Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Korean Pilgrimage : The Stores + Me!

When I was younger I would resist the trip. Why exactly, I couldn't tell you.
The experience is unique and I realize now as a grown woman that I am lucky.
My luck, as I understand now, is because not everyone has had the privilege to experience a pilgrimage to the Korean Store.

As children, my sister and I would sit in the back of the car for what seemed like eternity, but really only an hour and a half. The trip was as important as a vacation...each month my family of four would load up in our Toyota Previa and hit to road for some shopping.
This shopping was not for clothes, not for general house items, but rather for my mom's opportunity to go to Korea...or at least as close as she can get from VT.
I took for granted soooo much when I was younger, in fact I feel rather guilty now about the resistance and annoyance I put upon my parents. Today is different...and I can't get enough!
I am proud of who I was, who I am and what I have been able to experience. For the first time in my life I now understand how lucky I incredibly fortunate I am to be half Korean!
The food I grew up with was taken for granted...I could eat an All-American meal of steak and salad one night and then the next have Bulgogi without my mother batting an eye lash.
This is just how I grew up.
I can't thank my mom or dad enough for imposing and integrating our Korean heritage on us as did they know that some day I would realize, that one day I would be able to see, the bigger picture?!?!
These days, with food at the forefront of my passion in life, I have an urge to cook. Not just dinner, but as a career. I want to own a restaurant, or a food processing company, or even a seasonal Korean BBQ stand. While I would take any of the above and can't pinpoint what exact opportunity I want....all I do know is that I have this urging need for one or the other to truly be fulfilled!
For me it is about sharing with my somewhat sheltered community the true notion of a family dinner...I want to capture the love and care that goes into the preparation of every element...I want more than anything to quit the BD dungeon I am stuck in now and gamble it all away for one chance...just one opportunity to be me!
As a young woman at 27, I know this is the time. I have the energy, the passion and soon enough the talent to make this happen...what holds me back? The insecurity of not knowing and the $$ I'd have to ask my hard working husband to sacrifice.

As I ponder this each day, my thoughts go back and forth, back and forth...I am sure we'll return to this topic in no time. However right now I'd like to take you the Korean Store!
As soon as we walk in we are greeted with Anya ha-sayo (hello in Korean)! My mother then begins her chatter with Agashi (Mister of sorts), so on and so forth. Never having taken to learning the language (actually to be honest I resisted as a bratty child and kick myself now for it)...the rest is completely foreign to me, literally! So I roam the isles, checking out the familiar and never seen before items in front of me. I am astonished as to how many items I do recognize, for can say with certainty that I have experienced them.

The canned mackerel above is near and dear to my heart. As a baby I am told I was fed this with a child, teen and occasionally now I indulge in the spicy version. So salty, so fishy (in a good way)'s me!
It's me and it's's a common go-to household fix with cheap ingredients and much craft and care. Still to this day when I sit to share a pot of hot mackerel with my mother, she'll still pick the flesh of the small bones and drop it into my rice bowl. Her maternal nature/instinct is inspiring and who I hope to be one day!

The next isle is filled with all sorts. Mostly calling my attention are the thai items, which I have learned to use from my super-fab half thai sister-in-law! Coconut cream, some red and green thai curry...check!

When we first walk in is the isle of soy sauces, vinegars, marinades, etc. Here is the prized double concentrate vinegar. I have been out of the stuff for a month or so now. As a chemist by schooling, I understand the general idea...but there is just something about this stuff! No matter what you purchase from a traditional grocery never is the same (and I've got a cupboard of vinegars to prove it!).

Now this is the curry I grew up with! A meaty stew type brown curry that tastes of my childhood. I have seen this occasionally in the Asian isle of my grocery store...but at the prices here, I can't resist and have to add some of the hot stuff to my cart.

Ah, yes one of the key staples to Korean pepper powder! There are so many different brands, textures, etc the store has an entire isle dedicated to this fiery being.

The meats here are different. I don't quite understand where they come from or how they end up at this little Korean store in MA...but their authentic. You have to purchase them frozen (and of course I brought a cooler). Today, we are luck cause it's only $3.99/lb!

Rice for Koreans is more important than anything I can pinpoint in a traditional American repertoire! My mother without her rice becomes sick...literally ill. This trip she kindly insists upon purchasing a large bag for the hubs and me.

We're not getting the usual stuff either...nope, this time she's treating us to the new harvest! Based on her explanation, rice is usually harvested, mixed and stored. The type we are getting this trip is the freshest! It was harvested in Korea just this fall!

Before leaving the store my dad reminds me of one of the odder things I've heard of Koreans (and thus my mother) loving to eat.

That's right Chrysalis! I've never dared to try these myself, but I am told they are to Koreans what peanuts and bar mix are to us. You can walk into a karaoke bar to find bowls of these creatures waiting for you...this one will take a little time as they remain in the bizarre category to me!

At this point we are now into Korean Store #2. Here are the fresh produce. The napa is amazing, the diakon fabulous, the long green peppers so unique, etc...never do you find this stuff in your typical grocery store!

The isles here are just as packed with Korean goodness!

Other than the typical shitake, I have never attempted the dried mushrooms. Next trip I do think this is in the cards though :O)

I hope you have enjoyed your sneak peak at a truly unique experience. I am sure I'll be bringing you all back to these roots many a times as this blog progresses.

Love you Mom, Dad & Lil' Sis!!

Homemade Chicken Tenders

I realize that many of my dinner creations are not quite typical 'kid friendly.'
What I mean by this is that the meals I have created up to this point do not in any way take into consideration little beings.

Inspired to recreate a kiddo favorite, I sought to make the best homemade chicken tenders out there!

Well at least something better than store bought...

Since it was a weeknight, I went for convenience and purchased some pre-cut boneless chicken breast tenders.
For the breading process I began with a basic egg wash (with a dash of Tabasco...cause I've seen Paula Deen to this one too many times).

I poured out a healthy portion of panko bread crumbs and seasoned them from my oh-so-loved spice drawer. Included was: salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne (feel free to leave this out for the kiddos who don't like spicy).

The breaded tenders.

That cayenne adds a dash of color as well.
Maybe if opting to leave it out, you could use paprika instead??

Into some not olive oil they go for a pan fry...

The finished product!

Nothing ground breaking, or earth shattering, but for sure better than store bought!

Now I just have to see if I can get my nephew over soon to feed him some homemade chicken tenders and get his take!!

We all know what Hubs thinks...anything breaded and fried scores high on his scale haha!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Today was one of those days,
you wish would just end before it began.
I won't go into detail about its awful happenings,
but felt the need to share.
Right now I am hovered over a box of decadent

Burdicks Chocolates.

I am sure many of you have never heard of Burdicks Chocolates...

but those from SoVT know what I'm talking about!

These handmade pieces of art are the best chocolates you've ever had!

Their appearance should be appreciated...
Their flavor is something that cannot be conveyed or even truly understood!

These decadent treats have the power to cure.
In these seemingly simple chocolates,
is the magical ability to make,
just a bit lighter, the day's burdens...
they make you sigh in relief for now there is something to enjoy...
they are just incredible!

So after the crappy day of work
(which was so bad it is one for the books!)...
my uncontrollable evening of annoyances...
and my plain old terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day...
I am self medicating with one of the best treats created on this earth and a couple big glasses of red wine...
If I am lucky I will go to bed healed...and even a bit buzzed.
Let's raise our glasses and say - Here's to tomorrow!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hussy, this one's for you!

Guava Braising Liquid/BBQ Sauce
*Inspired by a F&W 2007 Recipe

1 jar of Guava Jelly
2/3 cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Dark Rum
3 tbls Tomato Paste (I use the double concentrate tube stuff, so if using typical canned may want to use more)
3 juiced Limes
2 tbls Soy Sauce
2 tbls Worcestershire
4 tbls minced fresh Ginger
2 Scallions, white part only, minced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2-1 cup water

Combine everything in a sauce pan over moderate heat. Once simmering, drop to low and get to work on the pork.

*Note: Since making a braising liquid, you want quantity...extra lime juice, water, etc. Whatever is handy will work. Also, as I was cooking, after the braising liquid began to simmer, I squeezed in some ketchup and whisked in about 1/4 cup of brown sugar...just cause it smelled like it could use it??

The ribs in the first attempt were a combo of Country Style and Southern Style. The only difference I could tell was that the Southern Style had bone in. One highlight is that this is a pretty cheap cut of meat...the second time I made it I went straight Country Style because they were only $0.99/lb!!

You'll need a pan like a Le Creuset. Begin by browning all sides of the seasoned (salt-n-pepper) pork pieces in some hot olive oil. You may need to do this in batches depending on how much you buy.

Place all of the browned ribs into the pan, pour in braising liquid, cover and place in oven. I changed up the temp a bit throughout cooking, but tried to stay within the limits of my Le Creuset handle (see guide). This was between 350 and 375.

Cook for about 2.5 hours, basting and rotating ribs every 15-30 minutes (whatever you have time for).

After about 2 hours, transfer some of the braising liquid into a small sauce pan and simmer on the stove top.

Once time is up, the ribs will be tender (like fall off bone/fall apart), so be gentle. Line up on a baking sheet and brush with the reduced braising liquid (aka BBQ Sauce). Place back into the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken even more and coat the ribs.

Serve warm...excellent as leftovers, so DO make too much :O)

Bon Appetit!!!!

Braised Ribs & Guava Braising Liquid/BBQ Sauce

Over a year ago we had a wonderful dinner at my sister-in-laws where she created some delicious braised country style ribs with a homemade BBQ braising liquid. They were such a hit that since then the hubby has been periodically requesting them...

Finally, motivated by hub's requests and my new 2007 F&W recipe book purchase, I decided to recreate this dish with my own twist.

What caught my eye in the book was a recipe for Guava BBQ sauce! I love guava...every time I think of it I recall this delicious sorbet I once had a dinner club gathering a couple years ago. Wishfully willing another taste of the cool and absolutely fantastic chilly dessert, I jumped at the idea of this a braising liquid!

The original recipe calls for guava paste...nope don't got none of that in my grocery store OR in the big, has almost everything natural food store in town. What I did find was guava jelly. The sweetness in my mind would work perfectly in BBQ sauce!

In addition to the jelly I had to dig out some dark rum.

I bet you're really liking where this is going!?!?!

We also need some lime juice.

Please all take a moment to notice the new fancy juicer I found in my Christmas stocking from the folks...LOVE!

Other ingredients include a couple scallions, apple cider vinegar, worcestershire, tomato paste, brown sugar, ummm...then pretty much anything I found that thought would make it tasty!

The Country and Southern Style Ribs I picked up were browned on the stove top in the Le Creuset, smothered in the braising liquid and set in the oven covered for about 2.5 hours.

I basted and rotated them every 15-30 minutes to ensure good coverage.

Toward the end of cooking, I removed some of the liquid and condensed it on the stove top.

The braised ribs were arranged on a cookie sheet and thoroughly covered in the thick-n-sticky Guava BBQ sauce and went back in to the over for about 30 minutes.

The final product!



and TASTED....absolutely FABULOUS!!

They were so good, I made a big batch the following week for the hubby to enjoy while I went off for a weekend hockey tourney!!
I have a feeling we'll be making these rather routinely, or at least using the cooking method again...these are INCREDIBLE!
Blog follower (and old college floormate) EFthePC also recently just shared a recipe for her short ribs with we'll have to give those slow cooked beauties a try as well!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Soups On: Part II - Task of the Butternut Squash

I promised in my first soup attempt that the soup would be on in this household for the chilly winter, so I give you my first attempts at butternut squash and pureed soup!

Up until the Thanksgiving of 2009, I was under the impression I did not like butternut squash. My reasoning for this claimed 27 year dislike, I couldn't tell you. I can't even remember the ever having tried it before!
As is the motivation for this blog, it's time to grow up and for the first time I scooped into the mashed/puree of butternut squash at our SoVT (that's Southern VT, my hometown!) family gathering to find...I like it!

Soon after the holiday season I purchased two good looking butternut squashes and let them sit on our counter for a couple weeks until I mustered up the nerve to give this a try. Since soups are pretty forgiving, I also decided this experimental recipe would be a chance to clean out the fridge.

OK, now this may just be me...but butternut squash is not so easy to cut up! I struggled a bit trying to go lengthwise, but then found in order not to cut myself I should instead slice the width/short way. Not as smooth as a hot knife through butter, but makes life a little easier (and safer!).

This lesson learned in cutting the short way is actually credited to Mr. Testosterone (aka my hubby...does that stick?). When trying to slice some sweet potatoes I nearly took my finger off trying to go lengthwise. During his routine evening hover, he took the knife from me and showed me how easy it was the other (short) way. He so smart!!

Added to the squash were some left over carrots. This seemed to make sense...people make carrot soup all the time, or so I've heard. Not to mention my thought is it could add some pleasing sweetness to the soup.

I also had some sweet potatoes left in the fridge from my sage'd cutlet thought what the heck, let's toss those in as well!

I even had some onion and bacon left over from my Boeuf Bourguignon, so added those to the mix.

Ah, ain't she a beauty?!?! I think once we nail down a blog-ID for Mr. Tester-one (how about that, will this work?!?!) I'll have to name this fabulous addition to the family.

OK, so some oil is added to the pan to start. I rendered out the fat from the bacon and set the crispy bits aside for garnish later.

In go the onions. Look at the lovely brown bacon goodness in the bottom of that pan...oh, it's going to add so much to this soup!

I really like to season the onions as they soften. I am not sure why I ever started doing this, but the smell of onions, thyme, etc is just so tantalizing it makes your mouth water just by its aroma! I also think this gives the herbs a chance to release their packed in flavor.


The sweet potatoes seem the hardest, so I thought I should add those first.

Looking good!

Now you're going to see that expressive side of me kick in...

Since I'm not sure how long the squash will take to soften, it is not too long before I add the whole bowl of butternut squash and carrot to the mix.

The pan and its contents go sooo beautifully together!

Looks like something is missing though...

so I added more seasoning - salt, pepper, thyme, and this time nutmeg.

Mix it up again.

Then add some chicken stock and let it simmer.

The volume goes down quite a bit as the squash, sweet potatoes and carrots soften.

I think we're ready for the next step!

Oh yeah, we're ready :O)

I am ashamed to admit that I have only used my super Kitchaid Blender once, since receiving it as a generous wedding gift. I know, I know...shame on me. The guilt is so much that I debate throwing a margarita party just to give it it's time in the spotlight...hmm, not a bad idea!

Ok, getting off track. So I pureed the soup and added some cream.

This is what I ended up with, looks good, but missing something...

Ah, yes the reserved bacon...cause bacon can make every thing better (or wait is that cheese haha!).

Overall the soup was good, Mr. Testerone (like that?!?) enjoyed a bowl right then and even took it to work as lunch for the next couple of days. Me on the other hand, not a huge fan. I like my soups salty, or creamy, or chunky. While good, this one was not for me.
Butternut Squash & Pureed Soup officially checked off the list of things to try...onto the next experiment!