Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

So my mom has become sort of a traveling gnome these days.  She plans these elaborate trips, it's beginning to feel like every years now, with all her lady friends to quite exotic destinations.  This year it was Turkey and Sri Lanka with a short jaunt to Vietnam.  She often goes in the fall and this year she happened to be gone during Thanksgiving.  With her gone, my siblings and I were sort of at a loss of what to do.  In the end, everyone else decided to take a trip too.  Triple F and Running Man went to South America and Smooth Obturator and Triple T went to Bora Bora.  By the time I thought of going back home to spend Thanksgiving with Dumpling Man's family, plane tickets were through the roof.  So that left Dumpling Man and me, alone, in rainy Portland for Thanksgiving.  Luckily, Zhu Zhu Hamster was also in town and she brought along her friend, Little Pet.  So I took this opportunity to attempt my first Thanksgiving dinner for 4.  I didn't make all the usual things I normally eat with my family.  The only thing I really missed out on was the Oyster and Shrimp Stuffing which I have been eating with my family for as long as I could remember.  Dumpling Man very much dislikes my family's stuffing so I tried to do a more normal one this year.  All the recipes I used this year came from trusty

Brined Herb-Crusted Chicken 
I adapted this recipe for a 4.5lb chicken instead of the intended 12-14lb turkey.  First of all I don't like turkey all that much.  And second of all, how can 4 people eat all that turkey?  The recipe also called for brining for 2-3 days and drying it out for another day.  Uh, who has all that time?  I brined it for 1 day and dried it out for 4 hours.  I figured, smaller bird, shorter prep time?

The recipe also called for cooking the turkey at 17 minutes per pound.  I did some cross referencing and went with the timing suggested by the roasted chicken recipe in Ad Hoc At Home.  It's a darn good thing I did that, otherwise the turkey would have ended up dry as a bone.  

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel

Making your own pasta looks so easy.  Mix some flour, water, eggs, etc and roll out the dough and presto!  I've been wanting to try it but I haven't gotten around to it.  Instead, I've tried making my own ricotta gnocchi, also known as gnudi, which apparently means "naked."  I guess these are supposed to be like the filling of a pasta but without the pasta, hence the nakedness.  My first encounter with gnudi was at Restaurant Zoe in Seattle.  In short, it was heavenly.  So I wanted to see if I could recreate a little bit of heaven in my kitchen too.  In short, I could not.

Mario Batali's recipe for ricotta gnocchi seems simple enough.  Eggs, flour, salt, nutmeg, and ricotta cheese.  He suggested goat's milk ricotta but I couldn't find that and had to settle for regular cow's milk.  I think I bought a reduced fat one by accident.  I suppose the key here is draining the ricotta through a fine sieve overnight in the fridge to drain out the excess liquid.  After a whole day in the fridge, hardly any liquid drained out.  I think I should have taken that as a bad omen.

Here is what it looks like after all the wet ingredients are mixed together.

This is how it looks after the flour gets mixed in.  The directions say to mix in more flour if the dough too wet and sticky.  I ended up putting in a whole sh*t ton of flour just so I could handle the dough to make the little balls.  It was still sticky up to that point but I didn't want leaden balls rolling around in my sauce.

After much blood, sweat, and tear, I finally had a tray full of gnocchi balls to boil.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ferry Building Farmer's Market

So after an awesome dinner at Gary Denko, we woke up the next morning wondering what our next food adventure might be.  We had reservations for Bottega in Napa Valley at 5pm, so we didn't want to eat anything too heavy or too filling.  Triple F suggested the Farmer's Market where we could just try some small things here and there and still have space for carbo loading later in the day at Bottega.  I had been to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building before, but never to eat real food.  

I remember watching Anthony Bourdain feast at Primavera.  I was having a craving for Mexican food, so I figured now was the time to see if Anthony Bourdain knew what he was talking about.  As you can see, this ain't no $1 taco stand.

Primavera Chilaquiles Guanajuato organic local scrambled eggs, refried beans, sour cream, avocado, white onions, cilantro
Everything was kinda whatever.  I think I've had better chilaquiles.  The other members of the H.o.P. could not understand what possessed me to stand in such a long line for such unimpressive eats.  I blame it on Anthony Bourdain, but maybe I shoulda had the tamales which is the more popular option here.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gary Danko

My apologies for my absence from the blogosphere.  After a long day of work, I usually come home and cook dinner.  Portland just doesn't have the same dining options that LA did, so its forced my hand to cook more regularly.  If anyone knows me, I don't like to cook instant or even semi-instant sh*t.   I cook the way my mom did, fresh veggies and meat.  Anyways, after that I vegetate in front of the TV and the last thing I can think of doing is blogging.  On top of that my computer is all slow because I upgraded to Lion so blogging is just difficult.  Looks like I'm only able to blog on days off, which today happens to be.  Yay for me!  Ok enough whining...

Last weekend I hit up SF to visit my sister.  It's been 3 or 4 years since I've been to SF.  I dunno why it took me so long to come back for a visit.  I'll just blame everything on my prior "overworked-ness."  Smooth Obturator really wanted to try Gary Denko, so reservations were made some time ago.  The restaurant is pretty small, so I can imagine why reservations may be hard to get.  There was actually a couple with a young child sitting at the bar enjoying dinner.  Right when I was thinking to myself, "I don't think this is the kind of place you take a little kid," the kid went and spit up his food right into mom's hand.  Thanks kid, way to ruin my appetite.

I loved the many choices available at Gary Denko.  You can make up your own tasting menu from any of the items on the menu.  They can make appetizers into entrees and vice versa.  It was just too exciting.

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup chives

Because we had to wait a little bit past our reservation time for our table, the chef wanted to thank us by  giving us something a little bit special.  It was certainly a teeny amount of very yummy soup.  Sweet, savory, with some tangy tomato chive topping.

This was one crazy expensive HALF bottle of wine.  I won't say how much, but it was more than I could afford.  It was a beautiful cabernet sauvignon.  Thanks to Smooth Obturator and Triple T for footing the bill on this one!

I expected a bit more something exciting for bread when it comes to a restaurant of this caliber.

Buckwheat Blini salmon, caviar, creme fraiche
I have never really had a blini with caviar that I found to be amazing.  Usually the blini is cold and hard, but this was truly a delectable bite.  The bilini was warm, soft, with a fresh crisp exterior.  The salmon was smokey and the caviar was briny.  It was delicious.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

I like baking, but I've realized lately that I only like to bake 2 things, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  So this was my attempt at stepping outside my comfort zone and doing something new and different.  I figured I could do no wrong with a highly rated recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.

The dough is a pretty standard combination of sugar, flour, butter, etc

What makes it different is the added lemon juice and zest.

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