Roasted and glazed in espresso, clementine juice and coriander. Rested on spent clementine halves, ginger scraps and clementine leaves. Sometimes reserving the offshoots of ingredients during preparation can serve as a last minute vessel for flavor before it gets discarded.
We received a spiraled Christmas ham as a gift and I've been keeping it in the freezer since the holidays. A vegetable peeler has been the preferred tool to easily shave the ham to order and only when I need it. To me, the strands produced by the vegetable peel against the sliced grain of meat are the right size for most applications. I usually don't like to bite down into thick chunks of this overly sweet, sodium-filled American classic, so these thin shavings prove more effective at transferring a delicate hamminess throughout. Peeling straight out of the freezer makes it easier because the meat is firmer. Also, the peeler is way easier then trying to balance this beast on a mandolin. (Of course, if you have the option of using an industrial meat slicer, by all means go ahead)
At this point the ham is very useful. Omelette's, salads, fried rice, for snacking, as a topping...you get the idea. However, you can also take this process a bit further by drying out the shavings (I dehydrated them at 115ºF for 45 min). This is great if you want a crispier snack or topping. It is also great for making a quick ham stock, using it the same way you would use katsuobushi.
After drying you can then take it even one step further by pulverizing them into a powder. Ham seasoning. Sprinkle it on everything (preferably something edible). Ham Powder
After procuring a buffet-size portion of leftover french fries, I was far from overwhelmed. I know french fries do not reheat very well (maybe, in the oven...maybe) but I've always thought about repurposing french fries the same way you would normally use potatoes. A lot of applications for potatoes usually call for them to be cooked all the way through and void of moisture, usually replacing the moisture with fat, dairy or eggs. To me, french fries are the ultimate version of a cooked and dry potato.
French Fry Gnocchi
I broke apart the soggy, cold fries into a blender and pulverized it until it became a fine powder (french fry flour). I then applied this flour the same way you would apply a cooked and riced potato in a gnocchi recipe. After forming the gnocchi, I boiled them and shocked them in ice water. Strained, patted dry and reserved in olive oil until ready to serve.
Once ready to serve, refried the gnocchi till crispy and add it to whatever sauce was suitable.
This is like a potato being repurposed and redefined through multiple iterations. To break it down, the potato goes through the following cooking stages (if made from triple-cooked french fries which, in my opinion, is the best way to cook them):
formed into dough
I think the result is great. Gnocchi with a flavor all it's own but does not compete with accompanying sauce. The dryness of a leftover french fry prevents gumminess in the final dough. Though the gnocchi was a bit drier than I preferred so I think next time I will incorporate some freshly cooked potato along with the french fry flour for a better balance.
Frugality in food can usually provide delicious results, given the right preparation. However, we don't perceive alcohol in the same way. We tend to think it's best when using top notch liquor, but unless it's drank straight or in a minimal cocktail (gimlet, old fashioned, martini, etc.) it's hard for me to find the subtle differences brought by a higher quality booze. Don't be ashamed if your budget is tight and you still want to enjoy a great cocktail.
A large $8 bottle of Gekkeikan provided a great template for experimentation.
I decided on a combination of the following: sake white grapes, halved ginger, sliced (skin on) quarter lime wedge elderflower syrup pinch of salt Put your glass of choice in the freezer while you prepare the cocktail. Muddle the white grapes, ginger, lime, salt and elderflower syrup in a cocktail shaker until the grapes have extracted almost all of their juice. Add ice and sake. Shake for about 20 seconds. Take glasses out of the freezer and strain the cocktail over a fine mesh sieve into your chilled glass. Serve up.
This happened to be made using ingredients that were already in my fridge. Make your own cocktail with what you have on hand. The best rules to follow is to have something sweet, something sour and something aromatic. You can also think citrus, syrup and herbs as a baseline for an endless number of combinations.
I don't own any blue plates, but this is special nonetheless. A complete lunch or a very satisfying dinner. Meat, starch and greens: just as our mothers intended. Where's my glass of milk?
Chicken breast (skin-on) was marinated in sake lees (kasu) for three days and then fried in salmon fat (from the belly).
Potatoes were peeled, boiled and mashed with butter, coffee, dashi, skim milk, salt & black pepper. Then mixed with green onions. The potato skins were reserved for the topping described below.
The topping for the potatoes was made from fried potato skins, toasted hazelnuts and salt ground to a coarse powder. (I used a mortar & pestle to keep it coarse. It's best to have some recognizable pieces of hazelnut throughout)
Watercress was dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and cinnamon vinegar*. Topped with black pepper.
Before our west coast migration, Christina and I often divided our stomachs between 3 to 4 households: family hopping at it's finest. Sampling the hard work of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters from Biscayne Boulevard to Bird Road and beyond. We miss them, our families, but last week was a chance to fend for ourselves and create a miniature feast. I thought about autumn, past ideas and recent inspiration to produce a smattering of dishes to gorge on. For the two of us, it was plenty.
Cider-Braised Pork Belly
for the cider:
juiced a bag of cored apples with the skin intact.
simmered the juice of low heat with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and clove.
turned off the heat and let it steep, covered while I prepared the rest.
for the belly:
cut the pork belly in half (or into enough pieces to fit snugly in the pan)
seared belly in a touch of oil, skin side down first and then flipped to brown both sides.
removed belly from pot.
sautéed 1 large sliced onion and a bit of star anise in the remaining fat from searing the belly until deeply caramelized.
added garlic, ginger and bay leaf while stirring to prevent burning.
added red wine vinegar and fish sauce, just enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
stirred the bottom to loosen any charred bits.
added the pork belly back to the pot, skin side down, so they sit snugly side by side.
strained the still warm apple cider directly into the pot with the pork belly.
added enough red wine and water to cover the pork completely.
brought to a boil and then immediately lowered the heat to bring to a simmer.
simmered for 2.5 - 3 hours or until it was tender.
for the cider jus:
removed the belly from the pot and strained the remaining braising liquid into another pot.
brought the strained liquid to a medium-high boil and let it rip until it was reduced significantly.
once it coated the spoon like a slick gravy, I knew it was ready.
tasted for salinity and adjusted seasoning with salt and black pepper.
while the liquid for the jus was reducing, I sliced the pork belly into medium-thick slices and tossed it in the jus to coat and keep warm.
Sunchokes are probably my favorite vegetable, but when making them into a purée they contain too much water for my desired consistency. I could experiment with dehydration and other forms of drying it out, but I decided to add potatoes to the mash to soak up the excess moisture from the sunchokes. After all, potatoes (from a textural standpoint) make some of the best purées and mashes.
Here's how I made it:
tossed 8 medium sunchokes, whole, in olive oil and salt.
wrapped them in aluminum foil and roasted in a 350ºF oven for about 30 min or until tender. (the way I test for tenderness is by plunging a knife about halfway through the biggest sunchoke you have while its roasting and see if the knife comes out with little or no resistance).
while they were roasting, I peeled, quartered and boiled one large russet potato until tender then strained.
when sunchokes were tender, I removed them from the oven and allowed them to cool, while still wrapped in the aluminum foil.
once lukewarm, I peeled them (not a big deal if there is some skin left over).
I added the sunchokes to a pot with butter and heavy cream and started mashing them with a fork.
I put the strained potato quarters through a ricer onto the sunchoke mix and mashed further, adding butter and cream as needed to make it a preferred consistency (it's really up to you how you like your mash).
seasoned with salt.
(goes deliciously with the cider jus)
cut them in half.
blanched them in salted boiling water for about 2 min. then transferred directly to ice water to stop cooking.
as I strained the sprouts from the ice water I removed the more tender outer leaves and reserved them for the brown butter salad.
dried the strained Brussels sprouts on paper towels.
fried them in coconut oil over medium high heat, cut side down with out moving them until browned.
flipped them over and then added slivers of ginger, garlic and chili while stirring until fragrant.
added a lemon slice and continued stir-frying.
added fish sauce, black pepper to taste and some leftover ramen broth. cooked for a couple minutes more.
Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup
cut 1 butternut squash in half. scooped out the seeds and it's surrounding flesh.
scored the cut sides of the halves and coated in olive oil.
roasted in oven at 350ºF (same time as the sunchokes) for a little over one hour.
while it was roasting I made a quick red curry paste:
pickled red thai chili, deseeded
toasted cumin & coriander seed
these ingredients were added in order to a mortar & pestle, each pounded with salt until a rough paste was formed.
scooped out the squash flesh into a bowl after it was finished roasting and cooled for a bit.
heated coconut oil over medium high heat.
added the red curry paste while stirring until fragrant.
added brown sugar to caramelize a bit.
added the roasted squash flesh and tossed to coat in curry.
added equal parts carrot juice and coconut milk and brought to a medium boil until squash was falling apart.
puréed with an immersion blender
strained purée and seasoned with fish sauce and black pepper.
served with pickled shiitakes
Pickled Shiitake Brine:
heated white vinegar, salt, sugar, coriander, cumin, clove, bay leaf until salt/sugar dissolved.
cooled down brine slightly and poured over quartered shittakes and whole red thai chilies.
I also the cut half ends of onions to keep the shiitakes weighed down in brine
Brown Butter Salad
reserved Brussels sprout leaves
Brown Butter Vinaigrette:
brine from pickled shiitakes
toss salad with vinaigrette as needed.
• Plan accordingly. Some aspects of a good feast can be made as far as a week ahead. (pickled shiitakes, apple cider, red curry paste)
• Write down your plan with steps and ingredients so you don't forget something at the worst possible moment.
• Try to utilize all of your ingredients in every way possible, preventing waste and adding flavor everywhere. (Onion ends to weigh down shiitakes, pickled chilies in curry paste, fallen Brussels sprout leaves in the salad, leftover ramen broth in Brussels sprouts). I also save squash seeds, sunchoke and potato peels for roasting or deep frying. The strained squash purée makes its own side dish.
I started using a cocktail shaker for all of my iced coffee. Especially lattes. Though I usually find the froth of hot beverages deceiving of it's actual temperature, the froth of a shaken iced latte is welcoming and a great introduction to the drink. Here, I made a thyme syrup and added it to cold espresso (Bustelo), whole milk and torn orange peels in a cocktail shaker. Shook it up without ice (no need to water it down right away) and then poured it over ice. I should get patio furniture just for glow basking and the satisfaction of enjoying a heady, spiced ice coffee in the prime of a Los Angeles autumn.
I grew up with two freezers in my house. The standard two-door half fridge wedged between the pantry and the stove, and the stand-alone backyard freezer. You know the one I'm talking about. That dusty and cavernous cube lined with clearance meat and month-old mysteries wrapped in aluminum foil. What was the point of that second freezer? Maybe it was prep for a Tropical Depression at a moment's notice; a disaster relief fridge. It was more likely for the ability to always have access to food, purchasing because it is on sale and putting it on reserve for who knows when. Now when I visit my family, they quickly dip their hand in the ice box and reveal something new for me to take home. Laying out packages and Ziploc bags on the table as if it were our next round of Texas Hold 'Em. Finding it difficult to say no to free food, I reluctantly pick one or two items thinking in the back of my mind (and the back of my freezer) that I can one day do something decent with these impulse leftovers.
What I end up taking home is usually manageable; offcuts of ham, frozen shrimp, pre-seasoned steaks, cut up mangoes. No complaints here. But every so often there is that one wild card "there's a reason this is on clearance" item. It's usually a variation of pepper-jack cheese or a preconceived seasoning blend that I'm just not interested in. This time it was a vacuum-sealed piece of smoked salmon, the packaging trying to convince me that it was made in the wilderness. Normally I would decline these last minute offerings, but for some reason I thought this could actually be good (I mean, smoked salmon is usually always good, right?). I let it linger in my fridge for a while and finally decided to shave a few slices for breakfast.
It was not good.
Did they get the fish mixed up with the wood they smoked it with? Texturally, I don't think I could tell the difference. Maybe they did make it in the wilderness.
As bad as it was, at least it wasn't rotten. My gut will not allow me to throw this away, so in a satisfying rage I hacked at the hunk, pulling it apart into shreds and strands. Now staring at a bowl of sawdust salmon I needed a solution to remedy this nearly inedible ingredient and I don't own any cats. I recalled a popular snack food, particularly in China and Taiwan, called rousong (sometimes just called sung). I've also heard it called meat floss, pork cotton candy and meat fluff. Primarily made with pork, it's also used as a savory topping for congees, porridges and the like. My attempts to replicate this rarely homemade treat began by dry frying the salmon threads in a wok over low heat. I made a quick mixture of shoyu, sugar and fish sauce in a squeeze bottle and gradually added it to the salmon while constantly stirring to prevent it from burning. I tested the texture as I went, pulling the meat apart with a wooden spoon as it twirled in the pan. After about 12 minutes it felt ready. I let it cool down then transferred it to a container. It's kept in the spice pantry and used most often for impromptu toppings (usually omelettes, salads and noodle soups) or just to snack on while I cook. It's texture is more woody then that of traditional pork sung but I think a smoked pork sung or a ham sung would also be delicious.
There's always potential even in food you don't like. A grocery mistake can be remedied with innovation. Always think twice (or more) about every ingredient in your kitchen and never buy too much food out of fear of not having it readily available. You might end up with a second freezer.