Fish Teriyaki with Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers

Posted March 23, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Uncategorized

Fish Teriyaki with Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers

Fish Teriyaki with Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers p. 78

Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Reaction: Definitely will make cucumbers again, might try the glaze with beef and chicken.

I haven’t written a blog post in several days but I have been cooking. In my previous posts I focused mostly on the cooking and the food but haven’t mentioned much about the writing. Lately its been much harder finding not only the time to write but also the motivation. I work full time, care for a 3 month old baby girl with my wife, cook and this past weekend enjoyed the great weather so by the end of the day writing a post was the thing that was sacrificed. While I do enjoy writing I think my priorities were in line but I do want to get back in the habit of making posts on a daily basis.Also finding new adjectives to describe the food has also been challenging. I really have to focus on not over using words like fresh and clean even if those are the best descriptions. Repeating sentence structure ia another habit I’ll have to work on. Far too often my sentences have started with “I think…”. I think I’m getting better, opps did it again.

Tonight I made the Fish Teriyaki with Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers. It’s another Japanese inspired meal and until this challenge I had very little experience with this type of cooking. The techniques are very familiar but the flavors and ingredients are new to me. Daikon radish is one of those vegetables you’d probably seen in the grocery store and completely overlooked because its unknown and cooking with it is an even bigger mystery. The flavor is cool and refreshing and I’d imagine takes on the flavor of other ingedients well. I’d like to find more ways to use daikon in my cooking.The rest of the prep and ingredients was just some simple mixing and chopping. My one real recommendation is to keep a close eye on the fish. Because of the sugar in the glaze it can easily burn. I relied too much on the timer and got a few burnt bits but those were easily picked off the fish.

The first thing I tried was the sweet-and-sour vegetables and I was blown away. These things are freaking good and I was amazed by the flavor of only 15 minutes in the brine. It had a real nice pickle flavor with a perfect balance of sweet sour. Japanese is known for the balance of flavors and this simple dish demonstrates that perfectly.

The fish however was less impressive. I was expecting more out of the glaze. I believe I made everything according to the recipe it just let me underwhelmed. I do plan on trying the glaze again on grilled beef or chicken. The meal was filling and enjoyable just not something that blew me away.

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Beer-Braised Turkey

Posted March 15, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Uncategorized

Beer-Braised Turkey

Turkey Tacos in a cast iron skillet

Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Reaction: Defiantly will make again

Beer-Braised Turkey Tacos

Despite the long cooking time you have to try this dish for the wonderful fragrance that will fill your kitchen. The aroma of garlic, onions, jalapeno and cinnamon made it hard to wait for the chicken to fall off the bone.

Our local market didn’t have any turkey so I substituted chicken legs and thighs and slightly reduced the cooking time. I was also not able to get an ancho peppers so I just used ancho chili power instead. I think the flavor still came through. There was a lot of prep work but once again my wife Monica setup our kitchen like the set of a cooking show. All of the ingredients were pre-chopped and measured so all I had to do was put it all together and not screw up. I braised the chicken on one of the most useful things I have in the kitchen, my cast iron skillet. A cast iron skillet is extremely versatile, durable and virtually non-stick. It’s also amazingly cheap, my favorite is Lodge Cast Iron. I braised the chicken in the cast iron skillet to a golden brown. Once the beer and vegetable mixture is simmering the chicken returns to its bubble hot tub of goodness. About 40 minutes later the chicken was falling off the bone and the mixture had thickened. The smells are really intoxicating and the cinnimon is the key. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican cooking and while most Americans associate it with desert its really adds a complexity of flavor to savory dishes.

The smells didn’t lie, the flavor was smooth but also very complex with a lot of depth. The chicken was tender and moist. As with many other dishes from this issue of Food & Wine the addition of fresh herbs and lime garnish added a needed freshness that lightened the tacos. It really reminded me of tacos from one of my favorite places in Wappingers Falls, Tacocina. Two tacos were more than filling and felt nothing like a healthy dinner. In fact it felt like I was cheating. Despite the longer cooking time I will me making these again but next time probably on a Sunday afternoon instead of Monday night.

Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Vegetable Curry

Posted March 14, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Uncategorized

Grilled Pork Tenderloins with Vegetable Curry

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 40 minutes

Reaction: Might make again, not sure

Friday night dinner got moved to Saturday night. I was missing a key ingredient, the pork. I spent most of Saturday doing work around the house and when dinner time came around I really had no interest in cooking. For the first time in this challenge I looked at it as a chore. My wife was a huge help in pulling this meal off. There is a lot of chopping involved for the vegetables and she tackled that task. We would have had Kraft Mac & Cheese if it wasn’t for her.

This meal was also the first that I modified the recipe. First I used boneless center cut chops instead of a tenderloin. Since I’m just cooking for the two of us it was much more economical to just buy the two chops. The second big change was the elimination of curry from the dish. My wife doesn’t really like it so I used Thai red chili sauce instead. This is not a real substitute for curry paste but I wanted some heat in the dish and felt that it was needed for the consistency of the sauce.  Once the vegetables are sauteed for a few minutes the coconut water is added and simmers for about 20 minutes. I have not cooked with coconut water before so I drank a little just to see what it was like. Now I know how participants on Survivor feel, the water didn’t have as much coconut taste as a I expected and it was rather refreshing. After 20 minutes the liquid should reduce by half. I added the recommended 2 tablespoons of sour cream but wasn’t happy with the consistency of the sauce, it was still too watery. I added another tablespoon and still felt it was too thin. I decided to take matters into my own hands and added a little slurry of corn starch and water. This can be used to thicken sauces but the corn starch needs to be mixed with cold water before its added to a hot dish. Otherwise it will be lumpy and could ruin it. This method worked for me, I’m not sure if the sauce was intended to be this thick but its what I was looking for. I also didn’t grill the pork. The Hudson Valley was hit with a big rain storm and I had no interest in grilling in the rain. I used an under utilized feature on the stove, the broiler. I don’t think people use the broiler enough in their cooking. Essentially it’s an upside down grill. The heat comes from the top and cooks the meat with nice browning as well. Clean up is also easy, just put some tin foil in the bottom of the broiler and you should only have to clean the grate. I rated this dish as medium difficulty because of the challenge of getting the right consistency with the sauce but also the cooking of the pork.  I think most people overcook their pork out of fear. They have been taught that it has to be perfectly white inside and they just cook all the moisture out of the meat. Instead try using and instant read thermometer. This was you can be sure its safely cooked but also not ruined.  The Culinary Institute of America advises an internal temperature of 145 degrees for pork. If you follow this rule your pork chops will taste much better.

While I didn’t follow the recipe closely I still think the flavor of the dish came through. Cilantro is one of those distinctively Thai flavors. The chili sauce added the heat I was hoping for and the meal was very filling. I’d be curious to see how others sauce came out but for my needs this was just what I was looking for. My guess is my sauce was thicker then intended but I enjoyed it.

Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro

Posted March 11, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Cooking

Page 50, Food & Wine Magazine March 2010

Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro p. 50 Food & Wine Magazine March 2010

Difficulty: Fairly Easy

Time: 35 minutes

Reaction: Absolutely Make Again, best meal so far

That’s right, this has been the best meal so far from the March 2010 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. Right off the bat I have to admit that I didn’t limit myself to one serving. It was so good I had to go for seconds but considering how healthy this dish is I don’t consider it a total travesty.

While the preparation is pretty straightforward I do think the quality of the dish is benefited from focusing on each individual taste. First I started the water for the pasta adding some salt. It always takes some time to get the water boiling so that’s always my first step. Then I prepped the shallots and and the garlic. Both can burn easily and from my experience when I try to cook and chop at the same time I end up burning one of them. So this time I chopped them first, then heated the oil and sauteed each. The results was worth the extra time. I also was able to get the pasta going at this point. Since the noodles are just served warm I was able to get the sauce, shallots/garlic and noodles finished before cooking the shrimp. Once again I used the gas grill and since it only takes a a few minutes to cook the shrimp this was my last cooking step. Watch the shrimp carefully because you don’t want to overcook shrimp, it can become too tough. Only thing left to do is put all the pieces together and open some wine.

My wife and I were sold on this dish with the first bite. We both turned to each other and instantly declared it our favorite so far. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour and are popular in Japanese cooking. This recipe is Thai inspired but as my wife said, the soba noodles felt like “healthy lomain”. I think that is a pretty accurate description of this dish. The cilantro is a must so as the recipe states feel free to be liberal with its application. I enjoy anything with shrimp and the sauce was flavorful without overpowering the other ingredients. If you like shrimp you have to give this a shot. All the ingredients are readily avaliable. I found soba noodles at our local Hannaford supermarket. I will definitely be trying soba noodles as a substitute in future recipes. The texture was very similar to traditional pasta and the taste was good as well.

Beef Yakitori

Posted March 10, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Cooking

Beef Yakitori

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes

Reaction: Will Probably Make Again but with more glaze

Beef Yakitori was the second Japanese dish in two days. Essentially it’s beef kabobs with a Japanese glaze. It’s incredibly quick to make and overall with the recipes so far I have been surprised how fast and easy I have been able to incorporate them into our daily lives. Even with a 2 month old baby in the house we’ve been able to prepare the meals without altering our schedule too much. Another great thing about this meal is the easy clean up. Everything is cooked on the grill.

Preparation involved the slicing of mushrooms, scallions and the beef. The most difficult part of making this recipe is finding miso paste. I search five stores until my wife was able to find it at Fairway Market. The recipe only used 1 table spoon so I think it could easily be left out but I was determined to find it. One thing that the recipe did not mention that I think is helpful if using wooden skewers is to soak them in water before use. This prevents them from burning on the grill. I used a direct cooking method with medium high heat on my gas grill. In about 5-6 minutes the meat was a perfect medium rare and the veggies cooked properly. A nice midweek meal when time can be tight.

So far this was my least favorite meal for a few reasons. The portion size was a little smaller and not overly filling. I’d highly recommend a side of rice or some other side dish. I also felt that there was not enough glaze for all the skewers and as a result the meat lacked flavor. Next time around I’ll make some extra glaze. Without enough glaze it just seemed like something was missing. Still a good meal but compared to the others so far it didn’t measure up in my opinion.

Chicken Sukiyaki

Posted March 9, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Cooking

Chicken Sukiyaki p. 76, Food & Wine Magazine March 2010

Difficulty: Easy

Time: About 25 minutes

Reaction: Probably Make Again

Chicken Sukiyaki p. 76 Food & Wine Magazine

I have literally no experience with Japanese cuisine and tonight was the 1st of 2 recipes with Japanese influence. Sukiyaki is typically made with beef but this recipe uses chicken. Tomorrow night’s dinner is Yakitori which is usually made with chicken but in the Food & Wine version its made with beef. Don’t ask me, I’m just following the recipes.

Although the style of cuisine was foreign to me the preparation was really quite simple. I think the most important thing is a hot pan for the mushrooms, onions and tofu. I have a power burner on my stove and used a non-stick pan which worked pretty well. Just be sure to add the onion and mushroom before the oil starts smoking. Once again measuring the oil was very helpful since you really don’t need that much, especially with the non-stick pan. I have not worked with tofu that often but its really pretty simple and just requires a few minutes to brown. For the broth traditional daishi power us used and I’d try to explain it but I really have not clue what it is. I looked all over for it and couldn’t find it. I even checked an Asian market and Fairway in Jersey, well my wife checked Fairway Market. Fortunately there is a work around which is noted in thge recipe. I went that route and it came out great, in fact Monica actually drank the remaining broth right for her bowl. As she did it I told her it had to make the blog.

Hopefully I’m not over using adjectives when describing the food but the best word to describe this dish is clean. The flavors each came through on their own and worked in harmony at the same time. I’m not a huge fan of tofu but I don’t dislike it either. I don’t think it has much taste but Monica didn’t like it at all, mostly because of the texture. I encourage you to try it with the tofu, you can always remove it if you don’t like it. The good news is that if you do enjoy it that it’s really healthy. The dish was interesting in that it was essentially a stir-fry in a broth. It was a great change of pace from the types of meals we typically eat. I could totally see making this again but probably not something in my regular rotation. I think the tofu will get left out next time as well. Also a friend of mine Diane asked if I was going to be trying any of the wine pairings, a fair point since the name of the magazine is Food & Wine. While I didn’t use a pairing recommendation from the magazine we did have wine with tonight’s dinner. A few years ago while in Sonoma we purchased a bottle of Mayo, Laurel Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. I’m not great at pairing wine but I felt the lighter red went very well with the darker chicken broth. To me it tasted good and I think that is the best way to match up food and wine.

Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad

Posted March 9, 2010 by kylegollins
Categories: Cooking

Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad p. 92

Difficulty: Very Easy

Time: About 10 minutes prep, 45 minutes in the oven

Reaction: Definitely Make again and easy to alter based on the veggies on hand

I’m very familiar with this type of recipe. I make a similar version of roasted root vegetables for Thanksgiving and throughout the winter. Preparing it as a salad however is a new twist in another recipe provided by Sophie Dahl.

Preparation for this meal is incredibly simple, just chop up the vegetables. One real key is just keeping the uniformity in the pieces to ensure that it all cooks at the same pace. If the pieces are all different sizes you’ll end up with some overcooked mushy ones while the bigger pieces are still hard and crunchy. A lot of chopping is involved but I’ve found that the key to moving quickly in the kitchen is to use both hands. If one hand is reaching for the carrot at the same time reach for the peeler. It sounds obvious but its a technique I picked up from bartending school and working in a professional kitchen. In the bartending class we had to make about 12 drinks in less than 6 minutes. The only way to do it is to have very efficient movement by using both hands. While that type of speed is not needed in the home kitchen I do think everyone is a bit pressed for time after work for any little bit helps.

Once out of the oven the salad can be served warm or at room temperature, I went with the latter. All of the flavors really melded together and of all the recipes so far I think this is may favorite. I’m actually surprised that an all veggie recipe beat out the fish dishes. The flavors were very bold and it didn’t feel like a healthy dish, and I mean that in a good way. It was very filling and satisfying. The goat cheese added a nice tang and contrast to the more earthy root vegetables. I used a NY state cow’s milk cheese which is a little creamier and milder than some other varieties of feta I’ve tried. I also went a little heavy with the parsley. As a kid they only time parsley was on my plate was in the form of a garnish. Even as a kid I never really understood the point of the curly parsley garnish. I’m glad that parsley is used more often in American cooking. It’s a wonderful flavor and really adds freshness to a dish. This lunch felt like I was cheating and having something off the healthy diet but this vegetarian dish was a winner in my eyes.