Monday, December 13, 2010

The Meatballs Aren't Bitter, I Am

I was very excited at the beginning of my sophomore year when I found out there was a kitchen in the basement of my dorm. I imagined all the fanciful feasts I would prepare for my hallmates while getting 100% on all of my exams and going to the gym daily. I was to be showered with gratitude and adoration.

It didn't quite work out that way. Somewhere in between switching majors twice and my obsession with naps, I'm pretty sure I only used the kitchen once (and the gym never). And even then, it was only to store mixers for alcohol and reheat leftover fried rice from Shanghai Cafe.

Actually, there was one instance where my roommate and I went down to the kitchen with the intention of cooking pasta. I guess he didn't know that I knew a little bit about cooking because he took on this domineering role, patronizing me about the proper method to boil water and reheat pasta sauce from a jar of Prego. He acted like I'd never seen a mezzaluna or prepared a mise en place before.

I crafted this recipe for meatballs out of my bitterness from that incident and a 50/50 combination of ground pork and ground beef.

Linguine and Meatballs

1/2 Pound Ground Beef (70/30 lean is best)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
2 Eggs
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Onion
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Fennel
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 Dash of Bitterness (don't go looking for this in the grocery store, it comes from the heart)

Mix all the ingredients together with a drizzle of olive oil. When all the ingredients are combined, form into small balls and line them up on a baking sheet.

I topped them with more cheese because I am fat, another source of bitterness.

While baking in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes, I made a simple marinara out of sauteed garlic, caramelized onions, and fresh tomatoes. I then added about two cups of San Marzano tomato puree. Season to taste and simmer to reduce slightly.

Yes, that is who you think it is: Jake Gyllenhaal (circa Prince of Persia).
When the meatballs are done (they may take longer if you made giant, baseball-sized ones), plop them into the sauce you made. Stirring gently didn't really help keep the exterior coat of cheese on the meatballs. I watched as they tragically disintegrated into the sauce.

So I put more cheese on the whole thing later. 

I prefer meatballs on wide pasta like linguine because the two components are more evenly matched. Putting meatballs with angel hair would be like a marriage between Taylor Swift and the oldest, nameless, unpopular Jonas Brother; it would be dysfunctional and unsatisfying.


I may be a college student, but I refuse to be treated like I eat like one.

Monday, December 6, 2010

If The Turkey Is Dry I Might As Well Die

Thanksgiving is a complex holiday for Asians (shoot me because I can't stop talking about being Asian, God.) I've always wanted to replicate the "Rockwell Thanksgiving" and all the other quintessentially American portrayals of the holidays. This was made difficult by my parents, who not only do not try American food, they preemptively decide that they do not like it. 

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving were of a conspicuous Cantonese roast duck in the center of the table (head,, surrounded by sides like pea shoot leaves, eggrolls, and the omnipresent bowl of white rice. For all the people who appreciate an ethnic take on this decidedly American holiday, bless your heart. But I wanted nothing more than to assimilate. I wanted a turkey.

This was achieved ever since I took over the Thanksgiving day menu a few years back. With this turn of events, my mother seemed at odds with herself. On the one hand she was ecstatic about being able to watch her Korean soap dramas in the morning and take a nap in the afternoon. But she was also bewildered by her inability to contribute and the extremely foreign tartness of cranberries. She copes with these feelings in two ways. First, she makes it clear to me that a dry turkey would be the end of the world. This is no pressure at all. Then, she quietly assembles ingredients in the corner of my eye for a last minute batch of eggrolls. I allow her this one concession.


Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey (10-15lbs)
Black peppercorns

I've tried brining previous years but find that the end result is not really worth the hassle. This year's method produced a turkey equally flavorful and moist (praise the lord).

The night before Thanksgiving, grind three tablespoons of salt, one tablespoon of black peppercorns, one tablespoon of dried thyme, half a tablespoon of dried rosemary. When the herbs and spices are uniformally small, season the inside and outside of the turkey liberally. Refrigerate, covered tightly in plastic wrap.

An attractive look into the body cavity of this year's turkey. I've named him John Smith.

Three hours before you intend to serve, take the turkey out of the fridge. Season with a little bit more of salt and black pepper. Stuff the inside of the turkey with a quartered onion, a quartered lemon, several smashed garlic cloves, fresh sage, and fresh rosemary. Save some sage and rosemary to chop up and fold into room temperature butter.

Layer the bottom of the roasting rack with onions, celery, and carrots. Cover the breast and upper part of the legs with tin foil and bake at 450 degrees fahrenheit for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, remove the foil, and spread the butter over the turkey. You don't have to use the butter all at once. You can check the turkey periodically and spread more butter on spots that have not browned as nicely. Spread a little butter over the turkey at the very end to give it a glossy sheen and an extra 100 calories.

OK so we didn't monitor the browning as intently as we should have and the color turned out less "Rockwell" and more "Snooki." But it was crispy and salty, the only two things that matter in life.


One of our guests for dinner was from Taiwan (literally just got off the plane). She sniffed everything before putting it on her plate. I tried not to take it as an insult. I also tried to stay calm while my father got drunk, kept calling me "Iron Chef," and demanded that I recite all the ingredients to every dish on the table. Later on in the night, my mother relented, saying that the turkey was, "better than last year's." 

There was a compliment in there somewhere and I am going to take it as her one concession.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Actually, I Feel Stupider

My insight into white-people culture is mostly derived from what I have watched on TV. From this, it has become evident that white people get their children to eat unappealing food by convincing them it will make them strong and big (i.e. spinach).

So it's somewhat telling, and not at all surprising, that Asians get their children to eat unappealing food by convincing (read: threatening) them it will make them smart (read: acceptable/lovable). 

As a child, fish were one of the most unappetizing foods for me. This was exacerbated by the fact that my family ate fish "the Asian way", which is to say with all its bones intact. Hearing my father hack up tiny fish bones lodged in his throat must have damaged me psychologically. One time at Fortune Star Buffet I got a small eel bone stuck in my throat that stayed stuck for about a week. Obviously, I was traumatized.

Regardless, I, along with countless other Asian children across the globe, were forced to eat fish if we ever wanted to, "grow some brains" as my mother so delicately put it. 

Since then, I've learned to navigate around the bones and have come to genuinely enjoy fish. Specifically, Chilean sea bass (Kate Gosselin is also a fan) has convinced me that fish truly are the last frontier of proteins. There are new things to discover all the time! 


Honey Soy Salmon

Salmon (I used a steak: "the Asian way." Certainly I would prefer a fillet but they are more expensive: definitely not "the Asian way.")
Soy Sauce
Red Pepper Flakes
Dijon Mustard

Mix half a cup of soy sauce, one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon dijon mustard, and half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes in a bowl.

It should look something like this. Don't be intimidated by the color and strange murkiness. 

Marinate the salmon for about an hour (or overnight if you wish). I am aware that my honey is weird and clumpy.

Cook the salmon on a grill or in a pan with a tablespoon of oil on high heat for 4-5 minutes on each side. Make sure not to flip until the side has cooked completely. Otherwise the entire thing might rip to shreds.

Salmon is an oily fish so it's best paired with a light salad with a tangy dressing. Perhaps spinach to get the best of both worlds.


The jury is still out on whether all the fish over the years have actually made me smarter. A more important question is what kind food will make me skinnier.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eat, Play, Blog

I became obsessed with food years and years before Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and a rat made it socially acceptable. Back then, it seemed nobody ate for fun, (much less cooked), and the only place to watch a food show was on PBS's Saturday afternoon programming. In fact, it was somewhat tragic to be the person who cooked extravagant meals for one and stayed in on Friday nights to watch the Japanese version of Iron Chef.

I was 5 years old when I burnt my first culinary endeavor, scrambled eggs. The entire thing was ill advised; I could have burned down the whole house. I was 20 years old when I got my first restaurant job. I was ecstatic and saw the entire thing as a great first chapter to my very own "Kitchen Confidential." But In terms of careers my parents envisioned for me, the list is as follows (in order of acceptability):

Supreme Court Justice
Drug Addict

So after a year, I still have not told them where I am working. I have a lurching fear that if they find out they will strangle me for not spending more time doing practical things like preparing for the CPA exam, applying to law school, or crushing my lifelong dreams. 

I think it would be fascinating to cook for a living. Anything from working for Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester to interning with Misa and Jen in the Nom Nom Truck would be a dream come true. Until then, my double life at Adele's Restaurant in the Stamp Student Union will have to suffice.

I recently entered a recipe contest sponsored by Sunset Magazine to supplement my meager kitchen supervisor wage. The challenge was to create a recipe including sausage, broccoli, and red pepper. If I win, I'm going to buy a KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

The SBR Burger!
(This is so uncreative, it hurts.)

4 Italian Sausage Links
Broccoli (1 small head)
Roasted Red Peppers
Red Onion
Mozzarella Cheese
Sesame Buns
Dijon Mustard
Garlic (2 cloves)
Olive Oil
Fennel Seed

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Break down the broccoli into florets keeping only the crowns as the stalks may become tough. Place the florets on a baking sheet with olive oil, one minced clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops turn slightly brown.

Open the sausage links and take out the meat, discarding the casing. Mix in half a tablespoon of fennel seed and one minced clove of garlic. Form 4 patties from the meat. (If the sausage meat does not stay together well, add a tablespoon of flour).

Heat olive oil in pan to high. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each sausage patty and sear on both sides for 5 minutes each. Reduce heat to medium, place a slice of cheese on each patty and cover the pan. Cook until the cheese is completely melted.

Blend two tablespoons of mayonnaise, 2 roasted red peppers, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor.

On a toasted sesame seed bun, spread the the red pepper mayonnaise on both sides. Stack the patty on next, followed by several roasted broccoli florets and a few thin slices of red onion.

Mr. Squash enjoyed this burger with sweet potato fries!


I didn't win.