Archive for November, 2010

Korean Grilled Beef

Posted in Beef on November 30th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

Of the basic kinds of meat out there, the one you’ll probably see me write about the least is beef. I am still stymied by all of the various cuts and what to do with them, which I like and what to do with them, and why does nothing I see in the grocery store look like the steaks I remember my dad barbecuing when I was a kid? The other problem with beef is it’s more prone to the parts I don’t like about meat, what I call the “icky bits” – stuff like the fat, gristle, and ‘is that a vein??’

I tend to browse the meat section and pick up some kind of beef only when I see one that looks properly “icky-bit free”. This one was just labeled as “Rancher’s Reserve Beef For BBQ”.

Since the label told me it’s for BBQ I searched that direction and found this Korean Grilled Beef. This was also my first time attempting to make a Korean dish so I can’t speak to its authenticity. I wasn’t able to plan ahead so I made the marinade as soon as I got home and put off cooking as late as possible so it would have a few hours to marinate.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb Sirloin, rib, or flank steak

I have no idea what part of the cow my meat came from but it was mostly icky-bit free!

  • 3 Green onions, finely

I assume this was meant to be ‘finely chopped’. If I was supposed to finely something else with them then I did it wrong.

  • 4 Garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 tb Soy sauce
  • 2 tb Sesame oil
  • 1 tb Sesame seeds
  • 1/4 c Sugar
  • 2 tb Sherry or mirin (rice wine)
  • 1/8 ts Black pepper

I used the mirin, having finally restocked at Uwajimaya.

Instructions:
Slice the steak diagonally against the grain into very thin strips. Score each piece lightly. (This prevents meat from curling as it is grilling).

I totally ignored this part since I don’t think I’m using the right kind of meat to begin with.

Combine remaining ingredients in bowl, mix well, then add meat. Allow to marinate for several hours or overnight.

I left this in the fridge for about three hours and had a late dinner.

This is our version of grilling.

The verdict was good, but needed more than just the rice the recipe suggested. With more time to plan, this would have been great incorporated into a vegetable stir-fry served on top of rice.

Andes Mint Brownies (test run #4)

Posted in Dessert on November 29th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

I didn’t intend there to be a fourth test run after picking out my two winners but I couldn’t get the idea of Andes mints brownies out of my head. I bought a box of Andes mints recently because Morgan seems to be bored lately and she goes crazy over the wrappers. See I bought them for the cat, not because I like to eat them chilled out of the fridge as a snack, for the cat. If I have to eat them to keep her happy, so be it.

Ingredients:

  • cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • about 1/4 cup of chopped Andes mints

10 mints came out to a little over a quarter cup, enough for a wandering husband to steal pieces from the pile. When I mixed them in though it didn’t look like enough so I chopped a few more. Don’t do this if you don’t want your brownies to be really minty, but if you don’t want your brownies to be really minty why are you making this recipe?

RIGHT when the brownies come out of the oven, layer the top with the whole package of Andes mints (or however many it takes to cover the surface). Let them stand for a minute or two, until they are smooth enough to spread. Using a frosting spatula or a flat knife, spread the melted Andes mints evenly over the brownie to cover.

I skipped this step because I’m trying still trying to keep my brownies postal friendly but they were perfect without the “frosting”.

The day I tried to make an omelet

Posted in Eggs on November 28th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

I’ve been a bit fixated on eggs lately, possibly because the amount of eggs that go into all of the brownies I’ve been making remind me that they exist. Also with the snow days and holidays, they make a good mid-day meal (a.k.a. lunch) which I usually forget to eat until dinnertime when I’m not working.

At Thanksgiving I overheard instructions on how to make an omelet, and decided it’s time to graduate from scrambled eggs. (I knew how to make those when I was five…)

For my omelet I first gathered the filling:

  • sliced ham
  • half a very small onion, sliced
  • chopped garlic
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • green onions (last minute addition for color)

I wasn’t sure if garlic went in an omelet but I asked Andrew, who has the same pro-garlic leanings that I do, and he said yes.

I first fried the filling ingredients, except for the cheese, in a bit of butter until the onions were translucent and the garlic fragrantly cooked.

In the same pan I melted more butter and when it was hot added the eggs (three). “I’m really doing this,” I thought.

Following what I (over)heard I pushed the cooked egg into the center of the pan to let the runny part run to the edges and cook. This was working great up to a point, until the whole pan had a thin layer of runny egg with nowhere to go.

At this point I was sure I had done something wrong, and decided to flip it to cook the other side.

Well you can see how that turned out.

I added the filling and did my best to “fold” what was left. I was so focused on making sure the eggs got fully cooked that I forgot to add the cheese and had to go back and stuff it in as best I could afterward.

Gonna be a while before they’ll hire me as a Denny’s chef.

But for the record, garlic and eggs = YES.

Avocado Sushi Bowl

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Real sashimi is something I leave to the experts. It’s not that I don’t trust myself with raw fish, but if I can’t recreate a dinner at Aoki I’d rather pay them the money to eat some good sushi. I can however satisfy my want of a good avocado roll. And for the days that I’m too lazy to roll my own sushi… I was so proud of coming up with this I felt like it should be hung up on the refrigerator door to show off.

I’ve called this “lazy sushi”, “sushi bits” and when I want it to sound like something that could actually appear on a menu, “sushi bowl”.

Ingredients:
(Same as for actual sushi)

  • Sushi rice
  • Seasoned rice vinegar
  • Nori
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Avocado

Mix the rice vinegar with the rice in a bowl. Add soy sauce and and mix wasabi into the rice, being careful with the latter because an unblended chunk of wasabi can be confused for a chunk of avocado for an unexpected surprise.

Crumble a sheet of nori and mix it into the rice bowl. Nori seems to crumble best right out of the package, before it has a chance to start absorbing moisture from your hands or the air. So be quick, otherwise it becomes more of a tearing into little pieces. Pre-shredded nori would also work great here, but I remember it being expensive compared to the sheets which I buy anyway for non-lazy sushi.

Slice the avocado on top, or just cut it in half and eat with a spoon along with the rice bowl. Either way you get all of the expected sushi bits in each bite.

Background cat optional.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs

Posted in Eggs on November 25th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I did not get up at 6am to cook a turkey for 20 people. I have nothing but admiration for those of you that did but I’m lucky enough to spend the day with good friends who also do the real cooking.


In preparation for boiling a dozen eggs I started looking for tips on easy peeling. The number one is to use old eggs. Since I bought mine at the last minute, yesterday, can we postpone Thanksgiving a couple weeks while my eggs age? No? Didn’t think so…

I never remember how to make a hard boiled egg off the top of my head so I have to look it up each time. I followed the How to Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs because this honesty sounds like me: “Note I usually skip this step because I don’t notice the eggs boiling until they’ve been boiling for at least a minute!”

I tried the other trick I read about which is to immediately put the eggs in ice water and then back in boiling water for ten seconds to force the egg to pull away from the shell. In retrospect I should have left one out as a control to see it made a difference but they all peeled without any major casualties.

These eggs are trying to show off their good sides.

I do know how to make deviled eggs so I’ve never followed a written recipe. The problem with doing it by sight is making sure there’s enough filling – I had to cannibalize the filling from a couple eggs to finish. The easy answer would be to just make less but the holder has exactly 24 spaces so it would be too obvious if one was missing. That meant no taste-testing the finished product either.

Ingredients

  • hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
  • mayonnaise
  • (garlic) dijon mustard
  • wasabi paste
  • paprika
  • green onion slices

To not scare off the guests I made half “normal” and half wasabi. For regular deviled eggs mix the egg yolks with mayonnaise, mustard and top with paprika. Wasabi eggs, mix the yolks with mayonnaise and wasbi paste and I topped with the green onion slices.

Mix to taste… I made the wasabi eggs to about sushi level hotness and they went over great.

I love the homemade look of deviled eggs, a little lumpy, and the paprika is a must.

Spiced Hot Cocoa

Posted in Drinks on November 22nd, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

To commemorate Seattle’s first snow of the season I had to make the snow’s first hot chocolate. Specifically this is Spiced Hot Cocoa, and I know there is a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa but I think people (or at least I) stick with the term they grew up with. For me it was Swiss Miss style hot chocolate in those packets, sometimes with the mini marshmallows that melt into white foam before you get to drink it.

I actually found this recipe because I was looking for more uses for the absurd amount of nutmeg I accidentally found myself with last year. (Have you ever bought something you thought you needed, not realizing you already had two days before?) I was always happy with those hot chocolate packets, weirdly preferred them over the “fancier” coffee shop variety, until I made my first stove-top hot chocolate.. er.. cocoa. Suddenly I could see my future self making warm drinks for the family while we watched the snow on days like today, and I haven’t looked back to instant since.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This cuts in half a little awkwardly but recommended if you’re not actually serving a family. Or I’ve noticed it reheats well if you just want to stock up for the next day as well.

In a saucepan, combine cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend in hot water. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil, stirring for 2 minutes.

This is pretty forgiving… I’ve walked away and come back to it boiling without ruining anything. Not that I should be admitting to these things…

Add milk; stir and heat thoroughly, but do not boil. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Beat until foamy.

I have this nifty milk frother which serves no purpose except to sit on my counter and look fancy, and occasionally froth a cup of hot cocoa.


Here “the perfect cup” doesn’t need to be of tea.

Peanut Butter Brownies (test run #3)

Posted in Dessert on November 20th, 2010 by admin – 3 Comments

I planned my next baking for band practice day when I’d have some willing test subjects to try them out on, giving another peanut butter brownie recipe a shot. Most people are willing test subjects when it comes to brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg

Well one annoying thing to start is that 1/3 cup of butter for the chocolate part, and two tablespoons for the peanut butter part, leaves a just a little sliver of butter left over from a full stick. So I made toast…

Directions:
Melt butter and chocolate together. Set aside to cool.

Right off I didn’t like working with the Baker’s chocolate as much as the Ghiradelli. It doesn’t melt as happily, and it smells like brownie mix from a box. That’s not a bad thing but it’s not a good thing… setting up for some pretty neutral brownies here.

In a small bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt together.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light.

I have no idea how to tell if egg-sugar is considered “light”. I erred on the side of caution and beat less rather than more.

Add the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, and the cooled chocolate mixture.

Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan.

 
Then for the peanut butter part:

Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter mixture over the brownie layer.


I hope this is the right effect.

Run a knife through the cake to marble.


I still hope this is the right effect.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes.

Now that looks like real brownies!

I think I have another winner. They still weren’t as good as the chocolate ones (test run #2), but without those for comparison, they were really good. The band approved. I’d kind of like to do another test run using the Ghiradelli chocolate for these as well, but on the other hand that would leave me with most of a box of Baker’s chocolate to use up.

Cinnamon Salmon

Posted in Fish, Salmon on November 19th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I knew I wanted the mashed sweet potatoes but figuring out what to go with them, other than a big turkey dinner, was more difficult. I asked people to fill in the blank, “Mashed sweet potatoes and ___________” with the specification that the ‘and’ must be something I’m able to make (and can be made on short notice – no overnight marinating). Then I ignored all of the suggestions and came up with my own.

I decided the cinnamon in this cinnamon salmon would compliment the sweet potatoes, while being more interesting than a piece of chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz salmon
  • 1/4 c lite soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of these “posed ingredients” pictures.

I assumed by “lite” soy sauce they meant low sodium. These are some of my kitchen staples – soy sauce of all varieties, bottled lemon juice and minced ginger in a jar.

This is an extremely simple recipe. Mix all together and pour over the salmon. Cook at 350 degrees until done.

I always have this problem with salmon fillets that anything liquid runs off and pools in the thin “valley” side. Is there a cooking secret for this or do I just need to to buy flatter fish? Sometimes I wonder if I’d be better off cooking it upside down.

Definitely a case of ‘tastes better than it looks’…

That might be my ugliest dinner ever in fact. The thin part where the cinnamon baked on were perfect. The thick part was “just” fish. I used sockeye which is supposed to have the most flavor on its own. My problem is consistency. If I could just figure out how to even that out, and then take a better picture.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Posted in Sweet Potato, Vegetables on November 18th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

The salad place I’ve been eating lunch at quite often had mashed sweet potatoes the other day. When I went back yesterday hoping for more they were gone, meaning it time to learn to make my own.

I’m wary of working with sweet potatoes and yams. I love them, but they mock me by refusing to cook properly. Really, all potatoes seem to have the power to just say, “Nope, don’t feel like being cooked today.” They also have the same problem as macaroni and cheese – there’s a billion variations and most of them are trying to do something unique to justify being yet another recipe for something you’re already expected to know how to make. I went with a really simple recipe from cooks.com because it was the only one that starts with boiling, not baking, the sweet potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 5 or 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (more or less, to taste)

I cut this way back to two sweet potatoes and even that’s left me with more leftovers than I can eat by myself. (Andrew’s not a sweet potato person.)

Instructions:
Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Simmer in a large 3-4 quart pot of water with 2 tsp. salt added to water.

These things are quite a pain to peel. I may have been nice enough to take the ugly pumpkin, but I’m grabbing the smoothest, roundest sweet potatoes I can find.

I generally ignore the clock when I make mashed potatoes. It’s the only way around their not-cooking tricks. Eventually they’ll have to boil soft, which is why I preferred a boiling recipe. Plus who mashes a baked potato? That’s like scrambling an omelet (on purpose…)

I mashed them up with my potato masher and saw a noticeable amount of stringy bits. I assume this is just a trait of sweet potatoes, but the ones I had for lunch were perfectly smooth. Advice on the internet was mostly about how to pick them out non-stringy to begin with but as for after the fact, I found one mention of using a hand mixer so the “strings” would stick to the beaters. I gave it a shot and while not perfect it easily brought the batch down to an acceptable level of stringiness.

The next problem is that they were on the “wet” side. I probably overcooked them, or didn’t drain well enough. Back to the internet, the advice was just to put them back in the pot over medium-low heat and keep stirring so they don’t burn.

I let them “simmer” until the rest of my dinner was cooked, and then stirred in the end of a stick of butter and a drizzle of honey. Perfect.

Adventures in Miso Chicken

Posted in Chicken on November 16th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I was recommended a recipe for miso turkey, good for Thanksgiving, but since cooking a whole turkey is beyond me at the moment (and thankfully I have no obligations to yet) I wondered if there was a more everyday version of miso chicken.

Yes there is… lots of them. The one I chose was a baked miso chicken. It looks like this one was modified a bit from the original and I modified it a bit more (by using breasts instead of thighs). The actual chicken I bought was labeled ‘chicken breast fillets’, smaller than whole breasts which made them an easy size to work with. I’ll definitely be looking for these in the future. But I can’t help imagining them being cut down from full breasts to get that size the way baby carrots are cut from regular carrots.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup miso
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6-8 (about 2-lbs.) boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

I do find it kind of funny that they think being able to buy miso by the tub is a big deal. This is the miso selection at Uwajimaya… a bit intimidating.

Instructions:

  • Combine soy sauce, mirin, miso, onions, ginger and garlic in a small bowl. Divide marinade into 2 parts. Pour half into in a one-gallon zip-lock bag. Shake to mix well.
  • Add chicken pieces and coat well. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Refrigerate reserved marinade in a separate container.

I try to use my reusable containers for marinating as much as possible.

8-12 hours means the chicken has to start marinating before I leave for work, which means I have to remember to put the chicken in before I leave for work. Well there’s no way I’m up for cooking that early in the morning so instead I mixed it up very late at night.

Very late at night is also where I realized that I didn’t have enough mirin for the whole recipe. No problem, I thought, since the marinade gets divided in half I can make half now and pick up more mirin on my lunch break. Except, it turns out, QFC doesn’t sell mirin… must have bought it at Uwajimaya.

No problem again. I had a very little left, about 1/8 of a cup, and did my best to 1/8th the recipe.

  • Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.

I didn’t understand this step at all – why wipe off the marinade just to reapply it? But I figured this is one of those things done by People Who Know More Than Me and would be my own fault for skipping steps if the recipe didn’t turn out.

  • Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer on a large rack set over a baking pan. Cook for 30 minutes. Brush with reserved marinade.

And this is where I failed. For some reason I misread adding the reserved marinade before it goes into the oven (which is why the last step made even less sense.) By the time I realized my mistake the same brush had touched the raw chicken and the marinade so it was a lost cause. I put the chicken into the oven as is and tried to salvage something.

While it baked I tried another attempt at the marinade, this time with sake. It didn’t smell right so I tried adding more soy sauce, and then it became unbearably salty. At least I have no qualms about wasting this much miso since eventually the top gets knocked off and it dries out in the fridge before I can go through a whole tub.

There’s my sad little chickens with the inedible sauce… I served them sheepishly with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

The chicken itself was surprisingly moist despite being served “dry”. I think miso chicken is a win, even if I failed.