This isn’t much of a post, but I still wanted to share this. At night, I usually think of recipes for at least 30 minutes. Most of it is spent fruitlessly researching and coming up empty handed, but last night I had more ideas than usual. My recipes usually take something I already know how to make and just elevate it a little, or tweak and improve it. But sometimes, the ideas come out of nowhere.
Instead of watching episodes of Good Eats (and other good cooking shows) and scouring cook books, I just sat there and thought about how much I love bratwurst, particularly when its boiled in beer and then grilled. Then I had a brilliant idea. Usually, I would put a bratwurst in a bun and eat it with dijon and sauerkraut, which makes a damn good brat. But for some reason, I was thinking about something more spicy. My mind immediately went to kimchee, being similar to sauerkraut in that it contains pickled cabbage. Okay, a bratwurst with kimchee sounds a bit whacky, but certainly doable. And hey, people have thought of weirder things. But then, I contemplated my infinite love of garlic, and how the hell I would be able to get it into the bratwurst. Maybe I could make an aioli that uses quite a bit of dijon in it. After all, part of my aioli base is dijon, and it would be damn good on a bratwurst. So now we have a beer boiled bratwurst with kimchee and aioli. That’s crazy, and I don’t know why or how it popped into my mind, but it did. And then, my grand finale: screw the bun, use some flatbread, like pita. Just put it on the grill before the bratwurst comes off to warm it up and give it some grill lines. I always saw the cooks using pita to sop up the meat juices that ran out of the kebabs when they came off the grill in Turkey. Why can’t I apply the same principle with bratwurst? So my final product, in essence, can be encapsulated by my single line entry to my recipe idea book:
bratwurst boiled in beer then grilled, on flatbread (grilled) w/ kimchee and aioli (xtra dijon)
Possibly the most batshit insane idea I’ve come up with. I think I have to try it now…
Despite it being the beginning of summer, I’ve really had a craving for some hot chocolate. Of course, we all know the story: Moctezuma and the Aztecs just crushed the beans and frothed the mixture to make a chocolate drink. What people don’t know is that only Moctezuma liked it: it was so sour and spicy that most Aztecs hated it, except for their King. When Cortez came to conquer them, he sat with Moctezuma as he drank his daily dose of chocolate drink. Cortez was offered some, probably as a joke to see his reaction, and he actually liked it. If it wasn’t for Moctezuma’s love of the drink, and Cortez’s as well, the western world would never have had hot chocolate. Of course, most people felt like the Aztecs and hated the unsweetened drink, so for us westerners, sugar and milk were added. And thus, we end up with a drink that we know and love. My favorite version is the modern Mexican version, which has a spicy kick and an amazing froth on the top. Here’s how I did mine.
- 1 cup whole milk - 1/4 cup sugar - 2 tablespoons shaved dark chocolate (I used 100% cacao. Use the darkest you can find) - 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (use a nice cocoa powder) - 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon - 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg - 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract - pinch of ground cayenne - pinch of salt
With a serrated knife, shave the dark chocolate into very small strips, or even into dust. This should use about 1/5 of your bar of chocolate.
In a small saucepan of medium low heat, add the milk and stir occasionally until it is very hot, but not quite boiling. You’ll know when it begins to steam a bit. Then, add the sugar and stir until incorporated with a whisk. Then add the cinnamon, cayenne, vanilla, and nutmeg, stirring constantly. Slowly incorporate the two chocolates. When the chocolate is nicely incorporated, add the salt.
The frothing is the next step. I chose to use a blender, as my culinary exemplar Jeffrey Steingarten suggests in “It Must Have Been Something I Ate”. After pouring the hot chocolate into the blender, I promptly turned it to “frappe”. The lid was not as secure as it should have been, which made my glasses, shirt, jeans, and floor more chocolaty than they should have been. After a hasty cleanup, I repeated the process and repeated the results. Fortunately, I was able to achieve a wonderful froth that I enjoyed as I cleaned the counters and floor. I probably should have used a whisk, but that would’ve been tedious. If you use a blender, you won’t need to blend for more than a few seconds, and make sure your lid is on securely. If you decide to play it safe and go with a vigorous whisking, make sure you leave the hot chocolate on low heat as you go so it will stay hot.
Serve in a wide mug that allows for even froth distribution. Makes one big serving, or two smaller ones. By the way, this is a really romantic end to a date.
For my first meal back home, my mum and I decided to make some quick shrimp tacos. These tacos were delicious and really easy, a perfect way to relax after a hectic week (along with a few beers of course). The mango salsa gives a perfect fruity flavor to work with the spiciness of the chilies, and the whole thing is just an explosion of summer flavor. Plus, it was Cinco de Mayo, which is a perfect excuse for me to make some Mexican inspired shrimp tacos.
-1 pound shrimp -1 jalapeno, minced -3 cloves of garlic, minced -1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped -1 teaspoon cumin -2 limes -1 tablespoon vegetable oil -1 large mango, cubed -1/2 red onion, diced -pinch of allspice -1 serrano, minced -Kosher salt -ground black pepper
Detail and de-vein the shrimp. Let them dry on a paper towel. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the mango, onion, serrano, juice and zest of one lime, kosher salt, about 1/3 of the cilantro, and the allspice. Cover and refrigerate.
In a large plastic bag, mix together the jalapeno, garlic, cumin, juice of one lime, vegetable oil, kosher salt, pepper, and most of the rest of the cilantro. Add the shrimp and mix until they are evenly coated. Seal the bag and leave at room temperature to marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Add oil to a cast iron skillet. Once hot, add the shrimp, turning as they become pink. Remove from heat once both sides are pink and the shrimp is cooked through, 2-3 minutes. You can also skewer them and put them on a grill, turning after a minute. Serve in corn tortillas with the salsa, some shredded cabbage, lime wedges, and the extra cilantro. For extra points, add slices of avocado.
My friend Paisha and I made these the other day for our day of eating. Also on the menu were the Dolmas and Potatoes Daphinois that recently went up. I’ve been talking about her a lot on this blog, so it only makes sense that I should give you a link to her blog. Either way, I’m a big fan of calamari, but most of the time I don’t bother ordering it in restaurants because it’s boring. Some restaurants manage to do well with it, but boring calamari is always a big let down. This recipe is perfect because it still has all the comforts of a fried piece of squid, just with some extra kick and a nice roundness that you don’t get at restaurants.
- 1 lb calamari (cut the tubes into rings if you’re buying tubes. I like to do this with the tentacles) - 1 egg - 1/2 cup milk - 2 1/2 cups corn starch - 1 tablespoon kosher salt - 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper - 1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (depending on your spice tolerance) - canola oil
Whisk the milk and egg together in one bowl and combine the corn starch, salt, pepper, and cayenne in another, larger bowl. Let about a dozen pieces soak in the wet mixture for about a minute. Then move them to the bowl with the dry mixture. Make sure they are completely coated.
Meanwhile, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Be patient, this may take a while. If you want to check, do a single test piece. They should be frying with a steady amount of bubbles.
Once your oil is ready, gently place the squid in the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan; do no more than a dozen at a time. Move them around with a spider. Once they are done (about 2 1/2 minutes), pull them out and set them on a plate lined with paper towels to catch the excess oil. Keep doing batches like this until you have fried all the squid.
It is imperative to serve while hot, or else they will lose all the wonderful crispyness and spiciness you worked so hard for. To keep them hot while frying the others, simply place the plate of calamari in a low oven, around 200 degrees.
There’s been something nasty going around lately. I seem to have caught it, and whatever it is, it’s wrecking havoc on my body. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few natural remedies for some sicknesses which I feel I should share with you. I’ve only tested the remedies on myself, so I don’t know how well they’ll work for others.
Obviously hot things work for congestion, especially nasal congestion. Tea is best. I suggest decaffeinated tea, as you’ll need all the liquid you can hold in. Herbal tea is good too; I can’t explain why, but it works very well. Even hot water with some lemon and honey is good. The honey helps flavor it, as well as helps to coat your throat if you have a scratchy throat. I’ll explain more about citrus later. If you can, boil some water and put it in a large bowl, then take a towel and make a tent around it and stick your head under. Inhaling the hot steam will cleanse your sinuses, and it’s very relaxing (in that sort of pampered, spa-like way).
Speaking of hot, I am a strong believer in spice as a remedy. Any sort of hot sauce is good to clear the sinuses. Deep spices, like in curries, are great ways to warm up and stimulate your taste buds. When one becomes sick, the taste buds are naturally dulled, so anything you can do to get some taste and flavor does wonders psychologically. Any sort of digestive problem can easily be solved by some cleansing with the natural spices in ginger. This is why Asians usually have very good metabolism and have great digestion. Ginger is a very clean tasting, natural remedy for almost any sort of sickness.
Just a few other things come to mind that help: cheese, citrus, and pickled things. Cheese is one of my favorite foods, and for some reason the lactose in cheese helps in small amounts. Citrus is good as well, because vitamin C helps in some complicated way having to do with blood sugar. And oddly, pickles and other pickled things are very useful. I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with the salt in the brine. I always try to find some kimchi for whenever I have colds, as it tends to work very well in small amounts. I hope this helps some of you through the cold season. Once my taste buds have been restored, I’ll start posting more.
I’ve been so busy lately performing “The Man Who Came To Dinner”. It’s a wonderful, older play, and I absolutely love it, but it takes so much time and energy that I haven’t been able to cook much of anything lately. I resorted to Mac and Cheese from a box and quick Paninis, but my food rut came to an abrupt stop: I found an amazing recipe for Dora Wat Chicken, an Ethiopian dish. It’s wonderfully easy, and it makes enough that you can eat it for a few days, but believe me, you’ll want to eat the entire pot after you take one bite.
Dora Wat Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks Juice of 1 lemon Kosher salt 2 tablespoons ghee or butter 2 medium onions, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger 1 teaspoon turmeric 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 2 tablespoons berbere (see note below) 1 tablespoon smoked paprika 1/4 cup red wine (pinot noir, or cabernet sauvignon) 3/4 cup water Black pepper to taste
Place the chicken on a large plate and drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
In a medium dutch oven over medium heat, met the ghee or butter. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, nutmeg, berbere, and smoked paprika. Saute until the onions are tender (about 5 minutes).
Add the wine and water, mixing well, and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, turning to coat, and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Uncover and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes to reduce the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: Berbere is a traditional Ethiopian spice blend that differs from region to region and house to house. Everyone has their own, but my favorite is a mix I found on “The Congo Cookbook”. The recipe is as follows:
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 to 6 tablespoons of a combination of ground cayenne pepper and paprika
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ginger, dried (ground)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
And when finding these spices, you may have a bit of trouble at regular grocery stores. Most metropolitan areas have some specialty Indian stores where you can find all these spices, or else you can order them online for much cheaper than you would pay at bulk spices at the grocery store. If you live in Seattle like me, Market Spice in Pike Place Market will have everything you need. It’s next to the Flying Fish Market.