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.

Recipe: Fried Rice

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When I was a little kid, I remember feeling enthralled when my mama would make fried rice; sometimes for dinner, but often for breakfast when we had a family sleepover.

I also remember going to Chinese restaurants and feeling kind of cheesy about getting fried rice.  I enjoyed it, of course, but why would we go to a restaurant to eat leftovers?

Remember, in the ancient days of yore, fried rice was a way to heat up your leftover rice.  Then came the microwave, which made it possible to heat up leftover rice and restore it to it’s original fresh-steamèdness, and fried rice was relegated to special leftover occasions.

Sinangag is the Filipino version; pronounce it [si-na-ŋág].  I’ve always found the best recipes are the simplest ones, and this one is simple and bullet-proof.

If you’re making sinangag for breakfast, for example for tapsilog (or any other -silog for that matter), it should be garlicky.  When you make it for dinner you can leave out the garlic, as to provide a more neutral counterpoint for your adobo, which should be hella garlicky.

Back in the old days, I would dice up some garlic, flash-fry it until it just turned golden; then take it out of the pan.  In that same oil. Once the rice is all fried, I’d used the flash-fried garlic as a topping.

Then one day mama taught me a new way:  smash the garlic cloves but leave them whole.  Brown them a little and then leave them in when you add the rice… and cook the rice until it’s hot.  That way the garlic roasts as it’s suspended within the rice, and if you do it right you’ll get that roasted garlic flavor throughout.

Here are some hints for your sinangag:

  • I like using coarse salt, especially sea salt.  I know some people who swear by Johnny’s seasoning salt, which gives their sinangag a slight orange tinge.
  • If you’re using leftover calrose rice, you might want to wash your hands and use one wet hand to declump the rice before throwing it into the hot wok.
  • Leftover rice from Chinese restaurants is great for frying; it’s less sticky.  That’s the only way I like that Chinese restaurant rice actually, I don’t really like it steamed.
  • Cook your sinangag in a screaming hot wok, and be sure to let the rice sear a little bit… even burn.  When it starts to smell toasty, give it a little toss and mix around, so that every bite you take gets a little crunch.  This toasty technique we call “galud” in Pangasinan and “tutong” in Tagalog.
Here’s the procedure:
  1. Smash some garlic cloves and remove the peel; drop into a wok with smoking-hot oil.
  2. Flash-brown the garlic cloves on both sides and then immediately drop in some rice.
  3. Season with salt and cracked pepper.
  4. Stir-fry until everything is mixed.  Try to keep garlic from touching the wok.
  5. Let the rice sit and toast for a bit, so it develops a galud.
  6. Mix the galud into the rest and serve.
Filipinos are not the only people to eat galud; all the Asian countries do it.  For tahdig, the toasted part is the star of the show.

 

Amber and I used to order bibimbap at a Korean place on Donghu Lu in Shanghai.  The only bibimbap they served was dolsot, i.e., brought to your table in a screaming hot stone pot.  As soon as they put it on the table, they’d mix it for you, ruining your chance at eating galud and scrambling the fresh cracked egg.  The staff looked at us like we were idiots when Amber told them DON’T MIX IT we’ll do it ourselves.  There was no explaining it too them, as they don’t give a crap, they don’t know Korean food, and they just do as they’re told.  But waiting for the rice to toast not only gave us the toasty, crispy galud texture we were looking for, but also allowed the fresh cracked egg to form a thick sauce… the same way it does in your spaghetti carbonara.

 

This reminds me, Amber and I used to ask for more kimchi, and they’d charge us for it.  Amber told them once, in Korea, they refill your banchan for free.  The pile of crap waiter said, “We are not in Korea.” And under my breath I said in English, I wish we were in Korea, instead of this stingy pile of crap costume restaurant.”  Their kimchi wasn’t great anyway, too much SUGAR.

 

I digress; let’s get back to fried rice.  I don’t make a lot of bibimbap at home, but I do make kimchi fried rice.  And I always make sure that there is galud.

 

Chinese people don’t seem to be impressed by galud; there’s never been any galud in the 蛋炒饭 egg fried rice I used to order in Shanghai, or the vegetron fried rice you can get at Chinese restaurants…

 

Mexicans as a culture do not seem to have any affection for galud either.  I was telling Lili once about the joys of galud; she claimed to have no knowledge and looked at me like I was an idiot for eating burnt rice.  Later that week she had the same conversation with a Cuban friend, who showed her a vendor that sold super hard, crunchy galud; sheets of it, bundled into plastic baggies.  Lili bought me one!  It was way too hard, and I was worried I’d chip my teeth on it… but I ate the whole baggie.

 

Recipe: French Toast, my deeply held belief.

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I have a deeply held belief that french toast should be an instant breakfast custard, and not that tepid egg pad that some people make, as charming as a sheet of plywood.

I make mine with crusty bread from the bakery.  I have a hard time eating a whole loaf myself while it’s still fresh, so the stale leftovers either become french toast or bread crumbs.

The trick to slicing the bread is to make it thick enough so you get a nice, tall, custardy interior, but not so thick that the egg won’t soak through.  So actually a spongier bread–either a fresher loaf or a softer bread, like challah–can be sliced pretty thick.  If your bread is more on the hard-as-rock side, you may consider slicing it a little thinner and soaking it longer.

My batter is two eggs, a good couple glops of cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sweetener.  Non-diabetics, feel free to use sugar.

Soak the bread in the batter until it’s soft and soaked all the way through, then gently fry the bread in some butter.  Any left over batter I pour back into the bread once it’s in the pan, filling all the air pockets.

Cook it right, and the insides will set like a custard.  Serve with bacon and black coffee, and for a little while let yourself forget those crushing feelings of failure and  inadequacy.

Tuck in, then.

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A few years ago I caught a Naked Chef episode part way in (below).  He said he was making a “fry-up,” which was a new British vocabulary word for this brown boy in Seattle.  I would go on to learn plenty more British vocabulary in my worldly travels.  That was years ago.

The slideshow above represents my most current memory of the dish.  I had some tomatoes, some roasted italian sausages, and some chopped onions, so I threw them in my favorite egg pan and cracked two Grade AAs over them, covered the pan with a lid, and voilà, a late lunch.

For a long time I assumed that’s what a fry-up was; a chunk-filled egg frisbee.  Later when I learned things like a ploughman’s lunch (as far as I can tell, it’s chunks of stuff on a plate) or a toad-in-the-hole (sausages baked into some Yorkshire pudding), Jamie Oliver’s midnight fry-up seemed to fit nicely into the set of the English food I was newly acquainted with;  English, chunky, embedded, and funnily-named.

One day I went to make me a chunk-filled egg frisbee, so I looked around for it on the web… and came up with nothing.  What’s more, I soon came to realize that the typical English fry-up was not, in fact, a solid heterogeneous unity, but rather a crowded plate of individuals, a huddled mass yearning to breathe free.  I looked and looked for the original which I had only half saw, and found… nothing.

Had Jamie Oliver led me astray?

After my lunch/photo-shoot (above) I decided to look again, and found the original video on an obscure youtube channel; it had only had 17 views, and mine was the 18th.  Seeing it in its entirety for the first time, I saw the part I had missed, where he said that it was an original technique of his.

So now I do it too, only on a smaller scale.  And through the magic of the internet, it seems I’m not the only one; much to the dismay of Kabul, a Muslim gentleman in Malaysia.