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...  

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...

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...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Chicken Divan Casserole

My mom tells me that she sometimes made Chicken Divan Casserole for us when we were growing up. I am not about to call my mother a liar, but somehow the food memory didn't dig itself very far into my brain, so this isn't a dish I would have thought to seek out a recipe for and make... A couple weeks ago, though, a friend mentioned some pangs of nostalgia for the Chicken Divan his mom had made for him when he was young...and what kind of friend would I be if I didn't try to make a version of this classic for him? (I know the pictures of the finished dish are a little scrappy, but it's comfort food so I wasn't about to mess around with fancy plating...)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sous Vide Makes it Better: Two Curries

I haven't made a lot of "new" dishes lately, but something I do a lot of is re-making things I've made before, only switching the cooking method over to sous vide.  I tried this with two curries last week, and was incredibly happy (for different reasons) with both dishes...  The first dish was Beef Rendang with Roti Canai.

Everyday Yumminess: My Favorite Buttery Flatbread

As I mentioned when I made the Mission Street Food Buttery Flatbread, one of the reasons I was a little disappointed by that flatbread was my preexisting love of an easier version...  I first made these Roti Canai almost 5 years ago when I was still living in Australia.  (I have no idea where the original recipe came from anymore...) They're kind of fun to make, super-delicious, and super-buttery...  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Feast (Alternate Title: My Mom is Awesome)

UPDATE: I've now uploaded the recipes here if anyone wants to recreate portions of this meal... The soup with lemon dumplings is here.

As I was enjoying an amazing 5-course dinner with my parents last night, I realized something: Nobody has ever cooked a dinner party for me.  I love to cook (obviously), and I love throwing dinner parties, but it was one of the nicest gifts my mom could have given me when she prepared everything for this feast and then brought the whole production over to my house so that she and my dad could share it with me.  There's sometimes a misconception about us people who are obsessed with food and cooking... an idea that, because we love to go crazy in the kitchen, we're going to be harsh critics of other people's cooking and thus are too intimidating to cook for... (When, in fact, I love very simple food, too... and even a grilled cheese sandwich is enough to rock my world if I didn't have to make it myself...) Even though this wasn't a cool restaurant or my own cooking, I wanted to share the meal my mom prepared for us...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cookbook Adventures: Mission Street Food (Updated)

Mission Street Food is another one of those books that I couldn't wait to get my hands on, but then didn't manage to play with until now...  
Now that I've tried a few recipes, I think it may be a while before I break it out again... Everything was sort of in that "good... but not as great as I'd hoped..." category.
I love the philosophy of the book, and I love the ideas behind the recipes, but it may end up being one of those books that I turn to more for inspiration than for guidance...

Sous Vide Duck Confit

I've been meaning to make Duck Confit for a long time, but it took a while to decide I really wanted to stock up my freezer with duck legs and duck fat...  I finally took the plunge and picked up some gorgeous duck products a few months ago, and then it was on...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pizza Fest: Playing with My New Baking Steel

After all the buzz on the interwebs, I couldn't resist spending some Christmas-present money on a new toy: the baking steel... It turns out all the hype is correct.  
(As you can see, I got the 1/2-inch version.) I tried three different crusts on my new steel, and every one of them blew me away with how amazing it turned out... 
Yum...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another Sous Vide Trick: Über-Caramelized Onons

I love caramelized onions, and I love them super-duper caramelized.  When I did this for Thomas Keller's French Onion Soup, it took about 8 hours of caramelizing (stirring every 30-45 minutes) to get the onions as dark as I wanted.  That's not really an option these days.  I've heard a rumor (which I believe) that you can't caramelize onions from raw using sous vide because the gases released by the onions will make the bag explode... (I didn't want to test this...)  Instead I did a bit of a hybrid technique.  While I was putzing around in the kitchen, I threw the sliced onions in a pot with a bit of salt over medium-high heat, covered.  
(This is how I always start my onions, since it forces them to release their liquid early and thus allows faster caramelization later...)  After a good amount of liquid is rendered, you can uncover and let it cook off, stirring every now and then.  Because there is so much liquid at this stage, there's minimal risk of burning so you can totally ignore the onions for the most part...
Once the onions had given off their liquid and that liquid had mostly cooked off, I tossed them into a vacuum bag, closed the top with a bag clip, and plunged them into an ice bath to chill (since hot things do not vacuum-seal well...).  After sealing, the onions can go into a 180-degree water bath until they achieve the desired caramelization...  A couple hours for moderate...
or overnight for super-duper-crazy-caramelized... 
Pretty awesome, yeah?  Again, this is just (regular, not sweet) onions with a bit of salt... and this is totally how my onions are getting caramelized for my next batch of onion soup...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Sriracha Salt

I bought my food dehydrator back in the day because I wanted to use it as a yogurt-making incubator.  While that remains its primary purpose in my kitchen, I like finding other random uses for it (e.g., prosciutto-powder).  The most recent application was to streamline a recipe for Sriracha Salt.

Everyday Yumminess: Homemade Tonic Water

This is something I'd been wanting to try for a while so, once I got a soda siphon for Christmas, it shot to the top of my queue.  Homemade tonic water (or, more accurately, tonic concentrate that is mixed with soda water to make tonic water) isn't necessarily going to save you any money over generic-brand store-bought versions.  This is a case where the DIY version is superior because it lets you tweak the flavors to your palate.  (I, for example, hate how sweet store-bought tonic water often is... so when I made my own I cut back on the agave the recipe called for and it was perfect...)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Badness...

I was planning to post something fun today, but yesterday had other plans.  Tara was acting strange on Friday, and then on Saturday morning she was despondent and wouldn't eat. We took her to the vet, and she had all kinds of problems. (Severe anemia, low oxygen, blood not clotting... They couldn't run diagnostic tests because they were afraid she would bleed out if they drew enough blood to test.)  After they did all they could for her, we brought her to the emergency vet to spend the night in their oxygen room.  They called at 4am to let me know that she had developed severe head tilt (with the accompanying vertigo and darting eyes).  At 8am they called to let me know she was gone. 
She was such an amazing bunny, and insane in the best possible way... She was only in my life for about three weeks, but she'd totally nuzzled her way into my heart. I'll miss her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bunnies!

One major change in my household that happened on New Year's Eve was the introduction of this gorgeous bunny:
I took Jax to meet her on New Year's Eve, and she actually groomed him a couple times at the foster home, so we decided there was potential for love... Plus, look at them together:
I think that's more cuteness than most people would be able to resist...

A Couple Links plus What's Coming Up...

I saw a couple good sous vide links pop up in my Google Reader feed the other day and wanted to share.  The first is a fantastic explanation of why cooking sous vide rocks, from the good people at Modernist Cuisine.  I use my chamber vacuum almost every day, and I cook (or re-therm) probably 90% of my meals sous vide.  I agree with all of the things Nathan Myhrvold says in the post (honestly, I have a theory that if you disagree with Myhrvold on anything food-related, you probably need to re-think your position...), but one additional factor not mentioned is how much time cooking sous vide saves you in the kitchen.  Because of health issues, I need to confine my cooking to short bursts of activity these days, and sous vide is the best way to get perfectly cooked food that doesn't require constant trips to the kitchen to stir and poke and prod and monitor... I imagine that would come in handy for busy people without health issues as well... 

The other article is a review of budget-friendly sous vide tech from The WireCutter. I've played with systems using a slow cooker as well as the sous vide supreme and a home-built immersion circulator...  (I'd be happy to talk pros and cons in the comments if anyone is curious... otherwise I assume I'd be talking to myself...)  The best solution for you will depend on how often you use the technique and for what types of dishes.  I started with a slow-cooker version (with a controller built by one of my most nerd-tastic friends) for price reasons but, once I realized I would be using the technique for so many things, I knew it was worth the upgrade to the next step up in quality.  Your mileage may vary...

I acquired an epic collection of groceries yesterday, and spent several pockets of time in the kitchen today doing very basic prep (roasting bell peppers, caramelizing onions, breaking down a rib roast into steaks to vacuum-seal and freeze...).  I realized as I was thin-slicing 12 onions to caramelize just how much I've missed hanging out in the kitchen.  Kitchen-Exhausted-Emily would probably go ahead and use a food processor slicing blade or a mandolin to do those onions, but it felt kind of amazing to just sit there with my knife and my cutting board.  Funny how such a simple task can make you feel more like yourself after spending far too long away from the kitchen...

Speaking of time in the kitchen, a lot of the prep today was for a pizza-fest situation coming up... Three or four different doughs (including a test-run of gluten-free for a friend who will visit soon), four different cooking methods, myriad toppings and sauces... I've also got some duck confit starting up (for use in assorted applications) and some amazing homemade Thai(-inspired?) food in the queue for next week... Stay tuned...