Browsing Category: Eating Out

Spam Musubi – the best picnic sandwich ever!

I used to think vacations to Hawaii were over-rated and so cliche (cheap flights from the west coast! All your co-workers are doing it!), until i finally went. Then i realized why everybody in the Pacific Northwest tries to head out here in the Nth month of rain -it’s great! There’s a reason it’s a cliche.

I hope some day you will feel about spam musubi just as fondly as Pacific Northwesterners feel about Hawaii. One of the great gifts from vacationing there was the delicious spam musubis. Entertainingly, the best ones were from a Shell gas station on Honoapiilani Highway, on the West side of Maui near Kaanapali -the one next to Maui Grown Coffee Store. Luckily, my co-worker grew up there, so he gave me in-person advice on how to make it extra home-made-delicious. So after I impulse-bought a musubi mold from the local Japanese grocer in town here, I was set. That link there was for one on Amazon, which will do just fine if you’re up for supporting the blog with your purchase.

For my main proportion cues, I started with Two Red Bowl’s instructions.

Spam Musubi – extra meat!

make sure to get short-grained sushi rice. It's sweeter!
make sure to get short-grained sushi rice. It’s sweeter!

Ingredients:
1 can Spam (used Spam Lite here)
1-2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 2 tbsp water
3-4 cups cooked sushi rice*
3 sheets nori, cut into 2-inch strips (9 strips)
furikake
optional: rice vinegar, about 2 tsp

supplies: musubi mold and saran wrap

Instructions:
*0. Early prep: cook sushi rice, mix in about 2 tsp rice vinegar for sweetness.
1. Slice Spam into 9 or 10 slices. Some prefer thinner slices, your choice.
2. Heat a skillet over medium heat, turning until nicely browned on both sides.

Spam at start and spam after saute and soy sauce treatment.
Spam at start and spam after saute and soy sauce treatment.

Photo Mar 20, 6 17 11 PM3. Turn heat to medium-low. Sprinkle sugar evenly over Spam, then pour in water-soy-sauce mix, coating each slice.
4. Turn heat back up to medium or medium-high, turning Spam slices until the water evaporates and Spam caramelizes. Turn off heat and set aside.
5. Once Spam has cooled, set up musubi mold, rice, furikake, and nori.
6. Press one slice spam, sprinkle with furikake, then press rice firmly into mold (pick the amount of rice to your liking), and for extra meat, top with another spam piece so everything fits right into the mold. Fill in any gaps in the corners of the mold with rice and press it all in again for good luck.
7. Fold nori tightly around the musubi. Use several grains of rice or a little water to seal the nori.
8. See storage tips below in Lessons Learned.

 

I made you a gif, but WordPress wouldn’t let it work easily. So check the twitter feed..

Other references:
Chef B’s What I Ate on Vacation entry.

Photo Mar 20, 6 17 35 PM
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
5 of 5 stars.
I don’t think I ever had spam until I had it in spam musubi. Mind blown.
Likelihood of Repeat: 80%
The hard part is not making it every week (or else you may be left with fewer weeks in your life from all the sodium and cholesterol).
Lesson learned: These are definitely best when you plan to eat them the same day or the next day, so you can just wrap them in saran wrap and keep them at room temp (like for a picnic!). When you put them in the fridge the rice dries out, and while you can revive it a bit with a little time in the microwave, it’s not quite as delicious. C’mon, it’s spam, it’s meant to last.

Guest Blog: General Tso’s Chicken!

I was inspired by a documentary and couldn’t shake my need to visit the General. Fairly quick, kinda tasty, really fried, and sweet. Je suis Tso.
-Kris J.

The General

Ingredients:
1 pound of chicken (I prefer thighs)
Some mayonnaise for coating chicken*

Dry Coating (inspired/copied from Serious Eats):
½ cup of flour
½ cup of corn starch
½ teaspoon of baking powder
some salt/pepper to taste (I personally prefer it on the salty side)

General Sauce
1 bottle of general or orange chicken sauce
Orange zest to taste (less is better)

Oil
Lots of high heat safe oil

Chop, mix, bread, fry.
Chop, mix, bread, fry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Cut your chicken into small little pieces and coat in mayonnaise. *Mayonnaise was my egg bath substitute due to my lack of eggs in the fridge and worked well. Good thing because I don’t support abortion.
  2. Combine the dry coating ingredients in a separate bowl.
you can see the sieve in the foreground for draining some oil off.
you can see the sieve in the foreground for draining some oil off.
  1. Place coated chicken in dry bath and toss like a deflated football.
  2. Fill a pot with oil, you don’t need as much as you think and heat to 350 degrees. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Try to maintain oil temperature at 350 degrees (ie you need to increase heat after you add the chicken).
  3. Remove chicken and place in a pan.
  4. Add General sauce and toss at mediumish heat and add orange zest to taste.
    I’m too poor to have a wok, but my non-stick pan worked OK. I went easy on the sauce, but add as much as you like.
  5. Heat until your desired caramelization.

And there you have it.

sauce from Whole Foods, try applying it lightly first and see.
sauce from Whole Foods, try applying it lightly first and see.
it.
it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
3 of 5 stars.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% (still have most of the bottle left and chicken is cheap)
Lesson Learned: Don’t listen to spouse when she insists on adding more and more orange zest.

Milan, Italia! Lemon Garlic Pasta & Seared Sea Scallops

That’s right, for the few of you who may have puzzled at the last post, I was in Milan last week a few weeks ago visiting my good friends, J & G. A confluence of events created a last minute opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, despite the usual work pressures. Sleeping in on Monday was all the sweeter for having worked so much extra before.
The last post was of delicious butternut squash risotto, compliments of J & G. There are few things sweeter than the hospitality of friends, in my opinion, and it’s even better when those friends are good cooks, as these two are! They even demonstrated in that last post that it is perfectly possible to cook a good meal with a kitchen the smaller than an American storage unit. Bam.

How did I repay their generous hospitality in sharing a one-bedroom loft apartment with me and my spouse for a week? More, food, of course!

A request for something somewhat light (and fast) was made, so I scaled down the portions of pasta (er, to what was in the pantry), and did one of my favorites -but only if you do it right: seared scallops. G did a great job slapping a salad together to go with, and we hunted up a delicious strawberry tart from pasticceria marchesi, a super old school classic pastry place.

Thanks for the salad, G!
Thanks for the salad, G!

Scallops in Milan

Got the scallops from the local fishmonger, and I was stoked to find they delivered each precious scallop still attached to the shell. I’ve seen it on tv, but never found sea scallops sold this was in the states. They did appear to already have some guttiness removed, though, which was a minor relief.

Pescheria Spadari: yummy seafood source!
Pescheria Spadari: yummy seafood source!

Pasta Timing Notes

First, I prepped the lemon garlic pasta, since if you cook them ‘the right way’ (er, the Wong way), it takes very little time and you want to be paying enough attention to get them off the pan before they are overcooked. This classic in my arsenal has remained largely unchanged since my (other) friend J and I started making it about 15 years ago, from a Byerly’s cookbook, of all things. The main thing different is just a little less oil, and more garlic (always):

Lemon Garlic Pasta

1/2 pound dry angel hair pasta
1/4 cup olive oil (or a smidge less, for a less oily product)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or TWO teaspons. go wild.)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. cook angel hair pasta according to package directions in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; drain.
2. In small saucepan, heat oil and butter, stir in garlic, lemon peel, lemon juice, marjoram, salt and pepper, simmer 2 minutes.
3. transfer pasta to heated serving bowl. toss with oil mixture and parsley. serve immediately.

6 cups.

Similarly, 8+ years ago I decided I only liked sea scallops when they were seared in butter and olive oil, and just barely raw in the middle. I found Alton Brown’s recommendations the most useful: click here for Alton Brown’s Seared Scallops recipe. In this instance, I had one extra (exciting) step, to cut the scallops off the shell, which wasn’t really challenging but still entertainingly novel. My only other advice to myself in my notes on this recipe is just not to get distracted, but resist the urge to move the scallop until just the right time for the 90 second flip, and then removal after the second 90 seconds. Any more time and you’ve overcooked them, any less and you may not get that delicious sweet brown crust.

Voila! Dinner in ~under 30 minutes.

scallops on the half shell!! lemon and pasta ingredients, scallops patted dry and prepped with salt and pepper for the pan, and finally: scallops in the pan full of butter and olive oil.
scallops on the half shell!!
lemon and pasta ingredients, scallops patted dry and prepped with salt and pepper for the pan, and finally: scallops in the pan full of butter and olive oil.
The final product: plated
The final product: plated

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Very novel to get scallops still in their shells, and even better to serve it to friends living as expats.
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
Some part of this will be repeated, the lemon garlic pasta has been good for meals for co-workers with new babies and it keeps well enough to serve cold at picnics.
Lesson Learned: Umm…everything is better with friends?

Delicious store-bought follow-up. I will be dreaming of this tart for years. The berries were small but packed with flavor.
Delicious store-bought follow-up. I will be dreaming of this tart for years. The berries were small but packed with flavor.

oops

Sorry, I missed getting the usual two posts in the last couple weeks. I’ve been busy with life..

Theo chocolate, Fremont beer flight, Seahawks superbowl parade, bacon, oatmeal, and citrus salad all from Agrodolce brunch, boring salad for work lunch, Rattlesnake Ridge trail, and center: ad hoc soup with a poached egg
Theo chocolate factory, Fremont Brewery beer flight, Seahawks superbowl parade in Seattle, bacon, oatmeal, and citrus salad all from an Agrodolce brunch, boring-ish salad for work lunch, Rattlesnake Ridge trail, and center: ad hoc soup with a poached egg

Food-Related Entertainment: Street Food Market in NYC, and a whiny letter to you

One of my favorite food celebrities is working on bringing a street food market to New York City. Anthony Bourdain!

See this article from grubstreet for more details.

Well, that’s exciting, especially for New Yorkers, I imagine. You know what’s not exciting? The gastroenterological issues I found with the most recent food combo I took a gander at. Yes, dear Reader, despite having had a cold seemingly for time immemorial, I had a post all drafted up for you a few days ago for it, but I am still unscientifically testing if some of the after effects are truly from this combination, in which case, I’m scrapping the post. Relatedly, writing a blog with free (but not exceptionally novel) food info has grown tedious and a little like yelling down into a well without hearing an echo back.

Is anyone reading?
Does anyone care?
Do you laugh when you read this?
What else would you like to hear about?

Please post and share. Otherwise, this blog may be short-lived, as I would otherwise use my time to connect with real humans rather than the spam-bots I keep having to review.

Sincerely,
y

Cranksgiving Seattle 2013

Gasworks Park, Seattle, WA

In the last few years, through a dramatic health-related life event, I have (a)become a little more acutely grateful of being alive at all, and (b)felt a more urgent need to put in the time investments now to ensure a longer and healthier life. So in that vein, after the unhappy consequences of Reduced Sugar Challenge October, November is Sustained Exercise Month, with a weekly minimum goal of 150 minutes of exercise activity (also smaller portion month, but that’s a different post). It feels like an uphill battle with the increasingly dreary overcast weather outside and waning hours of daylight, but also a necessary one to get a jump on holiday eat-o-ramas (not to mention snowboarding season).

I prefer tricking myself into exercise, like getting outside running before you are awake, so you have no choice but to continue running, or accidentally agreeing to long hikes with friends when you imagined a 2-mile flat path. Happily, this weekend a good friend of mine agreed to try out Cranksgiving Seattle 2013, a charity bike scavenger hunt that donates to the Rainier Valley Food Bank. So I got to fulfill my remaining 30+ minutes (bike commuted to and from work once, and yes, I counted the 40 minutes of raking too) while getting some sun, and helping some other folks who need it more get fed.

It was a pretty nice day for a ride, a little chilly but sunny. I like to tell myself that trying new routes (a.k.a. getting really lost) helps exercise your brain cells to ward off Alzheimer’s later too. The gathering place was Gasworks Park, and it was darn scenic:

GasworksnBike
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Potato & Leek Gratin

(Vet’s Day bonus entry)

Monday was one of those bonus days in life, with a little extra time for good living. Thanks, US Holiday schedule and indescribable sacrifice of military service members. A friend of mine convinced me it would be a good idea to bike to brunch on the south end of Lake Union, then bike back, and a good idea it was. My back pain may disagree, but I’ll blame that on the yoga.

Brunch at South Lake Union Portage Bay the Wong Way: sweetened rice porridge, orange juice, two orders of bacon not shown.
Brunch at South Lake Union Portage Bay the Wong Way: sweetened rice porridge, orange juice, two orders of bacon not shown.
Beautiful bike ride past Green Lake
Beautiful bike ride past Green Lake

During tea break at her house, besides helping to knead some delicious-smelling bread dough, I was gifted with a leek!

Thinking of the extra raw potatoes I had, I dug out this recipe for potato and leek gratin from the NY Times I’ve yet to get around to. Ingredients were substituted, portions scaled down by half to match the 1 leek, approximately:

1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, sliced and rinsed of sand
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle or a spice mill
1/2 tsp dry dill
3 large Yukon golds, scrubbed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup, tightly packed)
3/4 c Mt. Townsend Campfire Jack cheese
2 1/3 cups low-fat milk
1 cup almond milk

Leek & potato gratin: steps.
Leek & potato gratin: chop, rub garlic in pan and coat with olive oil, saute leeks, add salt, pepper and dill, mix with potatoes and salt and pepper, spread out on pan in single layer, add milk, bake and bake and bake.

The drawback of this recipe is that it takes at LEAST 1.5 hours, if not closer to 1 and a half hour for the full portion. The original recipe has you baking for 45 minutes, add cheese THEN baking for 30-45, THEN cooling 10-15, and that’s all only after you’ve chopped and processed all the ingredients. That’s absurd. Who the heck bakes potatoes for that long?!

I baked for 45 minutes, added cheese, switched to Convection Bake for ~20 minutes, then took it out and started eating. It was delicious. The only drawback was my own error, which was to only cut the leek lengthwise and start sautéing, thinking, “why would they have you do that? It cooks all unevenly….oh, they didn’t,” so I pulled it half way through, sliced it up and finished sautéing. Phew, that was close. This is why recipes are so much easier with photos, people. I was also worried the almond milk would be funky, I just don’t have milk in my house since I’m lactose-intolerant (the cheese I can’t give up), but it turned out delicious (to me). I hate cumin, that’s why it’s dill instead.

Leek & Potato Gratin: nom nom nom.
Leek & Potato Gratin: nom nom nom.

Now the only problem is that I live with some one who doesn’t eat a lot of potatoes, and it wouldn’t be right for me to eat them all myself. Thankfully, I found takers at work, so my lactose-intolerant self doesn’t suffer through it for three more meals.

This week’s trial recipe ratings:
Novelty Rating: 85%
I see leeks at the markets, but rarely bother cooking with them. This recipe combines them with one of my favorite foods -potatoes!
Likelihood of repeat: 55%
Not sure who I might make it for, but it sure is delicious..