Anger Burger

Have a Good One

Posted by on Nov 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

So, it’s that holiday where everyone roasts a turkey and counts the ways in which they are grateful for being alive. I offer one and one thing only:

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CUPCAKES.  Glorious, beautiful cupcakes.  A friend ordered a load of them from me for a holiday party, and when I asked her what she wanted and she hesitantly answered “Umm… Red velvet?” I answered: “No.”  No one actually wants red velvet.  They want cream cheese frosting.  In which case, in my opinion, they probably want carrot cake.  It’s a strange line of logic, but it’s mine and I’m sticking with it.  So she got a little over a dozen carrot cake cupcakes made with chopped sour cherries and pecans and topped with cream cheese frosting.  And then I made some chocolate-peppermint ones, too, because I have baking-attention-deficit-disorder (BADD).

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I’m a tremendous fan of decorating cupcakes with many different toppings because it’s easy and it adds to the appearance of opulence – two kinds of cupcakes suddenly looks like dozens of kinds.  It’s a little deceiving, I know, but people seem to like it.  And I like it, frankly.  I used to have a dream when I was young about dining at a endless table filled with cartoonishly beautiful baked goods.  You can conclude from that whatever you want.  One thing that stuck with me was that no one ever actually topped cupcakes with cherries, something I always saw in cartoons but never in real life.  Ever since then I’ve always had a least a few topped with cherries.  I can’t help it.  It looks like magic to me.

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I also can’t recommend shopping at Fancy Flours enough.  They have an absolutely incredible collection of cupcake liners, jimmies, toppers, things they call cake jewels that are basically every girls’ total fucking fantasy:

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(They come in a lot of colors and shapes.)  Seriously, right?  Can you imagine how awesome, to have an edible jewel on the top of a cupcake?  Dang.  Also, Fancy Flours sells my alltime favorite cupcake liners, the Tokyo:

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These liners are super sturdy and look KLASSY no matter what you do to them.  And, you know, $4.50 for 50 of them is a pretty affordable splurge for a special birthday cupcake or what have you.

The flowers I used in the photos above are the mini pansies, though i’ve used the  wild rose minis before too.  I also think the autumn leaves are fancy without being so girly.  But you get the idea: people think this stuff is alien technology.  For reals.  Like, the first time I put sugar flowers I didn’t even make on top of a cupcake and they freaked the fuck out, I spent a lot of energy explaining that it was just a stupid flower from a package.  I didn’t even make it.  And you know what?  They didn’t care at all.  As far as they were concerned I had pulled a diamond out of my bellybutton.  And that’s when I realized: the things that I value, as a baker?  No one else values but other bakers.  The rest of the rabble will scream and rend their clothes over store-bought sugar flowers.  Take note.

9 Posted in Food Rant

Golden State – It’s a California Thing

Posted by on Nov 25, 2009 at 11:09 pm

I told my friend Hatherly that I was trying to cut some fat out of my diet and addendum’d myself by saying “But I’m not counting calories or anything,” to which she slyly replied: “So you’re not totally L.A. yet.”  No, not totally.  And: I am still alarmingly pale, have two inches of grey root growout and don’t currently have a car, so if being an Angeleno were a swim lesson, I’d be in Tadpole Class.

This is all an awkward lead-in for having dined at Golden State, a restaurant of recent inception located on good ol’ Fairfax right across the street from the legendary Canter’s Deli.  I believe their claim to fame is locavorism, though not so much as an ecological movement as a taste one – go with what you know.  Unfortunately, motivation means jack squat to me, so I’d like to get down to the food.

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When I saw a muffuletta on the menu, I knew I had to order it.  There are a few things generally off about this, the first of which is the obvious: muffulettas are not a Californian food. When I was in New Orleans I went to what I thought was the source, the Central Grocery but found the supposedly ground-zero sandwich to be uninspiring and dry, not to mention that when I was trying to eat it I was approached by no less than seven aggressive panhandlers, one of which who finally drove me off by shrieking “YOU BITCH!” in my face.  Ah, New Orleans.  Later a reliable source confirmed my suspicions: Central Grocery muffulettas are for tourists. Which is all to say that Golden State’s muffuletta was many times better than Central Grocery’s — an admittedly easy feat — but also just an excellent sandwich.  The portion was generous (only half is shown above), the bread soft and the olive chop was zesty without overwhelming the salami.

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Our friend Jes went with a classic chicken Caesar salad, and we immediately commended the rarely found small dice of the romaine pieces.  Except.  The chicken slices were absurdly large and Jes was unable to cut them, resulting in her going feral trying to gnaw on the pieces without shoving an entire fillet of breast meat into her mouth.

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Mike had what is listed on the menu as simply “Burger,” a bacon-cheeseburger with arugula.  Because it isn’t the kind of burger I like (the thin and unadorned kind) I don’t have much of an opinion on it.  Mike seemed to enjoy it.  The fries were too crispy to our taste, but we fall into the underdog soggy-fry constituency. The accompanying house-made curry ketchup was excellent.

The crazy part is that Golden State serves Scoops¹ gelato, a local super-favorite, and I was too full to eat any.  This is unacceptable.  I will be back.

¹ Scoops doesn’t have a website, but they are known for having a lot of dairy-free flavors as well as pulling off seemingly impossible flavors like popcorn, brown bread and fois gras (really!) as well as some of the more usual flavors. They deserve the fandom they’ve garnered, though the locals have gotten their American Apparel panties in a bunch over Scoops serving fois gras along side their vegan ice cream, to which I say: get a fucking haircut.

1 Posted in Eatin' Fancy

Perhaps a ChocoTaco.

Posted by on Nov 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

At work today we were too busy to take lunch breaks, so I ordered Chinese food from the place just around the corner.  The food there is unremarkable tasty Chinese take-out.  I like it because the lunch specials are crazy.  You get a take-out standard, fried rice, choice of four different soups, and choice of two appetizers.  For like six bucks!

But, You Guys!  That’s totally not the point!  When I finished scarfing down my food I ate my Obligatory Fortune Cookie. . .

And I got what may well be the GREATEST FORTUNE EVER!

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Fuck yeah, it would.

3 Posted in Aaron, Eatin' Fancy

I ♥ Maangchi!

Posted by on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:45 am

“The green onion and the garlic are like friends!  Always friends.”¹

I have a powerful love/hate relationship with cooking shows.  Mostly I hate them, even the ones I like.  For example, I like the way Giada De Laurantiis cooks, but I get burned out on watching her giant, smiling balloon head in very short order.  And even though I think cooking is a sexy craft, I find myself rebelling against the hyper-affluent, homogenized landscape of the modern cooking show, even modern food photography, all bright-white and staged to look casual.  These worlds of the Food Network, I can’t put myself in them.  Sunday doesn’t belong there and neither do you.

Enter: Maangchi!

Maangchi is an internet sensation, a simultaneously charming and all-business antidote to all that Gwyneth Paltrow driving around Spain bullshit.  Don’t believe me? Check it:

How cute is she?  As a button, I tell you. I can also tell you one thing for certain: if you and I suddenly appeared in her kitchen with her, she’d waste no time handing us knives and having us get to work along side her and that is the kind of kitchen I love.

And those leaves she’s using?  Are the Korean variant of shiso, which I’ve professed my love to before here on Anger Burger.  The Korean version, often called “sesame leaf”, is much bigger than the Japanese version and has a tougher leaf and different flavor, more minty than basil-y.  The way she uses a leaf to scoop up rice at the end of the video?  Oh man, I’m literally uncomfortably full from my own dinner and I still want some of that.

Long live Maangchi.

¹ A Maangchi quote from her video for making kimchi stew.

2 Posted in Obsessed

Oh Dang!

Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

I know what you’re thinking: where’s that crazy white girl who makes whack Asian food?  Well, I’m baaack!  And this time with a badly mangled Korean dish, just because I don’t want the Japanese to think I’m picking on them.

Months ago I asked what a particular banchan was at my local Korean BBQ joint, and I didn’t remember until very recently that the server answered what sounded like “Oh dang!”  I was like, “I know, right!  But what is it?”

Turns out, it’s fishcake.  A flat version of fishcake, which is then sliced into ribbons and fried in a very fragrant sauce.  In other words, Sunday Kibble.

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First I had to learn to love the gochujang, a primary Korean condiment that looks totally terrifying (look at the package, it’s practically screaming to warn you not to put it in your mouth!) but is in fact pretty excellent.  It is a chili paste, but the Korean chillies are rather mild — don’t get me wrong, it’s a-spicy, but it looks way, way more spicy than it actually is.  More important is the flavor, a salty-sweet heat that confused me until I realized that I’m so used to heat being combined with vinegar in the U.S. and Mexico that I forgot that chillis aren’t actually astringent in and of themselves..  There’s also a mild fermented aspect to gochujang, which is quite pleasant and sort of malty.  It’s a really beguiling flavor, one I suspect I’ll be sneaking into anything that needs a bite.

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Anyway, it goes into a sauce that you blend up quickly, though between you and me I put off this recipe just because I had to haul the blender out.  C’mon, I have to blend the sauce? I need a nap.

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Okay, so, the fishcake.  Don’t be afraid of the fishcake.  First of all, it is 100% no different than fake crab.  It’s just whitefish reformed into a different shape.  Second of all, it’s a nice way to mix up your fish protein.  Third of all – look at it!  It’s weird!  That’s enough for me.  And for the record, at my local Korean market these were kept in the grocery case near the tofu, but you’re on your own at your Korean market.

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Those get chopped up.  I’ve seen them sliced into big pieces, but I wanted mine a little smaller.

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We now interrupt this program for a little bit of pickled-stuff porn.  Mmm, pickled stuff.   I ate this on the side.

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The fishcake gets quickly fried with onions, carrots and the chili sauce that we made in the blender, and the whole thing takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish.  It isn’t exactly like the stuff I get at the Korean BBQ place, but it’s pretty damn good.  The only word of warning that I have is to open a window: after dinner I took a short walk and when I returned I realized we are that neighbor that stinks up the hallway with suspicious and unfamiliar odors.

Odaeng — Korean Fishcake
this recipe is from Hannaone’s Korean Recipes, which hasn’t been updated since late 2008 but is still a good resource for Korean cooking – her recipe actually didn’t call for any gochujang, but I’m certain the odaeng I’m used to having has gochujang in it, so I added it.  I made some other changes which are reflected here.

Sauce:
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. rice wine (I used mirin)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 heaping tsp. gochujang

Food:
2 sheets Korean fried fishcake, sliced
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
1 large carrot, sliced thin

  • Put all ingredients for the sauce into a blender or food processor.  It will be fussy because it isn’t very much volume – if you’re feeling trustworthy, you should double the above recipe and then keep half in the fridge for use later in the week.  Anyway, just keep poking at the sauce with a spatula between blendings and you’ll get it pretty much smooth eventually.
  • Start by sauteing the fishcake slices in a little oil until the pieces take on a golden brown color, about 3 or 4 minutes over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onion and sauce and cook, stirring, until the onions are softened but still have shape and the sauce seems to have absorbed into the fishcake, about 5 more minutes.
  • Eat warm with rice or do as the Koreans do and eat as a cold snack.  It’s actually really good cold, especially with some fresh sliced cucumber.
2 Posted in Make It So

Pot Hash!*

Posted by on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:39 pm

*I’m really hoping to drum up some traffic with this headline.

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I’m testing your screen’s brown and orange color profile.

So, you have a bunch of leftover pot roast and vegetables, do you?  Pat yourself on the nethers, because you are one lucky carnivore.  There’s only one road that should be followed here: pot hash.

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It’s as basic as basic gets: hack everything up into smaller bits and then throw them in a big frying pan with a little olive oil.  Salt and pepper it, sneak in a little garlic powder and best of all, some fresh rosemary.  The goal is to get everything crispy crunchy.

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I think we both know that the only way to eat the hash is then to put a couple of fried eggs on top.  Mike goes for toast on the side, but I don’t like to lose focus.

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Aaah, yes.  Crispy bits.  All warm and salty.  This is the electric blanket of dinners.

Pot Hash
the leftovers pictured above made about three large portions.  I really love to eat this with a spicy ketchup which I make and keep in the fridge; it’s just 2 parts ketchup to 1 part Thai sweet chili sauce, which can be found really cheap at any Asian market (usually Mae Ploy brand) and for weirdly expensive at any American grocery store (usually Thai Kitchen brand).

leftover pot roast, about half of what was cooked
leftover potatoes
leftover carrots
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

  • Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the olive oil.  When shimmering, add the chopped leftover beef, potatoes and carrots.
  • Keep an eye on it, frying over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes, letting everything get brown and crispy.  I also take a wooden spoon and sort of bludgeon the bits while it’s frying because I like the pieces more broken up.  And because I am a fidgety cook.
  • Before removing from heat, add salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh rosemary.  Stir to distribute and then serve.
  • This is really spectacular with a fried or poached egg or two broken over the top so that the yolk mixes all in.
2 Posted in Make It So

It’s Raining Meat

Posted by on Nov 18, 2009 at 6:03 pm

RAAAAARR!

For some reason it’s all meat all the time over here lately.  I swear it’s not intentional, nor is it exactly true.  I don’t take photos of my morning oatmeal, nor did I take photos of my dinner the other night that I respectfully called Hippy Chow¹.  Nor did I mention the vegetarian pizza I ate.  Or my favorite Indian dish, saag paneer.  No sir; for some reason, all I can be bothered with to document is meat.

Let’s get going.

I was in my late 20′s before it occurred to me to try to cook my mother’s pot roast, a food I considered too costly (it’s not at all) and too difficult (it’s easier than an omelet) to make until one day when it struck me I might be wrong.  I called my mom and listened as she tried to explain how to cook it.  When I say “tried,” I mean that she never had a recipe, it’s just that basic of a food.  It’s like giving someone a recipe for mashed potatoes.  How many potatoes?  How much salt?  Are you slow?

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As I said, pot roast is not an expensive cut of meat in the last, particularly when considering how many meal portions can be made from it.  To the unfamiliar, though, it appears to be a terrifying meatslab that will feed 4,000 angry Vikings.  In reality it will feed 1 angry Viking twice.  And his girlfriend.  What you want is about 3 pounds of chuck roast, as well-marbled with fat as you can find.  From there, it gets seasoned well and fried on each side for flavor, after which you basically let it go and walk away for 3 hours.  There’s a little more to it than that, but only a little.

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Lots of onion and garlic, which cooks down into almost nothing at all other than a deliciousness that can’t be described.

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Arguably the best part of pot roast is the vegetables that are then cooked in the super-rich stock the pot roast has been braising in for hours.  It is almost unbelievable the way they take on umami.

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Yep, there’s no way this is going to photograph well.

And then, of course, gravy.  Oh god, the gravy.  This, friends, is not exactly what I’d call a healthy dinner, but it’s an honest and simple one and is better for you than a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, which is admittedly not saying much, but dang!  Look at that!  And for seriously minor effort.  Once again, bein’ lazy is treating me just fine.

Before we part ways entirely, be advised: you want leftovers. Trust me.  And tune in tomorrow for why.

Mama Starr’s Pot Roast
note the cooking time: it is 3 hours of actual cooking time and maybe 30 minutes of prep, so you’ll want to get started 4 hours before you want to eat. A note on the ingredient called “Kitchen Bouquet” – this is an American product made from vegetables that adds an aesthetically pleasant brown color as well as deepening meaty flavors and I find it to be totally necessary.  It’s good for anything you want to taste “rich”. Also, a note on “Wondra Flour” – it is a very fine flour blend designed for thickening gravies, and works a damn treat. I almost never use cornstarch to thicken, just Wondra.

1 2.5 – 3 lb. chuck roast, well marbled with fat
salt & pepper or Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
16 oz. beef stock
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1 large onion, cut into chunks
5 cloves of garlic, quartered
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 or 5 large waxy potatoes, quartered, or a dozen small waxy potatoes, whole
2 Tbsp. Wondra Flour

  • Season both sides of the chuck with either a lot of salt and pepper or a lot of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt.  Mom always used Lawry’s, but I’m not sure it really alters the final taste much.  Anyway, season the holy hell out of it while heating up a large heavy dutch oven.  When the dutch oven is hot, add a spoonful of cooking oil and sear the sides of the chuck, about 5 minutes each side.
  • Pour the beef stock over the chuck, bringing the liquid level up to about 3/4 the way up the sides of the meat.  It’s okay to have a little too much stock, but it’s bad to not have enough.  Add the teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet to the liquid.  Sprinkle the garlic and onions on and around the meat.  When the stock is lightly simmering around the sides of the chuck, put a lid on it, keep the heat down low and set a timer to 1 hour.
  • After the hour has passed, carefully use a pair of tongs and maybe some other implement to turn the meat over in the stock.  Again making sure that the liquid is just nicely simmering, put the lid on it and set a timer to 1 hour.
  • After the second hour has passed, carefully flip the meat again.  Make sure it is just simmering, return lid, and set timer for 1/2 hour.
  • After 1/2 hour, poke around the meat and make sure it seems like it’s falling apart at least all around the exterior.  If it seems like this is happening, add the potatoes and carrots and add either the rest of the beef stock or a little water if it seems like there isn’t enough liquid.  You don’t want everything totally submerged, but there shouldn’t be whole potatoes just sitting out in the wind.  This is the only tricky part: if it seems like the meat is pretty much done and you really can’t get your vegetables in the liquid to cook, you can actually pull the meat out, wrap it tightly in tinfoil to keep warm, and then there should be plenty of room to cook the veg.  I end up doing this often.  If it looks like there’s room for everything with the meat in the pot, then just let it cook.  Either way, it’ll take about another 1/2 an hour.
  • When everything is done, remove the meat (if you didn’t already) and the vegetables with a slotted spoon.  In a glass measuring cup thingie, blend 1/3 C. of water into 2 Tbsp. of Wondra flour slowly, making first a paste to make sure there aren’t any lumps.  While stirring the cooking liquid in the dutch oven, pour in the Wondra slurry.  It should get to the desired thickness within 5 minutes of low simmering.  If not, add an additional small amount of Wondra slurry.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
  • If I may be so bold as to recommend how you eat something, I really insist that you put everything on a single plate and drown it in gravy.
  • Wrap remaining beef, potatoes and carrots in foil and wait for the next day.  See tomorrow’s post to see why.


¹ It is: quickly saute some onions and garlic, add 1 C. pearled barley and 2 C. broth, set to simmer. 15 minutes later add a giant pile of cubed root vegetables (I looooove parsnips) and maybe some sturdy greens like kale, then let cook another 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Eat until queasy.

2 Posted in Make It So

TV, Feminine Napkins and Brandy Beans

Posted by on Nov 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I hate writing this word because I feel like I should have the skills to communicate this feeling with actual words, but I can’t, so: sigh.  Once again, my web hosting service is totally bjorked and as near as I can tell, they plan on continuing with this “service” model.  It’s pretty discouraging, and I don’t have the faintest idea of how to migrate services (and I don’t want to bug my WebNerd, Dan, because I bug him non-stop already), so instead I’ll just mope around my own website.  Dramatic!

Here is an unrelated series of asides:

  • Television, having had a few years of greatness there (see: Battlestar Galactica, House, Bones, The IT Crowd, etc.) has taken a turn for the ‘tarded.  V, for which I had high hopes, feels like a high school class on scriptwriting.  FlashForward, for which I had high hopes, is mysteriously and deadeningly boring.  It has John Cho!  And a big budget!  And science mystery!  And yet, each time I watch it I black out for 45 minutes, after which I have the memory of an event that hasn’t happened yet set 9 months in the future, where I’m watching a different TV show.
  • But!  My utterly embarrassing penchant for Legend of the Seeker (which I inevitably call Legend of the Legend for some reason) has returned with season 2, and with Charisma Carpenter guest starring!  Ms. Carpenter is possibly better recognized as Cordelia from Buffy and Angel, as well as having a reoccurring role on the epically and tragically mistreated Veronica Mars.  I can’t in good conscious actually recommend that you watch Legend of the Legend Seeker, but it appeals greatly to the 13 year-old Sunday who still misses Covington Cross, an early 90′s dramedy TV show about a family in the Middle Ages that no one ever watched but me.  True!
  • Furthermore, the new Stargate Universe has me totally hooked.  It’s not that it’s good, but it certainly isn’t bad, and I feel like it has the potential to get its legs under itself.  And I miss BSG and Farscape so badly that I’m willing to pretend, at a distance, and mostly drunkenly, that I’ve found a new show I will love.
  • Okay, so, feminine napkins¹.  Here’s the thing that I will never in my lifetime understand: why do they change their product every 6 months?  It’s fucking true.  And if they don’t change the actual product itself, they change the packaging so that you can no longer quickly identify what you want.  THIS IS FUCKING TRUE.  Here’s an example: I’ve used Kotex brand pads for years now, and before that I wore Always but had to stop when Always switched to inferior materials.  A few years back Kotex had what I thought was actually a great idea: they were going to have a different kind of flower (gag) on each package so that you could quickly grab your preferred product.  Say you want regular pads, unscented.  Well, they had an orchid on the package.  Easy!  Overnight pads had a daisy on the package.  Easy!  And then, one day, all the packages had orchids on them.  Wait, what?  And then more recently, none of the packages have orchids on them, but all of them have small stylized daisies on them.  What kind of foul trickery is this?  Either way, I have to carefully read the package every time so I don’t end up buying some scented monstrosity that makes your ladyparts smell like damp laundry.  I can think of no other products that are so determined to confuse and anger their customer base.
  • My totally bullshit diet continues and is working.  I feel better after having purely just cut back on sugar and outrageous fat intake (i.e., no more beer steins of eggnog).  However, it’s starting to get cold here in L.A., and all I can think about is junk food from Trader Joe’s, like their Brandy Beans, which are basically just cocoa butter and sugar.  And this brings up my whole weird psychology with “dieting” which is that I don’t believe in it.  I mean, I believe in eating healthier for a specific goal, i.e. feeling better, lowering cholesterol, etc.  And my eating healthier has been done specifically with feeling physically better, part of which, I must admit, was how my pants were getting too tight.  And how to Brandy Beans fit into that scenario?  Not well, I assure you.  I think I’m closing in on convincing myself that 1 or maybe 2 a day is just fine.

¹ How great is this term, anyway?

**Note: all the TV shows mentioned (with the exception of Covington Cross, RIP) can be seen for free at Hulu.com. I don’t have broadcast television, I just watch stuff on the internet.

The Habit of the Creature

Posted by on Nov 14, 2009 at 12:31 pm

“Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels.”

-adage often attributed to     supermodel Kate Moss

Yes well, I think we can agree that Kate Moss has never been faced with a plate of broiled mackerel before.  I’ve already expounded on my affair with mackerel as a sushi fish, where it is pickled like a Scandinavian delicacy, but I failed to mention how I first really came to fall in love with the fish.

The Japanese call it “grilled mackerel” or saba yaki, and that is, simply, what it is.  It might be more accurate to call it saba no shioyaki which would be “mackerel grilled with salt”.  Either way, the result is the same: a piece of incredibly tender, oily fish with a crisp, edible skin.  The fish is so rich that it is traditionally served with lemon and a large pile of grated radish, both of which I didn’t have and both of which I can live without — well, I do really like the grated radish.  But you catch what I’m pitching.

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Foremost, as you can see, it’s a cheap fish.  Under $4 to serve two people dinner is pretty incredible (of course there were lots of sides, but I don’t count those).  Saba can be difficult to find in Western fish markets, but they’re always there, lurking, in the Asian markets.  Even though the local Japanese market had them fresh, I chose this frozen one simply because I didn’t know when I’d be cooking it.

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And what an incredibly gorgeous fish it is, right?  So predatory and majestic, even when small enough to fit into the hand.  The skin itself feels like the finest calf leather, soft and smooth.  I really do respect this creature.  If it were a man it’d be a small, lithe ninja of a man.

Anyway, I prepped it but cutting it into two servings, slashing the meat deep several times and then bagging it in sake to marinate while it thawed the rest of the way.   The saki part isn’t necessary, but it ever-so-faintly “sweetens” the flesh, or deadens that very fishy-tasting outer layer.  About 10 minutes later the sake is rinsed off, and then salt is rubbed into the flesh.  Since it is going to be eaten with lots of rice, it is actually nice to oversalt it just a smidge.

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And then there’s the small matter of my not having a grill – no biggie, the pieces were broiled about 4 or 5 inches from the element  for about 7 or 10 minutes, KEEPING CAREFUL WATCH ON IT, until it is brown and crackly and you can barely keep from snatching the skin right off and eating it like a potato chip.  You will think that the fish is losing a lot of water, but you are wrong: it is oil.  Sheets and sheets of oil with the highest levels of Omega-3s that you’ll ever encounter.  And a small amount of mercury, so don’t eat it every night.

Broiled Mackerel (“Saba no Shioyaki”)
this fish is very rich, so don’t plan on serving more than a 4oz portion to a single person – but it doesn’t seem like a lot of food, so have lots of sides with your rice, like miso soup and some quickly prepared vegetables.  Also note that you can do the same with a whole (cleaned) fish, but you’ll have to turn the fish when one side is done broiling and then do the other, and that the underside will no longer be crispy.

mackerel fillet
1/4 C. sake
salt

  • If using frozen, thaw the fish overnight in the fridge OR run under cold tap water for about 10 minutes which should thaw it about half the way.  The fillets aren’t terribly thick or anything, so don’t bust your balls over this part.  Now would be a good time to feel along the meat to see if there are any bones, which there almost certainly will be.  If you can pull them out, do so, but in Japan it is not considered terribly important to remove the bones before cooking.  If they aren’t already, cut them into single portions and then slash each portion deeply (but not all the way through, Scissorhands) with a sharp knife.
  • Either in a very small, shallow dish or in a ziplock bag, marinate the fillets in a little sake.  Let sit for 10 minutes while you start your rice cooking and/or whatever else.
  • Very quickly and lightly rinse the fillets and pat them dry.  Season generously with salt, taking care to rub it into the slices you made into the meat.  Line a small, low-rimmed pan¹ (like a cookie sheet) with aluminum foil and place the fillets on it skin side up, close to the center and about an inch apart.  It depends on how your broiler is set up, but you want them to get equal exposure to the heat.  Adjust the rack to be about 5 inches from the heat and turn on the broiler.
  • Broil for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the fish starts to curve up to meet the heat and the slashes you made open and start leaking oil.  The skin itself will brown and possibly bubble.  It’s okay is small areas get very brown, those will be the tasty bits.
  • Remove from the heat and eat immediately with lots of hot rice.  Keep a towel handy for wiping the dripping oil off your face.  Oh, and watch out for bones!  Mackerel have large bones, but they are very sharp.

¹ I actually use the small tray that came with my toaster oven since it’s light and just big enough for two pieces of fish.

1 Posted in Make It So, Obsessed

When In Doubt, Buy a Bigger Piece of Meat

Posted by on Nov 13, 2009 at 12:29 am

This happens to me a lot, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  I’m looking at a recipe and thinking “Nooo… really?”  And then I make it.  Because if there’s one thing I like, it’s a fight; and if there’s another thing I like, it’s dinner.  MATCH!

This time I was reading Melissa Clark’s Braised Pork Chops With Tomatoes, Anchovies and Rosemary and thought two things:

    A)  15 minutes does not a braised meat make
    B)  As an aside, I’ve never cooked a really good pork chop.

I’m going to address (B) first.  I think pork chops are overrated, pretty much across the board.  They are lean meat that is difficult to cook correctly and in the face of so many other options, I can’t justify the fuss.  I long ago discovered that the thin scallopini-style chops are your best chance, and even then I always cook them the same way:  breaded in panko and fried Japanese style.  But I’m not afraid to cook meat, so I figured I’d better revisit it.

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To address (A), well, let’s just say I loved braised meat.  Pot roast is one of my favorite meals ever, that silky, buttery soft meat imbued with the flavor that only 3 hours of loooow cooking can achieve.  Beef stew?  Drool.  Brisket?  Yes please.  Pork chop?  What?  And here the recipe says 15 minutes?  I don’t call that a braise, and I think Melissa Clark knows she’s pushing her luck, too.

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Anyway, yakety yak.  I began the recipe feeling suddenly apprehensive about the whole thing.  I just didn’t have a good feeling about things turning out well.  I’m like the Deanna Troi of food.

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And then, suddenly, I was feeling good about things again.  The smell of onions frying will do wonders for a girl’s resolve.

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Also, I should address this – tomatoes.  The recipe is basically a tomato sauce.  Which makes me a tremendous, gargantuan hypocrite and you know what?  I don’t really care.  Sometimes I actively decide to eat something I know isn’t going to go down well.  It’s a thing with me.  I’m doing it less as I grow older, but I suspect I’ll never really stop.  Anyway, the recipe calls for two pounds of plum tomatoes and that is waaaaay to much tomato.  I used a single pound of the best-looking tomatoes at the market, which happened to be little pearl tomatoes, and it turned out to be more than enough.

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In a moment of inspiration, I glugged about a third of a cup of boiled cider into the sauce just before it went into the oven, a move that eventually transformed the dish into something incredible.  The sauce was absolutely perfect: tangy-sweet, funky, salty and practically edible as a meal in itself.

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And what came out the other end was … a mediocre pork chop in a kick-ass sauce.  The chop was seriously bland, I’m totally unsure how such a thing could happen other than to confirm my suspicion that pork chops are a step below even the dreaded chicken breast.  I picked away at the chop for some time, all the while wishing it were a big pile of chicken thighs, or even a pound of two of sauteed mushrooms.  But not even my chop disappointment kept me from polishing off all the tomato slurry with the rest of the rice, and I gotta tell you, whatever pain I face tomorrow was worth it.

Braised Pork Chops, New York Times Style
these pork chops are fucking massive, and I think provided you have enough else to eat, one is enough for two people.

2 1 1/2-inch-thick bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more for seasoning pork
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more for seasoning pork
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 large rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds plum tomatoes (preferably a mix of red and yellow), roughly chopped
6 anchovy fillets

Polenta, noodles or rice, for serving (optional).

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse pork chops and pat dry with a paper towel. Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, place 1 tablespoon oil. Sear chops until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté onion and rosemary until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add tomatoes, anchovies and remaining salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, about 8 minutes.
  • Add pork chops to skillet, spooning sauce over chops. Cover skillet and transfer to oven to bake until a thermometer inserted into center of meat reads 145 degrees, about 15 minutes. Allow chops to rest for 5 minutes in pan. If desired, serve with polenta, noodles or rice to soak up sauce.

Sunday’s Advice:

  • add 1/3 C. boiled cider
  • cut the tomato quantity by half
  • use chicken
3 Posted in Make It So