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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.


~ 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.


~ 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.


~ 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

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.


~ Brock