Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Car care and Brioche based Sweet Rolls and Croissants

The month of July went by too fast, and here it is at the end of August.  But I learned a few things more about my mini-van even after 16 years.  My mini-van is a 1995 Plymouth Voyager SE with 453,230 miles.  For the first time in its life, it didn't pass the smog inspection that was due on July 4th.  And it was all because the smog standard changed.  Not necessarily because my van was emitting too much... but nevertheless, I was frantically trying to get the van fixed so I can drive another 100,000 miles out of it.  It now has new catalytic converter.   And a few fuel pump.  There was no choice.  Then, just when it passed the smog test, I find out that my back brake lights were ON without pressing the brake and my cruise control is out.  After finding out that my brake switch has gone bad, with the help of information available on the Internet, I managed to replace the brake switch myself.  It is now as good as new and drove us all the way down to Disneyland and back with no problem.
So, this is the month of test baking Brioche.  This buttery dough is so easy to make and I liked the way it rolled out and shaped into croissants.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Polly's Beef Bourguignon

The last challenge in making the Beef Bourguignon from the BOUCHON cookbook by Chef Thomas Keller got me thinking about the process a lot.  Minimum of three days of cooking to produce the result.  Then, there is Julia Child's recipe for it - just as much involved.  But this time for sure, I purchased the Beef short ribs.  Hoping to reverse the 'dry' bark like meat chunks I end up with the use of the lean 'Stew' beef.   The result is marvelous.  Since I do not have 24 hours to babysit nor standing by in the kitchen all night long, I turned to the available technology.  The first time I followed the recipe, the braising in the oven to cook the beef till tender just took forever.  Since I do not have a convection gas oven, I was not going to try braising it in the covered sautoir.  Instead, I used the slow cooker with timer. 
Thursday evening - After browning the beef short beef (set aside), deglaze the pan; add mirepoix, and bottle of red wine - I used whatever I had - Shiraz and cooked to 'a sec'.   Since I did not have brown beef stock, I added water, sachet, tomato paste, as well as fresh tomatoes.   Transfer the stock into the slow cooker.  Envelope browned beef in cheese cloth, and placed in the slow cooker.  This is very effective in keeping 'impurities' from the beef getting mixed up in the stock.  Submerge the beef in the cheese cloth into the stock.  Cover the slow cook over night.   Friday evening, prepare the garnishes.   Check the beef for fork tenderness.  Remove the beef and transfer them into a bowl.  Discard cheesecloth.  Filter the brown stock through fine sieve twice.  Return it to the stock pot.  Cook garnishes - carrots, potatoes until al dente.   Add the beef and pearl onions.   Cover the pot and simmer over the stove for 60 minutes - but check every 15 min.  Make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot and liquid is reducing.  The stock should start to thicken from the natural starch of the potatoes.  When the liquid is reduced by half, it is ready.
Cool quickly completely over bain marie and refrigerate in covered container.   Saturday - still refrigerated.  Serve Sunday.... yeah, right.  I had a wonderful bowl of it on Saturday.  It was so different than the first one.  The meat is very tender and full of wonderful flavor from the slow cooking.   Sunday, I made a home baked bread and had a wonderful Beef Bourguinon de Polly.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

French Fried Sweet Potatoes

Some of the health experts pointed out that you want to order sweet potatoes French fries rather than the regular potatoes, especially if you have diabetic problem.  In my case, I was curious which "sweet potatoes" is the best for the French fries.  I picked sweet potatoes (not YAMs). 
Lesson learned - watch closely the oil temperature during frying.  Due to sugar content of the sweet potatoes, they burn easily.  My sweet potato french fries did not turn out like the ones I ate at the Elephant bar, for example.  How do they do that light crusty look on it.... well, I will have to try it again, the next time.

Shrimp and Onion Tempura served with Baked Potato

There is nothing difficult about making the TEMPURA. But everyone who has ever attempted it know that deep frying is a 'messy' cooking method. Ordinary kitchen vent is less than ideal to prepare Tempura. In fact, I recall in my childhood memory that folks deep fry outdoor in Japan and not in the kitchen. The oil splatter takes more time to clean than the time you spent enjoying the meal. So tempura is a dish that everyone really enjoy ordering at the restaurants rather than preparing them at home. There is also the challenge of the 'secret' batter to create this beautiful and light 'spider' crust when the food item is coated and placed into the deep frying oil. Is it the egg white? or soda? or Potato starch, or ??? whatever it is, the satisfaction of ones meal comes from the thought of "homemade", "home cooked", "made from scratch"and appreciation for the effort of the preparer. So, here is my Shrimp Tempura and Onion Tempura served with baked potato topped with sour cream and chives.
The shrimp is fried once. Right before serving, it is deep fried (in high temp) 'quickly' for the second time to golden brown.

Homemade SHISO FURIKAKE with SHAKE (Salmon Flakes)

Finally my SHISO - beefsteak plants have grown successfully this year.  Taking the opportunity of the bumper crop and before any insects beat to it, I started to work with this wonderful aromatic wonder leaves.  FURIKAKE ("shake to cover")  is one of our favorite "spice" condiment flakes to top wonderfully cooked steamy rice or "OKAYU" (porridge style rice ... resembling risotto).  There are quite a few varieties sold at the Japanese or Asian markets.  As simple as the ingredients to this condiment, this is my first attempt to make it at home.   After nipping the leaves off the stems, they are washed thoroughly, then air dried on a large flat basket.  It is air dried for about 3 days.  They can be crushed between the hands or simply use the food processor with wand.  Then, toss it into homemade salmon flakes -- FURIKAKE with SHA-KE (Salmon).  Season with coarse sea salt.  Keep in clean glass Mason jar in a refrigerator.
  To prepare for this wonderful FURIKAKE with SHA-KE (Salmon) - the aromatic condiment, I was very lucky to have found Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon on sale.  The color of this salmon is so beautiful that I was admiring it as I  cleaned and deboned, sliced and vacuum packed the salmon steaks. The salmon fresh is in beautiful orange, nice and firm.  Definitely beats the farm raised salmons.  Whatever were left went in the saute pan with some vegetable oil.... not much oil, but just enough to keep the salmon from sticking to the pan.  Stirring the frequently, as soon as the salmon is slightly browned and look dry, turn off the heat.  Then remove all the meat and transfer them to a bowl.  Add finely crushed SHISO leaves, and coarse sea salt to taste.

 Trimmed off stomach area had plenty of lean meat on this wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.  Nothing got wasted. 
 Return the salmon meat in to saute pan and flake the chunks into very small pieces--'minced' and a bit brown and 'dry'.

 Transfer to a plate, cool.  Add the crushed beefsteak leaves-SHISO, and season with coarse sea salt to taste.
Store in air tight clean Mason jar and in refrigerator.  Serve a teaspoonful or two on top of piping hot cooked rice and enjoy the wonderful homemade SHISO FURIKAKE with SHA-KE. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whisker Nav Boe-Bot Project

Sometimes, you need a break from the world of the kitchen and spend some time to explore other potentials in the kitchen. So I did just that during the summer semester. My time was spent immersing myself n the "Introduction to the Robotics" class at the ARC, Sacramento. I spent hours and hours programming the Boe-Bot for the future world of modern kitchen. Naaa... not quite, but it is true that I spent many hours programming because I am not a programmer!! I just couldn't let the opportunity pass either, so I pressed on. It was well worth it. It's 21st century and our 'modern' kitchen is no where close to the Jetson Family style of living. I want to make sure that I take a step toward that progress. While this "Tactile Navigation Boe-Bot" does not take food order or deliver food to your table, understanding the principle of electronics and programming helps me to vision how I would like my virtual kitchen or the restaurant to be. This particular Whisker Boe-Bot will move forward and change its direction when the wire whiskers get in contact with an object. Then, at the end, it makes 360 degree circle and sing a song and stops. The other Boe-Bot projects included singing robot, remote control robot, (and Ping Boe-Bot.) I am hoping for some free time to build the Ping Boe-Bot, as it will have two "sight" scopes that act as "eyes".

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