Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'm home.

Can't you tell?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Roast Chicken

The recipe for this roast chicken is Thomas Keller's. If you don't know who Thomas Keller is, look up The French Laundry.

At Albertson's, I could only find 3-4 pound chickens. What the heck? Where are my hormone-injected, crazy steroid-taking 7 pound chickens?

Oh well, the recipe calls for a 3 pound chicken anyways, and it works best with smaller chickens because the oven stays at 450 degrees the whole time. Try that with a bigger chicken, and you'll have a dry, burnt outer layer while the insides are still uncooked.

I wanted to make a whole dinner, so I made two sides--mashed potatoes, and green beans with bacon.

Of course, the green beans were sautéed in bacon fat.

Here's the chicken out of the oven, and there's a nice, crispy skin! If you look at the wings, you might be able to see that I tucked them back, which is recommended. I also wanted to tie up the legs (aka truss the bird), but uh...I still don't have floss/kitchen twine.

You can see that I set it on a mirepoix, so that it doesn't end up sitting in its own juices. Why don't you want it sitting in its own juices? Well, unless you like crispy chicken on the top and a soggy chicken on the bottom...

Also, the mirepoix has another purpose besides lifting the chicken off the bottom of the pan--it flavors the chicken juice, which makes for a great chicken gravy.

The plating: Roast chicken, green beans and bacon, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy.

Pizza--a success!

I tried making pizza again. This time, however, I didn't stretch out the dough as much, since the doughball from Trader Joe's is pretty small. How'd it turn out? Pretty good!

Cheese came out slightly burnt, that even a bad thing? Sure didn't taste like it.

There really wasn't a lot of dough though...instead of stretching it out to 16", I stretched it out to about 10". The crust wasn't floppy anymore, but it was still really thin.

I guess next time, I'll buy two dough balls...or make my own.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A failure...and thanksgiving.

So I tried making pizza on Wednesday, right before I headed home for the thanksgiving weekend.

I tried.

The dough was premade and bought from Trader Joe's. I actually had to clean the counter, flour it, and "roll" out the dough. I'd feel pro if it weren't for the fact that the dough was premade.

I used the mozzarella balls on the left earlier on the chicken roulades, and I bought the mozzarella on the right specifically for the pizza. Might as well use up the tiny mozzarella balls on the pizza too (although they were a pain to cut).

Tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper. I lack herbs. Also, the dough was an herb dough, so I figure it's ok this time. Not pictured: placing sliced mozzarella and pepperoni on the pizza.

The final product? I didn't take pictures. I refused to take pictures. It looked like a pizza, and tasted like a pizza, but it sure didn't behave like one--the crust was EXTREMELY floppy. I probably spread out the dough too much, because my pan is 16". Maybe prebaking for a bit would help. Maybe next time, eh?

Oh, and thanksgiving, etc.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Smothered Pork Chops...again

Hey, the last time I made this was like 3 months ago.

This time, I'm going to try something a bit different--I like reading through recipes with step-by-step pictures, because it's a lot more interesting than just looking at a bunch of text. (see: goons with spoons) Also, I think it'd be more interesting to follow someone through the cooking process than to just look at a picture of the finished dish. So I'm going to try that!

Anyways, this is from an Emeril cookbook (I said it last time, and I'll say it your breath). It's nothing fancy, all the ingredients used are common, it's fairly simple to make, and it's somewhat cheap (except for the pork, maybe), which makes this a good choice for college students! Especially since you can use those thin cut pork chops that are sold at the supermarket.

The full recipe can be viewed online here.

Bang a gong, we are on!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chicken Roulades

I'm home-alone (apartment-alone?) for this three-day weekend, so I have the ability to experiment or make things from a last minute idea (like the tuna). That way, if I screw something up, it's only on a small scale.

We've had chicken thighs in the freezer for a LONG time. It was 99 cents a pound, so we got a 5-pound pack--and there's still chicken left, from the chicken katsu to the chicken corn chowder. So, I decided to thaw two thighs and make chicken roulades out of them! However, we don't have toothpicks or kitchen twine or even dental floss (what a great time to run out of floss), so I had to...cook them carefully so that they didn't break open.

They were stuffed with mozzarella and fresh parsley. I would use gruyere, because I've seen a bunch of chicken roulade recipes that call for it, but it was like $6 a pound at Trader Joe's. The potatoes on the right were made by parboiling a potato, slicing it, then frying in olive oil.

Yeah, they're not perfect roulades, and it's a simple meal, but it's a casual weekend dinner for myself only, so it doesn't matter.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Seared Ahi Tuna

Since I live in Irvine, the closest that I'll get to some kind of market is Trader Joe's.

But hey, I never said that was a bad thing. Trader Joe's has some great stuff that you can't find in your typical supermarket.

Like micro-greens.

Or wasabi mayonnaise.

Or ahi tuna that you can just sear--ok, so you can get that at Albertsons too, but I prefer Trader Joe's.

So anyways, I decided to just coat this ahi tuna in panko, and sear it really quickly. You want a very small amount on the outside cooked, and as much rare tuna as you can get. But on the other hand, you also want a nice golden brown crust, so that means really, really hot oil, and a sear of no more than 20ish seconds per side.

Did I mention that I love my knife? There was minimal tearing when I was slicing the tuna. And honestly, minimal tearing is great, considering that this is a big, strong, German, 44 degree knife.

Plate with the micro-greens, the mayo, and some rice, and there's a nice meal!

New Equipment: Pizza Pan

This is a 16-inch Calphalon (I think I'm starting to become loyal to brands) pizza pan--said to be "reinforced nonstick," and yet "aluminized steel." Whatever that is. It's definitely not the teflon nonstick that we're all familiar with.

Why did I get it? Because I want to be a better cook, and being a better cook means branching out and trying new things. I'll start off with premade dough and everything else homemade, then I'll eventually make the dough from scratch when I'm more familiar with making pizza.

But to give a less pretentious answer, homemade pizza is just darn good. Better than delivery and frozen pizza by leaps and bounds.

Also to come: An immersion blender for nice, smooth soups and sauces, and an actual baking dish, which means I'll be using my oven more! What a concept.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chicken Corn Chowder

It's getting colder here ( "cold" as this area can get), and that means heavier soups! This is a chicken corn chowder, which I pretty much made by reading a bunch of recipes and making an educated guess at winging it.

It was, hands down, the longest I've spent in a kitchen actively doing prep work and cooking. The bell pepper had to be cut from the core, then julienned and brunoised (okay, a little unevenly), the potatoes had to be peeled and cut, the onions had to be diced and sweated in the bacon fat that was cooked out of the bacon which I had to cook and chop earlier to be used as a functional garnish, the chicken--oh god, the chicken had to be skinned, deboned, diced into manageable sizes, then cooked in more bacon fat (that's what happens when you buy cheap chicken that isn't skinned and deboned for you), etc. From start to finish, this soup had me working for around 2 hours.

It was so cool.

It turned out pretty good, although it was a little bit on the liquidy side, and I like nice thick soups. Heavy cream, potatoes, and beurre manié were used to thicken.

It wasn't enough.

Crumble some bacon on top, and enjoy while you curse the pathetic excuse for "cold" weather in southern california. Winter can't come fast enough.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chicken Katsu

Chicken is the best choice for poor college students (poor college students that like to cook, that is). Unless you buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $5 a pound or something.

A 5 pound pack of chicken thighs for 99 cents/lb? ohh yeah.

It's been a while since I fried anything, so I made chicken katsu, which is very simple. Skin and debone your chicken pieces (try not to cut yourself like me), pound them flat, dredge in flour, dip in egg, cover in panko, and shallow fry until it looks right.

This was more of a test run, so I never bothered to make macaroni salad or buy tonkatsu sauce.

Next time I do this, I will make a full plate lunch for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lots of food.

Alright, I have a lot of food to document here.

To begin with, this is a soup my roommate Bryan made. He said he doesn't cook, but he wants to start--so after coming back to the apartment with ingredients and a recipe from his mom, we have this soup. What's it called? I should probably ask him.

Water + chicken bouillon powder, chopped tomatoes, potatoes, tomato sauce, onions, chicken thighs and drumsticks.

Funny story about the cans of tomato sauce...even after using the can opener, the lids seemed to be stuck, and pulling them off didn't work. However, if you pulled hard enough, they would come off...with an explosion of tomato sauce. Same problem happened with the 2nd can, so we had 2 separate explosions of tomato.

You can see the aftermath here, which looked worse in person, trust me. Some tomato sauce landed on Matt, a friend who came to visit--you can see him here wiping his leg.

Leftovers of the soup. You know, the color kind of reminds me of bún bò Huế, a Vietnamese soup.

Closeup of a nice, tender drumstick. The soup was served over rice. Overall, a pretty good-tasting soup!

Also, my other roommate David brought some more thinly sliced meat suspended in Korean magic marinade--but this one isn't bulgogi. What's it called? Shoot, I should probably ask him.

Serve with rice and kimchi.

And now food item number 3 (I told you it was a lot): Horrible, horrible burgers. Oh no, they tasted great, as a matter of fact! When I say horrible, I'm referring to how I made them. You'll see.

We begin with a close-up of bacon, not fully cooked yet. Why do I have a closeup of bacon? Why not?

One of the great joys of life is seeing a closeup of bacon, cooking in all its glory (and by glory, I mean bacon fat).

The other joy is eating it.

As you can see, the ends aren't as cooked as the middle, because the bacon strips were so long (uncooked, that is) that they went from one edge of the pan to the other.

Also: Chili, and burgers (ground beef, salt, pepper, form it into a patty shape) cooking in some of the resulting bacon fat.

Butter a bun, toast it, add the burger with melted pepper jack cheese (done by putting cheese on top of the burger in a skillet and covering it, which steams and melts the cheese quickly), add bacon, and add chili on top of that.

And that's your result. You know, compared to the stuff that fast food restaurants serve, I guess it's not too bad. But then again, that's just my weak justification for making eight of these burgers.

Maybe I should make some Vietnamese food...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yep, steak. And breakfast.

But not together. Anyways, my parents brought 4 new york steaks to my apartment, so hey, might as well cook them. Oh, and I got a new camera.

Unfortunately, the smoke alarm in our apartment is so sensitive it's annoying. I set it off right when the steaks touched the cast iron grill. I had no choice but to improvise--broil them. It turned out...alright...I guess. Two steaks turned out fairly red, and the other two turned out a bit too done. That nice crust isn't there from grilling, but whatever. Also pictured: homemade mashed potatoes.

Ah, but the next morning...that's a different story!

Bacon, eggs, and some little sliced potato chunks, fried in bacon fat. I just wanted to see how it would taste.
Also, pineapple-orange-banana juice.

But wait! What do you do with all of that leftover bacon fat?

Save it, of course! Now what do I use it for...

Monday, October 8, 2007

The finished pot roast...

...complete with not so good pictures, but oh well.

So the recipe I use for pot roast is pretty easy...although pot roast in general is pretty easy. Prep all the ingredients, add them to a crock-pot, set the crock-pot to low, and wait 8 other words, go to work/class/whatever, then come back to a finished meal.

What I like to do, once the pot roast is done braising, is to take all of the juice that it gives (and trust me, it's a lot), put that strained juice into a pot, and add a slurry of flour and water, in order to thicken the juice. However, it won't thicken fully until you bring the juice to a boil, so do that, and keep stirring so you don't get burnt pot roast juice. That's...not good.

Once it starts thickening, you have a nice gravy! Pour it on the pot roast, the vegetables, the rice, bathe in it, whatever.

It's so tender, you don't need a knife at all. You can rip pieces off with a fork.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bulgogi! And more...

So for yesterday's dinner, we had Bulgogi, written in Korean as 불고기 (I just wanted to put that in). One of my roommates, David, brought a big tub of it from home, already marinating, thanks to his parents. He said it's typically grilled, although it can be sautéed as well, although it won't taste as good.

Luckily, we had a piece of equipment that could give that grilled taste without using an actual grill. Remember that cast iron griddle that I used for cheesesteaks a while back? Flip it over, and it's a cast iron grill.

Some info about's like the most popular form of Korean barbecue (and Korean barbecue itself is already popular around here), and it generally just consists of thinly sliced beef, typically sirloin, marinated in some form of liquid magic that I should probably ask about. Although there's soy sauce in there for sure. Cause that totally helps.

Hey, last time I had sirloin, I sliced it thinly too...cheesesteak, bulgogi, close enough.

So here's the traditional way to eat bulgogi, courtesy of David:
Get a leaf of lettuce.
Put rice on it.
Put bulgogi on top of that.
Put some Korean hot sauce that I don't know the name of on top of that.
Optionally, put one of the 378 million side dishes that your meal comes with on top of that.

By the way, I cut my finger slicing those green onions. I love my knife even more.

Why? Because it's so sharp that it gave me a clean cut, with minimal pain (maybe some stinging). If you cut yourself with a dull knife, you won't be happy. And I've cut myself with both before.

Eventually, I got too lazy to wrap it in lettuce, so I just ate it out of a bowl of rice. Great stuff!

This morning, before I left for my early (read: 10am) class, I prepared the pot roast that I'm going to have for dinner today. Prep the ingredients, put it all in a crock pot, set to low heat, and leave it on for 8+ hours while you're away.

The cool thing was, I woke up a bit later than I planned to, so I had to do prep for the pot roast FAST, then run out to the shuttle stop before I missed it. You don't know what you're missing until you have to wash, peel, and cut a bunch of stuff under a really short time constraint.

I know what you're thinking. No, I didn't cut myself again.