July 15, 2014

Korean Pancakes a.k.a Hotteok

Welcome back! Today is sort of a continuation to the last post. If you can recall, I talked about the cooking show Korean Food Made Simple. In the show, I saw something that looked delicious and fun to make. Since Korean food has been a passion of mine as of late, this seemed like a prime opportunity to try something new. So sit back and prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Hotteok!

The picture directly above is the finished product from Chef Judy Joo. The top picture is mine. I think I did a pretty good job. I didn't have any fancy little wrappers, but it still worked.

Before we get to the process, let me explain how these pancakes differ from traditional American pancakes. Aside from what you see in the pictures above, like the size and some sort of filling, the biggest difference is the use of yeast. That's right, these little hot cakes are leavened with yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. With that said, you must now take into account that you are going to have to plan ahead if you want to make this.

I know the idea of using yeast can scare the shit out of a lot of people. All I can tell you is that you really shouldn't be afraid of it, especially with this recipe. You don't have tons of kneading to worry about with this. It is still a batter, just with a bit more body to it. You will see this to be true as we delve into the process of making this wonderful dish.

1 1/2 cups (360 milliliters) whole milk
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 packet (7 grams/0.25 ounces) instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1 1/2 cups (225 grams) strong orbread flour, plus additional for dusting*
1 cup (150 grams) sweet glutinousrice flour**
4 1/2 teaspoons (20 grams) corn flour or corn starch

1/2 cup (125 grams) muscovado sugar, firmly packed***
1/2 cup (75 grams) peanuts, crushed roughly****
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt

*When I made this, I used all purpose flour. I don't normally keep bread flour on hand and, at the time, was too lazy to go to the store.

**You might have to go to an Asian market to find this. In fact, you SHOULD go to an Asian market to find it. You will probably pay twice as much finding it elsewhere. I got this bag for $1.

***I used dark brown sugar in place of muscovado.
****I used cashews for mine. I like peanuts, but I like cashews better.

When you have all the ingredients ready, it's time to begin. First things first, you need to bloom the yeast. In a small bowl, add the warmed milk, yeast and sugar. Give it a quick stir and let sit for 4 to 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together your salt, flours and corn starch. When the yeast is ready, pour the milk mix into the dry ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. until you get a "goopy" mix.

When mixing, I had to add a few more ounces of milk to get the consistency right.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. This should take about an hour. Once it has risen, punch out the gas, cover, and let it rise until double.

While your dough is rising, go ahead and make the filling. The filling is very simple. Just chop up your shell nuts and stir them into the sugar, salt and cinnamon mixture.

After the second rise, it's time to work with the batter/dough. Punch down the mix one more time. Get some of the flour(bread or all purpose) and lightly cover the dough and cutting board with it. With a floured hand, drop the dough onto the board and sprinkle with a little more flour. I know it seems like a lot of flouring, but you don't want this stuff to stick.

Roll the dough into one single log. Cut the log in half. Then, cut each half into 5 pieces.

Now, here comes the fun part. Filling them. On the show, you see a street vendor filling them while she is holding the dough in her hand. I tried that:

What happened was the damn thing stuck to my hand so bad, I totally fucked it up and ended up throwing it on the ground in frustration. What I did after that was simply pressing them into circles on the cutting board and spooning in the filling like that. I then sealed up the dough into a nice little ball and set them on a tray sealed side down.

Now it's time to get frying. I added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetable oil to the pan and had the fire at med/high. Once the pan is hot, add 3 of the dough balls.

Once in the pan, use a spatula to flatten out the dough balls.

After a few minutes, turn over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. My first batch got a little too toasty, While I don't like showing pics of my fucking up, we can also learn from these mistakes.

You can see the difference. In the end, they still tasted good. Just be sure to make sure your fire isn't too hot.

After they cool down some, it's time to eat!

I cut this one in half to show you how the inside looks. The sugar melts and gets all gooey and yummy.

If you think they look good, you really need to try this, because they taste even better than you think! They have a little bit of crunch to it, but are super soft on the inside. The filling is sweet and rich, with added chew from the cashews. Anyone who likes traditional pancakes is sure to be a fan of these.

In the bottom picture, I added a small bit of maple syrup over the top. While it was good with the syrup, I found it to be unnecessary.

I don't expect everyone to run out and try this. In the end, I hope that maybe you will look at using yeast a little differently. Maybe it isn't so scary. Maybe it's just another ingredient you have yet to become friends with.

Until next time, my friends!

I'm out!

June 25, 2014

Cooking Show Review: Korean Food Made Simple

Welcome back to a new edition of your favorite now-and-then blog. What I have for you today is kind of a two-part thing, but I will get to that later. In the meantime, let me introduce to what I consider to be the best instructional cooking show on The Food Network and Cooking Channel combined. Say hello to Korean Food Made Simple.

Without going through Wikipedia, let me give you a short background on the host, Chef Judy Joo. If she looks familiar, that's because it isn't difficult to see her on the cooking channels. She has appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America, Next Iron Chef and a few other shows. More importantly than judging, she is an Iron Chef herself for the UK version of the show. There is much more to this woman, but I think that will give you an idea of who she is.

While the show is about cooking and recipes, it is also has a bit of travel to it as well. In each episode, you get to see a part of South Korea. Sometimes it's a well known tourist spot, sometimes it's a place only the locals know about. Along the way, you might get a small history of the dish she is going to prepare next. It all kind of ties in together.

When it comes time to cook, she knows how to throw down with the best of them. Everything is explained well, along with substitution ideas in case you can't find a certain ingredient.

One thing that caught my eye was the presentation of each dish. She is a chef. Hell, she is a fucking IRON CHEF! So you know everything is gonna have a smooth, clean plate up.

I know some of you might be thinking that Korean or Asian food is difficult to make. Well, first off, the name of the show has SIMPLE in it! Once you can get past the title, you will see that everything she is making is very straight forward. Yes, you may have to purchase a few new ingredients to stock your pantry with, but it will be well worth it.

As for me, I have a new found love for Korean food and cooking techniques. It started a little before Korean Food Made Simple first aired. Once I started watching the show, I was hooked. I've made a few Korean dishes myself, and each one I have enjoyed immensely. One of the dishes I made was actually from the show.

Let me tell you, those pancakes were....well, I don't want to spoil the next blog post for you!

That's it for this one. You can watch Korean Food Made Simple on the Cooking Channel on Saturday mornings. Take my advice and check this show out!

May 20, 2014

Afters Ice Cream

Welcome back! I'm glad you could stop by for another wonderful post. What I have for you wasn't really intended to be a blog post, but it kind of worked out that way. In the end, it was a bunch of coworkers having a good time and enjoying good food and good company. Before we get that far, let me fill you in on how a bunch of pastry chefs hit the streets in search of ice cream.

As a chef, it can be easy to get jaded when it comes to food. After a while, nothing seems to pique the interest unless it is bizarre or pushing the boundaries between food and pornography. And just when you think you have heard all the bullshit and all the so-called foodporn, you hear about something that sounds....good. You hear about something that may not even be original, in a sense, but presented in a way that drives your curiosity and genitals wild! For me, it was two words that caught my attention: Milky Buns

If you know me, you can probably guess that my first thoughts after hearing the words Milky Buns were perverted. Milky buns, to me, equated to white ass cheeks. Hey, that doesn't sound bad at all! Sadly, ass cheeks wasn't on the menu. What was on the menu was a glazed donut that is cut in half and filled with a scoop of ice cream and whatever topping that you want to go with it. I'll give you a moment to pick your jaw up from the floor.

At some point, a bunch of my coworkers decided to hit this place up one night after work. I was lucky enough to have been invited. PLUS, it was a bunch of females and I was the only guy there. GIGGITY!

Upon arriving, I saw a long line of people stretching outside the shop. Seeing that this was about 9:30 at night, I'd say that was a good sign.

My good friend Aimee Lynn was the one that found this place. I've mentioned her on this blog before, and she is one of the first people I talk to when it comes to food. She had been there before and had a few recommendations on what to order. I decided to go with the cereal milk ice cream with corn flakes as a topping. If you are wondering what cereal milk is, let me try and break this down as quickly as I can.

Cereal milk is made by pouring cold milk over your favorite cereal and letting it sit for a little while. Then, you strain out the cereal and place the milk back in the fridge. The milk has now taken on some of the flavor and sweetness of the cereal. The Momofuku Milk Bar was the first place I had heard of really using this technique to instill more flavor in their desserts.

After a 15 to 20 minute wait in line, we got our milky buns and scoops of ice cream. We sat down and talked about....everything. Food, work, rumors, Ouija boards, Iowa, and everything in between.

While the pics aren't the greatest, you can see what is going on. The top is mine. The bottom is what my lovely lady got. She ordered the Cookie Monster ice cream. It was blue and had all kinds of shit going on with it.

My ladies ice cream was everything it should have been with a name like that. Bright, sweet, crunchy, and fruity. Mine was on the more subtle side. Milky flavor with an undertone of the cereal in every bite. The corn flakes added a nice touch, but I think I will try it with cap n' crunch next time.

The donut itself was good. You could tell it was very fresh and wasn't oily. A well made donut.

While this was a tasty treat, it really needs to be just that: A treat. Mixing these two items will give you a fat ass and a bad heart in no time! Honestly, I could only indulge in something like this once every blue moon.

Aside from the food, it was just really cool to hang out with some of the work buddies away from the slave ship. To be able to just kick back and relax with the people you just went through a long, arduous shift with is a priceless thing.

These two lovely ladies are Hannah and Alexis. Hannah is the one who introduced me to Zankou Chicken. Alexis is a bit of a Star Wars fanatic who somehow got stressed out watching the latest Godzilla movie. Oh yeah, Alexis also rocks in the kitchen and trains a lot of the new hires.

This is Victoria. She is from Montana. Wait, I think she is from Idaho. No, that's not right either. Oh, I got it! She's from IOWA!!! I only say that because it was a running joke that no one could ever remember she was from Iowa. They would say every other state BUT Iowa!

Victoria, without a doubt, got the best picture of the night. Plus, this woman brings such a wonderful, exciting and positive energy to the kitchen. While there may be some really miserable sons of bitches running around the kitchen, her presence can quickly turn a frown into a smile. In my opinion, every job needs at least 1 Victoria.

These were the only pictures I got. So let me give a shout out to Kaycie, Nicole, Sam, Aimee, Jaclynn, and my lovely lady Becky. Together, we made a night I won't soon forget.

Oh yeah, try Afters when you get a chance. ;-)

18030 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

I'm out.

May 8, 2014

Catch Up and Reviews

Welcome back. I know it's been sometime since my last post, and I would like to thank you for not forgetting about me. I certainly haven't forgotten about you. During this time away, I've come across and made some pretty damn good food. In fact, so much so, it couldn't possibly fit into one blog post. So, what I have for you this time around is sort of a high-lite reel of what has been happening. Before I get to that, it's time for me to get a little personal.

For me, blogging is something I purely want to do. This isn't a need. I'm not getting paid from this, nor do I have lofty dreams of becoming some sort of writer. I do this because I love food and sharing it with others. Even if I only get 10 views a day on my page, I'm happy knowing it's out there for the world to look at.

While the thrill of having my food and thoughts floating around the internet does get the blood rushing, it also drives me crazy as well. When it comes down to it, I'm a control freak. Maybe it stems from being a chef, but I feel like if I'm going to put out a product, I want to be proud of it. I don't know how others do it, but it takes me a couple of hours to get down 1 post. The writing itself takes the longest. Then I attempt to proof read it. Then I make sure I have all the right pictures in the right places. Then I make sure I have all the necessary links set up. THEN, after all that, I publish it. That's when I have all the work of advertising on the numerous social media sites I'm plugged into. All this stuff takes time. And this, as they say, is where the plot thickens....

My time is extremely limited these days. Between work and family, there just isn't enough time in the day. I have to almost make a reservation with myself just to get on the computer these days. Lately, even when I do have the time, I might not even be in the mindset to sit down and write. I want to enjoy this, I don't want to write in a shitty mood. Even now, as I'm sitting here at the dining room table at 12:30am, I'm not in my usual frame of mind for writing. It feels a bit forced, to be honest. Forced or not, I'm doing this now, because I feel like my blog is slipping away. Plus, it's a good way to let my few readers know I'm still alive and kicking.

So, without further ado, lets get this freak show started! And what better way to kick things off than with a food FAIL!

That's right, I messed up some kind of way with the dish at the top of the screen. I was attempting to make a dish called Mofongo. To sum it up, Mofongo is a savory fried plantain mash. Guy Fieri goes nuts over this stuff on Triple D, so I figured I would give it a shot. I found what seemed like a good recipe and tried to follow it. When I was done making it, I just didn't like it. Maybe I over did the plantains, or maybe I added too much garlic. In the end, I just threw it out and chalked it up as a learning experience.

Speaking of Guy Fieri, I recently got the chance to go to a restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. The name of the place is called Momma Cozza's.

Before going, I had heard mixed reviews about this place. Some people liked it, some said the food was bland. Before I tell you my opinion, let me show you how the meal started:

Before the drinks even got to the table, this thing was plopped down in front of me and my lady. No ranch to go with it. No oil drizzled on it. Nothing at all to accompany these tired, worn out slices of vegetables that were probably cut the day before. Honestly, this is a goddamn shame.

The rest of the meal? Bland. I ordered some pasta with a vodka meat sauce and a small pizza. The sauce was very bland, needing every spice and condiment on the table to make it taste decent. The pasta itself was cooked perfectly. The pizza wasn't bad either, but there are better pizza options in the city.

Sorry Guy, I wasn't impressed with that place.

On a better note, I did have some bomb-ass food from Romano's Macaroni Grill.

The name of this dish was...sweet potato 4 cheese tortale-whatever-the-fuck. I can't remember. Plus, Italians keep renaming their food every few years to hide the fact that they haven't come up with anything new in CENTURIES! Sorry Italians, I had to spill the beans on that little secret. Please do not get mad to the point where you need to track me down and throw empty olive oil bottles at me. A simple hateful comment at the bottom will suffice. :-)

I also had a bowl of soup at a Corner Bakery. It was like a Loaded Potato soup. Some good shit! I would order it again!

I also tried a couple breakfast offerings from Taco Bell.

I didn't try both of these the same day, and my stomach and colon are happy I didn't do that either. I can be a glutton sometimes, but I have my limits.

The breakfast wrap is just aight. Not alright, ahh-ite! The one I got, I think they fucked up on. The hash brown was crispy as all hell! Normally, the center will still be a little soft with a crunchy exterior. The whole fuckin' thing was crispy, inside and out! It felt like they dropped it in the deep fry and forgot about it for a couple days!

The waffle taco may not be a pretty sight, but it didn't taste bad at all. They give you a side of syrup with it, but I just dipped the taco in the syrup as opposed to pouring it over the taco.

Like I said, the taco tasted good. Not great, but definitely not bad. My only gripe was that it was really greasy.

It's not the best pic, but my hand was glistening with grease! No driving and eating with this one!

That's about it for this one. I have to admit that my mood is much better now than when I first started writing this post. I hope I can get that feeling back a lot easier for next post. And let me tell you, I got some doozies lined up that will make your sphincter take notice! I'm not sure if that last sentence made sense, but I wanted to get the word "Sphincter" in here somewhere!

I'm out.


March 25, 2014

Cooking Show Review: Heartland Table

Welcome back! What I have for you today is a review for a show that has quickly become one of my favorites on the Food Network. On a station filled to the brim with douche bags like Bobby Flay and Alton Brown, it's nice to see a bright spot every now and then. This time around, the bright spot is Amy Thielen.

When I first saw the commercials for this show last year, my thoughts weren't exactly good about it. "Just fuckin' great! Some mid-west, country bumpkin white woman tryin' to teach me how to cook. That's exactly what I need in my life right now! Thanks for nothing Food Network!" I had written this show off before it even premiered. So, how did I come around to putting this show on my blog? Well, it all had to with collard greens. Let me explain...

I have a tendency to just turn on Food Network and let it run, as long as the host isn't too annoying. One morning, I had the station on and this show began. I was on my phone and wasn't paying too much attention to the tv to begin with. That is, until, I heard on the tv she was doing a dish with collard greens. I put my phone down and hit the rewind button on the remote. Did my ears deceive me? Is a tv chef actually using a leafy green that ISN'T kale? It was true. IT WAS TWUE! Yes, that is a Blazing Saddles reference.

The other shocker(giggity) about this is the use of collard greens. Outside of the south, you don't see them used that often. With the host touting her mid west upbringing, again, I started to have doubts. "What dafuq this country bumpkin know about collards???" So, I quietly watched the episode, waiting for her to get to the greens with an anticipation filled with mixed emotions. Half of me was honestly curios to see what she was going to do with the greens. The other half of me wanted to see her fail miserably just so I could feel right about my early presumptions. I know that's not right, but it's where my head was at that time.

To start, the whole episode was about butter. I love butter, so in my view, the show was already off to a good start. When she got to the greens, and what she did with them, BLEW...MY...MIND!! To start, she melted the butter and cooked it with a bunch of spices. Then, she strained the butter from all the spices and cooked the chopped greens in the butter in a screaming hot pan. When the greens got tender, off the heat they went. She then plated the greens and added dollops of fresh ricotta to them. Simply amazing.

All my life, I've only seen collards cooked in a big pot with ham hocks. To see the greens treated this way was a serious eye opener. A week later, I tried the recipe myself and fell in love. Not with Amy Thielen, but the greens. They were absolutely divine! The spiced butter brings so much flavor to the collards. I didn't add the ricotta, but I didn't feel like I was missing it either.

The funny thing is, when I made it, I didn't even do it right. When I was preparing to write this, I looked at the original recipe and realized I was using a spice that wasn't even in the original recipe. Plus, I wasn't using spices that were in the original. Oh well. In any case, the technique is bomb! Remember that!

Here is a link to the original recipe.

I ended up watching that whole episode and was hooked after that. Each week, she comes with real recipes alongside great technique. Plus, she's not a bitch who can't stop smiling or has a head the size of a watermelon. She brings the skills without the gimmicks. For me, it's hard to not appreciate that.

She also has a cookbook out. I just found out about it, so I can't give an opinion on it, But I would like to take a look at it.

They recently started season two of Heartland Table. It comes on Saturday mornings. Be sure to check this one out!

I'm out.

March 17, 2014

The Arzak Egg

What I have for you today is something I had wanted to try for some time. I'm not sure what finally got me off my ass to make this, but I'm happy I did. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to The Arzak Egg.

If you are wondering what the hell an Arzak egg is, don't worry, it's not some freakish egg pooped out by some endangered animal. It's really just a poached egg. The reason I'm using a different name for it is because the technique was made famous by Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak.

So, what is this technique? If you want to get technical, it's like the sous vide process. In simpler terms, you are cooking the egg in hot water while the egg is wrapped in plastic wrap. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

The first thing you do is layout some plastic wrap. From here, you can rub a little butter in the center, approximately where the egg is going to be. You can add salt, pepper, and any other herb you want the egg to cook with.

From here, line a small bowl with the plastic wrap, making sure to get that buttery area at the bottom. Drop in the egg and proceed to close up the plastic wrap around the egg. You want to get as much of the air out of the pouch as you can. You can tie off the pouch with either cooking twine or another piece of plastic wrap. I just made a string out of plastic wrap and tied it off.

Now that my pouches are set, it was time to get started on the rest of the plate. As much as I like eggs, I needed a little something else to go with it. And what goes hand in hand with eggs? BACON, OF COURSE!!

Honestly, with the plate up I had in mind, I only needed 1 slice of bacon. But who in the fuck only cooks one slice of bacon? Not this guy!!! Don't worry, the other two slices found a happy home...in my belly!

While the bacon was cooking, I chopped up some Thai basil, chives, and a little roma tomato.

At this point, the only things I had left to do was to poach the eggs and make the toast. The toast would only take a minute or two, so I got going on the eggs.

While a traditional poached egg takes about 3-5 minutes, the Arzak egg takes about 5-7 minutes. When the water got to a warm simmer, I dropped the pouches into the water. They both sank like rocks to the bottom. I didn't want to play with them, so I just let them sit for about 3 or 4 minutes before I moved them a little.

While the eggs were going, I went ahead and made the toast. I cut the crust off of a slice of bread and toasted it in a pan with butter and dried sage.

At about 5 minutes, I went to pull the eggs from the water. I used tongs to grab the loose plastic from the top of the pouch. I lifted one out of the water to give it a squeeze and test how firm it is. It still felt a bit soft, so back in the water it went. When I tried the second egg, it fell right out of the plastic! My initial reaction was simply yelling "FUCK!" at a fairly loud volume. Then, I realized that the egg was holding it's shape and no yolk had spilled into the water. So, I just proceeded as planned and finished at 7 minutes.

With the eggs done, it was time to plate up. Before I get to that, I do have to mention that there was one item I made the night before and didn't get any pics of. That would be a chianti reduction. What I did was pretty simple: Take one cup of chianti wine and about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and slowly cook down the wine until it reduces to a syrup. That's it. If it's too thick when it cools down, just add a tiny bit of more wine or water to it to thin it out.

When plating, I started by drizzling the sauce on the plate first. Then, I sliced the toast square in half to make triangles and set those on the plate. Herbs, tomato and bacon pieces went down next.

Now it was time for the star of this show, the eggs. The eggs sat atop the toast. On top of the eggs, I put a tiny bit of salt & pepper, with a thin drizzle of EVOO. Lastly, the chives on top of the eggs. And that's it!!!

The real test is to see if that yolk is nice and runny. I wasn't too nervous cutting into it, but I wasn't 100% either. When I cut into it, this is what I saw:

It came out exactly as I imagined in my head. I took a bite with the egg, toast and sauce, and it was awesome. The chianti reduction was a little tangy and a little sweet. It added a nice balance to the richness of the yolk and buttery toast. The Thai basil and tomatoes were great co-stars in this wonderful production. The crispy bacon bits gave that nice element of crunch and saltiness. And the chives....shit, you can't go wrong with chives!

I felt like I really made an idea turn into reality with this one. It doesn't happen often for me, but when it does, it does feel good. What felt even better was some of the reactions I got when I posted this on Instagram(my handle is @chefjmiller726). A few people asked if I made this or if I ordered it at restaurant. To me, that's a huge compliment. While I try not to fish for compliments, it's always nice to get positive feedback.

In the end, I like this technique for poaching eggs. If you have ever had trouble with poaching eggs the traditional way, give this a try. You might just like it. A lot.

I'm out.