3.27.2012

Breakfast for Dinner: Corned Beef Hash and More

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I know I didn't mention much about St. Patrick's Day, but it was great. Our friend came over and cooked. First she did all the shopping. Then there was some incident with her keys getting locked in the car. But eventually, she came over and cooked. And I watched Treme. Like three hours of Treme while she busied herself in the kitchen. Then we sat down and she served us dinner. And later, while the rest of us lounged, drinking our obligatory Guinness beers, she did the dishes. It was like being on vacation, but better, because I got to sleep in my own bed, not spend any money and there was no pile of dirty vacation laundry!

But there's more, my friends. There was a trip to the local pub. The crowd was weird, with talk of rape drugs, Karate moms, and the Valley. So, after a couple of drinks, the husband and I walked home in the pouring rain, and sat by our fireplace drying off. Cozy.

But it gets better. There were leftovers. A nice chunk of corned beef and potatoes. So, I decided to make corned beef hash. When done right, one of my favorite breakfast dishes. And by right, I mean not from a gross can. I happened to mention my dinner plans to some friends, and they happened to stop by with a bottle of rosé. Also known as breakfast wine.

But breakfast is not really breakfast without eggs and pancakes. So, we had both. Fresh eggs from the above-mentioned friends, who recently got chickens. And Korean kimchi and squid pancakes. My best Korean pancakes to date. I also stir fried some yellow squash, shiitakes and onions. Just for the fun of it.

Everything was delicious. The fresh eggs were rich and pretty. The hash was hashy, in a good way. The squid and kimchi pancakes might have been my favorite, savory and light. And the vegetables, well, they were good for us. A pretty successful breakfast dinner, if I shall say so myself.

3.26.2012

Sweet and Spicy Pork Chops & Potatoes with Kale

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As I sit here sipping on this sorta-medicinal ginger tea the husband picked up today, I'm amazed at how much I don't recall. I do not suffer from memory loss. Generally, I can remember events in great detail. But, it's hard to remember the day-to-day. What happened two weekends ago? What did we eat for for Christmas? I have a hard time answering these questions, and often reference this little blog, which serves as a time machine. So friends, I'm not simply blogging for you. I'm here documenting the mundane, the everyday meals, so I can look back and recall days and meals that obviously meant something, even if that something didn't last for very long.

I bring this up not because I'm feeling philosophical, but because I couldn't recall the last time we had pork chops! Obviously, I don't post every meal on here.There are many a night where my can of beans, or salad just don't flirt with the camera and never make it outside of the kitchen, but pork chops are a different story. And after searching around, it seems the last time I prepared chops was back in June. It was my first time brining. An important event. Yet, so quickly forgotten.

I have no clue why we haven't cooked pork chops since June. I mean, we've eaten plenty of pork, don't get me wrong, but I really enjoy a big, juicy pork chop, and it troubles me that its been nine months since I've prepared them at home. Nine months! That's a whole baby right there.

Now that I've put things into perspective, let's get back to the present-day pork chop dinner. (This tea by the way, is super gingery, and is distracting my thought process.) So these chops, were brined overnight. A few minutes before they were seared in my new cast-iron grill pan, I rubbed them with honey, roasted garlic salt, and Cayenne pepper. Pretty simple. I was a little light with the pepper, and could have used more, as these were thick chops. But overall, the flavors came together nicely.

Alongside these juicy chops, I threw some kale and boiled potatoes into a hot pan, browning the vegetables with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. This impromptu side dish was a hit. And I definitely won't be waiting nine months to make it again. Unless I forget it that is.

3.25.2012

Korean Chicken Drumsticks and Smashed Potatoes

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In an effort to eat better quality meat, we have slowly decreased our weekly meat consumption. Because quality, is not cheap. This probably is best for everyone involved. For us, that means more tofu and greens. For the animals, it hopefully means a better quality life.

When I was shopping for organic chicken a few weeks ago, I can across a package of drumsticks. Somehow, I never really think of buying just drumsticks, but the price was right, and I thought, why not? Surely, I'll figure out something to do with them. And I did. I decided to make them Korean.

I'm sure there are great recipes out there for Korean-style chicken, but I made this one up, using the Korean favorites -- pepper paste, pepper flakes, sesame oil, soy sauce, scallions and sesame seeds. I combined these ingredients together, tasting and adjusting along the way, coated my drumsticks with the marinade, then left them to hang in the fridge for several hours.

I baked the chicken at 350 degrees for about an hour. So, the verdict? The marinade was delicious. Spicy, but well-balanced. However, the husband and I both agreed these would have probably been tastier on the grill. Drumsticks will be back on the menu soon, and I'll report back.

Now for the potatoes, I saw this recipe in some magazine I can't recall, and thought, that seems dumb! Why boil and bake? But, when I came across these perfect little Yukon gold potatoes, another why not arose. First, I boiled my potatoes for about 20 minutes, until they were cooked, but still firm. Then I transferred them to a cookie sheet, smashed each potato with a fork, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with fancy soy sauce salt and pepper, and popped the injured-looking potatoes in the oven at 350, for about 20-25 minutes. And, they were amazing. Crispy, creamy and a perfect accompaniment to the chicken. Who knew? I guess I did, that's why I made the dinner. But, I wasn't like 100% sure.

3.22.2012

Chorizo Tacos From Scratch

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I remember the day the husband declared he was going to take on sausage-making. I rolled my eyes, said something funny and mean, and walked away. I also recall the day the husband received his hand-crank grinder as a gift. I was not thrilled. Where would we store this beast? Who's going to clean it? Yet here I am, publicly admitting that sausage-making at home is pretty darn cool. 

I realized, early on, that the husband's ambitions only went so far. And he needed someone by his side breaking down the meat, measuring out spices, and getting their hands dirty. He provided the vision and muscle, the rest had to come from elsewhere. I unwillingly stepped up, being the only other person in the room, and despite being totally grossed out by the natural casings, which are very, how can I say this nicely... slimy, and condomesque, I enjoyed the process. And, my spicing instincts, were fairly distinguished. It's like I was born to spice sausage. 

Here we are, two years later, spending our weekends grinding our own meat, by hand. On this most recent occasion, we joined forces with a friend, and made 16 pounds of chorizo. Our version is less greasier than what you'd find in the store, and much spicier. And I don't mean spicy hot, although its definitely got a nice hotness, but spicy flavorful. 

My favorite way to eat our chorizo is in tacos. We kept this meal pretty simple -- homemade beans with queso fresco, blackened jalapeños, avocado, and of course the delicious tacos, juicy and fragrant, topped with two kinds of onions, cilantro, and salsa. 

Recently, we hosted the father-in-law and uncle for brunch, as a thank you for their handy work around the house. We served our chorizo tacos, and the father-in-law kindly paid us this compliment, while eating seconds and thirds, "When you said Mexican food, I thought eh, really? But man, these are sooo good." So there you have it, better than EH!
If you have extra time on your hands, and are eager to try sausage-making at home, you could find the original recipe here, and our adjustments, here.

3.20.2012

The Yard in Bloom

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Before the rains and winds of last weekend, Altadena was enjoying Spring. Early Spring. The weather was in the 80s, the bees were out doing their thing, and our yard was in bloom. The husband and I, inspired by all the color and sunshine, visited nurseries and got our hands dirty with yard work. I was even able to convince Mr. Farmer to buy a few marigolds, or ornamentals as he calls them, to plant out front. Sure we can't eat these, but they make me smile.
Bringing color indoors with ranunculus.

Stir Fry with Beef and Snow Peas

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A lot has happened since my last post. Where do I start?
1) My favorite co-worker left the nest and I no longer see her on a daily basis.
2) The husband and I celebrated yet another anniversary -- 16 years have passed since our first kiss at the Whittier Public Library. Yikes.
3) I finally joined Pintrest.
4) Oh, and I met and fell in love with Tom Welling. I mean 16 years is a pretty good run. So, I'm not feeling too guilty.

I'd love to dwell about my new found love. And have been. But, my friends, coworkers and husband are pretty tired of hearing about it. The husband advised that I live with the "pain of my desire quietly" (I am quoting him), and eventually it will fade. So here I go. Let's talk about this stir fry folks!

This was one of the first recipes I pinned on Pintrest. It's from Pioneer Woman. And it's pretty good, packing a lot of flavor for a quick marinade. Perfect for the weeknight. I made just a few little changes. First, I added a lot more green onions, because we have a forest of them growing in our yard. And second,  I added garlic. Because really, you should always have garlic in a dish like this. Otherwise, the below recipe is word-for-word from Ree's site.

Now back to dealing with my desire, quietly.

Beef With Snow Peas

1-1/2 pound Flank Steak, Trimmed Of Fat And Sliced Very Thin Against The Grain
1/2 cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Sherry Or Cooking Sherry
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
8 ounces, weight Fresh Snow Peas, Ends Trimmed|
5 whole Scallions, Cut Into Haf-inch Pieces On The Diagonal
Salt As Needed (use Sparingly)
3 Tablespoons Peanut Or Olive Oil
Crushed Red Pepper, For Sprinkling
2-3 cloves of minced garlic

1) In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Add sliced meat to bowl and toss with hands. Set aside.
2) Heat oil in a heavy skillet (iron is best) or wok over high heat. Add snow peas and stir for 45 seconds. Remove to a separate plate. Set aside.
3) Allow pan to get very hot again. With tongs, add half the meat mixture, leaving most of the marinade still in the bowl. Add half the scallions and garlic. Spread out meat as you add it to pan, but do not stir for a good minute. Turn meat to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a clean plate.
4) Repeat with other half of meat, allowing pan to get very hot again first. After turning it, add the first plateful of meat, the rest of the marinade, and the snow peas. Stir over high heat for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Check seasonings and add salt only if it needs it. Mixture will thicken as it sits.

Serve immediately over rice. Sprinkle crushed red pepper over the top to give it some spice.

3.14.2012

Kimchi Pancakes and Fried Tofu

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Sometimes when you don't plan for dinner, you end up with delicious snack meals. I love Korean pancakes. There are variations with mung beans, seafood or kimchi. These kimchi pancakes were fuss-free and full of flavor. In fact, I've made them several times since my initial attempt, and now we're all out of kimchi. With Korean-style spinach on the side, we had ourselves a simple vegetarian dinner.

The tofu was even easier. Use firm, or extra firm tofu, and pan fry in peanut oil on both sides. It takes about seven minutes per side, and you've got crispy, delicious tofu.
Kimchi Pancakes

1 cup Korean pancake mix (or 1 cup flour)
1/4 cup rice flour
1 egg
1 cup water (1/4 cup more if not using juice from kimchi)

1 cup thinly sliced kimchi (fully fermented)
1/4 cup juice from the kimchi (if available)
handful of sliced scallions
1/2 small onion, sliced
Vegetable or grape seed oil for pan frying

1) Prepare batter by mixing the first four ingredients.
2) Add the remaining ingredients and mix.
3) Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium low heat. Ladle the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly into a round shape. Cook until the bottom is light golden brown (about 4 minutes). Flip, adding more oil, press it down with a spatula, and cook for another 3 minutes until the other side is light golden brown. 
4) Repeat the process until there is no remaining mixture.

Serve with a dipping sauce. My dipping sauce contained soy sauce, rice vinegar, a few drops of sesame oil and scallions.