Showing posts with label octopus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label octopus. Show all posts

Eat Drink Style Hawaii 2009 - Meeting the Family and the Poké Party

Hawaii 2009

A few months ago, Jeni received a pleasant surprise in the mail. It was from her grandfather and in the form of a check. It wasn't for her birthday or Christmas, but rather a significant calling. Her grandmother is at a critical point in her aging life and a long overdue visit was not only obligatory but much needed. If we weren't married, she would have probably gone with her family to see the relatives in Hawaii. But being married to her now, I was now an addition to her family. This would be a different and possibly difficult time for everyone in my wife's family, and my first time meeting them. When it comes to Hawaii, many have an overdone perception of what it is. Hawaiian shirts everywhere, piña coladas in an ACTUAL pineapple, oily, tanned people carefully spinning torches of fire, a huge volcano erupting, etc. Thanks to the media, Oahu is pretty much an ugly tourist trap. Until you go with the right people.

The first time I came to Hawaii was a few years back with my good friends. We of course found the best deal we could on Waikiki Beach. Every hotel is either named Beach Front, Sand View, Water Front, etc... and they all sounded promising. We stayed at some place called Beach Comber or something and we enjoyed the beautiful, romantic view of the sunset falling behind a huge gray parking structure above the ubiquitous ABC convenience store. We really never drove around for food but stayed within walking distance. Would it be Cheeseburger Paradise or the unpleasant choices at the International Market food court for dinner? It wasn't until we drove our rental car around the island that we realized how beautiful Hawaii was. It was nice to know that Hawaii was really more than just a view of some fat, hairy guy with burnt red skin in neon green shorts and arm floaties. We had a blast on the trip of course but I think the Waikiki experience really turned us all off. I didn't think I would be going back for a long time.

This time around, I knew it would be more interesting. And more meaningful.

On our first night, we were ready to go to an izakaya after doing research. Instead, we were called over by one of Jeni's aunts for a house dinner. I was kind of bummed because I had my ambitions of eating poké all night long. We arrived, and in the driveway, tables had already been set with all types of take-out food. A few of her cousins were sitting down, and dogs were running around. Shortly after getting a warm welcoming from her relatives, we were handed beers and urged to sit back and take in the beautiful weather. They had local island music playing in the background and I just looked at everyone. It was very... comforting. This is exactly what I wanted to do – nothing. I didn't even miss the hairy white guy with burnt red skin in neon green shorts and arm floaties.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Two hour laters, I felt like I had gotten to know everyone pretty well and simply felt welcomed. The food was nothing to write home about but it brought everyone together a very pleasant evening of jolly-juice-induced fun.

However the next day would prove to be off on the other side of the emotional spectrum. I can see in Jeni's eyes that she didn't want to see her Grandmother in her condition. On their last visit, she didn't even remember Jeni or her brother. We arrived at her grandparent's house on the east side of the island and met her relatives. I could see from the screen door her grandmother's hospital bed facing the opposite direction and prepared to be there for my wife. I looked back and saw that Jeni was getting a little nervous and reached for her hand.

Hawaii 2009

We let her father and brother step forward first to greet the bedridden mother/grandmother and I could see some slight discomfort even in her father who hasn't seen her for years. Her grandmother didn't even recognize her own son. This was going to be hard.

Hawaii 2009

It was now our turn and Jeni said hello and kissed her on the cheek. And she just stared at Jeni with a cold confused look. She had no idea who Jeni was. Jeni's eyes welled up and immediately sat down. I introduced myself and not surprisingly, she said:

Grandma: "I don't know you!"
We all laughed.
Me: "That's ok. I'm Jeni's husband, nice to meet you."
Grandma: "Sorry I don't know you!"

It took a good 15-20 minutes of small talk amongst everyone before we could clear up the uncomfortable silence. We started eating some food and with most of Jeni's family there and grandparents in full view, I think everyone cheered up. Jeni and her brother didn't look at their grandmother much but I knew they were happy to be there. Her grandfather was so happy on his armchair, sipping on his coke can. It was nice.

About an hour into it, Grandma suddenly exclaimed, "Alvin!" She realized that her son was there and that he had brought his children and a random Chinese guy. Her father got up and smiled, saying "Hi Mom, it's me Alvin."

When we decided to leave, Jeni went over to her grandmother to say goodbye. I'll never forget what they said:

Jeni: "Bye grandma."
Grandmother: "Bye! I'm sorry I'm in bed. Next time you come back, I will be up and walking."
Jeni: "Okay, we'll go dancing ok?"
Grandmother: "Haha. Yes, dancing!"

As we left the house, Jeni started to cry and I told her that whether or not this would be the last visit, she made her laugh for that one moment and graced her with family presence. And that's what's important. Jeni and I hope to visit her once more.

But for Jeni and me, you might be able to guess what one of our favorite things to do, if not the main reason for traveling, is to find the most palatable of food and share our experiences with you. Aside from an emotional yet enlightening visit with her family, we had a separate agenda to make the whole trip worthwhile. Time to tuck the napkins in your shirt!

Hawaii 2009

Waiola's Shaved Ice
I've never been into shaved ice – not Taiwanese, Korean or Hawaiian. But the Chinese-owned Waiola Store made me change my mind as Jeni and I fought over this cup of shaved ice. On my last visit, we stopped by Matsumoto's and it wasn't memorable. Is it better engineering on the ice shaver or a better grade of multi-colored high fructose corn syrup? Whatever it was, it was so nice to sit on a bench on a beautiful day and paint the tongue/lips different colors. Her dad told us that this is what they used to do as kids - walk here barefooted for some tasty stuff.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

You pick your ice cream flavor, toppings and flavored syrup. Voila, this is Hawaiian shaved ice.

Hawaii 2009

Driving Around the Island
Life exists outside of Waikiki Beach. Should you decide to drive around the island, it's a good idea to buy a plate lunch for a spontaneous picnic along the beaches/shore. We stopped over at this place called Diamond Head Market & Grill, known for their delicious blueberry scones and plate lunches. I had to have my Portuguese sausage and eggs for breakfast – something even McDonald's offers, which isn't bad at all for $4.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

We drove around stopping whenever someone wanted to check out a view. I brought my Holga camera and snapped the scenery.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Before we even embarked on this trip to Hawaii, I would tell Jeni just how much I missed real poke. What is poke? It's a traditional Hawaiian dish that involves mixing raw seafood with seaweed, soy sauce, salt, scallions, onions, kukui nut and sesame oil. I heard that traditional Hawaiian poke is made with alaea salt (red clay salt) and seaweed. The Japanese introduced the soy sauce and sesame oil version. And up until this trip, I had NO IDEA just how many types of poke there were. And so here begins another one of my comparison postings so that you don't have to scramble all over the internet looking for the top five places. I could not have done this without the help of Hawaii-based Reid of Ono Kine Grindz and San Diego's Kirk of Mmm-Yoso. Poké party!!!

Hawaii 2009

Yama's Fish Market
2332 Young Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 941-9994
www.yamasfishmarket.com

Our first stop was Yama's Fish Market straight out of the airport. Everyone was in the mood for lau lau, lomi lomi and of course, poke.

Hawaii 2009

The lau lau was moist and steamed beautifully in the banana leaf wrapper. A bit on the salty side but nothing rice couldn't balance out.

Hawaii 2009

Mmm, my first bowl of ahi tuna poke in 3 years. The tuna was cut into nice cubes and had a thicker seaweed known as limu seaweed. Most versions have the skinnier red seaweed known as ogo seaweed. Limu is by far better with its crunchy texture. I devoured this bowl so fast that I got a strange look from my father-in-law haha.

Hawaii 2009

Fort Ruger Market
3585 Alohae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-4531

This was mentioned a lot by locals so we had to try this out. We were a bit disappointed because of the price and freshness of it. Poke on average is $11-13/lb, I believe they were $17/lb! And not to mention that it was pre-mixed and a bit soggy. The tuna had a 2-day old stench to it. I would go back here though to try it once more. All restaurants have bad days unless you're Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Ono Seafood
747 Kapahulu Avenue Apt. 4
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 732-4806

Apartment 4? What the. Sure enough, if you didn't know you were looking for a little fish market in an apartment complex, you may be missing what I think to be the 2nd best place we tried out of 7-8 places. To avoid getting clowned on by my FIL on my poke addiction, we kept day 1 at two poke places. The VERY next morning at 9 am when they opened, I was the first customer.

Hawaii 2009

I was happy to know that not only did Ono Seafood offer poke, they had special treats like smoked octopus (tako), smoked marlin and tuna jerky that I had not tried before. I sampled the smoked tako which tasted very similar to Chinese cuttlefish jerky, a fobby favorite of my childhood. So good. We both loved it and considered buying the entire stock. But at $5 a pack, not very affordable.

Hawaii 2009

At 9 am, nothing sounded better than the ahi tuna breakfast. Beautiful cuts of ahi tuna are mixed right on the spot and served over HOT RICE. This was simply divine and another dish that made Jeni and I act like hyenas over. Not to mention that this is good and spicy. The next time I'm here, I'm bringing my own fried eggs to eat along with this. GO HERE. We came here twice.

Hawaii 2009

Foodland Supermarket
2939 Harding Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 734-6303
www.foodland.com

No matter how hungry I am, I cannot stomach deli food from Ralph's, Albertson's, Von's or Pavilion's. The food is not fresh and chilled into a rubbery state. The fried chicken and mac n' cheese may look tempting but they aren't, so don't bother. When I heard that Foodland had poke, we thought about it. Since we had to pick up some picnicking goods for our island drive, we stopped by anyway. And man, I was in HEAVEN – it was like a candy store. They had a whole section called the Poke Corner, or something like that. Everything looked so clean and fresh and the prices were very good. Jeni's friends and relatives said they usually just go here to buy poke.

Hawaii 2009
Hawaii 2009
We bought the lightly-blanched octopus poke and I was very happy with it. Flavored and cooked beautifully.

Hawaii 2009

And here is the ahi tuna poke, which did not disappoint me. For consistency and value, come to Foodland, the land of poke.

Hawaii 2009

Tamura's Fine Wines and Liquors
3496 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 735-7100

I only came here for a routine beer stop since they have a great selection of craft beers and wine. I didn't expect much from their poke deli and usually, when you go in to a place with no expectations, you get slapped with a reward.

Hawaii 2009

For those worried about MSG, they don't use it at all.

Hawaii 2009

I drove back quickly to our classy hotel with the view of the parking structure and busted out the two containers of poke: octopus and ahi tuna/wasabi. Both were fantastic. In the octopus poke, I could taste small sea salt crystals which were good. The octopus was blanched even better than Foodland's and the seaweed had maximum crunch. Loved it.

Hawaii 2009

For fun, I decided to try the ahi tuna/wasabi flavored poke. I really like punishing my nostrils with wasabi and this had a very strong kick. My nosehairs were on fire but this was simply divine. I wasn't sure what kind of pickled vegetable was mixed into this... reminded me of Mexican cactus (nopales). I give Tamura's 1st place.

Hawaii 2009

Alicia's Market
267 Mokauea Street
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 841-1921

It was our last day and by now I'm teeming with mercury. I could be a lamer version of a comic book hero that uses oceanic powers to eliminate villains and seduce women. My FIL has given up on me and declared me CRAZY. He probably questioned Jeni on her decision to spend our lives together. So with one last request, we ended up at Alicia's Market, a local favorite.

Conveniently located next to a correctional facility, inmates on the loose now have a tasty place to rob. This is a real mom & pop market and full of goodies as you can see below.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
This place has way more variety than Foodland for sure. I saw poke made with oysters, abalone, mussels, shrimp, squid, mermaids, etc. They had it all and it all looked very fresh. After a tasting, we stuck with the basic ahi tuna poke and it wasn't bad at all. Only problem with this place was that it was far from where we were staying – it's close to the airport.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
Leonard's Bakery
933 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5591
www.leonardshawaii.com

Leonard's is known for their portuguese fried donut known as malasadas., which are sugar-coated caloried grenades. My FIL requested this before going back to LA because he had enjoyed eating here since he was a kid.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Malasadas are served hot and are really delicious. It was my first time eating it and I loved it.

Hawaii 2009
With every bite, my FIL let out a grunt of satisfaction. He looked like a kid eating it. Beware, this place is a tour bus stop and can promise a mean wait.

Hawaii 2009

Romy's Prawn & Shrimp
56-781 Kamehameha Highway (North Shore)
Kahuku, HI 96731
(808) 232-2202

To really complete the island drive, you've got to stop for roadside shrimp vendors. Jeni and her brother had never eaten at Romy's or Giovani's so we stopped by. With a good 50+ people lingering around the Romy shrimp shack, seems like they are doing something right. But at nearly $13 for 8-10 garlic shrimp and rice, I think it's pricey. It is good but I would have rather continued my Poke Party.

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009

Hawaii 2009
What was once a typical vacation destination for most people has now become an actual home away from home for me since I married Jeni. Everyone was super cool and really made us feel at home. I felt this time around that I had done Hawaii the right away. No volcanoes, hairy people-watching or fire shows performed by oily tanned people. And I hope the next time you go to Hawaii, rent a car and drive out to where people aren't for a picnic. Maybe even do your own Poke Party. Thanks for reading.

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.

Ingredients
Diver or Dayboat Scallops
Roasted Piquillo Peppers
Wax beans
Garlic
Whole Dried Peppers (I like Thai, spicier than Mexican and Italian)
Heavy whipping Cream
Chicken broth (optional)
Lemon
Smoked paprika
Butter
Sugar
S&P
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.

Ingredients
Octopus
Baby potatoes
Celery
Chives
La Quercia pancetta (any will do, even Nueske bacon)
Special occasion olive oil
Regular olive oil
Lemon
S&P

(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.

Ingredients
Black cod (skin-on)
Your choice of Japanese mushrooms (I used Beech, King, oyster, Matsutake)
Microgreens
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
Sugar
Water

(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)
Thyme
Bay Leaves
Cumin
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
Salt

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.