Tuesday, November 23, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: Daft Punk / TRON

I think I'm more looking forward to the soundtrack than the movie...but in any case, here's a little clip for the upcoming TRON movie whose soundtrack was done completely by the insane Daft Punk (the "DJ's" in the booth in this video, in case you didn't know). BTW, I think it's awesome how Daft Punk have been wearing the same costumes forever and you plop them in this movie and don't have to make a single adjustment; it's like they were created so long ago to be in the new TRON movie. This is the only tune officially released thus far but if the rest of the soundtrack is 1/2 as good as this song I might just put in on loop for the entire day when it comes out in a couple weeks. Oh yeah and I'm sure the movie will be good, too, but seriously: DAFT. PUNK.

Oh and in case you want to listen offline, here's a link to download the song above: Derezzed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A-Z Project: D is for DAIKON

As in: Shrimp and Daikon Salad with Ume-Shiso Dressing

D wasn't that difficult, simply because I couldn't think of anything off the top of my head other than daikon. Sure, if I dug around I'd find dates or...whatever else starts with D...but I really wanted to do daikon so it was convenient.

Japanese radish by day, R&B star by night

What's up with daikon? (For the record, I think daikon sounds like the name of an R&B or hip-hop star but let's stay on track here) Daikon is a big white radish from Japan. It doesn't have a ton of flavor but I guess the fall and winter roots offer more flavor than those from spring and summer; bonus. It's a little peppery, firm and crispy and is just as good served raw as cooked. My first impression tasting it raw was a real crispy arugula flavor but not nearly as strong; the pepper is certainly there.

I actually pulled this recipe straight from Gourmet Magazine and cooked it exactly as written. Sidenote: it's becoming clear as I do this project that since I desire to cook unknown or little used ingredients I'll be utilizing more recipes than I initially intended. Maybe not exactly as written, but I'd rather use recipes over just forcing something to work with a recipe or preparation method I typically like to make. Imagine how delicious the grilled daikon tacos would have been!

Umeboshi paste, shiso leaves. Cue up The Vapors on iTunes

There's an Uwajimaya 2 miles from here so it was super simple to get everything. I love that place even though the local store is showing it's age big time and is about as haphazard as the playlists I create. But, it still retains that quirky, cozy, neighborhood market feel that has been part of it's charm since we first moved here in the early 90's; it's certainly nothing like the downtown location (which is super rad). I've always liked Japanese food and flavors and I find myself digging deeper into that cuisine more and more and having Uwajimaya close by makes it really easy to fall in love with food that many people shy away from simply because there's a lot of confusion about what to buy, how to cook it, etc.  Sushi and teriyaki aren't the only great foods from Japan, trust me...

Here's what I used:

Mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
Rice Vinegar
Umeboshi plum vinegar
Umeboshi plum paste
Shiso Leaves
Soy Sauce
Brown Sugar
Vegetable Oil

Anyway, this was by far the easiest preparation yet. Basically, it's just thinly sliced daikon with grilled shrimp and a simple dressing based on umeboshi (they taste pretty much identical to plums if you ask me). That's it. If it took me 20 minutes preparation to make this entire dish I'd be surprised. But, it tasted fantastic. The daikon has a faint peppery taste and the dressing was deliciously sweet with umeboshi and the taste you just couldn't put your finger on had to be the shiso leaves. The super crispy texture of the thinly cut daikon (thank you mandoline slicer) paired with the firm shrimp made this unlike your typical soft and squishy lettuce-based salad with a protein, but in a really good way.

Plating change, still good looking

The flavors were great, it looked really nice and it was wicked easy to prepare which by my scoring makes the "D" dish a big success. I will certainly be making this salad again and would recommend this to anyone looking to expand your culinary horizons and sample some flavors not very common in our typical diets.

So, onward to "E" and for any Top Chef fans from this last season I don't think I need to tell you what controversial ingredient we'll be using.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girl Talk

Go download this now. Expand your horizons, if you're not already familiar with Gril Talk. It's free and there's something for everyone: 373 samples in 70 minutes of music.


That is all.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A-Z Project: C is for CHANTERELLES

Nicole of Readily Edible fame (fantastic blog...go check it out...often) was in town and somehow this project came up in conversation. I indicated that C was a real tough letter with so many great choices out there.  Crab, corn, chorizo, coffee, carrot, clam, chevre, chives and myriad other ingredients made choosing one really difficult. She threw another into the mix: chanterelle mushrooms as they're both local and currently in season. Thanks, Nicole; that really helped me narrow it down.

But this got me thinking: why settle? Why compromise and just choose 1 ingredient? Sure, I had to choose an "official" one to put in the title (we're going with chanterelles, BTW) but this post is going to be a C MONSTER of sorts as we build a dish as plentiful in C ingredients as the PNW is plentiful in Subarus (likely my next car...but that's another post). I already had this dish in mind but why not just throw another C in there for good measure. We're making a wonderful crab, chanterelle and corn chowder garnished with crème fraiche and chives. How's that for not compromising?

As will be the case with many of the 26 star ingredients, I don't cook with them often if at all; chanterelles are no exception. I've cooked a few pastas where you throw a bunch of wild mushrooms (chanterelles included) in good EVOO, sauté them up and flick them up off the lip of the pan whilst sprinkling in some red pepper flakes and sea salt with intense focus and wow your date who now thinks you're Jamie Oliver without the cheeky accent (<--great visual, Bryan) and it goes over famously....but I digress. Long story short: I've never cooked just chanterelles.

What's so special about chanterelles? Well, they're local and in season but more importantly they pair very well with both the sweet corn and the crab and love to be cooked in a fat; bonus! They're a wild mushroom so they're automatically going to have that earthy and rich flavor unlike typical button mushrooms but they're also a bit sweeter and have a very nice flavor; magic things happen when you let them meet the naturally sweet crab and corn in the creamy chowder base to make everything that much better.

Chanterelle mushrooms
Crab meat (dungeness)
Celery (another C ingredient...meh)
Heavy whipping cream
Stock (chicken...it's easy)
Bacon (THE bacon, of course)
Crème fraiche
Chives (for garnish)

This is what corn should look like

OK, there are a few things in this world you need to do when cooking, no matter what. When cooking corn on the cob, throw it on the grill, PERIOD. Don't boil it, don't nuke it, don't use any other cooking method. Inclement weather be damned: use the grill. Oh, and you better get a char on a healthy portion of the kernels or you're doing it wrong...trust me on this: I'm a professional, and I most likely enjoy cooking/eating corn more than you.

This chowder is all about the animal fat. With copious amounts of butter, cream, bacon and crème fraiche it's a United Nations of fat but damn does it taste GREAT. The combo of sweet corn that's smoky from getting charred on the grill (method to the madness, people) along with the salty and smoky bacon, veggies cooked in the rendered bacon fat, earthy & rich chanterelles and finally the uber-sweet crabmeat all swimming in a creamy pool of awesomeness is...well...awesome. I considered using clams but crab is so much better and when I think PNW I don't think clam chowder; SF or Boston can have that claim to fame, we'll claim crab. Dungeness crab has quickly become one of my favorite proteins and up here it's just out of this world good; I doubt I'd have fallen so hard for it being farther from the source.

Preparation was tedious but not difficult; time consuming is more like it. Overall I think I cooked it well and my efforts paid off with a damn good chowder on a cold and windy late fall day. It was maybe a bit TOO sweet but the bacon reminds you that it's still got plenty of savory goodness and the chanterelles certainly brought a great deal of flavor and I'm stoked to have added them to this dish. That'll do, Bryan.

D should be easier...


Monday, November 01, 2010

A-Z Project: B is for BUTTERNUT SQUASH

As in: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Chorizo

There are a few letters in this project that are gonna be tough choices like kicking someone off Top Chef with only 3 left. B is one of those letters. Since I'm trying to stick with seasonal ingredients/dishes as much as possible I decided to go with butternut squash. I really wanted to do bacon for B but c'mon; probably 1/2 the savory dishes I'm going to create will involve bacon so no need to highlight it. Beef was considered, buffalo, beans, blackberry, blood orange...the list is deep, that's for sure. But, butternut squash was gonna be a good choice. It's an ingredient I never cook with, it's local/seasonal, there are good recipes out there for it, so I went with it and have no regrets. But damn: how could I pass up bacon like that?

There are a ton of recipes out there for a classic butternut squash soup so I just made my own. The components of a soup like this are pretty simple and as with anything it comes down to how everything tastes so we're gonna wing it.

What I really wanted in this dish was something to compliment the butternut squash. A soup like this is good but it could really do with some help; help from something that's say...oh, I don't know...not a vegetable?? Enter chorizo. Lovely, spicy, cured  chorizo. I could have done chorizo for C but C is quite possibly the most difficult letter in this project in terms of narrowing down the choices. More on that in the next A-Z post. Let's get back to the task at hand.

The soup is a pretty simple list of ingredients: butternut squash, celery, onion, carrot, stock, fresh thyme. Roast the butternut squash until it's fork tender then scoop it out and throw it in a stock pot with the other veggies you sauteed while the oven was doing it's roast thing, add some chicken stock, boil it for a few minutes and you're done. Next is the fun part: immersion blender. Blend it up until it's silky smooth, serve it up with the chorizo you crisped up in a fry-pan and you've got a damn good dinner.

I'm really pleased with this soup. It was crazy simple but as with most simple things, it was delicious. I really enjoy the balance of opposites in a dish; it really makes each individual ingredient that much better. The onions and butternut squash were really sweet but then throw in the uber-salty and spicy chorizo and it was heaven. The crisped up chorizo also played nicely with the really silky smooth consistency of the soup so that was an added bonus.

Oh and I screwed up the photo shoot on this one. The camera was dead from a day of shooting when I went to snap photos of the cooking process so I plugged in the battery and got enough juice for a couple photos and really only liked the one you see here; next time you'll get more...promise.

I'd give you the recipe, but frankly I don't really have one. Just make your own; it's ultra-easy and pretty hard to screw up. I do highly recommend roasting the butternut squash, though, as it really pulls out that sweetness and the edges near the skin get caramelized and intensify the sweetness of the butternut, which as Martha would say "is a good thing."

Not looking forward to the hard decision that will be the letter C.

Until next time...