Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Porridge Equinox

After days of icy gale force winds, this first day of spring was draped in a blanket of snow. With daily temperatures swinging from below freezing to 45°F, this last week of winter has been brutal. It’s not been very inspiring for getting out and about, but more inspiring for cold-weather comfort food. For breakfast, lunch or dinner savory Korean rice porridge is one of my favorite winter meals; juk is simmered with Asian rice and chicken stock. It’s flavored with ginger and garlic but mot overly spiced. Usually it’s accompanied by many flavorful side dishes, both savory and sweet, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Juk is a simple dish that begs for exploration. I have an easy recipe on my blog; if you want to give it a go click here. Take a look at some home-cooked highlights from last week. I hope these photos inspire you... or at least make you drool.

Honey cured ham over juk with wilted spinach and kimchee with sweet soy sauce
Fried egg over coconut saffron juk with chili-spiced pecans, shaved radish salad and a wee drizzle of maple syrup

5:10 soft boiled egg over juk wilted spinach, almonds, toasted garlic and Korean peppers with a little clover honey

Miso roasted chicken over juk with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, almonds and toasted garlic with sweet soy sauce

Sliced Italian meatballs and toasted pecans over coconut saffron juk with ponzu sauce

Bacon and eggs over juk with katsuoboshi (shaved bonito flakes) and honey

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Recipe: Mak Juk, a Korean Porrdige Hack

Dinner: Juk topped with chicken, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds and garlic

Now here’s some classic Seoul food: dak juk, a savory Korean rice and chicken porridge. This dish is traditionally made by slowly simmering Asian medium grain rice and a whole chicken for hours until it creates a thick and silky porridge. It’s lightly seasoned with ginger and ginger and served with full-flavored banchan (side dishes) that typically accompany Korean meals. Although it’s a savory dish its best served with a little sweet for balance with chopped dates or a little honey.

From waste-not-want-not cultures come some of the best comfort food; juk (Korean), congee (Chinese), jok (Thai), lugaw (Filipino), deythuk (Tibetan) and okayu (Japanese) are similarly the same porridge but vary by cooking liquid and what accompanies the meal. This includes arroz caldo, the Portuguese rice soup which finds it’s origins in Macao.

3:10 soft-boiled egg with wilted spinach and toasted garlic over Korean rice porridge with a little maple syrup

Chop chop! Get your aromatics ready.
Mak Juk, a Korean Porridge Hack
In this recipe I’ve made some shortcuts; I call it mak juk (Korean for easy porridge). The key to this dish is using a good chicken stock. Each month I break out the large stock pot and make my own thick, silky chicken stock by simmering bones, meat and vegetable scarps that I save in a freezer bag. But in a pinch I also make a decent “stock hack” by reducing a carton of organic chicken stock with a small onion, a little salt and unflavored gelatin (or chicken feet if I can find them instead of gelatin). Note: Use organic stock, not broth. Although this recipe is gluten-free by nature, people with celiac disease should always check the ingredient list for GF claims; that’s one incentive to make your own chicken stock when you can.

I prefer Asian medium-grain rice over long grain rice; it incorporates well into porridge and holds its shape and texture much better than a long-grain rice such as Basmati— a short grain rice might be too sticky. In a pinch, Jasmine rice from Chinese take-out seems to be a happy medium. As my grandmother used to say “Don’t throw out that leftover rice!” So let’s get busy in the kitchen! This recipes serves six hungry people— cooking and prep time is about one hour.

Reduced Chicken Stock
  • 1 32 oz carton organic chicken stock
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz packet)
  • 1 small onion, with skins cut into quarters
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp whole pepper corns
Pour a carton of chicken stock into stock pot and bring to a boil, add quartered onion, salt, sugar and pepper corns. Lower heat and simmer until stock is reduced by one quarter of volume. Strain stock through a fine sieve, discard solids and dissolve a packet of unflavored gelatin into the reduced stock; stir well and reserve 1 3/4 to 2 cups.

Korean Porridge Recipe
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups cups reduced chicken stock (see above)
  • 2 cups cooked medium or short grain white rice
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned (about 1 packed tbsp)
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp peanut or light sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup leek greens, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Prepare garlic and ginger, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside. Bring 5 cups of water to boil, add reduced stock, lower heat. Add rice, garlic, ginger, peanut oil (or sesame oil), diced carrots, salt an black pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the porridge thickens, remove from heat and allow to cool, adjust salt if needed, but it should be mild and savory. Serving in bowls with your favorite toppings, drizzled with soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. You can make Juk ahead of time, it will store well refrigerated for about three days. Reheat it in a double boiler or microwave.

Juk is a dish that pleases everyone at the table— served with small plates of bancahn, side dishes that complement the main meal. This way everyone can tailor their meal to their liking. Let your imagination run free and enjoy your hot savory porridge. Here are some of my favorite sweet and savory toppings:
  • kimchee
  • toasted garlic
  • toasted almonds
  • ground peanuts
  • shaved bonito flakes (katsuoboshi)
  • soft boiled egg
  • fresh Korean peppers
  • sliced roasted chicken
  • bacon
  • Tasso ham
  • wilted spinach 
  • asparagus
  • fresh kale
  • roasted cauliflower
  • sweet pickles
  • pan-roasted Brussels sprouts
  • maple syrup
  • clover honey
Yesterday’s miso-honey roasted chicken breast is today’s Korean porridge topping— waste not a thing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Gluten-free EeatUP! One-year Anniversary!!

The Gluten-free EatUP celebrates its one-year anniversary! This pop-up market is dedicated to the food makers that serve people with celiac disease or who live with a diet that is free of gluten; GFEU is sponsored by Levine’s General Store. Mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled kimc-cheese sandwiches, vegan empanadas (Yum Pies)... hot-served and packaged savories, sweets, vegan kimchee and so much more. Glutenberg beer is available at the bar. Admision if free! Levine}s General Store will be raffling fabulous gift boxes! Bring your friends.

The Gluten-free EatUP!
Sunday, March 1 from 1 to 6PM
Freddy’s Bar in South Slope, Brooklyn

Monday, February 23, 2015

Recipe: Miso-hungry for Pork Chops

Skinny pork chops marinated in chickpea miso, whiskey and gochuchang over egg noodles topped with shaved bonito flakes

My chickpea miso is ready!! I’ve been so good about not diving into the jars— I’ve waited so patiently to harvest my one and two-year-old misos. As it aged it developed deep caramel tones and a very complex, smokey umami flavor. There are many brands available in Asian grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own for purity and proper fermentation method— rice koji, chickpeas and sea salt are the only ingredients in authentic miso. Some brands rush the aging process by over-blending and adding sugar and alcohol; some commercial brands are even frozen which is a huge NO NO. Chickpeas make a subtle, sweeter miso; it’s ideal for people who exclude soy from their diet. If you’re interested in learning more about this fermentation process, here are instructions for making miso on my blog: Making Miso 101.

Still Life with Miso: My chickpea miso, one and two year old batches (foreground and back)

So now that my miso is ready what do I do with it? Miso is one of my favorite ingredients— I use it in stews, soups, marinades and even peanut brittle candy. Here’s a simple pan-seared pork chops recipe using miso, whiskey and Korean chili paste as a marinade. 

Miso-whiskey Pork Chops
  • 5 small pork chops, thinly sliced to 1/2 inch
  • 1 tbsp miso, chickpea or soybean
  • 1 tsp Korean chili paste (gochuchang)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp whiskey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
  • 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp peanut or any high heat oil
Using a teaspoon, run miso through a fine sieve to refine any clumps. Prepare ginger with a microplane grater to get a fine grade. In a mixing bowl add all ingredients except for the chops and onion; mix until the brown sugar is dissolved. Toss pork chops and sliced onion with marinade, coating chops evenly. Place in a closed container and marinate in the refrigerator for at least four hours— overnight is ideal.

It’s fryin’ time! In the sink, place marinated pork chops on a slanted chopping board for 10 minutes to drain some of the liquid. Heat skillet on a high and add oil. Lower flame to medium when the oil reaches smoke point. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet would be ideal, but a non-stick pan with a thick bottom works well too. Sear chops for four to five minutes on each side or until they caramelize. Remove from pan and set aside to rest for five minutes before serving. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and Japanese katsuoboshi (shaved bonito flakes).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Recipe: Korean-style Seared Duck Breast

Pan-seared duck breast rubbed with sea salt, black pepper and Hanguk Saffron— thinly sliced and served with kimchee!
Hanguk Saffron the Asian spice of life
There’s dak (duck) bulgogi, then there’s ori (duck) bulgogi. To avoid any culinary confusion... I made DUCK bulgogi. Pan-searing a duck breast filet is not hard to do at all, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Duck is poultry, just as chicken and turkey are, but the flesh is more comparable to a red meat animal. It’s cooked as beef or pork would be. Unlike red meat, duck is lower in saturated fats. Most of the ducks fat is in the skin, were as it’s marbled throughout a good cut of red meat. A younger duck will be more tender and flavorful than an older one.

Since duck is very fatty the first objective to making a moist, crisp breast is to render most of the fat and moisture from the skin before completely cooking it. Instead of marinating the best way to flavor this dish is to dry-rub with seasoning; I use my Hanguk Saffron, a powdered seasoning made from dehydrated kimchee (inset); in this recipe we’ll estimate the flavor with mixture of dry spices. If you have frozen duck breasts, let them thaw in the fridge for two or three days ahead of cooking. Never let it thaw out on the counter, it will toughen the meat. Wash duck breast and pat dry. One way to remove moisture (after washing) is to let it sit skin-side-up in the refrigerator for two to three hours before cooking. Estimated cooking time for this recipe is about 18-20 minutes.

You’ll need:
  • 2 duck breasts with skin, 9 to 10 oz each
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • large cast iron skillet or a thick-bottom non-stick pan
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Dry-rub Mix
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Korean chili powder, fine grade
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
Dry-rub mix and cooking low and slow is the way to go for this dish.
Mix dry-rub spices in a small bowl, set aside. With a sharp knife, score the skin-side of both duck breasts making shallow diamond cuts; avoid cutting into the flesh. Salt liberally on both sides, then sprinkle with pepper. Sprinkle half the amount of the dry-rub mix on the meat side of both breasts. Heat a large cast iron skillet on a low flame and place the breasts in skin-side down. Allow to sear low-and-slow for four minutes, then lift to check that the skin is evenly crisping-up. Continue to sear for another 5 minutes and reposition in the pan to ensure that the skin evenly browns. You can use a spatter screen if it gets messy but do not cover with a lid.

The objective is to slowly remove the fat and moisture from the skin my searing on low heat. Starting with a medium or high flame would seal the fat in the skin, making the meat greasy. This process will release a good amount of fat, drain from the pan as needed. Duck fat is a good fat which is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You can freeze and save the fat for making confit or refine it to use as a cooking fat instead of lard.

Flip breasts over and sear the meat side for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches about 122°F, the flesh feels as firm as the tip of your nose when you press on it. Raise flame to medium heat, flip over skin-side down and sear for two more minutes. Is it done? Check by lancing the center of the best, if liquid runs clear, remove from heat and let it rest for 6 minutes before serving. The skin should be crisp and the meat should be firm but not over-cooked. To serve, cut diagonally against the grain of the meat and glaze each slice with sweet soy sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before plating.

And there you have it, a Korean spiced duck breast, pan-seared to perfection.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Recipe: Garlic Confit and Parsley Pesto

The garlic confit pesto is vegan— made with parlsey and ground almonds. Obviously the chicken paillard is not vegan.

Garlic confit— amber and gold treasure
Pesto is mostly known as the verdant, flavorful Genoese paste made with basil, garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and olive oil. There are many version throughout Italy that vary by region. Not all Italian pesto is green. Two of my favorite reds that (eponymous to their region) are Pesto alla Calabrese made with grilled red peppers, ricotta cheese and ground black pepper, and Pesto Rosso (alla) Siciliana made with sun-dried tomatoes and ground almonds.

Both are served over bruschetta a the Italian table. But there are variations of this condiment paste made world-wide: Argentinian Chimichurri made with cilantro and oregano; Chinese black bean sauce made with fermented black bean and red chili; Thai peanut sauce made with ground peanuts, sesame oil and fragrant spices. 

This vegan pesto recipe is made with garlic confit— garlic which is slowly poached in extra virgin olive oil until golden. It has a creamy soft texture and a slightly sweet flavor that is reminiscent of pine nuts, without the sharp, sulfurous overtone that is typical of crushed garlic. Click here for the recipe on my blog. Instead of basil and pine nuts this recipe calls for parsley, ground almonds and toasted sesame seeds. Since this is a vegan recipe I use nutritional yeast.

Garlic Confit and Parsley Pesto
You’'ll need a food processor for this recipe. Toast your raw almond and sesame seeds ahead of time and set them aside to cool. Wash parsley and air dry or run through a salad spinner. Use good quality extra virgin olive oil (aka EVOO for the food smarties), it makes all the difference. This pesto will keep refrigerated in an air-tight container for about three days. It’s best to make small batches, but if you make more you can freeze this pesto for future meals.

You’ll need:
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped and packed loosely
  • 1/4 cup garlic confit, plus 2 tbsp confit oil 
  • 3/4 cup EVOO
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds, toasted
  • 2 1/2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
In a non-stick pan, set flame on medium-low and toast raw almonds until they have release some of their oil; try not to scorch them, set aside to cool. Toast sesame seeds until the start to pop, set aside to cool. Roughly chop parsley to break up large stems. Pulse almonds and sesame seeds in a food processor until they look like gritty sand. Now add all the remaining ingredients and blend until you have a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a soft spatula as needed. Transfer to a small bowl and serve immediately. You can serve it in a pasta dish or use as bruschetta.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Recipe: A Confit of Sesame-infused Garlic

Quesadilla made with cheddar and brie cheeses, caramelized onion with a generous shmeer of mashed garlic confit

Use a cast iron pan as a heat diffuser.
Savory, earthy with mild, sweet notes of pine nut— that’s the best way I can describe the complex flavor of garlic confit. The texture of each plump, golden clove is soft enough to spread. Confit (from the French) is a method preserving food by poaching it in oil (or fat) at temperature lower than frying (about 200°F), after which it is stored at a refrigerated temperature. This low-slow cooking renders out allicin, the sulfurous enzyme that gives garlic its pungent aroma and flavor— leaving the sweeter flavor compounds. I’m sure it’s as healthy as all-get-out, but I just love the way it tastes; it deepens the flavor of savory foods.

I first had this wonderful side dish a few years back when my friend Heather McCabe threw a mid-winter party. She baked fresh garlic cloves in extra-virgin olive oil in a covered cast iron dish. I’ve since adapted this recipe for the gas range. The key to this recipe is using fresh plump garlic cloves, good quality olive oil and most importantly low, constant heat. Even if you use a thick-bottom pot you’ll need to use a heat diffuser— or try this kitchen hack: use a cast iron pan instead. I found it delivers a even low heat over an open flame; an added bonus it that it also acts as a heat conductor for an induction burner. 

I cut elephant garlic in half to get an equal size with regular silver skin garlic. The cloves are poached in oil, not fried.

Sesame-infused Garlic Confit
Peel and wash your garlic cloves ahead of time and make sure they are dry before cooking. Select large plump, unblemished cloves of garlic of similar size— even sizes ensure even cooking. If you’re using a cast iron pan instead of a heat diffuser, pre-heat it on medium flame then lower flame for cooking.

TIP: Here’s a quick way to peel whole garlic without making a mess: trim off the hard base on each clove, place three or four cloves into a tall jar, cover and shake vigorously. The skins will have fallen off or come loose enough to peel easily. Discard the the skins or save them to make stock.

You’ll need:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup whole garlic cloves, peeled and washed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp whole pepper corns
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark roasted sesame oil (not the light cold-pressed type)
  • a small covered pot
  • heat diffuser (or cast iron pan)
Place garlic cloves, bay leaf and pepper corns in small pot and add olive oil. With a heat diffuser (or cast iron pan) placed directly over the flame heat pot on medium heat until the oil just starts to bubble (one minute) then adjust flame to very low heat. This first step is important; the cloves should poach in oil, not fry. If oil starts to boil, remove pot from heat and cool down, then return to burner.

Cover and cook low and slow for about 35 to 40 minutes or until they are golden in color and fork-tender (larger batches may take up to an hour). Check to make sure that the oil does not boil and the garlic cloves are not burning. Add roasted sesame oil and remove from flame; set the pot aside uncovered and allow it to cool.

With a clean spoon carefully transfer garlic to a clean jar, then add the oil and other ingredients from the pot to the jar. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerated. You can eat it once it has cooled but I found it develops a more complex flavor and better texture after 24 hours. Garlic confit will keep for about 6 to 8 weeks in your refrigerator. Mix it with mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or serve as a side dish at the table. On one favorite thing to make with garlic confit is pesto with parsley, ground almonds and a little salt; simply delicious Do not reuse the infused oil for making more confit, use is it to flavor other dishes instead.

Precious amber and gold— garlic confit will keep for 6 to 8 weeks in the refrigerator.