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.

10% Home Made Pot Stickers, an addendum

This is a follow up to my earlier post, 90% Home Made Pot Stickers. Some friends tried their hand at making some and had some technical questions. Maybe you’d like to have some home cooked ones but not spend the time making from scratch? If you haven’t before, or run into problems, here’s a pretty comprehensive article on it, thanks to Serious Eats!

Serious Eats on Freezing and Cooking Dumplings

Other dumpling follow up: leftover filling meatballs: if you’re not going to buy or make more wrappers but you have filling left over, you can roll the pork filling into balls and bake in the oven until they look nice and crisp, and have passed the safe cook temp of 145.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
 3 of 5 stars
How novel to make something again after an earlier recipe..
Likelihood of Repeat: 10%
Lesson learned: this got a lackluster reception in my house, and the soy sauce made it a bit on the salty side. It’s totally worth going to get a few more wrappers to wrap more dumplings. You can freeze the rest of the wrappers (and the raw dumplings) anyway.

Pasta alla Carbonara

I needed to whip up a nice backdrop for an easy but satisfying Sunday night dinner with a treat of seared scallops.* I had turkey bacon and egg on hand, and picked up some bucatini.

This one from Nook and Pantry has been sitting at the ‘bottom’ of my Evernote recipe box for a while, since the first time I tried my hand at carbonara with pancetta my arteries could hardly take it. However, turkey bacon took some of the punch out of it (so I could swap it out for butter & olive oil for the scallops).

Pasta alla Carbonara
+Optional Turkey Downgrade

Makes 2 servings for some one trying not to gorge, but only if you pack half of it away for the next day before you start eating.

Ingredients:
Approximately 2 slices of thick-cut turkey bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch wide strips, chopped
1 eggs, beaten
1 ounce finely grated parmesan (or pecorino romano)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces bucatini

Steps:

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a piece of paper towel.
  2. Bring a large pot of water, salted generously, to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until it is al dente.
  3. Temper the egg thus: with one hand beat the egg and with the other slowly drizzle approximately 1/8 cup of hot pasta water with a measuring scoop or cup into the egg mixture. Set aside.
  4. Before draining the pasta, set aside about 1/4 cup of the boiling pasta water to loosen the pasta if needed.
  5. Quick! When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta then return back into the hot pot. Keep the pot off heat. The residual heat in the pot and pasta will thicken the sauce. Add the drained bacon, ground pepper, pasta and with one hand, stir pasta while pouring in the tempered egg mixture.
  6. Keep stirring to mix the cheese and egg evenly and the sauce will be thickened and silky smooth. Add a bit of the pasta water if needed.
  7. Optional: top with extra freshly ground pepper and grated cheese before serving.

Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
5 of 5 stars
Likelihood of Repeat: 85%
The richness is definitely toned down with turkey bacon rather than pancetta, decide for yourself if you want that or not, of course..
Lesson Learned: How did I go so long without cooking bucatini all the time? The hollow noodles give the perfect al dente chewiness! Nom nom nom nom nom. This blends well with seared scallops, too. Due to the speedy timing, it’s definitely best to have everything else you want to eat ready before you sear scallops the Alton Way.

*I recently became allergic to some shellfish. The great news is, the allergist said to keep eating scallops regularly, to help prevent my body from identifying it as a foreign body. Most enjoyable medical advice worth following, ever!

Miso Marinated Cod

Fish!
Fish!

Nobu’s Miso Marinated Cod from the Kitchn.
Important Note: you need at least 3 days before whenever you want to cook this, to marinate the cod!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
4 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons sugar
4 black cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each

Steps:

      Two to 3 days beforehand, for the miso marinade:

    1. Bring the sake and mirin to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. Turn the heat down to low, add the miso paste, and whisk. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to high again and add the sugar, whisking constantly to ensure that the sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
    2. Pat the black cod fillets thoroughly dry with paper towels. Slather the fish with the miso marinade and place in a non-reactive dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Fell apart, but still tasty. Maybe not enough for two hungry adults as a full meal, though..
Fell apart, but still tasty. Maybe not enough for two hungry adults as a full meal, though..

 

    To cook the fish:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat an oven-proof skillet over high heat on the stovetop. I like cast iron. Lightly wipe off any excess miso from the fillets, but don’t rinse it off.
  2. Film the pan with a little oil, then place the fish skin-side-up on the pan and cook until the bottom of the fish browns and blackens in spots, about 3 minutes.
  3. Flip and continue cooking until the other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily. Serve with rice.

 

 

First tried February 2015: cod stuck to cast iron and fell apart, flavors were pretty good though! I used vodka instead of sake. Scaled the portions down to one fillet to serve two.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
3 of 5 stars
Interesting, and worth trying again to figure out how to make it without letting it fall apart. Bonus: good for your health!
Likelihood of Repeat: 65%
Lesson learned: Maybe next time use sake, and a griddle, or broil in oven option?

Corn & Potato Chowder with Seared Scallops

one of 4 wines encased in a cellophane tower.
one of 4 wines encased in a cellophane tower.

My friend Jenni, of Lasagna Cupcake fame, expressed a burning desire to find out what I made the other night when I sent her a thank-you photo of my dinner with the single-serving tower of wine she kindly gifted me last month. It was perfect for being able to cook with, and have a few modest sips -especially on a day when I wanted to avert a cold but still relax for the weekend!

Shred some scallions?
Shred some scallions?

The critical tip here is: watch those scallops closely! No more than 3 minutes searing total (90 seconds per side)!

If you read the last post and haven’t tried ribboning scallions, here’s your chance. I was too impatient with the icing, which is why you don’t see any scallion curls in the photos here.

Turkey bacon, yukon gold potato, veggie bouillon for stock, white wine, sweet corn, scallops, lite coconut milk.
Turkey bacon, yukon gold potato, veggie bouillon for stock, white wine, sweet corn, scallops, lite coconut milk.

Original source (pre-substitutions): from Real Simple Magazine.

Corn & Potato Chowder with Seared Scallops
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: ~45 mins
Serves: 3

A filling soup with a meaty seared scallop garnish.

Photo Mar 11, 4 41 47 PM
Seared scallops + turkey bacon sizzling.

Ingredients:
3 slices bacon, cut into small dice (I used turkey bacon this time)
2-3 sea scallops, patted dry
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 lone but large yukon gold potato, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or coconut milk, in my case)
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh (from 2 ears) or frozen
1/4 of a sprig of scallion, diced or julienned into curls
Optional: 1/2 cup canellini beans, rinsed

Directions:

    1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes, a little more for turkey. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Potato city.. too much potato, not enough liquid!
Potato city.. too much potato, not enough liquid!
  1. If you don’t quite have 1 tablespoons of bacon drippings; supplement with olive oil and butter.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high.
  3. Season scallops with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook until golden brown, about 90 seconds per side. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Add the onion to the drippings in the skillet and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes, sear for 2 minutes.
  6. Add beans (optional), wine, broth, and cream/coconut milk; cover partially and reduce heat. Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the scallops and corn and simmer gently to heat through. Sprinkle with the scallions and bacon.
Soup with a little white wine pairing!
Soup with a little white wine pairing!

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
I don’t make a lot of creamy soups, so this was delicious, yet not as painfully heavy (or later as unhappy for my stomach) as using cream.
Likelihood of Repeat: 65%
Lesson learned: next time chop the potatoes even smaller, almost pea-sized. When I divided the original recipe proportionately, I ended up with a wet pile of potatoes with corn, and had to add more liquid mix after the fact. I have altered the proportions here for a more soup-like mix. Doesn’t really look like the original recipe’s picture, but whatever. I think I’d use real pork bacon next time, and regular coconut milk rather than lite.

2nd day iteration: canellini beans in the bottom before reheating made it really super filling.
2nd day iteration: canellini beans in the bottom before reheating made it really super filling.

P.S. Did you notice the new Twitter and Instagram feeds on the right? If you wish you had more content from this blog, consider following me on those media feeds!

Method Break – Scallion Curls

Ever wonder how nice restaurants get those joyful-looking curled tendrils of scallions?

My mother taught me to slice scallions thus:

ScallionCurls1
If you are right-handed, knife goes left to right in this picture.

Slice lengthwise along the green onion, leaving the base of the onion intact so it’s easier to hold on to. Keep shredding it into ribbons super-thin. Some of it may curl automatically, and if you want to help it a little, you can shock it in a little dish of ice water. Ta-da! Garnish that’s not just cheese.

ScallionCurls2
si mignon!

 

That’s it. Have fun!

Chef Crusoe the Dachshund on Bruschetta

File this one under: Entertaining Videos for Your Monday Commute
I even timed it so the East Coasters might get it in time..

While I have a special place in my heart for Martin Yan’s video from Saveur on how to make Cong You Bing (Scallion Pancakes), the latest food video I am captivated by is this one of Chef Crusoe the Dachshund, teaching you how to make bruschetta!  Saw a link to it from the Daily Meal a few days ago. This post is just to help spread the word more. I sent it straight to my friend at Wag Work Wine as soon as I saw it -perfect intersection of doggy adorable-ness and wine-related hosting tip! Entertainingly, I am also now convinced I should finally add bruschetta to my list of potential hosting recipes.

WARNING: you may end up watching a zillion youtube videos after this, with titles such as “Crusoe the Dachshund’s Bahamas Sailing Vacation.” Maybe you have a long commute?

“Chardegg Cakes” Revisited

I’ve made several different sets of this since the first time I shared this recipe (click here for the first post on it), and both settled on a preferred base of ingredients, and eaten enough of them to stop making them for a while (what, about a month of eating them every weekday is not enough?) I have put in my additional updates in blue font below.

the last iteration of tasty egg cups (a.k.a. mini-quiche).
the last iteration of tasty egg cups (a.k.a. mini-quiche).

Chardegg Cakes for Breakf*st

*So fast you can eat it while you run out the door and skip the ‘a’.
Original inspiration from: Paleo Living Magazine‘s Paleo Kale and Chives Egg Muffins + I Breathe I’m Hungry’s Swiss Chard & Ricotta Pie.

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/4 cup almond milk
1 cup chard, finely chopped (or whatever palatable veggie you have on hand such as kale, finely-diced broccoli, zucchini, etc).
1/4 c onions, finely chopped
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/2 tsp minced garlic (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices very thinly cut deli ham, or plus coconut oil to grease cupcake cups

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sauté onions 4 minutes on medium, add garlic (optional), fry 1 minute more until garlic is golden.
2. Grease 6 cupcake molds with coconut oil, line thinly with half a ham slice in each cup.
3. Whisk together eggs, almond milk, chard, and onion-garlic mix.
4. Filled 6 cups with mixture, top with one tomato slice each.
5. Bake 30 minutes, then pop out egg cups to eat for the week.
Storage Note: if you make a double portion, these also freeze for a pretty decent breakfast later (defrost the day before you want to eat them). If you are a toaster oven devotee, you can pop them in to toast and it crisps them right up.

Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
 4 of 5 stars.
The is the second round, I may update if I find the ham was even better (or maybe tasted more virtuous to eat than turkey bacon, which may or may not be better for you than using prosciutto).
Likelihood of Repeat: 98%
This has been a household hit too, increasing the chances of repeat. It’s also so portable and satisfyingly filling!
Lesson Learned: Just always oil the pan, otherwise you’ll be scraping forever and ruining the finish on your cupcake mold. Also, they are so much prettier with tomato slices on top (and the egg rises through it when baked, neato).

I feel like using thinly sliced ham is both less fattening than prosciutto and less of a waste of prosciutto (and less tedious than pressing sausage into the molds).

 

Waffle Hash Browns!

I was going to save this one, but it’s so sunny today I thought you might like a novel brunch idea: from Macheesmo (one of the most entertaining blog names ever)!

Ingredients
2 medium Yukon potatoes, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Paprika
Eggs
Cooking spray

HashBrownWaffles1
Shred, drain (potato cheeeeese!), make some egg cups on the side, waffle-presto!

Steps

  1. Shred potato into a bowl of water, swirl.
  2. Drain and wring out potato. Get them as dry as possible.
  3. Mix potatoes thoroughly with oil.
  4. Heat up the waffle iron, then oil the surfaces.
  5. Pile on the potatoes and cook it up. Flip, then cook some more.
  6. When potatoes are crisped up to your liking, remove and serve with salt, pepper and paprika.
  7. Optional: Fry up an egg or two and serve with potato hash!

My hash browns didn’t turn out quite as pretty as Macheesmo’s, so if you want to do this, I recommend you follow the link to get his wording on steps (and beautiful pictures).

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
3 of 5 stars.
Quite a novel method for hash browns..
Likelihood of Repeat: 45%
Not sure this would turn out that much better than just frying them on a pan, but then again, I found the most tedious part to be shredding the potato, which you’d end up doing either way.
Lesson learned: Potato was a little sticky on the waffle iron, so next time I’d use a spray to get oil on rather than a pastry brush.

Stay tuned for notes on some improvements I’ve made on the chard egg cupcakes from before!

Braised Celery

My “roommate” sent me this recipe in an email, a pretty direct hint to try making it. Recipe from A Girl DeFloured

Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves 2-3

Ingredients
4 stalks of celery, scrubbed and ends trimmed (chop and reserve leaves)
2 tsp butter
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of chicken stock

Steps

  1. Cut celery into 1-inch slices on the diagonal.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery, along with salt and pepper and cook until it starts to become tender.
  3. Add broth, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for ~5 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 5 minutes longer, allowing the broth to reduce and caramelize a bit.
  4. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with reserved chopped leaves.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Likelihood of Repeat: 20%
Turned out pretty tasty but I think I’d still rather have it with a protein like chicken, and maybe peanut butter. Cooked up fast, though!
Lesson learned: I tried another portion of celery with chicken sausage, plus apple. The apple was definitely a mistake. The sausage was…never meant to be made with sage. Blegh.

Combo #2: celery, chicken sage sausage, and apple.
Combo #2: celery, chicken sage sausage, and apple.