Saturday, November 21, 2015

Early Happy Thanksgiving from Down Under!

One of my friends gathered all of us expats and folks that formerly resided in North America to celebrate an early Thanksgiving dinner. It's kind of weird having Thanksgiving where the day before was 108F and there aren't turkey's at the grocery stores. But I was thankful to be able to celebrate with new friends.

It was a great dinner, very healthy and vegetarian friendly as turkey day dinner goes. We had (from the left): Tomato mac and cheese, Sesame sautéed green beans, Tofu Turkey, Smoked turkey, Cornbread stuffing, Lemony Brussel Sprouts, Shiitake truffle quinoa pilaf, Mandarine Spinach salad with vinaigrette,  and Carrot and Cauliflower mash. For dessert, pecan pie squares and pumpkin pie (like from a real pumpkin not the can.)

What a delicious meal! The only thing we were missing was a football game on the television so we could pass out from all the food. It was a great way to quell that homesick feeling from being away for the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving yall!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hainanese Chicken and Rice Bento

I've been working on easy to cook lunches that I can put together during the week. Usually my bentos are made during the weekend when I have a bit more time to shop, prep and cook. I like this particular bento because a lot of the work is set and forget and doesn't require a lot of active prep time which gives me more time to unwind after work. I've made Hainanese chicken in the past (wow it's been 5 years) it's basically a poached chicken. I say "basically" but that description doesn't do the humble dish justice, it's got a lot of flavor and a great simple protein meal. Certainly, such a dish can easily be done sous vide couldn't it? After a bit of searching there were lots of different variations so apparently I wasn't the first to come up with the idea. Oh well.

As I said the ingredients are simple. The top for the poaching packets: Green onion, ginger, salt and chicken breast. The bottom picture is the sauce: rice wine, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and some garlic. Yup that's it. Hainanese chicken is usually skin on and whole bone in chicken mainly because it produces a flavorful oily poaching liquid. Since I was holding at temp for a while, I figured we could go with skinless as we'll be adding more flavor from a longer poaching time on the chicken and aromatics. It's also worth noting for the sauce the longer it sits the more garlic flavor you'll get. It's fine if you're cooking this for dinner but if you can let it sit for overnight it'll be even better. I've still got a batch in the fridge, since it's vinegar, salt, alcohol (three things all bacteria hate) I felt pretty safe in storing it longer term.

I sliced up the ginger into thin rounds (maximize that surface area) and the green onions into 1.5 inch segments and dropped them in with the chicken breast (which I salted ) and added 1 cup of liquid to the pouch and used the "water displacement" method for sealing the bag. The water in the bag is important because you're going to be using this for your rice.

I set the nomiku to 146 and when I had the water I temperature I dropped in the bags and let it go for about 1.5 hours. Minimum you want an hour but you can go as far as four hours if you've got things to do.

Once done, I strained out the liquids from the bag directly into my rice cooking pot, until I had enough liquid to cook the rice. In this recipe I did four chicken breast which worked out to be enough water to cook to the "four cup" level on my rice cooker pot. (kind of convenient). I hit the button on the magic rice cooker pot and let it do it's magic.

After I let the chicken rest, I sliced it up 3/4 inch thick. For the sauce I went with 1/4 cup of Soy sauce and vinegar and 2 tbsp of the rice wine and 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped.

The rice came out very flavorful, maybe not quite as flavorful as cooking with a bunch of rendered chicken fat, but I think it's a reasonable trade off for a healthy version of this dish.  All told active cooking time might have taken me about an hour including washing up and boxing everything. (I microwaved steamed the broccoli) I even had time to watch an episode of Dr Who on the dvr, not too shabby.

Sous vide Hainanese Chicken
4 boneless skinless Chicken breast
3 green onions
2 inch piece of ginger

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp rice wine "Michiu"
2 cloves garlic

Fill your sous vide device with water and set the temperature to 146F.

Slice green onions into 1.5 - 2 inch pieces including the greens. Peel and slice ginger into thin rounds. Divide both into 4 equal portions

Salt the chicken breast on both sides and place in sealable plastic bag with a portion of ginger and onion. Add one cup of water and seal the bag with "water displacement method".

When your water bath is at temperature drop in your chicken packets. Let cook for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours.

For the sauce: roughly chop garlic and combine in a bowl with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and rice wine.  (this can be ahead to develop the flavor)

When Chicken is done, strain the liquid and reserve for cooking rice and let rest. Slice in to 3/4" medallions and serve with Sauce

For rice:
measure 4 cups (roughly 3 cups uncooked, depends on your rice cooker). Fill rice cooker pot with reserved liquid to instructed mark on rice cooker. If you don't have enough top it off with water. Cook according to instructions.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Short fast bento

Sorry for the short post. Had to put something together for lunch, nothing special. Corned beef with Sauteed zucchini, shitake, king oyster mushroom and steamed broccoli.

Longer post to come on Hainanese Sous vide chicken breast.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Event: Night Noodle Market

So for the next two weeks (Oct 8th - 25th) the Night Noodle Market is on at the north end of Hyde Park just a stone's throw away from our apartment. It's part of the Good Food Month put on by the Sydney Herald.

It's quiet an attraction there's lots of different food stalls and a ton of people. Not quite at the scale of the night markets I visited in Taiwan but it's certainly a lively event. Lots of food and beer/wine/cider to be had

There were various stages for sitting and eating, as well as DJs and dancing.

Lots of "Lucky Cats" decorating the place, this is the one that greets you at the south entrance, there's a wall of them at the north entrance all "red carpet style" where you can pose with a mike.

There was even a lion dance.

We happened to visit the Sky Tower in the Westfield and caught this great dusk aerial view of the night market, below is the reverse view of the tower.

One of the Filipino restaurants featured a roasted pig rice dish and some tasty skewers.

Here's a picture of the map. Sorry it's a bit dark, but just in case anyone is looking to visit.

They had a section for food trucks, there were only four in attendance.

Another shot of the food stalls.

If you're in the area I highly recommend it, it's a fun night out, if you can't stand the crowds you can grab some food and then wander down to the south part of the park and throw down a picnic blanket and enjoy the spring evening.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Miso glazed Pink Ling

I've been on a fish streak lately. I've been trying to stick with lean protein and simple sides that can be quickly prepared after work.

They didn't have any cod at the grocery store so the closest thing I could find was "Pink Ling" sold in fillets. It's a bottom dwelling "eel like" fish. Apparently related to the "Assfish" (sorry I couldn't resist when I found that I had to work it in somehow), the fillet was pretty thin and the resulting dish was large flakey meat. The meat has a little more elasticity similar to eel  than say a cod that usually easily flakes apart.

3 tbsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp miso, and 2 tbsp mirin. When you mix it you want a "watery paste", you want it a little runny, too solid and you get too much salt concentration, too watery and it won't stick to the fish. There are quite a few variations of the same theme that I've used in the past. I've used honey instead of the brown sugar, and added some soy for a bit more color. You can use Sake, Michiu and I've even seem some people use rice wine vinegar for liquid components. The recipe I provided below is my general "go to" version.

Marinated for up to three hours. I was fine with 30 mins, I like the salty/sweet glaze at the top but too much can be over powering.

I broiled it for 3-5 mins and then finished at 350F for 10 mins. Depending on the type of fish you use you'll want to adjust the temperature. The broiling part is to get some caramelization on of the brown sugar, you'll want to fiddle with the baking at the finish depending on the thickness of your fish.

Nothing special on the sides, I just did a quick saute of a some bok choy (they call it pak choy here) and zucchini that I had on hand and made some more of the mushroom rice that I posted a couple of posts back.

I've used the miso glaze on mostly white fish and Salmon, I'd stick to flakey type fish but I suppose you could use it on any type of fish especially if served with rice and vegetable sides. The miso glaze tends to be very powerful so you'll want to stick with more bland side dishes.

Miso Glazed "Pink Ling"
1 lb Pink Ling
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp Shiro Miso
2 tbsp Mirin

Mix the sugar, miso and mirin until you have a thin paste.

Place fish in a shallow pan or sandwich bag and pour mixture over fish, make sure to coat all sides. Marinade up to three hours.

Set oven to broil. Place fish on baking sheet and broil for 3-5 mins until the glaze starts to caramelize. Turn heat down to 350F and finish baking for 10 mins.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lohikeitto: Finnish Salmon Soup

One of the todo's from our northern European cruise was to replicate this delicious salmon dill soup we had while we were in Finland.  Lohikeitto is a hearty chowder with dill, potato, salmon and leeks. It's actually a very simple soup to make. Here's my crack at it:

First the ingredients. Small onion, couple of potatoes (I used a white variety, it holds up under a boiling), leek, paprika, butter, dill light cream and some vegetable stock. I opted against fish stock in favor of vegetable stock, I figure that the vegetable stock is a little more neutral and the Salmon was rich enough to provide plenty of fish flavor.  I also went with salmon that had more of the belly attached since it's just fatty, tasty and a little more forgiving to reheating of the soup later.

Prep: Sliced the leeks, cube the potatoes, dice the onions, chop the dill. Cut the salmon into chunk about 1.5 inches wide, we're working with fillet slices so they will vary in thickness but since we're being gentle about the cooking (no rolling boil and not too long on the stove) we won't have an issue with over cooked bits and under cooked bits.

First melt the butter and saute the leeks and onions until soft.

Add in your stock and make sure to scrape any brown bits off the bottom.

Once the stock is at a boil drop in the potatoes and lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 mins or until the potatoes are soft.

Pour in the cream and then add in the Salmon and cook for an additional 5 mins. Don't let the soup come to a full boil.

Add all the dill and garnish with a bit of paprika. I made this during our winter months here in Australia and it made for a perfect one bowl dinner. I was surprised how filling it was.

Here's the recipe (sorry about the metric units that's kind of how all this stuff comes here)

Lohikeitto (Salmon dill soup)
1 leek cleaned halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 small yellow onion diced
3 small white potato diced into cubes
300ml light thickened cream (whipping cream)
1 Liter vegetable stock
500 grams Salmon fillet cut into 1.5 inch pieces
1 bunch fresh dill chopped
1 tbsp butter

Melt butter in stock pot, saute onion and leek until soft.

Deglaze pot by adding stock and scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot bring to a boil.

Lower heat to simmer and add potatoes, cook for 15 mins or until soft.

Add cream and salmon and simmer for 5 mins on low heat. (do not let the soup come to a boil)

Add a few dashes of paprika and chopped dill and serve.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

One pot Bento: Miso Salman with three mushroom rice

It's been a real struggle, I came to Sydney with two pieces of luggage and a backpack. The only kitchen device I brought was my Nomiku that burned out (but was replaced thanks to the generous Nomiku guys!) So it's been a struggle to choose what to buy and what to pass on. Only the essentials and multi-tasking is preferable 1) because of space and 2) because I'm not staying too long, so I can't afford to just replace everything I left behind.

One of the items I really struggled with was whether or not a rice cooker was necessary. I have a rice cooker back home and it was the first kitchen device I ever owned. My mom got it for me when I left for college and that little six cup rice cooker has been my "go to" for everything rice, steamed and then some. It's one of those simple on/off cookers, none of that fuzzy logic business. I used my mom's tried and true "back of hand" method to measure water (amazingly it always seems to work and her hands are more petite than mine) and I seriously considered bringing it with me. But I didn't.

In the end I finally broke down and purchased an inexpensive one, (I had no idea how expensive a proper one costs). This one features a nice non stick insert bowl/ steamer tray and a simple on off switch. Of course I was in a hurry to test it out and so I decided to give it a spin as a one pot bento.

First the rice: I found an interesting looking recipe for a mushroom rice. It turns out my little cooker couldn't handle the full size recipe so I had to half it because otherwise the steamer insert wouldn't have fit. It's pretty easy, I used some dashi granules, chopped up the mushrooms, rinsed the rice and put it all in. I didn't believe liquid ratio (the recipe said that the mushrooms will provide enough of the liquid to finish the rice but I didn't believe it. Subsequent tries proves that the author knew what they were talking about, it came out a bit too soft this time (still delicious but I like a less mushy texture to my rice)

Next the fish. I went with a soy miso glaze: honey, soy, sake, white miso. This particular glaze I think was too thin for a steamed application, usually I broil/bake the fish. I also should have marinated longer. When steaming you don't get the nice caramelized glaze. I'll skip the recipe on this one you can see how simple it is. I'll post my brown sugar version in a subsequent post anyhow.

The idea was to put a bed of bok choy and let the salmon steam while the rice cooked with two servings of rice it should cook right about the same amount of time. Any rendering fat and marinade from the salmon would have just flavored the rice. This turned out to be a perfect dinner for two and it took me about 20 mins to put together. The bok choy went a bit yellow in the steamer (the final bento picture I had blanched the remaining bok choy in dashi broth so it's a lot more green).

The rice cooker is a Kambrook, (I would have preferred a Tatung but those were $140) is going to take a bit of getting use to, it burns the rice on the bottom, you get what you pay for I guess, this one only cost $30 AUD so I shouldn't have expected a lot but as a test to put out a quick dinner it's definitely a winner.  I wouldn't call it a "rice master" but it's rice capable if you're willing to write off the bottom layer.

Japanese three mushroom Rice 
(adapted from Ultimate Rice cooker cookbook)
1.5 cups of short grained rice
2 fresh shiitake mushroom sliced
50 gram Bunashimeji mushroom (brown beech)
50 gram oyster mushroom sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp sake
3 gram dashi granules
1.5 cups of water

Boil water and add dashi granules. Let cool and set to the side
Toss the mushrooms in soy sauce
Wash the rice until water is clear and drain. Add Mushrooms, rice, dashi, and sake to rice cooker and turn on
The water level will not reach the marker on your rice cooker, the mushroom should make up for the remaining liquid (see my experience above)
Allow rice to "rest" for 10 mins after the rice cooker clicks off.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shiitake and Enoki Mushroom Soup

I've been craving this simple enoki mushroom soup that I had at my favorite Japanese restaurant back home so I've been on this crusade to make my own. While not quite the same, I like the version that I've managed to come up with. It's a simple recipe and although not quite a lunch time bento I've brought it in a thermos for breakfast after a brisk walk to work in the Sydney "winter" (I put that in quotes, it's so far been more like a chilly rainy fall than any winter I've experienced in Texas).

I digress. After a bit of hunting and improvising this is what I ended up with. Let's start with the ingredients. As you can see it's a pretty simple soup: I have 100g of fresh shitake mushroom, 250g enoki mushroom, Dashi broth package, Soy Sauce, Chinese Mi Jiu 米酒 (Since I didn't have Sake or Mirin, but I like this better, less of a sweetness), and salt to taste. Yup that's it!

First I remove the stems from the shiitake caps and slice them thin. I also cut off the end of the enoki mushroom bunch and separate them into small 1/2 inch bunches. I know the conventional wisdom is not to wash mushrooms, but Alton Brown did a good enough job convincing me otherwise besides, they were going into the stock pot for soup so what's the harm.

Next I heat two quarts of water and I disolved 1 packet (6 grams) of dashi granules.

Add 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 2 tbsp of Mi Jiu and bring the broth to a boil.

Once there I lower the heat to a simmer and drop in the mushrooms and cook for about 20 mins.  If you like some heat I would suggest adding some white pepper.

Done! Delicious and very simple. Also most stores also carry a Kombu dashi which would be a fine substitution for regular dashi if you want this to be a vegetarian/vegan soup.

Shiitake and Enoki Mushroom soup

100g Fresh Shiitake Mushroom
250g Enoki Mushroom
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Mi Jiu (Chinese cooking wine)
6g Dashi granules (Kombu Dashi for vegan)
64 oz of water
Salt and white pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms, remove stem from Shiitake mushrooms and slice thinly. Cut off base of Enoki Mushroom bunch and pick off small "bunches" about 1/2 inch thick.

Heat water and add Dashi granules. Once disolved add Soy Sauce and Mi Jiu and bring to a slow boil

Turn down to simmer and add Mushrooms. Simmer for 20 mins. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Monday, August 17, 2015

NIB: What I've been eating in Sydney Pt1

Not In A Box: So it's taken some time but we have steadily been making our way through Sydney's various suburbs (think neighborhoods, not the big expansive suburbs we know of in Texas) and have discovered some neat places to eat along the way. I figure for posterity (and if anyone actually comes to visit) I should keep track of some of these places. I posted about the ramen place but I'll start collecting putting them up here in batches. So this is part one of hopefully many.

Movida, we first visited this place (rather the sister location "Movida next door") on our trip to Melbourne. We were delighted to find out that they had a location in Sydney a short 30 minute walk away from our place. As with most places the restaurant was completely booked (we arrived just as they opened) and we ended up seated quickly at the bar. We had the Sardina (Sardine fillet with Cod Roe and Avruga Caviar), Cecina (air cured wagyu with truffle foam and poached egg), Lengua a la Plancha (Grilled Ox Tongue), and the Pintxo de Pulpo (grilled Galician Style octopus). We shared exactly what you saw and left perfectly satisfied. It was great being able to look in the kitchen and watch everything being prepared. We'll be bringing visitors to check this place out it's a great casual meet up place.

My wife managed to ferret out a few places while I was back in the US for work. Baccomatto Osteria is a great little Italian restaurant, very open and cleanly decorated. Like many places here in Sydney it's easy to miss, it was situated next to a boutique hotel in the quiet neighborhood of Surry Hills, I would have mistaken it for another townhouse had she not been leading the way. We had wagyu beef cheeks, carpaccio, fennel grilled pork neck, bufala mozzarella (made from buffalo milk), a tiramisu.  This place was booked solid, they were able to seat us at the bar since we didn't have reservations, ultimately we were lucky enough to be transferred to a table later on, super friendly, nice staff and great food with a lot of attention to detail.

Another find from my wife: Edition coffee roasters, they did a brisk business turning out coffee but java isn't the only thing this place serves up. It's a Japanese Nordic fusion place serving brunch and breakfast. It's located in the Darlinghurst suburb. We shared the Wild boar meatball, Porco Rollo (braised pork with Tamago), and my wife's favorite "Mushroom Pond". The "Pond" was Udon noodle soup with a couple of types of mushroom, mushroom cream in a warm mushroom broth. She almost made me order my own since she was unwilling to share but I convinced her I only wanted a taste.

A coworker of my wife brought in some Chinese bbq pork buns and she declared that we had to go try this place Tim Ho Wan. I didn't know this at the time, but apparently this chain has earned One Michelin star and has earned the title "least expensive Michelin star restaurant". Located upstairs from the Chatswood train station in the food court, this location is pretty newly opened. There was already a line when we got there, but since it was only two of us we were almost immediately shown to a table. The dim sum was fresh and tasty but the call out was the baked bbq pork bun. Usually the pork buns at dim sum are a steamed bun with a sweet pork filling heavy on the bread side. This was very different. It had a crispy/flaky golden slightly sweet exterior with a delicious bbq pork mixture inside. You can see in the picture they came in orders of three and we ordered a second set to take home. (You can't order them to go, but you can order extra and take it home). For dessert I ordered the Taro sago, a lightly sweeten taro dish with tiny tapioca pearls, I surreptitiously ate the whole thing while my wife was distracted by the pork bun.

There's quite a few sushi restaurants here in Sydney most of them have the train that goes around the  restaurants. It's efficient they put the sushi, nigri, sashimi, appetizers and desserts on the moving train and you just pick the plate as it drives past you. They color code the plates so the wait staff can quickly come over and tally up your meal. It's an efficient business. Umi is the first one of these places that I've actually enjoyed quite a bit. Their train features some more unique items even Uni/Sea Urchin (my favorite) which is a rarity. The sushi chefs are really friendly and you get a good show and they talk to you. The bottom picture was a picture of the chef making Tamago (Japanese omelette). I managed to snag a video of the process, the guy has definitely mastered the art of making Tamago, he whipped out 6 of them while we sat there and he made it look effortless. If I manage to figure out how to use the movie software I'll post it.

I'll confess when we first arrived I was not super impressed with any of the places we visited. I actually still have a ban on Vietnamese restaurants having tried five of them with complete disappointment. But things are picking up, there's just so many places it takes some looking to find the gems.