Saturday, October 23, 2010

Basic Meat and Potatoes

Meat and Potatoes is something you just can't get enough of, and when done right, can be an example of simple perfection.

When I pick out a steak, I usually look for a pretty thick cut, with even marbling and a uniform shape.  Usually I like the New York cuts since I think they have more flavor, but this time I couldn't resist the Ribeye.  I cook most of my thick meats in the same fashion, a hard sear and finished in the oven.

An important tip to remember when cooking large cuts of meat is that you have to leave them out a bit before you're ready to cook them (20-30 minutes).  This ensures that the center of your meat is as close to room temperature and allows for even cooking.  Often you take meat out of the refrigerator and you get a cooked outside, and a cold center.  This helps prevent uneven cooking.

Season generously with salt and pepper (in general more seasoning is better on this thick cut)

So I sear the outside of the meat for about 2 minutes on each side, on a medium-high heat until you get a thick crust.  This makes for great texture and flavor.  It's important to sear evenly (which I didn't do this time, oops!) which means you have to spend the time to patiently sear both sides, instead of searing one side better than the other.  Throw the steak, in your oven safe pan into a 400F oven, for 13-14 minutes for a steak that's about 1.5-2 inches thick.  Pull the steak from the oven, and let the steak REST on a board (generally about 1/3 the time that you cooked for)....very important when you have large cuts to let the meat rest to let all the juices redistribute.

I make a pan gravy with the bits from the pan I seared the steak in (watch out for the handle of the pan to be extremely hot when making gravy).  Start with a medium heat and saute some shallots in the pan drippings until softened.   Add a few knobs of butter and equal parts flour to make a roux, and let this cook for a minute or so to cook out the flour taste.  Add beef broth and cream and bring to a boil while stirring.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Accompany with a side of mashed potatoes (finished through a ricer of course) that is seasoned with Parmesan Reggiano, salt and pepper, and some cream or milk.  Add chives as a garnish and you're set.

A crusty steak and creamy potatoes is one dinner you can keep coming back to, since there can be so many wonderful variations on this, but basic is always a winner when done right.  Master the basics, and you're well on your way to greatness.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Braised Lamb Shank

There's something magical that happens when you braise....your eyes become enormous, your nose tingles with the steam escaping from the pot....and you behold the hours where stubbornly tough meat transforms to delicate fork tender goodness....this is braising!

I was shopping around Berkeley Bowl (an organic market in Berkeley), and feasted my eyes on Lamb Shanks.  I do not eat lamb very often, since at regular markets its astronomically priced for the amount of actual meat you get, but today was another day.  Whenever you can get meat on the bone, it is well worth it.  The bone and meat are symbiotic so it is only natural that meat with a bone is uber flavorful!

Simple preparation is used here....basic searing of the meat, accompanied with developing some aromatics as base flavors, is the way to tackle this daunting task.  A few hours later, you're left with fall off the bone tender meat...succulent in the best ways, and feeling a little cheap that it's gone before you could really enjoy it.

Pair this with some whole pearl onions that were cooked in the braising liquid, and a silky smooth mash infused with cream and Parmesan cheese, and you have a great meal with a certain bit of shock and awe.

Say you made this, and deny you have leftovers!  Be greedy for yourself and your loved ones, because you'll make many friends with this dish...


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crispy Salmon on Creamed Leeks

Crispy Salmon on a bed of creamed leeks is one of the simplest, yet most divine combinations that you can come up with.  The crispness of the salmon skin, the fattiness and moistness of the fish, paired with the creaminess and umami of the leeks can only mean one thing....YUMMY!

Leeks are one of those ingredients I feel people pass over in the market, because they just don't know what they are, or think they have had them once or twice, but don't like them.  Leeks are amazing....they have a similar taste to a scallion, without having that bitterness.  It's often described to be between an onion and a cucumber, with a great texture that allows this it to be sautéed, fried, or even eaten raw.  Leeks are notorious for being dirty, so I like to dice it down, and place it in a bowl of water, allowing the heavier debris to fall to the bottom, and the leeks to float to the top.  Sauté the leeks down with a diced shallot, and a garlic clove.  Add a sprig of thyme, and your heavy cream.  Reduce it down by half and season.  Voila!

Salmon is a fish that is very forgiving when being cooked, because of its fattiness, it's difficult to actually dry it out...but some people still do.  A tip to getting that crispy skin comes with the prep.  Salt the skin side and let it sit out on your counter for 10-15 minutes.  If you sear your salmon skin without doing this, it often steams quickly, which will give you a soggy top.  The salt will draw out the moisture from the skin, allowing the proper searing to take place on the skin.  Take a sharp knife and scrape the salt and moisture of the skin.  I then put a paper towel on the skin till I'm ready to cook.  Preheat a pan with some oil and butter till wisps of smoke arise, and place skin side down.  Immediately place something like a small pan on top of your salmon fillet.  This pushes the skin onto the pan allowing the moist exposure to the heat.  Do this for about a minute.  Remove pan, and continue to cook salmon on same side for another 2-3 min.  Turn off heat, and flip salmon over.  The residual heat will cook the salmon through while keeping the skin crisp.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

This is a great dish to impress without having to do more than 15 - 20 minutes of work!  Garnish with a pan sauce of the salmon drippings deglazed with butter and lemon juice, drizzle around the plate with some parsley, and you are set.  Ready,!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is the most definitive Indian dish you can think of, and in my opinion one of the best.  It is the UK's national dish, and you can find it in any food town.  Of course I lack a traditional tandoor, and perhaps the "authentic" flavor one grows up with in an Indian household, but having an Indian girlfriend does help.

Indian food is known for its abundance of spices, and it is this complexity of flavor that people love, but detest learning about.  Tumeric, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, sweet, savory, sour, spicy....the adjectives are never ending....this is what deters many from cooking Indian food at home.  After many months of studying what ingredients go into this dish, watching Indian moms on youtube with their litanies of ingredients and overly zealous self adulations, and a plethora of food shows that show travels to India with a skewed perspective on life, I am still learning what it takes to make this dish right.

Establishing base flavors is essential in Indian cooking, often starting with browned off onions and ginger and garlic paste.  Creating or using your own masala (mixture of spices) is something everybody customizes to their tastes.  Tikka Masala is often defined by its tomato base, and orange cream like consistency.  An actual recipe for this if often hard, since a lot of techniques are simplified visually, since recipes usually do not capture the nuances of the cooking.

After all said and done, Tikka Masala is accompanied with basmati rice, tomatoes on the side, a topping of fresh cilantro, and of course ghee (clarified butter).  One bowl later, and few hundred exclamations of satisfaction, you will have experienced the savory, spicy, tomato creamy goodness of Chicken Tikka Masala.

No need to renew your passport, be adventurous, and try it out at home....and if you fail, just go to your local Indian restaurant and enjoy!


Croissant Bread Pudding

If you're looking for something sweet, this has to hit the spot.  If you love croissants, and you love a rich custard, then it's safe to say, you're going to love croissant bread pudding!

Low and slow is a great way to create this scrumptious dish, since you want the custard to cook evenly and slowly without drying out, and have the croissants crisp up to unleash their buttery goodness, without burning the tops.

Start with making the custard, which includes whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and some vanilla extract.  Rip up with your hands the croissants, and place them in the ramekin (they can be a few days old, since this will help the custard absorb the custard better).  Fill ramekins about 3/4 of the way up, and allow croissant to absorb the custard for at least 10 minutes.  Top off the ramekins again with the extra filling, and cover with aluminum foil.  Place ramekins into a pan and use the water bath method, pouring boiling water half way up the level of the ramekins.  Bake in preheated 350F oven covered for 25-30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes till custard has set and tops are crunchy.

In the end you will be left with a buttery and crunchy croissant topping, with a rich, but not overly sweet custard, that will give you not only a satisfying dessert, but an experience that will change your perception of bread pudding!  Make a few extra for yourself, because you can, and you will be thanking me later!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Sip of California

So I bought a cheesecloth yesterday, and was inspired to make something using this nifty fabric.  For those who don't know what a cheesecloth is, it is a gauze-like cloth used primarily to separate the curd from whey when making cheeses, but also used to strain sauces and stocks, make tofu, and even to bundle herbs....basically to separate liquids from pulp

Since it was Jessica's birthday, we ended up going to Half Moon Bay, a quaint beach town tucked away between SF and Santa Cruz.  With gorgeous scenery, you can't help but be inspired to cook some CA inspired cuisine.

I decided to make Scallops!  So using the cheese cloth, I decided to make TOMATO WATER.  Quickly described, tomato water is the liquid left from strained pureed tomatoes.  I decided to integrate more flavors that could play an ancillary role to the wonderful tomato.  I added a shallot, some garlic, and of course the basic salt and pepper.  Using a decent amount of salt I believe is crucial in making this tomato water since the salt will help draw the liquids from the "not so ripe" tomatoes.  I blended everything together, and poured the tomato pulp into the cheesecloth over a large strainer and bowl.  Let this drain for at least 30 minutes, and you're left with the essence of tomato, and its flavorings, almost like a consommé.

For some garnishes, and sticking with a California themed dish, I decided to use some fresh corn off the cob, sautéed on high heat with oil, salt and pepper.  To finish I added finely minced garlic, and fresh lemon zest for a twist!  I also added a brunoise (small dice) of cucumbers marinated in white wine vinegar, and some thinly sliced avocado on the base.  All of these flavors:  corn, garlic, lemon, cucumbers, avocado, are great bold flavors of CA cuisine.

I then added some well seared scallops to top the dish off.  You get a certain meatiness from the scallops, rich fatness from the avocado, sweetness from the corn, and crunchiness from the cucumber....separate they are great ingredients, but together they are California.  When combined with a small "sip" of chilled tomato water, you have the perfect "sip" of California.  I'm eager to share this for people, since I think this could be something special!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Bacon and Eggs"

So being an avid pork fan, I decided to make a classic pairing...Bacon and Eggs...of course with a twist!

For the Bacon component, I braised a thick piece of pork belly, to where the meat is fork tender, and the fat melts away (FYI, Pork Belly is where butchers cut bacon from).  A fat, succulent piece of pork belly is one of these "no-no" dishes you have to say yes to once in a while.  I started by creating the base for my flavors starting with sliced onions, garlic, and a 2 bay leaves for my aromatics.  To flavor the actual belly in the braise, I used some Chinese five spice, star anise, soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, and of course some water.  If you want an actual breakdown of the quantities and techniques, message me!  Two and a half hours later, you're left with heaven on a plate....a small bite of pure decadence that leaves that insatiable appetite appeased....

And what do you eat with bacon...EGGS of course.  The egg component is a simple poached egg, on top of a bed of rice.

The sauce for this dish is actually a reduction of the brazing liquid, which was reduced by half...the sauce is sweet, savory, earthy umami with a touch of tang.  Perfection is a word that fits this description.

A wonderful twist on the mundane...."Bacon and Eggs"


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beef Stew

For comfort food, its doesn't get any better than Beef Stew.  How could you resist tender beef that melts in your mouth, accompanied with sweet carrots and hearty potatoes?  When I'm down and out, tired and upset, or just another cold winter (well summer in norcal) day, this brings me back to life.

Now when you make a beef stew, choosing the correct cut of meet is critical.  The key here is cheaper cuts are the best!  I personally try to use Chuck, and specifically look for Chuck Shoulder, boneless, since it has the proper amount of connective tissues and fat, so when the fibers do breakdown, you're left with great textured meat.  Expensive cuts do not have as much fat, nor flavor, so if you do braise a steak, or filet, it will be dry, and unappealing.

Start by cutting your meat in half.  I do this since half a roast is enough for 2 people and leftovers.  Save other half in freezer for later.  Cut meat into 2" by 2" cubes....get a heavy bottom pan out, like a dutch oven or an extra wide sauté pan, and preheat on med/high.  Use an oil that has a high smoke point like canola. If you use an olive oil, it tends to smoke very quickly, and you'll get a burned flavor on your meat.  I also use canola since it is an oil that doesn't transfer that much flavor, and is heart healthy.  Basically after preheating your pan, put about 1/2 your batch of meat individually into the pan, and let it sear for a good 2-3 min.  DO NOT TOUCH.    If you move your meat, you won't get a good crusty sear.  Repeat with other side of meat.  Take out of pan and do the rest of the meat.  While your meat is searing, work on your aromatics.  This would include a white onion julienned, about 10 garlic cloves peeled and smashed, and a few bay leaves.

Sauté onions for about 5 mins with some s&p, and you'll notice that all those great little bits at the bottom of your pan will lift off.  The moisture in the onions when you salt them are released and helps lift the tasty bits off the pan.  You basically are deglazing the pan.  Add the garlic and dry bay leaves, and sauté another 3 min.  Add about 2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste, and a heaping tablespoon of ground cumin.  Splash this mixture with some white wine vinegar, and add meat pieces back.

Now braising is the method which you use 2 heat methods to cook your food, like searing your meat on high heat, and finishing it in a liquid.  Add beef broth to your mixture, until the meat is just covered.  Turn your stove to high until it reaches a boil.  Once the mixture boils, put your top on your pot, and turn the heat down to low/mid-low.  Braising requires heat and plenty of time to breakdown the connective tissues in the meat, so you're looking at at least 2hrs, usually more like 2 1/2-3 hrs.  About 30 minutes before stew is ready, cut potatoes and carrots in equal sized pieces.  You do this so they cook at the same times.  30 minutes later, your meat, and vegetables will finish at the same time.  Serve over pasta, rice...or my fav, crusty asrtisan bread rubbed with garlic.

A perfect dish to get you out of a funk!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu Curry is a dish that has long been a part of my memories growing up (no, I'm not  When I was a child, my parents took me for art/math classes...I wasn't dumb nor artistically very gifted, but it seemed like these extracurriculars could yield something in the future.  So there was this restaurant that served katsu curry as their signature dish, or maybe it was a Japanese curry restaurant...I forget....anyways, I grew up eating this dish as reminder of those hours spent slaving away over algebra and painting lessons in middle school...

Basically if you buy a packet of Japanese "curry blocks", it's fairly simple to make this delicious dish if you have solid cooking fundamentals (how to make rice, how to sauté, how to deep fry, how to hard boil, etc).  The key for a great Japanese curry is getting the right consistency....not too runny, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon....adding the hard boiled egg brings about a richness and fattiness, and the crunchiness from the panko really accentuates the tenderness of the chicken cutlets....message me and let me know if you want a recipe or techniques on how to make this....

A perfect small plate of food!


Breakfast...not just another past time

Often breakfast is the best meal of the day.  And on weekends, it is the BEST meal of the day.  It's the meal where you can have savory and sweet, salty and pungent all on the same plate.  You can't ask for much better!

So a good tip with bacon is that you can cook off mass amounts in the OVEN, yes I said oven.....this  method keeps the bacon straight, and doesn't splatter everywhere like when you do it on the stove top.  Preheat your oven to 400F, get a cookie sheet pan, or anything oven safe and flat, lay your bacon out without overlapping, and throw that sucker into the oven.  Around the 10-12 min mark, you should be checking the bacon for whatever "crispiness" you desire....11 min usually give you a crisp with a bit of meatiness left, and 13 min will give you mostly crispy....if you have extra thick bacon, adjust the times by 2-3 min each. You can get anywhere from 6-8 pieces of bacon done each sheet tray.  Onto eggs....

I started sauteing  a cubed up fresh Spanish chorizo sausage.  Chorizo has a smoky and spicy flavor so it adds a great depth of flavor to any base you are creating.  Sauté the chorizo for about 8 min till you have crispy edges and the sausage has given off a beautiful orange oil.  Get some eggs from the fridge and let them sit out for 3-4 minutes before scrambling them.  This helps break and distribute the yolks easier.  In a bowl, crack the eggs and add s&p to season.  Optionally you can add a splash of milk to the eggs to give it a smoother finish.  Beat the eggs till you get small frothy bubbles.  Add eggs into the pan with the chorizo and turn off the heat on your stove top.  Stir the eggs around outer to inner and vice versa.  The residual heat from the pan should cook the eggs through.  You'll know you're eggs are cooked perfectly when they barely start to come together and become should have the consistency of soft pillows, and not a rubbery mess.

Top your eggs with a scallion sauce made from one bunch of scallions cut and cleaned for the blender.  Add 2 garlic cloves, s&p (salt and pepper), the juice and zest of one lemon....turn the blender on and drizzle oil in...voila...tangy, savory all in one sauce.  I add tomatoes marinated in white wine vinegar (5min) on the eggs also to bring out the brightness and acidity of the fruit....try it out, and let me know what you think.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Warm Chocolate Cake

Warm Chocolate Cake is one of those comfort foods that I usually crave unexpectedly!  It's like you're walking around putting things away in your come across some semi-sweet chocolate...check....see some apf (all purpose flour)...check....eggs....check.....confectioner's sugar....check....only one thing that runs through my mind at this point....Warm Chocolate Cake....(the actual recipe actually consists of a few more things :)

So making these at home is very cheap and the recipe that I use usually yields 6 or so it's great for a small dinner party....the great thing also about this is that by subtracting a few minutes of cooking time, you can get a very rich, all consuming MOLTEN LAVA CAKE....I like leaving these in the ramekins since taking them out requires a bit of finesse, and breaking it would ruin the presentation and leave somebody's cake an it rustic, the future I'd like to play with perhaps maybe adding some toppings or textures throughout the batter...maybe some toasted nuts for texture, or even some crumbled maple glazed bacon on top

Pair this with some fresh whipped cream, or some vanilla ice cream and I'd say you'll feel satisfied...


Thursday, August 12, 2010


I have yet to meet a person who does not adore the potato.  For something so basic, it can be transformed into masterpieces in textures and flavors.  I made these on a whim, inspired by my trip to Gregoire's in Berkeley, where they are known for a "more uniform looking" potato puff.

I was excited to make these, and surprisingly turned out better than I could have imagined.  It's always fun also to buy new gadgets and tools to make new eats.  Went to pick up a potato ricer, and I was off to the race track.

I normally have a very well stocked pantry/refrigerator so all I needed was actually the ricer.  In this recipe included obviously a potato, eggs, butter, parm reggiano, s&p (salt and pepper), apf (all purpose flour), nutmeg, and some oil.  No frills, nothing that would require a Michelin reviewer to come, but some good old solid flavors that everyone loves with potatoes.  The key to making these was the execution and the method to which you cooked the potatoes.  This is definitely a must for any appetizer since you can do all the mise en place (prep) ahead of time, and brown them off to order in mass quantities.  Add a remoulade or even a citrus vinaigrette on the side, some chopped Italian parsley for garnish and you have yourself a potato party.

I would say this is a perfect bite of potato.


Recipe Book

So this is the most important item I Recipe dad got this for me I think at the LACMA, with the intention of using it for notes, daily musings, etc.  It turned into my recipe book!  Inside is where I tweak what I make, edit recipes or ideas, and clarify in my own abbreviations and jargon, techniques and pitfalls.  Recipes inside range from Korean Short Ribs (Galbi), Sweet Potato Biscuits with Cinnamon Butter, Braised Pork Belly, Red Velvet Cupcakes to simpler things like roasting Asparagus, making spinach pesto, and poaching fish and eggs.  To call it an amalgam of recipes would be foolish.  If/when I don't exist anymore, I believe this book would be something cherished.  It would be a glimpse into the calm of a tempest storm.


First Post

So after sharing  my delights with family and friends, and the incessant reminders to have an organized medium to share my eats, it is only appropriate that I finally start something "online".  With that said, this should be a good canvas  to share a passion in my life....FOOD!

I can safely say that I have always had food on my mind.  As far back as I can remember, I would always come home from school and guess what my mom would leave on our kitchen table as a "snack".  Sometimes, looking forward to this was the best part of my day!  What is funny is that as a child and teenager, you take for granted "home cooked" meals since they are just there.  You come home, lay about lazily watching whatever your favorite afternoon cartoon may have been at the time (i.e. Batman, Inspector Gadget, Brady Bunch), do a little homework, and POOF, dinner was there.  Home cooked meals came out of thin air, and as quickly as they appeared, they were gone just as swiftly.  You say, "thanks Mom" and you're I know everyone says there mom is the best cook, but I didn't realize this till much further on, when I didn't have a mom around nor a kitchen table to see what food would appear.  Let's fast forward a bit...

My passion for cooking was born initially out of necessity in college, where limited budgets forced you to not eat out as much....because you couldn't!  Trying to split your twenty dollars for the week on dollar items at your everyday fast food chains quickly made me realize that there had to be a better solution.  Why don't I try to make something at home?

When you first start to cook, you DON'T know ANYTHING!  Let's be real.  You can watch a cooking show a hundred times, but it's not the same as actually executing what you deemed as "possible" or "easy".  How do you know how long it takes to cook a juicy chicken breast?  How would you know when something is "seasoned" well?  How could you even fathom that mayonnaise is just an emulsion of oil and egg yolk, with perhaps a touch of acid?  Trying to navigate the pantheon of "terms" and "techniques" is futile in the beginning.  But I kept at it....

Thousands of attempts later brings me to where I am today...still a cooking novice according to many people, but far from inept.  Perhaps I can share a glimpse of my journey here, and stumble upon some great eats that I someday, I hope, you all can enjoy!