Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chinese Chicken & Potato Stew

So I found this recipe on another food blog. The picture of the end product looked delicious, so I had to have me some of it, of course. So courtesy of World Foodie Guide we have Chinese Chicken and Potato Stew.

The stewing includes potatoes, shitake mushrooms, carrots, leeks. I would say the leeks are probably the key ingredient. They really give the soup a sweet yet fragrant flavor, oniony without all the pungency. I love it. It reminds me of a beef stew my mom would make. I think its essentially the same thing, the only difference is the soy sauce and ginger. Really makes it "Chinese" in my opinion.

The Stew:

  • 4-6 good sized dried Chinese mushrooms
  • carrots
  • leek
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • 3 slices fresh ginger, with peel left on
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 or 3 spring onions
  • vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp soy sauce

The recipe is unclear about how much chicken you should use. It says use a "whole chicken." Well I don't like everything in a whole chicken. I love thighs so that's what I usually cook with. I just bought a package from the market which usually has about 6 pieces, roughly 2-2.5lbs. The "marinade" is so light, so I'm not sure if its meant for less chicken or what so I increase the portions a bit.

Chicken Marinade:
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch white pepper
  • 1½ tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • cornflour / cornstarch
  • 1 chicken

So you basically fry up the ginger and garlic in some hot oil. Get the pot all nice and fragrant before you add the chicken. The first time I made this I used whole thighs and the darn thing took hours to cook. The 2nd time I cut off the bone, but still cooked the bones for the extra flavor. It could in maybe 40 min? Definitely a time saver! Anyways, the marinade really allows the chicken to get some color and flavor initially before you start stewing everything. It really smells as good as it looks.

Then you add all the veggies and mix mix mix.

Then you add water. The first time I used water as instructed and I was really annoyed I had to add so much salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce so it wasn't so bland. The 2nd time I cheated and used chicken stock so it didn't need as much seasoning but I found that the flavor wasn't as pure and I couldn't control the taste as much.

So the next part is just stew stew stew. Although the end product doesn't look as appetizing as the picture from the blog seen here, I give it 2 thumbs up!

I'm not often times impressed with my own cooking, but my final product was certainly tastey and homey. Good to have when you're craving something warm and soupy but still substantial. I blame the crappy picture for robbing my stew of its true deliciousness. Come over and I'll make you some so you can taste for yourself!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Michael Mina, Las Vegas

I went to Las Vegas for July 4th weekend with the H.o.P. (House of Pigges aka my family). It was a spur of the moment trip because I found out at the last minute that I would get Friday off. Root Canal Man loves to gamble so we high-tailed our generous booties out of LA to OC to pick up the matriarch and off to the sweltering Vegas heat. We stayed at Venetian which was a 1st for me. I dug the suite style accomodations and would love to stay here again. It ain't traveling H.o.P. style until someone asks "What/where are we gonna eat??!!" It's very likely that after we finish one meal, we will starting planning/anticipating the next. Sometimes even before the current meal table is cleared! With Vegas being an even foodier city than LA, what with the many celebrity chefs and Michellin star restaurants calling the city home, we definitely had our range of choices. We narrowed it down to Michael Mina @ Bellagio and Bouchon @ Venetian. I guess I choose Michael Mina, but maybe I regret my decision because I do love the Frenchie food.

The ambiance:

The tasting menu:

The 5 course cookbook tasting menu (on the left) was by far more appealing, aaaaaand $30 more expensive. I wondered if they placed an obviously more inferior menu next to the cookbook tasting menu so that patrons would be compelled to pick the "tastier" and coincidentally more expensive choice. I mean come on, lobster tail and kobe ribeye vs. duck and beef tenderloin? In addition to the tasting menu, we also ordered the sommelier wine pairing for 3. Being practical people, we figured that 3 x 5 glasses of wine served with each course would be 15 glasses divided by 5 people. So 3 glasses of wine seemed sufficient.

Being a fancy schmancy place, we were served an amuse-bouche of corn panna cotta topped with a tomato gelee? I forget, but it tasted like a savory and firmer corn cheesecake topped with a slightly tomato jelly. It was interesting.

The next dish of Tartare of Ahi Tuna had all the other components (pine nuts, sesame oil, garlic, mint) nicely arranged on the plate which they then mixed together table-side. Unfortunately, I only got a pic of the finished product. The bread served with the tartare seemed a bit pedestrian, like really good white toast. The tuna was certainly fresh, but there was something missing. The balance of flavors was off. I'm not sure I necessarily liked the pine nuts in there. But gosh darnit it was still tuna tartare and better than most things I can make at home. For this dish, the sommelier came by to talk to us about the wine that was paired. It felt very special since the subsequent wines were explained to us by the waiter. Somehow, I felt jipped. Anyways, I won't talk much about the wines since I don't know much. Suffice it to say, the wines went REALLY REALLY well with each course. Some wines didn't even taste that good alone, but when eaten with the food, enhanced all the flavors.

The main lobster potpie was served with the tops still on and then they carved them off tableside. The pie part was whatever, but man, the rest of it was delicious. The large black thing is a slice of truffle. I've tasted many truffle flavored things and I really like it. But actually eating a piece of truffle was new to me. It didn't taste like anything really. The sauce was deliciously delicate, the lobster was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms were a good accompaniment.

The miso black cod wasn't as as flavorful as expected, but it was a good break in the dishes since it was so light. The mushroom dashi broth was excellent and it would have been better if the fish could have picked up some of that flavor. I'm not a huge fan of soba noodles either.

I was certainly full when it came to the kobe ribeye with seared foie gras, but alas the piggy me ignored that fact and powered through. I haven't liked the foie gras dishes I tasted in the past, too livery. Shocking that I wouldn't want liver to taste like liver, huh? I'm a pate kinda girl. Something cold and smearable on a cracker. Anyways, this foie gras was just buttery, and the searing really enhanced the flavor. I suppose it coulda been a bit much with the kobe but I liked it!

The dessert trio was just ok. Mini root beer float tasted just like a root beer float. Too bad I don't like them too much. The cookie was good, something chocolate with nuts. We were so full that nobody could finish their cookies, so they made good snacks the next day. I don't like coconut so the coconut cheesecake was meh. The strawberry panna cotta was meh. I guess I don't like the texture of panna cotta. The first time I had panna cotta my friend made it and maybe I just like her panna cotta only.

Some freebies complements of the chef at the end of our meal. Some passion fruit jelly blob and macaroons. Both not so good.

Overall I was probably underwhelmed. For my first 1-star Michelin experience, it was good but I wouldn't go back. I think there are better fancy schmancy places to eat at and blow $$$$$$. Thank goodness dining H.o.P style doesn't require any money out of my pocket. For now anyways....

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Ronin Izakaya

First off, I'm super happy people think my pictures qualities have improved to the point of d-slr quality! I'm sure thats an exaggeration but still, I'll take it where I can get it. It's probably multi-factorial. For one thing, I was previously linking picture thru the blogger upload picture function. Somehow the pictures were blurry and small. Anyways, I've directly embedded the photos into the html code. Plus I've learned to take pictures without flash. I never realized how horrible flash changes pictures. So seriously, however the food looks in the picture, for better or worse, that's how I saw the food myself. The downside of sans flash is the pics come out pretty blurry so I've learned to steady my arms as much as possible. Whatever, all very technical and boring but the result is more deliciousness!

Secondly, I'm glad people are reading and commenting but please do leave your name and don't post anonymously so that I can have stimulating culinary conversations with you later if I choose.

Food time!

This restaurant just recently made it to my radar aka bookmark section my yelp. It was lower on my priority list since it seemed on the fancier side, less quantity more quality, which for everyday eats doesn't make the cut. Fortunately Root Canal Man has been here and suggested it for dinner with our new bretheren from the Central Motherland. Ronin Izakaya is like Japanese/Asian Fusion tapas. Tapas can get damn expensive, and surely this place was no exception. I think this first dish was complimentary becuz we didn't order it but it was on the menu for $3. Edamame, sauteed in butter and garlic. I was starving so it was disappeared in a flash. Special but not special at the same time.

This next dish was probably THE BEST dish of the night and I would certainly go back just to eat a few orders of this dish and something else. Ahi Tuna Taco Shimi is some ahi tuna over guacamole on some sorta chip all covered in some sauce. Very vague, but all you need to know is that it was DELICIOUS. For 7 ppl we ordered 2 orders initially and then got a 3rd during round 2.

I have this obsession with agedashi tofu ever since trying it at Kappo Honda and Shin Sen Gumi. At those restaurants, it's not just fried tofu. It sounds gross, but there its fried and crispy yet at the same time gelatinous and chewy batter. I dunno, go there and try me and you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyways, everywhere else I go it's just fried tofu in a pond of saucey stock. This place was no different.

Be it out of habit, tradition, or simple ridiculous obsession/addiction we ordered Fried Calamari for Green Milk Tea Girl. Honestly, it tasted like salt and pepper squid from a Chinese restaurant. Just OK.

In my hunger which I could just barely control, I only rememebered to take a picture this picture after we'd eaten half. It was miso cod with some potatoe puree. It was not good as you can see that it doesn't look good either. That purple stuff was the puree of something, maybe taro. It just had a weird texture and the fish was just like any other miso-ed out fish. Not that special.

Oooooo, this next dish Beef Tataki Salad was definitely my next favorite dish after the taco shimi one. The beef had this smoky charred taste and probably looked slightly overcooked than what we were expecting for anything "tataki" but still tasted great. The salad underneath had this really tastey dressing. I just love Japanese salad dressings. I love to go to the Japanese market and hang out in the salad dressing aisle picking out new dressings to try. Unfortunately, because I do not read Japanese, I pick dressings based on the colors and pictures on the dressing labels. This dish got ordered again for round 2.

If you read this blog you can figure out why we ordered the dumplings. Totally unspecial and I could certainly make better ones.

Trio of sashimi, tuna, yellowtail and I dunno what the 3rd one was. All very delicious and I would order it again.

Clams. They were sitting in some delicious broth served with some crispy baguette chips. I wished to take sips by the spoonful but I didn't have a spoon. Maybe I'd order it again.

Everyone loved the duck dish, but I musta got a bad piece that wasn't that flavorful and all that black stuff underneath is risotto or something.

Dynamite scallops and mochi. Yes. Mochi. I don't think any bites I got had mochi, just scallops and lotsa fattening dynamite junk. It was good for dynamite since I usually don't like anything dynamite.

Lamb chops served with some sweet mint jelly. The lamb chops seemed like they were served not piping hot. We were not impressed.

After all that protein, we had to ordered some starch. It tasted like spaghetti and chunks of pork or sausage type meats. The noodles were flavorful and there was definitely a healthy portion of oil used but I think I'll pass next time.

The obligatory crab cake. It was seriously a crab square, very strange. It was impressively more crab than cake. So props to that I suppose, but maybe for once more cake would be nice.

Shrimp scampi. Yeah for shrimp! But it wasn't that memorable.

Ok, I'm tired and I'm sure you're bored. In short, come here for intimate date or small gathering, don't come starving, and there's parking in the back. Stay tuned for Michael Mina, Las Vegas.

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