Monday, March 30, 2009

Asian Chicken Noodle

Asian Chicken Noodle

I can't really call this Chicken Pho, since its not really pho. Although it was inspired by it. I was feeling lazy but hungry which made me really happy I had made chicken stock earlier last week. These types of dishes are precisely the time where good stock makes a big difference. If I were to do this with store bought broth, I'd be adding ingredients to mask flavors. With homemade stock, I'm trying to enhance the flavor.

The noodles are just dry flat rice noodles, boiled until soft in plain water. Sometimes I'll add some salt if I am going to saute the noodles, but for the most part you don't need it since the broth brings a lot of flavor and the noodles do a great job soaking that flavor in.

As for the broth, I used the recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook to make chicken stock. From there I added the following (all approximated to taste):

1 Thai Chili, sliced (with seeds)
1 tbsp Fish sauce
1 large clove garlic, smashed
pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper

I brought the broth the a simmer and then poured it over the cooked noodles and chicken.

The chicken I used was actually from bits of chicken I pulled of the carcass after making stock. My father has always eaten meat off bones after its been used in stock and its something I've come to enjoy over the years. Even though its pretty tasteless, it does have this great texture I tend to enjoy. Meat that's soft and tender like a braise, but dry. Again, in this application the broth is so flavorful that it works perfectly.

After the soup went in I added a few splashes of rice wine vinegar to the dish.

Something very simple to put together and extremely satisfying.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homemade Bacon

Bacon, 48 hrs

Geoff @ imafoodblog posted a pretty nice how to on making your own bacon. It caught my attention immediately and I have to say it was pretty simple. I didn't have access to a smoker but I don't think that taking that extra step would have complicated things much.

I started out with just a few lbs of pig belly from Chinatown. It may have not been the best choice of product to make bacon, especially with my Chinese being so bad but it was way better than buying it from whole foods at ridiculous prices.

The thing about buying the pork belly in Chinatown is that they sell it in slabs all the way to the bone, which is nice but not easy 1-2-3 for bacon making. When I do it again I'll have to do a better job in picking marbleized pieces and trimming the piece for bacon.

I had decided from the get go to just do a salt cure, just to see what 'plain' bacon would taste like and to test out the method. What I ended up with was a dry version of roasted pig belly from Chinatown. It did have some bacon qualities, which was good enough for me. What I realized later was that I only cured the belly for 2 days whereas Geoff mentioned that you should cure for at least 3 days.

As I mentioned I didn't have access to a smoker, so I put it in the oven at the lowest setting with a container of water on the oven floor. I pretty much let it sit until the internal temp reached 150.

The next time around, and there will be a next time, I think I'll do a simple maple bacon and a peppered bacon. I should also probably find a way to raise the belly from the container so that the liquid can drain better.

I actually can't wait to make this again. I mean c'mon its bacon, how can you mess it up. Even as sub par bacon, it was quite delicious.

Cooked bacon


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Homemade Fried Chicken

I had been planning on making some fried chicken at home last night for quite some time. Monday night I decided to take action and start prepping making the chicken using a recipe Ed Levine had posted a while back. After breaking down a fresh chicken, I put it in the brine and proceeded to go to bed. In the morning I drained the chicken and then did a soak in buttermilk and by the time I got off work, the chicken was ready for breading and frying.

Homemade Fried Chicken

There are a few things I'd do differently. First, I'd make sure I lightly but thoroughly breaded the chicken. I had a big issue with a few pieces of chicken where I was over zealous with the breading. What it left me with was a pile of burnt flour at the bottom of my pan that proceeded to blacken my chicken (those pieces hidden in the back of the photo).

I'll probably end up using a little less salt. I found the chicken a bit salty.

Otherwise it was something I can see myself doing again and often. Maybe I'll mess around with the flouring a bit by adding some more spices. There was something extremely satisfying with how tender the chicken was.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Steamed Fish w/ peppered Sesame Oil

I decided to head to Chinatown on Sunday to start my grocery shopping. I needed some basics that I had long run out of and some nice cheap fresh fruit. I usually frequent the food stalls on Mott Street, mostly because the quality of fruits and veggies is pretty decent, plus the fact that there are quite a few seafood purveyors on the block. What this means is that there is always some nice fresh fish waiting to be taken home.

I'll admit that most of the time I don't know what I am buying. I just point at whatever is swimming and looking healthy. My recipe more or less stays the same. Its pretty much the way my mom preps almost any white fish.

Steamed Fish w/ peppered Sesame Oil

1 whole fish. The fresher the better. Descaled, head on!
2tbpn minced garlic
2tspn minced ginger
sesame oil

Clean the fish. They'll descale it at the market, but I usually make sure that they didn't miss any. There's nothing worse that a bite of fish with scales.

Cut a few slits on both side of the fish. Set the fish on a heat proof plate. Rub the ginger and garlic around the fish.

Add water to a large pan or wok. Place the plate onto a trivet. Steam the fish for 8-10 minutes.

As the fish is about to finish cooking, heat up some sesame oil. Make it hot. When ready, take the plate of fish out of the pan and pour the hot oil over the fish. Serve immediately. You can actually add chopped green onions over the fish before you pour the oil. This time I decided to add some dried pepperish flakes to my oil.

I don't think this recipe has ever failed me. It definitely didn't Sunday night.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chopping Block

I caught all of the second episode last night and I was digging it. I like the fact that its not a cooking show. Its a show about running a restaurant. You get to see both sides of it which is nice.

Plus I love the fact that Marco does not interfere much with what the teams are trying to do. He does his best to impart a little bit of knowledge here and there. He ends up coming off very nonchalant and more of a facilitator. A nice change from the yelling and screaming from Mr.Ramsay.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cooking the 'French Laundry Cookbook' part 2

A continuation of this previous post.

What's a vday dinner without desert. Since the meal I had prepared was pretty heavy, I was looking for something light and fresh to finish. Thomas Keller's recipe for a Lemon Sabayon Tart with Honeyed Marscapone Cream fit the bill. Too bad the gf isn't a big fan of tarts. I should have known better. On to the tart!

First of all, I burnt it. The pinenut crust was burnt. the top of the saboyon was burnt. You can see the burn crust in the picture. I scraped off an entire layer of burnt sabayon. I tried to eat it, but the crust was burnt all over. I do have to say the sabayon was very nice without the crust.

Lemon Sabayon Tart

Of course with more crust dough in the fridge, I had to attempt it again later in the week.

My problem this time was that the lemons weren't as fresh.

Lemon Sabayon Tart

This time I didn't burn it. But my lemons were not as fresh. I do love this desert though. I think next time I'll have to make it in individual portions. That way I can easily give some away since you end up with a lot of dough with the recipe. Then again this might turn into a party desert only.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Chopping Block

Since I didn't DVR last nights premier of 'The Chopping Block' on NBC, I almost missed it. I only caught the last half of the show but I liked what I saw. I love that we are going to see the same cast of characters over the rest of the season. That way we really get to understand each contestant's food and abilities. I'll have to watch a few more episodes to really decide on the show but at least we've started on the right foot. Hopefully NBC can keep it fresh and have some nice twists in each episode.

With such a nice start, you have to wonder why they tried so hard to present themselves like 'Chopped'.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rice and Beans

My 'breakfast' last night was eaten at dinner. Overall it turned out good, especially for my first time making this. I've only recently (within the last year and half) started liking beans. I love it because it requires little effort, even though total prep/cooking time is long. But it smells wonderful as it cooks and when the foreplay is finally over, you can dig right in.

Rice and Beans

1/2lb dried black beans, soaked overnight
2cups water, for soaking beans
2cups water, for cooking beans
1 medium tomato, skin removed, chopped
4 strips bacon, chopped
2tsp finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlick, minced
2 bay leaves
2tsp paprika
1tsp cayenne
1tsp chili powder
1tsp olive oil
kosher salt to taste

Serves 2-3

Soak the beans overnight. Combine all the ingredients in a pot (minus salt). Bring all the contents to a boil and simmer for ~3 hours or until liquid has evaporated and beans are tender. Salt to taste. Make rice. In a bowl, add beans with rice and a little vinegar. Eat.

Very simple. The bacon adds so much to the dish and removes the need to add salt. Everything else sort of just melts together to create this wonderful aroma and taste. I sort of also wished I had some japanese picked radish as it would have been the perfect compliment to this dish.


Chopped vs Chopping Block

I've been pretty confused recently by NBC's new show 'Chopping Block'. Especially since the initial commercials made it look very similar to Food Network's 'Chopped', especially with the color schemes of the promo's. Since Chef Marco was on the 'Today Show' this morning promoting it, it just sounds like restaurant wars from 'Top Chef'. Which is sort of funny, because when 'Chopped' came out people were clamoring that it was just a low-budget version of the quick fires from Bravo's show.

I see 'Chopped' as more of a toned down version of 'Iron Chef'. And even though it is still on my DVR list, I don't think I like it too much. Quite frankly, its a bit boring and the judges seem a bit pretentious and most of the chef's feel a bit weak. Mostly because we only get the chefs for at the most 3 courses and we don't to attach ourselves to favorites like we do on 'Top Chef' or 'Hell's Kitchen' and I don't think anything will get as crazy and fun as Kitchen Stadium. What it comes down to is that I want to see better quality food. Maybe they need to let the contestants know what's in the pantry beforehand.

As for 'Chopping Block'; I guess we'll all find out tonight if it shows any potential. There is a part of me that wishes it will fail miserably, just because its trying to rip off so many things from other shows.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cooking in the morning

The hard thing about cooking in the morning is the waking up. Its especially disappointing when you start preparing the night before. Last night I had a craving for rice and beans. I figured it would make a nice breakfast or possibly even lunch. So I cleaned the kitchen, prepped the ingredients, soaked the black beans, and set the alarm clock for 5am. Just early enough to get the beans cooking slowly and be ready right before I needed to head to work. Unfortunately, I slept through 2 alarms and ended waking up right when I needed to head out. Sometimes things just aren't meant to be. I guess I'll have to wait for dinner in order to have my breakfast. Thankfully, beans and rice are good for any meal.