The Gift of Gluttony continues as my friend HL came over for dinner last night since she had prior commitments during the holiday season. I decided to stray away from my usual meat dishes and cook something from the sea. One of my favorites is the Patagonian Toothfish, otherwise known as the Chilean Sea Bass. Americans adapted that name to increase its marketability. After all, that name does sound pretty vicious. Yes I know, it’s on the list of extinction, but it’s so delectable. Watch this corny flash cartoon on “Taking a Pass on the Chilean Sea Bass”. Nice title. So yeah, in 5 years it could be extinct. Which means I better hurry up and eat as much as I can by the time I’m 32. P.E.T.A. is so after me now. Haha.
One of my favorite Japanese fish dishes is the Miso Black Cod, which I had the pleasure of eating at Nobu Next Door in New York City. It doesn’t require a ridiculous 6 month reservation in advance either. You can simply walk in and enjoy equally delicious fare. The fish was served on top of a hot mixture of soy sauce/black bean with green onions poached in hot oil. I devoured this dish so quickly.
As if I didn’t learn my lesson from shopping for veal shanks, I, again, checked out the prices at Bristol Farms and Whole Foods. $41 a pound!!! Jesus. I went to the next best place – 99 Ranch Market in Arcadia, and found my CSB for $12.99/lb. I got a huge 1.75 lb piece for about $24. I gave myself a high-five. Wait, wouldn’t that be considered clapping?
I cut the huge block of CSB into 4 fillets and marinated them in sake, mirin, miso paste and sugar. It’s important to know what kind of miso paste you buy. I unfortunately bought the sweet kind infused with dashi. Overly sweet. I let the fillets ‘swim’ one last time for 3 days.
(1) Gently wipe off any remaining miso paste on the fillets and broil them till it’s somewhat brown on top. It should take no longer than 10 minutes or you’ll get a black fish.
(2) For the CSB sauce, I simmered some soy sauce, Chinese black beans, sake, 3 ginger slices and tons of sugar. I added corn starch to speed up the thickening process. You can add a dash of sesame oil for a nice touch.
I served the fish with some fried fish cakes, fried oyster mushrooms and tofu matchsticks (tempura).
Thanks for reading. Read more!
Friday, January 27, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Next time you're at Costco buying 5 bottles of shampoo, 2 packs of 5,000 q-tips, 150 rolls of toilet paper, 4 cases of eggs and of course those delicious $1.50 hot dogs.... you might wanna consider buying this.
Checkout this link and read the disclaimer. I wonder if they sell these in a 2-pack.
You can even buy a wedding ring at Costco. I've developed a new tagline for this mega sized store- Costco: A Big Part of Your Life. Read more!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
In my posting regarding my resolutions for this year, two of them included inviting more people to come over for wining/dining and improving my level of cooking within the categories of presentation and photography. On Friday, I invited my good friend MS and his girlfriend for a night of gluttony. Most of you know her as Bola (Best of LA).
I was hit by the Force at work last minute and had to move our dinner to a later time. What’s the Force you ask? The Force is an invisible life form that watches your each and every move... AT WORK. It plays around with you and lets you do absolutely nothing for 8 hours – making you think the day is a total breeze. But sometimes, it will just fuck with you. You know, right when you’re about to leave for lunch or go home for the night for a prior commitment, you receive a phone call or email that nails you back on your seat. “A few minor changes” is a heavily disguised way of saying “Forget your plans for tonight.” In my case, the Force knew I had a dinner that night. It knew that I had spent my lunch hour driving over to Bristol Farms to do all my shopping. And it knew that cooking for friends was one of my resolutions this year. Basically, the Force fucked with me. As soon as I ‘satisfied’ the Force, I quickly drove home to start the grind.
Me: “So what are we going to eat?”
MS: “Anything is fine.”
Me: “Well, I’ve been wanting to cook duck.”
MS: “The Peking ducks you see hanging in the windows of Chinese restaurants, like Sam Woo?”
Me: “No No. This would be California-French style.”
MS: “I’m down.”
From my experience at The Restaurant so far, I’ve learned that a meal should be balanced in all aspects. The duck might be considered gamey to some people, but the introduction of a sauce subtly infused with fruit and wine can give the palate a ride on a rollercoaster. And definitely hide any sign of gaminess. For the sauce, I would make a simple syrup and infuse it with dried apricots and candied walnuts. King mushrooms, which are very sweet in nature, cepollini and broccolini (baby broccoli) would accompany the spectrum of tastes in this dish.
The duck, unlike the chicken, quail and ostrich, is the only familiar member of the poultry family with the ability to take flight. Because flying requires strong muscles in the wings, the duck’s meat is high in myoglobin. Myoglobin is an oxygen-carrying pigment in the muscle tissue of the bird’s wings, and gives the meat the red color. As well all know, red meat can be cooked to one’s desired doneness. This is why the duck, can, and must be, served medium rare or medium, tops. Pork and chicken, being white meat, obviously cannot be cooked to a rare doneness. Unless you like salmonella.
If you’ve had Chinese style barbeque duck, you know how fatty and juicy the skin is when fried. So good. The same thing applies to even a duck breast fried in a pan. I started this dish out by scoring the thick skin of the duck. 'Scoring' refers to the slitting of any surface of meat/vegetable either for the rendering of fat or for aesthetics. In my case, it had to be both. If I had not scored the skin of the duck, it would have been too fatty and I probably would’ve had to take MS and Bola to the hospital for a quick cholesterol test. Some of you may have seen this scoring technique done in Chinese cooking with squid. Those little criss-crosses you see were done with a small paring knife. Once you cook or boil the squid, the scored lines become clearly visible due to chemical expansion. Simply beautiful.
Here we go, party time:
(1) Pre-heat the oven at 350 and 400 for cooking. Salt and pepper both sides of the duck breast and cook skin-side down on medium heat with olive oil. Cook the duck breast till the skin is a golden brown and most of the fat has rendered out. Discard the fat or save it to make confit. (Confit is a French term for preservation, especially with the use of animal fat. Duck meat preserved in its own fat becomes duck confit. Mmmm.) Toss in the oven for about 10 minutes for medium rare. Keep in mind, you have to let the meat rest for about 5 minutes so that the juices can redistribute.
(2) Make a simple syrup in a small pot by combining sugar and water, I’d say a 1.5 : 1 ratio. Once the sugar dissolves, add dried apricots (chopped and whole pieces) and candied walnuts (crushed). Add red and white wine, over whatever’s in your kitchen. You’d probably want to use a red wine for its silky color. Let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes until desired thickness. The sauce should be able to coat the back of the spoon, also called a Napé sauce.
(3) Blanch your cepollini and broccolini in salted water. This will bring out the green color in your veggies. Set aside for last minute cooking. After the duck has rested, sauté the broccolini in olive oil and butter till it’s crispy. Sauté the cepollini onions in a little bit of butter just to give it a nice coating of butter. Sauté the mushrooms till it becomes brown. Serve.
The duck breast turned out very well. The skin was crispy and still had a great fatty taste. The apricot/walnut sauce balanced out the ‘gamey’ taste in duck. My sauce could have used a little more red wine for color and simmered longer for a thicker coat. I fried the broccolini to bring out a bitter taste to accompany the sweet duck. The mushrooms were naturally sweet and didn’t need much salt & pepper to make it edible. The cepollini onions carried a buttery taste. All in all, I think it was a good, first attempt at cooking duck.
For dessert (which I hate), I decided to do a take on one of my favorite Asian foods: Dumplings. I sautéed some apples and pears (brunoised – small cubes) with sugar and white wine till they were soft and combined it with Mascarpone cheese for the dessert dumpling filling. I deep fried the little bastards and served it with some of the leftover apricot/walnut sauce used for the duck. Added powder sugar and mint for garnish. This turned out pretty good.
Thanks for reading. Quack. Read more!
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Last week, I found a nice package on my work desk, awaiting my arrival. My coworker TT came back from Hawaii and promised me a nice souvenir. She had read my posts on my Hawaii trip and knew exactly what to get me; something edible.
I slowly undressed the package to find Portuguese sausage. I was so stoked haha. In Hawaii, the McDonald’s serve local food including spam/Portuguese with eggs and rice.
This meal was actually one of the memorable ones from my trip.
Because the sight of a heavy plate lunch may sometimes be too much for the senses, I decided to do a take on this Hawaiian classic. Using a ring mold in the pan, I fried some rice that I had mixed with Nori Furikake (best stuff on Earth), making a crispy, circular ‘rice cake’. I then topped it with five small slices of the heavenly Portuguese sausage and of course, added a perfectly round egg. Since this meal is usually served with soy sauce, I made a quick soy sauce reduction sauce using soy sauce, water, sugar, sesame oil and corn starch for thickening. Sprinkled a few bits of Nori Furikake for garnish. I think I devoured this in about 2 minutes in under 6 bites like Pac-Man. Read more!
See? I told you I had a short attention span. After 1.5 weeks of staring/manipulating boring coding, Frankenstein has awoken. Hope everyone finds it easy to navigate through. I was pretty tired of the blogger templates and wanted one to call my own. Have a good day. Read more!
Friday, January 06, 2006
After a 2.5 year hiatus, I finally went back up to Mammoth for a little R&R for New Years. Only my friends will know why I’ve been absent for so long and we’ll leave it at that. I know they’re laughing right now. Good times right? My friend L picked me up and we headed up the 14 & 395 freeway for one of California’s finest resorts. Places like Mammoth really make California the place to be. We have great food, a good music scene, tolerable beaches, lush vineyards, snow, silicone, collagen and plastic. Only a 4.5 hour drive, Mammoth was the perfect escape for the fourteen of us. We arrived around 2 am and immediately cracked open the liquor for a night of debauchery. What else can you do in a cabin? Board games? Hell no.
While the liquor flowed, I immediately jumped into my favorite part of any house – the kitchen. The bathroom is second. After spending $150 on my yellow Le Creuset pot, I had to make as much use of it as I could. Soups and stews immediately come to mind when stuck in a cold, snowy environment, like Mammoth. I decided to quickly make a Chili with ground beef because after all it was 2 am and I didn’t have all night to braise Osso Buco veal shanks. No beans. When you have fourteen hungry snowboarders couped up in a warm, three-bedroom condo, sleeping side-by-side, it would be to everyone’s best interest to skip on the beans. God knows what would have happened if a match was lit.
For the chili, I browned 4 lbs. of ground beef with olive oil, a little bit of butter and S&P on medium heat. I threw in a few pieces of bacon, one whole diced onion, 1 bellpepper, 2 minced garlic cloves and four large cans of whole peeled tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, and brought it to a simmer. I then added cumin, oregano, garlic salt and chili powder. I used water to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes. After about 45 minutes, it was ready to go. My favorite chili is from Wienerschnitzel’s and I find it easier to cook a dish when you have a recipe to follow. Wienerschniztel’s is heavy on cumin, and although I dumped a grip in to the pot, I was far from having the same taste. Oh well.
I’m sorry for the constant referencing of flatulence, but I really think elevation plays a big part in it. I had no beans in the chili and yet everyone still… well you could imagine the night. Just imagine the horns section of a high school band – tuba, trumpet, trombone and whatever Kenny G plays in an off-rhythm, 6-hour symphony.
It was 8 am, and the concert was finally over – time to ride the frosted mountains of Mammoth. It was beautiful… like perfectly, buttered and pureed mashed potatoes. I was a little bit concerned that I would be heading back to the bunny slopes after the first run because of my 2.5 years of inactivity. I actually did okay and gained my confidence back.
We broke for lunch at Canyon Lodge at around 12:30 to regain some energy expended from dodging snobby skiers who think they own the mountain and snowboarders lounging on the mountain like they were at a beach in Hawaii. I thought about bringing my chili in Tupperware and packing it in my backpack, but in case I were to eat shit, it wouldn’t have been good. I’d look like I was a Taiwanese, shaved ice topped off with some red chili. Even Bourdain would say that’s gross. We all know how ridiculously expensive lodge food could be, but man, after a few runs, EVERYTHING smells good and looks good. Over to my left, I could hear the sizzling of fresh hamburgers and hot dogs. I didn’t feel like a burger though. Over to my right, was a bar. Hmm. Beer for lunch? That actually sounds appetizing. I was kinda full from the instant oatmeal I had for breakfast. Naw. I didn’t want to have to pull over into the forest for a quick watering while on the trail. I went in to the crowded cafeteria and considered my options:
Grilled food. No.
Soups and salad. No.
Pizza. Mmm, that sounds good. $5 a slice? No thanks.
Mexican food. No, not after last night’s 6-hour symphony.
Chinese food. Okay, fine.
I got three egg rolls for $4 with a side of fried rice for $3. How Asian can I be? I can’t even stay away from rice for ONE WHOLE WEEKEND haha. Well it turns out that maybe I should’ve gone for the big, juicy hamburger. The “Chinese” food I ordered made Panda Inn taste like haute cuisine.
We got back from snowboarding at around 4 pm and we were all worn out. We had gone to the top of the mountain where the 40-90 mph winds blew needle-like snow into your face. Ouch. My lips were chapped and cheeks were stone cold, and the only thing to warm us up would be a group of hot chicks and a hot bowl of soup. For dinner, we decided to have beef/turkey spaghetti and French Onion soup.
I sliced six, large onions on medium heat till they were caramelized with two cloves of smashed garlic and four sprigs of thyme. The hardest and most crucial part in making FOS is the caramelization of the onions. Caramelization is the oxidation of the sugars in the onion – the result is a brown, nutty color and sweet taste to the onion. This takes 15-20 minutes and requires constant attention so that the onions are not burnt. Once they've reached the caramelized state, I added about 3/4 of a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, here I go again with the $2 buck chuck haha. Who cares. I simmered the onions and wine for about 10 minutes so the tannins (alcoholic acids) would evaporate and then added six cans of beef broth. Threw in another four sprigs of thyme and simmered it for about ninety minutes. Add S&P, garlic, oregano and dried thyme to achieve the desired taste. I forgot to use Worcestershire Sauce to give it that acidic kick but I think the FOS tasted okay. I also baked a few croutons using a La Brea Bakery baguette, olive oil, garlic and thyme, for dipping. Cheese was not used because the soup wouldn’t have been hot enough to melt the cheese. Restaurants usually throw the bowl of FOS into the oven with the cheese and crouton submerged in the soup, making the soup gooey and yummy.
As the night went on, I could hear the sounds of sobs and sniffles as the girls and one guy (AK) soaked up all the Kleenex tissues watching The Notebook, the clanking of beer bottles and glasses as us guys played card games for drinks and the ever so loud sound of the 'symphony'.
Good snow. Good friends. Good food. Definitely good times. Read more!
In a coordinate effort with Daily Gluttony, I've posted a touchy subject regarding kitchen etiquette. I know this sign was made intentionally for me haha. Atleast three times a week, i'll be nuking some kind of stir fry that employs a little soy sauce and fish sauce. Yes, I feel bad but what can i do about it. I like the food. I can't eat 'safe' food all the time because it gets boring.
Another funny thing is when my coworkers marvel at my lunch, giving me the fake:
"Oh what is that? it looks so good!"
"Yeah right, you want some?"
"Uhhh. No I'm okay. I have my sandwich and salad. Thanks. "
Anyone else out there get funny looks? Or signs made ESPECIALLY for you?
Would this disgusting fruit cake be acceptable?????
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The new year has arrived and so has everyone’s long lists of resolutions that might prove to be fulfillable – yet mostly unfulfillable. Of all the bad habits I have -- gluttonizing, drinking and smoking won’t even make it past the first week of my ‘temporary resolution period’. So might as well try to stick with something I can improve: anything related to food. Here are my resolutions for 2006. And I don’t think it’ll be too hard to follow through with them since they orbit the our food universe. God, I’m such a food perv.
Explore and cook more ethnic cuisines.
Almost every day of the week, you can find me sitting on my dining table with the Food Network on, eating some kind of stir-fry, rice and soup noodle dish within the Asian culinary realm. Tofu, papaya salad, fried rice, pad kee mow, Chinese beef noodle soup, etc. Frankly, I’m tired of it because it’s just too easy and fast to cook. And I think my roommate would appreciate a day or two each week of fresh air devoid of fish sauce, kimchee and shrimp paste. I’ve become really interested in Middle Eastern food (Persian, Armenian), Indian and of course, South American (Brazilian, Peruvian). Initially, I had been hesitant about eating Indian food because of lamb/mutton but love it now. Reading all the wonderful reviews about places like Mario’s Peruvian and Café Brazil has really whet my appetite for South American food as well. Time to save up some cash for all the new spices and spice rack. Personally, I don’t think I have the room to fit it in my kitchen.
Buy more cookbooks for research and motivation.
Some people deem cookbooks merely as instructional guides. Not for me. These precious gems should inspire and stimulate you. A lot of work has been put into perfecting a dish that may require no more than five ingredients. Why not four ingredients? Why not six? Because food is good in its simplest form. Mealcentric has written a great posting on how food has been bastardized by ‘trendy’ ingredients just to cause a commotion. Sure Vietnamese spring rolls are good, but do you really need to add Alaskan lobster into the filling and shave truffles on top of it? As good as it may sound, we’re dismissing the foundation of the dish: spring rolls. What I love about cookbooks is that you can try making a dish and adding your own twist to it to call it your own. Currently, there are a good 20 cookbooks on my Amazon wish list and I’m hoping to get as many of them as possible this year. Look at how many books J of Kuiadore has. They’ve played a huge role in her passionate pursuit for perfection and immaculate presentation of her dishes. J definitely inspires me. Looks like I’ll be going to Ikea very soon for a bookshelf and spice rack. Spiceflügenak rack: $79. Presentation is crucial and you can learn an awful lot from your culinary textbook. It's amazing how you can make a dish of macaroni and cheese look great with the addition of a parsley sprig and tiny, Canadian bacon cubes (brunoised). When your eyes become stimulated, so does your stomach. Ever heard the saying ‘Your eyes can be bigger than your stomach’?
Improve presentation and photography of my food.
God I cannot stand my photos. I shoot my photos on a reddish/brown dining table I got off Craig’s List with a standard, GE light bulb that emits vanilla/cream colored light, causing all my photos to look extremely red. I have to use Photoshop to adjust the color curves all the time. So annoying. I noticed a lot of people are fortunate enough to have abundant light coming into their houses. This may be the reason why my rent is so damn low in West LA -- because I have ZERO light coming into my batcave! Nor can I shoot my food on a weekend afternoon because, as most of you know, I’m busy on the weekends working. I’d love to have more fancy silverware to shoot on but I actually like my white dishes. It’s a canvas… all it needs is some paint on it. I’ll probably start out resolution #3 by buying a white light bulb and checking out more photos from Kuiadore, Delicious Days and Nordlijus.
Cook for as many friends as possible.
In addition to cooking, I like cooking for people during the week. For Christmas, I cooked a few dinners for friends as a present – which they really enjoyed. One of my biggest fears is cooking for more than four people because of my limited kitchen space but I think I can overcome it if I just sit down and plan things out better. A good cook can toss spices here and there, but he must know the cooking times of every ingredient so that they can all be plated at one time. Ok, it takes about 8-10 minutes to grill asparagus in the oven so I should start with the chicken because it takes 15-18 minutes in the oven to make it perfectly juicy. I prefer cooking at home versus a restaurant because first and foremost, it is MUCH healthier. Secondly, home cooked food means more to people. Thirdly, I can play anything I want from my iPod and avoid the Muzak you probably here at restaurants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the same restaurant, only to hear the SAME, EXACT music playing. The employees must go nuts. And finally, I can get completely wasted during dinner and just pass the fuck out. No chance of DUI there haha.
Meet the food bloggers.
The past six months have been really great. I’ve learned a lot about food outside of my own culture, and kitchen for that matter. Made it a point to try something different every time I go to a restaurant, instead of sticking with something safe. Since I started writing, Chicken Gizzard yakitori sounds way more comforting to me than say, a steak. You have all made me exhume my writing hand after reading all of your blogs. You guys can truly write and I admire that. I still cannot stand reading the food reviews in LA Times and LA Weekly. It seemed like it was a medium for self-absorbed writers to show off how many SAT words they’ve learned since going to Princeton Review classes. I appreciate eloquent writing, but only if there’s a reason for its usage. Most people do not speak like that – its not English. Shit like "Per our conversation..." Food is sustenance for life and I love reading about its connection to things that matter to you. Why is it that a simple bowl of Chinese porridge can make me happy and make me wanna call my mom? What I’m saying is that it’d be nice to meet everyone over a nice dinner someday.
Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks for reading. Read more!