Showing posts with label braised. Show all posts
Showing posts with label braised. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style A Dinner for My Uncle - Braised Lamb Shanks, Black Cod with Mushroom Dashi, Poached Octopus and Seared Scallops

A Dinner for My Uncle

It was 1983 and I had just woken up from a long nap on the plane. My mom quickly tapped on my shoulder and pointed out the tiny window. I was groggy and disoriented from my first airplane flight (Pan Am!) – but my eyes grew wide open. To this day, I can vividly recall the yellow lights of Hong Kong's harbor and Kowloon City. I could see large junk ships sprinkled all over the green water and cars cruising the streets like fish swimming in a two-way stream. My mom was from Macau, now the Las Vegas of Asia, but had moved to Hong Kong to work. She then moved to the United States in the early 70s to pursue a more opportunistic life as many Asians did. She got married a few years later and had me and my sister. It was now eleven years since she had left her father and brothers and she was happy to come back to Hong Kong now with her own family.

For first time visitors to Asia, it is usually quite a disorienting, stimulating experience. Like life on fast-forward. We filed out of the airplane, picked up our luggage and proceeded through the long hallways towards the exit. As we got closer, I could hear indistinct chatter from people and cars honking. I was taken aback by how many people were waiting to pick up their friends and family. The lighting was a bit dim and casted behind the crowd. At my age and size, everyone seemed like a giant silhouette to me. It was daunting. But all of a sudden, my mom sped up ahead of me and my dad, who was holding my baby sister. We could see a man behind the rail waving vigorously with a huge smile on his face. This has to be the Uncle my mom had spoken about so often. "Kow-fu", as I would learn to call him, which means "mom's younger brother" in Cantonese Chinese. I didn't know him but I knew I liked him the second he picked me and my sister us up for a hug. It was 1983 and I was now in Hong Kong with my new family.

The details of the trip were blurry after the day at the airport. I can only be reminded of the activities we did through pictures. A lot of photos of us at restaurants with "lazy susans" on the tables. Photos of us on random park slides. Anonymous old people holding us. Anonymous people with terrible 1980s fashion holding us. But one thing we'll never forget is the feeling of love that my Uncle gave us and that constant smile that could only come from a good relationship between him and my mom.

In the next 27 years, we had visited and seen my Uncle at least 8-10 times. But this time, he was coming back to Los Angeles to visit my family. I had grown a lot since then and I am now married myself. He had met Jeni before but this time he would be stepping into our house. It was now my turn to make him feel the way I felt when I met him that day at the airport in Hong Kong. If I had to write about the impact of my "Kow-fu" on our life, it would be a long series. But what do you give someone who pretty much has everything, has seen a better part of the world and indeed lives a life rich in so many ways. And as I've learned and preached throughout my time writing this blog is the importance of food, friends and family. In almost everything we do, food does bring us together. As children, we all hated being force-fed by family. They weren't trying to make our lives difficult, they were just trying to provide sustenance and love.

With that, I decided to show my appreciation for my Uncle and Aunt visiting from Hong Kong with a home-cooked meal. With Nathan and Karen McCall's wonderful offerings, local farmers market and great wine from Jill Bernheimer's Domaine LA, I was able to prepare a California-ish menu.

Kowfu Dinner Scallops

Seared Diver Scallop with Piquillo Pepper Sauce & Spanish-style Green Beans
Recently, the scallops at McCall's have almost been as large as a hockey puck. The bigger ones are obviously meaty yet can be challenging to cook since you stand a better chance of undercooking it or "cracking" the scallop - a HUGE pet-peeve of mine. In that case, less is more theory comes in to play. If you don't think you can handle the large size scallop, get two smaller sized ones. If you haven't had piquillo peppers before, you may want to start using them over red bell peppers – they are so sweet and subtly smokey. You will usually find them jarred with olive oil and water. I recommend Bajamar, which McCall's and La Española (Harbor City) has. If not, Trader Jose will work just fine.

Diver or Dayboat Scallops
Roasted Piquillo Peppers
Wax beans
Whole Dried Peppers (I like Thai, spicier than Mexican and Italian)
Heavy whipping Cream
Chicken broth (optional)
Smoked paprika
Olive Oil

(1) Blanch the wax beans prior to cooking them in the pan, it'll make your life much easier. Bring the water to a rigorous boil, add two tablespoons of salt and a shot of olive oil. Add the beans and cook for about 3 minutes, strain the beans and shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove from water and dry with paper towels. These should have a nice crunch to them, but not a raw taste.

(2) In a blender, add about 3-4 pieces of the piquillo peppers, one clove of garlic and a little cream. Blend it and add cream and stock as needed for a nice consistency. Add sugar for some sweetness. Don't worry about it being too chunky. Upon service, you will heat the sauce up in a pan with some butter and smooth it out. Salt and pepper to your taste. If you want, you can blend it for another few minutes. Set the sauce in a pan on low heat as you'll be serving it right away over the scallop.

(3) In a skillet or iron pan, keep the heat on high. Make sure the scallops are COMPLETELY DRY before seasoning them with S&P. The more moisture your scallop has, the more difficult it is to get a nice caramelized "cap". The heat must be high but not to the point it is "cracking" your scallop open. You have to babysit scallops or they will lose control. They'll drop out of school, starting doing drugs and you'll never hear from them again. 3-4 minutes per side depending on the size of your scallop. Set aside.

(4) Sauté the beans on super high heat. They have already been cooked but you want that last kiss of heat from the skillet. Add olive oil, toss in the beans. Add garlic, dried chili peppers, smoked paprika and S&P to taste. When I cook this, it takes no more than 1 minute because my skillet is smoking hot. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish and serve. The sweetness of the scallop blends really well with the smokiness of the piquillo peppers and spiciness of the sautéed green beans.

A Dinner for My Uncle

Poached Polipolata Octopus with La Quercia Pancetta and Baby Potato & Celery Salad
This is inspired by one of my favorite Italian dishes in Los Angeles. Both Osteria Mozza and Osteria Mamma (ex-Chef of Osteria La Buca) offer a tasty, poached-octopus salad. The former cooks the octopus with the "fabled wine cork method" and finishes it off on the grill. The latter poaches the octopus in water and offers a lighter, delicate version of this famed Italian dish. I chose to follow the latter because I didn't have time to do a final char. And since an octopus lacks bones and sinews, there is no need to do excessive braising. The preparation of my 4 lb. octopus took no longer than 1 hour 15 mins. After all, you are not serving the whole octopus, only the tentacles.

Baby potatoes
La Quercia pancetta (any will do, even Nueske bacon)
Special occasion olive oil
Regular olive oil

(1) Wash the octopus, touch its eyeballs and say "sorry". You don't want to submerge the octopus in hot, boiling water because it will curl up really quickly and tighten all the tentacles. Instead, add the octopus to a pot and fill it with cold water. Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Bring the octopus to a boil (probably 10-12 minutes) and immediately cook on low heat. The key here is to check Mr. Octopus every 15 minutes. You do not want a mushy, overcooked octopus – it's gross. Cut a piece of the tentacle off and try a piece from the wider part of the tentacle. If it tastes soft yet still meaty, you're good to go. Cut off all the tentacles at the base and add them to an ice bath. Discard the head. Remove the tentacles once they are cold and pat them dry. Mix some olive oil with the tentacles in a bowl and keep it refrigerated. You are prepping them for sautéing or grilling.

(2) Boil the potatoes til they are in between hard and fork-tender. Shock them in ice. You will be cutting them into small pieces and want a somewhat nice bite to them - not mashed potatoes.

(3) If you are grilling the octopus tentacles, make sure they have a nice char on high heat. You want that nice grill taste. If you are sautéing, cut the tentacles up into 1/4" - 1/2" pieces. Sauté on high heat in a skillet with garlic and a little white wine if you'd like.

(4) Cook pancetta until they are slightly crispy. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

(5) Mix the tentacles, potatoes, celery, pancetta and chives in a bowl. Cough it up, and use the SPECIAL OCCASION olive oil since this will make or break the dish. You use cheap olive oil, it will taste like styrofoam. People will know you're cheap, delete you off Facebook and never speak to you again. S&P and lemon juice.

Kowfu Dinner Black Cod

Pan-Roasted Black Cod with Matsutake and Bun Shimeji Mushroom Dashi
The black cod at McCall's is intensely fresh and fatty. It is almost impossible to overcook this fish but the most desired part of this fish is a nice crisp skin. I've messed up on this in the past. If you overcook the skin it'll be blackened. If you undercook it, you'll get this soggy, scab-like texture which can be undesirable. In this dish, the moist fish is combined with the earthiness of Japanese mushrooms in a light dashi stock. Dashi is a key Japanese stock that is made with fish powder, bonito fish flakes, sea kelp (kombu), sake or mirin and salt. The result is a broth that can be sold as a soft drink. I've cooked this dish many times and my guests have always been happy. If you don't want to make your own broth, you can just buy a bottle of udon/somen/tsuyu sauce. From there, add shitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, soy sauce and sugar and just achieve the taste you're looking for. It should be slightly sweet and salty and match the milkiness of the black cod.

Black cod (skin-on)
Your choice of Japanese mushrooms (I used Beech, King, oyster, Matsutake)
Shichimi Togorashi (Japanese 7-ingredient chili pepper mix)

Dashi Ingredients
Dashi-no-moto fish stock (comes in large box or packets)
Shitake mushrooms
Bonito flakes (katsuoboshi)
Soy Sauce
Sake or Mirin

(1) I am very bad at measurements and just eyeball everything – tasting as I go. Start out with some water in a pot and add soy sauce. Throw in about 4 dried shitake mushrooms and a handful of bonito flakes and lightly bring water to a boil. Then add about 2-3 tablespoons of the dashi no moto fish stock powder to get that 'fishy' taste you have in good miso soup. From here it's a game of adding sugar and more soy sauce to achieve the final taste. Again, the result should have a nice hint of sweetness, fish, mushrooms and smokiness from the bonito flakes. Set on the side on super low heat. Bring to a boil upon service.

(2) Keep your oven on at 450 degrees. Sear the black cod in a oven-safe skillet (meaning no plastic handles) on medium to high heat and carefully watch that skin. You'll know the skin is being cooked on too high of heat when your smoke alarm goes off and you'll know the skin is being cooked on too low of heat when the fish starts sweating out the water. It has to be in between. I'd say 5-6 minutes on the skin side and then toss it in the oven for about 4-5. Keep checking the fish by jiggling it. It should be done when it's not like jello, and not too firm.

(3) Sauté the mushrooms of your choice on high heat and add a little bit of the Japanese 7-spice pepper mix.

(4) Now you're ready to serve. You want to add piping hot broth AROUND the fish. Pretend your black cod is a castle perched on top of mountain of mushrooms, surrounded by a mushroom broth moat and garnished with microgreen trees. Make sure the broth does not touch the fish. Protect that castle. Enjoy.

Kowfu Dinner Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks with Serrano Chile Salsa Verde and Lazy-man Lentils
I felt a braised dish would be a great way to end a dinner. To me, a braised dish is the epitome of a home-cooked meal by a loved one. It's comforting, tasty and very tender. There aren't too many things that would suck as a result of a braising in a Le Creuset pot. Instead of doing the usual wine-braise, Nathan and I had discussed a beer braise with veal stock instead of chicken stock for that extra shot of slight "gameness". Often times, red wine can make a dish too "heavy" and this new plan offered an escape from food coma. For the salsa verde, I searched high and low for a good recipe. Many suggested either boiling the tomatillos, blending the tomatillos raw or roasting the tomatillos. Boiling would take away from the taste a little. Blending raw tomatillos would result in a super sour taste. I went with roasting because I like the taste. As for the lazy-man lentils, what I mean by that is use Trader Joe's pre-cooked ones – it'll save you so much time. Upon service, just wake it up with some chicken stock, garlic and butter.

Ingredients for Lamb Shank Braise
Lamb Shanks
Mire Poix (onions, carrots, celery)
Bay Leaves
Veal Stock Demi-glace (available at McCall's, if not use chicken stock)
2 cans of lager/light beer (I used Sapporo)
Red Wine (for color)
Chicken Stock
Whole bulb of garlic

Ingredients for Salsa Verde
8-10 Tomatillos (green tomatoes)
1 large onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
cilantro bunch
lime juice (if needed)
Chicken broth (optional)
Serrano or jalapeno chiles

Lamb Shanks

(1) In a dutch oven (Le Creuset), brown the shanks over high heat. The browner they get, the more flavor and better looking they'll be. Use salt and oil freely since you want to get a nice browning. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove shanks and place in a bowl. Keep the oil in the dutch oven.

(2) Sweat the mire poix for about 8 minutes and add 4-5 sprigs of thyme, 2-3 bay leaves and a beheaded bulb of garlic (don't bother peeling the garlic).

(3) Add shanks back in and add about 1 cup of red wine for color, 2 cans of beer, 3-4 tablespoons of cumin and chicken stock until the shanks are submerged. Add 2-3 scoops of veal demi-glace. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Have your oven on at 500 degrees and move the pot inside once it has come to a boil. Braise for 2.5-3 hours and check at the 1.5 hour mark to make sure the liquid has not evaporated too fast. You'll want to add more chicken stock and flip the shanks upside down to "repair" the dried out side of the shanks.

(4) Salt to taste, or add water if it's too salty. Keep this in the oven on the lowest setting or on the stove at simmer until service. You'll want to use a fork to pull the meat off the bone and make sure you suck that marrow out of the lamb bones while you're at it – so good.

Salsa Verde
(1) In a mixing bowl, toss the tomatillos, chiles, garlic and onions with some olive oil. Roast them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they are tender. In a blender, toss them in and add salt to taste. It should still be sour enough, but have some lime juice on reserve just in case. I also used some chicken stock and extra pieces of raw onion to "kill" off the sour taste. This was tasty.

After four courses, some ice cream and ample wine, I could see that my Uncle and Aunt were ready to fall asleep. I didn't cook the fish as nice as I wanted to because I had to cook for 7. I knew some of the dishes were too different for them being from Hong Kong. But at the end, my Uncle assured me that there is nothing better than a homecooked meal. He has eaten everywhere in the world but would pick a meal with family over anything. And I couldn't agree more. All of the effort Jeni and I put in was worth it. I then looked at my little 4 year old nephew and thought about the day he would hopefully cook for me and I then understood how my Uncle felt at that moment. So to my "Kow-fu", thank you for being a great Uncle and for everything you've done for my family. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Porchestra - A Symphony of Swine

Porchestra - A Symphony of Swine

Last week, gluttony was in effect. We had some guests over to film a documentary they are working on based on food of course. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, we invited them over for dinner. We figured it would be most organic and comforting for us to do this at home, since we enjoy cooking. Subject of the dinner was my favorite meat: pork. I was stoked to do a whole dinner based on one theme. It was quite interesting running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, answering questions and cooking. I felt like a Jamaican with 9 jobs.

For an animal that spends most of its days wallowing in mud, taking in the sun with no source of employment, you would regard the pig as a fruitless mass. But, man, it's lovely how much good food is yielded from this animal.

Porchestra Menu

Porchestra Table

Porchestra Pig Nipples

Crispy Braised Pork Bellies with Cannellini Beans & Quail Egg
With a box of Cracker Jacks, you never know what surprise gift you'll receive. Same thing applies when you buy a package of pork bellies... with the inclusion of fully intact nipples. When you open a package of pork bellies and see this, you can't help but stop in your tracks and take a closer look. The resemblance between pork flesh and human flesh can be somewhat uncanny if you're a Caucasian male haha. But do the courteous thing and grab some scissors for your guests. There's nothing more jarring than seeing a braised nipple. Jeni joked that this could be the new appetizer of haute dining as long as you come up with a new name like... Pork Pez?

Porchestra Braised Pork Belly Le Creuset Pot

There's nothing I like cooking more with than my Le Creuset dutch oven that I got for a freaking steal at Tuesday Morning many years back. These pots are supposed to last longer than your lifetime, as I hope my grandchildren will find a good use for it besides heating up Prego sauce or making Korean Kimchi ramen. These pots can handle 550° in the oven and will heat your food evenly. I've never made a bad braised dish with this pot. Anyway, I did a slow 200° braise for 3-4 hours for the pork belly using the common ingredients – mire poix, chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, salt and peppercorns. I also included my new fave chili pepper... aji, which is an Argentine spice used for things like empanadas.

Porchestra Braised Pork Belly Fat

Pork doesn't taste good for no reason. After the braise, you'll want to refridgerate it overnight. Remove the fat once it has coagulated. Or don't. *impish grin*

Porchestra Quail Eggs

I've been dying to fry a quail egg sunny-side up and apply it to some dish. This couldn't be a more perfect dish to make it with. It's just as enjoyable raw as it is cooked. I am trying really really really hard not to use the "c" word so i'll misspell it. Key-yoot.

Porchestra Braised Pork Belly with Quail Eggs & Cannellini Beans

Before serving the braised pork belly, I seared it fat-side down in a skillet for a good 7-10 mins so that it would crisp up a little. For the cannellini beans, I sautéed them with a little butter, cinnamon, red apples and chicken broth. Although a more hearty dish, it made sense to my stomach.

Porchestra Bacon-fat Seared Scallops

Bacon-Fat Seared Scallops & Shrimp with Greens
As I cooked the scallops and shrimp, I forgot that I had cooked off all the bacon for something you'll see in a bit. One thing I always do, JUST IN CASE, is reserve the bacon fat as you'll never know what you'll be needing it for. I added a few tablespoons of it to the skillet and the oil started popping as though it was an applause for a good deed done by me.

Porchestra Bacon-Fat Seared Scallops

Mmm, bacon-flavored seafood. There's something so wrong about pairing two different animals from surf and turf, but yet it tastes so right. How would you like to know that your destiny puts you in a skillet with a pig, shrimp and vegetables? Weird.

Porchestra Asparagus

To achieve super-green vegetables, according to Chef Thomas Keller, you have to get your watering boiling super high and adding a LOT of salt to the water. I think for these asparagus spears, I probably dumped in one huge handful. You won't taste too much salt afterwards because you have to shock the vegetables in ice water, which also rinses the salt for you.

Porchestra House Cured Pork Chops Zuni Cafe Style

Zuni Cafe House-Cured Pork Chops with Prosciutto Asparagus and Creme Fraiche Mustard
Probably one of our top five cookbooks, the pork chops from Zuni Cafe are killer – and very simple to cure.

For 4 pork chops (10 to 11z each and 1-1/4" thick), or 2 tenderloins (about 1 pound each) A few crumbled bay leaves dried chiles crushed juniper berries (optional) 5 cups room temp. water 6 tbsp. sugar 3 tbsp. salt (a little more if using kosher salt)

Pat these guys dry after marinating for 2 days and sear them on high heat in a skillet about 3-4 minutes each side, depending on the thickness. For the asparagus, simply sauté them in a little butter, olive oil and S&P. Wrap some prosciutto around a bunch of spears and top it with some of the creme fraiche & mustard if you like. To make the sauce, simply add whole grain mustard to some creme fraiche with S&P to taste and some lemon juice. I added a little smoked paprika and ají chili pepper to it. So simple and good.

Porchestra Bacon Ice Cream

Scoops' Bacon-Infused Salt & Caramel Ice Cream
Well Tai Kim didn't actually offer that flavor that day, so we just made our own bacon ice cream for dessert. Jeni asked Mr. Kim what would go best with bacon and he suggested his Salt & Caramel. I fried some bacon and soaked up all the fat with paper towels. I then cut the bacon into small bits and threw it in the ice cream. Mixed it around and froze it again. My god this was so good. I felt guilty, but it was fabulous - especially with the bacon garnish ha.

After about 4 hours of eating and talking about food, we had concluded our evening. Hopefully our filmmaker friends knew that we didn't 'act' or anything because this what a usual dinner party at our place entails. Sometimes, we get people passed out on the couch like Thanksgiving.

A few days later, we forgot that we were cooking Easter lunch. Easter means one thing... ham. And ham means more pork consumption for us. Sure, why not. We had thought about doing an all-rabbit meal but it would have been too expensive. Maybe even too cruel ha.

We lucked out and found a 9-lb Farmer John ham for only SIX DOLLARS at Ralph's. Score.

Porchestra Ham Basting

Jeni found a great recipe off Epicurious for the glaze. I highly recommend it if you want to veer away from the standard pineapple slice, red cherry and clove-style ham that just feels soooooo antiquated. I can see that on the cover of every food magazine during the 80s. Ugh.

Porchestra Glazed Ham

Porchestra Easter Lunch

Porchestra Gruyère Thyme Gougères by Tartine Bakery

Jeni has been on a baking frenzy and produced these tasty pastries from Tartine Bakery. This was definitely an overload on pork and hope everyone had a good Easter. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Summer Supper: Braised Short Ribs, Seared Salmon Steak, Spot Shrimp and Tuna Tartare

Summer Supper

The summer heat is here and automatically converts J's 400 sq. ft studio into a 375 pre-heated oven. When I cook, I need to slap on my headband not because I'm a posing, rap-star or deviant NBA star – it IS ridiculously hot in her kitchen. For me, the dynamics of a meal evolve once you move to the outdoors, even if it's in a courtyard, where everyone can peek through the curtains at you or overhear anything said. It's time to eat outside.

This occasion was fitted perfectly for a post-poned birthday like a baby blue prom dress on a high school junior. We had missed my good friend's wife's bday and decided to make it up with a nice 4-course dinner. I had known LL since we were in 2nd grade, and only grew stronger in our friendship through the years. He ended up wedding his highschool sweetheart after nearly 11 years of screaming each other's heads off, tears, abrupt hangups on the phone – you know, the true acts of love.

They came over on a weekday to see the table already set with more cheese that J had hand-selected at the Silverlake Cheese store. As they sat outside munching on the cheese, they didn't see the headband-bearing guy running amok like Remy of Ratatouille. But in the end, it's always worth it to see a smile on anyone's face, especially if it's two people that mean a lot to you. After all, cooking for a friend is the tastiest way to say... "you're not bad, i like you guys."

Table Setting

The Setting
Cheese from the Silverlake Cheese store. Cheese platter from Plates from Crate & Barrel. And a plastic folding table from Costco. Pure class, I know. Call it a form of membership rewards.

Tuna Tartare with Apples, Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil

Tuna Tartare
I must have raw fish in any meal. I do this over and over again because it's simple and tasty. No need to suffer any burns or missing digits with this appetizer. A few drops of soy sauce, fresh apples and a dash of sesame oil and you have a take on a famous hawaiian poké dish.

Spot Shrimp with Tomato Confit

Spot Prawns in Tomato Confit
For the second course, we made some delicious spot prawns. This comes from the wonderful "Sunday Suppers" cookbook by LA chef, Suzanne Goin. After J made this for dinner one night, this one was tagging along with us for a while. After roasting some tomatoes in some garlic, basil and olive oil, they are then puréed and used a dipping sauce for large, succulent spot prawns and baguette bread.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting Tomatoes
Tomatoes getting ready for a culinary MRI. You can't hear them, but they are screaming in joy.

Seared Salmon Steak with Artichokes and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Seared Salmon Steak in Thai Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Sautéed Artichokes
Third course. This was a favorite in the restaurant I used to work in. Salmon is seared skin-on and cooked to a medium consistency. The best part of the dish is actually the crispy salmon skin. The restaurant used piquillo peppers and chicken stock for the sauce. I did a take on it and roasted some red peppers and added Sriracha chili garlic sauce, créme fraîche, stock and butter. This was tasty, leaving a slight spice kick on the tongue. My friends ended up sopping up the rest of the sauce with the baguettes.

Braised Short Ribs with Daikon & Asparagus

Braised Sichuan Red Peppercorn Short Ribs, Daikon & Asparagus
For the main course, we served up a dish that J and I had at the wonderful Sona restaurant in West Hollywood. If you have not experienced David Myers' fine cuisine, close your laptop and go – I love it. I put it up there in my favorites along with Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York. They are both masters of the kitchen. If you go into the restroom of Sona, you'll see congratulatory letters written to Chef Myers from notable-chefs like Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Tom Collicchio of Top Chef (recipient of FIVE James Beard awards). Anyway, I took his braised short rib dish and added some Chinese flavor to it by searing them in sichuan peppercorn/salt mixture. Thanks to the talented Jaden of Steamy Kitchen for her inspirational posting on flavoring salts. I braised the ribs in red wine, a mire poix, red peppercorns, ginger, soy sauce and a little bit of sesame oil. These turned out great. I would do this again and shred the beef for asian style tacos.

Scoops Ice Cream

Scoops Again!
This ice cream shop never ceases to amaze me with new flavors everyday. I believe this one was maple vanilla or something. I don't know, I just eat whatever J gets.

For Miles of Sideways, opening his bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc which values at $2,600, was a special moment... as with the opening of our 2005 Sea Smoke Southing. The Sea Smoke went very well with the richly braised short ribs. This was a good summer supper. Happy belated to IL.

Eat Drink Style Thank You to the Rat Man - Chorizo, Sake & Manila Clams, Beef Bourguignon Recipe and A Scoop of Scoops

J lives in a great spot in Los Angeles. It's close to our favorite eating spots with Chinatown, Koreatown, Thai Town and Little Tokyo within a 10-minute drive. The 101 is less than 3 minutes away. The complex she lives in has several cottage-style units, a nice courtyard for hanging out, a semi-view of the Downtown skyline and most importantly, warm neighbors. After a few months, we were all on first-name basis and pretty much knew about each of the neighbors. This is great we thought. The grass is green, birds are chirping, dragonflies buzzing around – life couldn't be better.

Or so we thought.

J and I started to notice that the soba noodles and spaghetti pasta packages were being opened. Unless it was a new design, vietnamese rice paper had small teeth marks. Cotton was being removed from J's japanese-style futon. Occasional scuffling in the walls and banging sounds in the oven.


One night, J and I were ready to go out. I went over to her closet to grab my jacket and all of a sudden, we froze to the sound of something rustling in j's wicker hamper. I turned to look at her and pointed my finger at the hamper. Her eyes were widened, eyebrows arched with concern and distraught. I signaled for her to open the kitchen door. She came back and I slowly opened the hamper. And within a flash, something black and hairy with a long pink tail jumped out. He scurried right by J. J quickly watched as it went by and let out the most delayed scream ever. 2 seconds later. It was pretty funny haha. Anyway, the rat didn't see the open door and instead, ran behind the fridge. Great. I went back there with a broom and proceeded to slam the spank the back of the fridge like it liked it. J was annoyed and told me to stop haha – I was probably releasing stress from a few months ago and forgot that I was after a rodent. Anyway, it was nowhere to be found. We moved the fridge and stove. Nothing. Rats are so clever. Did he sneak out while I was on the spanking spree?

We knew of one last option – call JR. JR is J's next door neighbor. A tall, slender early-30's drummer who proved to be one of the most handy guys around the complex. He has helped J out many times with different things. We asked him to come over and help us rat out the rat. After a few minutes of looking, we were all baffled.

JR: "Wait. Did you check inside the stove?"
Me: "You serious. It's freaking hot in there."
JR: "Be right back."

He comes back with a flashlight, and lifts the broiler door open. And sure enough, we see a trembling rat wedged in the back end of the broiler. I couldn't believe that it got through the stove from the back side. We opened the door, stuck something in the broiler and out popped the rat. Thank you JR.

But the story does not end here. Again, we found feces and opened food a week later. Was it the same one? Couldn't be. An Orkin guy was even sent out and he really didn't do anything but give J these stupid old school Tom & Jerry mouse traps. Rats aren't stupid.

Me: "You know what you need?"
J: "What?"
Me: "You need some clear sticky tape. Just tape."
J: "And we throw some bait."
Me: "Yesssssss." *evil*

J found some sticky tape at the store. But we needed something delicious to lure that hairy bastard back in here. Thank god J had some of that delicious cashew butter from Trader Joe's. That stuff lures me too. She put a ball of the butter past the sticky tape line. And within an hour, she reported hearing noises in the kitchen - like nails gliding across the ceramic tile. She called me while I was at work and I could hear the rat making noise. She peeked in and saw the rat, about 7" minus the tail, stomach stuck to the tape - exhausted. It was relief yet cruel at the same time.

Me: "Are you just going to just let it die?"
J: "I don't know what to do."
Together: "JR."

JR comes over and picks up the tape with the rat attached to it. The rat was miserable, tired and nearly dead. JR takes the rat to the back, grabs a big stone and puts it out of its misery. I think it was the right thing to do. Thank you JR.

Now that I've whet your appetite. Let's get on to the food. As a simple thank you to JR for helping J out and for being a really down-to-earth, good neighbor, we invited him over for dinner.

We started off with some delicious cheese that J got at Silverlake Cheese store. The creamy, triple-creme kind. Stuff that looks like butter.

As an appetizer, we made some manila clams. I love the clams served up at Musha, which are cooked with sake, parsley, leeks, mushrooms, garlic and about 10 lbs of butter. Who doesn't like butter?! Our take included sake and white wine, chorizo sausage for a spice kick and korean-style sliced scallions. And it was delicious. JR and J were so hungry that they started sponging up the sake/butter sauce with bread. Not healthy, but good.

Chorizo Clams

Chorizo & Sake Manila Clams
Simply wash and scrub the clams to rid them of any sand or nasties. I bought nearly 20 clams - about 2.5 lbs. First pan fry some chorizo pork sausage and break them down into small bits. Set aside on paper towel to soak up the grease. Sauté some shallots and garlic over medium heat. After you've sweated them, add about 1 cup of white wine, and about 1/2 a cup of sake. Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to burn out and add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter. As soon as the butter melts, bring the clams to the party. You'll see the clams slowly pop open. ***A side note. To identify dead clams, take a wooden spoon and tap the clamshell. If you hear a solid sound, it's alive, if you hear a hollow sound (like cracking open egg shells), it's dead. Once all of them have opened (about 4 minutes, add the sliced green onions and stir - making sure that you spoon butter into all the clams. Serve immediately with french bread.

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
JR is french, and we knew that he would like this. We sautéed some beef stew meat in olive oil and added a mire poix (onions, carrots, celery). Poured in some red wine and add bay leaves, garlic, thyme, peppercorn and tomato paste. To thicken up the stew, we added potatoes, a little flour and mushrooms. Baked the whole thing in a dutch oven at about 450 degrees for nearly 4 hours. The result is a hearty and savory meat dish that goes well with greens, rice and potatoes - or simply with fresh warm french bread. If you want the recipe, feel free to email me – I'm too lazy to type it out.

Scoops Ice Cream

A Scoop of Scoops Ice Cream
Any dinner party we have, J will get stoked. Her first choice for dessert is always Scoops Ice Cream over on Melrose/Heliotrope. Owned by a very nice Korean man, Scoops conjures up very interesting ice cream flavors daily. He even has a white board for people to write down suggestions for future flavors. I believe he has even made a foie gras ice cream. Mmm. Not a flavor any PETA person would like to see on a menu. Pictured above is the brown bread and chocolate, banana and cinnamon flavors. A delicious way to end a hearty meal.

Thank you to JR for being a good neighbor and friend to us, and thanks to everyone for reading. I know this was long.