Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time for a beef party.

Beef Chow Fun乾炒牛河  Beef? I like beef.  Chow? Well hell yes, I love to eat.  Fun?  They don't call me Partytime Violet for nothing.  Well, I guess nobody really calls me that unless it's written on a bathroom wall that I don't know about.  I sure hope it isn't.  I'm actually a bit of a homebody.  I don't even really like parties.  They're so loud and I hate making trivial conversation.  Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, beef chow fun (pronounced foon).  Ho Fun noodles, also known as shahe fen noodles, are beautiful and chewy Chinese rice noodles originating from Guangzhou, China.  The trick with these noodles is that they are very delicate.  A quick soak in warm water and then a fast stir fry in a hotter than hell wok.  It's all in the wrist action.  I know what you're thinking and it's not my fault you have a dirty mind, you dirty bird you.  Why does wrist action always equate to masturbation?  Just curious.  I swear you say something like "I beat off that prowler with some swift wrist action." I am simply talking about how adept I am at defending my home with a bow and arrow.  That's all.  Show some class and quit thinking so pervertedly.  Okay, I forgive you.  No harm no foul.

In an attempt to temporarily get your filthy mind out of the gutter in which it resides, let's talk about some fat meaty beef.  I purchased some lovely Thundering Hooves boneless beef short ribs from the awesome butcher Rain Shadow Meats.  The meat was a beautiful shade of blood red with a treasure trove of delicious fatty marbling.  I marinated it in a little soy sauce, garlic, ginger, fermented black bean sauce, and sugar for about an hour.  I then seared it of on my trusty grill pan over pretty high heat just to get some color and smoke out the entire apartment building.  Upon nearly choking to death because of my terrible lack of ventilation, I moved it to the oven with a little lemongrassy beef stock and slow braised it for about a few hours.  The meat was falling apart and so stinking tasty I almost died and went to heaven.  The sugars had caramelized and the garlic and ginger permeated throughout.  It was slightly sweet and salty and sticky and umami.  It was so good I wanted to shoot it into my veins and I'm terrified of needles, that's just how good it was.  The chow fun noodles were chewy and had the perfect texture.  This dish made me sweat a little but the spice was just hot enough for me.  I don't like to eat food so spicy that it kills my taste buds.  The next time you have a Chinese noodle craving make some beef chow fun.

Ginger Beef Short Rib Chow Fun 

1 package (1 lb) fresh chow fun noodles (or shahe fen noodles)
1 lb boneless beef short ribs

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp fermented black bean chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp ginger minced
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 egg white
1 Tbsp peanut oil

1/2 cup beef stock (add a few slices of ginger)

1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp Sugar
1 Tbsp dry Chinese rice wine

1 Tbsp Oyster sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper

Chinese parsley or fresh coriander to garnish

Preheat oven to 250.  Mix the marinade ingredients together and marinate the beef refrigerated for 1 hour.  Heat the beef stock in a shallow pan with a few slices of ginger.  In a hot grill pan quickly sear all sides of the beef ribs.  Place the beef ribs into the beef stock pan and place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is falling apart.

Cut the chow fun into noodles about 6" noodles. When the beef is done let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes and then slice thinly.

Heat a wok or large nonstick saute pan and add 2 T of the peanut oil. Toss the noodles in the oil until they are very hot and begin to color just a bit on the edges. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Mix all of the chow fun sauce in a bowl.  Set aside.

To the wok add a little more of the peanut oil.  Add the garlic and ginger and celery and green onions and saute for 2-3 minute. Then add the black bean sauce and the rice wine.  Cook for 2 more minutes and add the sliced beef and chow fun noodles.  Add the sauce and stir fry for a few more minutes.  Remove to a platter or bowls and garnish.  Take out your fanciest pair of chopsticks and enjoy with a nice cold Tsingtao.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summertime Crimewave.

As a kid, I hated Summer.  That's right, you heard me.  I hated Summer.  "How could you hate the warm, beachy, fun in the sun, ice cream eating, slip and sliding, jart throwing, skin blistering, sharks and minowy, picnic eating barbecue days of Summer" you ask?  Well, I was grounded most Summers that's why.  I would be sitting in my room, staring out into the cul de sac, watching all the neighborhood kids have water gun fight or playing kickball, thinking to myself "how did this happen, again?"  Let's get one thing straight, I was a terrible little kid.  Always in trouble.  I can understand the years I was grounded for doing terrible things.  Like flooding our entire house by stuffing towels into every sink and tub drain and turning all the water on full blast.  I get that.  Or the time I ordered my next door neighbor's kid to bash in all of the walls of his living room with a baseball bat.  What can I say, I was a curious kid and I liked to see how things worked and see how far I could push people.  Some people would call it maniacal semi-psychotic behavior.  I say I was just trying to figure out the world.  C'est la vi.  We'll just have to agree to disagree.  Pronounce potato and tomato anyway you like, I will still eat them.

So where was my mother during all this insane activity?  It was the 70s.  Back then, you left the house to go play around 11am and wouldn't return until dark.  Parents didn't worry about about serial killers and kidnappers back then.  The suburbs were safe, or so they thought.  I would come home screaming with a broken arm and my mom would freak out but the very next day I'd be rolling around in a puddle of mud banging my cast on the concrete.  That's just what it was like back then.  I can't even remeber where half of my scars came from. It's probably for the best.

I can't remember why but one bright Summer day, I walked out of my solitary confinement cell to notice two giant watermelons on the kitchen table.  For reasons unknown I grabbed a big knife and a whole watermelon, bringing it back to my room.  I was 8 years old and I really loved watermelon.  Like a deranged one-armed neurosurgeon I hacked into the melon getting it's juices all over myself, my carpet, and my bed.  In one sitting I ate the entire watermelon (including the seeds).  It turns out that the watermelons were for a church picnic.  It also turns out that if you consume a whole watermelon in one sitting you will continue to see watermelon in projectile form for the rest of the evening.  Although I tried my best to deny eating said watermelon as my my mother angrily stared at the pink stained crime scene.  My room betrayed me like neon fruit blood bath, watermelon seeds stuck to the walls, the carpet covered in bright green rind and my pink slushy bedspread.  To say the least I did not receive a pardon that year.  I did pretty hard time the next few years.  I wasn't always grounded but I don't remember seeing much sunshine as a kid.  Did I reform?  Not really, but perhaps now I'm just a little more clever at hiding the evidence.

It's taken many years, but I'm happy to say that I can enjoy watermelon again.  There is nothing like a fresh slice of melon on a hot Summer day.  Granted I can only eat a slice or two before I'm flooded with terrible pink technicolor memories but I do love it's sweet, crunchy flesh.  My favorite thing to do with watermelon is contrast it with some sour and salty and make a lovely bright salad out of the fruit.  Topped with a little feta or cotija cheese and a a sprinkle of crushed red pepper or chili powder , a drizzle of olive oil and lemon or lime juice and I'm all over it.  There was a season of Top Chef where one of the contestants made a salad like this and the judges were pretty confused and baffled.  They hadn't been told that they should understand these flavors yet.  It's pretty hilarious because now it's a pretty trendy preparation.  Just goes to show you, keep an open mind and eat food because you love the adventure of it.  Just don't eat a whole watermelon.  That's not an adventure worth having.

Friday, July 16, 2010

French Sweets.

I've been thinking a lot about Canelés lately.  The beautiful little French custardy cakes.  I want to get some copper molds and make them the proper French way, with a crispy beeswax coating.  I came across this lovely video at Chow.  I hear that Honore Bakery in Ballard makes a pretty tasty canelé.  Just so you know, for Parisian Macaroons the place to go in Seattle is Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle.  I usually don't care for sweets but when they look this pretty, I can't help myself. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's a cruel, cruel, cruel Summer.

Seattle pretty much has two seasons.  Winter and Summer.  Summer always starts on July 5th and Winter always starts on October 31st.  Like clockwork, these are dates to plan your wardrobe by.  This year in a matter of two days it went from 55 degrees and cloudy to 95 degrees and blisteringly sunny.  Oh, and Seattle also has a knack for complaining about the weather.  Usually around the beginning of June you'll start hearing "I'm going to kill myself if the sun doesn't come out."  "Looks like we're not going to have a Summer this year."  Then sometime in August as the temperature hits it's peak you'll hear things like "If global warming is making this place hotter and hotter we might as well move to Alaska." or "If it doesn't rain and cool down soon I'm going to go live in the air conditioned mall."  Yeah, we love to complain.  We do it well.  Don't even get me started about what happens when it occasionally snows around here.  Lets just say it gets ugly and scenes from The Shining play out all over Seattle.  Why yes Jack, you are indeed a very dull boy.  Now quit whining about the weather.

What do I do to beat the heat?  I eat (wow, that had the makings of a really bad white girl rap song).  So let's talk about chilled soups for a minute.  I like a good chilled soup when it's done correctly.  But chefs need to quit trying to pass off drivel like Chilled Summer Fruit Soup.  I'm no dummy, you just served me a bowl of Juicy Juice.  Cold tomato soup?  Sopa de V-8 coming right up.  I like the tried and true cold soups.  A nice spicy Spanish gazpacho or a refined French classic like vichyssoise almost always hits the mark.  While I definitely encourage ingenuity and imagination when it comes to food, just remember while you're straining boiled pine needles for a soup.  The classics are classic for a reason.  But then again, someone had to make it first.  Recently I made Sugar Snap Pea Soup with Spicy Arugula Crema and Parmesan Garlic Croutons.  It's a twist on the classic Potage St. Germain (or chilled spring pea soup).  This soup can be served either hot or cold.  I can't really decide which way I like it better.  Chef Daniel Boulud makes a pretty yummy spring pea soup but I like mine better.  No disrespect, I love and admire the chef.  I'm just sayin', mine's tastier.  Perhaps when I'm long past dead, this soup will be on restaurant menus right next to the lobster thermidor and beef Wellington.  Wouldn't that be a kick?  A true new classic.

Sugar Snap Pea Soup with Spicy Arugula Crema and Parmesan Garlic Croutons

2 pounds fresh sugar snap peas, ends removed
1 Tbsp minced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups chicken stock, homemade is better
salt and white pepper tt
fresh grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

for the crema:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup of fresh washed arugula
1 Tbsp parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
a few dashes of hot sauce
salt and pepper tt

for the croutons:
a few slices of day old bread (white, rye, whatever you like), diced into cubes
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt tt

Preheat you oven to 375F.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the sugar snap peas until they are quite tender but still a pretty and green, about 6 minutes. Don't overcook. When the peas are done, shock them in ice water to stop the cooking keep their bright color.

In the meantime, saute the shallots and garlic in a little butter over medium-low heat until tender (4-5 minutes) Set aside.   In a blender, add the peas, garlic, and shallots and puree until very smooth. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock to get the soup blending.

Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer or chinoise .  Discard the solids.  To the thick pea puree add the rest of the chicken stock and season.  Add a little nutmeg and the lemon juice.
Once again pass the soup through a strainer into a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is bubbling. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Taste and season.

While the soup is cooking, add all of the ingredients for the crema to a blender.  Puree and strain.  Season and set aside and keep cool.

Toss the bread cubes with the garlic powder, cheese, and salt.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or so until the croutons look toasty and browned.  Remove from the oven and let dry.

The soup is done when it has a nice velvety consistency ( about 15-20 minutes).  You can either serve the soup hot or you can chill it and serve with a big drizzle of the arugula crema and a handful of croutons.  Enjoy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sovereign State #13: Bahrain

The Menu:
Chicken Machboos
Khubz (Bahraini Flat Bread)
Mishmish (Apricot Chutney)

I have to admit, I knew nothing of the Kingdom of Bahrain prior to cooking this meal.  Sure, I've heard the name and I knew it was somewhere in the Middle East.  Supposedly it's one of the more liberal of Middle Eastern countries and that it's a good introduction to Persian Gulf travel.  The name translates to "the Kingdom of Two Seas".  Sounds like a lovely land full of hobbits and wizardry.  According to the CIA's website, it has a little human trafficking problem (ie: involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation).  But hey, nobody's perfect right?  On the upside, being an island nation I bet it's got some really beautiful beaches.  Oh, and they are also host to the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix.  That's right kids, who wouldn't want to see Nascar on a desert island nation? (Don't get your panties in a bunch, I may not know the difference between F1 racing and Nascar but I do know that "rubbin' is racin'".  Tom Cruise taught me that in his hit movie Days of Thunder).  Hot gasoline fumes and corn dogs in the acrid desert.  My idea of vacation.  Seriously though, Bahrain looks like a lovely place with lovely people.  Hell, America has more than it's share of faults so in no way do I mean to be insulting.  A sense of humor about yourself goes a long way towards building a better, kinder world. 

Considering I don't work for the international tourism board, I'll spare you facts about how many apple trees grow in Bahrain per year (the answer is zero) or which Bahraini beach is the nakedest.  No ma'am, I'm ready to talk about the food (I'm always ready to talk about food).  So this was a pretty hard country to research.  I came upon countless recipes for universal "Arabic" food but I wanted something that was purely Bahraini.  While it may not be distinctly Bahraini, Machboos is a traditional dish that is common on the Bahraini dinner table.  It's basically a tasty pilaf served with chicken, meat, or fish.  The combination of aromatics like the spice mix buharat, dried black limes, and rose water lend a very unique flavor that is distinct in Bahraini cuisine.  I made chicken machboos and it was so frickin' delicious.  It just might give my Cuban arroz con pollo a run for it's money.

Khubz is pretty much Arabic for bread.  Kind of like a cross between pita and naan.  The dough is rolled out like a pizza and then slapped against the sides of a special oven.  Not to make excuses but I don't have a khubz oven so I decided to buy mine from the Pike Place Middle Eastern shop The Souk.  Plus the fact that we're in the middle of a heat wave here in Seattle, the idea of turning on the oven makes my insides die a little just thinking about it.

The Apricot Chutney went awesomely with the Chicken Mazdoon.  It was sour and sweet with a mix of fresh chopped apricots, hot chilies, lime juice, and toasted almonds.  Sometimes people make it with dried apricots but I like the sourness that fresh apricots give.  It's actually more like a salsa than a chutney.  I would eat it on a taco for sure.

Once again, I've eaten a little bit of a country I knew very little about and through it's cuisine, I've gained a little more insight to it's beautiful culture.  I now have a few more exotic dishes to impress people with and my international culinary knowledge grows bigger and better.  Sure, it was just a taste of Bahrain's culture, but sometimes just getting a taste will make you hungry for more.    
Buharat Spice Mix
4 tsp paprika powder
4 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cloves powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp ginger powder

Chicken Machboos
5 cups fresh chicken stock (or water)
3 cups basmati rice
3 tomatoes, diced
3-3 ½ lb chicken
3 onions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch coriander leaves (cilantro), chopped
1 jalapeno chili, sliced
2 black dried limes
1 Tbsp buharat spice mix
1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons rose water
olive oil
salt tt

Cut up the chicken into pieces (legs, thighs, half breasts, etc).   In a bowl, mix the buharat.  Sprinkle half of the spice mixture on the chicken and season with salt..

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or deep skillet, add the chicken and let the skin get nice and crispy.  When you get a good sear on all sides of the chicken remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add the onions and saute until golden brown, then add the jalapeno, garlic, ginger and the black limes (pole a small hole in the limes).  Saute for a few minutes and then add all of the spices and toast for a minute or two.

Add the chicken back to the pan. Make sure the chicken gets coated with the spices, add the tomato and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Cover the pan and let it cook for about 45 minutes over medium low, or until the chicken is cooked.

Add the rice and the rest of the chicken stock, stir, bring to a boil, cover and turn heat to low.  Cook for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked through.

Sprinkle rose water and lemon juice over the rice and place the butter pieces on the top.   Serve on a platter with the chicken on top.  Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and apricot chutney.

For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

Monday, July 5, 2010


The world has a love affair with New Jersey.  Families gather round the television to watch Snooki fall down drunk and pantyless on the Jersey Shore or to gawk at the immense height of Olivia's hairdo on Jerseylicious.  Not long ago, it was the Sopranos boys eating pasta fagioli and burying bodies in the Pine Barrens.  Before that even, The Boss was spreading the gospel of the workin' man from the Garden State.  But the times, they are a changin'.  Now, Jersey is the punchline to a joke.  A not very good joke either.  Yeah, yeah I get it.  There's really dumb people with silly names in Jersey.  Guess what, there's really dumb people everywhere.  Drive 10 minutes outside of Seattle and you might as well be on the set of Jersey Shore.  Hell, I don't even need to leave the city, I can walk out my apartment and instantly stumble across a ironically dressed drunken idiot on any given night.

Don't believe what you see on TV (but do believe everything you read in this blog) New Jersey is a great place.  It has mountains and forest and a creepy goat/bat/demon creature that will rip your throat out and suck your blood.  There's a good hockey team, exploding hotdogs, and 24 hour strip clubs.  Being a Queens girl, I share a bond with Jersey.  A friendly neighbor if you will.  The folks from the outer boroughs of NY used to (and some still do) share the same working (wo)man class view as New Jerseyans.  Yet, for some reason, to say you're from Jersey is almost shameful to a lot of people.  I'd be proud to say I'm from New Jersey.  One of my best friends is from Jersey.  She curses like a sailor and has a weakness for big ratty hair and aside from the fact that she doesn't own very much denim and has no appreciation for Skid Row (18 and Life, you know?), she's Jersey all the way.  I appreciate that.  I appreciate authenticity in people.  It's pretty hard to find these days.

So let's talk about something that's un-apologetically Jersey.  That's right, I'm talking about the Taylor Pork Roll.  It's a grayish pink sausage-esque meat product (sounds delicious already doesn't it?) that originated at from the Taylor Ham Factory in Trenton NJ.  It's been made the same way since 1856.  Some people call it Jersey Spam, Bon Jovi bologna, or Jersey Breakfast.  What's in it?  Who knows.  I'm pretty sure there's pork in it.  One thing that I do know that a Jersey Breakfast is delicious.  I can imagine Bon Jovi sitting in his kitchen, wearing a snazy cowboy outfit, and singing to himself "...on a steel horse I ride...hmmmhhmmm...SHOT through the heart!!!" while he flips some sliced pork roll in a buttery pan.  Perhaps that's the secret to his big shiny hairdo.  Anyways, you take some of that pork roll, slice it, and fry it in butter.   Put it in a kaiser roll, bagel or whatever bread you got.  Top it with a fried egg and some American cheese.  Now you got yourself a Jersey Breakfast.  Your life can truly begin.

Jersey Breakfast
(serves 1)
4 slices Jersey Pork Roll, about 1/4" thick
1Kaiser Roll
1-2 slices American cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat your broiler.
2. Slice Taylor pork roll to the thickness desired, around 1/4" is good, two or three slices per sandwich as desired. Cut notches around the edges or they'll bulge up in the middle and not fry well.
3. Slice kaiser roll ("Hard Roll" in NJ) into top and bottom halves but put it back together so it won't dry out.
4. Heat butter and fry Pork Roll until lightly browned. Don't over-fry or it'll shrink a lot and dry out badly. When done, remove from pan and set aside.
5. In the same butter, fry egg over easy. While the egg is frying set your Pork Roll slices on the lower half of the Kaiser Roll.
6. When egg is done, set it on top of the Pork Roll slices. Top with 2 slices of Cheese and slip under the broiler. Check often, the cheese should be well softened but not too runny or it'll drip right off.
7. Pull sandwich from the broiler, place the top of the Kaiser Roll on top and you're ready to serve!