Archive for the ‘condiments’ Category

Spill a Little

February 5, 2008

Buying bulk is like sex without a condom. There’s nothing between you and the food, no plastic, no obstruction. Grab a little, taste a little, spill a little and push your way to the front.

During my lunch break on Monday, I set out to Tsukiji (like I do at least once every two weeks). I passed by a store selling mounds of bulk tsukudani. Tsukudani is heaven on rice – a condiment usually brown in color, sweet and sticky. It can be seaweed, clams, tarako, walnuts, even unagi.

The lady urged me to take a pinch of each kind for tasting. My suspicions were true – they were all good. But I had to restrain myself – I could not return to work smelling like I had just feasted on a full-course New Year’s breakfast. The lady then told me that the shijimi (clams) type was superb for takikomi-gohan*. I could add about 100 grams of this stuff to about 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker and… “viola!” shijimi-tsukudani-takikomi-gohan. Mmmm. So I bought 100 grams for 300 yen. I’ll be staying in this weekend.

I also bought 100 grams of fine fishies tsukudani at 200 yen (I don’t know what the real name is), this would probably be excellent just as is on rice – or irresistible as ochazuke (pouring tea over rice).

Here’s to pouring and spilling.

Shijimi tsukudani

Fine fishies tuskudani

*Editor’s note: takikomi-gohan is rice steamed with whatever ingredient you want! Usually mushrooms, or some vegetable, or this tsukudani, as Yoko talks about here. Hearty fare for cold winters.

Ode to Meatloaf

March 7, 2007

there’s something about meatloaf that is so so wonderful in the wintertime– it’s the ultimate comfort food. and i didn’t grow up with it, as i had a relatively all-asian food upbringing, but discovering it has really changed my life. i mean, it’s just a pile of ground meat, in a… loaf form. it’s probably one of the best culinary inventions ever, alongside natto and butter.

so this past weekend i made meatloaf for the very first time. whenever i crave meatloaf, i usually always ask my old landlord, Troy, to make his delicious rendition– but i missed the batch he made last weekend, and since my craving had to be satiated, i decided to give it a shot myself. of course the meat section at Fairway inspired me- a pre-packaged meatloaf ‘trio’, ground pork, beef and veal, was only $3.50. can’t say no to that.

after shopping around a bit on the net, i ended up following Emeril’s recipe (after MUCH deliberation and hesitation) since it sounded the closest to what i was craving. out of habit of watching my mom cook, i never follow recipes word for word, but rather just skim for ideas. here’s some alterations i made to the recipe (mostly because i had to use whatever i happened to have in the fridge):
– i added half and half instead of cream
– i used japanese bread crumbs, panko- don’t know if it made a difference
– a LOT of onions and garlic (fresh)
– no green peppers
– a little bit of red wine
– i had the ground veal, so instead of pouring veal stock over the loaf, i poured chicken stock cause that’s all i had. but i imagine beef stock would have been better.

i heard that ketchup and Worcestershire sauce is good to add, but i didn’t have any, so i put in about a tablespoon of japanese sauce (sosu) which is basically a mixture of the two, more or less. this is KEY! if you make this, please DO NOT FORGET TO ADD THIS (whether it is sauce, or ketchup and worcestershire).

i cut up red potatoes and added them into the pan with the loaf right before it went into the oven, so it would soak in all the meat fatty goodness. it was done in a hour, and after taking the loaf out of the pan, i added steamed asparagus with the potatoes and stirfried that over the stove for a few minutes so the asparagus could get some of that lovin’ flavor.

and lots of lovin’ flavor it was- for my first meatloaf, it was FRIGGIN DAMN GOOD. and i know that my picture isn’t so pretty, but you will just need to trust me. it’s a terrific recipe. i may not know how to take good pictures, but i DO know how to cook. it’s in the blood.

ok, so here’s my quick lunch tip (although hardly a tip, since it’s leftover meatloaf, which is a no-brainer), but i packed the two pieces of meatloaf and potatoes in a tupperware, along with my favorite mayonnaise, kewpie (a pain, but i put some in another small tupperware since it’s the only mayo i consume). pick up your favorite roll or baguette on your way to work, assemble the sandwich in the staff kitchen (ketchup and mayo is all you need) and voila!, you’ve got a first-class meal for lunch!

buon apetito! *k*

On the Importance of Butter

March 4, 2007

i always like to think that you can tell the quality of a restaurant in the quality of the butter they give you before you get your meal. more often than not, i’ve experienced that when the butter is good, the meal is superb. i’m talking about cold butter, slightly salted, hard and creamy- it is a subtlety that is an artform, the perfection of butter churning (the butter at French Laundry, above, was dreamy- they came in these darling golden ramekins. the butter however, was the highpoint of the meal, but more on that some other time). i’m drooling just thinking about it. and this isn’t something you really think about, until you get BAD butter with your bread. when Lauren and i went to dinner at AOC Bedford in the West Village last night, the butter was super soft and greasy and just all wrong. the meal, case in point, was also disappointing.

so it turns out that i am a terse critic when it comes to butter. which brings me to the french butter, Isigny Ste. Mere (pictured), i bought last week in the cheese section at Whole Foods for only $2.99! i’m no francophile, and i was really wanting the butter from italy, but it was a bit over my budget at $4.99 (and that’s the average price!). and i was a bit skeptical at how cheap this stuff was, but i am a frugal gourmand and my friend Fumiko, who spent some time in Paris, reassured me that “it’s french, it can’t be that bad.” and it isn’t! this stuff is great! for the price, i highly recommend it.