Sunday, July 29, 2007

Zuni Chicken - Perfect Dinner Party Fare

I had a few people over for dinner Friday night. I've made Zuni chicken now so many times that I've become pro at it now. And really, it's the best dinner party menu - rustic and elegant at the same time. It requires very little actual standing over the stove time so one can socialize with guests.

We had the roasted chicken with bread salad, clams al forno, and polished it off with a few bottles of wine. Add that to lively company and I can't think of a better way to spend a warm, summer evening.

Kimchee Tofu Jigae

One of my favorite, easy weeknight dinners are Korean jigaes. It's even easier now that I found this soup base from Kukje. It comes three to a pack and in lots of different flavours.
Last week I was coming home after an exhaustive day of bio-strategery stress, it was foggy and cold. Perfect for jigae.
I had some left-over beef from a steak salad so I slivered the meat up. Started a pot of boiling water, threw in the soup base, some frozen clams (didn't ever bother to defrost), cubed silken tofu and brought to a boil. At the last minute I tossed some diced scallions, the slivered meat, kimchee from a jar and heated it all together for about than a minute. After I turned off the heat, I cracked an egg in. All this for under 10 minutes of cooking and prep. Not too shabby, huh?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Zhejang/Shanghai Home Dishes

A while ago on a random Saturday late afternoon, I felt inspired to make the foods of my maternal grandmother. Not sure what inspired this exactly as it was a hot day and one would think the last thing I would want was to slave over a hot stove. But inspired I was, so I invited Angeles over for some Chinese home cooking. Most Shanghainese restaurants or the Chowdowns I've been at Shanghainese restaurants around here have been really greasy, overly rich, with a ton of that goopy brown, sweet sauce. That is certainly not the Shanghainese food of my childhood.

Any meal that invokes my Grandma Chou (which incidentally is the same character as Wil's last name), would have to have steamed water egg in it. I over-cooked it this time a bit. But it's essentially eggs beaten with water. I added a bit of dried shrimp, sliced shitake, diced scallions. My Grandma Chou wasn't much into cooking as she had a cook and domestic help all her life, but there were a couple of dishes she would make personally for me as I was her most doted on granddaughter. This was one of them. As my mother wasn't much of a cook either, this dish is the one that to me tastes like "home."

The next dish was very simple and great for hot weather. Calamari sliced, quickly blanched, and served room temp with wasabi sauce for dipping.
Sliced bittermelon stir-fired with coarsely ground pork with a bit of black bean. Also good for hot weather as bittermelon has "ying" or cooling effect. I was surprised that Angeles liked this dish so much as bitter melon generally is an acquired taste.
Lastly, but no least, fish fillet cooked in rice wine sauce (zhao liu yu pian) with black mu-er, a type of mushroom/fungus. Very typical of Shanghai/Zhejang cuisine. Light, lots of sake flavour, and a bit sweet and musty.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Fav Bowl

I am really happy with the hand pulled noodles at New Mandarin Garden. They have the exact right springiness and firmness. As much as I like the beef noodle soup there, I think I found one I like even better. It's their shredded pork and mustard green noodle soup (xue cai ro si tang mian). The broth is medium body but such complexity and flavour! And not greasy. It's interesting how the ramen broths I've been having have all been heavier and oilier but with less flavour.
The pork was tender and the mustard green was barely marinated and still had a lot of crunch and bitterness. The bowl comes piping hot. Yum, yum, yum....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feeling Frenchy

For a couple of weeks now I've been craving French bistro fare. Maybe it's in preparation of Bastille Day? LOL...

Sherri has this great CosmoDeck that takes $15 off of the dinner bill at certain restaurants in SF. After scanning the list, Fringale became the choice. I hadn't been to Fringale since DAT 2006. The space and the feeling was still the same - charming, small, neighborhood French.

We split the butter lettuce salad. The portion was huge! The pic on the left was my half alone. And since Sherri doesn't like anchovies, we got it on the side and I got all of them to myself. Love anchovies. The lettuce was dressed lightly with a mustard sauce and the combination of salty, brining, tangy went great with the crispness of the lettuce.

Which brings me to the analysis of the anchovies. They were quite a bit more *sour* than other house cured anchovies that I've had. Maybe I'm just assuming they are house cured? Maybe they're not even cured but simply pickled? Is that a French or Basque style of treating anchovies? Is there anyone in my food blog universe who can answer this question?
These puppies were really sour. Almost like olives. The flesh was not flaky and somewhat raw, chewy like in texture. They were tasty but very different than the styles of anchovies I'm used to.

Now on to the entrees! Sherri had Australian sea bass. It looked beautiful on a bed of corn with a sinful lobster sauce. I am so glad seabass has returned to to the table. The last few years without it has been very sad indeed. But I also understand that we need to make sure the seabass we do consume are from proper sources.

I tried a bit of her dish and it was orgasmic. The fish melted in my mouth like butter. The lobster sauce was a perfect complement to the fish - it didn't overwhelm. Which brings me to the second question of this post... what is lobster sauce? In Chinese cuisine, it's that egg white with starched up chicken broth speckled with peas concoction that I never really liked or understood. I think that's what Cantonese people served with their lobster? Do they have lobsters native to Canton? But the version that came with this dish was more like a thinned out lobster bisque. Any thoughts? And why is it a burnished orange colour?

My entree was the duck confit with green lentil du Puy. The confit had a nice crispness on the outside and the meat fell apart sufficiently upon poking it a bit with a fork. But the meat was very dry. Maybe I just didn't notice the dryness of the meat when duck confit is in a cassoulet or some such. This was almost like duck jerky it was so dry. But it wasn't hard like jerky. Anyway, the lentils were good but a bit too salty to go with the duck. I felt a bit over-salted from this dish even though the flavours were nice. I also had the post-too-much-salt bloat during the evening after this meal. Had a glass of the Chateau Jonqueyres, Bordeaux ‘01 to go with the entree which was a good counterpoint to all the salt.

Keelung Miaokow Style Fried Chicken

Now that I can face meat again, I've been jonesing for the fried chicken cutlets they have in the stands at Keelung Miaocow.

I found a box seasoning and fry material at Ranch 99 that had the Miaocow branding and decided to give it a whirl. The directions were easy... marinade the chicken in the seasonings, then dip in egg wash, and dredge in the special flour they give you. Fry up, and dust with pepper mixture. Delicious! Not quite as good as the real thing but will do. If I skewered the pieces, then we're in business.
Side note: Taiwanese food rocks because so many things are on a stick!

Bad Ramen

Recently, I was thrilled to find a new ramen-ya open in the Skyline Plaza when I had gone to Ranch 99 in Daly City. I was missing Santa and Himawari post work quite a bit. The place is called Masikku.

The menu had one page of various kinds of ramen and another page of izakaya style dishes. I asked the waiter which ramen he recommended and they said their specialty was the tonkotsu broth. So I ordered a tonkotsu ramen with noodles "hard" and added a piece of butakakuni with it. I was quite excited when the bowl came as you can see it was rather attractive and the broth looked sufficently milky. One taste of the noodles and Masikku lost me. They were limp and horrid - worse than the stuff one buys near the tofu at Safeway. The broth was thin and lacked much dimension. The butakakuni tasted like pork belly cooked in a ton of soy sauce and that's it. The egg and the chasui were okay. I ate the bamboo shoots mostly. I left most of the bowl uneaten. I might come back to try the izakaya plates, but I think I'd rather go to my not so favoured J-Town ramen spots than have ramen here again. So sad...

BarBer's Q Recovery Diet

Ever since I went to Napa a month ago, I've been on a "light on meat" diet. For the first week, I couldn't bring myself to eat any land meat. I've been making soups or Korean jigae-ish dishes for dinner and lunch.
Tofu and Spinach Soup
Seafood, Mushroom, and Seaweed Soup
I also made very thin congee (rice porrige) to go with small, Taiwanese homestyle dishes. Such as these lightly sauteed small octopus and marinated seaweed.

Cheapie Workday Dim Sum

There's supposedly a nicer dim sum place on Grand in SSF. I haven't been to that. But recently I tried Hung To Seafood in SSF. It's on a very industrial street near warehouses and traintracks. Most plates are less than $3 and they are giant portions. The taste on the ones we tried were good, but the size no means delicate. This was plenty for two.

Beef meatballs. Juicy and succulent, not rubbery like some.
Shrimp paste stuffed bell peppers. You can really tast the sweetness of the shrimp and there are some chopped pieces of shrimp in there.
This is called Shian Shua Jao - bascially shrimp with veggie filling.

Fried Chicken & Dreamgirls

This is a makeup entry for a dinner we had at Phil & Jason's a month or so ago. Jason being a lovely Southern gent and me being Southern by indoctrination by Stephen, Patty LaBelle cookbook, and "Gone With the Wind," have been talking endlessly about making fried chicken. Actually to be more concise, our theme camp could be "Double Wide, Deep Fried." Not sure how the "Dreamgirls" bit came about, but it does seem fitting as Beyonce does love her Popeyes.

I used Ms. LaBelle's recipe for the most part. Chicken pieces marinated overnight in buttermilk with some Lawry's and some cayenne for a tiny bit of kick. Flour with Lawry's again. Double dipped. Fried to golden brown in vegetable oil, plus a secret ingredient we won't subject Phil's eyes to.

I was having trouble with controlling the heat on their stove - quite brave of me to make fried chicken on someone else's stove, huh? Thus, some of the pieces came out darker than I wanted. But then again, mahogany chicken is very much an accepted form of Southern fried chicken. We had store bought sides that I can't seem to remember if they were from KFC or Popeyes, but they were great. And one of the guests brought a homemade peach cobbler that was to die for! Everyone loved the chicken... crispy, flavourful, and juicy... if I do say so myself. Scarlett would be proud.....

As for Dreamgirls... let's jsut say Beyonce clearly was not having her Popeyes for awhile and Jennifer Hudson was. Was also digging the mom from "Good Times" look Miss Hudson was sporting. HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Perfect Warm Day Fare

Went to Tofu Cabin in San Mateo for lunch last week as I needed to do some grocery shopping at Marina Foods.
I ordered the mool naeng myun as it was rather warm outside and I didn't feel like having hot foods. The dish was huge and I finished about 1/4 of it. But super tasty as the broth was light and sweet. The noodles were great too. It was almost as good as the version I had with Maggie down in LA last summer.