Risotto

I’ve been on a risotto kick lately and for a good reason… I find I often have seemingly random ingredients on hand these days. Dried mushrooms? Toss ’em in! Some cooked chicken thighs? Great, add it! Leftover bacon from breakfast? Perfect! Shrimp in freezer? Why not!

I’ve actually pulled elements from each of these recipes and made my own combinations. It (almost) always works!

Get it right and it can be creamy in texture, even without dairy. Well, the fake butter helps, too.

Korean Food II

Taking inspiration from my last post about Korean food in movies and my love for our local Korean place, N to Tail, I decided to try my hand at making some Korean dishes. I was pretty pleased with the results (though I didn’t get a good photo).

  • Bulgogi:
    • I did the following:
      • accidentally skipped onion (it was still good)
      • substituted 3T palm sugar for 4T white sugar
    • and didn’t do the following:
      • freeze the beef to slice (just be sure to have a very sharp knife!)
      • do the Seoul-style option included in the recipe
  • Kimchi pancake (aka kimchi-buchimgae or kimchi-jeon):
    • I used a mild kimchi by Kimchi Pride for this round
    • I may scale back on the flour and water, since a jar of Kimchi Pride isn’t quite a full pound
    • The video below is the actual recipe I used
  • Pancake and dumpling dipping sauce
Photo by SenuScape on Pexels.com

Food in Korean film and TV

I’ve been on a bit of a kick lately with Korean food, TV, and movies. Interestingly, food plays a major role in most of the Korean films I’ve seen.

The original Oldboy is the first Korean movie I remember seeing years ago. The lead actor famously eats a live octopus – something he did four times. Second, mandu (Korean dumplings) play heavily into the plot.

Even Joon-Ho’s The Host features food fairly heavily. The main family owns a small river-side food shack, selling beer and grilled squid. Instant ramen is seen a few times; from an empty container being used as a piggy bank to the means of showing family bonds. I wouldn’t exactly call the movie, uhm, appetizing.

You probably don’t think about food first with Snowpiercer, but thinking back – it’s a huge part of the Bong Joon-Ho flick. The poor people of the back of the train with protein bars and the “balance” that’s maintained in the other sections with sushi, steak, etc.

From the main family’s food struggles, to a housekeeper’s food allergies; food is seen throughout Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. The best known food from the movie is ram-don, a mixture of jajangmyeon and jjampong topped with expensive steak. The name, ram-don, was a creation for the film and is usually called jjapaguri. But similar to his earlier movie The Host, food, and the struggle to get it, is a symbol for family.

Lastly, Squid Game, features a few instances of food, the most well known of which is dalonga. But, like some of the other films above, steak is again used a symbol of wealth and success.

Thankfully, I have a great Korean restaurant here in Portland, Maine called N-to-Tail. I’ve been able to sample bulgogi, Korean fried chicken, kimchi pancakes, and more. At home I’ve been making Buldak spicy ramen by Samyang. My “recipe” of late has been to toss in some kewpie, chicken, and egg, and a vegetable. While not as as good as N-to-nail, Bibigo offers frozen Korean fried chicken, mandu, kimchi fried rice, and more.

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Bonus: I have yet to see Minari, but A24 released this cool series of recipe cards from the cast.

Thankfully, Binging with Babish has featured a few of these recipes, along with other Korean dishes.

Congee, three ways (sort of)

Up until recently, I’d never had congee – I’m an instant fan. I’ve mentioned Crispy Gai here in Portland, Maine before and theirs was so amazing that I had to try and make a version (or three). These all use the same congee as 1 cup of rice yielded a lot of leftovers. If you haven’t had it before, congee is basically Chinese rice porridge and can be dressed with any number of items.

What I made…

  • Congee with roast pork belly and egg
  • Congee with shrimp and nam jim sauce
  • Congee with bacon and egg

Basic Congee

I watched a number of videos and looked over a few of recipes before trying this one, but overall it’s very easy.

  • 8 parts chicken broth to 1 part rice (I used jasmati)
    • This can range from 6:1 up to 10:1, depending on the recipe used – 8:1 worked for me
  • Rinse rice until the water runs clear
  • Cook in Ninja Foodi on pressure cooker setting on high for 30 minutes and natural release
  • That’s it!

Next time I want to try something more like this recipe and use bone-in chicken during the cooking process. I attempted fried garlic, but it was a little bitter.

Congee with Roast Pork Belly

  • Prepare pork belly according to this recipe
    • Note: I subbed mirin for sherry and used regular soy sauce instead of light soy sauce
    • The pork belly cooking time could be adjusted here, but the marinade is really very good. The fat layer didn’t render exactly to my liking, but this was also my first time trying it!
  • Prepare a poached egg
  • Place congee in bowl and top with sliced scallion, cilantro, roasted peanuts, egg, pork belly, and cooked reserved marinade

Congee with Shrimp and Nam Jim Sauce

  • Cook shrimp using your favorite method
  • Prepare nam jim sauce according to this recipe
  • Place congee in bowl and top with sliced scallion, roasted peanuts, shrimp, and nam jim sauce

Congee with Bacon

  1. Prepare thick cut bacon and a runny fried egg
  2. Place congee in bowl and top with sliced scallion, cilantro, roasted peanuts, egg, bacon, and marinade from the pork belly recipe

Tiger Cry Steak with Nam Jim Sauce

Recently, I went to a great new restaurant here in Portland (Maine) called Crispy Gai. They started as a pop up and have moved to a full brick and mortar. Their focus is on Thai-inspired fried chicken and other foods.

One of the highlights of Crispy Gai are the sauces and, in particular, I found their Nam Jim seafood sauce to be amazing. It’s a spicy cilantro-based sauce and I left wanting to make it myself… so I did! I stumbled on a recipe from Claire Handleman, a chef who focuses on Thai food. For my version, I swapped out the 6 green Thai chilis for a single jalapeño. I loved the heat of Crispy Gai’s version, but the jalapeño version is milder and still great! I was also lucky enough to find cilantro with the roots still attached (something the recipe requires). I also ran out of fresh limes, but bottled lime worked great!

I paired this with an Asian salad (honestly, it was just a pre-made kit), a randomly-found recipe, Tiger Cry Steak, and rice. While this recipe normally calls for a different sauce (Nam Jim Jaew), the seafood sauce worked great and I’m excited to pair it with other meals!

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

1 Degree of Gordon Ramsay

If you watched the recent Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode, you would have seen chef Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland. Back in 2008 I photographed a few Maine restaurants for a personal photo project, including Chef Kelly. She was super welcoming and accommodating (and the food was phenomenal!). Check out a few of the photos on my website.

Pad Thai

This was not my first time making pad Thai, but was my first time working with tamarind, palm sugar, dried shrimp, and zha cai (I maybe didn’t even buy actual zha cai?). I also had to pick up a few different kinds of soy sauce (sweet and black). My first attempt was fine, so I want to give this a try again to see if I can improve. I’m fairly certain I know where I went wrong, too.

This is the first video I’ve watched by Joshua Weissman and his delivery is… interesting.

Full recipe here: https://www.joshuaweissman.com/post/homemade-pad-thai

Chipotle Weekend

Over the weekend I decided I wanted to cook something a little different from the usual. The answer was obvious… a bunch of copycat Chipotle recipes! This looks like a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. There’s a bunch of downtime while making some parts… the carnitas takes a little time and the broiling step can wait. The corn salsa is better with some time to sit as is the guacamole. Lastly, I covered the rice to keep it warm while I finished other pieces.

  • Corn Salsa:
    • I dialed back the jalapeño a bit, but the rest if the same.
  • Beans:
    • I used kidney beans instead and still great!
  • Carnitas (for Ninja Foodi):
    • I may reduce the agave next time, it was rather sweet, but really great overall!
  • Guacamole:
    • I watched the video mentioned in the post (see below). Chef chad says keep the stems in the cilantro. I removed the thickest parts, but kept the rest. The video differs from the written recipe, so I followed what was written and just grabbed some tips from the video.
  • Cilantro Lime Rice
    • The only difference is that I used the Ninja Foodi to cook the rice.
  • The assembly:
    • The end result was basically a rice bowl with (in order from the bottom) rice, beans, carnitas, corn salsa, guac, (vegan) sour cream from Forager.
    • There was enough for more than one meal, so there was also a round of quesadillas with carnitas, beans, and Violife vegan cheddar.

Chef Chad of Chipotle demonstrates how to make guacamole:

Faith Middleton’s Monday Night Flank Steak

At some point during the quarantine, I came to the realization that I wanted a steak night once a week. With that, I’ve been trying different cuts and experimenting with what works. Marinating flank steak was one that just didn’t work (maybe it does for you, but it didn’t for me). I found this recipe randomly and, as I often do, I made a couple of quick substitutions, noted below. The original recipe suggests some side options, including a horseradish sauce or tomato and arugula.

Recipe

  • Servings 4-5 people
  • Prep Time 15 minutes
  • Cook Time 8-10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (calls for sweet paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, ground into a paste (calls for garlic powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 flank steak: 1-3/4 to 2 pounds and about 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat

Instructions

  • In a small bowl mix together all the spice-paste ingredients.
  • Brush the paste evenly over both sides of the flank steak. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the sauce.
  • Pan fry the flank steak over medium-high heat, until cooked to your desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare.
  • Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices. Taste the meat and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

I don’t really do reality TV. I watched The Real World when it started in the ‘90s because it was a new thing, something different from the norm. That said, I have a bit of an obsession with the original Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares that was broadcast in the UK starting in 2004.

If you’re unfamiliar, the show is hosted by chef Gordon Ramsay as he visits struggling restaurants in Britain and Europe. I find the UK version far superior to the US version (in the sense that the US version is unwatchable). Each episode of the original series is shot like a documentary and, while things get heated between presenter and restauranteur(s), the final product is much more reasonable than its American counterpart. The music is better, the filming is better, the editing is better. It feels like a thing that really happened, as opposed to an exploitative TV show.

Haven’t seen it? Almost every episode is on YouTube for free!

A playlist of all free episodes

I’ve only cooked one recipe from chef Ramsay from another show of his, F Word, and it was years ago… sea bass with pepper sauce (see video below). I paired it with baked rice with star anise (I can’t find the recipe now). It stands as not on one of the best thing I’ve ever cooked, but maybe eaten, too!