Monday, December 28, 2009

Boxing Day Dinner

Boxing day? yes that's right, the English holiday held on the day after Christmas. On this day at my moms house I helped prepare dinner, I chose to cook Swordfish which I brought with me from a San Francisco seafood vendor. The fish was long line caught in the waters off of Santa Barbara California. To start I crushed fennel and coriander seeds in a stone mortar which I sprinkled on the Swordfish loins with salt and pepper. Next I pan seared the fish with extra virgin olive oil till golden and then placed in the oven to finish cooking, but not for too long, because overcooked swordfish can become tough and dry. While the fish was being prepared a relish of red onions and capers was made with the addition of vinegar and sugar for a sweet and sour flavor. After the fish came out of the oven it was sliced and placed on a platter with the relish on the side. I liked it a lot, juicy and firm with a mild meaty flavor.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iceland Memories

I went to Iceland a few years back and really liked it, I liked being in a part of the world that a lot of people haven't visited yet, lucky for me it was not winter yet and the weather was good. This Nordic country is surrounded by the Icy North Atlantic ocean is famous for its seafood. The thing to eat in Iceland is the famous Icelandic lobster also known as Norway lobster or Langoustine. You will get a huge platter of them and simply prepared is the best way. They are like giant prawns with a sweet lobster flavor. A great restaurant to try is Humarhusid Restaurant, Amtmannsstigur 1, 101 Reykjavik, (+354) 561 3303. So you will have to stop in Reykjavik next time you are crossing the pond.

The Perfect Food Memory

I like to eat just about everything and I eat foods from just about every country of the world, but I think the one food that I can eat everyday (and try to) is a crispy pork Carnitas taco. All my favorite flavors come together in every bite. The layers of flavor start with salty, fatty and crispy braised pork on a soft warm corn tortilla with a big dollop of avocado, chopped jalapeno and lots of cilantro, finished with a scatter of small diced white onions. I love it! It takes me back to street taco stands in Baja Mexico where we would give the cook some money and say "keep them coming" a few beers and maybe a shot of tequila with the cook and a food memory is made.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stuffed Braised Cabbage

Stuffing on Napa Cabbage leaves
In Broth, Ready to Braise

Savory, Tender and Flavorful

Today is December 21st, the first day of Winter with the shortest day of sunshine. Now that its officially Winter, I had the idea of doing a classic cold weather dish. Stuffed cabbage slowly braised till tender. There are three ways I thought of how I shall make them. The first idea is using ground pork and rice with a tomato sauce or a Asian style with ground pork, mushrooms, ginger and rice in a soy sauce broth, I did the Asian way this time and it was really good and easy to make.

8 Napa cabbage leaves
1/4 pound Ground pork
1 pinch Cilantro, chopped
1 small knob Ginger, grated
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
Dash Soy Sauce
2 Shitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Jasmine rice, Uncooked
1. Cut off whole leaves from stem and blanch in boiling water til soft, lay flat on work surface.
2. Make the stuffing with the rest of the ingredients.
3. Lay a spoon full of stuffing in the middle of a cabbage leaf.
4. Gather sides and roll up, place in pot.
5. Add a broth of water, soy sauce and ginger.
6. Simmer with lid on for about 20 minutes.
YIELD = 8 rolls

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pork Belly

Raw Pork Belly
Cooked Pork Belly
Crispy Pork Belly Strips

Most people can not get enough bacon and the trend in the last few years has been cooking pork bellies. This is the cut of pork from what bacon is made from, it is a large belly flap with thick layers of fat and meat. The belly needs a long and slow cooking time to make the meat tender. I used a spicy pork stock and my pressure cooker to speed up the process which took only about an hour. The result was a thick and tender piece of pork ready for the next step. The big slabs were cut into smaller pieces and I placed them in a pan to slowly fry in its own fat at a low temperature, it becomes crispy and golden on the outside and very tender and juicy on the inside. This is pork at its best and can be served any way you would use bacon.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dungeness Crab in Thai Coconut Curry

Thai Coconut Crab Curry

Dungeness crab season has arrived to the West coast and in San Francisco its a much welcomed Winter tradition. The common way its enjoyed is simply cooked and cracked with loaves of sourdough bread and local white wine, that's fine for me, but sometimes I like to try something a little different. Today I chose to make a quick Thai style coconut curry which the crab was tossed in and served with steamed rice. Very rich, spicy, fragrant and good.
Thai Style Coconut Crab Curry
1 whole cooked, cleaned and cracked Dungeness Crab
1 4 inch piece of lemon grass, crushed
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 small knob ginger, chopped fine
1 teaspoon yellow Thai curry paste*
1 5.6 oz can of coconut milk*
1 dash fish sauce*
1/2 jalapeno, sliced thin
dash vegetable oil
3 kaffir lime leaves*
juice of one lime
1 big pinch cilantro, chopped

1. In a wok or large sauce pan heat the oil.
2. Add all the herbs, paste, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, cook for a minute.
3. Add coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice and crab.
4. Toss crab in simmering sauce as it reduces and thickens.
5. Serve with steamed rice and chopped cilantro.

* Available at specialty or Asian Markets

Julia Child and Cookbooks

I recently saw the new movie Julie & Julia which is based on a modern writer cooking her way through Julia Child's ground breaking book Mastering the art of French Cooking. I know of Julia's story well and have even seen Julia's real kitchen on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, she is credited with making classic french cooking accessible to the common people. It got me thinking of what cookbooks inspired me to learn more about cooking. My early cookbooks were classic french cooking from famous chefs like August Escoffier and Paul Bocuse, later I bought a lot of Jacque Peppin books which were my favorite because of his style of explaining cooking technique's with lots of photographs, I even met him once a few years back and was very impressed by his simple but professional approach to cooking. Now I buy cookbooks with more specialized subjects like foods from certain regions of the world or restaurant cookbooks. I have a lot of books and looking at them now, give me memories of the foods they inspired me to cook.