Archive | April, 2012

Show me, shoyu

20 Apr

For the grilled, marinated tofu that we put on our homemade banh mi sandwiches, I used both light and dark soy sauce in the marinade.  Have you ever tried to recreate an Asian dish from a restaurant and found it to be too salty or lacking in sweetness with a thin, runny sauce?  It may be due to using the wrong kind of soy sauce.

It wasn’t until recently that I found out that there was more than one type of soy sauce.  I’d only used the Kikkoman-esque stuff that you find on the tables of every Asian restaurants.  Turns out what many of us consider to be just plain ‘ol soy sauce is really light soy sauce.  In this case, light is not referring to reduced calories or sodium, though there is light sodium light soy sauce.  The “light” in light soy sauce refers to the thickness or viscosity of the soy sauce.  Light soy sauce is thin and runny, with a distinct, salty taste.

Dark soy sauce, on the other hand, is called so because it’s thicker.  Dark soy sauce has been aged and often blended with molasses or another sweetener.  While light soy sauce is usually added at the end to add salt and flavor, dark soy sauce is added early in the cooking process.  Cooking helps to develop flavors and sweetness; the first time I heard of dark soy sauce was in a recipe from HFW for Chinese style soy glazed pig’s feet.  I’m not sure if this was due to the dark soy sauce, but it was probably the best Chinese food I’ve made!

Recently, The Splendid Table did a segment where host Lynne Rosetto Kasper tasted five different types of light soy sauce straight from the supermarket in a blind test.  The contenders were:

  1. Kikkoman, $1.19
  2. Pearl River Bridge, $1.29
  3. Eden Organic Tamari, $5.39
  4. La Choy, $1.12
  5. San-J Organic Tamari (Gluten-Free), $4.89

You can see the results (and the tasting) in this video:

Who would of thought that the soy sauce in cabinets and refrigerators across the U.S. would be a taste-test winner?  I guess Lynne has confirmed what Kikkoman has been saying all along: the moment you pour Kikkoman soy sauce, food becomes incredibly delicious.

You can find Kikkoman light soy sauce at any grocery store.  Check your local Asian market for dark soy sauce and try it out the next time you cook Asian food.

Keepin’ it real

16 Apr

Burnt mini-quiche on a plate, with a cup of coffee and rumpled napkin in the background

One of the things that ticks me off about most blogs out there is that the author makes themselves out to be an expert on the subject.  Let me be the first to say that I am NOT an expert.  I can cook well enough to get by and often enough have a pretty tasty meal but I definitely still make mistakes.  Do you see where this is going..?

I made about 500 of these crust-less mini quiche for our wedding reception last summer.  Not only are they really tasty but they freeze and reheat really well.  We were having a super casual, DIY brunch for our reception so they really were perfect.  The recipe is such that you can adapt the flavors to whatever suits your mood.  The recipe on TheKitchn is for zucchini and basil quiche, but for our wedding I made three different kinds: cheddar and (veggie) chorizo, green chili with jack cheese and cilantro, and spicy jalapeno with cotija cheese.  I churned out a ton of them all by myself over the course of a couple days and they all turned out great.

After that, it took a while before I wanted to see, much less eat, quiche again.  But on Saturday when we found a bunch of good looking chanterelle mushrooms at the Corvallis farmer’s market, the first thing that came to mind were the mini-quiche and how easy/tasty they were.  We decided to make up a big batch of chanterelle, Swiss cheese, and caramelized onion mini-quiche.

Grated swiss cheese on a plate, with a piece of cheese and grater in the background

I caramelized half of a chopped onion while prepping the egg mixture and grating the cheese.  I chopped up the mushrooms roughly and sauteed them briefly.

We assembled the quiche in our mini-muffin pans: cheese on the bottom, some onion, a little sauteed mushroom, and then poured the egg mixture over the top.  Would could go wrong with that?

Well, the flavor combination was great but I forgot one very important step: to grease the muffin tin.  Don’t these lil’ quiche look so cute still in the pan?  Good, because they didn’t look so hot after we scraped them out.

Mini-quiche, still in the muffin tin, with a cup of coffee in the background

Mini-muffin tin with remnants of quiche, due to forgetting to grease the pan

This just about breaks my heart.  These would have been such a success, if only I hadn’t messed up!  I would definitely recommend you try this recipe, with one of my flavor combos or your own.   Just don’t forget to grease your pan, and grease it well!  I think I’ll be chipping quiche out of this muffin tin for the rest of my life.

I put one tray of the quiche back in the oven to see if they would release from the pan easier if they cooked a little longer.  They didn’t! I just got burnt quiche that was stuck in the pan.  Thankfully, it still tasted good.  It sure ain’t pretty, though.

Burnt mini-quiche on a plate, with a cup of coffee and rumpled napkin in the background

The next time you mess up in the kitchen, just remember me and these mutilated, burnt-to-a-crisp quiche.  And jeez, I have the audacity to have a food blog!  But now there’s proof that having a blog definitely does not necessarily make one (or at least, me) a pro in the kitchen.

Happy spring

7 Apr

They say that sex, politics, and religion shouldn’t be discussed at parties.  But what about on blogs?

Tomorrow is Easter.  While both Nate and I were raised in fairly religious families, we aren’t currently practicing any religion.  However, we never turn down an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, so we’re planning on attending multiple Easter festivities tomorrow.

It’s always seemed weird to me that non-Christians would celebrate Easter, for some reason far stranger than celebrating Christmas.  I guess it’s because Easter hasn’t been quite as commercialized.  I’ve also always seen Easter and the story of Jesus’ resurrection as being a pillar of Christianity, a confirmation of Jesus’ position as the son of God.  It seems weird to me, then, that non-believers would celebrate such a religious holiday even if their celebrations are supposed to be secular.  Can you really have a secular celebration of a day that is so tied to a specific religion?

That said, now that I’m guilty of “joining the party,” it hasn’t really been bothering me all that much.  I’m just seeing it as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and partake in some fun traditions.  Can you say hypocrite?!

But today the sun is out and the weather is beautiful.  It looks like spring is here (at least for now) and that is definitely a reason to celebrate!

Anyway, Nate is almost solely responsible for this asparagus gallette with goat cheese.  All I did is assemble it and snap some photos.  It’s super easy (I’m not just saying that because Nate made it) and would be perfect for your Easter festivities or just to help welcome the spring season.

Asparagus galette with goat cheese

Adapted from a recipe from Feast on the Cheap

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of pre-made puff pastry
  • 1 half of an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 oz. goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 400F degrees.  Roll out puff pastry into a rectangle approximately 15″ by 10″.  Make a score mark around the edge of the puff pastry, about 1 inch from the edge.  Pierce the puff pastry inside of the score mark with a fork, place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp of the oil, and then the chopped onion.  Saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the balsamic vinegar, if using.

Put the trimmed asparagus to a large bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the par-baked puff pastry from the oven.  Evenly distribute the onion mixture over the crust, followed by the cottage cheese and goat cheese.  Place the asparagus on top.

Bake in your 400F degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Bella offered to act as a taste tester for you.  That’s so nice of her, isn’t it?

Slice and serve warm.  I bet squeezing a little fresh lemon juice over the top would be good too.  Happy spring!

He’s everywhere

2 Apr

I was browsing through the introduction to Molly Stevens’ All About Roasting when a familiar name caught my eye:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall mentioned in Molly Stevens' cookbook "All About Roasting"

“Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the brilliant British chef and cookbook author, sums up the social significance of roasting like this in The River Cottage Meat Book: ‘Serving a roast has long been the most inclusive, magnanimous, and welcoming gesture a host can make to friends and family gathered round a table.'”

HFW is everywhere, there’s no escape!

If you’re interested in having more HFW in your life, someone (*cough cough*) made a YouTube playlist with the entire season of his most recent show, River Cottage Veg.  I’d love to know what you think; is it worthy of all my attention or am I fan girl-ing so hard for nothing?

Chicken dinner(s)

1 Apr

I am just loving having this blog as a creative outlet.  I can hardly stop thinking of things to do, make, and write about.  Unfortunately, that also makes it difficult to focus on my other projects, namely that Master’s degree I’m currently working.  I’m up to my eyeballs in schoolwork right now, which unfortunately means that all of the exciting things I want to read and write about have to be put on hold for those things that I need to read and write about.

Basically this is just a long-winded way of saying that content might be scarce around here for the next few weeks, although I’m hoping to find a balance between work (or school, in this case) and play.

In the meantime, here’s a cute ass picture of my favorite kitten.

And just because I can’t help myself, a quick mention of what we’ll be eating the next few days:

The other day, my Pinterest feed featured an article from theKitchn on making a five day menu plan based around a rotisserie chicken.  At our house, we’re all for making the most out of food, and out of meat in particular.  I usually save chicken bones for stock (collecting them in a bag in the freezer until there’s enough) but that’s usually where our meat thriftiness stops.  For the past week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about roasting a chicken and making use of every last part.

Well, today was the big day and we just finished our chicken dinner.  I followed Thomas Keller’s simple roast chicken recipe, using a few modifications that I found in the comments.  In all honesty, I’ve made this recipe several times before and I always seem to have mixed results.  When it’s good, it is amazing, with everything a roast chicken should have: crispy skin and succulent flesh.  But there are times when it isn’t so good, usually because upon carving the bird, I realize that it hasn’t quite cooked all the way through.  Cooking this recipe definitely makes for a perfect time to whip out your (possibly neglected) thermometers, both oven and instant-read.  You may also want to add 10 minutes to the recommended cooking time.

I have to admit that I feel a little weird posting this photo for two reasons.  First, our camera battery was dead so I took this photo with my phone and I’m not sure it’s really “up to snuff,” as they say.  (Do other people say that too or is it just another one of those weird things my mom says?)

Second, during a culinary discussion at a recent excursion to local brewery Block 15, I lectured my dear friend Aileen about the importance of chicken trussing.  Trussing is the fancy way of saying tying it up with string so that it cooks evenly.  Everyone who is anyone recommends that you do it and I’m not usually one to go against the grain on these types of things.  That said, you may notice that this chicken is remarkably “un-trussed.”  That’s not because I’m making a statement.  It’s because the only string we have in the house right now is made of nylon.  Cooking tip #1: don’t tie your chicken up in plastic string and then put it in a 450F degree oven.

If you want more info on trussing a chicken, I suggest checking out ye olde YouTube.  One of the best how-to videos I’ve found so far stars Brian Polcyn using a slightly more advanced chicken trussing technique.  Polcyn is a Chicago chef and co-author of the cookbook Charcuterie that I currently have checked out from the library.  I love it when my culinary interests cross paths unexpectedly!

Despite our lack of appropriate restraints (by which I mean cotton butcher’s twine), I roasted the bird.  Tonight we had the legs with roast potatoes and carrots and a green salad.  After dinner, I finished carving it.  Carving is another technique that can be intimidating if you haven’t done it before.  It’s important to remove the legs first and then the breasts.  YouTube can come to the rescue on carving as well.  (It’s also great for a refresher on how to tie a bow tie, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

After carving, one breast was shredded and went straight into a pot with a sliced onion, some homemade turkey stock, and the last of the homegrown tomatillo salsa from last year.  Tomorrow, we’ll eat the stew (which was inspired by this recipe on Simply Recipes) for lunch with some rice and beans.  The other breast went into the fridge; I’m not sure what we’ll do with it yet.  In the meantime, the carcass and wings are simmering in the slow cooker for some homemade chicken stock.

I’m not sure we’ll quite get five-meals out of this bird, but I’m feeling like I’m doing my part to be a more ethical meat eater.  Using everything this way makes buying the more expensive, free-range chicken seem almost affordable despite being on a limited, grad school student budget.  The whole free range chicken was $2.49 per pound, which is cheaper per pound than some of the pricier pieces of conventionally raised chicken.

While cleaning up from dinner tonight, I glanced in the trash can; the only part of the chicken that was in there was the plastic it came wrapped in.  I think I could get used to that.