28 January 2010

Roasted onions

I'm kinda loving the new Momofuku book. Loving it. I mean, umami bombs of ramen deliciousness? Sign me up!

Well, had to try his version of roasted onions, as it's required for numerous dishes (and, it's gotta be good, because roasted onions go great with stuff like bratwurst). So even a failure here would probably be a pretty nice success.

So we start with
3 onions
neutral oil (I used canola)
So, chop the onions. I like to have big pieces, so chop them on the axis to give lots of rings of onion delicioiusness.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat and toss the onions in there.


As the onions start to sizzle, turn the heat down to medium. Toss the onions with a pinch of kosher salt. Now, stir the onions, only occasionally.

roasting onions

And continue to cook the onions, approximately an hour, until nicely browned and totally softened. Don't mistake the photo (the flash makes it appear lighter). You want a really nicely browned onion.

roasted onions

This is deliciousness. Caramelized and yummy, this will go great in a sandwich, on a brat, or chopped and tossed into any dish that enjoys onions. Love it. More soon.

26 January 2010

Tea-smoked duck

I love me some duck. Love. Love. Love. Sadly, Mrs. Dude finds duck rather too fatty, so when I prepare duck, it has to be de-fatted. This recipe from Smoke & Spice does just that. And it's smoky, spicy and ducky. Perfect.

Start with a couple of ducks. Prepare this rub:
¼ cup cracked Szechuan peppercorns
¼ cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
minced zest of 2 oranges
1 ½ tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
Szechuan peppercorns aren't actually peppercorns (and they're available at Asian markets or from Penzey's). The night before, mix the rub together, and rub it all over the outside and inside of the ducks. Indeed, rub it under the skin of the ducks, as best as you can without ripping the skin. I find this is slightly more challenging with ducks than with chickens. The duck skin seems to adhere to the meat more tightly than chicken skin does. Nonetheless, you can get this rub stuffed all over the breast and the legs. Place the ducks back in the fridge.

Rubbed duck

The next day, make the tea. Bring 12 cups of water to a boil with:
5 tbsp black tea leaves
Steep the tea for ten minutes, then sieve out the tea leaves (and reserve the leaves). Put the tea in a big pot that you can fit a bamboo steamer in.


Place the bamboo steamer in the pot.


Place the ducks in the steamer. Steam ducks in the tea for an hour and a half over medium-high heat. This serves to extract the fat from the ducks. There will be a ridiculous quantity of duck fat at the bottom of the steamer when you're done. Delicious, Szechuan-seasoned duck fat.
Duck fat

MMMMmmmmm.... But this results in a less fatty duck. Which for Mrs. Dude, is key.

Place the reserved tea leaves plus:
3 whole cinnamon sticks
peel of 1 orange in large pieces
1 tbsp szechuan peppercorns
2 star anise
into a small pan. Prepare your smoker to smoke at 200°F with the pan filled with aromatics.

Smoker setup


Once the smoker reaches 200°F, place the steamed duck into the smoker.

Smoke duck

Smoke the duck for 5 hours, using hickory for smoke, until it's turned a delightful color and has absorbed that delicious smoke flavour.

Smoking the duck

Let the duck rest for 10 minutes.

Tea-smoked duck

Carve and serve. This duck is smoky, spicy and has that unique Szechuan peppercorn flavour. Very tasty. And just the right amount of fat to keep it still rich flavoured without being greasy. Yum.

19 January 2010

Butterfly wings

This past weekend we were in San Francisco for a brief getaway. Our most memorable meal of the weekend was at The House. (sorry, no photos - I'm still not that guy who takes photos in the restaurant). An Asian-inspired seafood place in a tiny little space, across from one of the best bookstores I've ever seen (picked up a copy of Hervé This' Molecular Gastronomy there) and near several peeler bars and a live-sex club, The House was filled with an eclectic mix of young fashionistas and older, bearded academics.

We started with their seared day-boat scallops, perfectly cooked (it looked like they had seared the edges, in addition to the tops and bottoms), sitting in a delicious sauce, and with sprouts piled high on each scallop. Delicious.

Then I ordered their special, miso-glazed cod on spinach, with some sort of Japanese roll of seaweed, sushi rice and some spiced vegetable or other. I could barely hear the waitress in this place, so I'm not sure what was in it, but this cod with sushi roll was out of this world delicious.

But the cod is not why I'm posting about this meal. Mrs. Dude ordered the mushroom rice with grilled prawns. When they brought the dish to the table and set it down in front of her, we immediately noticed that it was covered with little insect wings, flapping slowly up and down. The effect was more than a little disconcerting, but mesmerizing. This was one of the few times I could hear our waitress clearly: "Those are butterfly wings.". She laughed. "Actually, those are bonito flakes. The heat from the rice is making them wave." Well, they continued to wave for a good ten minutes while Mrs. Dude devoured the dish. Visually enthralling, and exceptionally tasty to boot.

The bill at the end of the night? 1 glass of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 main courses, 2 desserts and we got out of there for $110. Score.

We'll be returning to The House the next time we're in San Francisco.

14 January 2010

Pumpkin soup

When our son was but a baby, we went on a road trip. We rented a van with some good friends, piled in to the van, 2 men, 2 women (one pregnant) and one baby. Our plan was to drive from Baltimore to Québec City in two days, stopping part way through day 2 in Montréal. It only sort of worked out that way.

It seemed everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. There were no vacant hotels along the freeway going north. None. Apparently the construction going on in northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York was so busy that every hotel along the freeway was full of construction workers. So we soldiered on, further and further north. Later and later into the night. We got crankier and more uncomfortable. We crossed the border into Canada around 3 in the morning, and the border guard was extremely suspicious. He asked for proof that we had enough food for our baby and we had toys to keep him entertained. Did he think we were baby smugglers? Or was he just lonely, and had nothing better to do at this empty border crossing at 3 a.m.?

On we went. We exchanged drivers around 4 in the morning, and I drove. Everyone else passed out. That's when I noticed that our van was flying. It had stopped touching the ground, and we were hurtling down the freeway, floating in the light, making record time. It took me a few minutes to realize I was hallucinating on this desolate stretch of highway. We had to stop.

So stop we did, in a tiny hotel in a dodgy hotel in a small town in Ontario. They had only one room that we would all have to share. We checked in around 5:30 in the morning, relieved that we would finally go to bed. That's when the baby woke up... I think we managed about 3 hours of sleep each, before getting back in the car to go to Montréal. We had dinner reservations that we had to meet - dinner reservations at Au Pied de Cochon.

One of the first dishes we had at Au Pied de Cochon, was their pumpkin soup with foie gras. If this were the only dish we had there, this would have been one of the best dinners of my life. Rich and porky. Sweet and creamy. With a seared chunk of foie in the middle of it. O rapturous day! This was worth everything in that hallucinogenic trek through upstate New York. And happily, the recipe for it is in the book, Au Pied de Cochon: The Album.

We made a slightly modified version of it this year for the first course for our New Year's Eve dinner:
2 small pumpkins (whole)
10 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
3½ oz parmesan cheese (grated)
2 oz slice fresh foie gras
1 cup pork stock
1⁄5 cup heavy cream
½ cup olive oil
2 branches fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper
Open up the pumpkins, and scoop out the seeds.


Place the rosemary, garlic, onion and olive oil into the pumpkins. Cover the pumpkins with foil and roast in the oven 375°F for one hour (or until the pumpkin becomes tender - larger pumpkins will require more time).

Gutted pumpkin

Scoop the roasted flesh out of one of the pumpkins, and place in the blender. Blend the pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic until smooth. Pour the pulped goo into a pot on low heat. Add the cream, parmesan and pork stock, stirring until hot and smooth (careful, this is a thick soup, and the bubbles that come out of it will be big, gloppy, splash on your hand and leave a mark that will take 2 weeks to heal - I'm just sayin'). Salt and pepper to taste (kind of a lot of salt). Serve the soup in the reserved pumpkin.

Meanwhile, slice the foie gras into thin pieces (one per bowl). Quickly sear the foie on each side in a dry pan over high heat. Just long enough to brown it. Add the pieces of seared foie to the pumpkin soup in the pumpkin, or alternatively, give each person a piece of foie in their soup bowl. Any additional foie gras grease in the pan can be added back to the soup for deliciousness.

Pumpkin soup

Serve and be amazed. Delish.

12 January 2010


Tonight, I'm going to write about one of my favourite things - cuts of meat that are cheap. That's right, baby. We're talking pig's necks and chicken feet. We're going to extract the deliciousness out of these cheap babies and serve up a ramen broth that is mind-blowingly tasty. Rich and salty. Layered and complex. And just so damn yummy.

This ramen broth comes from a book that Santa brought me: Momofuku. The author, David Chang, serves up unconventional Asian fare, making fun substitutions like bacon for for katsuo-bushi (smoked, dried tuna chunks). His book has bold flavours and bold language. And you should get a copy for yourself ASAP. But back to the ramen:
2 3x6 inch pieces of konbu
6 quarts water
2 cups dried shiitakes
4 pounds chicken bits (like feet!)
5 pounds meaty pork bones (like meaty pig necks!)
1 pound smoky bacon
1 bunch scallions
1 medium onion, cut in half
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
taré to taste (or salt, soy sauce and mirin to taste)
Let's make some broth. (Start early, because this one takes about 10 hours).

Konbu is available at Asian grocery stores in big sheets. It's basically kelp:


Drop the kelp into a pot with the water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and let soak for ten minutes to leach out some nice, kelpy goodness.

Konbu in water

At this stage, the broth will smell a little like a wharf. (And not in a good way).

Konbu broth

Now remove the kelp, and add the dried shiitakes.

Dried shiitake

Turn the heat back on and simmer gently for half an hour. They'll change from the pruned up dried shiitakes into these delicious little things:

Dried shiitake in water

After half an hour, fish them out of the broth (and reserve them for stew or for putting in the finished ramen if you like). The broth will now have an even darker colour to it, and have a nice earthy aroma.

Shiitake broth

From here on out, the smells are crazy good. I bought 4 lbs of chicken feet for less than $7.00. Perfect cut for stock. And plus: chicken feet! How much fun is that?

Glorious chicken feet

Gently lower the chicken feet into the screaming hot broth. Simmer the chicken feet for an hour, until the meat loosens from the feet and you've added all kinds of chickeny, footy goodness to the broth.

Chicken feet in water

The chicken feet will puff up a bit.

Chicken feet in broth

While those chicken feet are gently simmering, you can brown the pork.

Pig necks

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Pat down the meat to dry, then place it on a cookie sheet. Brown for an hour or so, flipping it once around half way through. It should look and smell delicious (I often use smell as a way to remind me to check the oven - if you can smell it, it's probably well on its way).

Browned pork necks

After the chicken has been gently simmering for an hour, pull the chicken out of the broth. Place the browned pork in the pot and the bacon, and continue to simmer, for one hour. Remove the bacon and discard. Skim periodically, and keep enough water in the pot to cover the pork. Simmer, simmer, simmer, for 5 to 6 hours, while it makes your home smell like pork soup, YUM! In the last hour, add the vegetables.

Final broth

Simmer for one more hour with the vegetables, then pour the broth through a fine sieve. Season with taré to taste. (I used a lot, and made the broth nice and salty). From David Chang's book:
"Taste it and get it right. I like it so it's not quite too salty but almost. Very seasoned. Under-seasoned broth is a crime."
Yeah, baby! We then briefly boiled some fresh ramen noodles from our local Asian market, and served the ramen broth in a bowl with the noodles, some leftover smoked turkey and a little bit of cilantro garnish.


This broth is soooo good. It's rich and salty and has multiple layers to it. And it keeps pretty well in the fridge (I've had this soup 3 times this week). Next time I make it, we're going to make a *much* larger batch, and freeze it.

If everything else in this book is even half as good as the ramen broth, Momofuku is going to bring me a lot of pleasure in 2010. Yum.

07 January 2010


For Christmas, Santa brought me a lovely gift. Momofuku cookbook. YUM! There's going to be some deliciousness coming from this book, but first, we talk about David Chang's lovely seasoning, called taré. It's a fabulous seasoning that you can use in all kinds of dishes. It's salty and meaty. It's got that umami flavour. And it's pretty easy to make:
2 to 3 chicken necks, or 1 lb of chicken wings
1 cup sake
1 cup mirin
2 cups light soy sauce
fresh ground pepper
Put the chicken bones in a deep sauté pan.

Chicken wings

You want to create a fond. Get the browned on the pot bits on there. So preheat the oven to 450°F, then place the the pan in the oven. It took me about an hour and a half to get the nice browned bits on the bottom of the pan, but you should start checking at half an hour. You want browned bits not burned bits. Cause browned is delicious, black is charcoal.

Browned chicken wing goo

Deglaze the pan with a wee bit of the mirin. Then add the rest of the mirin, sake and soy sauce. Simmer on the stove for one hour.


Strain the bones out, and season with a bit of fresh black pepper. This is your delicious seasoning taré.


This is great stuff. Meaty, soyish, and super salty. As a base for a salad dressing or a seasoning for ramen broth, it works crazy well. And, I confess, after tasting this delicious stuff, I find myself wondering... What would smoked taré taste like?

05 January 2010

Blackberry buttermilk panna cotta

On New Year's Eve, it's an awful lot easier to entertain at home when you have a little one who's not all that interested in staying up to midnight. This New Year's Eve I wanted to have a dessert that was simple and elegant. That I could prepare in advance. And that was something I hadn't done recently. How about panna cotta?

Panna cotta isn't something that one encounters frequently in home cooking, which is really a shame. It's basically a light pudding of cream, solidified with gelatin, and generally served with a fruit compote of some sort. Much like a custard, but even milder. In this case, the panna cotta is made a touch richer-flavoured by adding buttermilk and blackberries:
¾ lb blackberries (about 3 cups)
1 ¼ cups well-shaken buttermilk
2 ¾ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from two ¼-oz envelopes)
¼ cup water
1 ½ cups heavy cream
⅔ cup sugar
2 tablespoons blackberry syrup, store-bought or homemade
Wash the blackberries, and place them in a blender.


Add the buttermilk to the blender.



Blackberry buttermilk

Run the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds and any chunks. The essence of a nice panna cotta is its texture, if you let any chunks through, you'll ruin that.

Meanwhile, mix the water and gelatin to hydrate the gelatin. While it's hydrating, heat the cream and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat, add the gelatin mixture to the cream mixture. Stir until the gelatin dissolves completely. If it doesn't dissolve after a couple of minutes, put it back on low heat to help the gelatin dissolve. Really, this is the only part of the process that is fussy. If you put gelatin chunks into the panna cotta, the texture will be not nice, so keep stirring until every teeny little chunk of gelatin is dissolved. Mix in the blackberry syrup (blackberry syrup can be made by mixing ¼ cup blackberry jam with 1 tablespoon water and nuking it until it dissolves - use 2 tbsp of this mix).

Pour the mixture into a panna cotta mold, cover and set in the fridge to solidify (this takes 6-8 hours).

Shortly before serving, make the compote:
½ cup water
½ cup crème de cassis
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ lb blackberries (about 2 cups)
dash of cinnamon
Mix the cassis, water and sugar, and simmer over medium heat until it reduces to one-third of a cup. Take off the heat, mix in the lemon juice and gently put one dash of cinnamon in there. You want a ridiculously small amount of cinnamon. You don't want anyone to say, "There's cinnamon in here!". You want them to wonder, and not be able to identify it until you tell them. Pour this mix over the blackberries.

Unmolding the panna cotta is easy if you know how. Run a knife around the outside of the panna cotta. Then put the hottest water you can get out of your tap into a bowl, and hold the bottom of the panna cotta dish in the bowl. You'll be remelting the gelatin here, so just let it sit for a count of 8. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. You go longer than that, and you'll start to make it look ugly, and you don't want an ugly dessert. Pull it out of the hot water, place a serving plate upside down on top of the mold, and flip it over. Shake it a couple times sharply, and lift the mold up. The panna cotta should slide out gently. Spoon some compote over the panna cotta and serve.

Blackberry panna cotta

Smooth. Creamy. The buttermilk is a nice touch of bitterness to complement the fruit. And an elegant finish to a meal. Delish.

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! May your year be filled with happy and delicious things.

Happy New Year