Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Noodling Around

There is a Noodle Battle Episode of Iron Chef but I haven't yet watched it. However, I had some noodles with an expiration date of yesterday so I needed to rush a quick meal through.

That's right, a day after the expiration date. Yeah, I'm a real risk taker.

I put together a quick miso broth and added to it some tamari, rice wine vinegar, curry paste, sesame oil, spinach, shrimp, and noodles. This cleared out a nice segment of the fridge and freezer. It also gave us a nice continuation of our break from the turkey-stuffing-mashed-vegetable theme of the holiday weekend.

For beer I enjoyed a Prelude Special Ale from Shipyard Brewing Company which we visited this summer on
our trip to Maine.

With the holiday upon us tomorrow we have now successfully cleansed our palate except instead of using sorbet we used soy sauce and sesame oil.

Our palates work in mysterious ways.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Currying Flavor

Tonight, I decided to make something a little different. I was inspired by a recipe by Mark Bittman (warning: the link takes you to the New York Times page which annoyingly forces you to log in to read it and it's super annoying).

I didn't follow the recipe too closely but here's what I did: I made a makeshift ghee (by heating equal parts safflower oil and whole butter) then browned some garlic and ginger. After that I put some roughly chopped onion in the pan, cooked it down, then put in a few teaspoons of curry powder. Then I tossed in some leftover raw potatoes. I let that cook down for a bit before adding a can of potatoes and cooked that down. Then I added most of a can of lite coconut milk. After cooking the whole pot until the potatoes were tender I added a good amount of diced light and dark turkey meat and some leftover boiled turnip chunks and a good handful of baby spinach.

I served it with some plain white rice with butter and chopped green onion. Overall I was pretty happy with how this turned out.

For beer I tried the new Winter Ale from Blue Point Brewing Company to keep with tradition and stay a solid month ahead of the season.

And so it is that we enter the next week with leftovers losing this round. Better luck during the next holiday, fools!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot Belgian Sandwiches . . . It's Complicated

I worked an abbreviated day yesterday, after ten hours of sleep, then came straight home and took a nap. I've turned into a tremendous wuss. I used to routinely get to work at 6:00 AM and leave around 11:00PM, six and sometimes seven days a week. Now I have a few 10-12 hour days in a row and I need recovery time.

I decided that I need the great monks of Belgium to satisfy my beer craving after a busy week. This task could not be left to the bearded hipsters of America microbreweries. I needed to call upon the bearded monk hipsters of Belgian breweries.

I started with a Duvel, saving the big guns for tonight.

Friday we, once again, had our two interpretations of hot turkey sandwiches. Jen was sad about the sherry gravy she made so she thawed out the rest of the gravy and made a thicker version with no sherry for our sandwiches. This particular leftover dinner is probably no longer worth mentioning as we make it twice a year for Canadian and American Thanksgiving but for completion's sake I show it here.

For lunch today we started out with something a little lighter by combining the leftover fruit salad ingredients with some spinach, pistachios, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This probably would have been more virtuous had we not still been hungry after the salad and heated up two full plates of Thanksgiving leftovers slathered with gravy.

Tonight I let the Belgians take care of me once again, this time with what has long been one of my favorite beers, Chimay.

The other day Jen through out the idea of making turkey Reubens. It sounded like a fantastic idea so I rendered some bacon in a pan, drained off the fat, toasted some thick slices of rye bread, and topped them with swiss cheese slices. On top of the cheese I put a little sauce that I made from mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, Old Bay seasoning, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce, and my favorite whole grain mustard by
Maille. I then topped it with some hot sauerkraut, more Swiss cheese, more sauce, and another buttered slice of rye bread.

This may rank up in the top ten best sandwiches I've ever had. Unfortunately the sandwich experience was somewhat co-opted by the mustard. Well, not the mustard itself but the odd promotion on the mustard itself.

You see, the mustard seems to be promoting that romantic comedy with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. Printed on it is: "Own it on Blu-ray and DVD 4/27!" So, apparently, this has been in my cupboard for some time. It also advertises "Summer Recipes Inside" and the self-deprecating "le yum."

Attached is a little booklet with a few different recipes including Croque Monsieur A La Maille as featured in the hit comedy It's Complicated. This just seems like the strangest cross-promotional marketing campaign I've ever witnessed.

A visit to the Maille website shows an extremely half-baked attempt to drive home this odd partnership. Clicking on the "News" section link (which apparently has not been updated since before April 27th) brings you to another page with a picture of the mustard and DVD and the following text:

Own it on Blu-ray™ and DVD April 27! Croque Monsieur A La Maille® As seen in the hit comedy It’s Complicated Go check http://www.itscomplicatedmovie.com/

You may note that the URL above has no link to the actual website. That is not only because I simply copied and pasted it from their website. If you go to their odd mustard/DVD partnership website you will note that this is true on their site as well. They pasted the text with the URL and did not make it a link. So, in order to visit the movie's website if you are interested you will have to copy and paste the URL text into your browser's address bar and go there that way.

For your convenience I will provide you with a link to this fairly old movie here, removing all unnecessary HTTPs and WWWs: itscomplicatedmovie.com

Going to that site you will see that they fulfilled their end of the cross-promotion with a bit more competence. They provide a graphical link to the Maille website. It seems like Maille got the better of this marketing deal.

To try to take my mind off the odd Maille/DVD issue I enjoyed a post-dinner Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery. I've been putting this one off for a while because I'm not a big fan of stouts and it is 10% alcohol. However, after turning this whole mustard/DVD thing over and over I needed something to take my mind off of it.

It didn't work.

Even in a James Bond movie I couldn't imagine product placement of mustard. I can't figure out how this mustard thing happened. Is there product placement in the movie? At first I thought that perhaps the people at Maille and Universal had joined forces to launch the world's worst marketing campaign. Now I'm convinced that they are geniuses. See, I've been a Maille customer for years now but the movie It's Complicated came and went without me paying any attention to it at all. Now I actually feel compelled to see the movie and see what's going on with this Croque Monsieur scene. Now I think I'm going to have to order the DVD and find out. And maybe I'll make some Croque Monsieurs for us to eat while we watch it, using Maille mustard of course.

Damn you, marketing geniuses!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Sort Of 50's Thanksgiving

With my busiest time of the work year upon me, Jen thankfully receives a slight reprieve from her normally busy schedule. This couldn't work out more perfectly. If this was not the case we would be forced to either have Chinese take out for Thanksgiving or have dinner at 1:00 AM.

Jen's menu this year was a tremendous success. There was a slight 1950's retro theme to the menu but not overly so. Jen, even more so than me, is a fan of tradition so we couldn't mess with the traditional meal too much. For the past seven years I've been trying to convince her that a whole turkey, even a small one, may be overkill for just two people. Each year that suggestion has been received as well as a lead, fart-filled balloon in church.

Our natural inclination is to simply roast sweet potatoes. This year I told Jen to make them Dvorak style(as in tech columnist John C. Dvorak). He roasts them just like us but adds a little butter, cream, and bourbon to the mix. Jen did this along with adding marshmallows and chopped pecans.

While I prefer not to add any peripheral sweeteners to already sweet butternut squash or sweet potatoes, this was a fun change to our normal meal.

Jen's mother did not see it this way. Instead this only made her sad.

Another thing we never make is green bean casserole. This year Jen made it with an assortment of various mushrooms and crispy onions and it came out wonderfully. Again, not something I'd normally include but it was pretty tasty.

Jen also made macaroni and cheese (not another Jen & Nate classic), mashed carrot and turnip, mashed potato, roast turkey, stuffing (frozen and saved from Canadian Thanksgiving), cranberry sauce (also saved from Canadian Thanksgiving), and gravy (also saved). Jen added a little butter and sherry to the gravy to try something new. This was the only part of the meal that made her sad. I thought it was pretty good.

Let that be a lesson to all of you out there: don't ever try anything new.

For wine we enjoyed this bottle of Tarima Monastrell. Well, some of the bottle. I'm quite happy with this picture which was taken by accidentally using the wrong settings but ended up turning out far better than I'd hoped. It looks almost like I'm some sort of photographer who knows what I'm doing and this was intentional. I need more mistakes like this.

The pumpkin pie was probably Jen's finest yet. Jen hates eggnog so I made her some hot apple cider with whisky and I enjoyed a nice glass of eggnog with brandy. At this point it was 7:30 PM and after four days of waking up at 5:00 AM I was ready for bed. Jen told me that it was too early so I forced myself to barely stay awake on the couch until 8:30 PM at which point I went to sleep and slept straight through until 6:30 AM and it was the finest night of sleep I'd had in years.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Warm Up

Yesterday night for dinner we had a very special diner guest: Grammy nominated recording artist Lindsay Ellyn*! Since this was a very special visit indeed it was cause to celebrate the season!

* Grammy nomination pending.

The night before I tossed together the ingredients to make the shockingly simply no knead bread recipe from Sullivan Street Bakery: flour, salt, yeast, and water. I let it rest for about sixteen hours then finished it in the oven. I'd post a link to the recipe but it's on a horrible website that forces you to log in to view it. So instead I won't help promote their crappy, frustrating website. Too bad, the guys who did the recipe are great and it's not their fault.

I also put together a cheese plate for the bread. Unlike the bread I did not make the cheeses which is definitely in their favor. I know cheese courses are supposed to have a theme like that they're all from Italy, or they're all from sheep's milk, or they're three variations on the same cheese. Unfortunately I believe that to be lame and think my favorite theme is that they are all cheeses that I like.

For a salad I tossed some kale in a vinaigrette I made from shallot, Dijon mustard, Lyle's Golden Syrup, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I topped it with sliced roasted chestnuts and prosciutto. I was going to add toasted pecans as well but I didn't have any. I'm glad I didn't because this worked perfectly as is. Another recipe for my growing arsenal of kale salads.

For the next course I roasted a whole pumpkin, scooped the meat out of the peel, and layered it in a pan with some sauteed spinach and garlic, and ricotta cheese. It was okay but missing a little something. Tonight I reheated it and added a little cream and cayenne then grated some nutmeg over the top. I think that added the element it was missing. Next time I may opt to leave out the garlic all together and maybe roast some red jalapenos to add to the layers.

For the main course I roasted a pheasant. The pheasant was from MacFarlane Pheasants which you know has to be good because they have the domain pheasant.com. You don't get the domain pheasant.com without knowing your stuff about pheasants. Or, I suppose, just happening to be extremely lucky in the early 90's.

I put a few strips of thick cut bacon over the top, seared it in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, then removed the bacon and put it in the roasting pan with the innards, onion, garlic, and carrot. Then I cooked it for another 30 minutes or so.

Jen doesn't like spaghetti squash. Unfortunately for her when I know she doesn't like something I usually take that as a challenge for me to prepare it in a way so that she does like it. I think that might make me a jerk since I do this predominantly to try to prove her wrong about her notions on food. This generally has a low success rate.

Last night was different as she really liked this. All I did was roast in normally with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then scrape it out and toss it with a little butter and freshly chopped chervil.

Chervil is an herb that I have not always loved. I worked with a chef who insisted on using it in a lot of dishes and as an incredibly dumb twenty-year-old I thought I was so great because I thought chervil was really stupid. I thought it was unnecessary and a waste. However, like segmenting a lemon, I have developed a fondness for it. It has a slight licorice taste to it that is very pleasing. With the spaghetti squash it worked quite well.

Added secret bonus: Jen doesn't like licorice either. Double win for me!

I also made these popovers with fresh thyme just before serving the pheasant. After a recent trip to a brunch place that served basketball-sized popovers I've been wanting to make them again so I whipped up a quick batter with egg, milk, salt, sugar, flour, and fresh thyme.

I also made a quick whiskey caramel sauce for the top of some pumpkin ice cream. It was delicious.

Since there was a guest I made a few more courses that I generally would but I was able to get the whole dinner done pretty quickly. This is a menu I'd highly recommend because everything on it is extremely easy to make and it takes very little time. Of course you may be wondering about recipes and I don't really have any recipes because recipes are not really my thing.

So, instead, for people who like lists of things I'll post a list of the regulation of household expenses of M. Myriel from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.


For the little seminary - 1,500 livres
Society of the mission - 100
For the Lazarists of Montdidier - 100
Seminary for foreign missions in Paris - 200
Congregation of the Holy Spirit - 150
Religious establishments of the Holy Land - 100
Charitable maternity societies - 300
Extra, for that of Arles - 50
Work for the amelioration of prisons - 400
Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners - 500
To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt - 1,000
Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the diocese - 2,000
Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes - 100
Congregation of the ladies of D——, of Manosque, and of Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor girls - 1,500
For the poor - 6,000
My personal expenses - 1,000
Total - 15,000

Bon appetite, 24601!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deep Freezer Spelunking

One of Jen's favorite things to do is to interview people. I guess that's why she ended up in the profession that she did. However, it's not just at work that she likes to do this. She also does it at home. She will often go into "interview mode" and just fire off a bunch of questions at me rapid-fire. These questions are usually about my past and most often about my culinary past.

What is the hardest thing you've ever had to cook? What was the most expensive meal you ever made? What did you hate to do the most?

Well, recently I regaled Jen with tales of a recipe that required me to segment 33 lemons. Segmenting lemons is a hateful task. You need to peel the lemon, cut each segment out, and carefully remove the seeds. After 33 lemons you generally have enough segments to barely fill a cereal bowl and the task takes about seven hours to complete. Not to mention the fact that your hands are stinging from tiny invisible cuts you never knew you had. I also developed eczema on my left ring finger which was aggravated each time I touched a lemon or shrimp for a decade after working in that particular job.

However, the effect of segmented lemon is very nice. And all that talk about this loathsome task got me to thinking that I'd like to do it again on my own terms. Segmenting one lemon is not all that bad. So it was that I made this salad with kale, segmented lemon, shaved fennel, and Marcona almonds.

I had to continue my freezer cleaning so tonight I made shrimp cocktail. We also have some cocktail sauce that we've had for over a year and I wouldn't mind seeing that go away.

To keep with the themeless theme I made some turkey soup out of Canadian Thanksgiving frozen turkey, turkey stock, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, potato, and egg noodles. I was going to put a twist on it but then I decided that would be lame.

For beer I enjoyed another beer from Cavalry Brewing, this time the Big Wally Porter. I always find it odd mixing beer with soup but this seemed to work pretty well. On the negative side this bottle's text was not as incomprehensible as the Hatch Plug Ale which declared: "A happy tanker is a fat tanker and a real fat tanker is a Hatch Plug."

One odd thing I noticed is that if you inhaled while sipping this beer it had the distinct smell of porcini mushrooms. I don't want to be that guy who "detects caramel undertones" or whatever but I thought it was pretty pronounced. And while I enjoyed the beer that was certainly not my favorite part of the experience.

Maybe Big Wally was a big fan of fungi.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta with Ricotta

The situation in our freezer has reached something of a crisis point. There is now no room to do anything other than open up the freezer, toss something in, then shut the door really fast so that it doesn't come spilling out.

There have been far too many good deals recently that I have taken advantage of and thrown into the freezer. Along with the leftovers from Canadian Thanksgiving and the regular things we have in inventory it has reached a boiling point. Or a freezing point. Or just a point where we really need to start using up some of the stuff in our freezer.

I thawed out some chicken breast and some fresh fettuccine last night and decided that I would do something with them. However, I was not really sure what.

This afternoon we went to Tarry Market to check it out. It was pretty nice but I resisted the urge to buy anything and add to our pantry, fridge, and freezer surplus. We also went to the Farmer's market and walked around, again purchasing nothing and making the commitment to just use the ingredients we had at home.

I seared the chicken breast (on the bone) which I'd rubbed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and sage. Then I tossed some onion, garlic, and wedges of pumpkin in the pan and roasted it all in the oven. When it was done I added some ricotta from Liuzzi Cheese in North Haven, Connecticut. I've been sitting on the cheese for a while (not literally), waiting for the perfect occasion to use it. It is dated to expire tomorrow so tonight it seemed like the perfect occasion had finally arrived. It's also worth noting that this may be the best ricotta I've ever had.

After added the dollops of ricotta I threw it into the broiler to melt the cheese for a few minutes then took it out and topped with fresh sage leaves that I'd previously fried in the pan with the chicken.

I also rendered some salt pork (also from the freezer) but opted not to use it as I think it may have been past its prime.

The end result was far better than I'd anticipated and I was glad that the salt pork didn't work out since it would have been unnecessary.

In a world of pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin cheesecake (half of which have no pumpkin but rather just pumpkin pie spices added to them) it's comforting to return to the original: straight pumpkin. In my book it doesn't get any better than just roasting it.

This is a pasta that I will certainly make again. Though next time maybe I'll add a graham cracker crust and season it with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Meatloaf Sandwich

As with Thanksgiving dinner, with meatloaf Jen was more excited about the leftovers than the actual meal itself. Thus I present this giant meatloaf sandwich.

I served the slices of hot meatloaf on a lightly buttered and grilled baguette with sliced onions, more of the Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup and sliced Grafton cheddar. On the side: pickles and oven fried potato wedges.

I think I liked this more than the actual meatloaf. All said and done I don't think I'm a huge fan of meatloaf in its natural state. Unfortunately the batch I made was huge and there is another giant meatloaf log in the freezer at the moment.

Maybe I'll have to look for creative ways to use meatloaf for the fateful day when I have to thaw it out. Maybe there's an Iron Chef meatloaf battle that I can watch to draw inspiration from.

The meatloaf ice cream is going to be interesting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meatloaf, Hatch Plugs, and The Return of the Twirly Mustache

Jen and I have been talking for the past week about making meatloaf. We'd decided that it had been a long time since either of us had had meatloaf. Before tonight it had probably been at least ten years since I made meatloaf. So after chatting about it for a while we decided to make it. These are just some of the exciting conversations we engage in on a daily basis.

To further the sadness of what excites us in our old age we planned it in advance. Tonight was going to be the night that meatloaf would be had!

Unfortunately we both ended up having to work much later than expected and that meant a mad rush to do dinner. Meatloaf is not really the quickest thing one can hope to throw together in a pinch. As a result it probably wasn't seasoned as nicely as I'd have liked and I didn't have any time to allow it to cool before slicing which would have made for a less messy presentation.

Luckily I'd done some of the prep work the day before so here's what went into the final mix. I cooked some garlic, onion, and carrot in rendered bacon then combined it with some ground beef. I added panko, salt, pepper, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce, dried thyme, and two eggs. I worked it all together, rolled it up in some parchment paper, then baked it in the oven for about an hour at 375 degrees. It could have used a little more seasoning in retrospect but I was pressed for time. Besides, all the recent episodes of Iron Chef that I've watched have lead me to believe that no dinner can take more than one hour.

I also tossed these fantastic rainbow carrots from Homestead Farm in Orange, Connecticut in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them along with the meatloaf.

Jen made some cheese sauce to go along with broccoli. Generally I think she uses butter, flour, milk, Worchestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in her sauce. Then she grated in some Grafton cheddar to finish it.

To go along with our somewhat retro meal I served up this gourmet ketchup as a sauce. It's called Sir Kensington's Gourmet Scooping Ketchup. I'm a fan of any late 19th century gentleman with a twirly mustache, top hat and monocle. This was the spicy variety and was quite tasty.

Oh, Sir Kensington, you had me at twirly mustache.

As well as making a fine mustard Sir Kensington also has what I will venture to say is likely the most fun ketchup related websites on the Internet. The Facts About Sir Kensington section is the highlight in my opinion. It is reminiscent of the Most Interesting Man in the World but with a sometimes stranger take on that whole trope.

To wash this all down I enjoyed a Hatch Plug Ale from Cavalry Brewing in Oxford, Connecticut. It was an enjoyable beer and I'm generally a fan of any cartoony labeling particularly if it features an army guy in a tank. It's my second favorite type of labeling after a 19th century British guy with a monocle.

I guess it is oddly fitting that I should enjoy this particular beer on Veterans Day. I think a new and more specific holiday may be in order for the future. That is why I propose a separate Tank Veterans Day. Just sayin'.

I thought that was an odd name for a beer until I saw the label of the bottle which has the following text printed on it: "A happy tanker is a fat tanker and a real fat tanker is a Hatch Plug."

I'm satisfied with that. That answers all my questions about the name of the beer without raising any additional ones.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Can Mashed Potato . . . PIZZA!

And now a brief break from Iron Chef themed dinners.

Today was a day to return to the leftovers from Canadian Thanksgiving. Everything we haven't already use (except for the cranberry sauce) has long been in the freezer. Along with many other items this has been clogging up the freezer. Now I must resist the urge to do any more Iron Chef theme nights unless they have an episode where the theme ingredient is gravy or stuffing.

So it was that I thawed out the leftover mashed potatoes and made mashed potato pizza. This gave me a chance to give my brand new pizza peel and pizza stone in their inaugural night.

I topped some pizza dough with the mashed potato, some browned bacon, and lightly steamed broccoli. Then I topped it all with shredded Grafton Cheddar and slid it onto the new pizza stone, cooking it for about 10 or 12 minutes on the new pizza stone at 450 degrees.

Here I am returning to my Italian roots with what is potentially the world's least Italian pizza ever made.

My great nonna would roll over in her grave if she saw this pizza.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Japanese Home Cooking

One of my favorite Iron Chef episodes of all time comes from the 1994 season and features Katsuyo Kobayashi (the Julia Child of Japan) in battle against Iron Chef Chen Kenichi. In the episode she prances around the kitchen, sings, taunts Chen and eventually wins the battle making a nearly unprecedented seven dishes in the allotted hour.

If you haven't already seen it then I highly recommend watching the first Iron Chef Potato Battle.

One of the dishes she made was Nikujaga which is a Japanese beef and potato stew. For some reason this really struck my fancy and I spent the last few days wishing to make it. Unlike most of the dishes made on Iron Chef this one doesn't contain shark fin so it wasn't immediately outside the realm of possibility to make this.

In the episodes Kobayashi accidentally dumps a tremendous amount of sesame oil into the dish thinking it was something else. When she realizes what she's done she just shrugs and says it'll just make the dish taste better anyway. I tried to keep my recipe a little lighter than that but followed what I saw her do on the show as best I could.

My obaachan also used to make this dish (of course) but since she has passed on I had only what I observed Kobayashi do to guide me.

I was so excited to make this that I even broke out our wok which I haven't used in years. This past month has been so much like the 90's I could swear I have somehow been temporally transported back to to 1997. All I'd need to make this complete would be to work 125 hours a week and the feeling would be complete. Tomorrow night I think I'll put on some Ben Folds Five to set the mood.

I heated up a little safflower oil and sesame oil in the wok, tossed in about a pound of ground beef, browned it, tossed in two peeled and sliced russet potatoes, and two small chopped onions and tossed it all around. After a few minutes I added some soy sauce, brown sugar, a little water, and some mirin and let it stew on the stove for about twenty-five minutes.

Kobayashi (or at least what I observed her do) did not steer me wrong. It was a pretty tasty stew. A little research shows that this is an extremely popular dish in Japan. What's new to me is undoubtedly boring to anyone who grew up in that country. However, I may be able to excite a native of Japan with my American equivalent: macaroni and cheese!

Just to be a complete hambone I decided to pick up a can of Sapporo to accompany the stew. I'm pretty sure I haven't had a Sapporo since the 90's either. I guess moving to Westchester, amidst the sea of Asian-fusion restaurants has really rubbed off on me.

I can't wait to get a job cooking in a restaurant making $6.50 an hour. Then the circle will be complete!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cabbage Battle, Round 2

Last night I made Iron Chef Chen's fried rice and tonight I felt the need to expand on the Chinese Cabbage Battle episode by making some stuffed cabbage.

I sauteed up some chopped garlic, ginger, and red chilies that we got from the farmer's market last week. Then I added some ground pork, Sichuan pepper, tamari, and a little rice wine vinegar. I cooled it slightly before adding some egg to the mixture along with a little of the turkey stock remaining from last week's Coq au Vin.

After boiling some nappa cabbage leaves I cooled them, wrapped the mixture, and finished by steaming them. I topped them with chopped ginger, scallion, and sliced carrot. I also served some sweet chili sauce on the side even though it wasn't really necessary. I thought it better created the feel of an Iron Chef dish which are usually served with separate bowls for dipping sauces.

I also made a salad with kale, rice vinegar, sesame oil, lime slices, shredded carrot, Sichuan pepper, and pickled ginger.

For a beverage I poured some Lagunitas Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale. At first sip I did not like this and by the end I really enjoyed it. I hate to be that guy to say that it has "notes of this or that" but it tasted shockingly like grapefruit. The aftertaste in particular made me feel as though I'd just taken a giant bite of the citrus fruit. This paired far better with the cabbage rolls than I thought it would.

There is still a tremendous amount of nappa cabbage in the fridge. I really should have taken a photograph of the size of this head of nappa before I started using it. I've lost count but I must have used it in a half dozen dishes so far over the course of several weeks. My new technique of watching the appropriate Iron Chef episode to come up with ideas for how to use leftovers seems to be paying off well. In addition to reawakening my interest in Japanese (and more so Chinese) cooking it has helped me push a tremendous amount of food out of the fridge before it spoils.

Not to mention that it's quite likely the greatest show that's ever been on television in any language, time, or country.

I ♥ Chen Kenichi.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marathon of Cooking (But Mostly Running)

After a long day in the cold in New York City watching tens of thousands of runners struggle through the 26.2 miles while standing comfortably on the sidelines we returned home for dinner.

My obsession with Iron Chef has only gained steam over the past few weeks. Re-watching all the episodes (and discovering many we'd never seen) has definitely had an influence on my cooking recently.

After watching many Iron Chef episodes we watched a great battle with the theme ingredient of Chinese Cabbage. I became quite fond of Chen Kenichi's technique for making fried rice and decided to emulate it.

It's very simple: a little sesame oil, shredded cabbage, cooked rice, egg, and soy sauce. I used very little soy sauce (much like Iron Chef Chinese) but also added some thinly sliced carrots, mostly because there were some extras in the fridge. I had leftover coconut rice from my boring stir fry so that was a little nonstandard but it worked out pretty well.

It was a great dinner after all day in the cold but we capped it off with some Aztec cocoa from McTwigan Spices which was seasoned with cinnamon and chilies. I hadn't actually realized the seasoning before I added a little Amaretto to Jen's and a little Frangelico to mine. I topped them both with some whipped cream which had held up in the fridge admirably since Canadian Thanksgiving. Combined with the spices I wound up sweating by the end of my cup.

It was thick enough to be eaten with a fork so I may ignore the directions next time and add twice as much milk.

Like so many people I'd love to blame going to bed at 9:15 PM as having to do with Daylight Savings Time. But who am I kidding? I'd totally go to bed at 9:15 PM at any day of the year.

Any day of the year that was awesome!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boring Stir Fry Night

Yesterday I was set to make a really boring stir fry but elected to do something a little more creative. The inspiration for this comes from watching a vast number of Iron Chef episodes recently. I feel compelled to mention, again, that this is the Japanese version of Iron Chef and not that terrible affront to the original series, Iron Chef America.

Due to the vast quantities of nappa cabbage and bok choy in the fridge I felt compelled to make a very boring stir fry. I remember a time in the early 90's when stir fries seemed kind of interesting and exciting. Now it seems about as plain and exciting as making mashed potatoes. That being said, this one was pretty tasty.

I browned some crushed garlic and minced ginger root in a little sesame oil, cooked down some carrot and red pepper, then tossed in the shopped bok choy and nappa cabbage. I added some rice wine vinegar, tamari, and roasted red chili paste.

I cooked some rice in coconut milk and served the completed stir fry over the rice. It was actually far tastier than I thought it would be considering all I was doing was using up stuff I had lying around.

For beer I found a fall ale that I'd somehow missed! Having sampled just about every fall beer I could get my hands on by the beginning of October, it was nice to have something new this evening. This was the Fall Summit Ale from Peak Organic in Maine.

It was a great counterpoint to a spicy stir fry on a rainy evening. But not quite as good as watching Iron Chef Italian defeat the owner of a food cart.