Category Archives: FoodBlogging

Daeji Bulgogi

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I made something fairly close to Daeji Bulgogi (spicy Korean barbecue pork) for dinner today. I’ve been trying to figure out how to approximate Korean Barbecue for a while, and the current arrangement is pretty close. It’s made from very thin slices of pork briefly marinated in roughly equal parts brown sugar and Guilin chili sauce, about half as much each crushed garlic and rice vinegar, a splash of sesame oil, and enough shoyu to get it into a suitable marinade consistency. Cooked in oil in a HOT cast iron pan to try for nice searing, with a thinly sliced onion added about half way through cooking to get caramelization. It is very tasty, and has that excellent sweet heat to it, but lacks a little bit of the upfront intensity (both hot and sweet) from what I’ve had in restaurants. A-, Would Nom Again.

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Chicken … Alfredo?

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I’m always at a little of a loss as for what to call this kind of white sauce; in the classical (French) nomenclature it’s most closely related to Mornay Sauce (basically, Béchamel with cheese and other flavorings), but most Americans will immediately identify it as Alfredo, even though that shouldn’t be thickened with a starch.

The dish is layered from farfalle, chopped cooked spinach, the aforementioned white sauce, and pieces of chicken.

This batch of sauce is a simple flour/butter white roux, whole milk, grated Parmesan (and a dash of Kroger “Italian Blend” because it’s good for texture) Cheese, seasoned with nutmeg (seriously, always put nutmeg in Alfredo-type sauces, they won’t taste right otherwise), roasted garlic, and red pepper flakes.

The chicken is sliced before cooking in a very hot, very heavy pan with garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in olive oil. The high temperature and large heat capacity are a must to get the nice color and texture.

The topping is micro-planed Parmesan and red pepper flakes.

I’m honestly more pleased with how it looked than how it tasted; it wasn’t bad, but it plated up really nicely, and the sauce was far more mild than I intended. Cheese sauces will STAND UP to whatever you throw at them; I always underestimate that fact when I haven’t made one in a while and mistakenly treat them as delicate.

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Asian Salmon

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I was in the mood for something light and asian after eating mostly southern deep-fried things today. Dinner was edamame, baked salmon, white rice, and a dipping sauce made from rice vinegar, shoyu, fresh grated ginger, garlic, pepper flakes, brown sugar, and a splash of sesame oil. Traditionally I think the fish and edamame would have been steamed over the cooking rice, but I was using frozen edamame, and didn’t feel like scrubbing stuck salmon out of the steamer basket, so the edamame was zapped, and the salmon was baked on a foil-lined tray in the toaster oven.

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Beef and Broccoli

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This is sort of the simplest expression of halfassed asian food, and it looks reasonably distinguished for how simple and easy it is. One of those things that is nice to make when I’m not feeling any particular inclination toward any variety of food, but need to cook and eat something. This particular batch had a little problem, in that I forgot to add any garlic until it was done. I just fried some garlic in oil (mostly “vegetable” oil (which is mostly soybean), with a little sesame for smokiness) with a dash of shoyu and topped with it to fix, and it turned out edible.

Because it is such a simple, ubiquitous dish, I tend to use it for judging asian restaurants. It is almost as easy to make nasty as it is to make, and shows technique and ingredient quality clearly because of its simplicity.

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Glazed Salmon

In classier news, snooty food:
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I came across some unusually cheap (and mediocre quality) frozen salmon last weekend, and put it to good use making one of my favorite fish dishes. The samlon is coated in a glaze of brown sugar, shoyu, a little lime juice, and some freshly grated ginger (which can be made lazily in a bowl in the microwave) then broiled unitl flaky, re-basting every few minutes. You can do the broiling in a foil-lined tray in a toaster oven, so the burnt sugary mess can be rolled up and thrown out, and is contained in a small area even if some does get loose.
The white long grain rice and steamed sugar snap peas should be self explanatory.

Very easy, and quite tasty.

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Coffee Paraphernalia

Espresso is unfortunately one of those holy grail hobbies. Once you start making your own, you will forever be trying to make “The Shot;” a perfect, sweet, rich, tiger-striped shot of coffee that manages to be life affirming in only 1.5 ounces. I once managed to get a near-perfect shot out of a former housemate’s comparable setup on a fluke, and it got me hooked. In that interest I just picked up a conical burr grinder, which is the last piece of coffee paraphernalia required for a proper coffee-dork setup. This brings my coffee paraphernalia up to a little over $300, for the following:
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Pictured:
Lello Ariete 1375 Espresso Machine – Not a great machine by any stretch of the imagination, but very nice for $200. It has a chromed brass portafilter, mostly metallic construction, a thermoblock heater, and a pump that can (at least in theory) generate 15 bars of pressure. I still can’t get a perfect shot out of it (barely 20 second extractions, and they start to show some bitterness at even that), but it has only had one (easily cleared) failure in 10 months of use, and even my sleep-addled brain can get a shot better than what Starbucks serves out of it every morning. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get longer, more consistent shots by adjusting the grind now that I can get instant feedback on small batches. My only complaints on the machine are related to the steamer wand sometimes being a little slow to pick up (sprays hot water before steaming, but works very well with good technique once it gets going), the system dripping out the portafilter after the machine has been used, and the drip tray corroding easily and/or not catching liquid from internal venting.

* New Addition: Jura Capresso Infinity 560 Conical Burr Grinder – I used to not believe in the “good grinder is as important as a good machine” mantra, but after fiddling with some friend’s grinders in the past, and noticing tangible degradation of shot quality over the course of a pound of ground coffee, I’m now a believer. I’ve only put a couple ounces of coffee through the new grinder, and only at one setting, but it made nice, even, cool grounds, with virtually no flaking. The only things I’m not terribly pleased with are the cleaning procedure between different beans (it retains a lot of grounds inside the workings), and the amount of static it generates in the catch basket. My sentiments seem to be matched in other reviews as well.

* RSVP Terry Tamper – A perfectly usable, well regarded metal tamper, way, way, way better than the horrible scoop-end plastic ones. Mine had some nasty cast lines, which I have ground off the edges of 49mm end with hand files; it still sometimes pushes some grounds over the edge of the basket, but its a lot cheaper than equally regarded alternatives, and I’m sure I’ll eventually get it stoned smooth.

* Bodum Pavina 2oz glasses – These things are way more expensive than necessary, but they are so cool. Double walled, single blown glass, so the contents look like a 3-d parabola floating in space. One of mine has a hairline crack from “rough handling” in the dish rack, but I’ve been continuing to use it anyway, and it doesn’t seem to be spreading.

* Some unremarkable small steel frothing pitcher, and the included measuring scoops, cleaning brushes, etc. from the various components.

The Bodum French Press in the picture belongs to one of the housemates; we also have a drip maker tucked away somewhere, but it didn’t get used enough to justify its counter space with the better options on hand. The sharp eyed caffeine junkie will also spot an ingenuitea in the picture; that corner has become our little altar to caffeination.

All told, my setup costs less than a typical “nice” espresso machine (this is just a hair over minimum cost of entry for real espresso setups, they head off toward infinity at an alarming rate), and, with good technique, is capable of producing drinks at least on par with most of the local coffee houses, so it is a success.

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Chicken Tikka Whatever I have in the Kitchen

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I had a really good “I don’t want anything I have around, and don’t want to go to the store” off-the-cuff cooking experience earlier tonight, for a dish roughly like Chicken Tikka Masala that I’ll be calling Chicken Tikka Whatever I have in the Kitchen.
“Chicken Tikka Masala” is apparently literally “Small cooked pieces of chicken in spice sauce,” (and is not actually Indian in origin) and there is an oft-quoted (but rather difficult to actually obtain) survey from “The Real Curry Restaurant Guide” in 1998 that found from 48 restaurant recipes for chicken tikka masala, the lone mutual ingredient was… chicken. I would just call it that, but I tend to think of something a little smoother and creamier, like what Kashmir served before it was replaced by Punjab II and their suck.
For a change from my usual habit of not including recipes in my food posts (because there aren’t any to give), I tried to write down what I did for this one:
All measurements totally eyeballed offhand, and really based on rough ratios, not volumes. The volumes on the ginger are especially sketchy because it was grated frozen, so the listed values are less than fluffy frozen grated, and more than paste. Use this as a rough technique idea, not something to be followed in detail.

Ingredients:
2-ish boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion
1/2 can crushed tomato
1/2 cup milk
1-2tsp arrowroot powder (thickener, use whichever you prefer)

Spices:
Ground Coriander
Garam Masala (prepared powder)
Garlic (bottled, chopped)
Grated fresh ginger
Cardamom pods
Tsien tsen (or similar) chili (dried)
Paprika

Prep:
Chop chicken into small cubes, loosely dice onion, finely grate enough ginger to supply the below. Crush 2 of the cardamom pods and one hot pepper.

Cooking:
In pan 1 (heavy pan): mix 1-2tsb garam masala, one crushed pepper, 1-2 crushed cardamom pods, 1tsp coriander, 2-3 Tbsp garlic, 1-2 Tbsp grated ginger with 1-3 Tbsp oil (enough to wet everything)
In pan 2 (wok/deep pan): mix 1-2tsp garam masala, 3-4 whole cardamom pods, 1-2tsp coriander, 1-2tsp paprika, 2-3 Tbsp garlic, 2 Tbsp ginger with 1-3 Tbsp oil (enough to wet everything)
Turn pan 1 on med-high heat, pan 2 on med; heat until spices are extracting into oil (just prior/beginning to smoke)
Douse chicken with 2tbsp lemon juice, add to pan 1. Add onion to pan 2.
Cook chicken until ready to eat, and reserve. Ideally it should pick up some smoky flavor from the spices overheating at the beginning and after running dry at the end, but mostly cook moist. Add a little liquid to make it happen if needed.
Cook Onion until soft, add crushed tomato, cook covered until texture starts to disappear.
While the cooking is going on, mix 1-2tsp of arrowroot and 1/2 cup of milk in a little container and shake until mixed.
Add the prepared chicken to the sauce, and stir until mixed. Add milk+arrowroot mixture, then reduce heat and stir while the thickener sets. Serve over basmati rice.
Watch for cardamom pods while devouring, they will ruin a bite if you demolish one at an inopportune time.

There are a couple of tweaks that already occur to me; For the sauce, if I weren’t too lazy to do it, pulling out the cardamom and running the mixture through a food processor/blender after cooking but before adding the chicken would probably make a better texture. Using cream (which I don’t keep on hand) instead of whole milk (which I do) would also improve the sauce. For the chicken, coating it in yogurt (and possibly some of the dry spices, or a little premixed tandoori spice) along with the lemon juice before cooking would improve it in almost every way, but again, I don’t always have plain yogurt on hand.
Those avenues for improvement aside, it was surprisingly delicious for a first pass recipe, and despite it having more tomato than I should really eat in it, I’ll probably play with it again.

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Chili and Cornbread

The weather in Lexington SUCKS right now; the temperatures have been in the teens, there is snow, but not quite enough snow to be really fun, and its been kind of dreary, so I wanted something warm and heavy.

Because I spent most of the day at the TA orientation, I didn’t have a whole lot of time and energy for feeding, so I made classic southern winter food; a pot of chili (the halfassed kind from mostly canned ingredients and ground beef), and a pan of cornbread. The batch of chili is kind of mediocre, I overdid the oregano and got impatient and pulled it off simmer too soon, but the cornbread (which is barely modified from the recipe on the back of the cornmeal package) is excellent.
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Sometimes its nice to just have a classic.

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Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant

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Portland has a reputation for good food, and, despite the fact we ate a lot of conference provided food and nasty (but reliably non-poisonous) chain restaurant fare, I got a couple notably good meals in while there. I had nice pho one day for lunch with a friend who now lives in Portland which was good, but not worthy of transcontinental lust. Dinner on the last day however, is fully worthy. On the recommendation of one of my advisor’s former students who lives in the area, we went to Marrakesh. Marrakesh has great ambiance, with low tables and cushions, low lights, rugs, no utensils, and belly dancers roaming the floor. They also have the best Moroccan food I’ve ever had, and I’m quite found of food from the former Persian empire. 5 courses (Lentil Soup, salads, B’stilla, an entrée, and dessert with Moroccan tea)for under $20 a head. Just spectacular, and perfect for putting us all in a comfortable coma for the less than comfortable (full flight + frontal weather = suck) red-eye back across the country. Highly recommended for anyone who gets the chance.

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Pork Medallions with Herb Fried Potatoes

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Pork Medallions (cut from a tenderloin), and potato cubes, rubbed with kosher salt, ground black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, then pan (or actually, wok) fried (separately) at high temperature so everything gets a nice crust on it. Eaten with salad so there is SOMETHING in the meal that isn’t deliciously oil saturated.

I want to figure out some kind of sauce to add a little moisture to the affair, but I couldn’t come up with anything suitable this time. It seems like a sour cream base with something vegetable-y (parsley?) would be good, but I haven’t quite worked it out.

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