Thursday, September 13, 2012

Korean snacks: deconstructed tteok-bogi and kimchi pancakes

Since moving to DC, most of my cooking has fallen into two camps: recipe testing for the newsletters I'm continuing to write for The Cooking Club and lots of Korean food. 

Jake made some baked tofu recently with a sweet and spicy gochuchang-based sauce. We used the leftover to make a tteok fondue of sorts. I had these extra long rice cakes in the freezer and I made them the Momofuku way for dipping in the red sauce. 

The rice cakes went into a very hot cast iron grill pan with vegetable oil until they started smoking. Once they were browned on all sides, I brushed them with sesame oil and took them off the heat. I served them with grilled odeng (the fish cake) and dipped them in the warmed gochuchang sauce.

The gochuchang sauce includes brown sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and gochuchang. It's a bit stronger and sweeter in flavor, I think, that your typical tteokbogi sauce.

There comes a point in every jar of kimchi when you take a sniff and there's only one word to describe your result: funky. It's that point where the sharp, pungent taste of kimchi has ripened a bit over the edge. It's not that you can't eat the kimchi any more, it's just not as delicious as when you first break open a brand new jar.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options for extra ripe, funky kimchi. One option, great for the fall and winter months is to make a steaming, bubbling pot of kimchi chiggae. Better for the summer months, I'm a fan of kimchi pajeon (above).

I also had some homemade Korean radish pickles in the fridge that had also gotten a little funky, so I chopped it up with the kimchi and mixed them into the pancakes. It's always hard to get these crispy enough (as soon as you put them on a plate, the steam trapped between the hot pancake and the plate condenses), but they are fabulous dipped in soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Korean snacks have definitely been one of the highlights of moving back to DC this summer. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

#LetsLunch September: three grandmothers' recipes

This month for Let's Lunch, our group decided to post recipes from our grandmothers to honor our friend Pat, whose book The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook came out in paperback recently.

What I like about this book is that it's a great primer to Asian cuisine. Pat includes a sections on techniques and common ingredients in addition to the great recipes. 

I felt like a kindred spirit to Pat reading the introduction of the book, growing up in a country away from her heritage. Like Pat, I also learned to connect with my culture through food, she via her mother, me via a mishmash of culture camps, dance moms and later, blogs and YouTube videos.

I grew up far away from all of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother died when I was very young, and we lived halfway across the country from my maternal grandmother. I only met my Korean grandmother a handful of times before she passed away last year. 

So, needless to say, I'm not exactly a wealth of family recipes. My favorite recipe from my Nan is her Irish Soda bread, which I posted last year for Cheryl's Family Recipe Day

I've made this bread time and time again since first receiving the recipe for it in college. The oven temp is boldly written at the top of my recipe book page because the first time I made it, I misread the emailed instructions and baked my bread at 450 for an hour. Not quite "burnt" but definitely tougher than expected. 

I didn't spend much time around my dad's mother -- in fact, I'm not sure I can even remember having a meal she cooked. But I know that she used to cook Polish food, a nod to a small slice of her heritage. 

Two years ago, I jumped at the chance to head north a day early to help my aunt make stuffed cabbage rolls and pierogies for Easter. I had never gotten the chance to do this with my Grandma, but this was the best substitute I could have had. 

(These are the actual cabbage rolls we made for Easter two years ago, and the pierogies on the right are ones I made last summer. Recipe is here.)

And, being an adoptee who has searched for and found my biological family, I'm in the strange position of having had three grandmothers during my life.

My wei-halmonie, my birth mother's mother, first came into my life in 2005 when I went on my first trip to Korea. She made dinner for my mom and I when we went to visit the family's home in Inchon. The dish I hoped to someday learn to make is captured in my chopsticks above. I'm not entirely certain sure what they are called, but they're sort of a small, Korean vegetable/fish pancake thing. They're about the size of a silver dollar and awesomely delicious.

Next time I'm in Korea, hopefully someone in my family can teach me how to make them, since my halmonie passed away last spring. I'm also hoping to learn the name of these yummy nibbles.

So, cheers to our friend Pat and do check out her awesome book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.

Check out the rest of the Let's Lunch posts today by following the hashtag #letslunch on Twitter or clicking through below. If you would like to join us next month, send us a tweet introducing yourself! I'm @emmacarew on Twitter.

Karen's Ode to Nana on Geofooding

Linda's Taiwanese Oyster Omelet on Spicebox Travels

Lisa's Polish Potato Cake on Monday Morning Cooking Club

Cheryl's Gambling Rice on A Tiger in the Kitchen

Jill's Stuffed Cabbage on Eating My Words

Charissa's Gluten-Free Depression-Era Cake at Zest Bakery

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pumpkin Pasties

Harry Potter is one of my favorite books ever. I've read them each about 100 times and have the British version of all seven audio books, which I've also listened to about 100 times each.

So when my recipe testing last week turned up an extra half can of pumpkin, I knew exactly how I wanted to use it up: Pumpkin Pasties.

Last year, Serious Eats did a "Cook the Book" series from an unofficial Harry Potter cookbook that included a recipe for Pumpkin Pasties, one of the treats Harry buys on the train during his first journey to Hogwarts.

The basic gist of the recipe is to make a homemade pie crust and fill it with pumpkin-y goodness. Mine were a little smaller than the Serious Eats ones, I think, so I baked them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I mixed my half-can (the big size) of pumpkin with some cinnamon streusel topping that I also had leftover from recipe testing last week. I used a butter pie crust recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Twenty, brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. The result was a nice, not-too-sweet filling with a flaky pastry.

If you don't have leftover cinnamon streusel, I would guess mix about 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup diced pecans, 2-3 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and stir into the pumpkin.