Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roll one up, Homie.

I am not one to go crazy for egg rolls. Actually, I don't care for most rolled things... burritos are okay...but I'd rather eat everything separately...sushi rolls are cool....but I'd rather have nigiri...and a roulade is nice looking... but I don't think it's the optimal way to prepare the ingredients. Yes, I am not a roll fanatic.

However, every rule has its exception. And this egg roll is it. It's my mom's "recipe" (I use that loosely because there is not actual recipe but rather a...philosophy of egg rollingology). And I could say how this recipe has been passed down from generation to generation of Vietnamese families, how my mom fled the country with $20 and this recipe written on a banana leaf, how we have killed many to keep this recipe safe. But I would be lying. Truth is, this recipe has been constantly modified and tweaked since my mom started making them (I like to think I had some input, but I can never be sure of these things). This "recipe" is a constantly evolving animal seeking change and innovation.

Its always about the philosophy. I propose the perfect egg roll. Not mushy or wet like cheap Chinese takeout. Nor so hard and crunchy that they tear up your tonsils. There should be a perfect layer of fried outside to moist inside. Not too big, not too small. These are rules we can all live by.

So let's assemble the ingredients. You got your veggies, and you got your protein. This time we used about 6 cups julienne taro, 1-2 cups woodear mushrooms (an asian variety, found dried) and 3 cups green cabbage. The protein consists of 2.5 lbs ground pork, 2 lbs shrimp, and 4 cups cubed tofu. These measurements are approximate. This recipe makes a lot but they keep well in the freezer. But if you want to scale the recipe down, its about 50/50 veggies to protein (these are great made with just tofu for a vegetarian alternative).

Bind everything together with 2 whole eggs and season with salt, pepper, fish sauce, and garlic powder. Mix until incorporated.

Now to roll. We tend to use Menlo brand wrappers, but your favorite wrapper (or better yet, the one that is on sale) will work. We seal the wrappers with milk or egg or a mix of both (depending on mood really...).
Start with a wrapper.

Put about...this much filling.

Roll 1/3 the way up, fold in the left and right corners and then fold all the way, seal the edge with the milk/egg mixture.

Stack up a bunch to make a cool picture.

Wrap the rolls in pyramid shapes. Egg rolls freeze amazingly. In fact, most of the time we don't eat the egg rolls right away. Rather we are anticipating that there might be some uncontrollable midnight craving for egg rolls one night...and we want to be prepared. This recipe makes about 90 rolls. What to do with a freezer full of egg rolls? Bring them to parties (people will love you). Make dinner for your family/friends/roommates by frying them up and serving with some rice noodles, cucumbers, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, lettuce, and fish sauce vinaigrette. with a freezer full of egg rolls.

My favorite sauce for this is fish sauce vinaigrette (Nước mắm pha) is basically one part lime juice, one part fish sauce, one part sugar, and two parts water (we like to add minced garlic and thai chilies). This ubiquitous Vietnamese sauce is served on everything from rice noodles, to grilled pork. If you have a jar of this on hand... you will never go hungry.

BUT, we got lazy. And our provisions of Nước mắm pha were all used up. So we used sweet chili sauce (GASP! A premade product!?). Yes, its premade. Not it taste good. Really. We mix it with some vinegar to give it some acidic bite. But really, any egg roll sauce will do (or plain, that's good too).

This recipe is a lesson on change. My mom's egg rolls were good before, and we just could have easily stuck to them. But we didn't. And here we are. With the BEST egg rolls. Ever.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Figs, Figs, and Figs! (Guesstibaking)

So we have a fig tree. A big one.

Photo:Proof of fig tree ownership

So we have a lot of figs. My mom doesn't really eat she ASSUMES that everybody in the house dislikes them too. Which is wrong. I love figs. So this year I convinced my mom too keep a few for the house before giving them all away. But too much of a good thing is...well too much.

So I went on an internet journey to find fig recipes. I was really interested in doing a bread since figs and bananas, although share nothing in common on the surface, do have a sort of slimy/mushy consistency. I typed "fig bread recipe" into google, and BAM! tons of recipes. I finally found one I liked. However, it required 3 eggs and I had only 2. It needed buttermilk which I didn't have. It called for plain white sugar but I was hell bent on using honey (figs and honey, its biblical). So here is where I start improving. And the first rule of improv is "Say Yes" (alternatively, don't deny). So I said yes.

First lets get the easy stuff out of the way. Grease and batter bread pans. I used one big pan since we don't have smaller ones, but this "recipe" makes enough for about 2 loaves. Oh, and chop up some walnuts while you're there.

Here's what we will refer to as "The Goop". The Goop consists of 2 cups of fresh fig meat (here mission figs), 1.5 cups of honey, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil of your choice. I think that's it. It should look disgusting at this point. (mmhmm egg, oily, sweet fig goop.)

Dry stuff. 3.5 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon.

Now you make the batter. This is where it gets kind of tricky (for me). If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by mixing a tablespoon of vinegar with plain milk and letting it sit for ten minutes. If you don't use this substitute the pH will be wrong and the reaction with the baking soda not take place. In addition the substitution of honey for sugar requires less liquid overall since honey is part liquid. The original recipe called for .5 cups of buttermilk...and I eyeballed it, so its about .4 cups of buttermilk substitute.

Baked at 350 for about 45 minutes. I had to drop the heat to about 300 after 20 minutes since it was browning to fast (stupid big pan).

I still had about... well lets just say I still had a lot of figs. So I made some basic fig jam. Its about
1.5 cups of figs with .5 cup splenda and enough pectin to make it thick. Cook on low until desired texture is achieved.

I also made some pancakes with the leftover batter, which turned out fantastic. Served with a little shaved butter. Would be great if I made some type of fig syrup. But, alas, I didn't.

The finished bread. Bread will taste best about 24 hours after its been baked (wrapped in plastic wrap), the texture seems to firm up and retain moisture better.

The finished bread all gussied up. The left has some jam and the right has cream cheese mixed with the jam (sounds strange, but just think of cream cheese frosting on carrot cake...).

Lessons Learned: I don't (Currently) posses the restraint to be a good pastry cook. I enjoy the power of yeast, but as for normal pastries I still can't follow a recipe (probably because I gotta make everything Thomasafied). However, that being said, I still think I did a passing job here. And I did make a dent (a very, very small dent) in my fig arsenal.

So... Who wants some figs?

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pork legs for all you chick(pea)s.

Two posts in one day?! Let's just say I felt generous for ya'll. No, oh no need to thank me. I'm just trying to become the responsible blogger I've always dreamt/dreamed (yup, I googled, turns out the words are the SAME, Brits use dreamt, oh the Brits.) Anyways, here's what I cooked today.

I got home from work. Halfheartedly hoping for dinner, but I knew deep down that we would be eating protein powder sprinkled on Crunch Berries if I didn't cook something.

I made pork. Pork leg to be exact. I bought it on Sunday to smoke, but realized it was too much food so I put it in the fridge for another day. I've never actually cooked it myself, but it looked good, and that skin would make a fine cracklin'. I rubbed the meat simply with red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. I wanted something to cook the meat on so I rummaged the pantry. I came up with a couple cans of chickpeas, rinsed and put into the pan with some red onion, orange peel, red pepper, and lemons. I roasted the whole thing at 375 for about 45min to 1.25 hours. (Honestly I lost track of time...)

Wanted a little extra moisture and something to add to the crust so I made a quick glaze of orange zest, orange juice, about an inch of fresh ginger, star anise, red chili, soy, mirin (rice vinegar), and honey.

Vegetables 'cuz we healthy. Sauteed zucchs (zucchinis, I ain't got time to say the whole word) with some of the extra glaze tossed in, a squeeze of lemon, and parsley.

Finished product out of the oven, wish I had taken a shot of it still in the pan... but you can imagine that.

Yeah, of course you would go for the one with the most skin.

Oh, crispy, crispy, skin.
Thanks for reading.
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Summer Cookin'

It's been a while since I've updated this thing. I've been going through a blogging identity crisis, but I think things are okay now...hopefully. I planning to expand the blog into my daily cooking, not just special occasion meals. I'm thinking that these more "routine" meal postings will focus on how I cook for myself, family, and friends most of the time: focusing on in season, affordable ingredients. They might not be complete recipes...but you'll at least have something to look at and read. All 4 of you blog followers you. (Follow on Google Connect on the right hand side of the blog Please!)

Anyways, here's some BBQ shots from this weekend...

Smoking rig for Pork butt (Chili flakes, garlic powder, salt, pepper) and some figs that were used in a kale, mozzarella, and pickled onion salad.

Ran out of propane, so I switched to this snazzy new fire pit, using a repurposed oven rack as a grill. Finishing of the pork butt. Added some pork belly, oysters, and corn.

Oysters, you either love em or hate em. These are those huge west coast oysters that are really only good for cooking.

"Oooh so this is fire?"

Everything together: BBQ'ed corn, oysters, smoked pork butt, smoked pork belly (glazed with mirin, soy, and fish sauce) and grilled 20-25 shrimp with orange, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Oh and Beer. Never forget the Beer.