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Why Hors d’oeuvres benefit you and your guests

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2010 by Kenkou

Next time you plan to entertain a group of guests for a big dinner or a barbecue, here’s a crucial tip if you do not know this already: Have hors d’oeuvres or appetizers ready before your guests show up.  Here are a couple reasons why:

REASON #1: Your guests won’t go hungry.  Having a little something to munch on before the big meal keeps everyone’s hunger temporarily at bay and prevents any anxiety that can come with waiting for the main course to finish cooking.  That way, instead of constantly wondering “where’s the food?”, your guests will be happily enjoying themselves and one another before dinner.

REASON #2: It frees you up and relieves you of stress.  You now have more time to make sure everything is done right without the added need to rush to feed your guests on time.  With your guests distracted by your appetizers, you can fully concentrate on the food you’re preparing without having to answer “in 10 minutes!” or “in 15 minutes!” every 5 seconds to that one dreaded question that we all love to ask when we get hungry: “Is dinner ready?!”

The best part is that appetizers are simple for the most part and can be done fairly quickly and easily.  You can either make something on your own or buy something ready-made like chips, cheese and cracker trays, or veggie platters.  Plus they are simply a delicious addition to any event!  Just remember to be careful not to make too much or else your guests will fill up on hors d’oeuvres while leaving no room for the main event!

For a couple of tasty appetizer ideas that will work great with any party, visit: https://eurasianepicurean.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/partysnacks/

Bon appetit!

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A taste of Germany in San Francisco: Schroeder’s Restaurant

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2010 by Kenkou

OK first off, some bad news.  I ended up losing all my Christmas food pictures due to memory card error.  But the good news is the food wasn’t too different from the thanksgiving food I made last month, so if you’re looking for tips on turkey, stuffing, or potatoes for your next big meal, swing on over here: https://eurasianepicurean.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/thanksgiving2/

Moving on, we’re exploring food from Germany, something I haven’t done in a long time despite being quarter German.  Since we can’t make a trip to Germany yet though, we’ll go for something a little more local: Schroeder’s Restaurant in downtown San Francisco (pronounced “ShREIders”, rhymes with “Raiders”).  I went here with my dad for lunch on Wednesday and it was certainly an experience as you can see in some of the pics below.

Schroeder's Restaurant in San Francisco is a small restaurant/pub specializing in German food

A look at some of Schroeder's menu items

This place was definitely very German-esque and a great place for a drink or to catch a game of soccer (international football).  The FA Premier’s Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers were playing that day.  Not surprisingly, this place gets packed during the World Cup.  But anyways, let’s go on to the food.

Coleslaw and Potato Salad, both with a very tart flavor coming from vinegar

I started out with a couple classics: Coleslaw and Potato Salad.  Very mild, but both were flavored with a lot of vinegar so it’s likely an acquired taste for those who enjoy it.

The main course consisting of goose, sauerkraut, red cabbage, an item that tasted like a soft bread, and a potato dumpling

The main course was a roast goose (a special item that day) served with sauerkraut, and red cabbage.  You’ll also notice two other white items, one smaller than the other and I unfortunately cannot remember exactly what they are.  But from I remember tasting, the smaller item tasted like a potato dumpling (kinda like gnocchi, but softer and not as chewy).  The larger item tasted like a soft and chewy bread.  Again, I don’t remember their exact names.  If you do, please comment!

I have never had goose before in my life and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  For those who aren’t familiar with goose, it is all dark meat with a very crispy skin.  Boy that skin was good, kind of like duck skin but thicker!  The flavor itself is fairly mild and the meat is a bit tougher near the bone but some of the meat further from the bone fell off beautifully and tasted quite moist.  The sauerkraut was good too; mild and slightly tart but nothing too intense.  And the red cabbage was actually very sweet.  Like the potato salad and coleslaw, the red cabbage also had flavor coming from vinegar.

More of the items that came with the goose. The meatloaf near the top was from dad's meatloaf sandwich

So there you have it, a little taste of Germany in San Francisco without the transatlantic flight.  It’s definitely different from what a lot of us may be used to, but its also exciting and worth a taste for both locals and tourists.  For more info, including a look at their versatile menu and special events like Oktoberfest, click here: http://www.schroederssf.com/

Bon appetit!

The best popcorn I’ve ever eaten

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 by Kenkou

I’ve eaten many types and brands of popcorn in my life, but none have come close to my all-time favorite: Gold Rush Kettle Corn.

Gold Rush Kettle Corn, truly the best popcorn I've ever eaten

Notice the light caramel coloring on the popcorn? The caramel colored finish adds a perfect sweet compliment to the savory flavor of the popcorn.

This popcorn is so unique because it has a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors in addition to a slightly crispy exterior that comes from the method of kettle cooking.  Its a flavor thats very hard to put into detailed words, but once you eat them, you’ll get it immediately.  Its been a favorite of mine ever since I first ate them roughly a year or more ago and my mom has bought them for me every time I’ve visited San Francisco.  I’ve brought some back to Southern California for my church and everyone there can’t get enough of them!  These bags of kettle corn are good for parties or entertaining.  They are also great for kids as well because they are all-natural and a good alternative to fattier snacks like chips or cookies.  And if you’re a fan of organic, you’ll love these as well because they only require a few ingredients and they are natural ingredients that are easy for anyone to pronounce, haha.

Locations on where you can find Gold Rush Kettle Corn can be found on their website here: http://www.goldrushpopcorn.com/buy.  They come in sealed bags and are already good enough when bought from retail stores.  But if you happen to live in or are planning to visit the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly encourage you to make a trip to one of the local farmer’s markets where you can buy the popcorn freshly popped in front of you.  They pop ’em the old fashioned way in a giant hot kettle with salt and sugar.  Its really exciting to see and sometimes, if you get lucky, you’ll get a nice morsel of solid brown sugar on the bottom of the bag.  A couple farmer’s markets that have them are at Serramonte Mall in Daly City (Thursdays) and at Stonestown Mall in San Francisco (Sundays I believe).  The website listed above has more farmer’s market listings in addition to retail listings.

Bon Appetit!

Honey Lemon Tea using fresh from the hive honey

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 by Kenkou

Remember my fresh fish article?  See https://eurasianepicurean.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/freshmackerel/ if not.  Like I mentioned there, there’s no fish like freshly caught fish.  And theres certainly no honey like freshly harvested honey from a hive.  Today we received a package from Japan from one of my aunts (my mom’s sister-in-law) and one of the many items in the package was freshly harvested honey straight from the hive to the jar!  Very sweet and very fragrant.  So I decided to use it to make some honey lemon tea.  Here are some images:

A jar of sweet and freshly harvested honey from Japan.

Mom holding the jar of honey.

Honey being drizzled into the tea

The finished Honey Lemon Tea

Emily actually got me into making Honey Lemon Tea as a cold and cough remedy (after much persuasion on her part, haha).  Its a good remedy though, very soothing and naturally sweet without any added sugar.  Its also good even when you’re not sick, especially on cold days.  Boil water, pour over a tea bag (I used YAMAMOTOYAMA® brand green tea; bought a package of 15 bags for $1.50), drizzle two “honey drippers”-worth (the wooden thing used to pour honey) of honey into the tea, and add a squeeze of lemon juice.  I added a slice of lemon for a nice extra and a bit more residual lemon juice.  And yes, like I said, there’s no honey quite like fresh honey.

Bon appetit!

Mom’s tricks for easy okonomiyaki and fried fish

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 by Kenkou

Greetings from San Francisco once again!  Just came back to spend some time with my family for the holidays.  I’ve been here for only a couple days, but boy did I get some great inside tips on some delicious food.  Yes, of course, I’ve done very little cooking and these handy tricks are all courtesy of my mom.  First two nights here, some of the food we had was fried fish (cod) and okonomiyaki and as delicious as they are, they are very simple to make with a couple of key ingredients that we will show here.

The fried fish on the left and the okonomiyaki on the right

First the okonomiyaki.  For those who are not familiar with the term, okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake made with savory ingredients like vegetables, meat, and/or seafood.  It is a very popular dish in Western Japan, particularly in the Kansai region (where Osaka and Kobe are located).  The word “okonomi” means “however one likes” and the word “yaki” is a Japanese prefix or suffix (as in this case) used for foods that are grilled or pan fried.  So basically, its a pancake made with whatever ingredients you choose.  Of course, typically, you choose from a set of options, not literally from anything you like.  For example, you can’t really put chocolate or strawberries in an okonomiyaki.  Doing so would make it taste kinda funny, haha.  There’s a good webpage with images on okonomiyaki found here: http://www.japan-guide.com/r/e100.html.  But for those who are curious about my mom’s tactics on making the dish, here are some of the ingredients:

My mom with a handy okonomiyaki mix. Just add a few ingredients and you're set to make okonomiyaki

The ingredients necessary for the okonomiyaki batter. See translation below

The mix that my mom got can be found at most Japanese and Asian supermarkets.  For making the batter for 2 pancakes, you add 1 cup (100 grams) of the mix, 1 raw egg, 120 ml of water, and 150 grams of cabbage.  For 3 pancakes, you add 1.5 cups (150 grams) of the mix, 2 raw eggs, 180 ml of water, and 200 grams of cabbage.  Then of course after, you may add whichever appropriate ingredients you like.  Some good choices are “Beni Shoga” or red pickled ginger, green onions, sliced pork, shrimp, or squid.  Mix together until well-mixed and place in a pan or electric griddle as you would for an ordinary pancake and cook until golden brown and crispy.  My mom also added some fried wheat flour to the mix as shown below:

Japanese Fried Wheat Flour used for the okonomiyaki. A nice bonus.

Popular toppings for the okonomiyaki once its cooked include tonkatsu sauce or otafuku sauce (a thick sweet sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce), “katsuobushi” or smoked benito shavings, “aonori” or dried bits of seaweed, and of course, my favorite, mayonnaise!  We only used sauce and mayo for our okonomiyaki, but still quite delicious nonetheless!

Mom’s fried fish was a simple and standard dredge in flour, seasoning, egg wash, and bread crumb recipe.  The secret was in the bread crumbs, shown below:

Middle eastern bread crumbs gave fried fish an excellent touch. A good choice for fried chicken or pork too

You can most likely find these at specialty markets, including those that specialize in selling Middle Eastern and kosher ingredients.  Although, I’m not sure where my mom got these ones.  If you’re having trouble finding them, you can also order them online at http://www.sadaf.com/.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make my own variations of these two delicious dishes.  I’ll keep you posted if I do.

Bon Appetit!

The journey of a freshly caught Pacific Spanish Mackerel

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 by Kenkou

Alright, so I went to Newport Pier last night with my church brothers for an evening of fishing.  But before I go into that, I just want to say that my own experience with fishing isn’t very extensive.  I’ve gone lake fishing several times in South Dakota with my cousins and relatives from my dad’s side.  There, I’ve caught quite a few fish, but most of them were tossed back.  We did catch a load of Perch one time and brought those home where my aunt cooked them in loads of melted butter.  The fish was very buttery but quite tasty.

Anyways, despite all that, I’ve never gone ocean fishing until this year.  Yes, I know, even though I grew up in the Bay Area where some of California’s best fish are lurking, last night was only my third time going ocean fishing.  And the first two times, we caught nothing haha.  But we got lucky last night.  The lucky one was our friend John, who caught 6 fish, most of which were Pacific Mackerel.  Steve himself, the veteran angler, caught 4 scorpion fish, a fish with venomous barbs, but popular as food when fried or used in soups (no they are not as dangerous as Japanese Fugu or puffer fish).  Our friend Gus didn’t get too lucky, but made a great effort and simply had a lot of fun while fishing.  I myself caught 2 fish, one inedible, and the other being a Spanish Pacific Mackerel, the latter who is the star of today’s fresh fish article.

I have to say, it’s an amazing feeling when you catch a fish, especially when you catch your first fish in a long time.  And even better, there’s certainly nothing like preparing, cooking, and eating a fish you caught and knowing that the fish was still alive and swimming less than 24 hours ago.  Besides eating a fish right out of the water, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.  So here’s the journey of my own freshly caught Spanish mackerel from the water to the plate.

The fish being held under Steve's shoe for a photo

The fish in the bucket. We used raw shrimp and squid for bait. The other two mackerel were caught by John

The fish on a plate after it was brought home and washed

The fish being cut. Note that this is my first time cutting a whole fish in my life. I need more practice, but like I did with chicken, I may start buying my fish whole more often.

The raw fillets before being seasoned and broiled. Notice the red color that raw mackerel is famous for. The skin was left on the fillets but most of the bones were removed

The mackerel fillets were seasoned with salt, oregano, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil before being broiled for about 5-7 minutes until the meat was flaky. The fillets were served on top of a bowl of steamed rice

Mackerel was a fish I ate quite a bit while growing up.  My sister and I knew them more as “Saba”, the Japanese term for mackerel (these smaller mackerels are known as “Aji” in Japan).  My mom would grill them, but since I don’t have a grill or grill pan yet, I cooked this one using the broiler, which worked pretty well.  The meat itself was very tender, the skin was soft yet flaky enough to separate easily, and the flavor itself was quite mild, but fresh.  Like I said, no fish like fresh fish.

Here is one more image of more of the fish we caught, including the infamous scorpion fish

Pacific Mackerel and Scorpion Fish. John caught most of the mackerel

Bon appetit!

Tips for delicious pan-seared steak

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2010 by Kenkou

Mmm, there’s nothing like a tender juicy steak.  And even better, there’s nothing like preparing your own.  Aside from being delicious, a steak prepared at home isn’t a tricky task and is relatively inexpensive.  However, there are some common mistakes that get made when cooking steak on the stove, so I put together a list of steak cooking tips that will help make sure your meat turns out flavorful and juicy rather than tough and bland.  So here they are, some courtesy of celebrity chefs.

The images are from a steak dinner party at Emily’s house.  Ribeye cuts, my personal favorite next to prime rib, were used at the party.  Yes, I did make the steaks, haha.  These tips will work for almost any cut.  Enjoy!

TIP #1: Give your steak a chance to come to room temperature.  This allows it to sear faster and cook properly.  If you cook your steak straight out of the fridge, the cold meat will take out more of your pan’s heat and creates a less desirable sear.  This may end up leading to a steak that loses moisture and becoming dry.  The whole point of a good sear is to lock in the steak’s moisture and create flavor on the outside.

TIP #2: Cut your steak to a reasonable thickness.  About 0.5 to 1.5 inches is good for a standard steak recipe.  Steak Dianes are obviously thinner and some people prefer theirs a bit thicker.  But for a standard pan-seared steak recipe, cutting the meat too thin will cause it to toughen quicker without a good sear on the outside and cutting the meat too thick may cause the meat toughen up on the outside while still being raw on the inside.

Raw ribeye steaks being seared. These were seasoned simply with garlic salt, fresh ground black pepper, and dried basil/oregano

TIP #3: Season your steak well.  Simple seasonings are fine.  I usually just stick with salt, pepper, maybe some garlic or butter, and a dried green herb like basil or oregano.  Season your meat well shortly before cooking and use the meat to mop up any excess seasoning on the cutting board (A Gordon Ramsay trick).  You can also use a creative wet or dry rub, but there’s usually no need to marinate the meat, especially if it’s a fatty cut like ribeye.

TIP #4: Place your pan on medium or medium high heat.  Too low will cause the steak to “boil” instead of sear and too high will overcook the outside and leave the inside raw.  Now if you’re making a steak cooked “Pittsburgh rare”, where the outside is nearly charred but the inside is almost still raw, you’ll want your pan on pretty high.  I’ve had it once, accidentally, when I left the pan on too high.  It’s very flavorful actually, but its something I’m sure many of us aren’t used to.  So to avoid that, set your pan to medium/medium high heat.

TIP #5: LET YOUR PAN HEAT UP.  This is crucial.  Your pan must be nice and hot for your steak to cook properly.  If there’s not enough heat when the steak enters the pan, the pan will lose more heat from touching the room temperature meat and not sear the meat properly.  Again, proper sear is key for a good steak.  You’ll know your pan is ready when the oil in your pan begins to slightly smoke and the meat sizzles beautifully immediately when touching the pan.

TIP #6: Only touch, move, and turn your steak when absolutely necessary.  In other words, place it down once, turn only once to the other side and if the meat has a lining of fat, once on its fat lining.  For a 3/4 inch steak cooked medium rare (the most recommended level of doneness), 3 minutes on each side give or take 30 seconds is a reasonable estimate.  If you want it medium or medium well, 4 to 5 minutes on each side is a good estimate.  2 minutes on each side is a good estimate for a rare 3/4 inch cut.  Most importantly, let the pan do its work.  We know you’re excited about your steak, but moving it around the pan or touching it constantly won’t give you good results.

A cooked steak. Ribeye is my favorite cut of meat because the amount of fat it has allows it melt in your mouth when cooked right

TIP #7: Check for signs of doneness.  When you turn your steak over, there should be a nice brown crispy coloring on the cooked side.  It doesn’t have to cover all of the meat, but the brown color indicates a good sear and lots of flavor.  Also, to check for doneness, there are a couple ways to go about it (assuming you’re not using a thermometer).  Gordon Ramsay recommends touching the steak to see that it is slightly soft, but firm enough to rebound nicely.  This is rare to medium rare.  It is equivalent to touching a portion of your palm below and inside of your thumb.  But Ramsay’s mentor, Marco Pierre White, objects as different steaks that are aged differently will feel different when done.  So he recommends just looking at the meat and looking for the moment when the blood starts to appear on the surface of the meat.  That’s when you know its medium/medium rare.  I like Marco’s method because it’s worked for me for the past few times and it’s a more reliable trick for various cuts of meat.

TIP #8: Let the steak rest.  When removed from the pan, the steak should rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.  This will allow the juices to re-circulate back into the meat for a more juicy finish.  If you cut into the steak right away, much of the juice will run out, leaving your steak dry.

A close-up of the medium rare steak. A beautiful and moist pink center is how most of us like our steak. This one was absolutely delicious.

BONUS TIPS: A couple of optional bonus tips based on Gordon Ramsay’s advice.  During the last minute of cooking, place a tablespoon of butter into the pan and baste the meat with melted butter using a spoon.  This creates a nice finish.  You can also add some red wine or stock to deglaze the pan after removing the steak.  The liquid will pick up all the little bits of goodness from the pan and use them to flavor a very simple steak sauce that you can pour on top of the meat.  Topping your steak with grilled onions and mushrooms are a nice touch as well.

That’s it.  Just some simple guidelines for an easy, tender, and juicy pan-seared steak.  Some of my favorite side dish ideas for steak are mashed potatoes (or Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes), baked potato, stir fried vegetables (garlic, peppers, mushrooms, onions, or green beans go great with steak), baked beans, salad, bread, and/or wild rice.  The cool thing about steak dinner is that it’s very simple, so there’s a lot you can do with it to make it your own.

Bon appetit!