Monday, February 08, 2010

Still Cooking, Less Adventures

Regretfully I've failed to keep doing the Adventures in Cooking posts. There are one or two more sets of photos I have that I need to do write-ups for, but in the meantime I've got a new habit I'm trying to form: I'm trying to avoid eating out for the month of Feburary (with one or two exceptions for travel) meaning I'm doing some less-interesting cooking more and more.

I've also decided to mimic Minjie and Shawn and try to take photos every day. I suppose with my one-tracked mind a lot of these will be of said cooking experiments. Rather than follow their lead and post photos here I've been uploading them to flickr. If I get adventurous enough I'll go back and put them here since blogger should theoretically let me backdate things.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Adventures in Cooking: What the Hefe?

I've been brewing beer from time since I came back from my internship in Germany. I've gone from humble brewing beer in a house we were renting in college to uh... humble brewing in a smaller apartment. Anyhow, a new batch has been long overdue so I decided to brew a German Hefeweizen for the summer.

Naturally, as I type this Washington is having an unseasonably rainy August. Well, you can't win them all.

Many friends have asked me about brewing, assuming that it is very interesting. They don't believe me when I assure them that it is not, so here is a new episode of Adventures in Cooking, which may beat out Ramen for "most pictures of boiling water."

The Ingredients
Here are the ingredients; as I'm in a small one-bedroom apartment I stick to extract brewing instead of buying the bulky and expensive equipment for going all-grain. I expect someone will snidely remark that it's not that bulky and doesn't have to be that expensive, but my kitchen is small. Also, shut up.

This session's beer
Now, in other sessions my drinking a beer while cooking could be classified as irresponsible or a number of other unkind words. However, this episode of Adventures in Cooking is about making beer, and any brewer worth his or her uh, brew, will tell you that it is essential that you drink a beer while you brew. This session's beer was Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale from Southern Tier brewing. I don't know about extraordinary, but it was good.

Getting ready to steep the grains
The first step is to steep the grains. This involves bringing about two and a half gallons of water to 150 degrees (F) and making some tasty looking grain tea.

Cleaning our supplies
It takes a little while for the water to get this hot, and since a watched pot never boils, I figure it's a good idea to start sanitizing the carboy. The carboy is a 6.5 gallon container where the wort (the not-ready-yet beer) will live while the yeast party like it's 1999. Sanitizing the carboy involves first cleaning it the old fashion way (soap and water), and then pouring a solution called StarSan in and filling it with water. This ensures that no one else is invited to the yeast's party.

The steeping grain
Here is the milled grain. It's grain, I can't come up with something amusing to say about it.

Tea time
The grain goes in a cheesecloth sock, giving one the largest tea bag in the history of man (possibly hyperbole).

Steeping the grain
And when the water is the right temperature, the grain bag gets tossed in and steeps for 20 minutes or so. When this is done, the grain bag is removed and its time to mix in the remaining malt extracts!

Mixed and ready to boil
Now this is starting to look like beer. A sweet, not alcoholic, flat, and probably not all that tasty beer. But beer. Yeah. The next step is to bring this mixture to a boil, stirring to avoid overflow (I failed). The brew will then boil for an hour. In brewing terms, this is known as "the boil."

This rabbit-food looking stuff is pelletized hops. Normally hops come in leaves, but even professional brewers use the pelletized stuff a lot since it's much more compact and you get more bang for your pellet.

Hops in the boil
The hops go into a cheesecloth bag just like the grains and get to hang out in the boil for different times depending on your recipe. In this recipe, most of them went in right away and the next batch went in 40 minutes into the boil. Typically this is so that the earlier hops can provide bitterness to the beer while the later hops provide more aroma than anything else.

Cooling the wort
Now we have the wort; the un-fermented beer product. Unfortunately, this substance is way too hot for yeast to perform their magic in, so it needs to be (somewhat) quickly cooled. The quickness is to ensure that other wild yeast don't show up before the yeast that we like get to do their job. In this case, I dump a whole bunch of ice in my sink and run cold water around the really, really hot pot.

There are devices called immersion chillers, and I actually own one, but I feel like it negatively impacts the taste of the beer. It's basically a big copper coil that you can submerge in the wort and run cold water through.

First Siphon!
Once the hot wort has cooled down to something manageable, it needs to be siphoned into the carboy. The first time I brewed I had to do this the hard way (sucking on the tube), but now I have a super awesome racking cane so all I do is pump to get things started.

Ready to go!
Once the wort is in the carboy, the yeast is added and the airlock put on the carboy. Now comes the waiting game; the wort gets to ferment initially for 7-10 days.

As the beer ferments, a healthy head of foam will start to form on the wort, sediment will form on the bottom, and during the stronger parts of fermentation the airlock will bubble a lot and hopefully you're a light sleeper if you're like me and keep your carboy in your bedroom closet.

I was taught that the right time to rack the beer to secondary is when the head of foam dies down. Once this happens the brew is siphoned to a smaller 5 gallon carboy. This filters the brew away from the sediment of dead yeast that have formed on the bottom of the carboy from primary fermentation and then allows it to ferment a little more for another week or so.

When the beer is done in secondary it's time to keg; I didn't bother photographing this as it's not too different from the other siphoning photos. The keg is cleaned and sanitized in the same manner as the carboys and the beer is poured directly in. Once that's done, it's capped, put in the fridge, and 13lbs of CO2 applied. After another week or so, it's time to start drinking!


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Adventures in Cooking: The Wrath of Manjuu (カレマン)

I decided early on when I made my first batch of manjuu that I would make more; it's such a versatile idea that I knew there would be varieties other than anman that I'd want to make. Thus, instead of something sweet like anman I decided to make something more savory; curry manjuu (or カレマン [kareman]). Once again I followed the recipe here, and the steps are pretty much the same with a slightly different cast.

The ingredients
Here were the culprits; the big change from last time is the curry mix, chicken, carrots, and onion. I grabbed fryer chicken, but any chicken probably would have sufficed.

The beer: Red Hook's Limited Edition Tripel
This time around I picked up a limited edition beer from Red Hook; a tripel. I'm not sure that it's really a good pairing, but I didn't eat these the same night so all was good.

Ready to bake the chicken; finger-licking good
The first thing I did was start baking the chicken; I rubbed a little bit of salt and pepper on the chicken and proceeded to bake it for about half an hour, turning it partway through. While this was going on, I started on some familiar steps like...

Proofing the yeast
...proofing the yeast! Exciting, I know.

The dough, ready to rise
I also mixed the dough (and the yeast) while waiting for the chicken to bake. Due to the addition of tumeric to the dough, there's a nice strong yellow color to the dough. This means the manjuu will be even more delicious.

Melting the curry
Now I'm stuck waiting for the chicken to bake and the dough to rise, so I suppose I should start with the rest of the manjuu filling. Similar to melting the chocolate for brownies, I started melting the curry roux blocks.

Everything else
Eventually, the chicken finished baking and I pulled it out of the oven, cut it into pieces, and proceeded to chop the carrot and onion as well as some chives. As I chopped everything it ended up in a bowl, ready to go.

Doesn't look appealing; curry mixed with everything
When the curry had melted, I went ahead and stirred it in with the other fillings. The mess didn't look appealing, but it's quite tasty!

Rolling out the dough
As with last time, when the dough had finished rising I cut it into several small balls and rolled them out. When the dough was rolled out it was time to put a spoonful of filling on there and wrap up the manjuu.

Several minutes later, the manjuu is wrapped up.
And eventually I finished rolling up the manjuu! I definitely rolled several of them too thin, but they work. I proceeded to cover the completed manjuu and let it sit in my fridge overnight. The following day I put them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Except for one, which I proceeded to cook...

Steamed and ready to eat
.. and they were super tasty! I'm not sure I'd do anything different other than try to exercise a little more caution rolling out the dough. I've been cooking these for breakfast for a little while now.

I'm running low though, and may need to start another batch. They're super easy to cook since they just steam for 15-20 minutes making them an ideal breakfast.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Adventures in Cooking: Tonkotsu Ramen

Since going to Japan I've really had a strong urge to try my hand at making some ramen broth; I've been thinking of trying to make stock of some sort and ramen seems like a good idea (or a bad idea). While there Lyle took us to a place called Daruma Ramen in Haruna, where I had what I think was hands down some of the best ramen I've ever had. When I arrived back in the States I started searching the web for a good recipe and stumbled upon this one. With a recipe in hand, I was ready to try my hand at making some super-unhealthy ramen of my own!

A subset of he meat ingredients unpacked
This time the ingredients are presented in waves; first we have our pork. I used about 4 pounds of pork bones (half were pork necks and half were just labeled pork bones), some pig feet, and some back fat. The first step is to bring a ton of water (about 2.5 gallons) to just below a simmer and throw in the meats minus the back fat.

The pot simmering with meat
I probably kept things a little too cool resulting in a thinner broth, but it did end up working out. While the meat is simmering you'll need to keep scooping off a layer of scum that forms on the surface of the water. I followed some advice from Alton Brown and used a strainer. I let the meat simmer alone for about half an hour before adding the back fat, and then let it simmer for another 20 minutes or so.

The non-meat ingredients
Now for some healthier stuff. I cut the onions and apples in half and threw them in the stock pot and only used about an inch of the ginger. From here it's a matter of letting things continue to simmer for several hours; I took the time to go to a friend's BBQ.

Simmering the veggies too
The recipe says to let things simmer for 5 hours, but since I think I had the heat a bit too low I tried adjusting it after 5 and came back after another 4 hours or so. I put a vegetable steamer in the pot as well to keep as many of the ingredients as possible submerged and to give me a place where I could try to scoop out any scum that might show up on the surface. Very little if any showed up at this point, though sometimes there would be a thin layer of fat from the back fat.

I don't have a picture, but the broth had reduced *quite* a bit after 9 or so hours. It tasted a bit thin, but it was getting late and I went ahead and froze the broth in several Tupperware containers as well as some ice trays (again, straight out of an Alton Brown episode on broth).

This post's booze is nigori sake
A few days later I decided it was time to make my ramen! I decided that sake would be appropriate as something to drink while cooking and eating, and picked up a random nigori at Uwajimaya. It has a bit stronger floral taste than I'd prefer, but it's pretty good.

Ramen and chashu ingredients
Here are the day-of ingredients; noodles and the components for what the website with the recipe calls chashu, but I sort of doubt it's authenticity as chashu after looking it up online. In any event, it has shoyu in it, which I knew to be a vital component to the broth.

After mixing the ginger, shoyu, mirin, sake, and about a cup (6 ice cubes) of the broth, I let them simmer for a little bit before adding some pork belly and letting it boil/simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Towards the end of the boil I started poaching an egg and cooking the ramen noodles, since these both take about 1-2 minutes.

The ramen, ready to eat. いただきます!
When everything was nice and cooked, I took about two tablespoons of the chashu liquid, poured some noodles over it, and then filled the bowl with broth. Then I added the poached egg, some chives, and some of the pork belly. This batch tasted like the broth was a little thin, but was still pretty delicious.

However I poured the chashu into a container to store overnight and attempted to make things again the next day but used about four tablespoons of the chashu and this largely resolved my issues with the thinness of the broth; I don't know if it was the extra time boiling/simmering, the time sitting in my fridge, or what, but the broth was awesome the second time. Not perfect, but delicious; thinking about it makes me wish I was eating some noodles while writing this post.

All in all, this sore into a new dish was totally worth it. I'd like to try it again tweaking some of the broth ingredients to get a deeper flavor without the chashu and see how that changes things. Perhaps I'll try another noodle; udon or perhaps some pho-style dish.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures in Cooking: Brownies Mexicanos

Normally brownies wouldn't be something that I'd consider to qualify as an 'adventure in cooking,' but when perusing some cooking forums someone suggested something that never crossed my mind; using Mexican chocolate for brownies. I had been introduced to Mexican chocolate at university but all we ever used it for was for hot chocolate (which, by the way, is awesome and you should totally make it; heat some milk in a saucepan and mix the chopped chocolate in and stir until it's done. Amazingly delicious on colder evenings)

Anyhow, this got me searching for recipes and I decided to follow this one. I had most of the ingredients lying around, except for the unsweetened chocolate, so after picking that and a new beer up I was ready to go!

The ingredients
Here are the culprits. As with last time, the beer is just something to tide me over while food cooks. The only unusual thing is the Mexican chocolate; I used Ibarra, which I've never had any trouble finding in west coast grocery stores.

Melting the chocolate
The first step is melting the chocolates and butter; the website I linked doesn't suggest doing it, but roommates in university ingrained the notion that doing otherwise is a mortal sin; I melted the ingredients in a makeshift double boiler. It's probably fine to do it in the saucepan alone, but superstition can be fun sometimes.

The chocolate stone has melted
Anyhow dropped the chocolate and butter in the double boiler and stirred until melted. It doesn't take too long and is pretty straight-forward. When it's done, I pulled out the bowl from the double boiler and poured the remaining ingredients in and stirred until mixed well.

Everything mixed; all is one and one is all
Mixing things isn't interesting at all; just stir.

Ready to bake!
This doesn't take long; so it's time to pour the mixture in a glass pan and shove in the oven.

This takes around half an hour to bake, leaving me with some time on my hands. There are two good things that I think come out of baking; it often has good opportunities to clean my kitchen and when I'm done with that I might as well crack open a beer.

Well, that and lick the stirring spoon once the rest of the batter is in the oven. This is the best tasting thing ever.

Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale by Rogue
And in what will likely be a trend, I drink while cooking; this session's beer is Captain Sig's Northwestern Ale by Rogue. I love Rogue's stuff and the premise of a Deadliest-catch beer was amusing enough to buy it.

Time to eat!
And eventually after the kitchen is cleaner than when I started and the beer is partially consumed, the brownies are done cooking. It's time to pull them out and let them cool down. After letting them cool for a bit I tried one and it was good; I brought the rest into work the following day.

All in all, I was fairly satisfied with these; I don't think I can bear to make regular brownies again. I simply love the cinnamon-y taste of Mexican chocolate too much.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adventures in Cooking: Manjuu (あんまん)

In an attempt to post something more often I'm going to try something new. I'm really awful about cooking for myself, but I frequently get into moods where I want to bake or otherwise cook something that's impractical often but is a nice way to spend an evening. So in the style of a Goons with Spoons post, I figure I'll document various cooking projects I do.

This weekend's project was manjuu. I stumbled on a recipe for the bun here and decided to just go with a simple anko filling rather than going too crazy.

The truth of the matter is I've had a bit of an anko craving recently.

The ingredients minus the yeast
The ingredients are nothing special for bread; the anko was the only thing a little challenging to find. I had actually looked for this at the local Uwajimaya a few months back and completely missed it. After asking around at work I was told it really should be there, and some more thoughtful looking turned it up. I used koshian, the paste-like version that is free of bean husks. The recipe called for 'oil' which I decided meant 'butter.'

The beer was a very important "something to drink while cooking" ingredient. Though since I forgot to pull out the yeast for the photo you could say it represents that.

I microwaved the milk, added the sugar, and let it proof in the measuring cup.
Omitted from the ingredient picture earlier was the yeast; the site linked earlier has a baking soda recipe, but I prefer using yeast when I can. Step 1 was mixing the sugar and slightly warmed in the microwave milk with the yeast and letting it chill out for about 10 minutes while I worked on the beer.

New Belgium's Trippel
Waiting for yeast to proof is a great excuse to drink.

Mixing it all up
After the yeast had been sitting long enough to develop a small layer of foam, I mixed in the melted tablespoon of butter (which I had let cool a bit while the yeast was proofing), stirred well and poured it into the flour. The recipe said to mix and kneed by hand, but I bought a KitchenAid mixer recently and opted to use that instead.

The dough before rising
As with just about any bread-like thing, I let it mix until the dough stopped sticking to the pan and then switched to the dough hook for a bit. When I was convinced it was done, I pulled the bowl out, threw a clean dish towel over it and let it sit for a while to rise (probably 30-40 minutes).

When the dough had risen enough, which in this case means, when I got impatient after 30-40 minutes, I split the dough into 10 roughly even shaped lumps and began rolling.

The rolled out dough + anko

I've never been able to roll dough out to look very circular, but at least for this sort of thing it doesn't matter too much. I topped the rolled out dough with a nice helping of anko and then proceeded to messily fold up the manjuu. To make things look authentic one should twist the balls shut, but I just folded it in half and then in half again. Perhaps that's how it's always done in America, or so I'll claim.

Ten rolled up manjuu ready for steaming

Once the manjuu were rolled up and ready to go, I let them sit a bit covered to rise a little more. In the meantime I dug out my vegetable steamer and put some water in a pot to get ready to steam them. I put some cheesecloth between the lid of the pot and the pot itself to keep water from dripping on the manjuu too much while it cooked. This turned out to burn the cheesecloth that was hanging out of the pot, which was a tad worrisome but not problematic.

Cooked and ready to eat!

It turns out that cooking the manjuu upside down (i.e., folded side down) works best in the steamer; otherwise the bottom tends to stick to it. I should try using the wax paper I had the manjuu sitting on in the steamer to save myself some cleaning problems.

All in all they turned out pretty tasty; I only cooked two or three the first night, and a quick attempt the following day indicated that they should last a little bit refrigerated. This will give me a nice, albeit sweet, breakfast for the next day or two. I'd like to try some variants in a later version of this post, perhaps something like nikuman.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Forever in debt to your priceless advice

It's the time of New Years resolutions. I've got a few things on my own little list of resolutions, but one I figure I'd bring up here is that I'd like to actually try and use the guitar I've got this year.

I've been pretty good about picking it up and playing a bunch of the old things I used to try and play back in college. In fact, I find myself remembering other songs Lyle used to play while we were living together and have been trying to learn some of those too. I'm certainly not any good, but can play the beginnings of a few new things. I'm also trying to round out some of the older intros I knew for some songs by learning the rest.

I'd also like to travel a bit more this year. The way things are turning out I may do okay on that one.

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