Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dan Dan Mian

An easy, delicious Sichuan noodle dish. The base recipe came from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, but I've modified it pretty heavily.

~ 1/3 of a pound of dried Chinese flour noodles
1 T vegetable oil
handful of dried chiles, broken in half and seeds discarded
3-4 T Ya cai or Tianjin Preserved vegetable (typically found in a ceramic pot), well rinsed to reduce salt if using Tianjin preserved vegetable
1/4 lb ground beef
2 t soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 c mild pickled vegetables (optional, I use some that's a mix of mustard, day lily and cow pea greens)

1.5 t freshly roasted and ground Sichuan pepper
4 T chile oil (preferably homemade, with chile flakes for more heat), substitute part of the chile oil out for vegetable oil for less heat
2.5-3 T tahini or Chinese sesame paste
2 T soy sauce
2 T dark soy sauce
salt to taste

Heat the oil and sear the chiles, then add in the Tianjin preserved vegetable and the pickled vegetables and saute till fragrant. Add in the ground beef and soy sauce and brown. When the beef is browned, add the green onion.

While that's browning, mix the sauce ingredients together; the sesame paste should emulsify the soy sauce and the chile oil together. Boil the noodles according to the package instructions.

When the noodles and the beef are done, drain the noodles and add to the beef in the wok, then apply the sauce. You may not need all of the sauce, so add some and toss the noodles, then taste before adding more. For the noodles I use I typically use most or all of the sauce.

Friday, November 4, 2011


It's getting cooler, which means this is the time to start curing meat, and this one is a rich, spicy, delicious cured beef common among many of the countries that made up the Ottoman empire. It originated in Armenia and is very common in Turkey though I was originally introduced to it by an Egyptian roommate in undergrad. It can also be called basturma or any one of a number of others depending on country.

A roughly 2 lb piece of beef like inside round. You want it to be fairly lean and with the grain of the meat running along the axis of the meat; you could use something like tenderloin if you want to shell out the money, but you don't want something thin like brisket. See note 1.
Salt for curing, you're looking for about a ten to one mix of kosher salt to pink salt* (see note 2)

4 T red pepper powder (a mix of paprika and cayenne to taste)
1/2 t salt
1-2 t black pepper, ground
1/2 T cumin
3 T methi (fenugreek) seeds, ground
1 t allspice, ground
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Note one: this is a piece of meat that's going to hang at close to room temperature for a month, and likely won't be cooked, so get the good stuff. Don't just get stuff from the supermarket, but find yourself a good butcher and get to know them so you know you're getting quality meat.

Note two: You'll occasionally hear stuff about how nitrites aren't safe (and pink
salt is 6.25% sodium nitrite), but in small quantities it's just fine and occurs naturally in food we eat. More importantly, it inhibits the growth of botulism. I don't do any curing outside of short cures in the fridge without nitrite, and I wouldn't do any multi-month cures without nitrate.

* Trim the meat, then thoroughly coat the meat with the curing salt. Put in a dish and cover with plastic wrap before weighting down and refrigerating for 3-4 days. Turn the meat once a day, and when the time is up it should be fairly solid to the touch.
* When done, rinse the meat, soak it for 20-30 minutes, then thoroughly dry it.
* Run a piece of string through a corner of the meat, then hang it up to dry in a cool place (60 F, ~60% humidity) for two weeks. Check it regularly, and if any white or green mold is starting, scrub the whole time down with white vinegar. If black mold forms, or if the mold recurs, pitch the whole thing. Some recipes call for wrapping in cheese cloth, but that's just asking for mold.
* After those two weeks, mix the seasoning together with enough water to make a thick paste, then rub it all over the meat. Hang it to dry for another two weeks.
* At this point you're ready to eat, just slice it thinly and chow down (yeah, the dried seasoning mix will crumble off, but it's imparted its flavor); alternatively, sauteing some up in a skillet then scrambling some eggs with it would be a traditional use.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Basic Chicken Wings

This is just the basics for how to get a nice crispy chicken wing. Toss whatever sauce you want on them after cooking.  Steaming and frying may seem a little odd, but the steaming manages to cook the wings, break down some of the connective tissue, and render the subcutaneous fat while still leaving the wing juicy.  It also decreases the frying time, so you can get a nice crispy wing that's still tender and juicy.  If you're making a bunch of them I suggest you keep the steaming liquid as a nice rich white stock, and if breaking down a bunch of whole wings, save the tips for making brown stock.

Steam wings for 12-13 minutes, then allow to cool and dry for half an hour at room temperature.
Toss them in a lidded bowl with AP flour and shake to coat.
Set wings aside for approximately 60 minutes to allow the flour to set.
Fry wings in small batches at 375 F for 9 minutes.

Thai Orange Curry Paste - Thai Curry Habanero Wings

I'm not sure if this is anything terribly authentic as far as Thai food goes, but it comes about from me attempting to clone the curry habanero wings from a local Thai restaurant (wing specifics to follow).

2T chopped lemongrass
1 t coriander powder
2 t sugar
3 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
4-5 cloves garlic
salt to taste
3/4 t fish sauce
2 shallots, chopped
zest of one orange
juice of a quarter orange
10-12 red chiles, either fresh, or dried and soaked in water
vegetable oil to process to consistency (typically 2-3 t)

Processor everything together into a smooth paste, and taste.

To turn this in to a wing sauce, heat a splash of oil in a pan or wok, and saute the curry paste until fragrant. Add a can of coconut milk, chopped habaneros to taste, and cook down until thickened. Toward the end of cooking add 1-2 t sugar and salt to taste.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Citrus Cured Salmon

A bright citrusy salmon, perfect on a bagel with some cream cheese or as a starter for a fancy meal.

2.5 lbs fresh salmon
1/2 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
zest of two oranges and two lemons
1 T lemon juice
1 T orange juice
1/4 C grand marnier
3/4 C kosher salt

Mix the sugars, salt, and grated zest. Sprinkle half the mixture over the bottom of dish just large enough to hold the salmon (this is important, you want to keep the brine in close contact with the fish). Place the fish in the pan and coat with the mixed citrus juice and grand marnier, then add the rest of the salt-sugar-zest mixture.
Cover with plastic wrap then place a dish on top of the salmon and weight it down.
Refrigerate for two days. The salmon should be firm to the touch when done, if it isn't give it another day in the cure. When it's done rinse the cure off and dry the salmon. Slice it thinly when you're ready to eat.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beef Fajitas

Caramelized meat, mounds of caramelized and cooked down onions with a bunch of cooked down peppers... This is just rich salty deliciousness of beef with veggies that are cooked until falling apart.  Heaven when wrapped in a warm tortilla and served with some pico de gallo.

1.5 lbs beef (something like top round), trimmed of fat and cut in to 1/8th inch strips across the grain
pico de gallo
2-3 small onions, thinly sliced
2-3 mild green chiles (anaheim work well), thinly sliced
5-6 jalapenos, thinly sliced
flour tortillas
1 T vegetable oil

6 T vegetable oil
6 T soy sauce
2 T dried oregano
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 T cayenne, or to taste
1 capful liquid smoke

Mix the marinade ingredients, and marinate the beef for a day.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or wok (not non-stick) on high heat until almost smoking, then drain the marinade and add the beef (you may need to do this in two or three batches to keep the oil hot enough). Stir it around continuously for a minute or two until well browned, but not over cooked. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
The finished beef

Drop the heat down to medium, add the chiles and onions, and set your oven to 350. Cook the onions and chiles until soft, and toward the end of this throw your tortillas in the oven to warm up.

Chiles and onions cooking

 When the chiles and onions are done kill the heat and return the beef to the pan and mix it all together. Serve on the tortillas with some pico de gallo or salsa.
Ready for the tortillas


A basic salsa recipe; I like cilantro and love spicy food, so this recipe reflects that. The amount of cilantro could be reduced, and something less spicy than habaneros could be substituted (serranos or jalapenos).

Three good sized ripe tomatoes, roughly 4 cups
3/4 C onion
2 jalapenos
2 anaheim or similar mild green pepper
1/2 C cilantro
4 cloves garlic
salt to taste
3-4 T vinegar, cider or a mix of cider and white
habaneros to desired heat

Roast the tomatoes, jalapenos, and anaheims under a broiler until the skin browns and splits. Allow to cool, then remove stems and tomato cores. Process everything in a food processor, adjust flavor as necessary, and allow to sit so the flavor blend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soy sauce

I'm finally realizing, somewhat belatedly, that not all soy sauce is created equal. Hell, I'm finding that I need at least five types of soy in my cabinet, without taking in to account the home seasoned varieties based on the more traditional. (and hell, without considering all of the various forms of solid fermented bean) Let's start with the basics:

Japanese (this is a generalization): Definitely a milder form than the Chinese, but with a good saltiness and richness. This is as close as you'll get to a middle of the road. That said, it's just not suitable for Korean or Chinese.

Korean: Less salty than Japanese, and far less strong than Chinese, but with a pronounced sweetness. An attempt to make katsudon with Korean soy sauce was pretty spectacularly awful; too sweet, not salty enough, and lacking the proper richness.

Chinese: It's great, but it's the blunt instrument of soy. It's salty, rich, intense, and wonderful, but don't use any large amount in anything delicate.

Chinese dark: Less salty than the regular, still rich, but with a sweetness from added sugar. Significantly darker, suitable for adding color to pale marinated foods.

Thai black: Less rich than Chinese and less salty, but sweetened with a slight fermented taste. You could probably add a little molasses or brown sugar to Japanese or Korean to get something similar.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad

This is one of those decadent dishes you shouldn't make very often, but it is SO good. Invite a few friends who don't value their hearts much to help eat it.

8 beef or veal marrow bone halves (with the cut along the axis), 3 to 4 inches long, roughly 3 lbs
2 C roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 C sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 T capers, chopped
3 T extra virgin olive oil
~2 T fresh lemon juice
Coarse sea salt to taste

At least 8 1/2-inch-thick slices of crusty bread, toasted (try not to over toast, you want crunch, but also some chewiness. Think bruschetta, not crostini, and the rub down with a garlic clove might not be a bad idea.)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up, on foil-lined baking sheet or in ovenproof skillet. Cook until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone, about 15 minutes. (Stop when the marrow is soft and spreadable but not liquifying and running out)

2. Meanwhile, combine parsley, onion and capers in small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just coated. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on a large plate. To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Glace de Viande

This one is a beast to make, but it will make 3-4 servings of the base for some of the best sauces you'll ever taste. This is, essentially, a stock that's cooked down until the natural gelatin thickens the sauce, but you'll have to make the stock yourself as store bought stuff doesn't have the gelatin or the depth of flavor that you need. You'll also need a big soup pot to hold everything.

8 lbs beef bones, a mix of marrow bones and joint ends (you don't want the typical soup bones that are a little chunk of bone with a bunch of meat around it)
1 lb onion, rough chopped
1 lb carrots, rough chopped
1/2 lb celery, rough chopped
8-10 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
15-20 peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
1 t dried thyme

Roast the bones in a 400 degree oven for 3 hours. Add the onions, celery and carrot plus 2 cups of cold water to the roasting pan (carefully, there may be some splattering from the hot fat in the pan) with the bones and return to the oven for another hour.

Transfer all of the bones and veggies to a soup pot as well as all the juices and anything you can scrap off the pan, add the rest of the ingredients and add enough water to cover everything by an inch or two. Simmer for 8 hours, adding water occasionally if needed, and skimming off any scum that floats to the surface.

Kill the heat and strain out all the veggies, bones, and other solids and pitch them, then chill it down in the fridge to solidify the fat so it can be easily removed. Now take the stock and bring it to a high boil for three hours or so until the volume is reduced to about a pint.

The finished glace de viande can then be turned into specific sauces: add in the drippings from a roasted chicken, some poached garlic, and a few tablespoons of butter and you have a sauce for the chicken; use some burgundy to deglaze the pan after cooking some steaks, then add in the glace and a couple tablespoons of butter and you have bordelaise sauce for the steak. Leftover glace de viande freezes well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roast Leg of Lamb with Couscous

One of my classics for large groups and special occasions: leg of lamb cooked in the middle eastern style and served with couscous.

Leg of lamb, preferably bone in
A bottle of red wine (a good merlot or another fruity wine)
A large onion, quartered and slivered
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
several tablespoons dried mint
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rub the lamb down with the garlic, mint, and salt, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
2. Place the lamb in a baking dish, add the onions, and pour the entire bottle of wine on the lamb.
3. Cover and marinate for at least a day, turning several times.
4. Preheat an oven to 350 F, and bake the lamb, covered, till medium rare; an internal temperature of 130-140 F depending on how you like it (I typically aim for 130-135 F assuming it'll end up medium rare after resting).
5. Remove the pan and allow to rest before removing the lamb from the pool of marinade and drippings.
6. Use the heated marinade and drippings (as well as the onions and miscellaneous meaty bits) as the liquid when making the couscous (add in some stock if you don't have quite enough liquid.
7. Serve the lamb on couscous with a side of labna (labneh, or however it's spelled in your local middle eastern market) or toum. If you can't find labna you can make it by tossing plain yogurt in a few layers of cheese cloth and hanging it until it reaches the consistency of cream cheese.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sundried tomato spread

Another simple spread suitable for parties or just as a snack.

Blend together:
6 oil packed sun dried tomato halves
1/4 C goat cheese
2 T marscarpone (or cream cheese)
1 T fresh sage (chopped)

Olive spread

A quick spread for crackers or toast, perfect for parties.

Blend together:
1/2 C pitted black olives (good ones, NOT canned)
2 t olive oil
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 head roasted garlic
1 T Italian parsley (chopped)
1/4 t black pepper