Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fried Mackerel

Simple fried fish with crispy skin, served simply with pickled ginger.

1.5 lb skin on mackerel fillets, halved
6 T soy sauce
2 T mirin
2 T sake
2 T grated ginger
50/50 mix of cornstarch and rice flour for dredging
Pickled ginger to serve
Oil to deep fry

Combine the fish with the soy, mirin, sake, and grated ginger and marinate for 30 minutes or more.  Remove the fish from the marinade and dredge; you're looking for a light coating here that just helps crisp up the fish, you should be able to see the fish through it.

Fry the fish at 350 F, starting with the skin side down and flipping once until the fish is just golden brown and the skin is crispy.  Serve immediately with a side of pickled ginger.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ma Po Tofu

A wonderful, aromatic dish of tofu in a bean paste and meat sauce, and one that's taken far too long to write up since it's one of my favorites.  Because the meat is used as a seasoning you can easily make this vegetarian by omitting the meat, in which case either up the tofu or add in some mushrooms.


12 oz extra firm tofu, cut in to half inch cubes
6 oz ground pork (or beef, or omit)
1 T fermented black beans
3-4 T chile bean paste
1 T soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 large green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (more if small)
1 t roasted ground Sichuan pepper
1 C stock (meat of your choice, or veggie)
corn starch and water in a slurry to thicken
dried chiles to taste
3 T oil

Cook the tofu in simmering lightly salted water for several minutes, then drain.

Heat the oil and chiles in a wok over high heat until the chiles start to blacken.  Add in the meat if using and stir fry, stirring constantly until the meat starts to brown.  Add in the fermented black beans, chile bean paste, garlic, and Sichuan pepper (I prefer to combine these ingredients in a bowl before starting to cook).  Stir fry until fragrant and the oil is bright red.

Add the stock and the soy sauce, and bring to a simmer, then add the tofu.  Simmer for five minutes to blend the flavors, then gradually add in the corn starch slurry to thicken (do this slowly, in several installments, so you don't end up with gloop).  Add the green onions and stir for a few seconds, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve with rice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Perfect Burger

I'm not gonna lie, this is pretty much a rip off of AB's burger recipe, and he did it first, but I have a few changes that I feel make a pretty big difference.  Among other things, I omit the pickles because I'd rather enjoy them on the side than in the burger, and the pickle/mustard layer tends to be a place for things to slide apart.

For a burger you'll need:

1/4 lb of 80/20 ground beef
1-2 t worchestershire
garlic powder to taste, or minced garlic to taste
a dash of cayenne or to taste
liberal doses of both salt and pepper

1 hamburger bun
smear of mayonnaise
2 slices American cheese
a little bacon grease or butter
a thin spread of hot sauce, preferably this if you can take the heat, see variation

Oil to fry

Mix together the meat ingredients and let sit for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld at room temperature, then crush them out in to a 5-6 inch round on a cutting board or the like where they can be scraped, in that general shape, in to the oil for frying.

While the flavors are melding heat oil for frying to 325 F.  While the oil is heating melt the grease/butter in a skillet and toast both halves of the bun.  When toasted apply a thin coating of mayo to the bottom bun, then apply the cheese to both buns.

Carefully slide the patty off of the cutting board straight in to the oil and fry for 70-75 seconds to get a nice crispy outer layer while staying moist.  Immediately remove to some paper towels to remove grease, then place on the bottom bun.  Apply a thin smear of hot sauce, and top with the upper bun so the heat of the patty will ensure the cheese finishes melting.

Variation: replace the top slice of American cheese with blue cheese, and exchange the hot sauce with the milder wing sauce

Note: I don't believe in lettuce and tomato on burgers, or pickles.  Those belong in a salad on the side, if they're in season (which they probably aren't).  Perfect your meat, perfect your salad, and serve the two side by side.  I'd suggest some braised fennel in the winter when greens are crappy. A tomato should never been included except in the best of local tomato season in the late summer.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Smokey Insanely Hot Hot Sauce

This is a very vague recipe, because I was pretty much just throwing things in the pot and tasting as I went.  Ultimately, depending on how thick and how hot you like it you should have about a quart to a quart and a half of something that ranges from "pretty damned hot" to "hell fire in a bowl".  The ingredient amounts are totally up to you, but I strongly recommend you don't leave out any of the types of chiles because each one brings a unique flavor to the party.  For the smoked serranos I make my own, but you could instead use more chipotles and up the ghost peppers for added kick.

1/4 C ground dried red serranos
1/4 C ground smoked and dried red serranos
1 large ancho, seeded and ground
1 large guajillo, seeded and ground
2 dried chipotles, ground
2-3 T ground chile de arbol
3-4 dried and ground ghost peppers (or to taste, these are brutal peppers)
1 red onion, finely chopped
3+4 cloves garlic, chopped and divided
6 cloves roasted garlic, chopped
White vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
A little oil to saute

Saute the onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  Add all of the chiles with enough water to barely cover (you may need to add more as the chiles hydrate and the water simmers off).  Simmer for several hours; you may want to do this with a window open as the results can get kind of burny.  Add the roasted garlic in the last 30 minutes of cooking.  Add in the remaining 4 cloves of garlic along with vinegar to taste, simmering briefly, then adjust seasoning as needed.  The result should be hot, salty, and tart from the vinegar, but the ancho and guajillo should add some sweet and fruity notes much like good BBQ sauce.