Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh Shit I Have Moved!

Howdy, friend. I've pulled up stakes and moved the homestead to my own spot, Voodoo & Sauce. Join me, won't you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sesame-crusted seared albacore with maitake, asparagus and soba

I made this during a warm spell we had a week ago. It was the kind of weather we ought to be having right now, but Mother Nature is being a bit of a premenstrual dysphoric bitch right now, dumping buckets of rain and unseasonally cool weather our way. Don't get me wrong, I'm from Portland, and am a dyed-in-the-wool Great Northwest kind of girl. But when I see tender tomato sprouts getting mowed down by gastropods and can't throw my windows open in the middle of May, I get a little bitter.

Nonetheless, New Seasons had gorgeous albacore loins, and the usual supply of feathery maitake mushroom clusters, and the asparagus was looking just as plump and green as all get out. I'm such a slave to this succubine vernality. I had some soba and other Japanese things at home already, so dinner was an easy idea away.

I rubbed the tuna loin in sesame oil and then rolled it in black sesame seeds. I seared it lightly on all sides while I got some dressing going: a good, fat tablespoon of grated ginger, a little finely sliced scallion; a drib each of mirin, rice vinegar and sesame oil; and a nice splash of tamari and shoyu (you can use Chinese soy sauce but for seasoning rare tuna I think it's worth going a little nicer with a good Japanese brand like Takumi, and save the dark stuff for porky noodles).

Pull the loin from the hot pan and break up and stir-fry the maitake until they're slightly softened, then toss in the asparagus (chopped into bite-sized pieces). Sprinkle in some sesame seeds and then dump in some cooked soba. Stir around a bit then add the dressing, then plate. Slice the albacore into thick medallions, top the noodles and sprinkle on some furikake (I just like a little seaweed, sesame and chile on everything).

Serve with a cold Morimoto Soba Ale (seriously, I can't drink enough of this these days) and dreams of sunnier climes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Animal Style

I recently lucked into some free beef, and I didn't even have to buy any tires. My old friend, mentor and high school geology teacher Dick Pugh (yeah, yeah, "what a name," but he's like 80 so shut the fuck up) was coming over to my house for dinner a few weeks ago, and "do you want some beef," he asked. Knowing that he raises Scottish Highland cattle, possibly the cutest of all meats, I vehemently accepted his offer. It's not every day you get free meat, especially not grass-fed (and finished) beef that was raised as a pet. All of his cattle get the sweetheart treatment and are only put down at the end of their natural lives.

He brought us some steak of various cuts and some ground round, and into the freezer it went. I pulled a pound of ground out of the freezer, but by the time it was thawed I hadn't come up with any clever ideas for dinner. I wanted to do the creature justice, but ground beef only has a few applications, and I was sick of eating Spag Bol. I had some pretty nice grainy hamburger buns, but nothing to put on a burger but cheese and iceberg. So even though we don't live in California, I decided we were having In-N-Out for dinner.

In-N-Out is famous for having secret ways to order your food. My favorite way of a burger there is Animal Style - that's with grilled onions, melted cheese and chunky thousand island-type dressing called "spread" (which is what happens to your ass when you eat too much of this shit). Lettuce is also a must, and iceberg is canon for fast food-style burgers. [Editor's Note: It was just brought to my attention that this is incorrect. Animal Style means the patty was cooked with mustard and comes with pickles and extra spread. I was thinking of the toppings on Animal Style Fries, but on the burger. Serious Eats made this same mistake and they won a fucking James Beard Award for best blog, so save your fist-shaking.]

Divide the pound of beef into two - yes two - patties. What are you gonna do with a half pound of ground beef in your fridge? Make a tiny amount of meat sauce? Just stop kidding yourself and use it all up now. I add only salt and pepper to the meat (the only integrity I can muster), and smush a handful of finely minced onions into the top of each patty.

Let the patties sit for a few minutes and come up to room temperature. Aw, jeez, stop worrying about germs, just keep your kitchen clean and you won't have to worry about meat sitting out for a few minutes. Get your grill pan rippin' hot and delight in the high-pitched squeal your patties emit when they sear on that hot pan. You'd better not fuck with those patties until it's time to flip them. Don't you dare smash them with the spatula or make any other fool move. Just...don't. Okay, after 6 or 7 minutes or so, flip the burgers.

Meanwhile, chop up some pickles (I use Krüegermann Mixed Pickle Salad because I have a giant jar of it) and mix this with a spoonful each mayo and ketchup. This is your "spread." Finely slice some iceberg lettuce into shreds. This is your "serving of vegetables."

After the burger cooked on the other side for 6 or 7 minutes, flip it again, turn off the heat, and top your patty with sliced cheese. Normally, I would vote for American for a burger like this, but we only had Havarti (besides, my hippie whole-grain buns ruined everything so I may as well run with it). Put your buns (cut-side down) on the still-hot pan to get toasty and to soak up some of that onion-y fond and grease. Apply a thick shmear of spread to each side of the toasty bun, then add the burger and a handful of iceberg shreds.

Serve with fries and an ice-cold cola (duh).

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pulled pork tacos

Yes, delicious pork tacos. But first, indulge me for a minute while I embark on some quick link-dropping and tangent-going, and don't you dare pull a tl;dr on me. I never write any more. You'll get to the photos soon enough.

So I was reading Peter's blog (which I actually still do, Peter, even though I'm too busy saving myself from tendonitis to comment from my iPhone) and found out about Ruhlman's stance that "suck it, you all have plenty of time to cook. And what."

To borrow a phrase, I call bullshit. Now, granted, I am currently fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom (err, a work from home mom), so in theory I have plenty of time to loll around the kitchen for long, slow braises and staggeringly articulate yeast-risings - more time, in fact, than when Scott and I were a couple of blithe DINKs with weekends to burn.

To that I say, "you've gotta be fucking kidding me."

Anyways, Peter linked to a response from Married...with dinner, and at the end of Anita's pleasant diatribe, she vows to share time-saving tricks for home cooks on a weekly basis, and implores her readers to offer their own. So we can all eat like we have time to burn, when in reality, few of us have this luxury. And here we are.

Life as the recently-mated consists of a series of two-hour blocks. Two hours of napping (yay! do stuff!) are followed by two hours of attentive snuggling and neuron-firing playtime. Rinse and repeat. Two hours is still a lot of time, true, but did I mention I work from home? Plus, what if I just put something delicate in the oven, then have to abandon it for maternal duties? This has happened, by the way - I had to run upstairs to nurse Zeph back into submission and had to just lay there with my tit out, listening to the oven timer beeping away for 15 minutes until Scott got home from work. The food was saved this time, barely, but I know I won't always be that lucky.

My culinarian identity has been seriously compromised for the past year or so, so as a saving throw, I have become a recent convert to pressure cooking. Yes, old timey, frighteningly sputtery and clattery pressure-cooking. I can spare enough time a couple times a month to pressure-cook poundage of beast or beans (the pressure allows the boiling temperature to exceed 212 degrees, which drastically cuts cooking time), then freeze for easy reheating at a later date. This means I can eat feijoadas from homegrown heirloom beans (dried and stored) with brisket and ham shank an hour after starting it, and again a month later in only 10 minutes. (In fact, when I cook beans these days, I only cook the whole bag and freeze the cooked legumes in 1-cup portions. This takes about 15 or 20 minutes, and saves lots of rupees, too. Canned beans are for suckers.)

So my protip of the week: get over your fear of the pressure cooker. It was good enough for grandma, it's good enough for you.

Okay, so to the tacos already.

Another lazy-evening, time-strapped, just-put-the-baby-to-bed dinner, tacos are such an easy way to deliver protein, starch and a little veg to the sleepwalking. Particularly if one is fortuitous enough to have pressure-cooked a 5lb. pork shoulder the prior evening (which, itself, took only about 45 minutes).

All I needed was to add some cumin, Mexican oregano (actually a verbena, and not even in the same botanical family as oregano) and achiote to the leftover pork shreds. Reheated pulled pork always tastes fine as long as there is plenty of delicious grease to cushion against drying.

For authenticity (and because it is Correct), tacos should contain only meat, onion and cilantro, and be served in two corn tortillas. The second tortilla is for cobbling together a spare taco from any fallen taco flotsam. Hot sauce is encouraged, and a spritz of lime livens everything up.

Serve with an ice-cold Negro Modelo and radishes for coolness.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Japadog meets K-pop

A nice couple weeks, it's been. Lovely weather, lots of delicious cooking, but nothing really noteworthy that I can think of. I guess I could show you the nettle risotto I made, but I've already blogged that (though this time I made it with ham instead of lemony chicken or artichokes or somesuch). Besides, everyone blogs risotto-y things this time of year. Steaks with roasted tomato mac and chee is also all well and good, but not anything new.

The weather has been so nice that I've been in the garden nearly every free minute. Free minutes, though, are relatively rare these days, as Zeph fussily teethes and his naps have become somewhat longevity-challenged. Therefore, I'm a little ashamed to admit that we eat the odd hot dog and tots dinner (washed down by either root beer or beer beer). And since I still have that pile of Korean pickled things staring me down every time I open the fridge (but no pickle relish or sauerkraut, oddly), I figured, why not make some Korean relish? It'll be kinda like those Japadogs Scott and I had in Vancouver that one time. Besides, if people go nuts over those bulgogi tacos why can't I bastardize someone's culture with a hot dog?

I coarsely chopped doraji (that spicy balloonflower root) and oijangajji (those spicy cukes) and added a little furikake for some seaweed and sesame kick. Relish done. And for the coup de grâce, I made my new favorite condiment: gochujang mayo. I got the idea from Japadog's Misomayo, but since I was going Korean with this I used gochujang instead. I did also add a little shiro miso for sweetness, and smeared on thick, this is the best hot dog I've eaten in memory. The hot dog was a Nathan's 100% beef (like we care!), but I wouldn't kick a kurobuta frank outta bed either. Daikon sprouts woulda been lovely, too, but I didn't miss them too badly as I shoveled this into my maw while standing over the kitchen sink. Manidŭseyo!

Serve with a crispy wheat beer (I really like Rogue's Morimoto Soba Ale these days) and rice crackers.