Monday, March 14, 2011

Chopped??

Well, sort of. This past weekend I kind of felt like I was in one of those cooking reality/race shows with a mystery basket of ingredients, time ticking away on the clock, while you try to wring out every last drop of creativity from the sponge in your skull and to make things more nuts, you have fellow competitors at either elbow trying to do the same thing better than you. Oh, right, there were no fellow competitors, time clocks(at least not counted in minutes) or mystery basket. I did however have a fridge full of ingredients. A conglomeration of items acquired from different sources and were starting to pile up to to the overwhelming point that if I didn't start things crackin in the kitchen, putting Monday mornings trash out would not be a happy time.
The ingredient list:
  • A 2lb. hunk of braised brisket from lunch during the week.
  • 6 locally harvested pheasant breasts given to me by a friend who's brother-in-law had a good day in the field(yes, I wish I got them myself. but hey, they're in my fridge & I will enjoy them).
  • A beef tongue, cooked with the brisket because I have never had or cooked one before & wanted to see what all the hype was about.
  • 2 gal. beef/pork stock that I obtained by taking the broth from the brisket and adding some pork neck bones(to get some gelatinous quality), some veggies and a few hours later vuala, liquid gold...you know what I mean.
  • 2lb. pork neck meat. After removing the bones from the stock before straining, they were headed for the trash when I just pulled a piece from it's spinal crevice & gave it a taste...NO WAY was that getting trashed. So I spent 30 minutes picking the bones and retrieving this wonderfully flavored meat that can be used for soups, tacos, tamales...do I hear Banh mi?
After blowing off my cowboy shoot to take on the task, I came up with the plan. I have been reading David Chang's "Momofuku" and I got to the steamed bun chapter & thought that's what I will do, an Asian bun platter. I have never made them or even eaten them but, they sounded very interesting. First thing to do, get the dough started.

I did not however use Chang's recipe, I used one that I had in my file and believe it was based on his. It is similar though & I will try the Momofuku version in the future. Yes, there were some steps involved, rising, dividing, rolling, oiling, folding, rising & steaming. But, when I had my first bite out of that airy and warm bun, I was hooked, it was such a simple thing, but so good. And that was an empty bun, just think what they will be like when I filled them. Things started to fall into place rather nicely. The beef tongue was fabulous and now I know what all the hype is about. It is similar to brisket with solid beef flavor but, the texture is different, less cellular, more dense, better suited to slicing thin like a deli meat but, not necessary for tenderness. A few slices with a smear of a hoisin-like sauce & finished with a little fresh pickled cucumbers. The shredded pork meat was lightly sauteed with olive oil( I wish I had a little lard on hand), and topped with some diced red onion, jalapeno & cilantro relish left-over from tacos last week. I know, not Asian flavors, but I've never been one to be constricted by authenticity. Then, the pheasant breast. This I leaned a little, or maybe a lot Korean. I marinated the breast in a bulgogi mix. It's kind of the Korean version of teryaki, a sweet, soy-based marinade that to me is just intoxicating, usually used on beef but, not today. By the time I got the charcoal lit the sun was setting, and as more often than not, I was grilling by lantern. I placed slices of this gorgeous game bird on hoisin-sauced buns, then topped them with a little kimchi that I made last week. The salty, fermented heat balanced well with the sweet-soy of the pheasant. All in all, I will definitely making these buns again. The possibilities are endless. Oh yeah, what about the stock and the brisket you ask?
 Well, I reduced the stock down to 50%( to reduce space in my freezer), This will be fantastic Vietnamese Pho broth. And I diced a couple of red bliss potatoes, some onion & made a brisket hash which when topped with a poached egg...ah don't get me started on that now!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fermenting with seoul

A few weeks back I was in the Cherry Hill area and stopped at a Korean BBQ joint called Sammy Chons ,that had some good things written about it. I wanted to try their Bulgogi steak sandwich or Koagie. I wimped out and ordered only medium heat when asked by the server. I know that some of the Asian heat levels can get scorching so to be on the safe side and until I know where this particular restaurants levels are, medium is fine. Bulgogi is a sweet-soy marinated beef, usually sliced thin and grilled or seared on a hot griddle or pan. But this place served it in a sub roll ala South Philly style.

 Accompanying it was a side of kimchi and sweet pickled cucumbers. The kimchi was spicy as it usually is and that kicked up my medium heat which definitely needed kicking for sure & the thickly sliced cucumbers were slightly sweet and added a nice textural snap. All in all a very good taste sensation that I have never had in sandwich form before. My only complaint would be that the beef was not as tender as it should of been. I don't think it was rib eye(which is what I make my bulgogi with), maybe it was round or sirloin. it was also cut too thick.
The interesting thing is that I went for the beef and got excited by the cabbage. See it's been awhile since I've made kimchi(many years), and it got me itchin to whip up a batch. I say whip up because I don't make your standard Korean, long-fermented kimchi. What I produce is more of a quick, Asian-marinated cabbage, carrot & daikon salad.  But that suits my tastes better than the traditional spicy, soured version.
This time however, I wanted to try a recipe that uses a quick-ferment of 2-3 days as apposed to many, many months in a clay pot buried in the ground. If I plan it right, it should be ready for my kimchi-devouring brother, who it just so happens is meeting with us for a brew-pub crawling trip in Lancaster. Hopefully a tasty offering in exchange for crashing his fiance's birthday weekend. The recipe I used was close to mine.
The only change I made was to substitute one of the nappa heads for a head of bok choy, some julienned carrots and when it came time to drain the salt water I only put half of it back and replaced the other half with 3 tablespoons each of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar & brown sugar. Also, I did not have any Korean chile powder so I used 2 teaspoons each of sambal sauce, smoked paprika & tiny dried Pequin Chiles. Initially I thought that I went over board with the heat but, as it turns out, it's just right for my tastes. I'll get a few weeks out of this in the fridge if it last that long. The fun will be trying this on as many new foods as I can. My first thoughts go to burgers, tacos, fried rice, hash & eggs. Do I dare kimchi & grits? Hmm...