Saturday, May 20, 2023

I lifted a sauce

Something I've learned from Just One Cookbook is that a grated onion can add a lot to a recipe. This recipe is no exception. 

This is a case where I stole the flavors, but not the method. I do not have the knife skills to get pork cut to 1/8 of an inch (3.175 millimeters), and since I had a pork loin in the freezer, I didn't want to spend the $ on a special cut. 

So, a little adaptation. I started with the sauce:

  • 1 knob ginger (2 inches, 5 cm for 2 servings; remember to keep half of the ginger juice for marinating the pork)
  • ½ onion (remember to use the leftover onion for slicing and stir-frying) 
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
  • 2 Tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp sugar
The onion I used was labeled Jumbo Sweet Onion at the store. I happen to love onions. If you like them as enhancers more than you do as a strong flavor, start with one of the ones you get in those red net bags. You can always add more.

If you don't own a ginger grater, I strongly recommend you grab one. They're also good for garlic. I put everything in a small saucepan on low for about fifteen minutes. This was just enough time to  let the alcohol in the sake burn off and the sugar to dissolve. Then I took it off the heat and set up the water bath, with the immersion circulator set to 135 F (57.2 C,  330.4 K). While the water was coming to temperature, I sliced the other half of the onion, and sliced some cabbage as thin as I could get it and set it aside. 

By the time the sauce cooled to room temperature, the water was ready. I salted a pork loin, stabbed it multiple times with a fork. (There was about an inch between stabs), put it in a vacuum bag with 3 Tablespoons of sauce, sealed it, and put it in the water bath. 

Once that was set, I made the sesame dressing to have on the side and stashed it in the fridge. From there, I started the rice, which would take 50 minutes. I watched most of an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries, and then started cooking the sliced onions in a bit of safflower oil and a bit of the sauce. When the onions were brown on about half the edges, I turned the heat down to low and added the rest of the sauce to the frying pan. 

When the pork had been cooking for 90 minutes, I put some safflower oil in a pan on medium high to prep for searing. I took the meat out of the water bath, added the liquid in the bag to the sauce and patted the loin dry with paper towels. When the oil began to give off smoke, I seared the pork for 30 seconds on each side, then let it rest for five minutes while I added the rice and the cabbage to a bowl and set the table. After the resting, I sliced the pork, added it to the bowl and spooned some sauce over it.

My pork wasn't the crispy delight in the recipe, but I did have fabulous flavors and a great mix of textures.  This is definitely being made again!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Two fish with one stone. And an egg.

 If you've never tried onigiri, I think you're missing out. They're fun, tasty, versatile and highly portable. Recently, I've developed a weekly appointment that brings me past a Japanese market on the way home. In the front, where many people grab a quick lunch to go, is a counter full of onigiri. Even on my limited budget, they're affordable. I also stop here on the way home from donating blood across the street. I find them much more restorative than a small bottle of cranberry juice and a bag of chips.

My favorite fillings are mentaiko, seasoned egg, or bonito flakes. I don't have any mentaiko at home, but now that I can get eggs cheaply at Trader Joe's, I suddenly had an excuse to try to perfect a seasoned egg to my satisfaction (here's a famous example, which I've been tweaking).

So, I marinated some eggs last night. This afternoon, I put a cup of rice in the cooker and then got to work on the rest of the fillings. I also made a spicy tuna salad using the following:

These were all mixed in a bowl and set aside. 

For the bonito filling, I used one small packet of bonito flakes, a bit of soy sauce, and about a quarter teaspoon of snipped green onions (I usually use scissors to deal with green onions), and stirred all this together.

Then I waited for the rice and tried to find the right name for a character in a dystopian novel I'm writing.

Just One Cookbook's recipe has the onigiri shaped by hand, which is what I did with the egg, but for the others, I couldn't resist buying some molds. I also pulled out my silicone pastry board. My setup looked like this (out of picture is some kosher salt for my hands):

Using the molds was easy enough. Fill halfway with rice, add filling, keeping it to the center, add more rice, press. The onigiri I planned to eat right away were popped out of the mold onto some nori. The ones that I'd be eating later, got wrapped with plastic and will have the nori wrapped around them later. It would get too soggy if it sat overnight.


I need practice with the egg, I started falling apart when I ate it, but it was still delicious. I think next time I will let a bit more of the marinade into the rice. There was a side of sliced cucumbers with shichimi togarashi, and a small glass of sake. 

One cup dry rice made two of the large triangles, two of the small triangles, and wrapped one egg. I will double the amount of rice I make next time because there's a lot of the spicy tuna filling left. I may be making more this weekend, or it may be eaten with sesame crackers.

Do you like onigiri? What do you like in them?

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Well I've never been to Spain...

 but I kind of like the music...

But I digress. I've been tossing around the idea of retiring to Spain, which will take a few more years of working and saving if I can make it happen. In a group I joined about Americans in Valencia, I was pointed to Spain on a Fork and there's a growing list of recipes I plan to make from this fabulous site.

While perusing, I found many recipes for Spanish tortilla, which is only related to the tortilla one finds in Mexico and points south in that they are both round.

The Spanish tortilla is a potato omelette, massively versatile, and, to my surprise, surprisingly light tasting. There are several to choose from on the site. I went with this one because I love an excuse to eat Manchego cheese. 

Since my pan is smaller than the one listed and there's only one of me anyway, I cut the ingredients in half, though what is below is right from the site.

  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 large onion (I call a large onion 1 cup sliced or chopped)
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach 120 grams
  • 2 cups shredded Manchego cheese 470 grams
  • 6 cage-free organic eggs 
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 85 ml
  • pinch sea salt
  • dash black pepper

  1. Peel, wash and pat dry 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut each one into 4 evenly sized quarters, cut each quarter into 3 pieces and then slice into 1/8 inch (.3175 cm) thick pieces. (I used a mandoline for this and I highly recommend such)  finely dice 1 large onion, grab 2 cups of tightly packed fresh spinach and roughly chop, shred 2 cups of Manchego cheese, crack 6 eggs into a large bowl and season with sea salt & black pepper, whisk together until well combined
  2. Heat a large nonstick fry pan with a medium heat and add in a generous 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, after 2 minutes add in the diced onions and mix with the olive oil, after 2 minutes add in the pieces of potatoes and continue to mix, after 20 to 25 minutes and the potatoes are fully cooked through, start adding the spinach into the pan, add in batches to not over-fill the pan, mix the spinach with the potatoes so it wilts, once all the spinach has been incorporated and wilted, turn off the heat, season everything with sea salt & black pepper, mix so the seasonings are evenly mixed
  3. Add the potato mixture into the bowl with the eggs, add the 2 cups of shredded Manchego and mix everything together until well combined, at the same time, make sure to heat the same fry pan with a low to low-medium heat
  4. Once well mixed, add the mixture into the pan, make sure everything is in a single layer, after 2 minutes run a spatula through the outer edges to ensure the mixture is not sticking to the pan
  5. After 4 to 5 minutes it´s time to flip the tortilla to cook the other side, add a plate that is a little smaller than the pan into the pan, place one hand over the plate and the other hand on the handle, make the flip in one swift motion, slide the tortilla back into the pan, push down on the tortilla to ensure everything is evenly divided and then using the back of a spatula, start compacting the tortilla through the outer edges and into the middle, this gives it that classic rounded edge
    1. The flipping was not as difficult as I thought it might be. Keep a firm grip on your plate and you'll be just fine.
  6. After another 4 to 5 minutes the tortilla should be perfectly cooked, remove from the heat and transfer into a serving dish, enjoy!

I've made a few of these since. If I have a lot of veggies added like mushrooms and spinach, a 3-egg tortilla can give me three meals. 

Let me know your variations if you try this!

Friday, April 28, 2023

There's no food! There's just ingredients!

I'm sure more than a few of you have yelled that more than once. I do it frequently and this weekend I decided to do something about it. I considered making sous vide egg bites, but a) I am running low on room in my fridge and b) I wanted to stuff the freezer for the future and the jarred bites really should be eaten pretty quickly.

So, why not breakfast burritos? I first came across a breakfast burrito in 1989 in Albuquerque. I was moving for a job from Long Island to Prescott, Arizona. My friend Jason drove with me. He was great company. We mooed at a lot of cows, noted the frequent number of Yellow trucks, and I swear every time we changed states and found a new Top-40 radio station, the Bangles' Eternal Flame came on.

Anyway, our comment at the fast food joint was something along the lines of, "What the f*** is a breakfast burrito?"  Then I was in love. Warm, comforting, convenient, cheesy.

While I'm looking for a job, I'm keeping expenses down, so while I would have loved some chorizo, that will be for a later time. Instead, I grabbed a can of black beans. The whole ingredient list:
  • 8 8-inch tortillas (mine came from The Tortilla Factory, and were bog-standard white flour)
  • 6 eggs--taken out of the fridge a couple hours before I got going. Cooking with room-temperature eggs just works better.
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 6 ounces of cheddar, grated. Next time with the black beans, I will get pepper jack
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green salsa that I found in the fridge
  • 3 few shakes of Dave's Habanero Powder (I still don't remember buying this or getting it as a gift)
  • 3 shakes of oregano  It might not have been Mexican oregano, but I don't think the Oregano Police are a thing.
  • 2 shakes chili powder
A lot of the recipes I looked at had potatoes in them, but I've recently learned how to make Spanish Tortilla  (and I still need to blog about it) and right now, if I'm doing potatoes with eggs, this is how.

I drained the black beans and put them in the largest bowl I had, followed by the green onions, then the salsa, then the spices. Stirred well with a rubber scraper. I started the eggs and alternately kept an eye on the eggs (I always start my eggs in a cold pan on low, gradually increasing temperature to medium-low), and grated the cheese.

When I make scrambled eggs, I do my initial stirring with a whisk once they've been on a the heat for a few minutes. That will usually pull some nice big curds off the bottom. When the mix is about 50/50 curds and runny egg, I switch to a silicone scraper and gently fold them over once in a while. You don't want to scramble them too much. Once I felt they were done, they got stirred into the bowl with all the other goodies.

If you look away from this blog entry when you're making it, please make sure you read this part: Use warm tortillas. They are much more flexible. I zapped mine individually in the microwave for 30 seconds between paper towels. No tearing whatsoever

Also this: use a little water (just brush it on with your fingertip) to make the parts of the tortilla stick together when you're folding and rolling.

I spread out my silicone baking mat, lay down a tortilla and put about 1/3 cup of the mixture on the bottom third, and pulled up the bottom like a tab (there's only one of me, I can't take pics of me folding a burrito). Then just like wrapping the sandwiches  I used to make for my school lunches, I folded the sides over so all the filling was kind of in a pocket and then rolled, wetting the top  before I finally sealed it. I let them sit seam-side down while they cooled, then individually wrapped them in parchment paper before bagging and freezin.

My most sincere apologies. I did take pictures, but they came out twelve kinds of terrible.  The burritos themselves are kind of cute and rather trapezoidal. I had enough for 8 burritos and one taco, which was breakfast.

If you try this, please let me know!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Another Nifty Guest Post: Not quite carnitas

It's been a while since I've had a guest post from Ny  and I've been meaning to post this one for a while.  I haven't tried this one yet, but chuck roast goes on sale every so often, and I'm considering doing this on a smaller scale and making some fat quesadillas with it. 

On with the guesting!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

So a friend gave me boar loin

I have the world's most awesome friends, I really do. Because of one them, I got to try a boar loin for the first time and I was delighted once I figured out what to serve with it.

When I went cruising for ideas, there were a lot of recipes with a fruit sauce. Black currant and red wine was tempting. I've done that with duck and it came out quite nice. After a lot of searching, I found a recipe and promptly forgot to bookmark it. All I could remember is it contained two kinds of whiskey (and I had both some bourbon and a bottle of Seagram's 7 in the cabinet), mushrooms, and cream. After checking that butter & cream were okay to serve my guest, away I went.

Everything that went in the meal:

In the vacuum bag
  • 1.5 pounds of boar loan
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lots of fresh thyme
In the sauce:
  • 6 oz crimini mushrooms
  • One shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Bourbon
  • Seagram's 7 (a straight whiskey, more on that later)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Thyme
  • Cream
  • The juices from the sous vide bags
In the oven:
  • a 9x9 casserole dish with a layer of cubed rutabaga
  • Salt 
  • Papper
  • Olive oil  finished with 
    • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • Parsley
Also on the stove
  • 8 ounces trimmed green beans
    • these would be blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes--start testing when they're bright green, then tossed with a little butter & lemon zest.

This is going to get long, but it was so delicious, I forgot to photograph it.

More research was needed before I got started as I've cooked pork loin before, but not boar, which is a bit leaner.  If you'd like a good reference for time & temp for pork sous vide, I suggest this page from Serious Eats. Yes, if you keep pork cooking long enough, even at a much lower temperature than you're used to, it will pasteurize just fine. I decided to go for 135 degrees F for two hours. I seasoned the boar with salt & pepper and vacuum-sealed it in a bag with a lot of fresh thyme. Then I got to cutting things up.

I cut up a few small rutabagas into approximately 1-inch (2.6 cm) cubes and set them aside. A little later, I would roast them in olive oil and roast at 425 F (218C, 491K) for about an hour, then toss with a little apple cider vinegar and sprinkle with parsley. 

Next up, the slicing of a 6 oz package of crimini (the ones they now call baby bellas) mushrooms, and the fine dicing of a shallot. I threw the mushrooms into a non-stick pan and turned the heat to medium-low. 

You might have noticed that I didn't add any oil or butter or any other liquid yet. I forget where I picked this up, but I have learned if you sweat your mushrooms when they are dry, they will give you some delightful liquid and their flavor will also be nicely concentrated. Once the mushrooms were reduced in size by half, I set them aside to melt half a tablespoon of butter in the pan. Once melted, I added the shallot, stirring constantly until it was golden brown. Once I hit that point, I added the mushrooms back in, and then a bit of salt & pepper.

Time for the booze! This recipe would be lovely with cognac, but I was low on it, and I had plenty of bourbon and a big bottle of Seagram's 7. If you aren't familiar with the types of whiskey, you can either borrow one of my favorite people or you can read this quick overview. Either one will be educational, though the human factor is much more entertaining.

I started adding the booze one Tablespoon at a time, tasting here and there. I ended up with a 3:2 ratio of bourbon vs straight whiskey. I added enough to cover the mushrooms, turned the heat down, and added cream to cover, and got the heat down to low. Then I set aside 3 Tablespoons of bourbon & 2 Tablespoons of straight whiskey into a measuring cup.

When the sous vide cooking was done, I cut open the bags, removed the loins to a cooling rack that I had prepped on the counter with paper towels underneath it. The juice from the bags got stirred into the sauce. I gently patted the loins dry with a paper towel and heated some safflower oil in a pan on medium-high until it started smoking. 

The loins got seared for a scant minute on each side, then put on a plate and covered with foil to rest. I deglazed the pan with the booze I'd set aside, scraping all the brown bits into the liquid, the poured in the rest of the sauce and turned the heat down.

The beans cooked while the meat rested, which gave me time to pull the neeps out of the oven (I love saying neeps and have it mean something). They got tossed with vinegar and parsely.

From there, it was slice, serve, and enjoy with a bottle of Bordeaux. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Studio Living: My dishwasher is small, but this was worth it

I have a thing about poultry skin. Generally speaking, I think it's icky. The only exception I delightfully make is for Peking Duck. If I am offered fried chicken, I'm as likely as not to pull off the skin and give it to someone who appreciates it.

I'm not going to argue that cooking with the skin on will make for juicier meat. I also have friends who love poultry skin, so when I found this recipe, the cabbage and bacon and braising intrigued me, I invited one of them over for dinner. Conveniently, he arrived early and I got some assistance, which was much needed due to space constraints, which I'll get into in a bit.

The ingredients are all things I find tasty, though I did make a few adjustments: (I also capitalized Tablespoon in this list)

  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (6 to 8 thighs; 1.15kg) (I ended up with 8, which didn't all fit in my sauté pan, I'll get to that in a bit)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces (225g) slab bacon or salt pork, cut into 1/2- by 1/4-inch lardons
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 6 ounces; 170g)
  • 1 pound finely shredded cabbage (about 1 medium head; 450g)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) whole-grain mustard (I added another Tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) apple cider vinegar (I added another 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 cup (235ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar (I cut this down to 1)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme (more like a dozen)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I completely forgot about this and didn't really need it)