Uncommon Food for the Common Man

Great food is worth the time to make it

December 15, 2014
by greggle
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Old beer label

I resurrected an old beer label the other day. It was just a quickie to use for a quickie batch of Charlie Papazain’s Avogadro’s Expeditious Old Ale made by my friend Eric.

Beer_label

November 22, 2012
by greggle
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Giant Mushrooms!

Thanksgiving Day, 2012. We went for a walk to the local park just down the street.

As we turned just past the railroad tracks onto the road/walkway leading into the park, I looked ahead to a tall spruce tree and saw these two beauties underneath it. Keiko and I hurried over to them and they looked nice. One was snacked on a little bit by a banana slug, but otherwise they looked pristine.

Keiko said we should pick them when we came back but I was not gonna let these beauties get away. So I grabbed them and hoofed back whence we came with my prize.

Now this year has been decisively bad for mushrooms. Rains came late, but at least there have been not too many really cold nights. I was quite surprised to see these two Boletus Edulis, or King Bolettes (porcini), under that tree. It must be a royal tree, because when we moved here in July, the same tree had about a dozen dried out and otherwise spent Agaricus augustus, commonly called ‘The Prince.’

So we left to our walk and we walked on the path and through the woods, not seeing anything else worth picking, which has been the norm of late.

We arrived home and I got to work. I washed the dirt off and cleaned off the bottom of the stem. No signs of fly larvae in either of them! I sliced some to have with our Thanksgiving dinner and then set the spore tubes to simmer to make some broth. I should have added a bit more water as I soon was greeted with a burning smell. I salvaged some of the non-stuck to the pan bits and tried again.

I filled up the dehydrator with a bit more than one mushroom. So two times the dehydrating fun. Can’t wait to use these for pizza.

January 21, 2012
by greggle
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Chicken and Rice

I needed a quick recipe the other day and the rice sitting in rice cooker got me thinking.

I had some chicken but I did not want soup. I wanted to try and make the national dish of Singapore, Chicken and Rice.

I added some whole pieces of chicken, skin and all to water, turned on the heat and chopped some garlic and ginger. I let it simmer for about an hour and added salt to taste.

It made a nice stock, a bit oily. But this is good, in fact, great for this recipe.

I did not really measure, but here is the approximate recipe:

3 chicken thighs, bone in
1 inch piece of ginger cut into thin strips
3 large cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
1 quart of water
salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)

2 scallions for garnish
dipping sauces, optional
2 cups cooked white rice

Add everything to a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a slow boil.
When chicken is cooked, about 45 minutes to an hour, remove chicken and let cool. Add salt to broth to taste. Shred chicken and set aside, in fridge if paranoid. Skim surface of broth.and return bones to broth and boil covered for an additional 30 minutes to an hour. Add reserved shredded chicken to broth.

Add chicken and some broth on top of plain white rice in a bowl. Add scallions if desired. Put as much broth as you like. It should not be soupy, but wet rice.

Chinese chili scallion oil or a chili-garlic sauce would be good choices for sauces, as would some simple soy sauce.

Feeds two hungry people, three normal.

 

 

January 21, 2012
by greggle
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Soup time

Pizole, Mexican soup

Pizole is a spicy, warm treat.

Winter has hit with full force and some warming comfort food hits the spot.

That means it is soup time.

Lately soup and some warm crusty bread has been the simple makings of a meal. I’ve cracked open my soup book and browsed the pages looking to see what I could make with what I have on hand. The other day it was curried parsnip soup.

Recipes for soup are pretty forgiving. You can substitute for many ingredients and use what you have on hand. But the one thing you truly need to have for each soup is a good stock.

A stock can be made with what most people just throw away. Chicken stock can be made with a carcass or just the bones from pieces of chicken. Ends of carrots, celery and outer layers of onion can flavor that stock.

As I prepare vegetables for other dishes I cut off the less desirable bits and pop them into a plastic bag   for stock I keep in the freezer. I’m also a big keeper of bones from meals such as steak, chuck roasts, etc. I often buy chicken thighs with bones in them and keep them too. Whole chickens make excellent stock and you can even cut and save the breasts and other parts of the chicken before making stock and just use the carcass and whatever bits stuffed in it – except the liver, which I think gives it a funky taste – to make stock. It is a bit of extra work, but you save money and stretch a chicken into many different meals.

Once you have made stock, freeze it and you have the beginnings of a quick soup.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 stalk of celery

Pull out neck and giblets. Rinse chicken inside and out. (Alternatively, strip the carcass and freeze the meat or use it for another recipe.)

Put it in soup pot and cover with water. Cut vegetables into quarters. Stick in pot, bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Carefully take chicken out or wait until it cools. After chicken cools, strip meat and save for other use.

Remove vegetables and return chicken carcass to pot. Add water if needed. Bring back to a boil, cover and turn down heat to avoid boil over. Let it cook for at least another hour, two would be better, three best. Keep an eye on it and add water as needed. Some small bones will all but disintegrate. Let it cool and strain into containers to freeze or use for recipe.

When refrigerated, the stock will be gelatinous. This means it is good!

There is not salt in this recipe, so it will be needed when you use the stock in a recipe.

Vegetable stock is a similar process. But vegetables are a bit more fragile, so less time simmering is needed. Add roughly chopped onions, celery, carrots, perhaps other root vegetables, crushed garlic cloves, salt and spices (parsley, bay leaf and other bland spices would be good) and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and use or freeze.
TIP: The more surface area, the quicker the flavor of the vegetables will be released. So cut into smaller pieces and the simmering time will go down.

For vegetable stock just add whatever you might have on hand or something that would blend well with the final destination for the stock. A tomato, basil, etc. if Italian. Let your imagination go wild. Add the skins from 2 or 3 yellow onions to give your stock a nice golden color. (They may need more time simmering. Remove the rest of veggies and return onion skins to pot and simmer longer.)

Once you’ve got some stock making some nice soup is easy peezy. Look for some soup recipes coming soon.

October 17, 2011
by greggle
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Chestnuts

Chestnuts as they came from the tree.

We were out walking yesterday at our usual trail, minding our own business, when we heard things falling. Keiko looked and said they were chestnuts. We were being bombarded by chestnuts! It is possible they were just naturally falling, but I have a suspicion that the squirrel up the tree was helping them along. There were lots of empty husks with the nut part missing all over the ground.

Now these guys would hurt really, really bad if one hit you in the head. They are protected by a spiny, fleshy covering which makes getting the ‘nut’ out a bit of a hassle.

We carefully collected a few and brought them home.

I just used a fork and a pocket knife and searched for the seam in the spiny covering, peeling it apart with the knife while holding it with the fork. Web sites say you should collect the nuts that have the outer spiny portions split already. But they would not have survived long with the squirrels and others vying for the tasty treat.

Some of them were not as dark as they could be, but we are trying them out nonetheless. Next time we go we will harvest more and let them sit in a cool place until they ‘ripen’ a little more.

I cut a little X in the top of them, soaked them in water for a while and then roasted them in the oven. You need to cut the X so that they don’t explode when roasting. Keiko says to just put them in a dutch oven to take care of any pesky ones that want to explode.

After about 25 minutes at 400 deg. F., we took them out, put them in a dish towel and cracked the shells. I should have read the web site closer as it recommends to leave them wrapped for five minutes. That could make it easier to get rid of the inner covering. Yes, these little nuggets of goodness have 3 – count ’em – 3 obstacles before you get to the edible part!

Your reward after this is a wonderful smell from the oven and a tasty, starchy treat.

 

August 24, 2011
by greggle
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Pork, more than the other white meat

Had a dream last night and pork was the main theme.

It seems I stopped by the Ramen Truck in Portland, something I have not done yet while awake.

I ordered a bowl, and out came some Ramenish item which I dug into. It had sausage!? in it.

I do remember it being yummy, but all wrong. (In fact, the whole process was wrong. They did not ask me my choice of broth, toppings, additions, etc. Perhaps it was a reaction to other web wanderings in which news of Boke Bowl getting a place to call home and their drop-in monthly events in which a fusion inspired bowl of ramen is served.)

Anyhow, it fit in with recent meals and musings over pork and the humble cabbage pairings.

A favorite of ours is Steamed Cabbage and Thin-sliced Pork. It is quite simply that and a little konbu (kelp), sake, salt and crushed red pepper. My wife said she ate that a lot in college as it was cheap, filling and good. See recipe below.

Other recipes are just as simple – green cabbage and kielbasa, pasta with bacon and cabbage, and of course sauerkraut and sausage.

You can get a little more complex with stuffed cabbage, but that is just another  in the vast array of this ‘peasant’ comfort food.

Cabbage was, and still is, an easy to grow and inexpensive vegetable many turn to in hard times. Lots of these recipes were handed down through generations and are standards in various ethnic cuisines. You may not find them as entrees in the finest restaurants, but with their ease of preparation it is simple to make at home. With today’s economic climate, cabbage and pork pairing may just make a comeback.

I look forward to other discoveries of this wonderful pairing, perhaps a Korean inspired kimchi and ground pork creation? There are bound to be other Asian recipes involving cabbage and pork, they are just out there to be discovered.

Steamed Pork and Cabbage

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

1/2 head of Napa cabbage
1/2 pound of thinly-sliced pork
small 1" x 2" or so piece of dried kelp
1/2 to 1 tsp of dried red pepper
2 tbsp of sake
salt to taste
Ponzu (optional)

Instructions

  1. Rinse cabbage and cut top or bottom of cabbage to about the size of a medium sauce pan. If using bottom cut off stem part. We use our 3 quart one. Rinse, and arrange in bottom of pan or in a metal vegetable strainer in the pan. It should fit fairly tight in there.
  2. Arrange slices of pork between the leaves of the cabbage. Depending on how your pork is cut, you should cut to at least half the cabbage leaf size. Thin sliced pork is available from Asian stores in many types and sold as sukiyaki or shabu-shabu meat. Or you can get your butcher to slice you up some pork loin or pork shoulder.
  3. Cut kelp into small pieces arrange evenly in leaves or just place on top.
  4. Sprinkle red pepper and salt on top, drizzle sake over top.
  5. Cover and heat over medium low to medium heat until pork is cooked, about 15 minutes. The cabbage will release quite a bit of water to steam the dish. Keep an eye on it and you can take it off the heat as the cabbage is done to your liking as long as the pork is cooked through.
  6. Serve immediately with white rice and drizzle with ponzu if you like.
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December 12, 2010
by greggle
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Spicy pickled cauliflower and carrots

Spicy pickled cauliflower and carrots

Quick pickled cauliflower and carrots

We had just eaten the last of the store bought California mix, and I thought, why not make my own pickled cauliflower?

A quick google, and it looked like the folks at Fine Cooking had a pretty good recipe.

I of course tweaked it – you can too! Don’t like red bell peppers? Get rid of ’em! I did. Like celery? Add it. I didn’t, but probably should have. You get the idea.

First things first – quick pickles vs. canned. Canned are a pain (but of course store longer), and quick are, well, quick. So may as well make them as you finish them up. If you feel like being Betty Crocker and making a dozen pints, go ahead.

Quick pickles will keep a couple of weeks in your fridge, even longer if you are clean. (Don’t go digging those luscious clumps of brassica out with your grubby little hands, you hear?) The acid of the vinegar keeps the harmful bacteria and such at bay in the pickles.

First things first, the recipe makes about 3 pints. Just the right amount for quick pickles.

Recipe is below, with ingredients in order of use.

 

Spicy pickled cauliflower and carrots

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 3 pints

Spicy pickled cauliflower and carrots

Ingredients

1/2 head of cauliflower
1 tsp coriander (the seeds, not the leaf which technically is cilantro to most of the world)
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1 tsp of black mustard seed (brown or yellow can do in a pinch. Available at Indian grocers)
2 1/2 cups of vinegar, white or apple cider
1 1/4 cup of water
3 large carrots or more
1 stalk of celery
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1/4 cup of sugar
1 TBSP of kosher salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (optional, just adds a yellow color to the mix)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
additional chiles if you like. If using fresh chiles, cut them in half length-wise.

Instructions

  1. Prepare the star of the show. 1/2 a head of cauliflower. I did not use a large one, but you can. You may have to make some more pickle juice though if you do. When you do cut the cauliflower, cut just the stem. The top parts will separate when you pull it apart. It makes all the difference in the world if you want good looking little clumps of cauliflower.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into bite-size chunks. In a medium bowl, fill about half way with warmish water. Add about two tablespoons of salt to the water and dissolve. Plop the cauliflower pieces into the brine for a quick soak, say fifteen minutes.
  3. In a sauce pan, heat the coriander, mustard and cumin over medium heat. We want to toast these. Be careful not to burn. (Toss in the vinegar and water if it does get too toasty)
  4. Meanwhile, cut the carrots into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. Cut on the diagonal, or use a fancy blade of a mandolin.
  5. Cut one stalk of celery into about 1/2 inch chunks.
  6. Toss carrots and celery in the brine.
  7. Take about 4-5 cloves of garlic, cut off root end, smash a bit, get rid of skin and slice thick.
  8. Slice one medium onion thinly. You might want to cut it so the slices stick together.
  9. If you haven't already, grab the 2 1/2 cups of vinegar and 1 1/4 cup of water, toss it in the pan as the spices in there are probably on the cusp of burning. Anyway, toss it in there when the spices are toasted.
  10. Add the garlic, onion and the last of the spices to the pan.
  11. Bring to a boil.
  12. When vinegar mixture has boiled for a minute or so and filled your kitchen with lovely pickle aroma, turn off the heat.
  13. Rinse the vegetables, put into suitable clean containers.
  14. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables, cover and let cool on the counter.
  15. Stuff 'em in the fridge and start to enjoy them in 2 days.
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November 16, 2010
by greggle
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Tonkotsu Ramen, Part II


In the never-ending pursuit of great ramen, my latest batch of Tonkotsu went pretty well.

Total time spent on this batch was about 30 hours.

Pork bones were simmered for about 26 hours to make the base. The bones were disintegrating as I tried to pull them out, so a little straining in cheesecloth helped out. Then it sat in the freezer until the weather turned cold. (Note: The bones were mostly the bones from pork shoulder, some ribs and the most important part, some pork hocks, unsmoked of course.)

So today I pulled it out, plopped it in a medium pot, added some onions and garlic and went to walk the dog. Came back, cleaned up the kitchen, did a few things and waited to make the chashu.

Chashu is simple. Take a hunk of fatty pork (let’s say half a pound for about four servings – the thicker part of country style ribs is good) and put it in the broth for about an hour. After it has tendered up, put about 3/4 cup of shoyu (soy sauce), 1/4 cup or mirin and two to three slices of ginger, cut in thin strips into a small sauce pan or pot. Add the pork. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. You may have to cut the pork so it will be able to absorb a bit of the sauce. I just turn mine over after ten minutes.

The idea with the chashu is you want a bigger piece of meat you can slice to add to the ramen. The pork has a nice darker outer ring on each slice. Chilling the chashu will enable you to cut it nicely.

Then after the chashu is ready, cook your noodles. Use the best you can, and make them a little al dente. The thin, yellowish Chinese style noodles are OK, but try and get ramen-style noodles.

Put noodles in bowl, add slices of chashu (about four per serving), some bean sprouts, a little pickled ginger, maybe half a boiled egg. Add the steaming broth, and slurp away.

And remember, like all good soups, tonkotsu ramen is better the second day.

Next time I will try to add charred onions and garlic to the party, as the guy at No Recipes recommends. In fact, I may precook some of the bones in the oven first for an experiment.

November 11, 2010
by greggle
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Processed Food

I did a little web wandering tonight, as I got a bit distracted while doing some school work.

I need to do a presentation and my topic is Are processed foods killing us? or some variation on that theme.

In my wanderings, I missed out on an event by a food blogger eating RULES called October: Unprocessed. It chronicles his and others’ experiences who have taken the pledge to eat only unprocessed foods for the whole month.

It is pretty interesting concept, and one I would like to try.

As I think about it, most of the food I make is pretty much unprocessed. Meats, fish, fresh vegetables make the bulk of our meals. Lately, I have eaten lots of oatmeal for breakfast.

Pasta is a bit of a sticking point, as we have lately eaten a lot of it lately. It is minimally processed, and good stuff, so if I buy organic, it should be good.

Many recipes call for tomato sauce and such, and do organic tomato products constitute ‘processed food?’ If the ingredient list is just organic tomatoes, I’m OK with it. (the October Unprocessed project defines processed as anything you could not make yourself. I could make various diced, sauces tomatoes if I needed, and likely will in the future once I get a little growing space.)

I find I don’t buy stuff in boxes much anymore. It is so much nicer to make things from bulk items, but that takes a bit more effort and time.

The last couple of days I have pretty quickly fixed meals. Today was nice, a fritata using some neglected vegetables, some dried mushrooms I foraged, counter-ripened romas, eggs (that very-well could have come from my own chickens – it’s just the space thing again) and that’s it.

One thing I need to get rid of in my diet is milk. Milk always associates with really bad stuff – cookies, graham crackers (of late), cereal, etc. Today I tried oatmeal without the milk, but I almost scorched it. I was going to try it with soy milk, but instinctively grabbed the milk container.

Coffee is fine without milk, but I do like my coffee with it.

We do have a bottle of ‘caramel’ syrup, but that stuff is nasty! I’ve been experimenting with my own caramel – a couple teaspoons of sugar, a tiny bit of water, microwave it for 50 seconds or so. If it comes out bubbling, and stays that way for a few, that is fine. Add a little half-and-half and depending on how much you added, it should solidify a bit, but just nuke for about 20-25 seconds and it is good to go. Pour in your coffee and enjoy. Careful, it is likely a little hot.

September 30, 2009
by greggle
3 Comments

Tonkotsu ramen

Yet another try at the king of ramen

Yet another try at the king of ramen

It got cold of late so it seemed like a good time to try to make tonkotsu ramen.

Tonkotsu is a pork-based broth ramen popular in the island of Kyushu, Japan. It seems recipes are secretive, as each ramen restaurant has their own tweaks. Most of the time it is just the garnishes added to it. The Chow Times blog had a video interview with the owner of Kintaro’s Tonkotsu Ramen in Vancouver, B.C. He says he uses 36! ingredients in his recipe. He used konbu (kelp) from Hokkaido. I meant to use some in this attempt, but forgot. You should never boil konbu, as it would slime up the broth. So you could probably add it in the beginning and pull it out before it boils. It would add a nice umami taste. (I wonder if the taste imparted by the konbu would survive a long boil? Perhaps add it at the end? I will test on some leftover broth I have.) UPDATE: I reheated some broth with konbu. It tasted a little ‘fuller.’

Tonkotsu ramen

Rating: 41

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Yield: 4 normal servings, 2 hungry people servings.

Fat per serving: Yup!

Tonkotsu ramen

Ingredients

1 lb meaty/fatty pork bones
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 large onion
water
salt
1/2 pound fatty pork
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
small piece of ginger
3 Tablespoons mirin
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 green onions, chopped
pickled ginger
Ramen style noodles

Instructions

  1. The broth is kind of basic, as it is meaty pork bones, an onion and some garlic. This is boiled for as long as you have patience for. A Youtube video of a Japanese TV show at one ramen place says it takes 60 hours to make!
  2. I used some pork bones from pork belly slices I used to make rafute and some from pork chops and pork shoulder. I rinsed the bones, making sure no blood remained on them. It made for less foam and stuff floating on the broth and probably helped the taste. Some of the bones were just small pieces of cartilage and I think this was quite helpful. Neck bones, unsmoked, or shanks/feet would be good. The broth is unabashingly fatty.
  3. The bones filled a little more than half of my 4 quart pot. Add water to cover plus an inch or two, one half a large peeled onion and about 4 crushed garlic cloves. Boil for about 4 hours. Add water as needed and skim the foam of the top. About two hours in, I added half an apple just because I heard some places do add one. I left that in there for about an hour, as I did not want it to break down and sweeten it up too much. Also about half way through I took the bones out, stripped the meat for a tasty treat for the dog and returned the bones to the broth.
  4. If you are doing it right, the broth will be almost white, as the bones break down a bit, adding collagen to the fat and pork base. It should be almost creamy, at least in appearance. You should have about 2 quarts. (The glass lid on my pot was covered with a sheen of fat! I've never seen that before.) Salt to taste.
  5. After about 4 hours, when your broth is near the desired consistency remove the bones. Time for more meat - chashu. Any fatty pork will do. I used about four 3-inch pieces of boneless country style ribs, which of course is basically sliced pork shoulder. I used the thicker parts of the 'ribs.' Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the fatty pork until tender. (About an hour for me.) Skim as needed.
  6. In a smaller pot, add 1/2 cup of soy sauce (shoyu), 1/2 cup of broth from bones or water, 3 tablespoon of mirin and about six slices of ginger. Add the pork pieces and gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes, occasionally turning to allow the sauce to seep into the pork. Remove and slice thinly.
  7. While waiting for the chashu pork to simmer, strain the broth. I just used a fine-screen strainer to remove the gritty particles and the occasional onion and garlic bit. You can strain through cheesecloth or paper towel, but it will clog with the fat and take a while. If you don't want the fat clogging your arteries, go ahead and use a cloth to strain it. But the broth should be fatty and if you are on a low-fat diet you probably stopped reading by this time anyway ...
  8. Cook ramen or thin chinese style noodles according to directions until just al dente. Do no overcook. In a pinch, just use instant ramen noodles. Use the best you can find. (Don't use Top Ramen. You spent all this time making this, don't ruin it with subpar noodles.)
  9. Add a tablespoon or two of the soy-ginger sauce you seeped the chasu in to a bowl. This is optional. But it adds a nice salty, gingery base to the soup. Add large portion of noodle to bowl, some chasu pork slices, a mound of bean sprouts, some pickled ginger and sliced green onions. Add the broth to about an inch or so over the noodles. The noodles will absorb some broth. Salt and pepper to taste.
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Other garnish options are half a boiled egg, toasted sesame seeds or nori.

The verdict: Oishii. Keiko came in from work and looked at the broth and seemed pleased that it was almost white in color. We sat down to eat and all I heard was slurping. Keiko finished well before I did, and near the end exclaimed ‘oishii!’ (Delicious) I must be getting closer to making a good bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

Learn more about ramen at rameniac.