Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Barbara Kafka's Roasting

Just started reading Barbara Kafka's book on roasting. Pretty good so far. Will definitely try her high heat method in the future. I happened to roast a tri-tip today. I liked it a lot more than the one I just souvide. Though both turned out medium rare, but the fat had broken down better in the roasted one, making it far more juicy and tender.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Souvide Cooking Again!

I picked up some nicely priced tri-tip from SF Market and decided to give it a go with my Souvide Supreme (SS). I chopped the tri-tip into two roughly equal portions so they fit in 1-Quart vacuum bags. I made a marinate – sesame oil, cilantro, green onion, garlic, ginger, shoaxing rice wine, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. My goal was a ginger scallion marinade that was pretty thick and chunky. I blended everything up in the food processor, tasted it, and it turned out great! Dumped about 1/3rd in each back and sealed them up in my foodsaver, reserving the last third for drizzling later. 

Unfortunately my foodsaver is having difficulty sealing well when there are wet ingredients (even under gentle setting). After about an hour, I took one of the bags out, popped it open, and transferred the tri-tip to another back with some extra whole green onions and ginger slices. Most of the chunky aspects of the marinade were still clinging to the meat and so I was hoping it would seal this time. Wishful thinking… It sealed with 2 small opening. So I stuck the 85% sealed bag in another bag, and tried again. This time it finally managed to seal all the way, despite still pulling some of the moisture from the inner bag. Now my test batch was ready to go, in the SS it went. 

Unfortunately after testing the water with my Thermapen, the water was about 5 degrees lower than the setting once it finished heating up. So I cranked it up 140 degrees and tested again. A perfect 135.   

The game plan is to cook it for about 2 hours before I take it out of the bag. It ended up being about 2 and 2 1/2 hours.

Looked OK. Took it out of the bag (had an amazing smell of garlic and ginger). 

Next step was to caramelize the meat under the broiler and then let it rest for a while. 

End result- came out to be a solid medium. The meat itself was tender, not as flavorful as I would have liked, but for marinating for only 1 hr, it was great.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yang's Noodles

Synopsis: While I really wanted to love Yang’s based on its collective reviews, my recent and past experiences have been ultimately lackluster and disappointing.

The Location: Yang’s sits across from a couple of my go-to dim sum restaurants on Stockton Blvd. For those who haven’t traveled down Stockton, parts are nice, and other parts are not so nice… Granted, there are often weathered homeless people with giant trash bags full of cans riding around on bikes, panhandlers at some of the major intersections, and beggars that troll the parking lots.  Aside from that, it’s a sort of safe but rundown street.  The building that houses Yang’s is rather non-descript. They recently remodeled the restaurant, but didn’t seem to do much if anything to its fa├žade. That’s OK though, I certainly am not going to judge a restaurant based on its looks, especially if it’s on Stockton Blvd. What was an ominous sign when I arrived today for lunch today (3/21/2015) was a dead orange and white cat lying out in the middle of the parking lot. After I parked, which do to the small number of available spaces happened to be eerily close to the deceased Garfield, I did notice what I believe to be a young worker at the restaurant coming out to clean it up. As I was entering the restaurant, I saw him out of the corner of my eye lifting the cat up sans gloves or any other plastic protection. Regardless, I refuse to let the memory of an unfortunate fated feline spoil my lunch, so on I went. The inside of Yang’s, which can be seen from any of the numerous of pictures, is bright and clean now since the remodel. I noticed that they have newly printed menus since I was here last (see Becca W’s photos), and new standard black t-shirts for all their staff.  

The Menu: Yang’s has an interesting but somewhat tight menu. They have a number of exotic sounding appetizers, a handful of dry and wet noodle offerings along with your standard chow mein and chow fun, a couple of different dumplings and Taiwanese snack foods, and some standard Chinese mainstays on the back. I noticed that it had been paired down a bit from when I was here last, especially in the soup department. The main thing everyone seems to rave about is their signature beef noodle soup. I heard a description of the “Da Lu noodle soup” by one of the servers and was sold. Since it isn’t described on the menu, the Da Lu noodle soup contains thinly sliced chicken breast, shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, bok choy, thinly sliced carrots, egg, and their standard hand-cut noodles. With dumpling week on Serious Eats just finishing up, I felt I had to choose an obligatory order of these little delights. Xiao Long Bao (XLB), described on the menu as “juicy pork buns,” but are more commonly known as soup dumplings, have long been lauded as one of the kings of this Chinese staple. On previous visits, I have had their beef noodle soup (twice), there noodles with ground pork and cucumber, and two varieties of their boiled dumplings.

The Food: I can forgive almost any offense a restaurant delivers, even a dead cat in the parking lot, if the food is good. Sadly, most of what I have had at Yang’s is not worth the trip. Here is the breakdown:
Xiao Long Bao – What I was expecting and what I received were markedly different. Everything I have read about XLBs told me to expect a thin skinned, medium sized dumpling containing piping hot broth served with a side of ginger and vinegar. I was told when I ordered these that they take 20-25 minutes to make. Fair enough, the king of dumplings needs some time and I’ll have a giant bowl of soup to keep me company until he makes his grand entrance. When the XLBs arrived, they looked the part, at least like all of the pictures that I have seen. But I could tell something was wrong when I took one of the dumplings up in my spoon, bit off the knot at the top, and was not treated to any soupy steam or porky broth flowing out of it. Additionally, I noticed the skin was rather thick for a dumpling, and had a somewhat sweet and doughy texture, almost like a steamed BBQ pork bun. They reminded me of the Shanghai dumplings that I have had previously at Happy Garden with a slightly different filling. The dumplings were filled with a pork mixture generously mixed with chive. Unfortunately, my first one was not an aberration; none of the dumplings in the order contained any noticeable portion of broth. They didn’t taste bad, they were just a very far cry from what I was expecting for my first taste of Xiao Long Bao. I would rate them to be better than their boiled dumplings, but nothing to make a special trip to try.
Noodles – This section covers the noodles in all of the dishes that I have tried so far. They are thicker than chow mein noodles, but not as broad as chow fun noodles. They are not uniform, and definitely have a homemade appearance. However, they taste pasty. They are not mushy, but being relatively thick, they have that certain slimy sheen, texture, and feeling of being overcooked.  This was the case with each of the noodle dishes that I have tried here, in soup or with a meat sauce. I was hoping that in my previous visits that I was just unlucky, or perhaps they sat in the broth too long before I was able to get at them. But no, each time they were the same as the last. Pasty.
Da Lu Noodle Soup – Probably the best thing I have eaten here. Albeit for the noodles as mentioned earlier, the soup was pretty good and chock full of chicken, bok choy, and mushrooms. If I came back, I would order it again.
Beef Noodle Soup – This soup has good flavor, but it suffers from two big flaws. First, the chunks of beef tend to be scraps interlaced with thick layers of chewy fat, and second, the noodles as described above. I can certainly understand using the lesser cuts of beef for stews- that’s what you are supposed to do. Long cooking times means the intramuscular fat in these cuts has a chance to break down and provide both depth to the broth and make the meat extra tender (whereas leaner cuts will just seize up and be tough). I don’t even mind untrimmed chucks of meat with a little fat on the outside, provided the meat and fat have been cooked long enough that they just melt in your mouth. What Yang’s serves you is scrap chunks of meat with huge quantities of gristle and chewy fat. The first time I had this dish, it wasn’t that bad. The third time I visited, I took a friend to try the restaurant, and by the time we left I was just embarrassed I had recommended that we try the place. We probably picked out ¼ of the volume of the soup each as inedible chunks of fat with some vestiges of meat clinging within. Sure the soup was cheap, but come on. I get rustic dishes. I heard British food critic Simon Majumdar say that “rustic” tends to be another word for “lazy.” While I think the rustic nature of food can add to its character, with this soup, I would agree with Simon. Someone in the back picked up a box of the leftover cuts from a butcher and just heaved them into a soup, forcing the diners to do the tedious work for themselves.
Minced Pork with Cucumber Over Noodles  – Besides my consistent disappointment with the quality of the noodles, this dish was alright. It consisted of a somewhat scant amount of a minced pork ragu with matchsticks of cucumber as an interesting addition over noodles.
Boiled Dumplings  – Another dish that I wanted to like, but was disappointed with what I was served. These reminded me of the cheap dumpling orders I used to get in Houston’s Chinatown while attending school. Thick skin, flavored ground meat fillings, but ultimately very bland, even when dipped in their accompanying sauce. The dumplings are not bad tasting, but extremely mediocre.

Prices: For Stockton Blvd., I think this place might have higher prices than average. The prices of dishes have definitely been raised since the remodel.  But that being said, the prices are reasonably low on the whole for being a restaurant in Sacramento.       

Verdict: While disappointed in the quality of the Xiao Long Baos and the beef noodle soup, the up side it that Yang’s has never given me food poisoning. But its highs and lows collectively make it pretty unremarkable among the vibrant Stockton Blvd. food scene.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Post

It has been too difficult to find the time to balance blogging with my other extracurricular activities. This will be the last post of the blog. Thanks for reading!  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chicken Breast w/ Beans, Spinach, and Wild Mushrooms + assorted pickles

Market of Choice was selling split breasts for 1.30ishlb, so I snapped up a couple of packages. I am just going to take off the bones and use them for stock. So tonight, I took off the portion of the carcass clinging to the breast, and then stuck the bones in a bag and then into the freezer for future stock making. I cut off the larger chunks of fat still clinging to the bones and breast itself, then diced the fat up and rendered it in the skillet. Meanwhile- I rubbed the chicken down with salt, thyme, hungarian smoked paprika, and pepper. 

One the fat rendered I flipped the burner up to high, waited till the fat was near smoking, and stuck the breast in skin side down. I wanted to just get some color on the skin before I flipped the breast over and seared the opposite side. Then into a 325 oven. It took about 20 minutes- with me rotating the breast in the pan every 10 minutes. 

Just after the first flip. Really happy with the color of the skin. When finished, I sat the breast atop a mix of cannellini beans, spinach, and mix of wild mushrooms, with garlic, thyme, and a little rosemary.

Finished off with some Asian style pickles and scallions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tri Tip Sandwich

Couldn't resist finishing off the tri-tip in a sandwich. Multigrain sourdough roll from Eugene City Bakery, chopped tri-tip, Russian mustard, Klausen pickles, lettuce, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper. Set it along with the remaining tri tip and leftover pickle quarter.

iPhone fixed!

With the new windows update, my iPhone is finally able to sync up with my desktop. This means I no longer have to email the photos from my phone to my computer! A bunch of old photos were just uploaded to the flickr account. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Decluttered - Sous Vide Tri Tip - Bean, Spinach and Tomatos

With school back in swing, I am not meeting my goals of updating the blog. Oh well, I'll do my best. Life really hasn't been too inspiring lately. Lots of reading and eating a bunch of left overs. I took a look in my fridge, realized it was full of a lot of remnants of things I didn't want to eat again, and decided to clean house. I kept saving pickle jar + leftover brine with the plan to reuse them again to and pickle things. But at $3 a cucumber, not really cost effective to make dill day pickles. Gazing into a rapidly filling fridge with not much of any actual food, I realized I was turning into a refrigerator hoarder. So I cleaned out all the crap and feel much less burdened.

Sous Vide Tri Tip

I picked up a huge Tri Tip from Longs and decided to cook some of it tonight. This morning I cut off two of the oblong ends to make a uniform rectangular tri tip roast. I vacuum sealed the roast and froze it, and bagged the other two pieces with salt, pepper, Olive Oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, and Hungarian smoked paprika. I let it marinate the whole day.

To cook- I fired up the sous vide supreme. The internal temp settings have been off anywhere from  4 to 6 degrees based on what I have been testing with my thermapen- so I set it at 148F with the intent to cook it in the low 140s. The previous tri tip I cooked at 140 was good but pretty rare and a little chewy- my guess because it was actually cooking around 135.

It came out perfect. I was feeling lazy and didn't bother searing it off in a pan to save making the mess. The meat melted in my mouth- delicious.

Beans, Spinach, and Tomatoes

Sauteed garlic in olive oil and added two cans of diced tomatoes. Added thyme, dried rosemary, 2 bay leaves  and crushed peppers. After after most of the liquid had reduced, I added a bag of frozen chopped spinach and 2 cans of drained northern beans. I added some balsamic vinegar and paprika to mirror the spice of the tri tip, and when the tri tip finished cooking, I added all the juices from the tri tip's cooking bag into the pot. I let it simmer and reduce. Really happy with how it turned out. Pleasing herby notes on the front with a subtle beefyness in the back.

Added some cheap bag salad mix with some oil, vinegar, and some cracked black pepper and I had a pretty delicious meal. Looking forward to eating more of those beans for breakfast. Also have another 1/2 lb or so of tri tip :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Salmon and Flat Iron Steak

Time to start eating better proteins...Salmon sauteed in butter with beans and collards

Market of Choice is having a sale on Flat Iron steaks, so I tried a pack out. Pretty delicious. Seared in butter in cast iron skillet, finished in oven at 350F. Pulled it out and rested when the meat was at 135F. I let it rest about 10 minutes (should have been longer- but still turned out great). Other than resting the meat, you also want to make sure to cut slices against the grain for ultimate mouth meltiness. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pork and Lentils

Classes kicked off and I'm back to the grind. My professor for both my classes this semester has been great. 

Trying out a "slow-carb" diet where the bulk of calories come from protein and carbs with low glycemic indexes that don't spike your blood sugar too hard. Boring same old same old. 

Smoked pork chop atop lentils with tomatoes, spinach, onions, rosemary and thyme

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jerk Chicken Sandwich

Picked up a roll from the market. Toasted the insides with some bacon fat. Added some sliced jerk chicken breast. Added some of the pickled collard stems and finished the sandwich with some mustard and siracha. 

Jerk Stew

Unfortunately my jerk stew didn't come out the way I intended. It has some real heat and a smokey flavor, but not as much of a "jerk" taste as I would like. I'll have to play with it in the future to get it right. I was also planning on using okra to finish it, but the market didn't have any in frozen bags. I ended up using peas instead- which turned out to be better choice after all since the sweetness of the peas helped to add some color and mute the heat a bit.

Here's what I did:
Started out cooking some chopped onion and carrot in the cooking vessel with left over oil and seasoning from cooking the chicken breasts last night. Meanwhile, I added 6 habaneros, 1 bunch of green onions, some red wine vinegar (probably should have been malt), a couple of tablespoons of the jerk seasoning, some beer, and a little soy sauce to a food processor and blitzed it up.

Once the carrots and onions had softened, I added the pork which had marinated for about 24hrs along with the jerk wet sauce I made in the food processor.

One the pot was bubbling away, I capped it and stuck it into the oven set at 200F for a couple of hours:

I checked it at the 2hr mark to make sure everything was going ok and nothing was burning in the pan. The should was a long way from becoming tender, so capped the pot again, stuck it back in the oven and let it cook overnight. When I checked the pot in the morning, it had reduced far more than I intended and there was only a little bit of liquid left in the pot. I added a bag of frozen peas, and finished the stew off on the range.

There are a couple things I'd change for the future:
- Cooking the pork independently from the veggies. The shoulder takes a long time to get to pulling stage, and the dark color of the jerk sauce turns everything a deep brown. The carrots kept their orange color after about 2hrs of cooking, but lot it after being cooked overnight.
- I'd like to try it with okra and peas
- The spice mixture still didn't taste right- going to have to splice some recipes and see if I can find a better combination

Overall: I liked the heat (I was sweating), but I'll give it a 5. It needs an overhaul. Also, not a fan of everything in my apartment smelling like a Caribbean restaurant.

Pickled Collard Stems:
Another day in the fridge and the pickled collard stems finally have some nice flavor. If Lost Creek has more great collards this Saturday, I'm definitely picking up a few bunches. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jerk Chicken and Collard Greens - Part Deuce

My parents brought me back some jerk seasoning from their Florida trip. I added the seasoning to some chicken breasts and pork shoulder along with some soy sauce, and vinegar. I seared off the breasts in my dutch oven with olive oil, added a little water, and let them finish off slow. I plan on using the same pot later to retain the flavor to make a jerk stew. Plated up along side some collards. Unfortunately, the jerk seasoning didn't contain any heat, so I ended up topping off the chicken with some siracha. Finished the meal out with a nice glass of Tempranillo.

Pickled Collard Green Stems Work!

Chomped into one of the picked collard green stems I made yesterday. They worked! The color of the stems faded a bit, but they developed a very pleasurable pickle-like crunchiness. Flavor wise, really weren't bitter at all. After about a 24hr soak they were still a little bland. Hopefully with a little more time, they absorb more brine and become better seasoned. The only down side is they have a somewhat fibrous celery-like texture. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Collard Greens

Today I decided to cook up the collard greens I picked up from the farmer's market. They were seriously some of the best quality collards I have ever run across. Lost Creek really puts some of the best produce in the area. The collards had huge dark green unblemished leaves with some pretty hefty stems. A while back I pickled some  broccoli stalks according to one of Mollie Katzen's recipes and they turned out solid. The stems of the collards were so thick, I figured I might as well try pickling them. Just in case they wouldn't work, I just finished off a jar of Nathan's pickles and reused the brine and jar.

George's collards

Collard greens have an intense spicy bitterness that matches well with smokey flavors. I started with a little olive oil and 1/2lb of diced bacon. After the bacon rendered, I added onions, some spicy smoked paprika, and crushed pepper. After the onions had cooked down and started to turn translucent, I added chopped garlic and let it cook a while longer.

I then washed and took off the stems from the collard greens, and sliced the leaves into strips. I added the greens, some red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and some water. I cranked up the heat and covered the pot. Once I caught some steam escaping, I turned it down to a simmer (still covered) and let it cook for 20 minutes. I then took off the cover and added a bag of frozen spinach and mixed everything around. I recovered, kicked the heat back up and let simmer for about 10 minutes. I finished by removing the top, turning up the heat to moderate, and letting most of the moisture in the pot evaporate. 

Pickled stems:

Collard green stems start off thick at the base and slowly narrow. I chopped the stalks into three equal sized chunks. The tops were pretty tiny, so I stuck them straight into the brine. The middle stalks were "medium sized" and I blanched them for 1 minutes in boiling salt water, shocked them in an ice bath, and added them into the brine. Finally, the lower stalks were pretty thick. I peeled them with a veggie peeler to take off the tough outer layer, then blanched them for 2 minutes, shocked them in the ice bath, and added them to the brine. They ended up being a little too long and didn't sit all the way in the brine, so I cut them in half (after the photo was taken). It will be interesting to see how they turn out. They have a great vibrant green color.