Feast 30 – Mussels with Chorizo and Charmoula Broth

November 30, 2009

I believe that the sign of a great meal is seeing the satisfaction that it brings to others. that is my prime motivation for cooking, to see someone else try what i have made and see the wow on their face. this weeks meal was a prime example of this, it turned out damned tasty and both Eddie and I couldn’t get enough. unfortunately for him, i laid claim to all the leftovers, yeah, it was that good, i was unwilling to share…

i owe a debt of gratitude to Bon Appetit magazine. i mention it a lot but i wanted to highlight just how much i enjoy it on a month to month basis. it’s one of the few pleasures i have here, opening the mailbox and finding one of the three magazines that i subscribe to (the other two being Wired and Popular Science). One of my favorite parts of Bon Appetit is their letters section in the front where readers mail in their memories of great dishes they have had either on holiday or during a special night out and the Bon Appetit staff do them the service of tracking down the recipe so they might recreate a little bit of that magic at home. It’s a great idea, everyone who enjoys food can probably think of a great meal that they have had that ties back to great memories. it’s natural to want to bring some of that home, even if in amateur hands such as mine the meal isn’t the glory it was made by the original chef, it’s still a great thing. i touched on this when i made the tuna with wasabi mayonnaise a few months back. this weeks meal is centered around a dish that comes from the letters section of the December issue (which due to the jacked up postal system here i received 4 days before the november issue, go figure). it’s originally from W.A. Frost and Company in St. Paul, all credit to their staff and chefs for the recipe, i am merely interpreting the best i can here in korea.

i’m going to paraphrase the prep for this, buy the december issue if you want really detailed instructions, i don’t want to steal their thunder… this recipe is modified from the original slightly with how i prepared it, replacing an ingredient or two due to availability and modifying quantities of things like garlic to suit my taste. i also scaled it down a little to closer fit my 2 person audience with a little left over for my lunch.

make a paste from 1 cup fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup paprika, the juice of 2 lemons, 6 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp cumin and a generous drizzle of thai chili sauce. i used my immersion blender and a large mixing bowl because thats what i have available but a food processor would probably suit better.

Spice mixture for the broth

start a saucepan over medium heat and transfer the paste to the pan. whisk in 2 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes and season with salt and pepper. the original calls for the broth to chill overnight to develop the flavor but i shortcutted this step, primarily because i missed reading it when i originally planned the meal and started the broth about an hour before dinnertime. in a large pot, brown 3 oz of chorizo, three links in my case, rough chopped with the skins removed. add two pounds of mussels and stir well. pour in the broth and reduce to a simmer. the original calls for cooking the broth until the mussels open, about 5 minutes but the mussels i had access to were already on the half shell so i kinda winged it. be careful not to overcook, tough chewy mussels are not the aim here. i called it good after about 10 minutes on low low low heat and ladled onto serving plates, making sure to get a nice mixture of mussels, broth and chorizo in each portion.

Mussels in the broth, ready to dish out

Originally, i had planned on making the mussel dish alongside some patas bravas and a loaf of bread but the more i thought about it the patas bravas with their stewed tomato sauce didn’t carry enough contrast to the broth used on the mussels so i made up a potato dish as i went along. i’m sure it probably has a name in some cuisine somewhere, its so hard to come up with something truly new but to me they will probably always be known as “those really great potatoes i made that one day”. clever, huh? so, here is how i made them. take 6 small red potatoes and quarter them. place the potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. season with salt, pepper and rosemary. shake the bowl to ensure proper coverage and distribution of seasonings. transfer the potatoes to a casserole dish and bake at 350 until they begin to soften.

Man, I love caramelized onions!

meanwhile, caramelize one finely chopped yellow onion over high heat in a bit of olive oil. when the onions are about done, remove the casserole from the oven and drop in a knob of butter, about 2 tbsp. let it melt a bit and shake the casserole to cover the potatoes with butter. stick them back in the oven and broil them for about 5 minutes to get a nice browning on the potatoes. i wasn’t too anal about it but try to have the fleshy parts of the potato up and the skins down.

It took 4 attempts to get this photo and i'm still not thrilled with it

then, mix 2 tbsp sour cream, 2 tbsp mayonnaise and 8 cloves of minced garlic well with your immersion blender to make a smooth sauce. i hit the sauce with my hand blender after as well to aerate the mixture a bit. to serve, not that you probably need me to tell you this, put the potatoes on the serving plate, top with caramelized onions and a dollop of the sauce. eat immediately and then return for seconds.

The Obligatory Bread Photo

with a dish this good, i wanted the bread to turn out right. i decided to tinker a little with my standard bread recipe and make a wetter dough than normal in an effort to avoid some of the density problems with my past breads (ok, i’m the only one that ever complains, everyone else loves the bread but still, i think i can do better). i also wanted a bit more crust to the bread so i took steps. start with 3 1/4 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. make a well in the center and pour in about 1 1/2 tbsp of yeast. sprinkle a generous tbsp of sugar over that and a couple of grinds of salt around the outer edge of the bowl. drizzle olive oil around the edge and pour in 1 1/2 cups of warm water, not directly onto your yeast. mix with a large spoon until the dough comes together. i normally knead by hand at this point but with the wetter dough, i opted for the hand mixer with the dough hooks this time. knead for about 5 minutes until the dough has a nice consistency and a silky look to it. lift the dough from the bowl, pour in some olive oil and return the dough to the bowl, flipping to coat with oil. cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 1/2 hours. your dough should have doubled in size by this point. turn out the dough onto a floured surface and punch down. add a large amount of cracked black pepper and basil. knead the dough until the pepper and basil are completely disseminated through the dough and it has a consistent look to it with no pockets of spices anywhere. form into a ball and place on an oiled baking pan, tucking the edges underneath to get a taut surface on top. cover again with a kitchen towel and let rise again for about an hour. after the second rise, score the top of the loaf with a serrated knife or a razor blade if you have one. this will help with crust development. brush the loaf with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, not a lot, just enough to get that occasional surprise in your bite. bake at 350 for about 15 – 20 minutes until nicely browned. on my second attempt, done today at the request of a co-worker, i found that midway through the baking process, misting the loaf with water helps immensely in terms of crust development. i am basically in favor of it and will definitely work it into my normal routine for bread making.

Mussels, Potatoes and Bread, plated and ready to eat

so, there you have it, two dishes with a bread accompaniment and i really can’t say enough about how good they turned out. i think the appetizer that eddie brought made it even better, homemade pita and roasted red pepper hummus. i have created a monster. also, pairing the meal with Leffe Blonde was an outstanding idea, i would have to suggest it to everyone far and wide.

only 2 more meals until i get to go home for christmas and see my wife and kids for the first time in seven and a half months. i plan on making a supplemental entry for a dinner party we are having on christmas eve, stay tuned for that.

next week is likely to be cordon bleu with garlic mashed potatoes and some undetermined vegetable, possibly a spinach based dish, i have a hankering…


Feast 29 – Thai Inspiration

November 24, 2009

As the months creep by, i find myself increasingly falling victim to a creeping malaise and general apathy towards doing all the day to day tasks that make up my life here in Korea. unfortunately, that has bled over into my blog entry habits and i find myself, for the third week in a row, making an entry 48 hours after the meal has actually gone down. It strange, i still am excited about the project and exert a great deal of my waking hours planning and executing the meals but somehow i get lazy when it comes time to make the entries. i make no excuses, i just beg your indulgence. i will strive to be better. in 27 days, i assure you i will be better, a plane ride and a few weeks with the family should go a long way to re-energizing my flagging willpower. all that aside, here is the weeks meal:

I had a desire to make some Thai influenced food and also, in the interests of economy, using up the catfish i still had in the freezer from the cajun meal a few weeks back. so, the thing that popped to mind first was fish packets, wrapped in banana leaves. but hey, who am i kidding, banana leaves, here on a military base? not bloody likely. ok, says i, fine… the suitable substitute is parchment paper… easy right? well, no, because yet again, here is another item that is widely available in the civilized world that i am unfortunately unable to get. so, i had to settle for foil packing. not a tragedy but i am getting damned sick of resorting to tertiary options. there is nothing like a stint overseas to make you appreciate the vast selection of a modern, well stocked grocery store. on a tangential note, i remember the first weekend that the family was in colorado, after four years in england. my first trip to a large grocery store was a defining moment in my recovery from the culture shock of being away from the states for that long of a period. it was strange to see so much selection in such a compact space. choice is overwhelming at times but it really stands out after you have done without for any period of time.

wow, this is meandering a bit from the subject… focus, greg, focus…

ok, fish packets… i came across a recipe that detailed a fish packet marinaded in a basil curry sauce. well, thats a win to start with… i found it at http://thaifood.about.com/od/thairecipes/r/Salmon.htm and while it calls for salmon, cod or other specific fish, my inventory of catfish and liking for its flavor made it a very suitable substitute…

Spice Mixture for the marinade

* 2-3 fillets salmon, red snapper, cod, or other fish, preferably fresh, but frozen will work too (SERVES 2-3)
* 1 pkg. banana leaves (if frozen, thaw for at least 1/2 hour) OR 2-4 sheets parchment paper, OR tin foil
* CURRY MARINADE/SAUCE:
* 1 shallot
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 thumb-size piece galangal (or ginger), sliced
* 2 tsp. ground coriander
* handful of basil leaves
* 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
* 1/2 can good-quality coconut milk
* 2 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into small pieces with scissors (discard central stem)
* 1 fresh red chilli, sliced (seeds removed if you prefer a milder sauce)
* 1 tsp. chili powder
* juice of 1/2 lime

Fish, marinaded and ready to wrap

Preparation:

1. Place all curry marinade/sauce ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and process well.
2. Place fish fillets in a large bowl and add 1/2 the curry marinade. Reserve the rest for later.
3. Slather the marinade over both sides of the fish.
4. Allow fish to sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can cook the fish immediately, as the flavors are so strong, they will still permeate the fish sufficiently.
5. When fish is done marinading, spread a banana leaf approximately 1 foot square on a working surface (you will have to cut the leaf) – or the equivalent of parchment paper or tin foil. Place one fillet in the center of the leaf/paper/foil.
6. Fold both sides of the wrapping material over the fish, then fold both ends to create a square “packet”. Turn it seam-side down to keep sides from opening (unless using foil, which will stay by itself). Do the same for the other fillets.
7. Place packets in a glass casserole dish or pie plate (to catch the drippings in case packets leak) and bake for 15 min. at 350 degrees, or longer depending on the thickness of the fillets.
8. After 15 minutes, open one of the packets. Insert a fork into the center of the fillet or steak (the thickest part) and gently pull back. If inside flesh is opaque and no longer transparent, the fish is cooked. If not, return to oven for another 5-10 minutes.
9. Over low heat, warm up the reserved curry sauce/marinade.
10. To serve the fish, scoop several spoonfuls of rice onto the side of the fish (right on the banana leaf, if using). Spoon some curry sauce (marinade) over the fish, then add a sprinkling of basil and/or coriander leaves.

well, i was also unable to get kaffir lime leaves so excluded them. i increased the red peppers to three given my own personal affinity for the spicier side of life. honestly, it wasn’t hot enough in my opinion and would probably either use more or a different type of pepper in the future.

Coconut rice is not very interesting to photograph

i followed their advice in the original recipe and prepared some coconut rice alongside. the recipe as quoted seemed a little on the mild side so i added 2 tbsp of madras curry powder with the other ingredients and followed the recipe as listed. it gave it a nice zest without overpowering the smooth flavor of the rice. quite nice in my humble opinion. here is a link to the rice recipe: Thai Coconut Rice

Ingredients chopped for the eggplant stirfry

for the inevitable vegetable side, i had a craving for eggplant again and came across this recipe: Thai Eggplant Stirfry. I appreciated it both for its variety of flavorings and ease of preparation. I normally swerve away from any recipe that uses the word easy in its title because they tend to be dumbed down version of things i would normally like but this one held true to the promise of ease while still offering the complexities that i enjoy in a dish.

Eggplant stir frying away

personal taste drove me to increase the garlic to nine cloves and max out the red peppers. i was a bit intimidated by the fish sauce in all honesty. this is my first time cooking with it and i was a bit thrown back by the strength of its aroma straight out of the bottle. it is wicked strong to be sure. however, blended with the other ingredients, it gave a great balance to the dish and i will definitely ensure my larder is stocked with it in the future.

Finished meal, plated

this went really well with the lager left over in the fridge. reduce, reuse, recycle…

i am of two minds on quoting recipes wholesale in my blog. on the one hand, i think everyone who reads this knows that i am cooking based on some recipe or another, that i don’t have a test kitchen stashed away in my dorm room where i develop all new recipes. i like to think that my modifications, pictures and commentary are enough to make them worthwhile. so, thats the argument for directly quoting the recipes, to give credit to the sources and ensure people know that i am not claiming these as my own inventions. i feel like i would be doing a disservice to the original authors/compilers if i gave the impression that i created these in a vacuum without any outside influence. at the same time, i prefer rewording them to demonstrate how i prepared the dish and directly showing my modifications. i think the best balance would be to type it out “as prepared” with a follow on link to the original source. that will satisfy my desire for creativity and also my sense of fair play to the sources. anyway, i babble, let me stop.

a teaser for next weekend… originally i had planned on making a thanksgiving meal but in miniature with cornish hens in place of the turkey, hand carved baby potatoes, individual serving sized pies and all that. however, after discussions with Eddie, we both came to the conclusion that the whole thing would be too depressing. that particular meal of all meals is meant to be prepared and ate while amongst your family. it would be a shallow ghost of what it is supposed to be if i did it here in this dorm room a million miles from home. so, that idea is officially off the agenda. however, i have had an insane craving for chorizo. odd i know, some people crave ice cream, i wake in a cold sweat thinking about preserved meat products. go figure. as coincidence would have it, i received the newest issue of bon appetit in the mail yesterday and they have a recipe for Mussels with Chorizo and Spicy Charmoula Broth that is a strong contender for this weeks centerpiece. its a high probability but not a certainty, i have to give thought to sides that will balance the meal. anyway, look for it in about five days.


Feast 28 – Cheeseburgers, Coleslaw and Onion Rings

November 17, 2009

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man extremely tired and lazy about updating his blog.

ok, that aside, i will attempt to be more timely in my updates, just in case someone is waiting with bated breath for their sunday fix.

this week, i had a real craving for a cheeseburger. that may sound a bit pedestrian compared to my normal fare but trust me, i jazzed it up a bit to make it worthy. when i was developing the idea, i knew i wanted to make beer battered onion rings as one of the sides but i was stuck for a vegetable side. i owe it to my darling wife who gave me the idea of making coleslaw. its one of those foods that i eat on occasion but have never even considered making. well, color me convinced, it was both easy and quite tasty given the base recipe that i started with and the modifications i ran.

Cheeseburgers. i feel they are one of the most decadent foods, seared ground up flesh of cow with cheese and condiments. cooked properly, they are absolutely to die for. tossing ideas around, i remember a recipe that i came across a while back, probably in bon appetit, that made the cheeseburgers with the cheese on the inside. that struck me as perfection, gooey goodness penetrating the center of a tender cooked burger, whats not to love? well, i had specific flavors in mind when it came to this burger and decided to go with blue cheese and bacon for the filling. with such a fine burger, it seemed to me a shame to even consider using a simple store bought bun so i did take the trouble of making my own, freshly baked and tasty. so, without further ado, here is how i did it:

the coleslaw:

Ingredients for the slaw

another great recipe from epicurious, the addition of chives and shallots made this wonderful. i loved the way it snuck up on you and bit you with the sharpness of the shallots. me being me, i added 6 cloves of slivered garlic to a half portion of this recipe. i figured the whole batch would be entirely too big and i would have slaw for weeks. here is the link to the recipe, please check it out: Creamy Coleslaw with Chives and Shallots

the buns:

i went through several different iterations of bread recipes but honestly none of them seemed to capture what i was looking for. several of them were simply to time consuming and constituted a project in their own right. i decided to focus on form and function above flashiness of ingredients. it is amazing what proper treatment of a bread recipe with reward you with. i made a basic bread dough consisting of 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/4 cup warm water, a tablespoon of yeast, a twist or two of salt and a tablespoon of sugar. mix well to combine and work into a dough ball. on a floured surface, knead the dough for 5 minutes or so until it is silky and pliant. place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature for an hour and a half. after the rise time, separate the dough into 6 pieces. at this point, i have to mention the excellent book, the bread baker’s apprentice for enlightening me on the next step. the book described the best way to get a proper crust is to ensure the dough is stretched and that there is proper surface tension on the outer layer. it’s difficult to describe the method for this but try to visualize it and i will try to put it into words. working with one dough ball at a time, roll it between your palms to create a smooth ball. then, form it into a bun shape by curling the edges of the dough under the dough ball, rotating the dough 90 degrees with each stretching. you want the top of your bun to look uniformly stretched in all directions. be careful not to tear the dough as you are basically creating a thin layer of dough with all the rest of the dough tucked inside of it. repeat for the other five dough balls and place on an oiled baking pan.

Buns formed and ready to rise

cover and let rise for another hour. after the second rise, gently cut a cross into the top of each bun, trying not to overly disturb the doughs texture. brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. let cool and slice in half just before service.

Buns fresh from the oven

the burgers:

first off, cook up 6 slices of bacon until crisp. i started with 8 but somehow only six made it into the recipe. bacon has a way of disappearing in my kitchen, its really weird. drain the bacon well and mix with a nice large chunk of blue cheese, crumbling and combining to form an integrated ball of goodness. set aside. next, mix 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef with one beaten egg, salt, pepper, oregano, sage and a nice drizzle of worchestershire sauce. mix well by hand to combine and separate into 12 small balls.

Forming the patties

working with two balls at a time (insert dirty joke here), flatten them into very thin patties. spoon a portion of the blue cheese mixture on top of one patty, smooth it out and top with the second patty. press the edges together and form into a nice solid burger with your cheese mixture completely encased. repeat 5 more times (duh). normally, i would strongly advocate firing up the grill but refer to my previous complaints about the fact that i do not have a grill here. what i do have is a pan that was recently used for making 8 – i mean 6 slices of bacon. so, medium high heat, about 4 minutes per side or until the burgers are done to your satisfaction. serve with thinly sliced red onion, thinly sliced tomato, brown mustard and ketchup. accept the accolades of your adoring public.

Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger...

the onion rings:

i’m a sucker for anything that’s beer battered. these are tasty without going to crazy on outlandish with the ingredients. a single onion is enough to feed two people, adjust according to your audience size.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup cold beer
3 eggs

Slightly beat the eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Blend well with electric mixer. Use immediately to batter thickly cut rings of yellow onion. fry the onions in very hot vegetable oil until browned and crispy, turning to ensure even cooking. drain well and serve.

Meal plated and ready to eat

overall, the meal was good. the burgers were a bit overshadowed by the strength of the blue cheese but i would counter that by plussing up the spices in the ground meat, not altering the blue cheese filling. i think a healthy dose of cracked black pepper would do the trick. we were lucky enough to get some sam adams winter lager in here and it was the perfect accompaniment. i am so excited to be in colorado for the old chicago winter beer tour, i am a huge fan of the winter seasonals with the mixtures of spicy undertones and thick hoppy-ness. oh and did i mention there is a t-shirt involved? man, beverages and free t-shirts, this thing is custom made for me!

i’m thinking of doing some thai style wrapped fish packets with a noodle dish on the side next week. still in the thought process so it may change altogether, we shall see.

20 more to go…


Feast 27 – Lamb Tagine and Vegetable Couscous

November 10, 2009

This week, i accepted Eddie’s challenge of creating a Moroccan feast. i’m fascinated by the cuisine of northern Africa with its mixture of desert sensibilities and Mediterranean spicy flair. i think it suits my personality well, i enjoy cooking it almost as much as i enjoy eating it.

Unfortunately, amongst the many cooking implements i do not have here in Korea, I do not have a traditional Tagine, the cooking vessel from which this delicious stew gets its name. but, wait for it, its a stew made of an indifferent cut of meat that is cooked for a long period in order to leave the meat tender and fully seasoned. hmmmm, what could i possibly use to slow cook a stew, Moroccan or otherwise?

so, yeah, another excuse for me to break out the crock pot. i’m almost starting to feel like i should have called this the 48 crock pot feasts. it is certainly my favorite implement for the here and now.

I’ve gotten rather cavalier with my approach to recipes these days. i found wonderful recipes for the tagine and for the couscous which i will link below but in the end, i used them as a basic blueprint and just went ahead and cooked the dishes. they ended up tasting quite nice although probably not as traditional as the could have been. i’m okay with that. for me, this has always been about exploration and finding the flavors and techniques that make a meal work for me. following a formula is great and all but in all honesty, there are few recipes that fit my palate right out of the crate. i almost invariably increase the garlic, omit one spice in favor of another, use a different cut of meat… all minor changes but ones that are designed to make the dishes exactly what i want to eat. so, here is how i rolled for this week. as a side note, i did make some pita to go alongside but lets just say, the first rule of greg’s baking is that we don’t talk about greg’s baking. the second rule of greg’s baking… blah blah blah. yeah, i need practice with breads.

the tagine:

P1010005

Tagine stewing away

first off, here is the original recipe from epicurious.com. Lamb Tagine with Tomatoes and Caramelized Sweet Onions i selected this recipe because it suited my intention of slow cooking and i was intrigued by the two methods of cooking the onions, one set stewed in the dish and another batch caramelized and served on top. it seems that here, most of my recipe modifications are a direct result of one ingredient or another that i just can’t get. there are things that we take for granted in our well equipped stateside stores, such as Vidalia onions. of course, here, i have none. so, i made do with yellow onions. a little sharper flavor of course but after caramelizing they still turned out nice and flavorful. As i mentioned above, i chose to make this dish in my crock pot. so, i started in the wee hours, around 8.5 hours before dinnertime to be exact. i am also stuck for cuts of lamb that are available here so instead of the cheaper stew meat that this dish called for, i took a whole leg of lamb and stripped it off the bone. i cut it into nice sized chunks, i guess about 1.5 inch cubes would be the best approximation. whatever size you would like to find in a bite of stew is what i would go with. i chopped up four onions and put these in the bottom of the crock pot. dropped in a couple of cinnamon sticks, liberal salt and pepper and then layered the lamb on top of the onions. repeat the salting and peppering, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon powder and ginger. cook on high for about 5 hours, stirring often. at the 5 hour mark, add in about 6 chopped tomatoes, one julienne sliced orange bell pepper and two minced habaneros. yeah, i like a little hidden kick in my stews. cook for an additional 2 hours. then add in about 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. cook for one more hour or until you are ready to eat, it should be tender and flavorful by then. about an hour before you serve, caramelize the remaining onions (i had three more onions for this stage) in a bit of olive oil in a large heavy pan. stir well until they begin to soften then reduce heat to medium, cover and let them cook down for about 45 minutes. spoon atop the tagine when you serve.

P1010001

Caramelizing the Onions

the couscous: this dish was meant to be served cooled but i wanted to serve it hot so thats what i did. its amazing the freedom that making a decision gives you. this was a three stage operation, each one utterly simple but when they all mixed together, the results were quite nice. here is the original recipe from which i didn’t deviate that much, just mixing the ingredients while they were still warm and i did swap cilantro for the parsley and omitted the mint, my personal taste, individual mileage may vary…Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes

P1010002

Blackened Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic for Couscous

it probably goes without saying that i was unable to obtain pearl couscous and used your normal everyday variety in its place. i imagine the texture was a little slighter that intended but it turned out nice regardless.

of course, nothing goes better with a spicy stew than a decent lager, we however settled for Corona, improved with slices of line and Tabasco. It provided a refreshing counterbalance and made me want to shoot pool afterward. all in all, served its purpose.

P1010006

Plated and ready to eat (yeah, i took the picture before putting the caramelized onions on top, sue me)

i’ve been daydreaming about future feasts. kinda odd i guess. i believe i may be making a miniature version of turkey day traditional fare for Thanksgiving, just to be cute. i’m still developing but have visions of roasted cornish hens stuffed with cornbread stuffing alongside miniature roasted potatoes, baby glazed baby carrots (all lovingly carved down with a paring knife to 1/4 scale) and a selection of miniature one serving pies for dessert.

i’m also contemplating the statement i want to make for feast 48, my last bit of cookery in this godforsaken place. it will have a meaning behind it, believe me.


Feast 26 – Chinese Five Spice Chicken

November 2, 2009

For the first week, i woke up on sunday just not wanting to cook. it was weird, i went thru the normal preparatory stages, planned the meal through the week, did the shopping on friday, thought about the process on saturday but sunday rolled around and i just didn’t feel like it. there was a laziness that crept over me that i just can’t put my finger on. i’m looking forward to going home for christmas so much that i find it hard to deal with the here and now, even the things i have chosen for myself.

still, this aside, i did at the end of it all make the meal i had planned. i cooked almost out of habit, the meal flowing out effortlessly. i felt no real pressure or stress on the timeline, i just saw it as an inevitability. it was sunday. so i cooked.

i got a really late start. motivation was hard to come by and luckily this particular meal didn’t take as much brain power or time as some others that i have made in the past. i framed the meal around three courses, as is my habit, chinese five spiced chicken, using cornish hens as the fowl, curried eggplant and vegetable fried rice. all in all the meal took about 90 minutes to prepare and it turned out great, i was very happy with the results, especially the eggplant. it shouldn’t surprise me, its the dish that took the least effort so obviously it was the one that would turn out the best.

the hens:

i decided to spatchcock the cornish hens both to decrease the cooking time and to give them a better presentation on the plate. increasing the surface area of the birds gave more crispness and delicious texture as well. i used the standard spatchcocking technique except as it turned out, the keel bones were insignificant and didn’t require removing.

P1010001

Cornish Hen, Spatchcocked

thaw the cornish hens and drain well. with a pair of kitchen shears, cut along the backbone on each side to remove it. place the hen breast side up on your cutting board and flatten with the palm of your hand. cut two small slits in the skin on the end of the hen and tuck in the ends of the leg bones to hold them in place.

drizzle the hens with a bit of sesame oil. rub the oil over the chicken to thoroughly cover. liberally spice the birds with chinese five spice mixture, salt and pepper. roast uncovered in a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 180. turn oven off until ready to serve. i split each hen in two to serve, creating four servings from the two hens, it fit better on the plate and was suitable to my appetite level. i do love leftovers as well.

P1010008

Cornish Hen, fresh from the oven

The curried eggplant:

heat a bit of olive oil and sweat down one diced onion and 4 cloves of garlic until translucent. sprinkle the onion/garlic with a scant 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

Onion and Garlic sweating down

slice two japanese eggplants into 1/2 inch slices and place in the pan. sprinkle with curry powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. pour in 1/2 cup of water and cook over medium high heat until the eggplant is soft, about 40 minutes, ensuring to stir often to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan and distribute the spices. sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook for about 2 minutes more. serve immediately.

Curried Eggplant, ready to serve

the fried rice:

i needed to use a bigger pan for this dish but the wok i have will not fit on this stovetop. a large hot pan surface will give a much better consistency to the fried rice, especially at the stage when you add the egg. but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do to get by.

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Vegetables for Rice cooking away

prepare one cup of dry rice according to manufacturers directions. set aside to cool. heat a bit of oil in a large pan or wok and touch fry a mixture of four diced green onions, 2 thinly sliced carrots, a finely chopped thumb sized piece of ginger and around six sliced mushrooms. when this ingredients start to soften, season with salt and pepper, then add the rice back in, stirring to distribute evenly. with the heat on high, pour in one beaten egg and stir constantly to ensure the egg doesn’t clump. this is where a big wok would have came in handy as my egg merged too much with the rice and didn’t really add much to the dish. it still tasted damned good though.

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Meal Plated and ready to eat

Due to our wonderful selection of beverages here at Osan, we were limited in choice but Eddie came through with some more Kirin Ichiban which is a damned fine beer in my opinion. no complaints here, thats for sure. the eggplant was the star of the day with a surprise kick that knocked me down once with a particularly well spiced bite. i may make the eggplant again just during the week for myself, it was pretty tasty.

Eddie also came though with a meal suggestion, a Moroccan feast that i will be developing for next week. the centerpiece will be a lamb tagine with a couscous side dish of some sort. i may get crazy and make some pita alongside, it would be fitting and thematic.