Monday, August 30, 2010

Steak Udon Redeux

Some days, you've already cooked a decent meal, gone to work, helped clean the house and just don't feel like cooking. These are also the days when you have neither the inclination, nor the cash for eating out.

In comes the daughter of necessity, the Leftover Remake!

I actually made The Boyfriend make this meal. It's left over steak, and instant udon from a refrigerated packet with some green onion slices on top.

This isn't the usual brand of udon that I buy (I can't remember the name, but aside from this trip to my local grocer it was the only kind I could find). This is Fortune Brand udon. It's a thinner noodle, and doesn't quite have that chewy texture I crave when I'm craving udon, but the flavor was acceptable for instant soup base and the ingredients didn't make me shudder.

I bought some dried udon once upon a time, but that quickly turned into a disaster though I follow the directions to a tee. This may be why it is so hard to find. Soba (and ramen) are my go to dry, Japanese noodles.

In any event, it was a very tasty way to use up what would have been too small a cut of steak. We've all heard the "Asian cooking uses meat as a flavoring not as a main component" jive enough times, but there's a reason why cliches linger.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Soft shelled crabs, why did you grow such a delicious exoskeleton?

I went to a restaurant in Seattle (on the previous trip no less) and visited a restaurant called "Best Wok". Who could drive by such a provokingly named restaurant?

The wait staff was quite excellent, pulling out my (the lady's) chair, but not The Boyfriend's chair. They even brought out complimentary jello, which seemed a little out of place for a Chinese restaurant. I decided that it was quite all right for an American Chinese restaurant though, and had no trouble scarfing down the jiggling, red flavored desert.

I ordered the soft shelled crab with black bean sauce. That sauce was equally as good or better than the crab and the crab was no slouch either. This was my first time eating soft shelled crab, and I have to admit that its shell reminded me of the shell one might find on a shrimp. If it had not been breaded and deep fried I might have tried to shell it there and then on the table. I figure it probably added calcium or something else vital found in bone like substances. It was nicely crunchy.

Michael got the orange chicken, which was also excellent. It came with a couple slices of orange on the side. The oranges were also very good.

So, while I found the place not very authentic, I enjoyed eating strange sea creatures and well picked orange slices. Plus, how often do I get to eat jello in little parfait glasses?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Second Hand Pan

I found a seven inch, sloped side Le Creuset pan at Goodwill for $8.99. I immediately bought a $12 steak to cook in it.

I mostly followed the "Good Eats" recipe from the debut episode:coating it in salt and pepper, then doing a bear oil rub and searing for three minutes a side, but since the pan has a wooden handle, I transferred it into a preheated baking dish and then into the 500 degree oven. I had never really managed to get a good sear on my steaks before, but I'm blaming the non stick pans, as opposed to saying that the ultra expensive brand was necessary for a beautiful steak.

I semi mashed some potatoes with some carrot thrown in for healthy measure, and finished the plate off with some fresh baby spinach. The mushrooms fried in the pan drippings and butter were almost as good as the steak proper.

Another recent trip to Seattle (for The Boyfriend to look at a school) landed me back at Uwajimaya's.

In the previous visit I had purchased a donabe 土鍋 (literal earth(dirt/earthen) pot). A donabe is an earthenware pot that is unglazed on the bottom of the outside. This allows you to put it over an open flame (or a portable and therefore tabletop gas burner) with no problems. The upsides are that you can cook and eat at the table creating a very nice bonding experience. The downsides are that if the outside gets wet while it is still hot, it will crack and you will have to buy a new pot. According to the internet, the best thing to do with a cracked nabe is to give it to your cat because they like to sleep in them. Seriously, if you like cute pictures of cats, google "neko nabe".

Anyways, I still have not purchased the gas burner and am leaving that up to The Boyfriend.

This trip tricked me into buying the book "Japanese Hot Pots" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. So far the recipes make sense and the pictures are fabulous. The only problem that I have had with the book so far is that they use the word "umami". Now umami is a new fad word (bolstered by Big MSG) to denote an extra sense of deliciousness having to do with amino acids and such and has been declared "The Fifth Taste". Now, as a partaker in subbed anime, I have heard the word "Umai!" (which would be the adjective form) as just "delicious!" to accept "umami" as anything more than "deliciousness". Also, the way the authors describe this word makes me think of it more as a "wholesomeness" than as a separate taste. Bah fads.

My distaste for fad words aside, the commentaries are fun, there are neat pictures and everything sounds delicious.

I will be showing some hot pots once it gets colder and I have my gas burner.

The Almost Daily Sarah

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seattle Excursion

A friend of mine tied the knot in Seattle on Tuesday, so The Boyfriend and I dragged ourselves there. It was a lot of fun.

I spent some time in one of the smaller branches of Uwajimaya's (a Japanese import store / grocery store).

I bought some dango. As far as I know, dango are made out of mochi (which is made out of beating a cooked portion of extremely sticky rice until it is a chewy dough). These dango were stuffed with anko (sweet bean paste, which is a favorite of mine) and lotus root paste. They are probably one million calories each, but they were oh so good.

Also, because I have been eating a lot of sandwiches lately, I made a bento for work tomorrow.

I was trying to do an energy saving technique, in which you wrap up all the side dishes (in this case Beef Little Smokies, cabbage, onion, and sugar snap peas with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce) in a pouch made of tin foil set directly on top of your cooking rice. It worked well, except that my pouch sprung a leak and made my rice brown. Ah well.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

French Toast with a Berry Compote

Much to my shame, I ate all my French toast before I even thought of photographing it. And it was so pretty too! Ah well.

I haven't actually made French toast too much before now. But I felt kind of sick in my stomach and wanted a berry filled crepe, and I'm just not up to the task of crepery; technique wise or equipment wise, so French toast it was.

For the compote, I took half a bag of frozen berries, put them in a pot, and covered them with water. A few spoonfuls of sugar went in (it was very fly by the seat of my pants) and I let it cook and reduce a bit. When a potato masher did not produce the desired consistency, I took my immersion blender to it. A word of warning. Sticky hot syrup with chunks is dangerous to skin and walls. Then I did the "spoon test" and found I had a fairly thin syrup. A taste test added a little more sugar and then it was scooped into one of my prettier cups.

For the toast proper, I had some left over bread from the farmers' market (a seven grain affair) that was a little past its prime, and thus ideal for soaking then frying. I know that for authenticity's sake, I should have used a French bread, but really, this is a "waste not want not" kind of recipe, so I guess I would have been justified either way. I guess.

So, three eggs and about a cup of milk went into the bowl and were whisked together. I knew I was going to be putting the compote (I love that word) on top, so I left out any honey or sugar at this stage. I should have put a little vanilla in the mixture, but to be honest I was pretty sleepy and forgot. The bread gets put into the bath (don't forget to coat both sides!).

I heated up a pan on medium heat while the bread soaked, and melted a good pat of butter in it. After the butter foamed a little, I placed my soggy bread in it, and fried it. The smell of it all cooking (butter, egg, berries, bread) was very pleasant, in a tantalizing way.

My secret trick was to put little pats of butter on the top side of the bread after it was already flipped. Just for added... butter... nutrition?

In any event, the toast, when smeared with compote, and eaten with milk was one hundred percent satisfying, and nutritious if calorie dense. What can I say? It was a cold day yesterday.

What do you top your breakfast goods with?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Green Tea Cookies

Even though I'm supposedly dieting, I still felt the need for a nice cookie to go with my tea. I remembered somebody once talking about Earl Grey cookies, which prompted me to google "tea cookies". My queries led me to's recipe for green tea cookies.

The recipe is roughly:
2 cups 2 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp matcha (ground green tea)
1/2 of one large beaten egg

I didn't have quite enough butter, on hand, so I substituted probably half a cup of butter with cream cheese, and because I use unsalted butter, I added a 1/4 tsp of salt to the party. Someone commented that the cookies did not impart quite the amount of green tea flavor they were looking for, so I also doubled that amount.

I creamed the sugar and fat together, then the egg. After sifting the tea and flour together, I combined it with the creamed mixture.

Here's a picture of it after chilling for half an hour in the fridge.

After rolling it out in batches (due to space limitations) I stamped out little cookies using a space jar lid. I wanted dainty little cookies after all. I managed to get roughly eighty cookies out of this recipe, by rolling them fairly thin.

This here is not from the first batch of cookies. The instructions said "Place cookies on a rack, then in a baking dish". Now, if I were thinking of anything except how delicious my cookies would be, I would have thought "a cookie that is half fat keeping together long enough to bake without first melting? Silly your recipe cannot be made by normal men". The first batch had melted to the bottom of the dish before baking, encasing the rack and making me have to crumble them in order to get them off. I just put the following batches directly on the rack.

The cookies were baked at 325 F for about 10 minutes.

They're quite green, but even after doubling the recommended amount of matcha, I still think it needs more. I believe the fat coats the tongue and makes it hard to taste the delicate flavor of the tea.

What's your favorite tea cookie combination?