January 31, 2009

Catching up - Spatchcock edition

We spatchcocked a chicken a few days ago. Spatchcocked it good.

Spatchcock: short for "dispatching the cock" is an old technique for quickly cooking a chicken by forcing it to be as flat as possible. Steph says it was used by hunters in the field because it cooks faster so you didn't have to keep the fires going so long. Lets you cook a chicken in about 20 minutes if you do it right. Also requires a pan and not an oven.

Cut lengthwise through the backbone of a chicken; butterflying it. Steph coated this one in salt for three days and stuffed it with preserved limes before it was laid open.

So. First we took the dutch oven and heated it up in the oven at 425. And threw the butterflied chicken in the hot pan. And proceeded to wicked witch of the west the offending fowl.

And since we're insane, there's sweet potatoes and sage and olive oil inside the dutch oven.

Flip after about ten minutes. and squish it again.


The overly long salt rub and cooking the chicken from both sides really quickly resulted in a very very juicy chicken. (The three day salt cure was basically because um. We kept meaning to eat the chicken but got very distracted.)

January 30, 2009

Note for this St. Paddy's day

Car Bomb Cupcakes the newest meme from Smitten Kitchen.  Except it's me and these really just need to be doused in Jameson so I can get sloshed off of cupcakes.

And since we're talking about alcohol ANYWAY, tonight's project was fill an old vanilla extract bottle with leftover rum (see last week) and vodka dregs and a vanilla bean. Theoretically this can hang out for a few weeks and make vanilla extract BUT WE SHALL SEE.

Curry Horns/Pies/Turnovers

Steph and I were sitting here watching Avatar and eating a Key Lime Pie trying to figure out what the hell this thing is called.  It's this half moon pie thing that's all shiny and braided around the edges filled with a ground beef slightly sweet potatoy curry.  

Finally found some pointers on the Internets.

and the braiding technique

We'll probably wind up doing something between the pie crust recipe in the first and mucking around with the filling recipe and learning how to fold using the second link.  And then finding people to feed them to.  And trying to figure out how to batch this considering my oven is about the size of my cat.

NEWS FLASH:  everything we've ever eaten and are trying to figure out how to make is here http://www.xanga.com/joyosity including the correct way to make Chun Yo Bin (i suck at making chinese into english)

January 28, 2009

Other things to do with a $16 bottle of rum

We have this book that tells us what to do.  I picked it up on a whim (and apparently, for a song) from our local Half Price Books one day, thinking I would inflict it upon Emily for Christmas as a semi-gag gift.  (She's paranoid about preserved foods, and thus has never experienced the joy of jam or delicious pickles.)

It's a great book written by two British food dorks with a good sense of humor and a solid knowledge of drying, smoking, curing, canning, infusing, freezing, fermenting, and a few other mind-boggling things like how to suspend baby octopus in aspic.

Turns out the book has a section on alcohol.

We had actually bought the rum for the primary purpose of making a recipe from the book.  The fact that we were making bananas foster the same night simply provided impetus for the trek to Costco.

The recipe is called "Lai's Fruits of the Forest Rum" and the basic premise is as such:  Put frozen mixed berries into a bottle, add some sugar, and top it off with rum.  Seriously, who needs to measure?  So we didn't.

Mise-en-place, lacking sugar.  Ignore the flour.  The rainbowcake likes to watch.

Rum strata.

I'm so glad we bought this funnel.

Once we had filled our various bottles, we sealed them and wrapped them in foil to keep out the light, then stashed them somewhere dark.  The instructions said to let them sit for a year, so maybe in a year we will get really drunk on it and report back on the status of rum n' berries.

Epilogue:  We had about a cup of berries left, so I made two tiny cobblers in ramekins.  They were delicious.

Challah part 2: breakfast for dinner

Okay so here's what we did to one of the challahs.  The other was savagely ripped apart while we were waiting for the final season of Lost to start.

We sliced our remaining challah loaf into thick 1-1.5" pieces and violated them like so:
Cutting a pocket

Stuffed with mascarpone + honey (used ghetto ziploc bag with corner cut off piping method)
Soaked in french toast custard (eggs + half&half) and put on new-to-us griddle pan.

While Emily took over the griddling, I prepped bananas foster:
Melting butter into cream and sugar, because y'know...it needed more fat.
Sadly there were no good pictures of me setting it on fire, but know this:  I mixed about a tablespoon of Everclear (the dregs from limoncello-making adventure) with some rum to make damn sure it caught.  Oh, such glorious flames.

Bow down before your god!
That sucker was $16 at Costco.  They got some alcohols for scary cheap.

There was bacon also

but not for long.

The mascarpone sort of melted into the bread, making it kind of bread-puddingy in the middle which was nice.  Next time (next time?) we will make the pockets in fresh pliable challah instead of semi-stale crumbly challah, and maybe also soak the bread longer in the custard.
We still have half a tub of mascarpone leftover.

January 25, 2009


Challah is delicious and no other justification is needed.  If you have not consumed challah in the past, you have been missing out and you should run to the nearest challah store and get some, or if you are a bit more patient, you should make it yourself.

The best part about making bread, any bread, is that you can abuse the dough to fit your schedule.  Don't have all day to wait around for multiple risings?  Throw the dough in the fridge overnight after the first rise, then let it finish the next day.  
The same can be done with shaped loaves before proofing (the final rise).  It's awesome.  You can be lazy and still have awesome bread that amazes people.

These loaves in particular had one rise initially, were punched down, and put in the fridge overnight, then taken out the next morning for a second rise, then shaped, proofed, and baked.

Here is what it looked like when I did it for the third time in 2 months.  I suspect this is why everyone likes having me around.
So many lumps.

It was a two-step process to roll the dough into ropes, since the gluten structure was fairly developed.  I rolled each piece into a short cylinder, let it rest for a few minutes so the gluten would relax, then rolled them all into ropes for braiding.
It looks like a doughy octopus.


And baked.

Next post I will relate to you the delicious fate of the challahs.

Rainbow Cake!

So here's how you make rainbow cake.

You start with a really good recipe for delicious cake, sink some dollars into some good quality gel food coloring (found in the cake decorating aisle of your local craft store, not the supermarket), and use all the bowls and stirring implements in the kitchen.
We had cheap aluminum 9" round pans so I buttered and floured them beforehand. (the flouring makes all the difference in de-panning, trust me).  
I've started saving discarded butter wrappers in the fridge for expressly this purpose.
Then I made a batch of buttermilk cake batter and split it into 6 roughly equal parts:

Here are the colors.  I just dipped the tip of a butter knife into the gel color and mixed that into the batter really well.  Purple was kind of hard to get right because the batter was yellowish.

Once you have all the colors, start pouring them into the pans in rainbow sequence like so:  Use a bunch of the red, like nearly all of it except for a tablespoon or two, for the first layer of the first cake.  Then follow with almost as much of the orange (but reserve a bit more), and so on with the rest of the colors.  When you reach purple, you should only be putting a dollop of batter in the center and reserving the rest.

For the second cake, repeat the pouring process but in reverse order (all the purple first, etc.)

You will wind up with one bulls-eye rainbow with red on the outside,  and one bulls-eye rainbow with purple on the outside.

Bake the cakes as per the usual and layer and frost with delicious whipped cream cheese frosting.

Then eat it.

Buttermilk cake recipe:

2 1/2 cups flour 
1 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla 

Cream butter and sugars together, then beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla.  Sift in the rest of the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, and beat well until batter is smooth.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out dry.

Whipped cream cheese frosting

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. sugar

Whip the cream and half the sugar together until they form soft peaks, then transfer to another bowl for temporary storage.  Whip the cream cheese and the rest of the sugar together until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer grainy.  Gently fold in whipped cream and mix to combine (the paddle attachment at low speed works fine).

Stewed Pork Belly! Part two!

OK!  So.  Here's the cut of meat.  Pork Belly.  Proto-Bacon.  I got mine from the Chinese supermarket.

You also need a fair knob of ginger, some garlic and some star anise.  

The ginger and the garlic get chopped up and thrown in some heating oil with the anise.  Anise gets left whole, but will eventually break down.  You just want it to remain as whole as possible so you don't bite into it later.

While waiting for the flavors to infuse into the oil, I chop up the belleh.

I think I would cut it a big larger next time as it shrinks down a lot as the fat renders.  (...yeah.  There's.  a lot of fat.  Proto-bacon!)

Brown the pork in the gingery garlicky oil.

This is the wrong kind of cooking wine.  You want Chinese cooking wine or shaoxing or something like that.  Usually comes in squarish containers.  I.  was impatient and had run out.  You want about half a cup of that, half a cup of dark soy and a few tablespoons of oyster sauce.  and a tablespoon or so of sugar.  Brown rock sugar is proper, but I don't usually have that around.  Adjust to taste.  

 Add this to the pork.  Add water until just to the top of the pork.

I threw this into the oven at 225 and did some gardening.  Three or four hours later I came back and put it on the stove to reduce down for another couple of hours.  You wind up with this.

So shiny.  So bad for you.  It should be rich, not fatty tasting, and a little sweet.  The fat should have pretty much come out on top and leaves behind all the ... stuff that's not fat.  Now if you want to do this the long way, you can put this in the fridge, chip off the fat, and warm it up to eat.  But if you're us, and impatient, you skim off the fat, put it in the freezer, chip off the fat and add the gelled sauce back into the rest of the pot.  The fat is pretty solid.

We made congee, or rice soup.  It became kind of a nail soup situation where Dan brought leftover tilapia, I snipped garlic scapes from the garden and we threw in some dried shitake mushrooms and leftover chicken stock.  The basic deal is just take leftover rice, boil it with water until it becomes a thick soup.


Also fried up some premade turnip cake and chive flowers from the market and had a nice traditional dinner.

January 23, 2009


Homemade fried gluten!

I think it's time for a Congee party.

also I have pictures of the Braised Pork Bellyfest and just have been too tired/lazy/busy to upload.  I did get the recipe from Mom and it was delicious indeed and definitely replicatable.  Just takes a lot of time to cook.  Initial setup is pretty easy.

January 18, 2009

Stewed Pork Belly

Before you read this stream of obsessiveness below:  please note that food is such a big friggen deal to Chinese people that national treasures aren't crowns or jewelry, but rocks that look like meat.

I'm on the search for this family recipe.  Well, I know it's not just my family's.  All I knew was that we would go to Grandma's and she would make these dark glossy fatty pork cubes and it was so bad for you, but delicious .  It was only in the last couple of years that I figured out this crazy mystery meat was pork belly.  I don't remember much else other than ginger and anise is involved.  Somehow.  Only because accidentally biting into ginger and an anise star is disgusting and mindscarring.  You know.  at six.

Things to know about Grandma.  She's a scientist from Shanghai who was a daughter of a businessman in a time when being a businessman was kind of not a good thing.  She didn't really mess around in the kitchen a lot, so she didn't cook many things, she didn't get fancy, she just made food when we visited and because she had to.  And didn't want people around her while she did it. Which is great when you're six, but not so much when you're obsessing over the mechanics of a dish you last ate 10 years ago.

I've asked my mom a few times what this crazy meat dish is and how to make it, and I've never gotten a straight answer.  We can't even decide what kind of meat it is let alone what it's called and what other spices are involved. Grandma is in Shanghai right now and probably thinks I'm insane for getting all down into the details of this.

I've narrowed it down to a few possibilities and then I'm going to try calling mom again.

Problem is - these preparations all have basically the same gist but way different executions.  I know there's anise in there.  I know it's a little sweet.  But some of these seem way too ..weirdly ingrediented and complicated.  Like Cinnamon and Honey?  That's a little fusiony for NaiNai.   Did she caramelize sugar?  Can I even imagine her doing that?  Did she boil the pork first?  Am I going for authenticity here or something different that I would want to eat as well?  What's paramount - nostalgia or technique?  

I know.  Edge of your seat. 

But no worries Planeteers, I have a pork belly sitting in my fridge now and SUMTHIN'S gonna be made from it family recipe or not.

January 16, 2009

Lamb Fight Night

Hallo. This is the Lamb. It would like to meet you. It is covered in salt, pepper, rosemary, brown sugar and LOVE. It waited for many hours for this opportunity. Please say hello.

These are the kales. They have been friends with the pork jowl bacon and garlic for a little bit. Please say hello as well

We are brussels sprouts. People do not like us very much. But we will teach you how we can also be delicious. This is us.

We are rather lonely. Sometimes we also like bacon and garlic.


ok pork jowl bacon is pretty damn chewy and awesome. it's like the fucking Stride gum of baconness. You will not argue this and you will get you and your bad self down to your nearest ethnic food source and expand your bacony horizons and you will THANK ME for introducing you to this. Actually you will thank Stephanie as she has brought this into my humble home and I did not have to go anywhere.


We cook and we become brussels sprouts tastiness and have a beautiful crust that only happens when you allow us to chill out in a pan for a while and fufill our potential. DO NOT DOUBT. EAT SPROUTS. THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Lamb is done. We use Magic Food Pot for this. It take about 50 minutes. Magic Food Pot also known as Big Daddy Oilless Fryer and it is not expensive and will give you much joy in your life as it has in mine. It produces a pile of meat as such.

The meat is delicous, tender and medium rare as I choose to enjoy it. Well many people want to enjoy it.

Dan says hello. Dan. Say hello.

I do not think he has enough wine. HELLO

Ok. See. That worked. Then a Dan went flop.

Apparently this is pretty damn good wine.

January 12, 2009

Limoncello, part 3

The bottling setup. Note the matches.

It burned for waaay too long at first, so we added more sugar water.

The ladle was heavy and my arm got tired after the first two bottles.

Now all that's left is to leave them in a dark place for at least another 3 months to mellow out. I may stuff them in my closet so Emily doesn't get any premature ideas...

Limoncello - part 2

After about 1 month of steeping in a dark closet, the alcohol looks to be a darker yellow and the citron slices have become less buoyant.

Tonight we filtered the alcohol, added a TON of simple syrup to it, and got it down to around 100 proof. At various stages we would put a little bit in a shot glass and try to light it...after the first sugar addition it still burned for a good 2 minutes in the shot glass.

Once we were fairly confident it wasn't going to kill/blind anyone, we bottled it in pretty swivel-top bottles (and a small glass flask that previously held maple syrup). Emily has those pictures.

In the steeping jar now: another handle of Everclear + all the husks of the juiced limes from yesterday.