enough of that, here's how I made my Spanish meal.

Arroz con Vieiras y Alcachofas [Rice with Scallops and Artichokes]:

First, get your sofrito. You'll need at least three large dollops of that.

Take three large ripe artichokes and get them down to the hearts. Here's a pretty decent video on getting it down to the heart, so watch it if you don't know what you're doing. Store the hearts in a large bowl of cold water with some fresh lemon juice and Italian parsley. When you're ready for them, cut each heart into 8 pieces (4 if they're small).

Get a handful of clean mushrooms, and chop them.

Pour a couple Tbs of olive oil in a large pan and drop in your artichokes. After about 2 minutes, add your mushrooms. Fry this all up for about 5-7 minutes, adding 1/2 cup of white wine somewhere along the line. Then, add your sofrito. Stir it and mix well, being careful not to burn the mixture. Add three cups of water and bring to a boil, while stirring. Once boiling, add 1 cup of arborio rice. Mix well and boil on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, then cover and lower heat for about 15 minutes.

Add juice from a lemon, and one Tbs smoked paprika, as well as 2 bay leaves. Mix well and put the lid back on for another 20 minutes or so. Low heat.

Meanwhile, add salt and pepper on your scallops (about 1 handful of bay scallops). Pan fry them in olive oil for 2 minutes. You do this right before your rice is done. You're going to add these into your rice when it's done. Once you add them in, mix well and you're good to go!

Camarones a la parilla [Shrimp on the grill]:

Take 1/2 shrimp and marinate in 1/2 cup white wine, handful of chopped parsley, juice from 1 lemon, salt, pepper and paprika. Thread onto a skewer and grill for about 2 minutes per side.

Escarole (pan fried):

Wash and chop a head of escarole. Heat olive oil in a large pan and fry it for 2 minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, put a lid on and cook down for a couple minutes. Take off the lid, add some kosher salt and you're done!

This whole meal works well with a bit of aioli (mayo, olive oil and pressed garlic).

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sofrito



This is a base for Spanish cooking. It's really simple, but do it right and do it well.

Sofrito:

Finely dice one large onion. Sautee it in olive oil until translucent, but not browned. Add 3 cloves pressed garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add one large can of crushed tomatoes (24oz). Mix well, reduce to medium-low or low heat and cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring often.

~ Brock

Sweet and Salty Pan Fried Shrimp on Edamame-Wasabi Puree, with Sake-Spiked Mushrooms


Some things are exactly as they appear. You might look at a dish and think it's complex, but simplicity is a key to cooking. Although I'm not afraid to be in the kitchen all day long, I tend to gravitate towards meals that take 30 minutes or less. In fact, most of my recipes can be executed from start to finish in a very short time - most under 30 minutes.

Anyway, here's a simple, but intensely flavorful dish you'll want to try right away.



Sweet and Salty Pan Fried Shrimp:

As the name suggests, these are sweet (sugar) and salty (salt). Take 1 pound of shrimp and mix with 2 tbs sugar and 1 tbs salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Shake off or rinse off excess salt/sugar. Boom, they're ready to cook. Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil, and pan fry for 2-3 minutes.

Edamame-Wasabi Puree:

This is a brilliant addition to shrimp. Cook 1/2 back of edamame according to instructions. Drain and shell the beans into a processor. Squeeze some wasabi into the beans and add 1/2 water. Start your processor. Slowly add water into the mix until you reach your desired consistency. Taste. You may need more wasabi, or you might need a little kosher salt. Add some if you need it, mix again, and then you're ready for use. This can be eaten warm, or cold. If you refrigerate it, it may turn a little firm, so you may have to add a little water and mix before use if it's too cold.

Sake-Spiked Mushrooms:

Chop your favorite mushrooms. I used crimini, but you could use just about any type. Add some olive oil to a pan and start frying your mushrooms. After about 1 minute, add 1/4 sake. Keep stirring and frying. Cook up for another 3-5 minutes. Add some kosher salt and you're ready to go.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spicy Baked Scallops


This is a take on your typical sushi bar baked scallop dish. It's straight-forward, flavorful and easy to fit in your counter broiler.

Spicy Baked Scallops:

Set aside 1 or 2 cups of bay scallops. Make sure they're completely thawed, drained of any liquid. Put them in ramekins about 1/2 full. Add some spoonfuls of mayonnaise, and some squirts of Sriracha. Finely chop some green onions and add them into the mix. Mix well.

Place in your mini-oven or broiler and make on high for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned and charred on top.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Monday, October 11, 2010

Broiled Miso Salmon


This is one of the easiest dishes to make, and it has so much flavor. Literally two ingredients - miso paste and salmon. I think it works best with a salmon steak, although you could do it with a fillet. Ultimately, the steak is superior and broils nicely.

Broiled Miso Salmon:

Take a salmon steak about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Slather it in miso paste, put it in a zip lock bag, and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. You can even put it in the miso overnight.

When you're ready, let the salmon rest on the counter at least 15 minutes before you cook it. Heat your broiler. If you've had the miso in the bag longer than a couple of hours, you'll want to rinse it off before you cook it. Otherwise, just wipe off the excess miso.

Broil this for about 7 minutes on the first side, then flip and broil for another 7-10 minutes until it's cooked through and nicely charred.

Enjoy this with a pan fried vegetable (like spinach & garlic or something like that) and some rice.

~ Brock

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Japanese Scallop Ceviche


This was a slight twist on my Scallop Ceviche recipe. I originally used this for a Kentucky Derby party, but this version was for a small family gathering.

So, if you want to make this, follow my original recipe, but in the gremolata, add some minced green onion, and a splash of ponzu sauce. Also, you'll notice the color in the sauce on this one is much deeper orange than the original. For this version, I used honey tangerines. I wanted the scallops to rest in a sauce, so I made some fresh honey tangerine sauce (juice from 2, plus lemon juice, walnut oil, ponzu, and sugar), and made it ice cold to pour over before serving.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fesenjan (Persian Chicken in Pomegranate Nut Sauce) and Tabbouleh



Persian food is fantastic. In fact, all Middle Eastern food is fantastic. I'm a big fan. Along with North African/Moroccan, these are some of my favorite foods to cook and eat.

But, I'm not very experienced cooking Persian food, specifically. This was a first for me.

I had Fesenjan one time in a restaurant more than a decade ago, and another time at someone's house, but other than that, it was just a craving I had. Pomegranates were on sale at Wholesome Choice, and it just made sense.

I wasn't sure what to do as a vegetable, but cucumbers sounded really good and I also had some dried apricots on hand. Also had some bulgur on hand. Tabbouleh! Add some basmati rice, and that's a meal.

Fesenjan (Persian Chicken in Pomegranate Walnut Sauce):

Start with 1-2 pounds of chicken. I used chicken breast tenders, because I'm not a big fan of dark meat, but I think this would probably be wonderful with dark meat. I browned the chicken in a small amount of olive oil, and set aside.

Dry roast 1/2 cup walnuts in a hot pan - do not burn!! Drop those into a processor and chop without turning into a paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, finely dice 1 large onion and fry it in a bit of olive oil. Add 4-5 pressed garlic cloves, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some salt and pepper. Continue frying another minute or two.

Add in your walnuts, and about 1/2 cup of pomegranate molasses, also juice from 2 pomegranates, about 1 1/2 or 2 cups water, a couple table spoons of sugar, some salt and pepper. Add your chicken back in, along with any juices. Mix well, bring to a slow boil, and them cover and reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

After about 30 minutes, use two forks to shred the chicken. Also add juice from 4 lemons. Mix well and have heat on lowest setting. If your meal is becoming too dry, add a small amount of water - maybe 1/2 cup.

Simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour. Check the flavor. Need it sweeter? Add some sugar. More 'brightness'? Add some lemon juice. Salt or pepper?

In the end, you want a well-melded, flavorful dish.

Tabbouleh:

Take 1 cup of wheat bulgur and cover with water at least 3 times the amount. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, but better for 1 hour. Drain well, and squeeze through a clean cloth or paper towels. Set in a large mixing bowl.

Finely chop a handful of parsley, and a handful of mint. Add to the bulgur. Chop 1/2 cucumber, and add in. Chop up some dried apricots and add in. Pour some olive oil (maybe 1-2 Tbs), and juice from 2 lemons. Mix well and place in the fridge.

After about 30 minutes, mix well and taste. Add salt and lemon juice, as necessary.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cold Shrimp and Somen Salad


On a hot day, you need something cool. This salad screams cool. Only four ingredients, and less than 10 minutes to make, it's a classic Summer dish.

I'm partial to somen - it's a Japanese noodle, thin, quick to cook, very adaptable, etc. A common drawback of somen, though, is it's ability to wick up liquids and flavors surrounding it. It left too long, it may turn to mush. That's why you want to cook this quick, cool it quick, and eat it quick. No problem there.



Cold Shrimp and Somen Salad:

Boil some water, add raw shrimp, and cook for 2-4 minutes.

Boil some more water, add the somen noodles and cook according to instructions (about 2-3 minutes). Immediately drain and rinse under cold water or put them in an ice water bath, then drain. The point is that you want to stop the noodles from cooking, and cool them down.

Cube some Summer fruit - watermelon, cantelope, papaya, mango...something like that.

Create a bed of romain, spinach or red leaf lettuce. Add your noodles on top. Add your fruit and shrimp on top of that. Put the plate in the fridge while you make your dressing.

Dressing - pour 1/4 cup rice vinegar in a mixing bowl. Add some sugar. Add some sesame oil. Sqeeze a lemon or lime into it. Mix well.

Drizzle dressing over your salad, and toss some kosher salt over the whole thing. You're good to go!

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Broiled Mahi Mahi on Red Pepper Sauce with Mint-Almond Pesto, side of Mint-Honey-Soy Shrimp



It was over 100 degrees today, so I was craving something cool. Mint sounded cool. No meat, maybe fish or chicken? Hmm...decisions. So I opted for fish. Probably because I wanted to stay indoors, and the idea of broiling fish sounded appealing.

But what to do with the mint? I've been craving a pesto for a while, but was also craving some North African flavors. I needed red peppers in there somewhere. Ah ha! A red pepper sauce, and something like Chermoula on the fish. But not real Chermoula, the idea of it, because I wanted something that crossed between Chermoula and pesto. Something with mint, but no cheese. Something with almonds too.

Right, got it.

Broiled Mahi Mahi:

I wanted a basic salt and pepper, and a bit of olive oil, season. Let the sauce and pesto do the talking and use the fish as a palette. So, season it up and let it sit for about 10 minutes on the counter or 30 minutes in the fridge. Heat up your broiler, and broil on a wire rack for 4-5 minutes, then flip and broil another 4-5 minutes.

The fish was cooked, but I wanted a bit more blackening on it, so I busted out the torch. 30 seconds of flame and it was good to go.

Red Pepper Sauce:

You need a good 30 minutes to make this sauce, so I'd start it way before you even pop the fish in the broiler.

You need a jar of roasted red peppers, drained. Puree in a processor and set aside. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of white wine and 1 large, minced shallot, to a boil, then reduce heat for 5 minutes. Add red pepper mixture and simmer for 10 minutes on lowest setting. Use an immersion blender and blend. Add salt and pepper, and continue simmering.

You'll notice when you blend a vegetable or fruit, like tomato, red peppers, etc., once you use the sauce, the solids will release liquid onto the plate (see picture for liquid escaping the solids in the sauce). The flavor was great, but I think I'd do one of two things next time - either strain the mixture, discard the solids, then using only the liquid, finish with butter, or keep everything, but thicken with a roux. A sauce like I made is only good for about 15 second before it starts to release liquid and destroys your plating. Salt and pepper to taste before plating.

Mint-Almond Pesto:

I grow fresh mint in my backyard. It's like a weed, and right now I have a ton of it. I grabbed about 1 smashed handful of it, shoved it into a processor, along with about 1/4 cup sliced almonds, 3 pressed garlic cloves, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice from 1 lime, and salt and pepper. Process that into a chunky paste. The garlic gives it a wonderful bite!

Mint-Honey-Soy Shrimp:
Mix 1-2 Tbs honey with 2-3 Tbs soy sauce and about 1 Tbs chopped mint. Add salt and pepper. Mix well into shrimp and let them marinate at least 20 minutes. Before cooking, drain them well. Heat a small amount of oil and pan fry the shrimp for 2-3 minutes. Top with a small amount of fresh mint.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers with Caramelized Onions


I'll be honest, I took 10 or 12 pictures from all different angles and couldn't find a single image that made this dish look appealing! Sorry, it was excellent, but I just couldn't capture it. It was my plating...I just didn't know how to present this dish. Maybe I should have roasted it open faced, but I didn't. Instead, I roasted the peppers standing up, then sliced them down the middle and opened then sideways.

Anyway, let's start with the onions...

I sliced 2 yellow and 1 red onion. Placed them in a steel pan with a small amount of olive oil on medium-high. Stirred for a few minutes, then lowered the heat to medium, stirring every few minutes for about 30 minutes. I tossed a small amount of sugar into the onions the last 10 minutes for added sweetness. These were perfect and could accompany many, many things.

Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers:

I was craving wheat bulgar, so that's where I started. A cup of bulgar, 1.5 cups of chicken broth. Cooked it for about 15 minutes, then set it aside. don't worry if it's done cooking, because it's going to cook plenty inside the pepper.

I also sliced up some crimini mushrooms and sauteed those with white wine, garlic and olive oil. Mixed those in with the bulgar.

I chopped some vine ripe tomatoes and added those to the bulgar mix.

I cut the tops of the red peppers, and cleaned out the insides. I stuffed then with the bulgar mix, then drizzled some white wine and olive oil on the top. Into a pre-heated oven on 400 degrees until they looked done - maybe 40 - 60 minutes.

This meal was healthy and have amazing flavor development. Just needed to figure out plating and this would have been amazing.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eastern Mediterranean Pita


There's a brilliant chef in Tustin and her name is Zov Karamardian. Her restaurant, Zov's, is amazing. She also came out with a book, Zov: Recipes and Memories from the Heart. I picked it up at Costco earlier this year and am glad I did.

Anyway, I was craving Greek, Middle Eastern or something along those lines, and was trying to figure out a good meat recipe. I flipped through Zov's book and found one for skirt steak. I noticed it combined flavors of Asia and the Mediterranean...I was sold.

I pretty much stayed true to the recipe, which is very rare for me, but I was way to curious about her execution on it. Topped that on a pita, along with chopped red onion, red leaf lettuce, cucumber, and a simple yogurt sauce (greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic).

Healthy and quick.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rosemary Smoked Chicken and Apples


Here you see the setup. Sure, it sounds appealing, maybe even looks appealing. It certainly did to me. But let me break some things down for you before you try this recipe.

First, my intention was to get a massive amount of smoke directly onto the chicken. In theory, this would have been great. And, the smoke from rosemary is nice and compliments chicken well.

The setup, as you see, had a blanket of rosemary on top of aluminum foil. I coated the base with olive oil. Then, on top of the rosemary, I added some sliced apples. On top of that, the chicken. Here's a quick detour for the chicken flavoring: A handful of chicken breasts or chicken breast tenders, coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. I love paprika, so you see I coated it with a solid amount.

Now onto the setup.

When I placed the setup on the grill, it started working right away. Smoke! After a couple of minutes, though, the rosemary was breaking down and it became apparent that the chicken was soon going to be resting directly on burnt rosemary. I figured I'd let it play out.

As I suspected, the rosemary completely broke down into burnt matter and oil. It did not stick to the chicken as I thought it would, but that doesn't mean the flavor wasn't overwhelming.

The finished result was visually appealing, but the rosemary fragrance and oils were overpowering- to the point of being disgusting. The apples were worse, since they soaked up even more of the fragrance and oil.

Next time, I think the idea would succeed if I built a true barrier between the rosemary and the chicken, but allowed some - not all - of the rosemary smoke to penetrate the chicken. What I'm thinking is that I'd completely cover the rosemary with apple slices, since they imparted a natural sweetness to the chicken and helped defuse the power of the rosemary on the chicken...I just didn't have enough apples to create a barrier. I would not let the chicken rest directly on the rosemary.

You might be wondering why I just didn't set up my smoke box with rosemary and keep it simple...I wanted the direct smoke, that's it. Perhaps a better solution would have been to add some wood chips to the rosemary (or even put the chicken directly on top of the wood chips - that would be interesting).

Anyway, give it a shot. Here's the finished plate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pan Fried Mahi Mahi on Farfalle Diavolo


I love dishes that come purely from need. Like the need to use up that can of tomato sauce, or that need to free up some freezer space by using those frozen fillets. I also love to build meals off a single ingredient, so let's begin.

If you follow me at all, you know I eat a lot of fish. Mahi Mahi is pretty much a staple in my house, so when I felt like eating some fish, it was the clear choice. I didn't feel like turning on the BBQ, and I love the crispy exterior texture of a good pan-fried fish, so that part was done.

On to the side.

My wife is always asking me why I don't cook more vegetables. Probably because I don't want to eat them, but I do try...for her, at least. I open the fridge, and guess what? No vegetables. So, I'm thinking that the fish should go on or with something and I literally have nothing that sounds good.

Pasta? Hmm? Interesting, because a pan fried Mahi Mahi with a cream pasta sounded great. But no cream, so that was out. It crossed by mind to do a Vera Cruz style, which I love, but something about that just didn't sound good.

I go to the cupboard and see a tiny can of plain tomato sauce- purchased for some reason months ago that went unused. Boom, the thoughts come pouring in...tomato-based pasta, but not just any pasta, Farfalle. And then it hit me...I had some frozen artichoke hearts, I had some sun dried tomatoes, plenty of garlic, a red onion. Done deal.

Pan Fried Mahi Mahi:

Two fillets, thawed and towel dried
Salt
Pepper
Dried oregano
Dried basil

Season the fillets and fry them in a mixture of olive oil and butter for about 4 minutes per side until done.

Farfalle Diavolo:

Cook farfalle according to instructions. Strain, toss with a light amount of olive oil and set aside.

Finely chop 1/2 red onion, and saute in olive oil on medium for 5 minutes.
Add 1 finely chopped red chili, cook another 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup thawed frozen artichoke hearts (or drain some from a can/bottle).
Add 5 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press, cook another 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Add about 1 cup of white wine (I used a Savignon Blanc), bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drop about a handful of sun dried tomatoes into a glass mixing bowl. Add really hot water and let sit for 10 minutes. When they're soft, drain them (reserving the liquid), chop them course and add them to your diavolo. Pour about 2-3 Tbs of the liquid into your diavolo. Continue cooking.

Add a small can of plain tomato sauce to your diavolo. Stir and cook for about 5 more minutes on low heat. Add the farfalle, stir to combine.

Depending on the amount of red chili you use (and you can replace that with crushed red pepper, cayenne, or other peppers if you like), this should be a spicy dish.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vietnamese-French-Korean Fusion


Ok, so that's a mouthful...not the sandwich (actually, yes, it's a mouthful too). I mean the title. But sometimes you need a little from here, a bit from there, and so on. Let's back up first.

For this meal, I needed to consider some food 'softies.' They were coming over for dinner, and I knew I needed to stretch them without breaking them. Well, your idea of stretching might be different than mine, but I wanted to take them up to the ledge and dangle them over it. No one comes to my house to eat boiled water.

And so...

I know they both like Korean BBQ. Actually, I know one of them likes Korean BBQ...the other one is scared by the process (raw meat on grill), but enjoys the results. I've done BBQ for them before, so I didn't want to have the same thing. Instead, I built backwards, from the Korean flavor and style, and backed it into a nice, end of Summer experience.

People always think of burgers as a Summer food, but I also didn't feel like making burgers. Sandwiches are a great choice, but sometimes they feel a little weak on the "experience" end of things. A ha!! Korean meat in a sandwich. To me, Lee's Sandwiches does a great job of this, although they're a bit to Disneyland for me. Anyway, Vietnamese-French sandwiches have been a hit with me for a long time, so that was all I needed.

Let's start with the meat. I used my basic Korean BBQ recipe, but on flap meat, and added some Sake. Why? Flap meat looked good at the butcher and I know it's good for sandwiches. Adding Sake? I wanted a hint of that flavor, that's all. Meat, check.

The bread? French roll - no questions asked. I picked a crappy one, though. It looked good through the bread and didn't even have a brand name. Imagine that, "French Bread." No brand. Nothing.

I chopped some red leaf lettuce, because I wanted the soft, cool texture, without the excess moisture found in Iceberg, or the excess crunch from cabbage.

I needed a pickle! Kimchi was the obvious choice. But I love the big crunch of radish (as opposed to napa kimchi). I chopped, and chopped, and chopped. Drained it, then added back in the thick part of the sauce that remained in the strainer.

Green onions? Of course. Sesame seeds, yep.

But, I wanted a twist in there. Something unexpected. I found some beautiful Shitake mushrooms and sauteed them in butter and sake. Perfect match for this!

And last, but not least, you always need a spread. Mayo is a great spread for any type of sandwich, and with the addition of some chili sauce (I used Sriracha)- it was perfection.

So, you build the sandwich, you test the waters with your friends and it works.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Filipino Pork Adobo


When I was in Maui last year, I was suffering for the first couple of days because the food choices sort of suck. Unless you want to eat fast food, hotel food, or expensive-but-nasty food, you're kind of stuck in Maui.

That was until we discovered a tiny Filipino kitchen attached to the front of a two-story office complex run by a California ex-pat. The lady was awesome...she cooked like it was her home kitchen. The locals she served ate like it was her dining room (even though it was a parking lot sidewalk covered with a checkered tablecloth). It was there that my appreciation for Pork Adobo blossomed.

Back at home, I wanted to experience it in my own kitchen. After reviewing dozens of recipes, I concocted my own. I wanted something I could braise in the oven, but with browning the meat first. Minimal requirements; simple techniques.

Pork Adobo

2-3 pound pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-1/2 or 2" cubes
5 small white potatoes (not Russet), cubed
1 onion, diced
1 cup vinegar
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
8 cloves garlic, through a press
1 Tbs sugar
salt and pepper

First salt and pepper, then brown the meat with a bit of vegetable oil in a dutch oven, set into a bowl. Add onion and fry up 5 or so minutes, add back in pork and stir up well. Mix your vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic and sugar in a bowl and pour into your pork. Bring to a boil and then move to oven.

Braise for 2 hours. Stir in cubed potatoes and braise another hour.

Remove liquid into a fat separator, then pour back into pork (after removing fat). Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with rice. We had it with macaroni salad in Maui, but I did corn here. It's your call, but you want something fresh on the side.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kimchi Cakes








I was super pleased with the results on this one. Think about it...kimchi? Cakes? It's a hard combination to top. So these have great texture and flavor. they're a good addition to a Korean meal, or about any meal where you want a little splash of spice. You can also serve them in whole cakes or in small pieces as a starter.

Kimchi Cakes:

2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup water
1 cup kimchi, diced fine
salt

Mix the ingredients, then pour into an oiled pan on medium-high heat. Cook about 3 minutes per side, watching for that nice golden color.

You'll want to add a bit of oil to the pan every so often so you get that nice color and the cakes don't stick.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mandu (Korean Dumplings) with Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce




I love dumplings. I could eat dumplings pretty often. There are so many variations, so many styles. For this one, I made Korean dumplings or Mandu. They were great and I made a Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce to match.





Mandu:

I purchased sweet rice dumpling wrappers, but you can choose any wrapper you like. Take a chance and try different types, different brands.

Fry up 1 onion (finely diced) for a couple minutes, then add 1 pound ground beef. You want this on medium heat, so as not to brown. Press 5 cloves garlic through a press, add some soy sauce, pepper, a bit of hoisin sauce, and salt. Stir and low-fry for a couple of minutes. Add to a large mixing bowl. Add finely chopped cabbage. Minced green onion. Finely chopped bean sprouts. Typical Mandu also uses tofu, but I didn't feel like using it, so I didn't. Mix all this well.

Get a small bowl of water, set aside. Scoop spoonful of mixture into middle of wrapper, then wipe a finger of water around the edge. Fold it over and crimp closed. Set aside until ready to fry up.

To cook - heat 3 Tbs oil on medium-high. Pan fry Mandu about 3 minutes per side. Serve with dipping sauce.

Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce:

Juice of 1/2 lime, with a bit of zest
Some vinegar
Some soy sauce
Some sugar
Some chili oil

You'll have to experiment with the proportions, because it's all about preference.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Korean Side Dishes












You can't really have Korean food, or for that matter, any Asian food, without sides. So, with Galbi and Bo Samm, along with traditional napa kimchi and radish kimchi (I didn't make either), I threw together some sides.

Spicy Potatoes:

Peal 1-2 white potatoes, shred with large-hole cheese grater, then rinse off starch. Place those in a mixing bowl, add a Tbs of rice vinegar, a dash of sesame oil, then a Tbs of Korean Hot Bean Paste (Gochujang). Mix well, place in a bowl and into the fridge for at least 2 hours before use.

Pickled Cucumbers:

Peal and slice 4 or more Persian or Japanese cucumbers (hot house or standard ones will also work, but I used Persian for this recipe). Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to a simmer, off heat, add in 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 4 Tbs sugar, and 1 Tbs kosher salt. Mix well, and pour over cucumbers. Mix those well and into the fridge for at least 2 hours before use.

Soy-Sweet Potatoes:

Peel and cube 4 white potatoes. Rinse off starch. Heat (medium) 2 Tbs oil in pan and add 1 small onion, finely diced. Cook 3 minutes. Add potatoes. After 3 more minutes, squeeze 3-4 cloves garlic through a press, and stir for another minute. Add 1/2 water, 2-3 Tbs soy sauce and 1/4 sugar. Stir and cover, cooking for about 15 minutes. You want them cooked, but not soft...still firm. Remove and drain. Empty into container and taste. You want the sweet and salty. Add more sugar or salt to taste, then into the fridge for at least 2 hours before use.

Enjoy with meat!

~ Brock

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cucumber Cups with Shrimp, Korean Pear and Sake Vinaigrette














I don't know why the one photo won't correct the rotation, but ...you get the picture!

First, peel a few large cucumbers, then cut them into 1 1/2" pieces. Then you're going to scoop out the center of each one, but leaving a bottom layer on each one. You also want to ensure you get as close to the outside wall as possible, because a thick cucumber isn't as pleasant as a paper-thin cup.

Now when I do this dish again, I'm going to pickle the cucumbers before I use them. They were good as-is, but would be much better with a nice season on them.

Meanwhile, boil a handful of shrimp, then cool and dice. Peel and dice a Korean pear. Set aside. Mince some napa kimchi, set aside. Mince some green onion, set aside.

Make your sake vinaigrette- Mix 1/2 cup sake, 1/4 rice vinegar, 2-3 Tbs sugar, a dash of sesame oil, and press 2 cloves garlic into the mixture. Shake well and use this to season your dish.

To plate, place a cucumber shell, and scoop a bit of shrimp with a bit of pear, then push down inside. Top with a small mound of kimchi, then some green onions. Pour some vinaigrette over. You can also sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top for effect.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Another Round of Galbi


I won't bore you with the same recipe twice, so check it out here. This was for my son- one of his favorite dishes.

I had this with my Bo Samm, and I'll be honest, I am torn on which I prefer. The beef is always amazing, but the pork...slooooooow roooooasted....that's hard to beat.

Let me know which you prefer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder (Bo Samm)


When I was younger, I wasn't allowed to eat pork. Unclean. But then my God cleansed it and now I eat it at will ;).

Although the concept of a slow-roasted pig is nothing new, I got the idea for this particular dish from reading Momofuku. A wonderful book from author and chef, David Chang. But let's back up a bit...

My son is about to turn 6. We fed him everything when he was a baby, but very little of it stuck. Now, he's pretty much a mac-n-cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets kid. But, the one area where I'm really proud to say "it stuck" is with Asian cuisine. Specifically, my son can down the greatest Taiwanese food, Japanese- yes, and Korean - aaaah yeaaaah. Galbi (bbq short ribs) is one his favorites. And, since beef = growth (he's like 85% in height rankings, 15% in weight), I don't hesitate when he wants it.

But, I'm a little selfish when it comes to food, and if I need to make Galbi, you can guarantee I'm gonna cook up a feast. We were going to have 9-11 adults and 2-4 kids, so I needed massive amounts of meat. Galbi - done. Onto the pork.

It's quite simple, really. Sugar, brown sugar, and salt. That's all you need- that and a nice cut of pork. Maybe butt (which is what Momofuku calls for), but I opted for a shoulder cut...it just had my name on it. Marbled with fat, perfect size (5 pounds), and excellent color behind the glass.

Bo Samm:

1 5lb pork shoulder with plenty of good marbling of fat
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix your dry ingredients, then rub them all over the pork. Rub it good. Rub it real good. Put this into a ziplock and into the fridge for at least 6 hours, but overnight is apparently fine.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put the pork in a baking dish, small enough to fit it tight, but make sure you have a decent height on the lip, because once the fat renders, you don't want it overflowing. Put the pork in the dish, without excess liquid from bag. Roast for 6 hours, basting with the juices at least once per hour. After 4 hours, flip the roast and sprinkle some brown sugar on top.

Remove from oven and shred. Set aside to eat with lettuce, spicy bean paste, kimchi, etc.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Playing With Meat

We've all wondered it at some point or another, haven't we? I mean, what are the rules, anyway? Meat-wise, I mean.

Well, for starters, get fresh meat. That's a no-brainer, you'd think, but I can tell you from experience there are some stores that don't follow this logic and some shoppers who don't seem to notice/care. For instance, when your meat smells rancid, chances are, it is. Bloody- yes. 'Meaty'- yes. Should it smell like a rodent, a fish, poop, or gasoline? No. Those are not indigenous smells.

And if it smells ok, what about the color? Do this - go buy a cheap steak from 3 different grocery stores. Take it home, slice each one down the middle and look at the insides. Anything resembling tree rings with various shades of red, purple, brown and black? The longer meat sits, the longer the liquids (blood, water, etc.) penetrate and permeate. And oxygen? Yep, if impacts your meat as well. Granted, you may always see a slight bit of color saturation when you slice through a raw cut of beef, what you don't want to see is red surrounding purple surrounding black/brown. Get it fresh.

Now here's an interesting question I get all the time: what's the best way to cook a steak? Trust me, it's not my lawyer instincts when I tell you, "it depends." The reason why, is because the "best" way to cook a steak depends on your goals, your anticipated meal, your available cookware, etc., etc., etc. For instance, I can cook a steak on a gas grill for 45 minutes or I can cook it in 8 minutes. Same cut, same spices - totally different result. Also totally different styles. Not that you can't match a Chimichurri sauce with either, but knowing a bit about real Argentinian cooking, you'd probably go with the long and low grill (and it wouldn't be gas if you had a choice). But what if you wanted to go with a nice red wine sauce? Well, the grill doesn't lend itself to a pan sauce because there's no pan. So, you'd need to opt for a pan fried steak.

But is the question really about the best way to cook a steak? Or, is it the best manner (i.e., slow, fast, high-heat, low heat, etc.) to cook a steak once you've chosen a certain method (i.e., grill, pan, etc.). I mean, honestly, do you ever ask yourself whether a pan fried steak is better than a outdoor grilled steak? Not that there's not a difference (there is), but it's not really the right question, is it? I can cook an awesome pan steak. I can also cook an awesome grill steak. I can also cook a piece of crap steak in either.

What you need to do is master a method and manner of cooking a piece of meat. That's what I did.

Pick a cut of steak and pick a method (i.e., grill or pan). Start with a basic dry rub (salt, pepper, garlic, paprika is a nice one). Now practice and learn your grill, learn your fire. Where are the hot spots. Can I sear in one area and not in another? Does the meat cook at a different rate if I have multiple pieces on the fire? Should I open or close the lid? Smoke or none? These are all questions you should answer for yourself - after you've tried them all.

And here are a few tips along the way:

1. Never put meat straight out of the fridge and onto a fire. Let your meat come up to room temperature first.

2. Never cut your meat while it's cooking. You lose moisture and your meat gets tough and overcooked.

3. Never cut your meat as soon as it's done cooking. Let it rest at least 5 minutes, but closer to 10 for best results. I don't know the scientific description, but as you wait, the juices flow back into the meat causing a juicier result.

4. Don't sear your meat by burning it to black.

That's 4 rules. 4! Yet, I see many, many, many would-be home cooks break all 4 rules all the time and wonder why their meat tastes like crap. And these rules apply to a good old steak a hamburger...whatever.

Think about it, is it you? Do you take your steak home from the store, rub it with spices, put it in the fridge. Hours later, you light the grill and as soon as it's hot, you pull the steak right out the fridge and onto the grill? Then, about 7 minutes later when smoke billows out, you flip it, only to discover it's charred, burnt and black. Then, 1 minute later, you grab a steak knife, slicing into your meat to determine if it's done? The juices and blood flow out, so you think it's undercooked. You leave it on another 4-5 minutes to be sure, but by that time, you think it needs another flip to seal the hole you cut? So, you flip it for good measure. Now you've cooked your steak about what? 15 minutes? You hoped it would be medium or medium-well, but it's black, dry and way overcooked.

Here's a perfect steak. Take it out of the fridge. Season it with a dry rub and a bit of olive oil. Leave it out on a plate out of the fridge. Heat your grill to medium-high (I use a 5 burner grill and I turn on the right 2 and leave the left 3 off. I put my steak mid way between the front and the back of the grill in between burners 1 and 2). When the steak has been out of the fridge between 30-60 minutes, I grill it for 4 minutes, then flip it and cook another 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness. I let it rest slightly covered in foil for about 10-15 minutes, then slice against the grain. That's perfection. 8 minutes to cook a steak. If you cook 15, that's WAY too long.

Alright, enough about meat. Go explore.

Brock

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Red Chili Shredded Pork

I did not take a picture - what a mistake. Not that it would capture the beauty, or even could. I take most pics with my iPhone, but when it comes to shredded meat dishes (like my Mole), it isn't pretty. It's the taste that's pretty..the texture, the aroma, the experience. But that's why cookbooks with pictures sell, isn't it? I mean, look at Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. Beautiful pictures, but the recipes suck. At least all the ones I've tried. Then I have these Russian, Greek and Spanish cookbooks - no pictures. Some have some hand drawings, but nothing photographic. You try those - any of those - and they taste amazing. Imagine that while you imagine making this recipe.

Well, I put this together for a Memorial Day get together. I was supposed to make chili...this kind of fits that category, but not really. Well, it turns out I had family in town and didn't make it to the store to get what I needed for chili. What I did have was everything for this. So here we go.

Red Chili Shredded Pork:

Preheat oven to 325.

Start with a 3-4 pound pork shoulder. There was plenty of fat on this one, and I chose not to trim it. I felt the length of the braise would render that fat real nice into the meat...I was right. Cut the pork into large chunks, maybe 2" squares. Salt, pepper and New Mexico Chili these bad boys all around and set aside. Chop two onions, 1 red bell pepper, and 6-8 red chilis. Set aside.

Heat about 2 Tbs olive oil in dutch oven. Fry half the meat until browned on all sides - about 10 minutes. Put in a bowl and do the same to the other half of the pork. Remove to bowl, then drop in onions, red bell peppers and red peppers. Fry up about 5 minutes. Add back in pork and accumulated juices and mix well.

Pour in 1 tall can of good beer. I'm not a beer drinker and I have no idea what "good" beer is, but my neighbor gladly slipped me a Coors and that worked just fine. Pour it in, bring to a boil while adding - 3 Tbs Pasilla ground chili, salt, pepper, 6 cloves garlic through a press, 2 bay leaves, juice of 1 lime (and spent lime), ground cumin and coriander.

Put this in the oven for 2.5-3 hours. Bring it out, shred the pork with a fork (this will take almost no work at all). Put it back in the oven and turn off the heat. Let it sit in another 30 minutes until you're ready to eat. It's damn good.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Monday, May 31, 2010

Shredded Chicken Mole


Sometimes pictures just don't do you justice. The truth is, this dish was excellent. Try it and you'll see.

Shredded Chicken Mole:

Take about 5 large breasts, or 8-10 tenders. Chop into olive-sized chunks and give a nice dose of salt and pepper. Chop 1 half large onion, set aside.

Pan fry chicken with about 2 Tbs olive oil on high until starting to brown. Add in onion and fry another few minutes. Pop in 6-8 cloves garlic through a press. Stir and fry another minute or so. Squeeze juice from 2-3 juicy oranges into mix, and also add 1 1/2 cup boiling chicken broth. Stir, bring to boil and reduce heat to low. Add in 2-3 Tbs dried Pasilla chili, more salt and pepper, some New Mexico chili powder, some onion powder, some ground cumin. Simmer this for at least 20 minutes, maybe 30. Break up and shred the chicken with a fork and spatula. Add in some dark chocolate. I used about 3 Tbs of 70% dark chocolate. Melt that in for about 5 minutes, and you're ready to go.

Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer.

Enjoy!

~ Brock

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Potato Cakes with Mango Chimichurri and Pan Seared Butter Shrimp


Less than 30 minutes from brain to table...

I don't know about you, but starch is my personal friend. So is oil. Come to think of it, this plate has just a bunch of my close friends - spice, shrimp, mango, sour, the list goes on. I think the plating is off though. Maybe I should have stacked the mango on the potato cake, and the shrimp on the mango? Or maybe the shrimp on one potato cake and add diced mango on top, surrounded by chimichurri? Who knows.

Anyway, I wasn't exactly sure how the potato cakes would turn out, since this was a first time experiment for me. I also knew I wanted something with a punch to dip the cakes into, and I had some fresh Italian parsley on hand - chimichurri was a logical choice. Also fresh mango? Why not.

Potato Cakes:

3 large potatoes, skinned, washed, and shredded using a large cheese grater. Grate those into a bowl and have a colander ready. You want to wash the starch off, so you're going to soak the potatoes for a few minutes, then run them into the colander with fresh water running over, then back in to the bowl. Repeat the cycle a couple of times until the water runs clear. Drain them well, and dry them with a towel. Set aside, but use within 15 minutes, or they're gonna turn pink, green and nasty.

Pour about 1/4 cup of flour into a large bowl. Add cold water slowly, mixing as it goes in. You're making a batter that runs with the consistency of a pancake batter but slightly runnier. This is a trial and error task. It's maybe 50-50 water flour, but possibly less water. Blend well, breaking up all flour chunks.

Now stir in ample amounts of salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

Meanwhile, grate 1/2 onion and 1/4 carrot into the mixture bowl. Add one beaten egg. Mix well.

Now take handfuls of potatoes at a time and mix into your master bowl. You won't necessarily want to add all the potatoes, but add them handfuls at a time, mixing all the time. You want a consistency where the potatoes clump together, but it's still slightly runny. This is not a dry mixture- it is very wet.

Heat vegetable oil on medium-high at about 1" until hot. Drop large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the pan, forming into a small cake with your spoon as you go. I used a 16" pan and only did three at a time...you don't want to crowd or it will lower the oil temperature too much.

Fry about 3 minutes per side until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and plate up.

Mango Chimichurri:

Get a blender ready and add the following:

1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 olive oil
2 small handfuls of Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 of a ripe mango, diced
4 cloves garlic, through a press
salt and pepper

Blend well and set aside. Blend again before using or you might have froth develop and separation occur. I kept mine in the blender pending use.

Pan Seared Butter Shrimp:

8-10 shrimp. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, dried oregano and basil. Stir and mix well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Heat 3 Tbs butter to medium-high and foaming. Add shrimp and increase heat to high, frying up a couple of minutes. DON'T OVERCOOK! Remove the shrimp to plate and drizzle oil atop.

Enjoy!

~ Brock