Recipe: Steamed Fish

Buy a fresh white fish that will fit whole in your steamer rig. Tell your fish guy to clean the fish but leave the head on.

Prep: Julienne some ginger and the whites of some green onions. Wash and trim some cilantro. The leafy green section of the green onion, you can give them a simple chop at several inches long. Peel a large garlic clove and slice it paper thin. Optional: make paper thin slices of chile serrano or Thai chiles.

Rinse and pat your fish dry, outside and in. Slice some vents into the side of the fish, down to the bone, but don’t slice the bone! Season with salt and black pepper, outside and in. Stuff cavity of the fish with ginger and lengths of green onion.

Cook: Steam your fish gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

While that’s happening, bloom some black pepper in a hot sauce pan.  Add soy sauce and seafood stock. Reduce the liquid to thicken a little, and pour into a small bowl or large ramekin.

Set the table.

The fish is done when the center is 145°F. It should be juicy and come easily off the bone. Move the whole fish to your serving plate and garnish with raw julienne of ginger, slices of garlic and chiles, and then finally the whites of green onion and the tender parts of the cilantro. Give the whole thing one last blessing of fresh cracked black pepper.

Call everybody to the table. Heat a quarter cup of oil in clean saucepan.

When everyone is seated, bring the fish to the dining table and carefully pour the hot oil over the garnish, making sure to hit the garlic slices. Stuff should sizzle and pop but not splash or jump; slow your roll if people start getting oil burns.

Finally, dress the fish with the soy sauce mixture.

Recipe: Basic Pansit

I spell it with an /s/. What’s the point of spelling it with a /c/?

Prep: Julienne some carrots and celery. What else do you want, bamboo strips? Green beans? Bell peppers? Now’s your chance. Sweet corn slice off the cob is nice.

Shred some cabbage. Crush and peel some garlic, chop your onions the way you want them. Slice a lime into squeezy slices, and prep cilantro and green onions or chives to garnish. Chop up some Thai chiles; one for garnish, one for your sofrito.

Liquid: Bring your stock to a boil in a small stock pot. A liter or two would work. I used powdered seafood stock and a bunch of mushroom powder, but a good veggie stock or some bonito flake broth or whatever. Make a couple liters of it, you can use the extra in other recipes. Once it’s at a boil, you can turn it off or keep it at a simmer. It doesn’t have to cook, it just needs to be hot.

Stir-fry: Put your wok over a high flame and bloom a lot of cracked black pepper; a lot. Stir-fry the veggies; start with the hard veggies first (carrots), then add the softer ones. I want to see some searing on the carrots. You can leave out the shredded cabbage for later. Remove the stir-fry mix and set aside. If you want a meaty and/or seafoody pansit, stir-fry it now and set it aside. Put a sear on your meat so people don’t think you boiled it.

Sofrito: Turn the flame down to medium; bloom some more black pepper. Then add oil and crushed garlic, one Thai chili, and some anchovy fillets. Add onions and stir-fry until soft. At this point if you want, you can add pepper paste or whatever secret pastey ingredient you want. This is a good time for patis.

At this point, bring your liquid back up to the boil.

Noodle time: The sofrito is at the bottom of your wok. Add DRY bihon (rice stick noodles) and dry sotanghon (bean thread noodles). By the way, stop saying ‘vermicelli;’ it’s weird for you to speak Italian in this recipe. Also, I speak Italian, and when you say “vermicelli’ I hear “little worms;” not classy. If you’re speaking English, “noodles” is an appropriate word. If you’re speaking a Philippine language, we can say “pansit.”  Or “pancit” with a /c/, whatever, ma l’italiano, dai, loro non hanno nulla da fare qua, eo.

Anyway, add dry noodles on top  of your sofrito. Turn the flame up to all-the-way high. Pour the boiling liquid over the noodles, until the noodles are covered with liquid. It’s a scary amount of liquid. Drop in the cabbage and start tossing everything together with tongs.

You will notice that the noodles soften quickly and start drinking up the liquid. Your job is to keep tossing them, mixing them with tongs. Don’t stop. Lower the flame to medium-low. If you are a fan of the strong soy sauce taste, add it now, straight into the noodles, and keep tossing it.

When the liquid is gone, toss in the veggie and meaty stir-fry. Turn the heat off and keep mixing the ingredients in, tossing with tongs. If you want, you can toss in a little sesame oil at this point.

Garnish with green onions, cilantro, maybe toasted garlic or shallots.  Offer the following as condiments; soy sauce, patis, sliced chiles, lime squeezes, black pepper, sambal ulek (or whatever hot sauce you want).

This is my recipe, and I’m the only one who makes it this way, and I might never repeat it. Every pansit is different, and I’m sure a bunch of Filipinos will look at my recipe and call it wrong.

Whatever; here’s what you have to know. The stir-fried ingredients should have a sear on it, and shouldn’t look steamed or boiled. The noodles should soak up flavored liquid, not plain water. I want that base flavor to have all the chiles and aromatics; it shouldn’t taste like a can of low-sodium chicken broth. The top flavors in the noodles should be black pepper, and lime with the smell of soy sauce.

Eat it hot! It’s better that way.

 

 

 

Recipe: Spaghettini al Pesto

Spaghettini al pestoStart by putting a pot of water on the stove to boil.

Toast a handful of pine nuts in a dry pan over medium.  Make them look golden; don’t burn them.  Shake the pan to them toast evenly on both sides.

Smash some garlic cloves to peel them and throw them in your small food processor (one clove if you want to smell raw garlic; two cloves if you want to taste raw garlic; three cloves if you’re trying to test your garlic limits.  Throw in fresh ground black pepper, salt, a little bit of marjoram or oregano, a little squeeze of lime or lemon (to keep the green color), a big bunch of basil leaves. Throw in most (but not all) of the pine nuts, and then whiz it up with a chug of your best olive oil.

Try not to overdo the oil, you’re making a paste (pesto means “paste”), not a sauce.  It should be thick enough to stand up on a plate without spreading too much.  Don’t over whiz it, grind it up without liquifying it.  You might have to scrape down the sides with a spoon to keep it moving without adding too much oil.

By now your water is boiling, so go around the house and tell everyone to stop what they’re doing, wash their hands, and sit the hell down at the table.  When they are moving toward the table, then throw in a fistful of salt and a small fistful of spaghetti for each eater.

While the pasta is boiling, grate a cup of your parmesan with a microplane into your mixing bowl. Incorporate the pesto with the grated parmesan. Your guests should now be sitting and if they’re not, don’t make this for them again. Especially if they tell you to calm down or make some excuse about how they’re doing something important; to hell with that. They don’t deserve this recipe; they can eat grocery store pesto. They probably won’t even taste the difference. Smart people know to sit the hell down when you’re making this pesto.

Cook your pasta all the way or almost all the way; once it gets tossed with pesto it doesn’t finish cooking. At the very second that it’s no longer al dente, pull it out with kitchen tongs and mix it HOT into the pesto. It’s ok if a little pasta water drips into the bowl; the pesto and pasta will absorb that water when you toss it.  Toss that pasta in the cheesy pesto for a good minute before twisting it onto serving plates.

Top with more cheese, more toasted pine nuts; garnish with a chiffonade of basil and maybe a little drizzle of oil if you want. Don’t get too fancy, serving it hot is more important than making it look good for Instagram.  If somebody complains that it’s too hot to eat right away and they have to wait for it to cool down, then good, you win.

When I was in Rome, I realized that the servings of pasta were small; smaller than Americans are used to.  That’s because there’s going to be vegetables, a grilled chicken, later salad a bunch of wine, and then dessert.  It doesn’t matter, your mouth gets used to that shiny bright taste of hot pesto rather quickly; you don’t want to waste your pesto on a mouth that’s numb to it.

Last thing; I told my Italian host family that Americans think pesto is very special; they were a little baffled that we would assign value to something as simple as pesto.  I told them about the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza called Seattle “The Pesto of Cities,” which they found nonsensical.  I tried to explain that Seattle is green and fancy… they laughed and told me that pesto is not fancy.  Meh, I guess neither is Seattle.

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I have more spaghetti stories here.  Here’s a recipe for spaghetti with a can of clams. Here’s one for spaghetti with a can of tuna.

Recipe: Crab Pot

Fill the bottom of your biggest, deepest pot with potato chunks.  Big chunky ones.  Peel them or not, whatever. I don’t.

Cut a bunch of raw corn on the cob into two inch wheels.  Quantity: as much corn as you want to eat.

Throw in a peeled onion, sliced in half from pole to pole.  Maybe a whole serrano pepper or two, a jalapeño that you’ve split open.  Whatever.

Put in a layer of clean live Manila clams, medium small is ok. Quantity:  one or two fistfuls per person eating, plus an additional seven or eight fistfuls according to taste.

Put in a layer of clean mussels, medium sized, thin shells, live, preferably from the state of Washington.  Add to that a layer of raw shrimp or prawns. Quantities: you figure it out.

Put a crab or two in whole; live or freshly steamed.  Crack it before it goes in, or crack it hot later, or let people crack their own crab.  I don’t know, do what you think is right.

If the guests are new to eating crab, I’d advise getting the crab steamed at the fish counter and then cracking it when it has cooled. Here’s my standard procedure: pull the head off the body from the rear hinge, rip out the gills and the face and throw them away, separate the claws and crack them mid-segment with the back of your chef’s knife.  Now all that’s left are the legs attached at the body; slice to separate the right and left sides, and then slice to keep the pairs of legs together, attached with knuckle meat. You can crack the meaty segments of the leg with the back of your knife… or not.  Four pairs of legs go into the pot.  Two claws go into the pot.  Crab’s shell goes into the  pot, soup side up.

Dump a bottle of cheap American beer over the seafood and into the pot. Oops, forgot to add dry spices (whatever’s in your spice rack, or whatever spice mix someone brought you from New Orleans).  Dump your spices on top, and then wash in with a cup of water, letting them trickle into the mix.

Put the cover on and then cook it on high or medium high or medium or medium low, whatever. After the beer boils lower heat a little, come back in 10 or 15 minutes, and check to see that shrimps are pink all the way through, clams and mussels are open, corns are soft, and potatoes are tender.

Set the table:  newsprint or butcher paper to cover the table, a bucket for shells, a trivet for your crab pot. Big kitchen spoon to ladle out shellfish. Crusty bread sliced. Don’t get fussy about dishes or napkins or other pendejadas; it’s a crab pot, not a cotillion. Maybe set out some empty rice bowls for the Asians who want to drink the broth and slurp it with their chunks of crusty bread.

If it’s a lot of people eating, maybe you want to pour the seafood into some lasagna dishes for easier access. Tell your guests to start eating immediately, it’s really dumb to let this get cold. Like really, really dumb. Lose respect for people who get distracted and let it get cold. Cut them out of your life.  Inevitably someone will try to get up and serve everybody their drinks, yell at them to sit the hell down and eat it while it’s hot, and remind them that fussing about something other than hot food is some IRRITATING. SHIT. Should have taken care of that before hot food appeared, dummy. Honestly!

What else? Some people put chunks of cooked sausage in to their crab pot; you do you.  People from New Orleans will call it a seafood boil, and people from New England who did the twist at beach blanket parties in the 50s might call it a clam bake.  There will inevitably be someone who doesn’t like seafood; make sure they have some Creamy Jiff and Wonderbread for them.

Spread out some beach blankets and put on some surf rock. Stand next to the beach blankets and do the twist until the sun sets.  After sunset it’s cigarettes and crooners, bonus if you lean on the hood of a Cadillac with someone else’s letterman’s jacket. Wonder if man will ever walk on the moon or if we’ll have visual telephones someday.  Discuss if this beach party could be more fun if you played up some Polynesian stereotypes. Take the shells out to the trash when everyone’s done. Look up at the moon and wonder if some Soviet kids are taking out their crab pot shells, looking up at the same moon.

Slice an apple or an orange for dessert and pass them around on a plate. People will decline the fruit and then take one and eat it, and then take another one. People always think they don’t want fruit, but they do.

Recipe: Spaghetti and a can of clams

Spaghettii Can of Clams

Step one:  put a pot of pasta water on to boil. 

Step two:  get stuff ready.  Prep your Italian parsley, mandolin your garlic, crush your whole black pepper corns in you mortar and pestle (if you’re not using dried chile flakes).  Open your can of clams; don’t lose a single drop of that clam juice.

Tell your dinner companions to wash their hands and set the table. NOW. Scream at them if they try to find something else to do.

Step three:  cook stuff. When your water boils, salt it with a fistful of salt, enough to make the water taste salty. Drop in your spaghetti. In a saucepan, toast the black pepper or chile flakes, add more olive oil than you think is necessary, and then drop in the garlic and clam juice (but not the clams).  Simmer it on medium low or whatever.

Step four:  marry it all together. When the spaghetti is al dente, pull it out of the water with some tongs or a spider strainer together and drop it into the saucy saucepan, along with a ladle or two of pasta water. (You’re done with that pasta water now, use it to boil something else). In the saucepan, turn the flame up to high and start stirring.  This is a good time to add a little more salt, if your water wasn’t salty enough.

So now you’ve got a saucepan full of all your ingredients over a screaming hot flame. Scream at your companions to sit down at the damn table. They might try to get everybody’s drink order, you tell them SIT THE /F/ DOWN and wait for their pasta.

Your job is to stir and reduce until that liquid has condensed into a thick film of a sauce.  Keep stirring, pulling the pan off the flame occasionally and blowing on it, releasing clouds of steam.  Keep stirring.  Keep stirring.  Stir until the sauce clings to the spaghetti; to the point that when your spatula scrapes the bottom of saucepan, the sauce is so thick that the spot where you scraped stays dry. Now drop the clams and half of the parsley into saucepan together and give the whole thing a final stir. Get it all nice and distributed.

Step five: dish it up.  Lift the finished spaghetti out of the saucepan with the tongs and lower it into the serving dishes, turning your plate with your free hand so that the spaghetti pile falls into a tall twist.  Finish the dish with a drizzle of expensive olive oil and a pinch of Italian parsley.

Tell your dining partners to eat NOW. If they do something stupid like try to start a prayer or something, slap them on the hand and tell them they should have prayed two minutes ago.  It is DISRESPECTFUL to let this get cold.  If they complain that it’s too hot to eat right away, GOOD, you have done your job.  They have to eat it at the exact moment that it’s tolerable for them to eat, and not after.

If they let your pasta get cold, ask them why they don’t respect your effort to get hot food in front of them.  Make a note to yourself never to make this dish for them again.  Let them reheat a slice of pizza or some garbage, they don’t deserve hot spaghetti with a can of clams. Don’t waste your effort on someone who lets your hot food get cold; give up on them.  Peanut butter and jelly next time.  Cold rice and ketchup. Soggy bowl of Cheerios.  Who cares, they don’t know how to act.

For Delia.

Recipe: Chiles rellenos

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First, cut the tops off of four poblano chiles, and pull out the seed pods.  You can rinse them with water if you want.

Then, roast the chiles until the skins are black. I put them directly on top of my stove, right in the flame.  They sizzle and pop.  Turn occasionally to blacken all the way around.  Wrap  the blackened chiles in a clean bandana and then seal them (bandana and all) in a plastic bag… a gallon-sized ziplock freezerbag works just fine.  Seal them up good and then set them aside.

Later… ten minutes later?  Four hours later?  Whatever… take the chiles out, and pull off the blackened skins.  Be careful not to break open the peppers, don’t be too rough with them.  Put a slice of cotija cheese inside each of the peppers.  You can use or queso fresco or queso oaxaqueño or whatever you want.  Dust the stuffed peppers with some flour and set them aside.

Separate three eggs and beat the whites. When you get to stiff peaks, beat the yolks together, and then fold them into your stiff peaks carefully.  The idea is to work fast and gentle, so the eggs stay as fluffy as possible.

Drench the flour-coated, cheese-stuffed poblanos in the fluffy eggs and then drop them gently into some hot oil in your non-stick egg pan.  Brown them on both sides.

Serve with a simple tomato sauce.  Mine is a puree of stewed tomatoes, sweet onions, and a little bit of chicken stock to loosen it up.  Salt, oregano, a little powdered chili…

Recipe! JP’s Classic Pork Adobo | Adobong Baboy

Video

This is what pork adobo looks like. Boil the liquid all the way down; the meat will be so rich and juicy you won’t need to sauce up your rice.  In fact, you’ll want that plain rice, as a counterpoint.

Here’s the original post I made about pork adobo; and here’s the tweeted version, published in Seattle Magazine.  UPDATE:  click here for further reflection.

In this video, I served the adobo with rice mix and turnip greens, which I sauteed and then mixed with fresh tomatoes.  I also like to serve it with my garlicy tomato salad.

If you still need closure after a big meal like that, you could try this leche flan CAKE.

Recipe: Tortilla de patatas

I made this tortilla de patatas video this morning; another test shoot.  This one turned out well… the tortilla itself was the best I ever made.  There were some auto-focus issues with my camera, some lighting problems, and worst of all, I missed the money shot, where you flip the tortilla onto a plate.

I’m off to get an MRI now, and I’ll stop at the bakery for a baguette, so I can eat the rest of this tortilla…

Recipe: Tomato Salad

A friend of mine wants to make a video of a tortilla de patatas later this week, so I made this little video as kind of a test run.  It’s the tomato salad I always serve when I make Filipino food; it goes with chicken or pork adobo, lumpia shanghai, longganisa, or what ever -silog you can think of (and these people can think of a lot).

Shout out to DeliaChristina and Stephanie the Fancy Slavicist, two of my friends from Ann Arbor who are believers of the tomato salad.

Recipe! How to make 茶叶蛋 Cháyèdàn… Chinese tea leaf eggs

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This morning I had an ultrasound; after my recent bout of pancreatitis my doctors wanted a look at all my organs.  I’m better now, thank goodness, but I made one smart remark about cleaning goo off my belly in a dark room, and suddenly all of Facebook is asking me “are you ok, are you ok?”  Yes, folks, I’m ok; the echo was ordered weeks ago, but now the pancreatitis is gone and I have the blood tests to prove it.

Anyway, the ultrasound required a fast, so I left the imaging center hungry.  I ended up at Ping’s and ordered some lamb dumplings and a tea egg. Ping’s of course, is the grocery store under the chinatown gate in the ID.  Mr. and Mrs. Ping are a nice elderly couple from 山东 Shandong province, which is famous for boiled dumplings.  Recently they converted half of their store into a charming dumpling house.  They make and freeze the dumplings, rather then making them fresh, but it’s a nice sunny spot, and they’re happy to talk to me in Mandarin.

The first time of there, I discovered a bowl of tea eggs on the counter as I was paying… I hadn’t seen a tea egg since leaving China in 2009.  I used to buy an egg or two at in the morning, at the convenience store on my way to the office; a tea egg and a 粽子 zòngzi.  I would have to walk past all the other breakfast options on my commute:  the soy milks, the corn muffins, the potstickers, the breakfast crepes, all of these were available along my two block bike ride to the office.  Leo and I used to get those tea eggs and eat them at our desks when we got to the office; Esti and Lili did not approve. 

Anyway, when I saw the bowl of tea eggs on the counter at Ping’s groceries, I nearly jumped out of my shoes.  This time, I made it a point to get one, and Mrs. Ping was happy to warm one up for me.  I asked her if they were hard to make, and she said no, they’re simple.  So I looked at a couple recipes on my phone, and then asked her help me find the spices I needed from the grocery half of the business.  I got the sichuan peppers, the star anise, the cinnamon, the citrus peel; Mrs. Ping told me not to forget the cloves.  I asked her if I should get a special soy sauce, and she said no, the regular japanese soy sauce I have at home.  She told me I didn’t need a special tea, either, just use whatever black tea I had in my house.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 eggs… however many fit in one layer in the pot
  • water to cover
  • two tablespoons of whatever black tea (or two teabags)
  • a cinnamon stick
  • a star anise
  • a few cloves
  • a few sichuan peppers
  • a small handful of salt
  • a couple shots of whatever soy sauce.

Place eggs in your pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, simmer for 10 or 15 minutes.  Scoop the eggs out (saving the egg water) and shock the eggs in some cold running water.  Meanwhile, put the spices and soy sauce into the crock pot.  Crack the shells gently with the back of the spoon; the more cracks in the shell, the cooler it will look.  Put the cracked eggs in the crockpot and pour enough egg water into the crockpot to just cover the eggs.

Set the crockpot to low and leave it for a few hours.  I don’t know, five hours?  Scoop the eggs into a glass container, cover with the liquid and stick them in the fridge.  The longer the eggs steep, the richer their flavor will be; keep them up to five days.

You can eat them cold, but to serve them hot, you can drop them into some boiling water until they heat through.  In China they just sit in the crockpot until you buy them.