Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spam Musubi

Looked upon with some degree of revulsion by most of the world, Spam is a staple product in Hawaii, and this dish, Spam musubi, is a classic Hawaiian snack. It's one of those things that could only come out of Hawaii, where Spam is much loved, and sushi, or musubi, is common thanks to the large Japanese population. This is a super easy recipe, and, really, it tastes pretty good.

  • 1 can spam
  • 2 cups short grain rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Furikake (optional)
  • Nori
Slice the spam into 8-10 equal pieces and marinate in a mixture of soy sauce and oyster sauce. I use about 3 Tbsp soy sauce and 2 Tbsp oyster sauce. Rinse and cook the rice. After about 30 minutes, cook the spam over medium heat in a non-stick frying pan. When the rice is done, you can season like sushi rice or just leave it plain.

When all your ingredients are ready, you can start assembling the musubi. First, cut the sheets of nori in half. Take one half and lay it on your cutting board. Place a musubi press in the center of the nori, spread a layer of rice inside the press, top with furikake (optional), a layer of spam, and another layer of rice, as shown below.
When all the layers are assembled, press everything down and wrap the nori around the spam and rice block that you have just created.
Turn the musubi over so the flap of nori is facing down. The weight of the musubi presses down the flap and the warmth and moisture from the rice will help seal the nori.

Abby's note: We usually don't slice our musubi up; we just sliced it here for that first photo, so you can see what the cross-section looks like. It's actually best enjoyed holding it in your hands and biting into it like an ice cream bar. Not only is it more fun, but you can size your bites as you wish.

Also, to all you doubters out there, don't knock it 'till you try it!! Spam musubi rocks and is one of my fave comfort foods. Plus, it makes a great snack that you can easily wrap in seran wrap, stack in the fridge, and then pick off one by one, or toss in your bag when you're stepping out. It's basically a candy-bar-sized package of sushi awesomeness. Once you go there, you'll never go back.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seared duck breast, braised cabbage, and parsnip puree

(abby's note: click on the photo to really appreciate the duck - this stuff is beyond words!)

I'm not sure why I have never cooked duck before. It's so good, but it always seemed like the sort of thing that I should just leave to restaurants. Maybe I thought it would be hard to cook? I don't know. I mean, I cook chicken all the time and that's quite possibly the hardest thing to cook properly. Duck, on the other hand, turns out to be really, really easy. Unlike chicken, you actually want this stuff undercooked. If its still a bit raw in the middle, than you're in good shape. If chicken is a bit raw in the middle, you're probably going to get sick.

Anyway, this was one of the things on my list of stuff I still needed to try cooking, so we gave it a try on Friday night. I served the duck with a red wine and pomegranate reduction, braised red cabbage, and parsnip puree. Here are the directions for two servings
  • 2 duck breast
  • salt, pepper
Parsnip puree
  • 4-6 parsnips
  • truffle oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T cream
  • salt, white pepper
  • 1/4 head red cabbage
  • 1/2 apple
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1" ginger
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 c red wine
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 c red wine
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 T pomegranate molasses
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch salt
Start with the cabbage, since this takes the longest. Quarter and core the cabbage. Cut into strips about 1/4" wide. Grate the apple, mince the ginger, and slice the onion into thin, half-rounds.
Cook the ginger and onions with 1 T butter over medium heat until soft. Add the cabbage and apples and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for an hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the cabbage is underway, get started on the sauce. Start by mincing a shallot and sweating it in a sauce pan over medium-low heat with a bit of butter. After about 5-8 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and let simmer. Let everything simmer while you make the parsnip puree and the duck. After you finish cooking the duck, let it rest and use that time to finish the sauce. Strain out the solids, then, crank up the heat and reduce the sauce down until it coats the back of a spoon. Once it gets to this point, mix in any of the liquids that have accumulate from the resting duck and mount the sauce by whisking in a spoon full of reserved duck fat from the frying pan.

To make the parsnip puree, peel the parsnips and chop them into equal sized pieces (~2" chunks). Boil in a pot of salted water for about 15 minutes. Remove the parsnips and let them drain for a couple minutes. Transfer to a food processor and mix in butter, cream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Then add truffle oil to taste. Be careful with this stuff. A little bit goes a looooong way.
You can keep this warm in the oven at about 200F while you finish everything else off. For the duck, start by scoring the fatty side and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat up to medium high and melt 1 T butter. Once the foam subsides, place the duck into the frying pan, skin side down. Cook for three minute, flip, and cook for another 2.5 to 3 minutes (depending on how raw you want the middle).
Remove the duck and let it rest while you finish off the rest for about 5 minutes.
To plate, spoon a little sauce on the bottom of the plate, slice the duck and fan it out on top of the sauce. Drizzle another spoonful of sauce on top of the duck. The pomegranate molasses makes this sauce very tart, so you only want to use a little bit.

Coq Au Vin

I've made this dish a couple times before, but never posted it. I wouldn't say it's my favorite dish, but it's pretty good, and it's a great way to use up a lot of wine that you wouldn't otherwise drink. Abby and I had a couple half empty bottles of wine sitting around from an earlier dinner party, and, while I would normally make something like braised shortribs with the extra wine, I've already had a blog entry with shortribs, so I figured I would give this dish another spin. It's a classic French bistro preparation, and, at least in the intermediate steps, it doesn't look pretty.
See? This is what chicken looks like when its been marinated in red wine for 24 hours. Not nice. Enough on that, though. Here's the recipe.

  • 1 chicken (you can leave it whole, or cut it up. I cut it up and reserve he wing tips and back bone for stock)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 carrots, tourneed (cut into football shapes)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • bouquet garnit (bay leaf, thyme, parsley, garlic clove, and black peppercorns)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 12-16 pearl onions
  • 1/8 to 1/4 lb slab bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb button mushrooms
  • red wine, about a bottle.
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • pinch of sugar
Start by marinating the chicken in red wine with the chopped carrot, onion, celery, and cloves for 24 hours. Remove the chicken - it will look all gross and mottled like the picture above, and strain out the vegetables, reserving the wine.
Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil to a large dutch oven and brown the chicekn on both sides over medium high heat. Again, it doesn't look too pretty, but it's getting better.
Remove the chicken, add the vegetables from the marinade, and cook over medium heat. After about ten minutes, stir in 1 to 1.5 T flour. Cook this for another minute or two, then add the chicken and enough red wine to cover the chicken half's a braise, not a stew. Cook over low heat for about an hour, turing occassionally.
As this is simmering, turn your attention to the other ingredients: the bacon, onions, carrots, and, if you like them, the mushrooms. Traditioally, this dish has mushrooms, and not carrots, but I'm not a huge mushroom fan and I had several extra carrots in the fridge.

Start by cutting the bacon into lardons and cook until crispy. I decided to use salt pork instead because, while I love bacon, I thought that the smokey flavor it imparts would be a bit too dominant. When you're done with the bacon, remove all but about 1 Tbsp of the fat and add 1 smashed clove of garlic to the pan, let this brown for a few seconds and add the mushrooms, stemmed and halved or quartered. Cook until done and set aside.
Next, peel the onions and tournee the carrots so they are about the same size as the onions (you can kind of see the carrots in the picture below). To glaze the onions ad carrots, put them in a pot just big enough to hold them all in one layer. Add a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, and 2 Tbsp butter. Add enough water to just cover everything and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper cut to the size of the pot. Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. When the water has evaporated, remove the paper and continue cooking to slightly brown the vegetables.

Once done, remove the vegatables, add a splash of red wine and scrape up any of the fond that might have developed. By this time, the chicken should be done. Remove the chicken and strain the cooking liquid into a fat separator. Pour the separated braising liquid into the pot with the reduced red wine, turn the heat way up, and reduce the volume by half. If you want to reduce this really quickly, pour everything into a really wide pan. More surface area=more efficient evaporation=faster reduction. Return the chicken to the pan to coat in the braising liquid, then plate with the bacon, onions, carrots, and mushrooms. I think its good to serve this with polenta since (A) polenta is super easy to make, and (B) polenta is perfect for soaking up tasty braising liquid.

The Butcher Shop

When we went to Hamersley's last week, we arrived in the South End with a bit of time to kill, so we decided to check out one of the bars in the area. There was a big line outside of the Beehive, so that was immediately ruled out. Across the street, though, there was a nice looking place that didn't seem too crowded. We walked in to see if we could grab a drink ad the host asked us to sit tight for a minute while he found us a place. This wasn't what I was expecting. Was this a bar or a restaurant? Turns out it was a bit of both. While I had heard of the Butcher Shop, I had never actually been there and wasn't paying attention to the signs above the door or wherever they post their name. I just saw it is a place to get a drink. Anyway, after a few minutes, the host comes back and says he found us a place. I thought that meant we had a table, but it just meant we had an assigned piece of floor space near the back of the room. We were right next to this:
While it has a great wine and beer selection, the Butcher Shop, as its name implies, also has a nice selection of charcuterie that you can get to accompany your drink. It's actually a pretty cool looking place, although I still can't quite get over the fact that we had to wait to get "seated" at a place with no chairs and no tables. Then, we had to wait for service, and after a few minutes it was almost time for our dinner reservation. We called it quits, waited out the remaining few minutes at the Hamersley's bar, and I ordered a Manhattan.