Sunday, September 26, 2010

Right now, it's becoming autumn. I'm currently sitting in a laundromat washing my kotatsu quilt, and thinking about transitions.

Transitions leave me, like most people, in need of comfort.

You know what's comforting? Soup and cheese and bread.

French onion soup was something I'd seen in cans, and in "rethermalizers" where you scoop it into your bowl yourself and pay three dollars for it. It certainly wasn't a soup that was made in my house.

It turns out that onion soup is very easily made, if you can keep from crying. You see, I am from the land of sweet onions, where sulfur is so absent from the soil that if can be said "the land is sweet".

And though I have moved away from that place, I usually only use one onion at a time, and then I usually first halve them and put the cut surfaces down so that the wood of my cutting board can absorb the onion's defense.

Cutting five onions into crescents made me weep. Tears just leaked from my eyes. I may have cried aloud. Now I see why you can buy "onion goggles". Splashing my face with cold water helped a great deal.

So, aside from five sliced onions, I put a generous pat of butter, and a splash of safflower oil (to keep the butter from smoking) and a bay leaf into an electric skillet to melt and mingle. I may have also put two crushed garlic cloves in as well. It seems likely.

After the onions have cooked down and are sweet, I added a quarter of a bottle of red and about a cup of beef stock to the skillet. I let it reduce until it was almost syrupy, then ladled it into my soup crocks.

After toasting some French bread, I tucked it into the top of the crocks, and heaped grated cheese on top (I used an American Parmesan and a cheese called "Marco Pollo" which was a solid cow milk cheese with huge chunks of black pepper inbedded within).

A couple minutes under the broiler, and you have a super filling soup. It's also good with extra bread, and if you're feeling fancy, a little bit of steak cut into strips on the side.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sukiyaki and the American Girl

Recently, I made sukiyaki, a tasty if distinctively brown dish. It is composed of thinly sliced beef, mushrooms with designs carved on their caps, seared tofu, and whatever vegetables you have handy (bok choy is a great replacement for spinach). I believe the words "suki" and "yaki" break down into "whatever you like heated up".

The thing about sukiyaki is that... you're supposed to dip each bite in raw egg.

Why is that such a hesitant thing to do? An egg is a strong hold of nutrition and such a potent symbol of fertility couldn't possibly be harmful.

I think part of the problem is that I, at least, have zero contact with animals, least of all the food producing kind. I wouldn't know what to do with a live chicken. I might not know what to do with a dead but uncleaned chicken.

There's also the fact that most eggs come from concentrated animal feeding operations in conditions that cause the chickens to try to kill themselves. At least heating those eggs takes them a step away from their cruel origins, brings in a little human caring, for the product if not from its source.

Still, I buy eggs from a place that takes very good care of their birds (i.e. these chickens see the light of day and run around eating bugs and other chickenly activities). These aren't hate eggs that I would be swallowing, untransformed, unmanipulated into the core of me.

In the end, I bit the bullet (or rather, swallowed) and dipped my hot beef slice into the cold and beaten egg. It tasted just like the yolk of a fried egg. It was incredibly rich and creamy. It clung delightfully to the the treats I fished out of the sukiyaki, and the mushroom egg combination may have been the most mouth surprising combination: creamy then a sudden rush of juice.

I still can't see myself swallowing whole raw eggs like Rocky any time, but I will probably continue to dip my hot foods into beaten eggs.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Soup, soup, soup, soup

I love soup. When I am sick, I want nothing else (except maybe some lemony, honeyed tea, but never soup and tea together).

This was a variation on a Cream, Kale, and Chicken Sausage soup. It was supposed to be Tomato, Kale and Chicken Sausage soup. But you see that distinct lack of green in those handsome soup bowls? That was my forgetting about the kale part.

To make this soup, you cut some red potatoes into slices, and you fry them with thin slices of onion and garlic until just about tender. Then, you squeeze some chicken sausages out of their casings and into little balls. Then you fry them up. Toss in a bay leaf. Then you add about four cups of chicken broth, and a can of diced tomatoes. If I had been paying attention, I would have added some kale at the very end (carefully removing the leaves from the stringy stems and tearing them into very small pieces). Add a little black pepper, and some bread and you've got a delightful meal. Don't forget to fish the bay leaf out.

Since that makes a pretty big pot of soup, I added some kale to it this morning and ate it for breakfast with the last of a multi grain baguette. Who can argue against its goodness?

I know some people who are displeased with having potatoes in with the vegetables, and then having bread on the side. A double starch combination that seems unhealthy. To those, I acknowledge their correct nutritional analysis. I also remember that need a textural counterpoint against brothy soup, something dry to keep the submerged foods from becoming monotonous.

In any event, soup is delicious.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I return, dear readers! Alive and kicking (though doing so makes me cough a lot).

Above is a picture of my apfelwein, mid brew. Poor creature, attended by colder than desired brewing temperatures and a sick, and disinterested brewer. It could have been so much better...

As it is, it does have a winey taste, and it is a pale golden liquid so it is very pretty. It just lacks fizz and even a hint of sweetness. You see, I was told that by using baking yeast, and leaving my mixture to ferment for only a week, it would be left with some untransformed sugars. This was a lie.

Katharine (The Boyfriend's Mother who has revealed herself in the comments) unfortunately feels a bit ill herself, and couldn't sample my experiment. She did, however, supply me with "Irish Death" beer from the local brewery "Iron Horse Brewery".

You see, I have been slowly getting my feet wet in the world of alcohol. I am unsure of what I really like and what is "really good". Drinking a local made beer that is recommended by multiple people of taste appeals to me. The local aspect appeases my "keep your money where you live" desires, and I (perhaps to my detriment) enjoy doing what is recommended to me.

But even so, I have to sip at it. I have to tell my tongue "yes, that is alcohol. Don't worry, it won't hurt you. Now taste around it". For me, it is almost like trying to see one of those "magic eye" pictures, or listening to two sets of instructions at once. This probably accounts for the success of wine coolers.

In any event, the apple cider experiment was not a failure, because in science(!) experiments are for learning something. I have learned that I much more enjoy professionally made cider, and I should not ruin my juice.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


No real posts until such time as my nose stops leaking and I can bear to stand over the stove again.

So, here's a picture The Boyfriend drew for me for our first Christmas. I loves me some polar bears.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wing Central, or, my first time in a sports bar

Yesterday, my good friend Lisa had agreed to hang out with me. Then she found out that the Seattle Seahawks were having their first game of the season and offered to buy me lunch. Stephanie also came to watch the game. There was a T.V. at every table.

It being Wing Central, I had to pass up on the "PBJ Burger" and get the "Kung Fu Wings" instead. They were about a medium heat, which was good enough for me, and very tangy. Trying to eat these sticky wings and not get the sauce all over my phone while I took pictures was quite the feat, I'll have you know.

That's the garbage bucket.

So, we ordered "No Smoochin' Garlic fries" which were a delightful waffle fry with garlic sauce and Parmesan cheese over the top.

The waitstaff, either by virtue of being understaffed on a game day or because they didn't like us, kept forgetting about us. First they forgot the fries (which were an appetizer and thus should have been the first thing served), then they forgot my over priced beer, and it took forever to get checked out.

We left at half time to go to the bar at which Lisa's boyfriend works.

That, my friends, is delicious American heritage.

Apparently before prohibition, apples were for brewing, not for eating. I am currently dabbling in making apple cider but that's still a week away, and I wanted to drink it now. It was delicious.

My friends and I mused on how after a rhino smashed your barrel of apples you basically had to make it into cider, because they can't be kept for long after they bruise.

Long story short, Wing Central had tasty food, but was over priced and had poor service.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Rice is an amazing thing.

It's shelf life is amazing. It goes with everything. Even hard and unwashed it just looks so appetizing.

This is the Akitaotome rice that I have mentioned in passing. I have had "short grain" rice before, namely Niko Niko brand, but now I see what that actually means. This rice is almost round. That rice was more like a medium grain (probably).

Anyway, I still have not made anything where rice was more than a supporting character, but what's a meal without rice?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Zettai ni Katsu!

The title above is another attempt at a clever pun. It could be read two ways: "It's definitely katsu (pork cutlet)" or "I'll definitely win!". Who doesn't win when delicious katsu are involved?

For the katsu, I took some bone free, thinner pork chops and beat them thinner with the bottom of a heavy bottle ('cause I'm classy and have every tool I need). This also has the added bonus of making the pork tender.

A three stage dipping arrangement. Flour (spiked with black pepper and salt), beaten egg with water (I used three eggs which turned out to be too much and about a tablespoon of water), and panko (which we've discussed before).

Don't start getting nervous because now we are going to deep fry. It'll be easy, you take a large heavy pan (cast iron if you've got it) and put about an inch of high smoke point oil (canola for example) and you put your heat on about medium high. Drop a little bit of your beaten egg into the oil and if it starts sizzling immediately, it's hot enough (alternatively you can use a fry thermometer and test for about 350F). Boost the heat a little bit after you put fresh batch of food in the pan because the cold food will drop the temperature. Lower the heat after it has regained the temperature that you want.

Isn't that simple?

Deep fry the cutlets until 165 degrees F and let rest perhaps five minutes. The cooling rack keeps them suspended so they can drip and not get soggy while they cool down. When they're cool enough to handle, cut them into strips.

A little shredded cabbage and some rice are the usual companions. That brown sauce is actually labeled "Katsu Sauce". It's kind of like a BBQ sauce that tastes like Worcestershire sauce. I used to make my own, but that was by just combining other prepackaged sauces, so, in the end it all comes out in the wash.

Some people put the sauce directly on the katsu because it looks pretty. And while I agree with the aesthetic, depending on how slow you eat the sauce can make your katsu soggy, which kind of defeats the purpose of breading and frying it in the first place. I guess I'm just a "sauce on the side" kind of girl.

In any event, deep frying can definitely be done at home, and you know everything that went in there because you put it there.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Torinabe or chicken soup served with rice in a fancy dish

The lighting wasn't really working with me on this, but in real life it looked pretty good if I say so myself.

Also, still no table top gas burner, so this was just cooked in a pan and then poured into my lovely pot. We both know things just taste better out of pretty dishes.

This was a very basic chicken soup with chicken broth, sliced up chicken thigh, purple carrots (from the farmers market), and onion. Then I served it with my new fancy rice.

Also, a fun thing to note is that my nabe has about a three cup storage capacity. This means if I ever want to throw that nabe party I either need to get the much larger one I saw (which is not a money/space investment I am currently willing to make) or cooking in rounds (meet round, veggie round, repeat) which is not a bad way to do it.

The carrots are more what I imagine "real" carrots ought to be (aside from being purple) in that they have a little bit more of a sweet potato flavor and are shorter but a little fatter towards the top. In fact, these ones reminded me a little of beets from appearances alone.

The interesting thing about these carrots is that only the skin is purple, the rest is a very vivid orange. For the soup, I thoroughly scrubbed them but left the skin on. I mean, what's the point of buying purple carrots if they're not purple when you get to eat them? Plus, I'm sure there's some vital nutrient in it. I mean... it's purple.

Anyway, something that was suggested in my nabe book was when you are finished with all the goodies in the soup (a.k.a. the solids) you just ladle that rich broth on top of some rice.

So good. Will do again. The Boyfriend really liked the new rice by itself and just had the broth after he'd finished it, but I liked the chicken stock and rice combo.

If you have a favorite pan or serving dish, you should write about it in the comments.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Curry in a bag, what a quandary...

My lovely friend Lilian was visiting from Seattle on a work related project. I saved her from boredom during the time between duties for her. She preemptively rewarded me with prepackaged, "Golden Curry" curry.

Now, generally I make my own curry from scratch due to that being much cheaper than buying a curry roux brick. I will even admit I was a little hesitant about the fact that it came with vegetables (onion, carrot and potato) already in the curry gravy. It was actually pretty tasty.

I sauteed some fajita beef while I boiled the curry for the recommended time. I figured the sauce would already be generously salted, so I just let its natural beefiness take care of seasoning.

A little rice (the last of the Niko Niko rice which means I get to try the Akitaotome rice soon, but that's another blog), and then I poured the gravy over the beef.

It was about what I was expecting, and tasted almost exactly like the roux brick. The nutritional information was pretty shocking (sodium! calories!), but that package was meant for one and it was split in half, so I felt that it was an all right amount for dinner.

How do you feel about prepackaged dinners?

Friday, September 3, 2010

At the fair!

So, first off: chickens.

The Boyfriend and I went to the local fair/rodeo. The 4H group had their usual presentation of animals about. The one thing that I keep wondering but never work up the courage to ask is: are these animals meant for consumption?

I tend to be a person who lumps animals into three categories; for eating, not for eating, might be a danger. I might add that the lines can blur (snakes anyone?)

These giant, dill pickles were only 50 cents each. It was part of an "old west" exhibition that I assume the county has its hand in, considering there were also penny candies.

And there is my shadow, woefully reminding me that I am inept at taking pictures.

This was a sausage sandwich from a stand I worked at last year. The sausage ingredients are a secret recipe (even the owner's wife is in the dark), but it is a damned fine sandwich with grilled veggies on top.

on a side note, I have always wondered how places can have secret recipes. I mean, curry producers always get around it by keeping the proportions a secret, but the USDA is always like "What if someone is deadly allergic to hog jowls? They need to know if they're in there!". (I actually agree very much with the access to ingredient lists.) Maybe they just haven't caught up to him?

I also purchased a strawberry short cake and promptly devoured it without taking a single photo. It was um... whipped creamy... and um... it had some... red... strawberry bits and um... cake... underneath.

Hey look! A distraction!

Anyway, if you have some fair food memories or comments, feel free to leave them here!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day Dreams

Lately, I've had the idea that I should buy one of those carts that have a mini fridge and a heat tray in them and open my own ramen wagon.

All this cart would sell (aside from beverages) would be ramen, gyoza (pot stickers for the uninitiated), and maybe rice.

I would just set this baby up near a park in Seattle, and peddle my wares.

Do you ever have day dreams like that?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Egg Drop Soup, Egg flower soup, Egg dropping flowers soup?

To quote a commercial, I love eggs. I mean, it seems like most fields of study have some kind of reverence for them. Biology is pretty obvious, Christian faith uses it as an example of the improbability of being three in one, and if there is chef who doesn't love what miracles eggs can perform then they are probably one of those poor Vegan chefs (so hard to be Vegan!)

In any event, I finally found a video recipe for egg drop soup that showed that vital step of adding egg to soup. Most recipes basically say "Add beaten egg to soup" and that's it. With runnyrunny999's video I got to see that the soup wasn't boiling at all (not even a bare simmer). This may seem obvious to you. It wasn't to me.

I really enjoy Runny's videos. He just seems like such a sincere guy, you know? Plus, his recipes usually turn out pretty tasty and you can usually find all the ingredients fairly easily. Give his other videos a look, they're pretty funny.

So, chicken broth, beaten egg slowly poured into very hot but not boiling broth, and some scallions made a very plain jane but delicious egg flower soup which went nicely with the rice I made.

What "well duh" cooking experiences have you had?