Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tutorial on Fried Rice

I have been asked a couple times about how to make fried rice. I always thought that it was a fairly easy dish because it's basically diced up leftovers heated up with day-old rice. It wasn't until I saw the episode of Sam the Cooking Guy demonstrating how to make fried rice that I realized how easy it is to screw this up.

He made the recipe way more complicated than it had to be. I thought his whole show was based on simple ways to making complicated recipes? No wonder people are confused. Anyway, I digress...

So I've decided to create a tutorial on how to make fried rice. You can make this dish with fresh ingredients or yesterday's leftovers.  I like using leftovers (meatloaf fried rice, anyone?), because everything is already cooked and all you need to do is heat it through.

The most important thing is to start with day-old rice, or at least cold rice. Otherwise, you'll end up with a very mushy mess.

You might want to stir the rice around a bit to separate the clumps.  You don't have to be meticulous about it, but you don't want big lumps of rice either.  The only basic ingredients are the rice and eggs. You can add whatever else you want to your fried rice.   Of course, don't forget a bit of oil so that everything doesn't end up sticking to your cookware.   Order of ingredients to go into the pan is aromatics (garlic or onions) first, then meat, then veggies, and last egg-rice mixture.

Fried Rice
3 cups day-old rice
2-3 cloves of minced garlic (use ginger if making seafood fried rice)
1 1/2 cup choice of meat diced into bite sized pieces
1 cup choice of assorted fresh, frozen or leftover veggies, roughly chopped (if using snow peas, leave whole)
1 small diced onion
2 stalks of finely chopped green onions (parsley or cilantro are also good substitutes)
2-3 drops sesame oil (optional)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil
salt or soy sauce to taste

In a bowl, mix the eggs into the rice until well coated.  Set aside.  Heat wok or large nonstick saucepan.  Add olive/vegetable and sesame oil and heat over medium flame.  
Add onions and cook until translucent.  Remember to always stir constantly when cooking this dish. 
Add garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
Add meat, stir until halfway cooked.
Add veggies. Cook for another 2 minutes or until heated through.
Add egg-rice mixture.
Stir in green onions. Stir until egg is no longer runny. Turn off the heat and add salt or soy sauce to taste.  Makes about 3 servings.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Linkery

A couple weeks ago, I went to The Linkery with a friend of mine who just moved to North Park. Sorry about the text-only post, I didn't have a camera with me at the time. According to their website, The Linkery menu changes from day to day. Their kitchen creations feature produce from local independent California farms. The meats are all-natural and the veggies are often organic. Believe me, you can taste the difference. If you don't believe me, go to the grocery store and buy the organic grass-fed ribeye and compare it with the other ribeye. I shun hormone injected beef, I shun thee.
To all the beer snobs out there, you will find no Budlights or MGDs at this restaurant bar. The beer list features local breweries. I'm not a big wine drinker, but the wine list was a mile long and includes wines from all over the world.
This cozy neighborhood restaurant was packed when we arrived at around 7pm. There was also another sign in the waiting area that explained their No-Tipping policy (18% gratuity is automatically added to your tab.) My dinner buddy and I went to the bar for a beer while we waited. We were promptly seated before the bartender even got a chance to pour our beer (Mission Helles Lager for me and the Coronado Red for Dinner Buddy), I was pretty impressed considering there were two parties ahead of us. The nice waitress made sure our beers would be delivered to us. I ordered the Goat's Leg with Butternut Squash Gnocchi. Dinner Buddy went with a Picnic Platter of links. She decided on two Chicken links, Chicken Cordon Bleu and another one that was mixed with a variety of herbs.
The waitress also brought us a carafe of water for our table. She informed us that the water is infused with sage. Dinner Buddy pointed out the sage leaf resting on the bottom of the carafe. It was refreshing and a nice palate cleanser, which is great because we sampled everything on each other's plates.
Something was a little off when our dinners arrived. We finally switched beers and all was well. Her chicken links went much better with my Mission Helles lager and her robust Coronado Red matched the gameyness of my goat. I normally like my meat a little rare (this was cooked well-done) but I loved the flavoring. Slightly sweet and savory, didn't overpower the natural game flavor of the goat. The Butternut Squash Gnocchi was delectable, though I didn't care for the white sauce that accompanied it. It was way too sweet for my taste. Dinner Buddy's links were a major hit (duh, it's called The Linkery.) I'm not a big fan of Cordon Bleu, but I think I might have eaten most of Dinner Buddy's plate. I couldn't remember the name of the other link that she had ordered, but that was just as fabulous. The combination of herbs complimented the flavor of the chicken nicely. The Picnic Plate also came with a small plate of breads and a side of sauteed spinach, garlic and onions. The bread was nice and crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. I didn't care for the sauteed spinach. All I tasted was garlic, which I love but I also would have liked to taste the other ingredients. Dinner Buddy enjoyed the spinach very much and pronounced her love for garlic.
The dessert menu also listed beers that would match well with some of the items. I've heard of dessert wines, but dessert beers are ingenious! We split a Grilled Pound Cake, which was served with whipped sweet cream and fresh raspberries. The slightly charred outer layer of the chocolate pound cake my taste buds to a different level. Dinner Buddy also ordered a cup of Dragonwell tea, served hot. It arrived in one of those tea-mugs that had a removable part that holds the tea leaves (filled to the brim with loose leaves) and a cover so that you can let your tea steep to the strength of your liking.
Overall, the food was great. More emphasis on the flavor and quality rather than quantity. I was left satisfied, but not full. The service was prompt and attentive, well worth the 18% tip that was automatically added onto the bill. The starters ranged from $6-11, salads $6-14, mains $12-19, and desserts $6-13. With my student loans kicking in, I couldn't afford to eat here every week. But this is my new favorite splurge eatery.

7 days a week
5pm-11pm or whenever

3382 30th Street
in North Park
San Diego, CA
(though they are going to move to a new location on University Ave soon)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pomegranates - Part II

The organic beef ribeye looked really good at the market. I used the rest of my pomegranate reduction as a marinade. The sweet and tangy taste of the pomegranate married well with the beef. Too bad I got distracted by Dancing with the Stars and overcooked my steak. Ho-hum.

Pomegranates - Part I

I would like to express my gratitude to those who have fruit trees in their backyards. You always share the bounty of your harvest and I am greatly appreciative.

I wandered into the kitchen/break room at work last week and discovered a bowl of pomegranates with a note that said something like "Please take!" Now I give myself credit for showing restraint and only taking one.

I have fond childhood memories of my mom getting pomegranates from the local farmers market when they were in season. One by one, I would pop each delectable red ruble into my mouth. Wearing my old-red-pomegranate-eating t-shirt, I would savor each moment when the tangy juices burst onto my tongue.

As I started to peel into my pom, a light bulb went off. I put the rubles into a small pot and added just enough water to cover the seeds. After straining and reducing the liquid, I added mirin and ginger powder. And this is the creation I have come up with...

The pomegranate reduction mixed with the pan jus from the pork chop created a tangy and
savory sauce. I actually tipped my plate to drink what was left of the sauce after I finished the dinner.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Oyster Sauce Pasta???

What to do when you have a cupboard full of pasta that was on sale last week but no tomato sauce? I thought about pasta carbonara, but I gots no bacon. So I just pulled some chicken thighs out of the freezer, poached them in salted water. The poaching liquid created a nice broth. The pasta shells gets added. This is my new favorite way to cook pasta. It absorbs all the chicken flavory goodness. Add some chopped up cauliflower (that was the last of my supply) and stirred in 2 tbsp. oyster sauce (which, btw, tastes nothing like oysters). The starch from the cooking liquid made the sauce nice and thick.
Yep, this is one of my ghetto meets gourmet shining moments. When it's the end of my grocery cycle and I have odds and ends to work with. The chicken was flavorful and moist. I really liked the combination of oyster sauce with cauliflower. The flavor is savory with just a hint of sweetness. This is great comfort food.
There are a couple things that I would do differently the next time I make this. I'd try to add the cauliflower in a bit earlier so that the pasta doesn't get too soft. I would also add some color to it. What is it with me and beige food lately? Maybe a sprinkle of green onions at the end, or some colorful veggies like carrots.

Oyster Sauce Pasta
1 cup uncooked pasta shells
2 chicken thighs
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 quart water
4 tbsp salt

Combine salt and water in large pot.  Bring to a boil.  Add chicken thighs.  Bring water back to a rolling boil  Lower heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until chicken thighs are
cooked through.  Remove chicken thighs and set aside.
Bring liquid back to a boil.  Add pasta shells and cook for time indicated on package.
Once chicken thighs are cool enough to handle, chop into cubes.  Set aside.
About 3 minutes before pasta is done cooking, add cauliflower.
Drain cooked pasta and cauliflower.
Combine pasta, cauliflower, chicken and oyster sauce together.  Mix well and serve.

Got Pork?

Mmmm...pork. The other white meat. And incidently, Homer Simpson's favorite meal is pork chops.
I didn't have the foresight to thaw out the pork chops that I had in the freezer. So I just ran the package under some cold water, just enough to defrost the very outer layers of the chops. I rubbed the rosemary between the palms of my hands to release the flavor and aroma. Rosemary is one of those herbs that goes well with almost any meat. Little bit of freshly ground pepper here and a shake of salt there. The meat made a satisfying sizzle sound when it hit the pan, mmm...pork. Made sure it was cooked all the way through. I also sauteed some sweet onions and garlic with cauliflower. I guess this is a pretty beige meal, but I don't got any greens in the fridge this week. I made two and saved the other piece of pork chop for lunch. I think it was even juicier the next day when I reheated it in the microwave(55 seconds on med-high). Don't ask me how that's possible, I was just blessed by the almighty Pork Gods.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I am an Asparagus Junkie

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops with Roasted Asparagus
It is technically not asparagus season yet, but there has been very good sales on this tantalizing veggies that had me justifying my green indulgence. I bought a bundle last week as my one not-on-the-list impulse item (some would opt for chips and sweets, I covet the asparagus).
I pan roasted the entire bundle in garlic and olive oil and ate that with a side of lamb chops. But then I was left asparagus-less after that meal. Like a junkie seeking her next fix, I made a special trip to the grocery store the next day and bought two more bundles.
In an effort to show some restraint, I only steamed up half a bundle this time. Now when it comes to asparagus, I don't like to do too much to it. I like to enjoy this vegetable without a whole bunch of other ingredients masking its full flavor. Mmmm...dressed with a touch of sesame oil, lemon zest and a sprinkling of sesame is good.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops
2 lamb chops
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
Mix the olive oil, rosemary lemon juice and garlic together.  Marinate the lamb chops in this mixture for about 3 hours in the refrigerator.  Grill to desired doneness.  Salt to taste just and serve.  Please never ever salt your lamb before it is done cooking.  That would make the meat toughen.

Dressing for Asparagus
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
dash of black pepper
1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
Mix all ingredients together and toss with steamed or grilled asparagus.