Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pork Chop Rice

I really love this dish, which is saying a lot because I usually refuse to eat fried rice. It always tastes greasy and oily, and it usually has mushy, frozen peas and carrots. Also the knowledge that you have to add more oil whenever you cook the next step grosses me out. Oil. Scramble eggs. Oil. Fry meat. Oil. Add rice.
There was a HK eatery in Monterey Park that had great version of this dish, but when we moved up northn, we couldn't find another great pork chop place. Yes, pork chop rice can be gross, greasy, and soggy, too.
My mom used this recipe as a starting point, but we used more mushrooms (a whole box), just red peppers instead of green, and worcheshire sauce and ketchup in addition to the tomato paste. It's hard to give exact measurements, because we taste it continuously. My dad didn't like the cheese so we skipped it. I think we also use the same amount of sauce in the recipe, but double the amount of rice. No need to saturate the rice.
We also bake the porkchops while we make the sauce and rice, because it cuts down the overall cooking time. The porkchops have aleady been baking for 5-10 minutes as you prepare the rest of the components which are fully cooked so you only have to bake the whole thing together for like ten minutes to mesh the flavors.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Moving = Emptying out the Fridge

It's almost official, my family is moving. Though there are still some things to sign, we've already begun to box up the house. You can observe my fantastic boxing skills in the photo above. Babo, my ugly doll, looks quite distressed. This is probably because he will be remained boxed with my gloomy bunny for the next two weeks. If stuffed animals do come alive when we're not around, this must really suck if they're in storage. I imagine things with bits of fluff for brains cannot be the most witty of conversationalists and things would get really repetitive real fast.
My mom is beginning the arduous but also yummy process of emptying out the fridge. Though at the end of the next week or so, we'll either be eating ramen or just really weird food combinations like spaghetti with stinky tofu.
I've "helped" by baking some super-chocolatey cookies and thus using up almost all of the chocolate and the last of pecans. The recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker.

This photo also shows the garden that we have been trying to rehabilitate after neglecting it for the last two years. We dug most of it up last week and planted some flowers that are snubbing us.
My mom made a wonderful hotpot yesterday for dinner, in which she used up a lot of noodles (rice and mung bean), a pack of frozen gizzards, a pack of her hotpot mix (which we get every time we drive down to southern California. It's the one with the happy sheep on it, though as far as I know, there's nothing sheep derived in it.), and various tofu products and fish balls. We also used up the last of the yellowing napa cabbage and my parents couldn't resist buying a hot pot kit from the Korean market.

A pound of live shrimp were fatally injured in the making of this meal. You can buy them in Oakland China town for like $6.99 a pound. They're little, but they taste wonderfully sweet.
So, my mom usually makes two kinds of hotpot (hence the center divider): spicy (for her) and non-spicy for pansies like me. The spicy side tastes really good, but then I start to sweat and drink water and then my mom calls me weak. It's another kind of Asian glow.
For non-spicy, you just boil some water with a few chunks of radish (the huge, white, Asian kind), cubed tofu, fish balls, and other ball things (i.e. beef balls). Then everyone cooks their own meat and veggies and sea food. For the meat, you just have to wait until it returns to boil before you eat anything. That means, once you add the meat you can't eat anything in the pot until it returns to boil unless you want to risk eating raw meat products and getting yelled at by my mom.
At the end, you have a really nice broth that you can add noodles to. If you have any of the soup left, you can eat it the next day for lunch with more noodles. My friends and I have cheated with mixing chicken broth in the water, boiling it on the stove, and transfering the hot liquid into a rice cooker. You can't actually "cook" any meat in this situation (it has to be pre-cooked on the stove), but it does work well for veggies and noodles. So it's pretty easy to make it vegetarian by starting off mixing the hot water with vegetable broth.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nostalgia and Pinole Cookies

Tea has gone to China, which means that I get the bedroom and bathroom and most importantly, the desk, all to myself. The downsides is that I've lost someone to talk to about M's skills of finding hidden and forbidden Haagen-dazs ice cream bars, Big D's infinitely numerous ways of annoying us, and various other family and friend gossip. I also have to start packing my own lunch, which Tea usually does with the zeal of bento box fanatic. And a baking buddy. A biking buddy. A sparring partner. The positives and negatives go on and on.
Here is a picture of our last baking adventure together:

We made pinole or pine nut cookies. I don't have the recipe, because I was her sous chef in this venture and just did as I was told. I ate a few with my "flirty" cup.
My mother and I gave her a send off today by first visiting SF's Japanese town. She was too nervous to eat so we walked around the mall and looked at awesome things like fish shaped piggy banks and sushi molds. Unfortunately, M had taken my camera on a school field trip so there is no documentation.
I drooled over this book of Japanese crafts. There was a template for making book cover with pockets!!! After dropping Tea at the airport, my mom and I celebrated our newfound and brief freedom from Big D by going to Berkeley's Venezia restaurant and then having ice cream at Ici. We were both greedy guts and got two scoop cones. I got chocolate and oatmeal chocolate chip (which tasted like oatmeal cookies crumbled in vanilla ice cream). My mom got rose-pistachio and chocolate.
Then we went home to Big D (hurray!) and I got to listen to a self-discipline and responsiblity lecture while baking mini almond tarts. It somehow translated on how I must always leave my bedroom door open so Big D can have an unadulterated view of the beautiful houses across the street. My room should also be clean enough so he can have a clear line of vision of the aforementioned street. Living at home seems to have an infantalizing affect on me.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Visit To Koreana Plaza

I spent my formative years in northern Orange County where there was a sizeable Korean population. To this day, I carry a strange relationship to Korean food. It was the stuff all the cool kids ate, at least in elementary school. By the fifth grade, I insisted that I bring a bowl of instant kimchi noodles with a thermos of hot water, even though it fogged up my glasses and the spiciness made me drink two cartons of lukewarm milk. When my mom was too tired to cook and not desperate enough to pick up a pizza, my family would go to a nearby supermarket and eat in their food court: jajang myun, bimbimbap, a spicy chirashi, and korean sushi with bright yellow daikon. For birthdays, Tea would request a dinner at a tofu soup restaurant where'd we order a tofu soup, a sizzling platter of kalbi (beef short ribs), and stone pot rice. It was a wonderful compromise: it wasn't Chinese food, but it was still Asian enough for the parents.
We went to Koreana Plaza today. There is something magical about other Asian markets. They carry a lot of the same foods as Ranch 99, but at lower prices (though they have their markups, too). Quail eggs. Straw mushrooms. A dozen eggs for 99 cents. Salmon fish heads at an unprecedented 39 cents a pound. At 99, they cost around $2. And Berkeley Bowl sometimes have bagged heads on ice for about $1 a pound.
Fish heads might sound disgusting, but Anthony Bourdain says that they are often the most delicious part. And you'd figure that heads are pretty important and a lot of nutrients should be allocated to it. And besides, once you cut it up and pan fry it, you just have luscious chunks of orange flesh that comes off in big flakes and bits of crispy skin.
We also bought the makings of Tteokbokki! A spicy dish of red chili past, rice logs, fish cake, and cabbage. For years, we went to a local korean restaurant and chorused, "TA-pooki." Somehow the waitress always understood.

In other news, we also soft boiled quail eggs. I love runny yolks. I love my eggs sunny side up on toast, fried on the outside and gooey on the inside on rice, and lightly poached over ramen.
Our youngest sister eats quail eggs like a monster. She nips the tips off, sucks up the yolk, and then pops the empty whites into her mouth. It’s slightly disturbing to watch.

They were super easy to make.
First, bring the eggs to room temperature in a bowl of cold water. Then, bring a pot of salted water into a rolling boil. Gently, lower the eggs into the water, cover and cook for a minute. Turn off the burner, let it sit covered for another minute, before returning it to the bowl of cold water. Peel, eat, and enjoy.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Failed Gnocchi and Other Treasures

I think it's just as important to chronicle failures as successes. If you don't, you might an unrealistically inflated sense of yourself. On Sunday, my sister, Tea, and I made our much anticipated experiment of gnocchi. I tried some a few years ago and was not impressed by this dense pasta, but the article on 101 Cookbooks assured me that "real" gnocchi was wonderful, delightful, and fit for gods. And besides, they looked like little caterpillars but cuter.
Since Tea eschews anything lemony including basil and bergamot, we decided to go with a Martha Stewart recipe of Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables. The sauce was tasty but the gnocchi themselves were a soft, mushy mess. :(

I suspected the uneven breaking down of the potatoes and the lack of an egg yolk, which both probably signal gross character flaws (i.e. not being meticulous and being stingy). Since we halved the recipe, one egg seemed to be more than enough so I used an egg white I had left over from a slightly less catastrophic creme anglaise. In a true Eeyore fashion, I should just go back to eating thistles. Just as tasty and less messy. The dough was extremely soft and would not hold its shape and led to desperate additions of flour.
We fried them after the first batch became a sad, wet mess at the bottom of the colander. The early batches came out tasting like fried mashed potatoes (not so bad), but the later ones were disgustingly floury and recalled kindergarten memories of do-it-yourself paste.

We also visited the monthly Antiques by the Bay in Alameda where I purchased a silver pendant of an elephant with an amber tummy and spotted this charming frog! So I guess the day was not without some boons.
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Celebratory Almond Tart

I made this to celebrate the return of my mother and hopefully, the end of my reign in the kitchen.

The recipe comes from Chez Panisse and Alice Waters . I found an online version on David Leibovitz's blog. His pictures are waaay prettier than mine. I also ended up making lots of adjustments due to my meager supplies. First of all, no tart tin so I used a pie tin. I don't recommend this, because the crust flopped down halfway through. Not sagged a little, but think "pancake." I also omitted the lemon zest, because someone refuses to touch lemony things. Also, no Grand Marnier because $45 for a bottle?! :(
Yet, despite all these difficulties that tart still turned out really good. True to its description, it turned out very crisp and cookie-like, though more crumbly than I expected. I used vanilla scented sugar, which is just old vanilla beans buried in sugar, and I think it mellowed out the sweetness.
The best thing was watching my mom devour a quarter of it (the last quarter) at breakfast the next day with her cup of decaf coffee.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July

My 4th of July Tiramisu with decaf coffee was a success!
My mom ate some this morning along with my sister’s green tea and red bean jelly roll. I was planning to save it for dessert, but my mom is still really jetlagged and the slightest amount of caffeine (even chocolate?!) will prevent her from sleeping. It tasted a little to cheese-cakey for me due to the high cream cheese to heavy cream ratio. The recipe is called Easy Tiramisu. I halved the recipe and coated half of the lady fingers in a chocolate ganache that was leftover from my deflationary macaroons.

I had some too with Hong Kong Style Milk Tea. My mom brought back about two gallon bags back worth of it. The tea powder looks like instant espresso and we make it in a coffee maker and sweeten it with some condensed milk. Her friends prefer to do it with evaporated milk and sugar cubes. It has a slight burnt taste, which is much more appealing than it sounds.

I also got a lot of clothes from Hong Kong and the tags are especially amusing: Give YOU Great Comfort when You Work and Move. The brand name is “Bitter gourd muskmelon.”
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