Thursday, February 25, 2010

The other KFC!

After seeing some really great looking recipes from DC Tasting Table, I decided to embark on my own adventure to try to master the sweet, sticky and spicy. It was also a good way for me to use my wok for the Serious Eats Weekend Cook and Tell.

Some pre-Superbowl reading led me to attempt steaming the wings first for super juicy chicken. 

I used a batter recipe from Viet World Kitchen. I haven't had too much success with battering and frying before, but this seemed to work out pretty well!

Big wok-ful of oil on medium high. Carefully sliding the steamed and battered chicken into the oil, turning after a few minutes to crisp the other side.

The sauce has a gochuchang base, then mixed with honey, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar and a little hot water. Arrange the chicken in a pie pan or 9x13 pan and brush the sauce. Bake at 350 while the others are frying. Turn after 5-7 mins, paint the other side with the sauce.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions. 

Then say, NOM! :) Korean sweet, sticky, spicy goodness. The steaming was perfect - the chicken was tender and juicy, and the wok was a perfect place to fry up crispy outsides that soaked up the sauce perfectly. 
Dreaming? of my weekend off from cooking at Disney!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Carbonara and popcorn

After that last post, I was feeling a little nostalgic about cooking, so for dinner Monday I made carbonara. 

When I moved out of the dorms after my freshman year, I had my very own kitchen for the first time. I was just getting into cooking, and suddenly I had my own little workshop. Carbonara was one of the first dishes I learned to make. I had never had it before, but read about it in an interview with Rachael Ray.

She talked about carbonara being the dish that her husband fell in love with her over. I think, at the time, I had hoped this dish could have a similar effect for me. It might or might not have, but Jake is definitely another huge reason I cook - so we can enjoy some really fun meals. (Though I strongly suspect if asked, he'd say tteok-bogi is like carbonara for us)

I still follow RR's recipe, almost exactly to a T (I add an extra egg yolk and about 1/3 c boiling water to temper the eggs), and love it every time. 

My other recent food adventure was trying to pop my own popcorn. For this, I followed Michael Ruhlman's recipe and technique.  I had mixed results - my first pan was far too large, and so didn't heat properly, and half the popcorn burned. I used a smaller pot the second time, and had beautiful, buttery salt delight in no time.

Dreaming? Of my "spring break" trip this weekend - I'm headed down to Disney World to visit a friend from high school for a long weekend! Excited to spend 2 full days outside, walking and being WARM!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why I cook

A great blogger/food author I follow on Twitter, Michael Ruhlman, has inspired a flurry of posts about why folks cook, so here's mine.

Why do I cook? (thought it's really more, why am I learning to cook - have only been at it 5 or 6 years, really 2 or 3 seriously)
  • First and foremost, I absolutely love food. I love delicious food, spicy food, savoury food, and sweets. 
  • Not to knock my parents, but they have a much milder palate than I do. By 14 or 15, I was craving full-bodied flavors that went beyond the normal repertoire in our house.
  • After spending a summer in Korea and working part-time in the kitchen of an unwed birth mothers' home, I now frequently cook Korean food. I'm adopted - so there aren't a lot of aspects of my life that are "legit" Korean, but I consider food to be one of them. Cooking, and learning to cook Korean (which, oddly has mostly taken place via the Internet -- there are fantastic Korean cooking video blogs out there), is a way for me to stay connected with a heritage I might not otherwise have. 
  • My parents were never big "processed foods" types. I didn't experience Mac and Cheese out of a box until I was probably 10 or 11. I didn't even know mashed potaotes CAME in a box until a year or two after that. This continues to be the case - I make my own pasta sauce, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, taco seasoning - among other things. I try to rely on fresh foods and more importantly, real foods. 
  • I'm poor. Cooking at home means I can pack a lunch 5 days a week -- without relying on PBJ sandwiches and potato chips (which, I'm not really a huge fan of anyway, much less than every day!). In high school, I worked a lot over the dinner hour and quickly tired of relying on drive through BK or a Subway run, so started getting creative with the leftovers in my parents' house. 
  • Cooking is also very social. I think some people have this horrendous, out-of-date image of housewives slaving away in the kitchen -- ALONE. For me, cooking is about sharing food with the people you love, and learning and exploring new meals together. 
So, when I look back over the past two years or so, there have been really dramatic changes in the way I eat, because of the way I cook. My cooking style ranges week to week - sometimes I'll try something that approaches the level of gourmet and fancy, other times we eat fajitas and bulgogi most of the week. I like to make dishes that are unexpected - like red velvet cupcakes, carbonara or a Korean dish -- and share them with friends who might not have otherwise tried them. And I am SO thankful for the Internet for providing me with the resources to learn to cook.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My kitchen wishlist

One month later, I'm all moved into a great new place, my new kitchen is set up, and I've been cooking like mad.

I haven't been spending as much time perusing the websites of William Sonoma or Crate and Barrel, because, well, I'm pretty much set! (sidenote: this was NOT necessarily the case during #snomageddon when I was literally running out of things to do)

But, the past week or so, I've noticed there *are* a few things I could do with.

So, here it is, my new Kitchen Wishlist:

  • apron -- I keep cooking in old T shirts, all of which are now stained or oil splattered. It's becoming a nuisance, and wish I had an apron or two for clothing protection. Needs to be of durable material, so stains won't soak throw, and dark colors, so it doesn't get ruined the first time I use it. 
  • Large, wide bowls. With the amount of mul naeng myun, and now pho, I eat at home, I need to stop eating of my mixing bowls (which, is too narrow, and I end up making a huge mess). I had some great ones (OK, they were plastic, but at least the correct shape) at my last place, from the dollar store, but I think they got thrown out. 
  • Kitchen timer - I bought a $7 one at Target, and surprise surprise, it broke after about a week. Because my oven isn't that accurate, I just keep a close watch on things anyway, but it would be nice to know HOW LONG things have been cooking for.
  • Sugar bowl - I love the tupperware set I have for storing flours, sugar and salt, but there is something that says to me "this is a home" when sugar can be stored in a beautiful little jar or bowl. My mother has a very distinct one, my grandmother has a very distinct one -- it's just something that feels important. And would be convenient. :) 
  • Tiles - I recently saw a post about using simple tiles as a pizza stone and to moderate heat in your oven. My oven is notoriously bad for having even heating (as proved Sunday with burnt outsides and wobbly insides on my first attempt at pound cake). The concept of having an accurate and evenly heated oven sounds wonderful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lunar New Year

Happy Year of the Tiger to all! 새해 복 많이 받으세요 

On the lunar new year, or 설날 (seollal) Koreans allegedly start the day with a big bowl of tteok guk - or rice cake soup. 

For me, it was just a good excuse to whip up this simple, tasty favorite. 

A simple broth is brought to a boil (I used about 1 1/2 c of my pho beef stock with about 1 c of water).

Then add sliced tteok (Korean rice cakes). I only had tteok-bogi tteok in the house, but they do make pre-sliced soup-style tteok.

The thinly sliced beef is optional, but I find it rather tasty. You can also add a small bunch of sweet potato (jap chae) noodles if you like.

Also chop up a scallion or two. Season the broth with 2 TBS soy sauce, 1 TBS sesame oil.

Pour 1 beaten egg over the boiling soup and wait 10 seconds, before drawing figure-8s through to create egg ribbons.

Garnish your soup with black pepper and thin strips of toasted seaweed (gim or laver)

Jake and I also had some great eats for Valentine's Day: 

Dreaming? of getting back into the gym this week! Had a lot of great eating in the last week, time to get back on track.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mmm chocolate

Anyone looking for proof that chocolate makes EVERYTHING better? 


For instance, let's say you pipe four trays of pate a choux discs, and in your attempt to keep them from burning, you open and close the oven a bunch to rotate them, and they end up looking like this: 

 Rather than this: 

So, you melt a bag of chocolate chips with a little vegetable oil, stir in some half&half and dip away:

Pop them back in the freezer, and you've got chocolate eclairs. Problem solved! 

Dreaming? of a frozen eclair with perfectly formed chocolate shells.

Snow day, part 6

Wednesday was the day I nearly cracked.

I've barely left my apartment since last Thursday. Yes. A full week from today. The only other human I've seen besides the odd passerby and the Giant cashier on Saturday has been Jake.

So, like any cabin-fevered, stir-crazy individual, I threw myself into another round of baking last night.

The result?

First, it's been a while since I used pate a choux for anything, and it's the first time I used it in my new oven. Damn thing isn't exactly reliable, so the first batch of these were a little flatter than should have been. Anyway, rather than post the step by steps, I'm trying this out:

Next came a second round of whoopie pies.

Dinner was a slight departure from pho to the Korean-ish version of pho, mul naeng myun. 

Mul naeng myun is traditionally a summer dish, served icy cold to combat those hundred degree days in Seoul. Like pho, it combines noodles, broth, meat and is seasoned to each person's own liking.

Finally, I threw together some polenta and grilled it up as a nice side dish.

RECIPE for grilled polenta:
Boil 2 c water, 1 c buttermilk, 3 TBS butter, 1 tsp salt or season salt.
Gently whisk in 1 c corn meal or polenta. Continue stirring over low heat 5-10 mins.
Pour into a round or square tin, allow to chill until firm (about 20-30 mins)
Turn out on a cutting board or plate, slice into pieces.
Heat grill pan over high heat, spray with non-stick oil and grill each piece until warmed through.
Dust with sea salt to serve.


Dreaming? of hopefully returning to work, and re-joining civilization sometime soon!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Superbowl food

Still trapped at home - our metro stop is closed through tomorrow again! Today I finished my french onion soup and baked up some toasty baguettes to serve with the soup.


The baguettes:


Our Superbowl spread: sticky wings, empanadas, homemade salsa and spinach artichoke dip. Yum!

French Onion Soup:
Half bag of onions, sliced
1 stick of butter
3 TBS flour
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
3 cans beef broth
1 can light beer (or 8 oz white wine or bourbon or whiskey)
2 tsp white pepper
swiss cheese or Gruyere for serving

Brown onions in butter (I tried to do this right in the crock pot, but they just softened. I scooped them out later and browned them up in a frying pan). Stir in flour and allow to thicken with butter. Pour in beer, allow to simmer up to 20 mins in slow cooker. Pour in beef broth and seasonings, allow to simmer 4-6 hours. Serve with crusty bread and melted cheese

1/4 oz active yeast
1 TBS sugar
1 1/4 c lukewarm water (or half milk, half water)
4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBS corn meal for dusting

Proof yeast, sugar and water 15 mins until foamy and expanded. Mix flour and salt, divide equally in 2 bowls. Mix yeast into one half, and stir until smooth batter forms. Cover and allow sponge to sit up to 30 mins until slightly expanded. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients and knead on a lightly flour surface 10 mins. Cover in an oiled bowl, allow to proof up to 1 hr in a warm place. Punch down, and knead 2-3 mins more, then form into three logs, about 12-15 inches long. Allow to rise again, up to 30 mins. Sprinkle bottoms with polenta, spritz tops with water and cut diagonal slices into top. Bake at 400 F for 10 mins, then 5 mins at 375 F or until hollow when tapped.

Sticky wings:
Bake wings (washed, patted dry, salt/pepper/drizzle olive oil) covered at 375F for 25 mins. Drain any liquids, coat with flour and return to baking pan 5 mins each side at 425. Whisk together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, honey, and oyster or fish sauce, coat wings with sauce. Return to hot oven 5 mins more to thicken sauce. Sprinkle with chopped scallions, toasted sesame seeds.

Spinach dip:
Mix equal parts plain yogurt, fat free sour cream and low fat mayo, 1/2 package frozen spinach (defrosted), handful chopped artichoke hearts, 1 tsp garlic powder (more to taste - can also use minced fresh), 1/2 tsp paprika, pepper to taste, chopped scallions (white and green parts).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Makin' whoopie (pies, that is!)

Saturday night, and we're still snowed in. The big win for today is the fact I was able to master whoopie pies! :) YUM. 

Here's how it all went down: 

First, amazingly chocolatey batter. I used this recipe from, except I found myself without buttermilk, yet again. I substituted 6 oz yogurt, 1/4 c half and half, and 1 1/2 TBS white vinegar whisked together.

I also finally found a use for the melon baller my mother slipped into my stocking a few years ago (after a conversation when I asked what on earth people would use a melon baller for. Today was the first time I've used it!) I also kept a little dish (it's a condiment dish I nicked from Applebee's a few years ago) of vegetable oil nearby, and dipped the melon baller in it after each one. This keeps the batter from sticking and generally causing a mess. It also coated the balls with oil, and gave them a nice shiny crisp.

Cooling -- this recipe made about 4 sheets of cookies.

In the mad rush that was the pre-blizzard snow storm, I forgot to grab marshmallow fluff. Giant, very bizarrely keeps this with the peanut butter and jelly, not with the baking supplies, nor with the other marshmallows. 


The recipe doesn't call for it, but I had a little cream cheese (about a two-inch piece) that I threw in, as well as an extra half stick of butter and more fluff. I also used about 2 TBS half and half to help thin it out a bit. 

In the end, they were perfect. The insides fluffy and tasting of marshmallow, the outsides soft and cakey. YUM. 


So, as you may have heard, the entire Washington Metro has effectively shut down for fear of an apocalyptic snow storm that began midday yesterday.

My car, as of about noon, Saturday. 
Photo by Jake

Yes, we have about 20 inches of snow so far. What to do? Yes, that's right... cook. I joined the throngs of foolish idiots both Thursday night AND Friday morning and braved the markets - first to HMart (this was the weekend we were supposed to go), then to Giant. As a result of NWS and other "officials" making recommendations that people should prepare for up to 5 days, they of course, began ransacking the stores, stocking up like it was Y2K all over again.

First project: Homemade pho.

I've been on a major pho kick lately, and poor Jake (who does not believe "soup is a meal") has been a good sport, and been dragged from pho house to pho house over and over again.

So, I finally decided to try my hand at making it. I used two recipes as reference texts, one from Serious Eats, and one from Viet World Kitchen (at the recommendation of one of the commenters on the Serious Eats post). I didn't exactly stick to either recipe, and had somewhat mixed results.

First, I did follow the advice of @aqnguyen and charred the onion and ginger first. I'm not sure if this really helped for the ginger, but it sure smelled nice. Additionally, since I do not have a large 12-quart stock pot, I tried to use two small stock pots. But, I'm not sure I had enough bones, onions or ginger for this. My stock, after the initial 2-3 hours, was a bit watery.

The onions and garlic got added to 4 lbs of beef soup bones (as they were labeled at the HMart. Fairly cheap, not a bad buy. And the tendon meat that fell off these was out of this world) and a bunch of spices. Star anise, cinnamon, cloves, white pepper (my addition), crushed garlic cloves - skin still on, and fish sauce (I accidentally bought oyster sauce and substituted). I also had a half bunch of cilantro leftover from tacos, which I split, and tossed into each pot. I split these ingredients among the pots and covered each with water. After 3 hours, I tasted and, although my house smelled amazing, the broth was disappointingly watery.

The stock went back on for another two or so hours. I tried keeping the pots uncovered and at a high boil, in attempt to boil down the stock, and intensify the existing flavors. I also added some salt, and more oyster sauce. I tried transferring most of the bones and seasonings into one pot, to try and intensify the flavors, while allowing the other pot to boil down even further.

Finally, it tasted delicious. I pulled as much tendon and soft meat from the bones as I could. Loaded up my bowl with noodles, raw slices, the tendon...

Then ladled in the boiling broth, bean sprouts, cilantro, pepper slices and lime juice. YUM.

Was it perfect? Of course not. My broth is way darker than it's supposed to be. I strained it many many times, but I know there's still some stuff (broken bits of cinnamon stick, mostly) floating around. 
Was it delicious? Of course!! And it's amazing to have a big bowl of pho waiting for me at any time! I think if I were to make it again, I'd probably buy the soup bones, and boil them storebought stock (there's a good one I get for mul naengmyun that I like) with the spices in a satchet -- but probably not start entirely from scratch again. It took too long, and was kind of a pain! 

Dreaming? of a magically clean kitchen, so I can get to my next snOMG/snoMAGGEDON cooking adventure!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Inspired by a post on Serious Eats today, I tried my hand at empanadas tonight. The recipe for the crust was quick and easy, and turned out to be the most impressive flaky pastry I've tried. 

The filling on SE was a bit less my style, however, as I don't eat raisins OR olives, so I put together a beef-corn-beans-cheese concoction that was equally yummy.

The dough, after scraping it out of the food processor. It's cream cheese based, and smells great. Knead it gently, wrap it up and chill for 30+ mins. I made the filling (ground beef, chopped onions, cilantro, homemade taco seasoning -- salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin -- corn, black beans, 2 c of cheese, 2 oz cream cheese) in a large skillet. We have a TON leftover.

When the dough comes out, fold it into a log, and slice into 10 even parts. Roll out about 4-5 inches in diameter. Fill with about 1/4 c taco mix, wet the edges, and fold over to seal. Press the edges down with a fork.

Some recipes call for baking, others call for frying the empanadas. I filled the baking sheet with ones for baking, then fried the last four. I also found the first two I made were too big, and the dough too thin. The warmth of the filling started to melt the dough (see the top two below). Brush with egg wash, prick with a fork to allow steam to escape. 20 mins @350F

While the first batch are in the oven, I heated a frying pan with oil and fried up the last four.

The result was a delicious meal with tons of leftovers! The fried ones, as expected, were hot, flaky and perfect. The baked ones became a little misshapen, but overall were not too bad. The crust does well both ways.




From Serious Eats:

Cream Cheese Pastry


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1. Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand to thoroughly combine.
2. Add the flour and salt. Process until just combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

Taco filling
1 lb ground beef
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 can corn
1/2 can black beans
1/3 c chopped cilantro
salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cumin (about 1-2 TBS total)
1 c monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz cream cheese

1. Brown beef in a skillet, add onion and cilantro and spices.
2. Drain and rinse corn, black beans. Mix in with the beef. 
3. Sprinkle with cheese and mix until thickened. 
4. Remove from heat, allow to cool before spooning into pastry rounds.
5. Bake empanadas for 20 minutes at 350 F or fry in shallow pan with oil

Homemade salsa
In a food processor, combine 1/2 bunch cilantro, 2 cloves garlic, 2-3 inch chunk of onion. Pulse until a paste forms. Pour in 2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (with juices), 1/2 TBS salt, 1/2 TBS sugar, 1 TBS white vinegar, 2-3 TBS chili oil (or use a a jalapeno). Process until smooth. Squeeze a lime into the salsa.