Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On the Cheap: Chamchi Kimchi Jjigae

I just couldn't wait any more and I broke into my kimchi tonight. First of all, it's good. Much better than the store bought stuff I'd been eating before. Second, I made it into soup that costs almost nothing. Rejoice!

A friend (the one who's getting the small jar of kimchi) passed along this website to me: a recipe for kimchi jjigae, or spicy kimchi stew. I made it a few weeks ago with the last of my store-bought kimchi and squid. She's since told me that her favourite incarnation of the stew is chamchi kimchi jjigae, made with canned tuna. I was skeptical, but curious. I'm not always a fan of canned tuna.

I was making my skeptical face as I surveyed that can of tuna, that's for sure.
It's a simple recipe. The only ingredients not  pictured here are one medium yellow onion, four green onions and hot pepper flakes.

I like things burn-your-face hot, but you could cut back on the pepper flakes or use more mild kimchi. You could also cut back on the gochujang, but that will change the taste along with reducing the spice.

And this is super cheap, since it's basically cabbage and canned tuna soup. But it's very tasty. Serve it with steamed rice topped with scallions and gaeran jim (Korean steamed eggs) to round out the meal.

On the Cheap: Dumpling/Egg Drop Soup

As a student, I will be so bold as to say that some of us are foodies and Mr. Noodles just isn't going to cut it. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy cheap, fast (though not instant), nutritious, Asian-themed soup. I do all the time.

This isn't really a recipe for this type of soup so much as a way to go about approaching it. I eat dumpling or egg drop soup at least once a week during any given semester following a "what I have on hand" model. It goes a little something like this:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Comfort: Duck crumb mac 'n cheese.

I don't know what it's been like where you are, but we just got over a cold snap. A real cold snap. Brr.

Last Thursday I had intentions of visiting Gatineau's Festibiere d'Hiver, but I was just so tired of being cold, plus I had duck prosciutto sitting in my fridge, screaming to be used. Next year, Festibiere.

It was time to mac 'n cheese.

I've baked a few mac 'n cheeses in my time, but my favourite recipe base borrows heavily from Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes. I do this because he starts off with crisping pancetta in the roasting/baking dish. I couldn't see why this wouldn't work with duck - and so in it went.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Offal Good: Split Pea and Pig's Ear Soup

I just made the best split pea soup I've ever had.

I started to appreciate split pea soup after moving to Ottawa where there's an honest-to-goodness winter (as opposed to in my hometown, Windsor). I hadn't made it since last spring, though, when I was employing smoked trotters to give the soup a good, smoky taste.

Thus I was intrigued when I was thumbing through The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail over the summer and saw a recipe for split pea and pig's ear soup. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for pig's ears. Today at the Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal, I found them.

Pig's ears, tails and tongues. You'll have to wait to see what happens to the last two.
I couldn't remember exactly what I needed for the rest of the recipe, but I had it in my head that it was fairly simple (split pea soup usually is) with stuff I'd have around the house. This was not the case. I got home, opened my book and found that I would need either pre-made ham stock (it's on my to-do list) or a ham bone to make the soup as Fergus intended.

It was time to wing it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Charcuterie: Duck Prosciutto

One of the things that I arbitrarily decided to do with my life this year was get into some level of at-home curing and preserving of meat (and other things... but meat is most enticing.)

To help me along, I have another 2012 birthday gift: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. (With a foreward by Thomas Keller, so you know it's legit.)

I am slowly reading this book, which I think is important so that I don't, you know, poison myself, but I will admit that after getting through the stuff about general salt curing I jumped ahead in the book because I had cheated and peeked. And that meant I knew that I had a recipe for duck prosciutto.

This was the brand of duck breast that I purchased. They run something along the lines of $30/kg as is, so I didn't want to go all fancy and spend half again as much on a Magret duck breast and then ruin it - though my next one, oh. It will be Magret.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fermentation Fun: Kimchi

Late last year I made salt-preserved key limes, which made me feel a bit like a mad scientist. A patient mad scientist. (They take a month to ferment properly.)

Ever since then I've been chipping away at my store-bought kimchi so that I'd have an excuse to make my own. Because fermentation - as the title would lead you to believe - is fun.

I used David Chang's Momofuku cookbook for my kimchi. It's one of the simplest recipes in the book, which I use more often for inspiration, general cooking rules/tips and food stories because many of the recipes, while gorgeous and intriguing, are also complex and designed to produce impractically large quantities.

This recipe helpfully explains why making your own kimchi (or my salt-preserved limes) won't make you sick. In case you are also curious, the key is that lots of salt will kill off all non-helpful (and I assume unfriendly) bacteria except for the lactic acid producing (friendly) ones, which do the actual fermentation.

Basically: Salt is magic.

Whilst picking up Burmese supplies I also picked up a kimchi essential, and easily one of the more gross looking ingredients I've ever used, salted jarred shrimp. They look like little krill, eyes and all, except that whoever was designing the product thought to themselves, "What would make these little white shrimp look better? How about fluorescent pink food colouring!" They were wrong. But as some sort of seafood seems to be standard and these little fellas will keep between recipes, so now I own a jar.

I also had to buy a pound of Korean chili powder because apparently there's not sufficient demand for anything smaller from Ottawatons to stock it in the store.

Way too much chili powder, just enough nappa, ten year supply disturbing pink shrimp.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Offal Good: Stuffed Lamb Hearts

I received Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating for my birthday last year and have been enthusiastically cooking from it whenever the ingredients present themselves ever since. The recipes are wonderful: simple, unpretentious and delicious - every one that I've tried.

As the name implies, this book emphasizes eating the whole animal - offal (the bits that used to be cut off and tossed by butchers, such as organs, tongues, etc.)

This concept is appealing to me for a few reasons: the first is ethical. I think that recognizing where my food comes from is important, and I think that it's important to use as much of the animal as possible. (Just to me. I'm not evangelical on this.) The second is that we ate very little offal in my home growing up (though, as I've mentioned, there was no shortage of home cooked food, a la my mom) and that means that offal presents a whole range of new cooking and tasting experiences for me. The third and final reason is that offal takes care and skill to prepare, but if you're willing to teach yourself to do it you can be rewarded with unique, rewarding food experiences.

As an added bonus, offal is awfully cheap.

Excerpt: The Importance of Rabbits

An excerpt from the beautiful French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. This is an important lesson that I try my best to take to heart whenever I'm cooking meat - and deciding which meat to cook.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Burmese Shrimp Curry

I received Naomi Duguid's cookbook Burma: Rivers of Flavor for Christmas and finally got a chance to break into it tonight. 

I fell in love with Burmese food on our first trip to Rangoon Restaurant. Favourite dishes include the mohinga (fish noodle soup) and green tea leaf salad, and if you're in Ottawa I strongly recommend giving the place a shot. There are two recipes in the book for mohinga, but unfortunately I haven't been able to stock my kitchen with the more obscure ingredients for Burmese cuisine, so I decided to start simple and small until I can, with a shrimp curry. As an added bonus the leftovers can be used to make a cold, spicy shrimp soup the next day.

The only other Burmese food I've ever cooked was a duck egg curry. It was straightforward and easy to achieve authentic flavour - very forgiving, so I was interested to see if the recipes in this book followed suit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Girl Who Blogged Anything

I told myself I'd come back to blogging this year - writing every day is good for you. Or at least it is for me. So here I am.

There are a few things I'm passionate about, but two that never stress me are cooking and food. When I'm taking on a cooking challenge of some sort - tackling an ingredient I've never cooked, never tasted or both, or trying a brand new technique - it's stretching boundaries, not building stress. It's therapeutic. And since I'm back at school for the last semester of my MA a little therapeutic is just what I need.

None of this is to say that I'm trained in, well, anything to do with food. Unless you count growing up in a home where your mom cooked everything from scratch, or where your dad brought home game meats for you to try. You could count having a friend who, in spite of being a vegetarian and even trying her hand at vegan in the past, has never been able to say "No" to steamed tripe at a dim sum restaurant and needs someone to split it with when you go out for lunch. You could count growing up with pet ducks and the choices that having something so delicious as a pet eventually forces you to make. (More on that another time.)

All of the above have been formative experiences for me in my food and cooking life. What they've taught me is to never be afraid of food. So while I've never taken a knife class, I've also never looked at a recipe and thought to myself "I couldn't do that." Sure, I've tried and failed, but I never look at a new recipe with fear. There's nothing to be afraid of when it comes to cooking, only opportunities to learn.

In 2012 I made the decision to start toying around with charcuterie in 2013, but when 2013 rolled 'round the first challenge I took on was ending my two-year war with bread - and won. I've successfully produced pizza dough and naan from scratch. They were even good. Tonight I finally made it to a butcher for a duck breast, brought it home, sat down with a pair of tweezers and removed the remaining feather stumps (Honestly, you'd think for $30+/kg they could take out the feather stumps. On the other hand maybe I could have left them.) and it's now nestled away in salt for the next 24 hours, before I hang it up in my basement to cure and (hopefully) yield my very first duck prosciutto.

So now seems as good a time as ever to start chronicling this journey. To spice things up a little more my ongoing challenges include cooking offal well and mastering some arts of French cooking.