Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Furikake Chex Mix

Furikake is a Japanese condiment of sorts, comprised of bits of dry roasted seaweed and sesame seeds.  Sometime it'll also contain dried fish and bonito flakes.  It's salty, umami-packed flavor make a delicious meal when sprinkled atop plain rice.  In this snack, it's sprinkled on crunchy Chex or Crispix cereal that's coated in a savory sweet syrup.  The combination of savory, sweet, and crunchy make this a dangerously addictive snack.  Before we knew it, we had eaten the entire batch within 48 hours!  Some people like to add pretzel sticks, popcorn, Bugles, or other items, but I like to keep my Furikake "Chex Mix" pure and simple.

Furikake Chex Mix
serves 6-8 

1 box Crispix or Chex cereal (I prefer Crispix.  It's more 3D shape gives a greater crunch!)
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup or honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 bottle Nori Fumi Furikake
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Heat butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugars dissolve.  Add oil, corn syrup or honey, and soy sauce and continue stirring.  TIP: Measure the oil out first.  Then when you go measure the corn syrup or honey, the measuring cup will be lightly coated with oil and the corn syrup or honey won't stick to the cup.  When everything is well mixed, remove from heat.
  3. Place the cereal in a large mixing bowl, working in two batches if necessary.  Drizzle some of the syrup over the cereal and carefully mix with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle some Furikake over the cereal and mix carefully.  Continue drizzling syrup, sprinkling Furikake, and mixing until the cereal is well coated.
  4. Spread cereal in a single layer on the two baking sheets.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  5. Let cereal cool before eating.  Can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days, but it may be all gone well before then!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Braised Guinness Lamb Shank Stew

This week's lamb stew was half inspired by the recent Hunger Games movie release (The books are so much fun! And addictive.) and half inspired by lamb shanks on sale at the supermarket.  The lamb flavor was incredibly rich in the cooked down stew and the lamb shank was falling-off-the-bone tender.  I didn't like the added sweetness from the dried plums since the stew already had a sweet overtone from the lamb, onions, and carrots.  I would leave out the dried plums next time.  We ate this with plain rice though it would be good with pasta or bread as well.  Another great use for my Dutch oven! :)

Looking for another Guinness recipe?  Try out this tasty bread!

Braised Guinness Lamb Shank Stew
Adapted from bon appetit
serves 2 (with plenty of leftover stew)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lamb shanks (about 2 pounds total, one lamb shank per person)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups beef stock or canned broth
1 12-ounce bottles Guinness stout
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup pitted prunes
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large Dutch oven over high heat. Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge lamb shanks in flour; shake off excess. Reserve excess flour. 
  2. Add lamb to Dutch oven and brown well on all sides. Using tongs, transfer lamb to bowl. Reduce heat to medium. Add chopped onions to Dutch oven and sauté until transluscent, scraping up any browned bits, about 5 minutes. Add reserved flour and stir 1 minute.
  3. Return lamb shanks and any accumulated juices to Dutch oven. Add beef stock and Guinness. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until meat is almost tender, about 1 hour.
  4. Add carrots to Dutch oven and simmer uncovered until meat and vegetables are tender and stew thickens slightly, about 40 minutes. Spoon fat from surface of stew. Add prunes and simmer 20 minutes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baked Shirred Eggs

Shirred eggs are basically baked eggs with a little cream, herbs, and cheese.  There are endless variations and it's easy to toss in whatever you find in your pantry.  We happened to have some sun-dried tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, and italian herbs. You can add onions or fresh herbs or even some smoked meat if you like.  The yolks came out soft like an over easy egg, making it perfect to sop up with a toasted slice of crusty bread.  This is a relatively quick and easy breakfast.  You can give each person their own ramekin with one egg or bake multiple eggs in a larger ramekin as we did.

Baked Shirred Eggs
serves 2

4 eggs
4 tablespoons heavy cream (milk works too)
2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 6 inch ramekin. You can use a smaller size and adjust your cooking time for desired egg consistency.
  2. Crack the eggs into the ramekin and pour the milk onto the eggs. Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes and cheese into the ramekin.  Season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper as desired. 
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (12 for a very runny yolk, 15 for a firmer yolk), until the egg is 'set' to your preference. Serve immediately with toasted bread. Eggs will continue to set up as you eat, so get them to the table as soon as possible.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Techniques for cooking Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my go-to meals for a quick dinner that uses up whatever leftovers there may be in the fridge.  It's versatile and fairly easy, though there are a few key techniques to follow to get that fluffy, individual-grain restaurant-style texture instead of a coagulated mess of clumpy rice grains.

Techniques for Cooking Fried Rice:
  1. Use day-old cold rice.  The rice needs to be a bit dried out otherwise the grains will stick to each other.
  2. Cook your eggs separately from your other ingredients, otherwise you'll get a thin coating of egg over everything else.  Some people do like that though.  There's even a Chinese dish called Golden Fried Rice because each grain is ideally coated with a thin layer of egg.
  3. After you add rice to your pan or wok, turn the heat to high.  A really hot cooking surface helps meld the flavors and evaporate off any excess moisture there may be.  
  4. Don't over-stir your fried rice.  Let it sit for a while between stirring.  This creates a nice golden brown color in the rice and you'll even get some crispy grains from the rice that's in direct contact with the pan.  Those crispy parts are the best!
Ideas for fried rice ingredients:
Sauce/flavor - soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, Chinese BBQ sauce, ketchup
Protein - egg, Chinese sausage, firm tofu, leftover chicken/pork/beef, dried shrimp
Veggie - frozen mixed vegetables, corn, cabbage, any other diced vegetables

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Umami Burger - Costa Mesa, CA

This past weekend marked the beginning of Umami Burger's venture into Orange County. It's long-awaited arrival was met with mediocre opening day lines as a short 10 minute wait was enough to get us in at 1pm. The food did not disappoint!

Umami Burger - First bite caused the the whole burger to drip with a wonderful medium cooked beef juice. The unique parmesan cheese crisp added a textural crunch but its flavor remained subtle compared to the overall sweetness of the shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted tomato Bun cam with a seared Umami logo across the top, buttered, and perfectly toasted. Definitely recommended.

Tempura Onion Rings - Salty with a good batter taste. A little on the oily side.

Truffled Beet Salad - Strong truffle flavor and delicious. Beets were sweet, ricotta cheese added heft, and the arugula spiciness paired well with it all.  Comes on a small roughly 5x8 rectangular plate.

Truffle Cheese Skinny Fries - If you love truffle, this is a great side to order. Cheese melted on top and deliciously salty. Eat quickly as the melted cheese causes the fries to lose their crunchiness.

Service was attentive and prompt for opening day. Finding parking in the small parking lot of The Camp actually proved to be the greatest challenge of the day and I expect this to be the norm especially during peak hours.