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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. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Boring Day

Didn't really have anything interesting to do today. Trying to clean out the fridge of leftovers.

- 3 eggs finished with some black truffle oil
- Mixed spring greens

- Second chicken thigh from last night
- left over bok choy
- 2 scoops of zucchini veggie mix

- Smoked pork chop
- 2 scoops of veggie mix

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chanterelles and finishing moving

I decided to cook up the chanterelles I picked up at the farmers market and give them a try. I think sitting in my backpack and on my counter for a while before being placed into my fridge caused their quality to deteriorate a bit. At least 1/4 of what I purchased had to be tossed because they were slimy/dark and withered. I had to clean the remaining mushrooms under water with a vegetable brush. I sauteed them in some duck fat and tossed in a little dried rosemary. Once they gained a little color, I mixed up a few eggs and added them into a pan. I let the pan cook on the stove top to set the bottom layer of the egg, and finished it in the oven under the broiler.

My main goal was to simply isolate the chanterelle's to have a better idea what they taste like. The chanterelles had an interesting flavor, somewhat fruity but also a little woodsy. They were very aromatic when cooking, but their flavor was a little muted. Unfortunately I didn't re-dry them after cleaning, so they ended up having a somewhat mushy texture. In general, they are an extremely delicate mushroom, and I could see them working well in lighter dishes. While they tasted fine, all the necessary prep work to clean them was a little tedious, and I doubt I will be using them much in the future. When using mushrooms, I like them to impart both a textural contrast within the dish and either a meaty or earthy flavor. My standard "go-to" shroom is a shiitake.

Hopefully I can finish moving over all of my remaining stuff today to the apartment. The move has been probably the best thing to happen to me in the last couple of months. Aside from cooking and blogging again, I am not eating junk anymore and back to exercising regulating. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum through the summer so I will be in a much better place for the start of next year. 

- Double Cafe Mam espresso with vanilla almond milk 
- 2 Duck egg scramble with rosemary and chanterelles

Was able to finish moving. After a quick trip to Fred Meyer, I dropped by Kings Market and picked up some shanghai bok choy. I seared seared off the chicken thighs that had been marinated over night. After the thighs were cooked, I added the bok choy to the pot and let them cook in chicken's drippings.

- 1 chicken thigh
- bok choy 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Farmer's Market, Kiva, and a Microwave

Saturday means the Farmer's Market. I am always amazed by the great quality of produce here in Eugene (though I would love to see a larger and cheaper selection of veggies used in the various Asian cuisines). My only complaint is the cost. Part of the reason why I started taking trips to the Sacramento Farmer's Market was that the goods and produce were a lot less expensive than at the local Safeway store. Any type of squash  - $1/lb, Herbs $1/huge bunch, etc. Here, they same produce costs anywhere between two to three times as much. In fact, the expensive "high end" Whole Foods/Market of Choice type grocery stores price on point (or cheaper) than most of the farmers. That being said, the produce at the farmer's market tends to be a bit fresher, and it can be fun to interface with the individuals that produce what you eat. Below is the price board for Sweet Leaf farms which represents about what you'll expect to pay at any stall in Eugene.

The quality is amazing, but when you have to pay so much for the ingredients, it really stifles one's ability to experiment. For example- paying $7 for a bunch of asparagus when they're in season is absurd. Now, I highly doubt that these prices are a reflection of greedy farmers collusively setting a price floor to gouge the common Eugenian. But it makes me wonder why food in Oregon in general, one of the most fertile places on earth, just seems so much more expensive than any other place I have lived. Maybe it's simply that Eugene's population cannot support the larger market of farmers to increase food supply and thereby drive down the price? I don't know. My favorite thing used to be to pick up some veggies I had never used before (i.e. a japanese eggplants, a bunch of long beans, or Chinese broccoli - gai lan) and just try to cook with them in different ways. Worst case scenario- you didn't like what you made/bought and you were out a $1. At the market today, there was one vendor selling gai lan, and it was $3 for effectively a single portion.

Despite my griping, I picked up an oz of winter chanterelles and a huge bunch of collards from Lost Creek each for $2.50. I then hit up the Kiva to pick up some remaining supplies and see what kind of produce they had available. They had some tasty looking heirloom tomatoes, so I picked one up for lunch. I was hoping some chicken breasts I put in the fridge last night had defrosted, but they were still rock hard. Consequently, the protein component of lunch was covered by 2 duck eggs. I ended up eating 2 scoops of the Zucchini side from last night, topped with the tomatoes and a little olive oil and red wine vinegar, some spring greens, and the two eggs.

Today I also picked up a microwave, bringing me one step closer to having a complete apartment. Now I don't have to cringe about creating an extra mess of pots and pans when I want to reheat leftovers.

The game plan for tonight is to change it up and cook with some Chinese flavor. I picked up some soy sauce, sambal paste, ginger, and scallions from Kiva, and still have some Napa cabbage and other assorted veggies in the fridge.

What I ate today:
- Double Cafe Mam "Breakfast Mix" espresso (starting to really like coffee)
- 2 duck eggs - hit with some of my favorite Mexican hot sauce - Tapatia
- 1 smoked pork chop

- Double Cafe Mam espresso
- 2 duck eggs
- 1 medium heirloom tomato- I think it was a brandywine but hard to tell
- handful of mixed spring veggies
- 2 cups Green veggie side

I started marinating some chicken thighs in soy, sambal, garlic, scallion, rice vinegar, ginger, and Shaoxing Rice Wine. I am going to let them marinate overnight and cook them tomorrow. I used a similar flavor combination to make a stir fry. Ground beef, firm tofu, napa cabbage, carrots, etc. Finished with some siracha and green onion. Would have been nice to have my wok, but worked ok in my dutch oven. I have found there are two keys when making a stir fry:

First, it is important to understand the relative cooking times of the ingredients. A lot of people just throw everything in at once - which invariably results in over-cooked/under-cooked items, or just a mass of overcooked mush. Its also good to mix up textures and colors to make it interesting.

Second, it is important to cook out most of the liquid that accumulates as everything in the pot or wok starts to break down. The last thing you want is a soupy stir fry- especially since most of vegetables' nutrients will be contained in that liquid. I normally try to push everything in the pot to one side, flip the burner on high, and tilt to the opposite side so that liquid can reduce. Eventually it starts to darken as most of moisture evaporates, and at that point I combine the reduced sauce back in with the rest of the ingredients.

With enough left over for a couple of meals =)