Melting Pot #8

Getting Baked!

French breadOne of the most fun things you can do in the kitchen (besides THAT) is to bake. You take on your mad scientist persona and mix all this stuff together to create magic in the oven. Unlike stove top cooking, where you add things while you are making the food, the ingredients are mixed together before the cooking process begins. A mistake in measuring can result in a waste of time and money. Exciting!

I particularly enjoy baking bread. It just smells so good when a fresh loaf comes out of the oven. Next in line would be baking cookies, they are easier to do but just as rewarding. I haven’t made a cake from scratch in years, maybe I should set that as a goal over the next few weeks…

It is really easy to find great recipes online. I like recipe.com, they have a pretty good variety but there are several places to find recipes so have a search and let me know your favorite. One of the things you have to be aware of is the authors of the recipes are not always correct in measurements. I used a bread recipe recently and there was too much flour, the loaf was way to heavy.

I will add some of my baking experiences and methods in the next couple of days. In the meantime, let me know what sort of stuff you want me to make and I will have a go.mmmmm Cookies!

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Melting Pot #8

Chicken on the grill!

 

Grilled Ginger Chicken

If I have a choice between grilling or not I will generally go for the grill. Here is a quick and easy way to add some flavor to your grilling experience. You will need:

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – about 3 per person if they are smaller pieces
  • Ground ginger (fresh)
  • Crushed garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Soy sauce
  • White wine

Trim away any excess fat from the chicken, check for bones…mix the ginger, I usually use about 3 tablespoons for 8 or 9 pieces of chicken. Garlic, one clove per every two pieces of meat, a tablespoon or two of pepper, depending on spice level desired. Use 1/8 cup of brown sugar. Add about 1 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup white wine. Mix everything with a whisk or fork, put in chicken.

Let the chicken marinate for an hour or so. The chicken should be out of the fridge for a bit before going on the grill. I find that super cold meats just seem to toughen up when they are exposed to high temps right away. Heat your grill up, make sure it is reasonably clean…lay the chicken on the grill, close it and walk away. No need to constantly flip your bird! After about 3 to 5 minutes, turn the meat over and cover again. The sugar and soy sauce will give the meat a lovely dark complexion. In another 5 minutes you can remove your meat from the fire. Let it stand about 4 or 5 minutes before serving, it will be better this way.

I like to serve this with steamed rice and a fresh green salad with a miso dressing.

There will not be any left-overs…sorry…

Melting Pot #7

mmmmmm...sloppy!!

mmmmmm…sloppy!!

 

Sloppy Joes!!

This is one of those ultimate All American type meals. When I am feeling lazy and don’t want to work hard this is one of my go to things to make. Don’t use those instant packets at the store, there is just a mountain of salt in there.

You will need:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 large tomato chopped up, 1 tennis ball size onion chopped up, BBQ sauce, ketchup, spicy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper and white wine.

After everything is chopped and ready, throw the beef into a sauce pan. Get it browning and add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir in the onions and get them nice and translucent. Add garlic powder, maybe a teaspoon, perhaps more or less, depending on your preference. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to a low simmer. As the liquid has reduced put in 1/4 cup ketchup, tablespoon of spicy mustard (I use Chinese mustard), 1/8 cup of BBQ sauce (something with a smoky flavor) and a couple of splashes of the Worcestershire sauce.  Stir everything well, add 1/8 cup of wine. Simmer until liquid is reduced.

Serve on a hamburger bun, I like whole wheat. This goes great with coleslaw, either on the side or some people like the slaw on the bun. Also some ridged potato chips.

This will serve four of five people. To do more just up the amounts. You can add more BBQ or spicy mustard to taste. Hot sauce might be nice but the whole hot sauce thing is a bit played out.

Enjoy!!

A Recent Book Find

La Cuisiniere

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got a booth at a book fair to sell some of my books. I did alright, covered my expenses at least. I did buy a book though…it’s hard to pass something cool up I guess…

This is a French cookbook from about 1900. The title is ‘La Cuisiniere des Menages’, which translates to  ‘The Cooker Cook of the House.  It is a great little book, 536 pages including the index. I am not very good with French, but this book is the whole method (1900’s style) of French cookery. It starts with kitchen terms, then goes into tools, butchering and then cooking. I will probably have to start learning some French now!

The book does need a little repair at the front hinge, just some cloth to hold the hinge together. Not a big deal, more of a conservation item than an actual repair.

Anyhow, here is the cover of the book. I may redraw this so I can print it out larger. Let me know what you think.

 

 

Melting Pot #6

Irish Stew

Yummy stuff on a chilly day. Irish stew is one of those easy to mess up things. It seems super simple but if you get too carried away you can end up with something that is less than appealing.

The final product. It was delicious!

The final product. It was delicious!

Generally speaking, a stew is sort of a soup but with bigger chunks of goodness. For my version I use beef, some lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, a bottle of beer, salt pepper, corn and green beans. You can add other vegetables like turnips, celery, cabbage, etc. Avoid the sissy vegetables like cauliflower.

First, chop up two baseball size onions into a medium dice. Set them aside.

Peel and cut up two or three carrots. You want about a cup of carrots so what ever that works out to, go for it.

Get your locally sourced beef and lamb ready to go. By locally sourced I mean the super market that is closest to your house. I take the beef, usually about two pounds, and rinse it off. The lamb, usually just a couple of chops are cut up into cubes. In a deep pot I render off some bacon. Then add some oil, a few tablespoons or so.

Start browning the meat. Before you put the meat in the pot, dry it off. This helps them meat to actually caramelize and

The brownin' o' the meat...

The brownin’ o’ the meat…

not go grey and boiled looking. Add beef until the bottom of the pot is almost covered, leave enough room to turn your meat. Brown it on all sides and then remove. Do this until all the beef is browned. Do the same thing for the lamb.

After browning drain off most of the oil at the bottom of the pot. Bring the pot back to temperature and throw in your onions. Stir them around, add a pinch of salt to help break down the onions. Once they start to look a little translucent throw in your carrots. Mix everything around so it seems like you are a chef.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Turn the temperature down a little and dump in a bottle of beer. NOT one of those giant bottles of Budweiser that you can buy at the CVS for a $1.49. Use a bottle of dark something…Harp, Guinness, Sapporo…you know, something made by people who care. Use a 12 bottle. This time around I used Newcastle Browne. Simmer that down and let it reduce.

As that that is happening peel and cut your spuds. When you cut them make sure they are pretty good size chunks, about the same size as the stew beef pieces. Put them in a separate pot to cook.

Go back to the stew pot and stir, scraping all the good brown bits off the bottom. Add back the meat, including the bacon that you used to render. Stir things around a little. Add water to just cover everything. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add some pepper and salt and a couple of bay leaves. Cover. Have a beer.

When the potatoes get to the point that they are almost done, drain them out but do not rinse them. Set the potatoes aside to cool. If you have a big pan you can spread them out on even better. As they cool they will get a starchy coat which will help them stay firm in the stew and keep a nice ‘bitey’ texture.

After about an hour check the stew. The meat should start getting softer. It may take a lot longer, maybe just a little. You want the beef to come apart under a fork. If you have to work at it there is some more cooking to be done. You may have to add a little more water, but not too much. You really want as little juice as possible.

When the beef is right fold in the potatoes. Be gentle, you don’t want mashed spuds! After this add corn and green beans. I use frozen veggies so let the temperature of the stew come back to a boil and you are ready to serve.

Serve with some bread and butter along with a nice beer and you have a meal fit for a peasant.

I am sure you will have a completely different way of making stew, but that is only because the Irish are a confused lot. I am sure however you do it is fine. Wrong, but fine.

Melting Pot #5

My Wok

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

Carbon Steel, Wood Handle and a simple eye-bolt to hang it up.

I had been living in San Francisco for a couple of years and I had finally decided to get a wok. It was 1983, I was doing a lot of artistic metal work, playing music and generally just having fun. I realized it was time to settle down and start behaving like an adult. To me that meant cooking utensils.

I lived a few blocks from Macy’s on Union Square and had gone to the Cellar to check out their kitchen stuff. A lot of their basics cost more than I made in a week so that was out of the question. I remembered my Mother’s pots and pans: All old, dented and still useful. So I decided to look for more practical pieces that wouldn’t break the bank. Since I was (and still am) a bit of a germaphobe I couldn’t bring myself to buy used stuff at Goodwill. So I took the 38 Geary down and then hopped on the 30 Stockton to Chinatown.

In Chinatown there are the touristy places, where you can buy kung fu shoes, kimonos, dolls and other trinkets. But if you explore the side streets a little there are stores that sell the things that people really use in everyday life: Clothes, Furniture, Food (including back then live chickens, fish and turtles) and household items. I wandered around until I located a place selling kitchen items. The old lady behind the counter just gave a slightly annoyed look, I was probably one of those dumb tourists who took a wrong turn…

I picked up a plastic shopping basket and started browsing. I found a cleaver, some cooking chopsticks, a strainer and a nice spatula. A spatula for wok cooking is a little different. It has a slight curve to the front to match the side of the wok and the edges and back are raised slightly to help scooping things out. At the back of the store the woks were stacked up, face down with craft paper between each one. There were many different sizes and shapes some with round bottoms and some with flat. I chose one with a flat bottom and a nice wood handle. I liked it because you could see it was spun out of a single sheet of metal, the ridges from the spinning were still visible. After I had paid for everything and was on my way out, the lady said: ‘Enjoy your friend.’

It was a strange thing to say, but she was right. I have become friends with my wok, it always stands by, waiting patiently to be used in the creation of something delicious. When the wok was new the color was light grey and metallic. Over years the wok is now fully carbon black. The outside is nicely crusted with 30 plus years of burnt stuff. The inside is smooth and black, a natural non-stick surface.  I use the wok not only for cooking meals, but also to heat up left overs, it is my main cooking utensil and my microwave.

I protect my friend too. When I came home and a roommate had used my wok to cook tomato sauce, and had taken the patina off the inside from the acidity I kicked him out. When I got divorced, the wok was the only kitchen item I kept. The wok is 12 years older than my daughter. When I die it will be the one thing that I leave her that I KNOW she will truly value. My wok cost just $25 in 1983, it is priceless today. All the other items I bought that day have been lost or have worn out and been sent to the recycler. My wok is still there.

Today there is Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Martha and all the rest selling their stuff on QVC for hundreds of dollars. All supposed to be unique but all made in the same factory in China, they are stamped out, sprayed with non-stick chemicals and then divided into separate lines to receive the proper chefs logo and marketing materials. My wok was made by hand, in some small shop, by a person who had been making woks one at a time for years. They learned their craft from another person, who had learned from someone before them. Now I cook, teach my daughter and know that she will share the wok with her children and grandchildren. Not as glamorous as a TV chef, but real. Go out and find your own friend and start a tradition that can last another 100 years.

Melting Pot #4

Saba Shioyaki

This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It is essentially a grilled mackerel, but the preparation is something that is pretty straight forward and you end up with an elegant and delicious dish. It is normally cooked on a charcoal grill, but you can make this in a broiler.

To make the dish you will need:

  • A nice mackerel fillet, skin on. About 8 ounces per serving is perfect.
  • Daikon radish
  • Soy sauce
  • Japanese short grain rice

Start by preparing the rice. Gently wash the rice in cold water to remove excess starch and talc. You might have to rinse the rice 8 to 10 times, but keep going until the water is clear. Drain the rice and let it rest for about 10 minutes or so. Put the rice in your cooker or start a pot on the stove.

Shred your daikon into thin long strips, like vermicelli. I like to put it in a bowl with some cold water and salt in the refrigerator. You can do this a day ahead if you like.

The saba should be sliced through the skin side, just barely through to allow for soy sauce penetration.

Put your oven on broil. Set up a cookie sheet with tin foil. Lay the fish on the sheet skin side up. Drizzle on the soy sauce, massage it gently into the fish. Place the sheet under the broiler and let it go for about 2 minutes. Remove the sheet and turn the fish over. Drizzle again lightly with soy and put back in the broiler for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the broiler and allow to rest.

Serve with a small mound of shredded daikon.  The rice is served in a bowl next to the fish. To eat just put a little soy on the daikon and mix with the fish.

You can also cook salmon this way, sea bass can work well too. Enjoy!

I got a note asking for pictures of stuff I am making so I will start doing that. I am not a great photographer but it will get the idea across.