Monday, May 24, 2010

Linguine with Clams

A simple and delicious recipe from Alice Waters.  This is the second time I've had this in 3 days.  If I pre-soak the clams I can start cooking and be eating in less than 30 minutes.  This is one of those recipes that makes me realize there's really no excuse for not making a hot meal for myself.

Clam Linguini

Linguine with Clams (adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

  • 2 lbs small clams
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/8 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 lb uncooked linguine
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
  • parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Wash the clams well under cold water, and soak for 30 minutes to get all the sand out.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.  When it's hot, add the clams, tomato, garlic, chile flakes, and wine.  Cover and cook until the clams open, about 6 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in the pot of boiling salted water to al dente, about 6 minutes.
  5. When the clams are open, stir in 3 tbsp olive oil and the parsley, if using.
  6. Drain the linguine, toss with the clam sauce, add more salt if needed, and top with parmesan cheese if desired.  Serve immediately.
Note: You can use larger clams; if you do, steam them open then remove them from their shells and chop them up.  Add them to the sauce along with the parsley.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tom Douglas's Garlic Smashed Potatoes

At long last, an overdue recipe.  These are possibly the best potatoes you will ever eat.  Certainly of the non-mashed variety.  That's right, I said it.  I'm putting it out there.  Now you HAVE to take on the challenge, maybe just to prove me wrong.  But I bet I won't be wrong.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Making these is a labor of love.  It's very simple and easy, but I'm not going to lie, also time consuming.  From start to finish, it'll take 1 hour and 40 minutes to cook them.  But it will be worth it, I promise you that.  Every single person I've made these for has been amazed by how good (and simple) they are.  They in turn have made them for other people, who demand to know how to do it themselves.

I adapted this recipe from Tom Douglas's "Greek Smashed Potatoes" recipe in Tom's Big Dinners.  At Tom's restaurant Lola, they serve garlic smashed potatoes, which is where I first had them.  They were so good that I had to find a recipe so that I could have them whenever I pleased (and wouldn't have to pay $8 for a small dish).  The Greek Smashed Potatoes recipe seemed just right, with a slight adaptation to make them purely garlic.

The key to making these successfully is to choose smaller potatoes.  The recipe says to use red-skinned potatoes; I've used yellow skinned ones to good effect (once they're done cooking, you can barely tell what color they started out as -- see photo above!).  What doesn't work is bigger potatoes (it used to be that you couldn't even GET red-skinned potatoes that were very big; now I've seen them in a size close to a Russet!).  They should be golf ball size or slightly larger; if you go bigger than that they may not cook properly in the time indicated in the recipe, which means you may not get that perfect harmonious blend of salty crispness on the outside and soft potatoey inside.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes (adapted from Tom's Big Dinners by Tom Douglas)

  • 3 lbs small red-skinned potatoes (about golf ball size or slightly larger) 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  1. Wash and dry the potatoes, then put them in a roasting pan large enough to hold them, with a bit of room between each potato. Roast them in a 450F degree oven for 40-45 minutes, until just tender.
  2. Remove the pan from the oven, then use the bottom of a china mug to smash down each potato to about 1/2". The skins will split and the white of the potatoes will show through.
  3. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and season generously with coarse salt and pepper. Pop back in the oven for 25 min.
  4. Remove the pan, flip the potatoes over with a spatula (the bottoms should be nicely browned), then drizzle with another 1/4 cup of olive oil, keeping 1 tbsp of oil in reserve. Pop back in the oven for another 25 min.
  5. Remove the pan again, season the second side of the potatoes with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the garlic over them.  Drizzle the 1 tbsp of remaining olive oil over the potatoes. Toss to make sure seasoning is evenly distributed, then roast for a final 5 min.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring Hill's Fried Chicken Dinner

One of my favorite foods in the world is fried chicken. There are few things better than biting into hot, crispy batter then encountering juicy, flavorful chicken.  It's damn good.  Not ever having had the pleasure of eating homemade fried chicken in the south, most of the fried chicken I've had have been at fast food establishments and restaurants.  I've just about given up having fried chicken at restaurants.  It's inevitably overpriced and not as good as the fast food places -- such as Church's or Ezell's (a Seattle establishment famed for having fried chicken so good that Oprah Winfrey has said that it's her favorite fried chicken and has it flown out to her in Chicago).

Well, one restaurant has finally done it right.  Is it really any surprise that it's West Seattle's Spring Hill?  Not to me, at any rate.  Spring Hill rarely disappoints.  At least when it comes to their food.  Their Fried Chicken Dinner for 4 -- by special reservation only and served only on Monday nights -- is something special.  It comes with two whole chickens (with the breasts cut in half, so there's a higher crunchy batter to meat ratio, which means you can get delicious skin and meat in every bite), which is more than you think it is.  It also comes with seasonal sides.  It was one of the most satisfying meals I've had in a long time.

And now, the pictorial.

Big Platter of Fried Chicken
A truly enormous platter of fried chicken, fried in peanut oil, that once you start eating, seems to grow in size.  We thought we'd be able to tackle it easily.  We ended up taking a box and a half of chicken home.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
What's a fried chicken dinner without mashed potatoes and gravy?  It would be wrong.  Spring Hill doesn't leave it out.  Here's buttered russet potatoes with a light but intensely flavorful gravy.

Macaroni and Cheese
Spring Hill calls this "herbed dumplings with Beecher's Flagship."  I call it upscale macaroni & cheese, made all the more delicious by the use of Beecher's Flagship cheddar.  Beecher's is another wonderful Seattle institution.

Jalapeno Cornbread
Then of course, there's cornbread.  But with a twist, or maybe a kick; these are jalapeno.  It came with a delicious honey butter (not pictured).

Oven-crisped Broccoli
Caramelized broccoli; I like to call it oven crisped.  I like pretty much any preparation of broccoli, but there's something about the texture it gets when prepared this way that I just love.  I could have eaten five plates of this on its own, so really for four people it's quite small (especially in comparison to the chicken).

Fried Chicken Dinner Plate
Put it all together and what do you have?  A PLATE OF HEAVEN, THAT'S WHAT.  Oh, the dinner also came with marinated cucumber spears, but I didn't have a chance to take any photos of that before it'd been passed around too much and was obliterated.

Freshly Sliced Mango
After dinner I went home and sliced up a mango, Thai style, because it was overripe and needed to be eaten.  Lord mangoes are good.  Fried chicken and mangoes ... life is good.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Her name is Lola...

...she was a showgirl...

Wait. Where was I... oh yes, not channeling Barry Manilow.

On Sunday my family and I went to Tom Douglas's Lola for brunch. Lola has a Mediterranean/North African influence. I've been there several times, for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and have never been disappointed. It's simply delish. It's where I first had TD's garlic smashed potatoes, which are out of this world. I could have sworn I posted that recipe here, but apparently I didn't. I feel somewhat guilty for depriving you for so long. I'll post that soon.

Anyway, Lola. They have their kebabs available any time, but the best time to get them is during brunch/lunch, when they're considered an entree and come with either potatoes or a Greek salad, pita bread, and dill yogurt. They're several dollars less during dinner, but they're considered appetizers and don't come with anything but the kebabs themselves.

On to the food porn!

I had... Tom’s big breakfast: Pacific octopus, snap peas, bacon, chickpeas, green garlic yogurt, an egg sunnyside up, and toast.
Tom's Big Breakfast

My mom had... Lamb kebabs with caramelized garlic and a red wine glaze, pita bread, yogurt with dill, and Jackie's Greek salad.
Lamb Kebabs

My aunt had... Alaskan salmon kebabs with capers and tarragon, pita bread, yogurt with dill, and garlic smashed potatoes.
Salmon Kebabs

My cousin had... Squid kebabs with crushed chili and chermoula, pita bread, yogurt with dill, and Jackie's Greek salad.
Squid Kebabs

My cousin's kids shared... Washington chicken kebab, pita bread, yogurt with dill, and Jackie's Greek salad. (It comes with 3 kebabs, the older one got 2 and the younger one got 1.)
Chicken Kebab

We also had loukoumathes (a type of Greek fried puff, kind of like a donut) for dessert, but they went too quickly to take a picture of. They were dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and came with a tangy rhubarb topping and vanilla mascarpone which was just AMAZING.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My First-Ever Korean Table

I have long enjoyed Korean cuisine, but have never attempted to make it myself. Like Indian cuisine, it always seemed rather daunting, even though the ingredients are fairly common (unlike Indian spices). Recently, I decided to make a full-Korean meal for members of my family, including banchan and dessert. I was somewhat trepidatious, as I generally like to test recipes on myself before inflicting them on others. :-)

It was a long, arduous undertaking, but I did it, and most everything was well received. I waffled between making little dishes of banchan myself or buying it, but in the end the things I wanted were simple enough, and only ended up buying the kimchi (I'm not sure I'll ever come to a point where I'll feel I need to make THAT myself).

One learning that came from this experience is that it's well worth taking the time to make the main courses, but maybe not so much the banchan unless I'm feeding a lot of people over the course of several days. The banchan dishes I chose, while very simple to prepare, are nevertheless time consuming, especially when preparing a bunch of other dishes, as I did.

Here, then, are the various dishes I made, along with a few cooking notes and how each was received.

Kimchi, the only dish not made from scratch. It was okay.  I have yet to find a brand of store-bought kimchi that I really like. The kind served at Korean restaurants tend to be much better than what I can find at the grocery store (even H-Mart, a Korean grocery store).

Seasoned Spinach
Sigeumchi Namul, or seasoned spinach, made by dropping the spinach into hot water for 1 minute, then seasoning with sesame seeds, sesame oil, and salt. Very good and simple, but quite a bit of work due to all the washing that's required.

Seasoned Mung Bean Sprouts
Kong Namul, or seasoned bean sprouts, made by steaming the sprouts (in this case, mung bean sprouts, though traditionally it is made with soy bean sprouts) for a few minutes, then seasoning with scallions, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and salt. Very good and simple, but a bit time consuming.

Seasoned Spicy Cucumbers
Oi Muchim, or spicy cucumber salad. Small Persian or Kirby cucumbers are sliced, then mixed with scallions, sesame oil, cider vinegar, and gochujang. This was only okay, even though it's usually one of my favorite banchan. The problem was that the gochujang I used was WAY too spicy, so that I wasn't able to put much of it in. That made the cucumbers under-seasoned.

Korean Mixed Simple Salad
Sangchu Kutjuri, or mixed simple salad, which I've found to be ubiquitous during Korean barbecue meals. However, I'm not sure how traditional it actually is, as it was actually difficult to find a Korean cookbook that had a recipe for it. It's red-leaf lettuce, hand shredded, with thinly sliced scallions and a simple dressing that's sweet, savory, and sour all at once. It's wonderful. My version was pretty good, but not nearly as good as I've had at restaurants. More experimentation is a must!

Jap Chae
Jap Chae, or glass noodles with beef and vegetables. This went down like gangbusters. Everyone loved it. It was delicious, and very authentic tasting. The glass noodles are made from sweet potato starch, and turn translucent when stir fried. The noodles are mixed with seasoned beef, matchstick carrots, onion, shitake mushrooms, and spinach (which I added a bit late, so it's kind of clumpy in the dish). Really wonderful, well worth the time it took to make.

Bulgogi, or the well-known sweet and savory "barbecued" beef that's thinly sliced. This was an incredibly simple and delicious dish -- all that's needed is for the beef to mature in the marinade. Also a hit with everyone.

Ginger Jelly Dessert
Saenggang Jelly, or ginger jelly. Most decidedly NOT a hit with everyone. First you have to really, REALLY enjoy the taste of ginger. Then you have to enjoy the heat in your mouth after a few mouthfuls of this super strong dessert. It creeps up on you, and just isn't very pleasant. Even those among us who enjoy ginger a lot couldn't handle eating all of it. Granted, we didn't drizzle it with dark corn syrup as the recipe indicated (because we didn't have any), so I don't know if that would have made a big difference. Honestly though, I can't remember EVER having a Korean dessert in a restaurant setting, and recipes for them in cookbooks seem very sparse; maybe dessert just isn't a forte of the cuisine.

I also made something else that I neglected to take a picture of, that everyone absolutely loved: Kom Tang, or beef bone soup. I actually don't even know how Korean it was, since I made a lot of adjustments, especially toward the end when I was running out of time. The recipe calls for beef knuckles, but I couldn't find it at either H-Mart nor 99 Ranch, so I ended up using beef neck bones instead. That right there might make it un-Korean, I don't know. I was also supposed to cut the meat and cartilage from the bones and drop the former but not the latter back into the soup; I skipped this step entirely. We're used to eating meat from bones in soup, after all. I also did not remove the carrot and onion, again due to time contraint. I used daikon, which I had on hand, which I'm not sure if that can be considered "Korean radish" (the recipe does not get more specific than that). Finally, I neglected to add all of the ingredients that I was supposed to at the end, because I just plain forgot, lol. Yet, as I said, everyone LOVED the soup!

I wanted to make "purple rice," which seems to be pretty standard at Korean restaurants, but it turns out that you have to soak black rice (a bit of black rice mixed with white rice is what turns the rice violet in color) for hours and hours before it softens enough to be cooked with white rice, which I didn't realize. So we just had regular sticky white rice.

All in all, a big success, and a few of these dishes will likely find themselves in my permanent repertoire!

Jap Chae (recipe adapted from The Korean Table)

  • 1 tbsp Sweet Soy Base Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 tbsp minced green onion
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 lb sirloin tips or ribeye steak, cut into matchstick strips
  • 5 oz dried Korean vermicelli noodles
  • 1/2 lb spinach
  • 2 tbsp canola or other neutral oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchstick strips
  • 8 dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted in water and cut into matchstick strips
  • 1 tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp Sweet Soy Base Sauce
  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small bowl, add the beef and the first 3 ingredients to make the marinade. Toss the beef strips until thoroughly coated. Let the beef marinate while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Place the dried noodles in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Pour about 4 cups of boiling water over the noodles and let soften, about 8 minutes. Drain the noodles. If they get sticky just give them a quick rinse with warm water.
  3. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, add 1 tbsp of canola oil and place over medium heat. Stir-fry the onion, carrot, and mushrooms separately, seasoning each with a pinch of salt. Add additional oil to the skillet as needed. Place each vegetable, when done, into a large serving bowl.
  5. In the same skillet, add the beef and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add to the serving bowl.
  6. To the skillet, add the 1 tbsp of sesame oil and the 5 tablespoons of Sweet Soy Base Sauce. Bring to a boil. Add the softened cellophane noodles and mix well. The noodles will become transparent over the heat.
  7. Add the noodles to the serving bowl along with the cooked vegetables and beef. Toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Sweet Soy Base Sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 thin slices of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine
  1. Combine water, garlic, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and wine. Turn the heat to high and boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  4. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a large mixing bowl. Discard the solids.
Bulgogi (recipe adapted from The Korean Kitchen)
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless rib steak, cut into very thin slices 5-6 inches long by 2 inches wide
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped fine
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Korean sesame oil
  1. Mix the beef and sugar together. Let it rest for 2 minutes, then add the soy sauce, garlic, scallions, pepper, and sesame oil. Toss the mixture well to integrate all the flavors, and let it stand at room temperature for a minimum of 1 hour (or overnight in the refrigerator) to allow the meat to mature.
  2. Preheat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the beef slices, along with any remaining marinade, to the skillet. Stir fry, without oil, for 2-3 minutes, until done.
Kom Tang (original recipe; my notes on what I changed, after)
  • 8 cups water
  • 3-5 beef knuckles with meat and cartilage attached, well rinsed
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium-size onion, halved
  • 1 Korean radish, peeled and cut into a 4-inch piece
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 5 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp hot chili powder
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  1. Bring the water, bones, carrot, onion, and radish to a boil over high heat for 20 minutes. Skim off and discard the foam. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for at least 2 hours, which should be sufficient to tenderize the ingredients.
  2. Remove the bones from the broth; cut off the meat and cartilage and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Discard the carrot and onion.
  3. Slice the radish into thin 1-inch squares. Add to the hot broth with the meat pieces, salt, scallions, sesame seeds, hot chili powder, and ginger. Mix briskly and serve immediately.
My Changes
  1. I used beef neck bones.
  2. I used Daikon radish, and sliced it into 1-inch pieces from the outset.
  3. I skimmed the foam at the beginning and at the end.
  4. I did not remove the meat/cartilage from the bone and instead served with the bones intact.
  5. I did not remove the carrot or onion.
  6. I did not add the ingredients from the scallions onward, at the end.
  7. I ended up simmering the soup for 4-5 hours, as I was preparing the rest of the meal.