Saturday, November 27, 2010

Postcards from the Plate: Egg McMuffin, McDonalds

Yes, that is correct. I am indeed dedicating a post to the Egg McMuffin. I assure you this ain’t no highfalutin market fresh artisanal interpretation either. This, my friend, is straight out of the wrapper from good ole Mickey D’s, and it sits very comfortably in my top ten favorite foods.

The morning after Thanksgiving, I woke up at 2am to get in line for some amazing Black Friday doorbuster could barely get out of bed at 9am to drive my bf to work as I promised I would when I was bustling with energy just 12 hours prior. I rolled out of bed and straight into the car cursing the day we met. Upon dropping him off at work, I thought, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be nice to treat myself to a delicious McDonald’s breakfast?’ I mean I worked so hard on Thanksgiving eating my weight in stuffing and mac & cheese so, of course, I deserved this.

I placed a strategic call to my best friend: “Hi, quick question, do you think I should get McDonalds for breakfast?” And just as I knew she would respond, I hear, “Um, yeah, why wouldn’t you get McDonalds for breakfast?” This is why she is truly my soulmate.

I may be a self-professed food snob, but this morning favorite is a guilty pleasure that I am not ashamed to admit. It’s the perfect hangover food. It’s the perfect breakfast sandwich. It’s the perfect morning indulgence. It’s just… perfect.

Oh, and I always upgrade to a meal. The hashbrown and OJ just complete the morning bliss. Seriously, it’s nom nom nom worthy!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Postcards from the Plate: Lomo Saltado, Mo-Chica

Several years ago, I traveled to Peru. Knowing as little as I did of the country (read: food), I didn’t know what to expect aside from ceviche.

What I discovered is a cuisine with influences from all over the world (those are always the best cuisines, right?). Moreover, the three main staples are items that are considered basic food groups in my world: corn, beans, potatoes.

I was already in love and I barely had a bite to eat yet!

One of the first dishes I learned about was ‘lomo saltado’, an entree that utilizes a style of cooking known in peru as ‘chifa’. The term chifa denotes a type of food, cooking and/or restaurant where Chinese dishes are re-interpreted with Peruvian ingredients.

Chinese immigrants make up a sizable population in Peru, but early settlers did not have access to all the ingredients they were accustomed to cooking with in their native country. This did not stop them, however, from adapting their culinary practices to their new home.

Lomo saltado is a type of chifa food where substitution and innovation led to an ingenious new dish. Strips of marinated beef are stir fried with onions, tomatoes, french fries (yes, you read that correctly, french fries! eek!) and served alongside rice.

And scene.

Being a lover of street food and peasant cuisine, this dish really knocked it out of the park for me. Fortunately, I’ve been living in Los Angeles where Peruvian restaurants are not hard to come by. In fact, one of our rising chefs is Peruvian Ricardo Zarate, and what you see above is his cheeky rendition of lomo saltado from his restaurant, Mo-Chica.

Do I even have to say it? It was nom nom good!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Postcards from the Plate: Vietnamese Shrimp & Sweet Potato ‘Tempura’, Brodard Restaurant

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was in town and requested a stop at Brodard Restaurant in Garden Grove. Our Vietnamese friend introduced us to this place a few years ago, describing it as having the best spring rolls and a special dipping sauce.

I’d take her word on anything Vietnamese, but my own taste buds could tell that these rolls were something extraordinary. Oh, and that sauce? There is a reason why the recipe is kept under wraps. A quick Google search turns up loads of people dying to find the secret recipe and/or failed copycat attempts. Don’t think I haven’t entertained the thought of getting a job there just to figure out how it’s made!

During this last visit, among our usual selection of rolls and entrees, we added an appetizer called ‘banh tom co ngu’ for the first time. The menu describes the dish as being a “shrimp and sweet potato tempura with Asian greens and lime chili fish sauce.” What you see above is the tempura part. Like many vietnamese foods, the tempura is eaten wrapped in lettuce and filled with other fragrant greens like cilantro and dipped in a sauce.

I love this style of eating because Koreans also like to wrap their KBBQ goodies in lettuce or rice paper and dip. It’s just such a fresh, crisp contrast to the encased item. With Korean food, it’s a nice contrast to the meaty spare rib or pork belly and the hot chili paste. With Vietnamese food, it’s a clean compliment to the fried roll or, in this case, the fried shrimp nest.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr: My New Favorite Yogurt!

I first noticed Siggi’s yogurt in NYC. I was attracted to the little tubs because of their clean and rustic aesthetic. What can I say? I’m a sucker for simple, clean design.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I made a note to sample a Siggi’s, but had a hard time finding them. Today, however, was my lucky day. I went to Whole Foods to pick up breakfast and on the lowest shelf of the dairy case were several flavors of Siggi’s. Jackpot!

Siggi’s is actually skyr, a thick, strained, high-protein Icelandic yogurt. Let me tell you, this stuff is THICK. I was only able to eat half a container because it was so thick and filling. This yogurt, unlike most you find in the stores, is very low in sugar. In fact, it has no artificial sweeteners and instead uses agave syrup.

Part of the reason I stopped eating yogurt is because so many were starting to taste ‘fake’. I switched over to Fage Greek-style yogurt a couple of years ago and have trained my palette to appreciate the sour dairy flavors of more ‘real’ yogurts.

Siggi’s is definitely a great find and I’ll have to try the other flavors to figure out which I like best. I also love the story behind the eponymous Icelandic creator who left his NYC consulting job to produce and sell skyr. Check out this article from which left me both inspired and envious.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

What’s Better than a Potato Fry? Avocado Fries!

Several weeks ago, I came across a recipe in the NY Times for avocado fries. Um, huh!?

What genius decided to take the two food items that I love to eat — with copious amounts of salt — and mesh them together? Well, according to the NY Times, the recipe (an entry in the Sunset Cookbook) was adapted from George’s at the Cove, a restaurant in La Jolla, CA.

I immediately went out to buy a couple of avocados. The next stage was the hardest part of this endeavor — waiting for the fruit to ripen. Luckily, this recipe called for “firm-ripe” avocados speeding up the process by a day or so.

The execution was simple. Batter the sliced avocados in flour, eggs, and panko. Fry. Salt to taste. Eat. Nom nom nom.

The avo fries were surprisingly un-greasy: panko crumbs, by their nature, do not absorb oil as readily as other types of breadcrumbs, and I did opt to pan fry the pieces over deep frying them. The result was a coarse, crispy exterior encasing a rich, creamy interior.

For me, a little sea salt was the perfect topping. The bf is obsessed with ‘Some Dudes Fry Sauce‘ and immediately went for the bottle. I’ll never understand his love for it, but I suppose this is an instance where he says ‘poe-tay-toe’ and I say ‘poe-tah-toe’.

During dinner I suggested that these avo fries would be a welcome addition to a salad. I specifically had Cobb in mind, but it’s too gluttonous to enjoy on just any occasion. So, the next morning, while packing my lunch for work, I decided to make a salad consisting of baby romaine, corn, tomatoes, red onion and, of course, avo fries. The ingredients were all market fresh which required minimal dressing. It was truly a thing of beauty and one that I can’t wait to make again!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

On the Menu: Brussels Sprouts

I was probably in my 20s when I first tried Brussels sprouts. Having grown up in a Korean family, I was unfamiliar with these miniature cabbages. In fact, I had expected the worst right before taking my first bite. I mean, they are the epitome of a ‘bad’ vegetable. All I ever heard on TV and in the movies were kids suffering almost water-boarding level torture from having to eat these things.

My first taste, though, wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was a bit pleasing. It was softer than I expected and they had soaked up a lot of the seasoning in which they were cooked. Honestly, I can’t remember how they were prepared, but I do remember they were tasty because I went back for more.

I also remember the first time I fell in love with Brussels sprouts. A friend that prided himself on a recipe that involved sautéing the sprouts in bacon fat shared his rendition at a dinner party. Now, I’m not of the ‘put bacon on it and it’s gotta be good’ camp. Bacon is certainly delicious and amazing, but I prefer it in moderation. Whole pork belly, on the other hand, is another story, but I digress… so, back to my friend and his amazing bacon Brussels sprouts. We were having a fish fry and this dish was the perfect accompaniment. The Brussels sprouts inherited the smoke and fat of the bacon. They were nice and crispy on the outside but tender inside. (Yum! It’s no surprise he’s in culinary school now!)

Last night, I decided to roast some Brussels sprouts — the very ones you see above, in fact. I worked backwards in that I chose my side dish before the main course. Not that it mattered because I ended up eating all the sprouts and was too full to eat anything else.

I employed a simple preparation of roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper. Much like Ina Garten, I love to eat them salty like my french fries so I had a heavy hand with the shaker. If you’ve never tried Brussels sprouts or have only tasted them overcooked (they get kinda stinky when that happens) then I urge you to give them another chance.  Ina’s recipe — more of a guide on how to cook them really — is the perfect (re)introduction!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jujubes: Nature’s Candy

They say raisins are nature’s candy, but I beg to differ. Did those people ever taste a jujube?

I recently discovered these little fruits and have been stocking up on them because they are the perfect sweet treat. Also known as a chinese date, these small drupes have a consistency and taste similar to apples.

I have no idea how else to eat jujubes except in their natural form. From the little research I've done, it appears they are often served dried (upon which they turn a pretty red color).

Next time I visit an Asian market I’m going to try and find some dried jujubes. Perhaps a baking project is in my future…

[UPDATE: I am a total idiot because dried jujubes are used in some Korean soups. I just had no idea what they were!]

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