Monday, November 11, 2013

Long-term Hiatus

This probably won't come as a shock, given how seldom I have been posting lately, but I'm "officially" going to take a hiatus from this blog for a somewhere between a few months and forever.  

I still get excited about cooking new foods, and I develop these grand plans... and then reality come crashing back in, reminding me that it's completely unrealistic to try to carry out those plans with my current pain levels (and with how much my time in the kitchen increases my pain).  And then, of course, I get frustrated with my limitations and this thing I love to do (cooking, experimenting in the kitchen) becomes more of a burden than a joy...

As I sign off for a while, here my all-time favorite post about the Pain Scale from Hyperbole and a Half...  If you have pain issues, you'll understand.  =)


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Big Box of Produce

Now that I'm not the sole member of my household, I decided to give the Big Box of Produce a try again.  I always love the inspiration these boxes provide - so much beautiful, local, farm-direct goodness - but even the "Bin for One" is more than I can go through on my own in 2 weeks... Turns out the "Bin for One" is the perfect size for two... The first delivery was full of fun veggies I hadn't cooked with in a long time:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Perfect Sous Vide Mayo

Hello, there.  It's been a while since I've posted here.  I've still been having fun in the kitchen, but things have changed such that I now have a partner-in-crime who distracts me from taking pictures and noting changes I make to recipes...  I've been more about enjoying the cooking than documenting the cooking, which anyone who loves cooking knows isn't a bad thing... Anyway, this is something I came across a few months back in Modernist Cuisine at Home that totally rocked my world: Modernist Mayo.  It's rich, decadent, bullet-proof (emulsion-wise), and actually easy...  Things start with 75g of egg yolks (5 or so...).
Those are vacuum-sealed and cooked sous vide for 35 minutes at 67°C.  (Reading the recipe now, I was apparently supposed to blend them first, but in 5 times making this I've never done that and it's always turned out perfectly, so...) The yolks get all smushified, anyway, when you vacuum seal them, and come out pretty well mixed anyway...
Meanwhile, you'll stir together some (45g) water and Dijon (25g) in a mixing container.  When the yolks are ready, you immersion-blend them to smoothness, then start drizzling in about 300g of neutral oil in (while running your immersion blender.
I made this little immersion-blending-lid after one too many experiences making traditional mayo, when it ended up sprayed halfway across my kitchen...  It turns out this lid is completely superfluous with Modernist Mayo, given the thick texture... When the oil has been emulsified, you can season to taste (I like a little lemon juice and salt), and you have on your hands a batch of perfect mayo...
(This also happens to be the perfect base for Fry Sauce and Sriracha Mayo... but we'll talk abou that later...)  Back soon with more yumminess...  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Homemade Tater Tots

I can't say that I've ever been particularly interested in Tater Tots in the past, but I've had enough friends express affection for them that I decided it might be worth throwing a batch together... Turns out they're fairly easy and seriously delicious, so I'm sure I'll be making them again many many times in the future...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Carnitas Hash with Eggs

This is one of those meals where I started with a recipe... but then failed to follow any part of that recipe and still ended up with something super-yummy.  In the end, I suppose the recipe just stuck an idea in my head: "Carnitas Hash is probably delicious."  A few weeks later, when I had some carnitas vacuum-sealed in the freezer and found myself with extra Yukon Gold potatoes, it seemed like the best possible way to remedy those two situations...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!

A couple weeks ago I had a kick-ass group of friends over for my annual birthday dinner.  It's the first time I've been able to do it at my own place since moving back to Portland, and I don't think it's a stretch to say it was one of my most delicious birthday menus ever...
For the trio of plated appetizers, we had Shrimp Mosaic with Avocado-Melon Salsa, Super-Crispy Calamari, and Vodka-Spiked Grape Tomatoes...
The two dishes on the sides are old favorites, but the calamari was a new recipe.  The batter is made with vodka and soda water, and crisps up beautifully when it fries...  Next up was another old favorite, Creamy Asparagus Soup with Lemon Dumplings.
These little dumplings are filled with super-bright homemade lemon "jello," which melts when the dumplings cook and then explodes into the soup when you take a bite.  I wanted the guests to get to see what was hiding under their soup, so we poured the soup tableside...
The salad course came from Zak Pelaccio's "Eat With Your Hands" cookbook: a Crispy Pork Belly and Watermelon Salad.
I went ahead and compressed the watermelon, since I love the texture and it's so much prettier, but other than that this was just as written.  The pickled watermelon rind was beautifully spicy and was perfect with the crispy pork...  Mmm....  Because I'm addicted to scallops, I added a seafood course this year in the form of a Seared Diver Scallop with Ginger-Carrot Emulsion.
The sauce is from Thomas Keller's Peas and Carrots, but I passed it through a whipping siphon so that I could make it in advance.  The siphon re-emulsifies the sauce when you reheat it, and also adds a crazy-awesome texture...  The main course was a Horseradish-Crusted Rib-Eye with Red Wine Jus and Crispy Potato Ruffles...
And, finally, the meal finished up with Thomas Keller's take on Strawberry Shortcake...
This plated up way prettier the first time I made it (see below), but was delicious even when ugly...  
By the time we got home from some late-night post-dinner karaoke, I have to say this was one of my best birthdays ever... A super-fun evening with totally awesome company and fantastic food...  It will be hard to top it next year, but I'll see what I can do...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cookbook Adventures: Michael Psilakis' Lamb Burgers

As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to cook almost everything sous vide at one time or another.  Most times this works out either relatively well or totally super-awesome... but every now and then it ruins everything.  This was the case when I did a sous vide test-run of the Lamb Burgers from Michael Psilakis' awesome cookbook, How to Roast a Lamb. As I guess should not be shocking with a flavorful burger, sometimes straight-up grilling is the way to go...  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bacon-Wrapped Elk Steaks

In sticking with the "my Portland friends are awesome" theme, a friend brought over a couple gorgeous elk loins for me to play with.  
We did a fairly traditional(-ish) preparation last time, but I wanted to be a little more creative this time... Thus, we broke out some meat glue and pork products and went to town...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe Revisited: Seared Spring Salmon with Melted Leeks and Herbed Beurre Blanc

This is a recipe I've made (and loved) before, but I had to post again because it was even more mind-blowing this time with three small changes.  I don't like to make many alterations to Thomas Keller's recipes, because he's pretty much always right... but I feel like my leeks turned out better (and infinitely easier) by switching up the technique a little.  The recipe for this amazing dish is here, and I highly recommend trying it out next time you get your hands on some beautiful salmon...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sous Vide (Maybe?) Makes it Better: 72-Hour Oxtail with Celeriac Mash

One recipe that I always crave in the cold months is a Red-Wine Braised Oxtail from The Elements of Taste.  I've been making it almost exactly as written for many years, but (of course) I wanted to see what a sous vide treatment would do to it.  
The original method (plus my favorite celeriac mash to serve with it) is here if you're interested, and I'll talk about the sous vide modifications below...