Friday, February 14, 2014

7x7 Big Eats 2013 - Wing Wings

Location: 422 Haight Street, San Francisco, California 94117
Date: Friday, January 17th
Food: Angry Korean Wings
Price:$6.00 (for 5)
Comments: These technically shouldn't count towards the list because they were consumed in 2014, not 2013. But since the 2014 Big Eats list was not-yet-released @ that point, we let it slide. I thought the wings were neither angry nor were they Korean. They were just sort of sweet, & maybe a little tangy. Perhaps the fact that these wings had sat in a box for a couple of hours before reaching my palette had played against my experience...but I didn't expect flavor to just completely disappear. For the same price, I would actually recommend the Papalote salsa wings...they were muy delicious.

Friday, January 3, 2014

From the Oven - Baked Lamb Shanks


One of my goals this year is to allow myself more opportunities to enjoy the people, places, & things I food!

A while ago Russell's mom brought us a couple of lamb shanks; but we hadn't found time time to cook it until things slowed down for the holidays.

When it came time to look for a fail-proof recipe to treat my lamb shanks, I turned to the place that I have learned not to doubt: America's Test Kitchen. I have always loved America's Test Kitchen because it is scientific & it is their job to takes out all of the guess-work for the home cook. Unfortunately, there was not a recipe for lamb shanks there...@ least not 1 that I can get without providing my credit card information.

Next I turned the search over to my good friend Google (it beats Bing...I've tested it) & the result was overwhelming. Most of the recipes call for a large dutch oven - which I don't have - & for braising the lamb shanks in a good amount of liquid at a high oven temperature for 3-4 hours. The only recipe that was different was one from Jamie Oliver which called for minimal equipment, lower oven temperature, & a shorter cooking time. Can anyone say perfect?

The Prep List...
   2 lamb shanks (~3 pounds total)
   4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
   3 sprigs of fresh thyme
   8 fresh sage leaves
   3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
   1 large carrot
   0.5 yellow onion
   1 leek, well rinsed
   6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
   6 ounces white wine
   Olive oil
   Salt + Black pepper

Step-by-step Instructions...   
   Roughly chop up the leaves of 2 sprigs of rosemary, all 3 sprigs of thyme, & 4 of the sage leaves
   Thoroughly combine the chopped herb with the softened butter
   Using a small knife, separate the meat of each lamb shank from the bone, creating pockets
   Evenly distribute the herb butter into the pockets on the lamb shanks, set aside
   Peel the carrot and dice into small pieces; Thinly slice the onion and the leek
   Tear out 2 pieces of foil (about 10x12) and divide the vegetable & the garlic cloves onto each
   Oil the lamb shanks, season with salt & pepper, & place 1 on each pile of vegetables (bone sticking up)
   Place 1 whole sprig of rosemary & 2 sage leaves on top of each lamb shank
   Gather the foil & pour in the white wine; close it tightly around the bone to form 2 packets
   Place the packets onto a baking sheet & bake at 350F for 2.5 hours

Makes 2 servings

The result was tasty but a little too oily. The lamb shanks were tender & flavorful thanks to the pockets of herb butter. While we certainly enjoyed the animal protein, the vegetables on the bottom were even more delicious. The onion & leek were extremely tender & sweet, & the carrots were not the least bit crunchy or grassy...just the way I like them. We ate the dish with rice (poor planning) but it would also go well with rice pilaf, creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, or even mashed cauliflower!

Friday, December 27, 2013

What the Food?!? - Grāpple Apples

The other day, Russell brought home something that has inspired me to start a new blog topic to celebrate all food & food-like products that should not exist; at least not in my own opinion (or diet). I have decided to title this topic "What the Food?!?"...or WTF?!?

To start off this new category, let me introduce you to the Grāpple. Pronounced "grape-l," not "gr-apple."

As the name suggests, this fruit is a combination of an apple & grapes. It is not a genetically engineered/modified hybrid fruit. According to the manufacturer, a Grāpple is a Fuji or Gala apple that has been given the flavor of concord grapes via a "bath" of artificial flavoring agents & water. And since the actual composition of the apple is not changed, the nutritional value of a Grāpple is the same as the unaltered apple it is made from.

A package of 4 Grāpples sells for $3.99 @ my local produce market. The price is not exactly expensive as the same amount (in weight) of Fuji apple is $3.61 and the same amount (in weight) of Gala apple is $2.70.

When Russell brought the package home, my first impression was being taken aback by a overwhelming, artificial fragrance. It reminded me of cheap grape-flavored candy...even worse than grape-flavored cough syrup!! On appearance, all 4 apples had some sort of defect such as bruising or rotten spots. When I took my first bite, the flavor of the fruit was not grape'y as promised on the package. The texture of the apple was OK but it wasn't any different from a normal Gala apple. It took a lot of effort to ignore the grape'y smell but once I was able to do it, I realized the apple itself wasn't even sweet to begin with.

I don't understand why a Grāpple exists!!  Apples & grapes are tasty, nutritious snacks by themselves & they really don't need to be messed with!!  For me, I will continue to eat my apples & grapes separately. The food industry is constantly coming up with novel products to attract the attention of today's consumers; but the Grāpple?? No.

Monday, July 29, 2013

From the Oven - Chocolate Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

The week before my GRE there was some serious cramming.  I was doing practice problems during my lunch break @ work; I was studying on the bus; & for a couple of nights, I would do practice tests...often starting at 9pm & finishing at 11:30pm.

Since I couldn't go to sleep immediately after all that studying, I found myself watching episodes of DC Cupcakes on the tiny screen of my iPhone.  I have always loved cupcakes & - before it closed - my absolutely favorite cupcakery is Everything Frosted in New York's Chinatown.  But as much as I love eating cupcakes, I have never tried to make them; I think the frosting scared me away.  Watching all those episodes of DC Cupcakes really inspired me & with the GRE now officially in my rearview mirror, it's time to give it a whirl.

Not your average cupcake recipe, but the frosting is pretty standard...
   For the chocolate'y cupcakes
      0.3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      0.5 teaspoon baking soda
      0.5 cup boiling water
      0.25 cup unsalted butter, melted
      0.15 cup vegetable (or neutral) oil
      1 cup granulated sugar
      0.75 teaspoon vanilla extract
      0.5 teaspoon salt
      1 egg + 1 egg yolk
      0.25 cup heavy cream
      1 cup all-purpose flour
   For the farm fresh frosting
      1 cup unsalted butter, softened
      2 pints fresh raspberries
      0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
      Pinch of salt
      2 cups powdered sugar (more/less depending on the desired consistency)

Now to put it all together...
     Whisk together the cocoa powder & the baking soda in a heat proof bowl
     Add the cocoa powder mixture to the boiling water & stir until the bubbling subsides
     In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, & salt
     Add the egg & egg yolk 1 @ a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition
     Add in the chocolate mixture & blend until fulling incorporated
     Add in the heavy cream, blend, & then slowly stir in the flour
     Evenly portion the batter into a lined cupcake pan (~ 2/3 full)
     Bake at 350F for 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
     Once baked, remove cupcakes from the pan & let cool completely on a wire rack
     In a small sauce pan, cook down the raspberries
     Strain raspberries through a fine-mesh sieve & return liquid to the stove; reduce until thick
     Once the raspberry liquid has reduced to about 0.5 cup, let cool for 15 minutes
     In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter, vanilla, salt,  & raspberry sauce
     Cream the ingredients with an electric mixture until well combined
     Add in powdered sugar 0.5 cup at a time until the proper consistency is reached
     Put frosting into a piping bag & decorate cupcakes as desired

Makes 12 cupcakes

Separately, the cake was moist although the edges were slightly dry. The frosting tasted great but it wasn't very fluffy because I was afraid to add too much powdered was so sweet already.  Together, however, the chocolate flavor pretty much covered up the raspberry entirely; maybe additional sugar in the frosting would have helped?  If I am being honest, I did a horrendous job frosting the cupcakes.  My original intention was to do a simple swirl but the piping bag tip I have is way too small & so I had to go around & around the cupcake...thus creating what kind of looks like a pile of turd!  I am not trying to be gross since this is a food blog but look @ the picture & tell me I'm wrong.

All in all, I would say this 1st attempt was a semi-success.  Next on the list are a Nutella cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting & an angle food cupcake with strawberry whipped cream frosting.  But before I start on these next attempts I am going to spend some time learning how to properly make frosting & how to properly frost cupcakes.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Playing with My Food - Cling Wrap Poached Egg

Our cat has a strict routine.  Every morning @ approximately 5:56am Sheldon would reach his claws under the blankets & "play tag" with my toes.  After being threatened to get kicked off (literally) the bed a couple of times,  Sheldon would proceed up to my pillow where he'd settle down comfortably next to my head & begin to munch on my scalp/hair.  On a work day my alarm goes off @ 6:00am so it's not usually such a big deal; but on the weekends when I don't have an alarm, it's really annoying.  So what does Sheldon's morning ritual have to do with what I'm writing about?  I'm getting to it.

This past Saturday morning Sheldon gave me the usual morning call & after giving him breakfast, I was desperately trying to fall back asleep.  You see, it was GRE day & for me, standardized testing and sleep deprivation just don't mix.  One tried & true way to get me to quickly fall asleep is to have me watch a show - any show - while in a comfy position (e.g. in bed).  So I picked up my phone, opened up Netflix, & began browsing for something to watch.  As I scrolled, I stumbled upon a PBS show called The Mind of a Chef featuring chef David Chang of the Momofuku empire. Did I mention the show is produced by Anthony Bourdain?  Anyway, the plan was to watch this show for 10-20 minutes, fall asleep, & go on with my day.  I finished the first episode (~20 minutes); then I watched the second episode; then I woke Russell up & we watched the 3rd episode; then we got out of bed & watched more episodes until it was time for me to leave to take the GRE. To say I was hooked on the show is a little bit of an understatement.

The GRE went well enough & the rest of Saturday passed with Russell & I stuffing our faces with oysters before heading home to watch more episodes of Mind of a Chef.  This pattern of "obsessive viewing" continued for parts of Sunday when all of a sudden Russell decided he was going to try out one of the cooking techniques featured in the show; the one where David Chang poaches eggs in little packets made of cling wrap.

The process is simple...
     Put a good-sized piece of cling wrap over a small bowl or ramekin
     Spray the cling wrap with a little bit of non-stick spray & sprinkle on some salt & pepper
     Crack the egg into the cling wrap & bring up the sides, making sure to remove all the free air
     Take a piece of string or a strip of cling wrap& tie off the packet.
     Place the packet into barely boiling water & let it cook for 4 minutes
     Careful unwrap the packet & remove the cling wrap from the egg

When we unveiled the egg it looked a lot like a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese but once we cut into it, the gooey yolk started to run out just like a regular poached egg.  According to other recipes for cling wrap poached egg, you can use any kind of oil & seasoning to flavor the egg before it is cooked.  This technique for poaching eggs is so quick & simple compared to the traditional methods of making a vortex or adding vinegar to the water.  Before I knew about this technique, my eggs would either get stuck at the bottom of the pot or half of the egg white would float off in little chunks.

Later on in the show chef Wylie Dufresne (wd~50) demonstrates his interpretation of Eggs Benedict & he remarks that Eggs Benedict is a dish made with eggs topped with more eggs (Hollandaise sauce is made with egg yolks).  This was a total lightbulb moment for me!  It's so obvious I can't believe I had never seen it like that before.  I repeated this statement to Russell & he said the idea of egg-on-egg is too "gratuitous." To simply matters, we came up with a brilliant idea: to replace the egg yolk with Hollandaise sauce.  Now we just have to experiment until we can get it done.