Lightly cured trout on a bed of cabbage

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A couple years ago, when the Omnivore World Tour stopped by San Francisco and had surprisingly low attendance for an inexpensive even featuring food and demonstrations from the likes of Magnus Nilsson, Dominique Crenn, Roland Passot, Danny Bowien, and Joshua Skenes.

The best thing I had tried in a long time was this tuna prepared by Joshua Skenes, the Saison chef. It almost made me want to spend the ridiculous amount of money to eat at his restaurant, though high end meals generally leave me disappointed because i don’t deal well with heightened expectations. In any case, it’s inspired me to use his simple, but delicious fish curing technique. Just toast some rice–preferably an aromatic type like Jasmine in a dry skillet until browned, then surround the fish with the toasted rice and salt. Put in a tupperware or whatever and leave it in the fridge for a week to a month. Yes, that sounds crazy, but it really works–the  rice draws out the usual moisture that causes fish rotting, and you end up with a more concentrated, yet still fresh tasting. (I did let a piece of tuna go for a bit too long once, and it did start to rot, but this was well over the 1 month mark. Skenes finished off the tuna by briefly searing it directly on a large wood coal, which added a nice smoky dimension, but everyday techniques work too.

I cured this nicely boned whole trout from Berkeley Bowl for about ten days, wiped off all the rice, and thought maybe I should try to use that too. The toasted rice really smells good. I rinsed it a couple times in hopes it wouldn’t be to salty, then cooked it in the usual rice in a pan method–a cold start with water a little under a knuckle up from the rice surface. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to low for 15 minutes or until done. The rice turned out quite mushy, and I probably which could be because I added a bit too much water, given that the rice had already absorbed all that trout water. Next time I might try frying, as the couple of pieces that remained on the trout were good and crunchy, but easy to bite.

For the trout itself, I went for the simplest of cooking–skin side down on high in a skillet with butter, olive oil, and scallions. The dried skin crisped up very nicely, and a flip over at the end of cooking (about 4 minutes) finished the thicker center within a few seconds.

To finish the dish, I added thinly chopped cabbage to the hot pan, to pick up the fond and brown a bit. I plated while still fairly crisp, but several bits had picked up good bit of browning. I added some sour cream to this mixture, as I’d gotten a bit of a bug in my head after hearing the Simply French combo of salmon on a bed of creamy cabbage was quite good according to chowhound’s cookbook of the month reporters. Of course, this is nothing like the Patricia Wells/Joël Robuchon recipe, as that is typically frenchy, and calls for the cabbage to be boiled, then sautéed in butter, then cream added.

All in all, I was very satisfied. I liked this trout better than the one I stuffed with lemons and baked when I bought them 10 days ago, and I think the fish and cabbage combo worked well. I even enjoyed the mushy rice, as the toasted rice aroma is so pleasing.

Back in the game

I’m not sure why, but I’m planning on being back on the blog, posting poor phone pictures of things I make, and occasional standouts from restaurants.

Don’t expect great pictures, or any pretension of being anyone other than a disorganized slob with a passion for cooking and testing out different cooking ingredients and techniques.

A reprieve, already

After using half the remaining cabbage for lunch along with a sesame noodle sauce that has been sitting in my refrigerator for at least a month

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And the remaining tofu in an acorn noodle salad (there are plenty of the acorn noodles left, unfortunately they aren’t that good–not terribly flavorful and a jellylike, sticky texture, the opposite of what I’m usually looking for in a noodle.)

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I was happy to try Umami Burger for dinner. I expected not to like it, as it seemed a bit gimmicky and was located in the Marina (or Cow Hollow), but it was delicious. The default medium rare patty was beefy, the toasted, buttered bun was outstanding, the parmesan tuille worked better than I expected, and I even enjoyed the umami ketchup, and I’m a ketchup/catsup hater. The two whole shitake mushrooms were a bit distracting, if it is purely for umami powdered shitake would be better, or for overall texture thinly slicing and distributing the shitake over the burger would work better. A terrible picture, but all in all a good burger (though it was $11 for just the burger).

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I’m always set up for a basic Thai green curry

The chayote in the fridge should have been used a couple weeks ago, but there’s no time like the present. A Thai curry using curry paste is easy and quick to throw together, so I like to keep the ingredients around–at a minimum: coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and limes. Luckily I still had some cilantro and mint garnish from the nam Kao I picked up at Chai Thai Noodles after my home inspection.

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Just cook the curry paste in a bit of oil (I use coconut), add a couple tablespoons of the coconut cream floating on top of the coconut milk, and cook until the oils separate. I’ve found it is too difficult to get the coconut milk to crack with most commercial coconut milks (and all coconut creams I’ve picked up in the US contain stabilizers) so the oil plus coconut solids plus curry paste is a decent substitute. After the mixture appears oily, add any long-cooking vegetables or meats, in this case the chayote. Cook for a couple minutes, then add remainder of coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice (I was lucky enough to have some makruts in the bottom of the drawer, so I added zest and juice.) and a pinch of sugar. Cook until vegetables are nearly done, taste and adjust salt (fish sauce), acidity, and sweet (I’m a sweet hater, and my end result never approaches sweet, but I do find it is always better and more rounded with a bit of sugar (or palm sugar or agave syrup). Add quick cooking vegetables, like carrot slices and cook until done. I ended up not adding the tofu, though it was open and would work, as I’m rationing it for a time I’m even hungrier, after all, this has appetite-suppressing coconut milk.
Served over jasmine rich, of which I have a couple servings under 10 pounds and will certainly prevent me from going hungry during this experiment.

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Breakfast is easy (if you’ve prepared nga yoke thee achin)

 

 

 

My usual quick breakfast of toast and almond butter hampered by my current breadless, almond-butterless state required a few substitutions, but resulted in a bit tastier, though less healthy than the original.

The stash:

Sesame bread, chunky natural peanut butter, and a tiny remnant of the excellent tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce (nga yoke thee achin) from Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor

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I just microwaved the hard, separated peanut butter in the chili-garlic sauce for 20 seconds so I could combine and spread, and toasted the split sesame bread.

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Worst first

Well, it is Winter, but one of the things I’ve liked best about Northern California is access to local fresh produce throughout the year (and not sweating in the summer). Unfortunately, since I’ve banned myself from buying any groceries for a month I’ll have to live like a pioneer family who forgot to do all their canning and who’s root cellar burned in a horrible fire. In my case, this means I will use whatever survived the confines of my refrigerator after 10 days of neglect, preceded by the usual avoiding buying too much produce because I knew I’d be gone for some time.

So, day 1 of project buy nothing involves using up the vegetables that are almost rotten, in this case a blackening cauliflower remnant. I also had a giant sesame bread from Happy Golden Bowl, which I had intended to bring back to my family to add a Sichuan touch to our traditional Chinese take-out Christmas Eve dinner, but my usual poor planning interfered.

I decided to do a Sichuan style sauce with the eggplant to serve on the bread with added peanuts for protein and because I’ve had a bag of unroasted peanuts sitting around forever. Add some cleaned up remnants of the cilantro and scallions that are about to go off and a decent meal is made.

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  • 1/3 head cauliflower
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cayenne peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • garlic oil
  • sichuan peppercorn oil
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • 1 scant T soaked fermented black beans
  • 1 T Shaoxing wine
  • 3 T chicken stock

Heat garlic oil (or just oil) over medium high heat. If peanuts aren’t roasted, add to pan and cook until they start to color. Chop cauliflower finely. Add cauliflower, peppers, fermented black beans, and shallot to pan and fry until the cauliflower browns, then add crushed garlic. Fry until fragrant and add soy, wine, and stock. Cook until mostly evaporated, but some sauce remains. Toast sesame bread and serve over the top.

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Pretty good for the bottom of the crisper.

And now for something a bit different

Well, it has been a while, but I might as well get back on the internet, since I have a lot of work and responsibilities to avoid. I just came back from visiting my family over the Xmas holiday with an offer pending on a cute California bungalow in Oakland and a big, messy, lived in apartment. Thoughts of handing nearly all my money over as a downpayment and having to pack all my stuff up to move have forced me to do something I should have done a long time ago–rely solely on the food items I’ve hoarded until they run out or a month, whichever is longer (I’m betting on the month). I’ll save money and space for the next month making for an easier move physically and financially. I don’t think it will be too much of a sacrifice for the first week, but I am considering allowing a $2/week vegetable budget since I started fairly deep in the hole on fresh vegetables, as I just returned after 10 day away. Maybe I’ll just allow foraging (which does include my winter garden). And I will be allowed meals out for social reasons, but not convenience. 

And so, in print, is my plan to turn my life into a Chopped + Hoarders show.