Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gratin Dauphinois with Sweet Potatoes

They're good and good for you. Did you know that? It's especially rich in beta carotene, providing 377% of your daily vitamin A needs per serving. And, since my eyesight is horrible with a capital h, I'm totally stoked.

So, by show of hand, how many of you follow La Tartine Gourmande? If you're not raising your hand right now, shame on you. I love Bea. She is an amazing cook and photographer.
Her food always look stunning. Hell, she can put dirt in a bowl with sprinkles on it and it'd look amazing. Anyway, I saw her post for Gratin Dauphinois maybe a week ago, and I've literally been dreaming about it.
The original recipe called for potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pink turnips. But, I couldn't find any turnips at my local grocery store, so I settled for just potatoes and sweet potatoes. It's still awesome.

Gratin Dauphinois with Sweet Potatoes (original recipe here)

2 garlic cloves, halved
1 tbs of butter
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 twig of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp of dried thyme
about 1 pound of potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 oz. of Swiss Emmental or Gruyere (I think they're more readily available than Comte.)

  1. Rub a 12 x 8.5 baking dish with two halves of one garlic clove. Then, butter it generously.
  2. Slice the halves of garlic and put at the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Heat milk, cream, the remaining garlic, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and stop the heat. Let it infuse for 30 minutes and reheat.
  5. Tightly arrange the potatoes and sweet potatoes in alternating order.
  6. Strain the milk and cream mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Keep in mind that in this step, you are seasoning the whole thing. Top with shredded cheese, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let it cool before serving.

I know that this is supposed to be a side dish, but I had it for dinner. Love the sweetness with the salty, cheesy crust. I also have a bunch of potato slices leftover. I might just make some chips with them tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Memphis, TN: Korean BBQ, Asian market, and shoes.

I went on a day trip to Memphis yesterday, as I stated in a previous post. It was great. I left Little Rock after work (yes, I'm a working girl. I make sushi at Whole Foods) at around 3 o'clock. We arrived there at around 5 o'clock and went straight to the DSW at Germantown. To all the guys that may be reading this, I like food and shoes. Just saying. I got a pair of Audrey Brooke's gladiator sandals. On sale. Blue label's 30% off, baby.

Pretty shoes.
After about an hour and a half, we were all pretty hungry. So, we commenced to DWJ Korean BBQ & Sushi Bar. We never eat the sushi though. We just go there for the barbecue. I know I told you I was excited for the soups, but it was way too damn hot for soup. So, we had barbecue--lots of barbecue.

One of the things I absolutely love about eating a Korean meal is that there are so many side dishes, or banchan. You get a lot of small plates of side dishes, and before you know it, you have a whole table full of food. Some of the more common side dishes include kimchi, fish cakes, and bean sprouts. My favorite--other than the ever-so-sacred baechu kimchi--is the potato salad. I know; it's potato salad. I don't know. There is just something about this potato salad that is absolutely wonderful. I don't know if I'm even allowed to call this a potato salad.

the very godly potato salad at DWJ
It's mashed potatoes mixed with some corn, peas, mayo and some other seasonings, I suppose.
We asked for more of this at least twice. I was kind of embarassed. But, then I ate it. Again. And, again...

So, the meat came. Or, it was more like meats. We ordered the Galbi, which is the marinated beef short ribs, Bulgogi, which is the marinated sliced steak, and Samgyupsal, which is the straight-up pork belly. Yum.
The barbecue meat is traditionally eaten in a lettuce wrap. I will now show you how I eat my galbi.

Condiments that came with the barbecue. Or, at least what was left of them.
My super awesome wrap.
There is actually no set way to eat this, or what you put in your wrap. You know, it's like a sandwich. Just put whatever you like in there. As you can see in the picture above, I added the fermented bean paste, roasted garlic, baechu kimchi (in case you don't know, baechu kimchi is the kimchi made of napa cabbage), and some rice. That's it. You just wrap it up in a nice little package and pop it in you mouth. Some people add raw garlic instead of roasting it off first on the grill, but I can't handle that. It's too pungent.
What was left of my plate after an hour and a half. Yes, I eat around the bone. Good stuff.

Amazingly, we did not overeat. At least, I didn't. I don't know if I can say the same about my brother. He ate like three bowls of rice with a mountain of pork belly and galbi. He was the designated driver for the day. I guess he had an excuse.

We went to the Asian market on North Cleveland Street. I think the name is Viet Hoa, but I'm not quite sure. To those of you who have never been to an Asian grocery store before, I have taken pictures. I mean, it's not all that different. They have your typical fruits, vegetables, meats and etc. But, many of the smaller stores don't carry household items like soap or laundry detergent. In short, they sell stuff you won't find at Walmart and Kroger.
Chicken feet (left) and pig's trotters (right)
Chicken gizzards cooked with some chilies
Cooked pig's ear with some cilantro
Cold dishes are important. If you go to an Italian market, you find prosciutto, salami, and mortadella. In an Asian market, you'd find stuff like chicken feet and pig's ears. They're not dreadful. It's good stuff, man.

My favorite part of an Asian market is the seafood section. It's also my least favorite part because, well, it smells. Like, really bad. Anyway, I assume you've seen fish in tanks before. So, I took it upon myself to document more interesting stuff.

These crabs still had some fight left in them. Especially, the one my brother was harassing.
Snails... I think.
Huge oysters
We also met a feisty little crayfish. We liked him. Or, her. Do they even have genders? I think they do. I mean, crabs do. Anyway, we named him--or her--little Johnny.
Johnny the crayfish. chomp.
OH, I almost forgot to show you my absolute favorite shot of the day.

I love fish heads. Just awesome. The purest, strongest essence of a fish. These are salmon heads by the way.
There is an Indonesian curry made traditionally with red snapper heads called Gulai Kepala Ikan. We never find a red snapper big enough for us to use the head here in the States. So, we just use salmon heads. It makes for a richer and fishier fish head curry, but it's pretty good. 

We left Memphis at around 8 o'clock and got home at around 10:30 PM. T'was a fabulous day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

happy days.

Forget your troubles (happy days)... Come on get happy (are here again)...
You better chase all your cares away (the skies above are clear again)...
Shout hallelujah (so let's sing a song)... 
Come on get happy (of cheer again)... 
Get ready for the judgement day (happy days are here again)...

Oh, nothing describes my mood right now better than this Garland-Streisand classic. I wasn't able to find the original version, but I was able to find the Glee version of this duet. Told you I was a dork. Don't judge me.

Just a couple of days ago, I got my first official paycheck! I literally jumped around in my room, and on my bed, for like ten minutes; it was a big deal. Also, as a little cherry on top, I got camera back. Yes, there will be new pictures. I'm so excited. I can't think of anything that's going to possibly rain on my parade (Hint: get used to the Streisand references).
I am also heading out to Memphis tomorrow. To eat. Korean food, specifically. I adore Korean food. I, of course, love Galbi (short ribs) and Bulgogi (marinated thinly-sliced steak). But, I am such a big fan of their soups. Seriously, you won't find a better soup culture anywhere else. There are soups with meat, seafood, kimchi, bean paste, tofu, fermented tofu, Spam, beef tendons--it goes on. You get the idea, right? Good.

OH, and my mother is in town right now. So, I've been eating well. Very well. I haven't been cooking this week, which can be either good or bad. But, at least the food is good. And, my stomach is happy. Huzzah.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raspberry Pavlova

Okay, this was my first crack at making meringue. And, as I expected, my meringue kind of failed. I remember watching Barefoot Contessa (you know, the one with Ina Garten--not the Bogart movie) and just drooling over the berry pavlova she made. And, she made it look so effortless. I'm sorry, but damn that Ina!

Whipping up the actual thing was pretty easy and not at all labor intensive since I have a giant stand mixer. But, baking the sucker was tricky. I followed the recipe I found here. And, well, you'll see.

My meringue browned and cracked! The temperature was too hot. The center was all marshmallow-y, but the outer part sort of separated from the inside, and got all crackly and crisp. I've eaten meringue before, so I know that crispy is good. But, this was not good crispy.
I didn't use Ina's recipe (found here) because I saw the reviews and got all skeptical. I saw that the meringue was to be baked at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for this recipe and thought it was too low. Well, I guess I was wrong. Forgive me, Ina. Who did I think I was to ever doubt you?
Anyway, the pavlova itself turned out semi-pretty because I lathered it with barely sweet whipped cream to cover up the bad spots. I mean, I have to say--the taste wasn't bad. Other than the crackly "crust" and chewy edges that is. Fear not, though. I'm not giving up on this thing. I'll make the perfect meringue sooner or later. I'm still young. Here's the recipe I used with modifications.


4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar (don't reduce it. the ratio of sugar to egg white is supposed to be 1/4 cups : 1 egg white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pint of heavy cream
1 tbs sugar
about 1 tsp of vanilla (I eyeballed it using the cap)
Any fruit you want

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (the original recipe said to preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Please don't do that). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a 9 inch circle on it. Turn it over. We don't want a pencil mark on our meringue!
  2. For the meringue, whisk the egg whites on high for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form. Add the sugar slowly under medium speed
  3. Turn your mixer up on high and continue beating it for 5 to 6 more minutes, or until it's glossy. Turn your mixer way down, and just stir in the vanilla, lemon juice and cornstarch. Do not overbeat.
  4. Spread the egg white mixture on your baking sheet while staying inside the 9 inch circle. I would recommend using the good sized baking sheet because this thing grows. Bake it for about 1 hour. Do not open the oven door during baking. That's how you get jacked up meringue.
  5. After the meringue is done, turn off your oven and let it rest inside the oven for at least 2 hours with the door just cracked open. This is how you get a nice, dry meringue.
  6. For the whipped cream, whip the heavy cream until it starts to thicken. Add the 1 tbs of sugar and the vanilla. This makes a barely sweet whipped cream, which was perfect since the meringue is sweet enough.
  7. After the drying period, slather your meringue with the whipped cream and top with your choice of fruit. As you can see, I chose raspberries.
I hope you have a better luck with this than I did. Tell me how you do if you decide to make this. Happy baking!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Choux a la Creme

Cream puffs. Growing up, my mom made this really often, and her cream puffs are absolutely delicious. It was kind of daunting trying to make her cream puffs. And, sure enough, my cream puffs weren't top notch.

I messed up on the dough. It was all crumbly, but I was able to put it together and spoon it on the baking sheet. I think I didn't have enough egg whites in it. The pastry cream recipe, I think, called for way too much cornstarch. The taste was great, but the textures of the pastry and the cream were not satisfactory.

As I said in an earlier post, I do not have my camera right now. So, you'll just have to believe me when I say that I made a way better batch of cream puffs yesterday. I didn't use my mom's recipe at all. Here's the good recipe.

Choux a la Creme

Pate a Choux (recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell. Find it here)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 stick of butter
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Pastry cream (original recipe here)
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 cup of sugar (originally called for 1/3 cup, but I reduced it)
2 tbs of butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
  1. To make the pastry cream, bring the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a bowl, use a hand mixer to whisk the egg yolks and egg. Add the cornstarch and the remaining sugar, and mix until the mixture is smooth and pale in color.
  3. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle into the egg mixture slowly so that you don't cook the eggs. Use a whisk for this process. Put the mixture back in the pan and slowly bring to a boil while continuously stirring.
  4. When the mixture thickens, remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a heatproof container and put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Put it in the a fridge for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. To make the dough, put water, butter and salt in a pot and heat until the butter melts completely.
  7. Add the flour all at once and stir until the dough forms a ball. Dump into a bowl and let it sit for a couple of minutes before incorporating the eggs.
  8. After a couple of minutes, mix in the eggs one at a time using a mixer to ensure that the dough is evenly combined. You should end up with a pasty, sticky dough.
  9. You can either use a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag to pipe the dough on to the baking sheet. Or, you can do what I did, and just spoon it on. Whatever you do, leave at least one inch between each puffs. They grow! Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  10. After both the pastry cream and the pastries are cool, cut the pastries horizontally and fill away.
The pastry was light and it puffed up really well. The pastry cream was just the right consistency, and the recipe actually makes twice the amount you'll need to fill the profiteroles. So, I'm making some fruit tarts tomorrow (inspired by La Cuisine d'Helene's Parisian Fruit Tarts).

Tomato and Spinach Pizza

People look at me weird when I tell them that my favorite pizza does not have tomato sauce on it. Oh, and it doesn't have meat on it either. I love tomato and spinach alfredo pizza. When people think of good pizza, they generally think of red sauce, mozzarella cheese, and some basil on top--in other words, pizza Margherita. Don't get me wrong; it's great! But, when I think of good pizza, I think of white sauce, thick tomato slices, perfectly cooked spinach, and cheese.

One of my friends came over that day, and I decided to make everything from scratch. I'm so proud of myself. I used a really easy dough recipe I found here, and the pizza turned out so good. The crust was crispy, and the dough was so easy to work with. I shocked myself.

Unpretentious is good.

I love it when things are just straight-forward and delicious. What's more unpretentious than chocolate cake? I certainly can't think of anything else. It's the most homey and comforting dessert.

I think I was feeling a little under the weather when I made this cake. Because if you have a cold, eat some chocolate cake. I used a recipe I found here and the cake turned out moist and delicious. If you look at the recipe, it called for water. I replaced it with strong Indonesian coffee instead (Indonesian pride, woot woot!).
I also whipped up just a basic buttercream icing to go along with it. Sounds good, no?

Revisiting my childhood

The first thing I learned to cook by myself when I was little was roasted chicken. I know, most American kids learn to back cookies, brownies, etc. I'm Asian. What did you expect? Don't say sushi.
Anyway, my dad taught me how to make roasted chicken with a hoisin sauce based marinade.

It had been years since I made this. And, sure enough, the taste was different. It was edible, sure. And, it was pretty damn good, but I remember it being so much better back when I was 6 years old. meh. Maybe I didn't know any better back then. But then again, I might be losing my touch. Scary.

Tomatoes are good.

They are absolutely wonderful.
I've always dissed Food Network people whenever they make any kind of salad, but especially tomato salad *cough* Rachel Ray *cough*. Anyway, I bought some tomatoes. And, I made tomato salad.

I admit; I made this after I had just watched Julie & Julia for the fifth time (just because I was not swept up by it, it doesn't mean I don't love it). Anyway, it was... good. It was just tomatoes, sliced shallot, salt, pepper, parsley and some oil. What a good little afternoon snack. I was truly enlightened.

Making up for lost time

So, I am about to say something really lame. I don't have my camera right now. My mom is off on a vacation with my aunt, and she swindled me out of it. On the bright side, I've been cooking and taking pictures long before this blog even started.

One of the first things I tried to cook were crepes. I was kind of apprehensive, but I winged it anyway. And, it turned out great. I was really impressed with myself. I thought, wow, I can really do this.

Crepes (original recipe here)

2 eggs
1 cup of milk
2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine eggs, flour, milk, salt and oil. Process until smooth, but do not over mix. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brush with either oil or butter. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter and tilt the pan until its surface is coated completely. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown, and flip once. Repeat with the remaining batter.

My mom was really impressed too. She doesn't even know how to make this thing. It delights me to know that I have one-upped her on something. I tasted the crepes as they were, and well, they were kind of bland. So...

I put condensed milk on it. Yum.

First and foremost...

Most people start food blogs like this very one because they love food. They simply can't get enough of it. If they're not already cooking or eating for a living, then they are young people who want to cook or eat for a living.

I am not one of them.

I love food. I do. Why the hell would I be here if I didn't? It's a wonderful thing.
But, I am not that girl. I did not change my future career path because I was swept up by Julie & Julia, and I certainly don't plan on going to culinary school, or becoming a chef.
I cook because, well, I'm bored. I live in a small city, and to be honest, there isn't much to do here.
So, I make food. My family has always been big on cooking, and I guess it's about time I joined my mother and my grandmother as "the cooks" of the family. It feels all too much like a right of passage. I can just imagine my grandmother standing in our tiny kitchen, knighting me with a wooden spatula, and uttering the words: "You, my child, are now a woman. Huzzah."