Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Prepare Live Sea Urchin

I scored a live sea urchin at HMart the other day and decided that it was time for me to rise up to the challenge of preparing live sea urchin.  I have seen the guy at the farmer's market do it, it seemed doable.  Turns out, it's very doable. 
Step 1: Pick out a live sea urchin.
Step 2: Don a pair of gloves and find a pair of sturdy kitchen shears with a sharp point.
Step 3: Flip the sea urchin so that the closed opening side is up. That is the mouth.
Step 4: Carefully make a small crack near the mouth.  The shell will be hard, but is just about twice the thickness of an eggshell.  It won't take much to crack.  Cut a circle around the mouth to remove it.  
Step 5: Cut a slit in between each of the sections of golden uni tongues.
Step 6: Carefully peel off/cut away what if left of the top of the shell without nicking the uni tongues.
Step 7: Drain away the liquid inside.
Step 8: Carefully remove as much of the slimy black membrane as you could without nicking the uni tongues.  I tried using chopsticks for this, but it was too slippery.  Bare fingers work better.  Though it stains your fingers, a good scrubbing with some dish soap got most of it off.
Step 9: Use a spoon to carefully remove the uni tongues from the shell and peel away any remaining black membrane still stuck on the tongues. rinse under a gentle stream of cold water.
Step 10: Enjoy immediately.
Stuff this good is best treated with simplicity.
Uni Don
I opted for draping two tongues over sushi rice with strips of nori, a small Uni Don as my appetizer.  
The rest of the tongues, I made a simple Uni Pasta as my main course.
Uni Pasta
Uni Don
1/4 cup cooked sushi rice, slightly cooled
1 tbsp rice vinegar
pinch of sugar
2 tongues of uni
4 strips of nori

Mix the rice vinegar with the sugar in a bowl until dissolved.  Mix in sushi rice.  Top with uni and nori strips.

Uni Pasta
3 tongues of uni
1 tbsp olive oil
1 serving of hot, cooked linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti
1 tbsp of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
sea salt, to taste

Whisk uni and olive oil together in a bowl until liquified and blended.  Toss in pasta, parsley, lemon juice and sea salt.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steamed Pork with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables

Steamed Pork with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables
I was feeling nostalgic for some steamed pork with Tianjin preserved veggies and rice the other day.  Just a bit of Tianjin preserved veggies goes a long way.  The steps and most of the ingredients for this dish is the same as Steamed Pork Patty with Shrimp Paste, except for the shrimp paste.  Last time I spoke with my mom, she let me in on the secret.  Slamming the pork into a bowl for about a dozen times gives the finished product a nice "bounce" when you bite into it.

Steamed Pork with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables
1 lb ground pork
1/2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetables, fine chopped
1 stalk green onions/scallions, minced (green parts only)
Mix the pork and Tianjin preserved vegetables together and form into a ball.  Hold a metal bowl steady on the counter.  

As hard as you could, slam the mixture into the bowl. Repeat a dozen times.
Form the pork into a ball.  Flatten it into the bowl.  Set bowl in a pot of water that just reaches the bowl's half way point. Sprinkle the green onions over the top.  Cover and steam for about 30 minutes after the water starts boiling or until the meat is no longer pink. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks
I scored some beef shanks at Zion market for a super great price at the same time that I was shopping for beef marrow bones for stock.  Beef shanks are lean and tough, but also extremely flavorful.  Meat like this is perfect for braising.
Why would I want to cook a dish that will heat up my tiny apartment in this heat wave?  Because I really like bone marrow and fall-off-the-bone-tender beef.  Especially when it comes with a luscious sauce like this one.  The braising liquid is thickened by the collagen that is naturally abundant in this cut of beef.  It will coat the back of a spoon without the addition of thickeners or roux.  

Fall off the bone tender
And because I am going to cut down the cooking time with my pressure cooker.  Next to my grill, it is my second most used cooking appliance in the summer. It is a crazy, irrational home cook's best friend. It cuts down on cooking time for recipes that call for a slow braise, which breaks down the collagen in the meat, which in turn makes the meat tough and the braising liquid thicker.  That is one mouthwatering domino effect, isn't it?
Ossobuco traditionally uses veal and white wine.  However, I think red wine stands up to the more robust flavor of beef much better.  The acidity from the red wine and tomatoes helps tenderize the meat as well as infuse intensely complimentary flavors.  
By the way, only use wine that you like to drink.  It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be good.  And good means that you like the way it tastes.  Not sweet though.  The reason to cook with wine is to impart its flavor onto the dish.  If you don't like the wine in a glass, you won't like it in a dish.
Enough talking, start cooking.

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks
1 lb beef shanks, butcher cut 1-inch thick
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock (can sub with chicken stock), unsalted
salt & pepper
1 tsp beef tallow or cooking oil

Coat the beef shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat the beef tallow or cooking oil in the pressure cooker.  Sear the beef shanks on all sides.  Set beef shanks aside.
Cook the onions over medium heat in the pressure cooker until translucent, scraping at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Stir in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. 
Add beef shanks, diced tomatoes, red wine and beef stock to pressure cooker.  Arrange the beef shanks so that it is covered by all the other ingredients.
Lock the lid on pressure cooker according to instruction manual.   Bring heat up to high to build up to high pressure.
Reduce heat to medium-low for 30 minutes.  
Turn off heat and let pressure reduce on its own for another 30 minutes.
Carefully remove lid.  Serve braising liquid over rice, risotto, mash potatoes or pasta.