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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cooking Is My Yoga

I get this question a lot: how much time do you cook? Funny thing is, it never comes across as a friendly question. It's loaded. Always.

But why? Here's my short list: 1) people don't want to cook, and don't want anyone else drawing attention to it; 2) people want to cook, but don't know how to fit it into their schedule; or 3) people are curious.

I'm going to answer all three of these questions...

If you don't want to cook, don't. I eat at junk holes like Flame Broiler, Wahoo's and Costco..sometimes I don't feel like cooking, and sometimes I crave the things they sell. I'm not a food snob, I'm a foodie, which means I love food...all sorts. It doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. In fact, I don't really enjoy the expensive experience, because I'm frugal and don't like spending money like that. Sure, I've had some really nice meals that were really expensive, but that's not my day-to-day plan. My point is that if you don't want to cook, why would you? I can recommend some great places to eat - any budget, any food type, any location. I can also recommend some great quick meals that are frozen. Surprised? I don't see why you would be.

But if you want to cook and don't think you have the time or talent, that's where I'm here to tell you you're flat out wrong. Anyone can cook. Didn't you watch Ratatouille? Everyone has time. I can have a ton of dishes on the table within 20 minutes, start to finish. Yeah, I probably can't beat 1.5 minutes on high in the microwave for chicken nuggets, or most of the microwave meals, but if that's what I'm up against, then I guess I lose.

My point is that you don't need a lot of time to cook. If you have it, great, you can be more creative. If you don't have time, you invest your time wisely in meals that are quick. Tons of pasta dishes can be pantry-to-table in 15 minutes. Same with fish and vegetables, chicken, even steak. You only doubt it because you haven't tried it.

More than that, you're thinking slop versus gourmet. Here's the thing - whatever I eat, I can make it gourmet. Case in point: Scrambled eggs. Simple, 3 minute meal. No one gets excited.

But what if you scramble the eggs, and while they're cooking, you cut a nice triangle out of toast. You lay the eggs across the toast, and sprinkle some paprika and olive oil. Maybe some fresh basil if you have it. If not, dried is fine. The difference between plain-old-scrambled eggs and this "gourmet" breakfast is the creativity that goes into plating. Same amount of time, but a few sprinkles of this, a few cuts on that, and viola!, you have something beautiful and mouth-watering.

When you have a chance, go back through random choices of my recipes. Read through. Most things don't take that long. Most things take the same amount of time as you would do to make macaroni and cheese, or grill a burger. It's just some added spices, some added color, and some added art.

Dig into it people, it's fun.

Cooking is my yoga!


~ Brock

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All Day Pork Noodle Soup

The image just doesn't capture the hours and hours and hours that go into something like this. But before we get into all that, what's my inspiration for this particular bowl? Momofuku.

The book. The thoughts. The stories.

There's a section that talks about the pork used in the restaurant, Noodle Bar. Your mouth waters...or at least mine did. I just imagined slow cooking a pork shoulder for 6 hours, or maybe 8...yeah, 8 sounded right.

That was the whole point of the exercise. Not this dish you see. Not noodles. Not even the broth. Just cooking pork for 8 hours.

So I went over to my local butcher (aka Stater Bros) and grabbed a nice 3 pound chunk of shoulder. I trimmed the fat off the top and cut it into 2x2 inch chunks, set it aside. In a bowl, I mixed 1/4 cup brown sugar with a few Tbsp of salt and sugar. I put the pork into a large bowl, poured the sugar/salt mixture over the top and worked it in for a minute. I got out my slow cooker and crammed it into the bottom.

I chopped a whole sweet onion and smashed that down on top of the pork. I then layered the fat over the top of the onions, sprinkled some peppercorns and 2 bay leaf on the top and set it to low.

After about six hours, I removed the pork and cubed it. replaced it into the slow cooker and mixed it all up nice. After 7 hours, I shredded the pork with a fork, and gave it another stir. By hour 8, it was ready for liftoff.

But by the time I was about 5 hours into the day, I started thinking..."hmmm, do I go with a ramen, or with a taco, or with a Korean taco, or as Adobo, or . . . . " My brain was going all different directions. I couldn't decide, so I figured I'd go for all of them over the next day or so.

And I landed on soup for tonight.

Well, around hour 6 on the pork, I pulled out the bone and a few chunks of nice meat and onions. I dropped those in a pot and fried up for a minute. I added a lot of water, and some sake, soy sauce and Mirin. Added a carrot, some green onion, some cracked pepper. Brought it to a boil, then down to a long simmer....two hours long...the kind that says, "oh yeah."

But I was out of ramen noodles, but had some other good ones. Chopped some green onion. I did pull some fish cake out of the freezer, but it smelled off and it's entirely possible that it was more than 2 years old...not good.

And there you have my 8 hour pork noodle journey.

Now I'm craving adobo and I think I'll give that a crack tomorrow.


~ Brock