Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hey Yo

Sorry guys, I know it's been a while. 1. I've been busy writing a research paper. It's actually pretty interesting...I'm studying whether there is a gender effect on risk aversion. 2. I had a friend in town last week so all we did was eat out. I don't have much to blog because I've not been cooking all that much! But I'll throw up a blog sometime tomorrow...after my midterm.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Laksa Version 2.0

As of late, I've been on a noodle soup kick. I love the stuff. Some of you might remember the recent Laksa (Malaysian noodle soup) post but I decided to follow another recipe in order to taste a different version. From a technical perspective, both recipes are fairly similar. Grind/mince fresh/dried seasonings and make a seasoning paste. Brown paste in oil and add liquid and coconut milk. Add proteins of your choice and serve over noodles. I really like recipes like this because once you get a handle on the technique, you can modify the recipe to your heart's content. Good stuff.

This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Step-By-Step Cooking. Although I like it for my purposes, I don't know if I can recommend it to others. If you are thinking about buying it, go and check it out at a local bookstore. It's got a rather eclectic collection of recipes so it won't ever become a reference cookbook but will remain something that you flip through looking for recipes...FYI, I'm TOTALLY not disparaging the book because it's a flipper...I'm just giving you my two cents.

All of the stuff:
Rough chop one stalk of lemongrass and place into a food processor:
Rough chop an onion, put into a food processor:
Rough chop a 2 inch piece of galangal and place into a food processor:
Rough chop 4 cloves of garlic and place into a food processor:
Core, deseed and rough chop a red bell pepper and put into a food processor:
Spices: Put into the food processor:
Rough chop a piece of ginger similar in size to the galangal, place into the food procesor.

Blend (add water if necessary) what's in the food processor and you should get something like this:
Heat up oil in your soup pot. Add the paste and cook until it's a bit brown and has lost some of its liquid. Pour in 5 cups of chicken or veggie broth and simmer for 20 minutes. At this point, you'll need to strain out the spice paste. Here was my contraption:
Here's why you need to're left with junk like this:
Finished product:Take the strained broth and place it back into the soup pot. Add 4 sliced boneless skinless chicken thighs and bring to a boil. Drop heat to a simmer and cook for ten minutes. Rinse and drain half of a package of tofu. Cube the tofu and add to the soup.

Cook for another ten minutes. You should have something like this:
Add 1.5 cups of coconut milk. Simmer for another 5 minutes and then it's done.

To assemble:
Bean sprouts:
Pour on broth and garnish...fried shallots:
Add cilantro and lime and you're done!

Time-About an hour...Only 20 minutes or so of actual active work.

Food cost-
Chicken- About $3.00
Tofu- $0.50
Coconut Milk- $0.70
Chicken Broth- $2.10
Incidentals- $1.00
Total- $7.30...makes about 4 servings...$1.82 per bowl.

Here's the link to the picture-less version of the recipe.

And, since I love LOLCats, here's a favorite:

Shellfish Skirmish!

George and I frequently visit the 2+2 web forum. The forum primarily exists to disseminate poker related knowledge but they also have some cool community areas. At the El Diablo Discussion Forum, they have a monthly cooking contest which revolves around a specific theme. This month's theme is shellfish so we decided to give it a shot and make a complete menu based on non-fish sea creatures. Needless to say, it was ALOT of work and we're going to be making the same menu in a few days for a few friends. We've sorta figured out what components we can make the night before and which need to be done the day of so, hopefully, the dinner party won't be horribly hectic. Here's what we cooked:
Scallop Tartare with Asian Pear, Bell Pepper and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Egg with Dungeness Crab, Softly-Scrambled Egg and Uni (Kinda looks like a brain is climbing out of the hollowed-out shell, yes?

Shellfish Stew with Ginger Bouillon (Clams, mussels and shrimp in what is basically a ginger-shrimp bisque)

Oyster and Uni in Seawater Gelee (Ripped off from Manresa)

Shrimp with Roasted Butternut Squash (Squash is flavored with ginger and there are also crispy, puffed pumpkin seeds for textural contrast)

Steamed Lobster with Ginger-Garlic-Basil Sauce (really, really tasty and not too hard!)

Lychee with Strawberries and Lime (Notice anything interesting? That's right...we wanted the first and last courses to look come full circle, so to speak. I think we succeeded.)

If I feel so inclined, I will throw up some pictures of the cooking process...Don't expect full recipes though because I don't feel like doing it. Unless 23 people leave comments asking for a full play-by-play.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comment Moderation

I have turned off comment moderation. Maybe the threat of my vengeful wrath kept some of your tongues, err...keys, silent?


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bran Muffins

Here is the weekly installment of the The Clueless College Baker but, unlike some of my previous efforts, this one has a happy ending! The muffins turned out really, REALLY well...except for one step which we'll get to a little bit later. Wholesome and moist, these muffins make me look forward to getting up in the morning...perfect with a cup of coffee.

The recipe I'm using can be found in I'm Just Here For More Food...I've had issues in the past where the volume and weight measurements didn't quite match up (1 tsp of vanilla extract weighs 57 grams?) but had no problems with the bran muffin recipe. It's also a fun book to read through. Brown's enthusiasm for food is infectious and his science-based perspective is refreshing in an industry dominated by flowery adjectives and hollow rhetoric. There's substance behind his words that helps you understand WHY things happen as they do. When you understand the science behind the cooking process, you'll become more confident and will, eventually, be able to anticipate problems before they happen. Good stuff.

Oh. Some of you might notice that I use weight measurements when I bake. I do this because it's more precise. Given that flour can be compressed, it's easier to give weight measurements because then everyone's on the same page.

Anyhow, here we go.
The ingredients. Raisins in the center, bran flakes directly above. Baking soda to the right. Nutmeg in the small grinder.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Set half of a stick of butter aside to come to room temperature.
Use butter to grease up a 10 of the 12 openings on a 12-muffin muffin tin.

Measure out the dry ingredients. First, 138 grams of whole wheat flour:
8 grams of baking soda
Sift. Add a few pinches of salt. Recipe calls for 2.5 grams (.5 teaspoon) of ground allspice. I didn't have allspice and used nutmeg instead...I just ground it until it smelled quite fragrant. Set aside:
Measure out more dry ingredients. 20 grams of wheat germ:
Toast the wheat germ...just enough so it smells toasty. Set aside:
106 grams of bran flakes:
1/2 of a cup of raisins on top of the bran flakes:
Combine bran flakes, wheat germ and raisins. Set aside.

More measuring. 86 grams of brown sugar:
62 grams of molasses:
Set aside sugar/molasses mixture.

Buttermilk, 228 grams:

Measuring is done.

Take the softened butter and smoosh it around until it's sorta smooth. This was harder than I had imagined it would be:Watch this video and try not to think of me as a total psycho:

Here's what happened a moment later:

Ughh. Ideally, I would've whisked the butter and then added the sugar/molasses and whisked that for a while. After that, one egg. Things don't always go as planned. Aim for a nice homogeneous mixture.
Add half the flour/baking soda/salt mixture. Combine:Add half the buttermilk:Add the half of the flour mixture and combine. Add the remaining buttermilk and combine.
Add the bran flakes, wheat germ and raisins. Fold to will need Popeye-like gets pretty thick:I used an ice cream scoop to get the muffin batter into the tins.

Done. Notice how some of these tins aren't quite full. The next time I make this recipe. I will only make 10 mufffins. Place muffins into your preheated oven for 20 minutes or so. Check to see that they're cooked through by stabbing them with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, they're done.

20 minutes later...GREAT SUCCESS! They look purdy, don't they? I couldn't resist and had to eat a piping hot muffin:
Cool on a rack:
Man, was I thrilled to see the lovely brown muffins come out of the oven. I guess I'm not totally hopeless when it comes to baking. Next time, I might try something a little more difficult. Homemade puff pastry? Maybe...just maybe...

Time- About an hour including baking time

Food cost- Lost the grocery receipt. Oops. However, it can't be more than 4 bucks for the whole batch...these things are pretty cheap.

edit: It should be known that I was somewhat unsatisfied with the shape of the muffins. They just don't have that steroid-fueled GIANT Starbucks muffin shape. This is one reason why I decided that, the next time, to make 10 muffins and not 12...that should help facilitate the classic muffin shape.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lemongrass Marinated Pork

This is going to be a quickie post where I give you a pretty standard marinade I use for grilled pork. I usually make lettuce wraps with the pork but sometimes, like tonight, I just want a plate of fresh rice and pork.

Pork. I'm unsure what cut this is...All I know is that I was at the Asian market and I saw an unmarked cut of pork. I checked it out and noticed that it had a terrific looking mix of fat to lean so I asked the butcher where on the pig it was from. He didn't speak English so he grabbed another butcher. This butcher just pointed to his face. I assume cutlets of pig face? Who knows. Anyhow, it looked terrific and was thin so I decided to grill it. This is a little under a pound of meat. You could also use thin loin cutlets or thin pork chops. Given that I was at the Asian market, I grabbed stuff for a Vietnamese marinade.

The marinade: Half of a grated onion, 2 cloves of grated garlic, 3-4 tablespoons of finely chopped lemongrass, a tablespoon of fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1.5 tablespoons of brown sugar, a powerful shake of white pepper, a teaspoon of curry powder and 3 tablespoons of oil. Mix well, combine with the pork. I usually marinate this overnight.

I am using a grill pan. I let the thing heat up for 15 minutes over high heat. I want it good and hot...just set a timer and walk away. Remove the pork from the marinade and try to wipe off the excess marinade. The sugar will burn so you need to be careful. Dry the meat off and slap onto the heated grill. Let it sit for 3 minutes, undisturbed. Don't peak, don't touch it. Nothing. After three minutes, rotate the meat. This will give you those cool hatch marks. After the second 3 minute set, flip the meat over and...voila!
Cook the second side in a similar fashion to the first side.

Let the meat rest for 5 minutes. This is enough time to quickly saute some bean sprouts.
Cut the'll still be slightly pink:
Here's a fun garnish...take a lime wedge and stick the wedge part, not the rind, in salt...get it nicely coated. When you squeeze the lime over the meat, it'll take some salt with it. Delicious, trust me.

Since I'm trying to be more veggie-centric, here was my dinner:
Three small slices of meat, rice, bean sprouts with an Indonesian sambal (homemade!) and lemongrass braised long beans. Mmmmmm. And no, the picture isn't supposed to be artfully presented. It is what it is.