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every dish has a story

CarnitasOct 10, 2011

Ah, pork. Be it crispy golden tonkatsu, softly simmered chile verde, or even a perfectly pan-fried chop, I can't get enough of the other white meat. At the forefront of my porcine passion: carnitas: that tender, flavorful pork crisped at the edges by a hot bath in its own fat. Surprisingly, recipes are bountiful for such a simple dish. I've seen preparations involving braising, roasting, and deep-frying in a backyard turkey fryer, and an exponential number of seasonings, from a healthy dash of salt to a myriad of unconventional ingredients. In the end, it depends on personal preference, and I like my carnitas about as simple as can be with a little Mexican oregano and orange notes to highlight the sweetness of the meat. As for condiments, the more the merrier, but I tend to enjoy pork the most with "green" flavors (tomatillo salsa verde and guacamole), pickled red onions, and salty cotija cheese with homemade corn tortillas, fresh radishes, black beans, and rice on the side. For my recipe, read on.

BakudanOct 09, 2011

Oishiiiiiiii!! A few months ago, I grabbed drinks and dinner after work with a good friend at Hecho. We were intrigued by the restaurant's izakaya-meets-tequila bar concept, and we were not disappointed. The highlight of the meal was a dish called bakudan, meaning "bomb," and boy was it an explosion of flavors. The artfully constructed dish contained uni (sea urchin), amaebi (raw shrimp), ikura (salmon roe), uzura (raw quail egg), and natto (fermented soy bean) that you briskly stir into a delicious soup, roll up in a rectangle of roasted nori, and munch away for a beautiful bite of the sea.

Swedish Meatball SandwichOct 09, 2011

One thing I've noticed about photographing food: you can't do it when you're hungry. Whereas blogging lends itself nicely to a grumbling belly (I tend to write my best work when I'm fantasizing about my next meal), it's incredibly difficult to conjure up the willpower to pause for a few shots before sitting down to a hot meal. Take last night, for example: I spent several hours preparing a dinner of jangjorim (beef and hard-boiled eggs simmered in garlicky soy sauce), and even took the time to plate several types of banchan, but then the world goes black, and the next thing I remember is sitting back in my chair with an incredibly full tummy and a grip of empty dishes. Today I whipped up some Swedish meatball sandwiches (based on memories of The Sentinel's glorious version circa Winter 2010) with rolls, Parmesan, mushrooms, and meatballs and sauce acquired during the latest trip to IKEA (for more on that, check out Yoo Can Do It in a few weeks) and was halfway through before marketman reminded me that I haven't posted here since July. Whew. Good save, marketman.

Vietnamese WaffleJul 30, 2011

While my foolproof carnitas and salsa verde recipes are in progress, things have been rather busy lately, so cooking and writing has fallen on the backburner.  In the meantime, I figured I would share a few foodie inspirations that I have encountered over the last few weeks. Who knows? They could inspire some upcoming recipes . . .

After having a lunch of dduk bokki and jjeol myun at Shin Toe Bul Yi on Taraval, we popped across the street to grab coffee at a shop quite unassumingly titled SW Coffee Station. On our way to lunch, we noticed the sandwich board out front advertising banh mi and "Vietnamese waffles," so I made sure to save a little room for dessert. And I'm sure glad I did. What is a Vietnamese waffle? you ask. As did I. According to the gal behind the counter, it's made with condensed milk and coconut. "It's quite delicious, and not just because I make it," she added. Well, you speak the truth, Miss SW Coffee Station Agent. Especially hot off the iron, the waffle was soft and chewy, almost the consistency of mochi which I'm clearly obsessed with, and not too sweet. Plus, you can grab and go without making a syrupy mess.

Now, Why is it green? you wonder. As do I. But I'll save that question for the next visit.

Spaghetti With Fried Eggs and PangritataJul 10, 2011

I believe there are two types of pasta sauce people: those who gravitate toward tomato-based sauces, and those who fiend for butter and dairy. You may spike your sauce with something special, be it some chili flakes in arrabiata, olives in puttanesca, or pancetta in carbonara, but if you are a serious carb-loader, I'm pretty sure that you'll fall into one of the two camps. As surely as I am left-handed, I belong to Team Dairy. This affiliation can often be inconvenent in light of my lactose intolerance, but as easy as it was to give up ice cream, it has been impossible to say goodbye to cheese. Some nights when I am eating alone, I will boil up some spaghetti, sizzle a few fresh sage leaves in butter and olive oil, and toss it all together with Parmesan. If I'm feeling particularly daring, I'll fry up an egg to give my pasta a happy little party hat. But I've been looking for a new recipe to turn that quick weeknight staple into an elegant meal for two.

Recently, I uncovered this gem on Food52, a recipe site with a collection of truly amazing user-submitted, editor-curated recipes. Not only does this one contain the holy trinity of butter, cheese, and yolky eggs, it's topped with a lemony rosemary-breadcrumb crunch and a sprinkle of capers to make you pucker. I've upped Rhonda's recipe to feed four (or, in this household, two), but it's also easy enough to make on my nights alone! For the recipe, read on.

Lemon Mochi DoughnutsJul 09, 2011

As I've espoused before, I do love a good doughnut. I mean, how can you say no to fried dough? But at-home creations can be awfully messy, and I tire of wiping oil spatter off everything within a 6 foot radius of my stove. So I picked up a doughnut pan at Sur La Table, imagining the possibilities of circular delights fresh from the oven. I found a delectable recipe for vanilla-sugar mochi doughnuts as well as one for lemon honey creme mochi, but with a pantry bare on specialty ingredients (save mochiko — of course I have a few boxes of that lying around!), I set to work on a lemon mochi doughnut that could be made from basic pantry staples. For the recipe, read on.

Bibim Naeng Myun (Spicy Cold Noodles)Jun 19, 2011

I updated this recipe versus the original using some rice vinegar and brown sugar in place of the apple cider and part of the nashi pear. This revised version is much closer to my husband's favorite naeng myun from Soo Ra Myun Ok in Daejeon and Chil Bo Myun Ok in LA. Almost there!

This is the story of one of the greatest love affairs of all time. It involves a boy and a bowl of cold noodles and the lengths to which he will go to be united with his beloved. Our protagonist tells me it began in high school -- at least, that's his earliest memory of it, and it's not the type of meal a kid would enjoy anyway. There was a restaurant in Daejeon where he and his family would go after church. The best in the city, his mom had said. And when he tasted that sweet-tangy-spicy sauce coating those ice cold, chewy noodles, it filled both his stomach and his heart.

For a while, it seemed that these lovers were destined to be star-crossed. He moved to Northern California, and though he knocked on the door of every Korean restaurant, he was met with head-shaking and shrugs. A few of them offered something with the right name, but the first bite unmasked the lie. Then, nearly 20 years later, his wife happened upon a restaurant in LA's Koreatown where the bowls were ice cold, the noodles were perfectly chewy, and they even served the traditional steaming cup of yook soo (beef broth) alongside. On his next trip down south, he stopped in to try it. It had been so many years that his tastebuds could have been mistaken, but the flavor was so fully ingrained in his memory, that if this wasn't the real thing, it sure was close.

So our young man has once again been reunited with his lost love, and now trips to LA have become pilgrimages not only to convene with good friends but also to savor those noodles that have long eluded him. For the recipe, read on.

Split Pea SoupJun 02, 2011

On road trips to visit my grandmother in Santa Barbara, we used to pass billboards advertising Andersen's World's Best Split Pea Soup. I don't think I even liked split pea as a kid, but my gullible 8-year-old brain was shocked that we never stopped to try something dubbed the best in the world. Perhaps my parents knew better . . . perhaps they, too, had been sucked in by this extravagant claim and subsequently disappointed. We never stopped. I believe the restaurant still exits, so one day I hope to put my unanswered questions to rest.

My recent memories of split pea soup are colored by thick, gloppy, paste-like substances that required serious will power to swallow. So it never occurred to me to attempt it from scratch until my mom gave me a leftover ham bone (she knows me so well). It was well worth it: the soup had a creamy consistency, and the herbs and spices gave it more depth than I remember. For the recipe, read on.

Yook Soo (Korean Beef Broth)May 26, 2011

Every now and then, I come across a dish that makes me say "DUH!" — yes, a dish so elementary in its concept, it makes me speak like a 14-year-old. Yook soo is beef broth that you drink like tea. DUH. How perfectly genius is that? It's usually served at naeng myun restaurants where the steaming, rich broth offsets the cold spiciness of bibim naeng myun or hwae naeng myun. It's also a great counterpoint to the vinegary tartness of mul naeng myun. I can usually go through a jug of this stuff on my own . . . I don't think that you're supposed to drink that much, hence the strange looks from our servers when I request for my cup to be refilled again and again. But to be honest, I don't really care about appearances when I'm confronted with a seemingly bottomless carafe of yook soo. It's that good.

I made a pot of this a few months ago, and we managed to polish it off rather quickly. So tonight I pulled out the 16-quart stockpot and went to town. As with any rich stock, it needs to simmer for several hours to draw the flavor out from the bones. In fact, as I write this, it's still on the stove. Not sure where I will end up storing it all considering that my freezer is at capacity. Guess we'll just have to drink it. Darn. For the recipe, read on.

PestoMay 19, 2011

When I was a kid, I had this strange obsession with pesto. I can't remember the first time I tried it, but I do remember pleading with my parents to have it at home. We never did, and I vaguely remember that when I asked my mom why it never made an appearance, she told me that it was bad for me. That was back in the early 80s when everything with oil and fats was evil (hence jazzercise and cheese that tasted like styrofoam) and before we learned that olive oil is actually a healthy fat, in moderation. Of course, she may have also been concerned with all of the cheese, but that's a detail I simply choose to ignore, even if my arteries eventually won't. For the recipe, read on.

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