Kimchi and Squid Pancakes + Pantry Re-org

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I've been avoiding cleaning out my pantry for weeks. Even though this is the kind of household task I'd normally enjoy, I've been feeling sluggish and wanting to spend all my free time on the couch, watching Downton Abbey and knitting. But, one glorious morning, I decided not only will I finally reorganize the out-of-hand pantry, but also make myself some Korean pancakes.

Typically, I'd stick to just kimchi in my pancake, but, I had some seasoned squid, and decided to go all out. The mixture is part rice flour, part regular flour, and then you add in water and your ingredients to get a nice pancake batter consistency. I don't measure anything, I just play around until it feels right.

I use peanut oil and a cast iron pan to get a nice crisp outer layer. And make a little dipping sauce with soy sauce and sesame oil. These make for a great snack, morning or night.
Obviously not a gluten-free home.
The pantry clean-up took longer than expected, but it sure felt good afterwards. Now why can't I get that same satisfied feeling after a workout?

Monday Night Fried Oysters

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This little dinner was inspired by a baby. Or lack thereof. After visiting our friends and their newborn, we were inspired by our babyless freedom. Their tired faces made me crave oysters. So, I made a trip to Whole Foods, bought some Washington oysters, and fried them up for a quick and fancy Monday night meal that included a chopped salad and champagne.

Although this process is a bit messy, it's worth the effort, especially when the husband is on clean-up duty. I coated the oysters in flour, eggs and seasoned panko crumbs (I season mine with parsley and paprika). Minutes later, you got yourself a crisp and gooey little oyster. A highly satisfying mid-week meal. Make sure you don't forget to cheers to your friends babies!


Old Fashioned

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I like cocktails, especially whiskey cocktails. Recently, I purchased some rye whiskey, and guess what? It's kind of hard to sip on it's own. So when the husband requested an old fashioned, I was excited to put the rye whiskey and my bartending skills to good use.

I ended up making two versions of this cocktails, one with bourbon and one with the rye, just to see what the difference was. The bourbon version was smoother, but in the end, I liked them both. I also strayed from the classic recipe a bit by adding some maraschino cherry juice, a few splashes of mineral water and using a pomelo orange.

If you have some rye whiskey hanging out in your bar, I suggest you make your self an old fashioned. Wikipedia informed me that this is the drink of choice for Mad Men's Don Draper, as it used to be very popular in the 1960s. It has since fallen out of favor. And that's really a shame. I'm going to do my part in bringing it back.

Old Fashioned

2 maraschino cherries, plus some cherry juice
2 slices of orange
1 teaspoon sugar or 1 small sugar cube
1 or 2 dashes of angostura bitters
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
mineral water

Muddle 1 cherry, 1 orange slice, and the sugar and bitters in a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Remove the orange rind. Add the whiskey and ice; stir. Top off with a little bit of mineral water. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.

Oxtail Stew

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On a recent trip to the Korean market, I couldn't resist the pretty oxtails at the meat counter. On a cold day, there's nothing more comforting than the house smelling of meat braising in wine. And it's been chilly, so braising was in order.

This was a no fuss recipe that pretty much cooked itself after the initial chopping and meat browning. The most difficult part was straining the sauce, but that's only because of my weak wrists. The husband was suspicious of the straining, but quickly won over. You get a silky, smooth sauce with no mushy veggies. I served the oxtails and the sauce over egg noodles with red wine. It was delicious.
Oxtail Stew
(I read a lot of recipes, and then decided to do my own thing)

2.5 lbs of oxtails
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves
handful of pear onions
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups of red wine
2 cups of chicken stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

orange peel from one orange
3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cloves

1) Salt and pepper oxtails and drench in flour that has been sprinkled with some paprika. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides. Set meat aside.
2) Add more oil to pan, along with onions and garlic, saute and scrape the brown bits. After a few minutes, all the remaining veggies, more oil and cook for 5 or so minutes. Then, mix in tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Return meat to pan, along with your bouquet or aromatics. Add wine, stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 or more hours until the meat is tender. Check every 30 or so minutes and rotate the meat.
4) Remove oxtails, and strain the sauce, discarding the vegetables and bouquet  (I kept the little pearl onions). Return sauce to the pan to thicken and season. You want a nice consistency, that's not too thin or thick. During the last 5 minutes, add the meat back in.

Serve over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.


Tangerine Marmalade

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One of my favorite things that my grandmother used to make was marmalade. She used whatever peels we had at home, mostly tangerines, sometimes oranges, and work her magic. In the end, we'd have delicious marmalade. It had great texture, wasn't too sweet and tasted great over toast or cream cheese.

Unfortunately, I never paid any attention to her cooking as a kid, and this makes me sad, because I have no clue how she made her marmalade so delicious. I have some suspicions. I believe she used only the peels and not any of the fruit. I also think she probably added some liquor. It's an Armenian thing.

So my in-laws have a tangerine tree. And the husband and I have been talking about making jam. Free tangerines gave us that extra motivation. Besides my recent adventure with cranberry sauce/jam, I do not have much experience with cooking fruit. My goal was not to set out to recreate my grandmother's marmalade, I just wanted to find an easy recipe I wouldn't screw up. Surprisingly, Martha Steward had the answer.

This recipe was so simple, I was initially a little scared. Fruit, sugar, water. That's it. And although in the end, the result was a tasty and obviously very natural marmalade, next time I would change things up. For one thing, I think I would use my grandmother's peel only or mostly peel approach. I think you end up with better texture. Also, booze couldn't hurt, a nice cognac or brandy. And possibly some lemon zest. I won't be making marmalade again anytime soon, so I have some time to think things over. This was however, a good starter recipe, and makes for a nice holiday treat.

I've been enjoying my marmalade over cottage cheese in the mornings while thinking about my grandma and her loving and judgement look. I think she would applaud my efforts. I think.
Tangerine Marmalade
via www.marthastewart.com

3 pounds tangerines (about 18), unpeeled, washed, ends trimmed, and cut crosswise into thin slices
4 cups sugar

1) Place a small plate in freezer. In a large pot, bring tangerines and 6 cups water to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium and cook at a rapid simmer until tangerine peels are tender, 20 minutes.
2) Add sugar, increase heat to medium-high, and stir until sugar dissolves. Return to a boil and cook, stirring often, until mixture is thick and darkens slightly, 40 to 45 minutes. To test for doneness, drop a spoonful on frozen plate and freeze 2 minutes. Marmalade is done if it has a slight film that wrinkles when pushed with a finger. If it spreads out and thins immediately, continue cooking. Transfer marmalade to airtight containers, cover, and let cool completely.

To store, refrigerate marmalade up to 1 month, or freeze, up to 6 months. 

I actually canned mine properly, since I was planning of giving these out as gifts. I think Martha would approve.


Celebrating with Pork

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Last year, the husband got two fancy dinners in honor of his 30th birthday. This year, he still got two dinners, but things were a bit more casual and I didn't spend four days in the kitchen, half of the time with no electricity, trying to decide what to do with our homemade ice cream. Nope, that wasn't stressful at all.

Dinner number two involved pork butt and friends. A quiet evening at home, with a fire and lots of beer.
The husband requested a Christmasy tasting pork. I think I delivered. I seasoned the pork with cloves, mace, cinnamon and a dozen of other spices, slow cooked it in Porter beer, and shredded it for tacos.
  The homemade pickled onions turned delicious pork tacos into extra delicious tacos.
 And we had a baby pay a special visit. She cried a lot, then left.
 The gentlemen above, and the ladies below. Two different sides of the room, like middle school dances.
Our friend wouldn't leave and spent the night. You let someone house sit once, and they think they own the place. 

Fall to Winter Transition

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I know what you're going to say, it's not winter yet. But, I don't care. Close enough. I've been a little negligent of this blog. It took me a month to adjust to being back from vacation. And then I got busy. And maybe a little lazy, but mostly busy. And during this month, a lot happened. Too much to cover in individual posts, so this is a quick overview of recent highlights.
There was Thanksgiving. Delicious Thanksgiving.  And then there was lots of leftovers, including a turkey carcass that was transformed into turkey noodle soup.
We celebrated our 2nd house anniversary with homemade pasta and scallops. 
It finally cooled down and even rained for a few days. We took advantage of the gloomy weather to explore the cemetery in our hood. It's really old and interesting, and a dog tried to attack us there. The husband claims it was a ghost dog.

Our friend and the husband celebrated their 31st birthdays. For her birthday, we took a boat ride through Naples in Long Beach. It was a sparkly night, where there might have been an almost accident in the canals. Almost.

The husband celebrated twice, once with Korean food and the second time with tacos, more on that to come soon.
 We explored the Devil's Gate Dam off the 210.
I learned how to use the panorama feature on my iphone while I watched the husband plant the winter garden.
And, we've decorated and await the many holiday festivities.