Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato GNOCCHI!!

Photo: Quyen's Gnocchi with Pancetta and Sage and her favorite Brunello di Montalcino. Try a simple brown butter and sage sauce for a lighter first course.

What do you do with a couple potatos? Hmm...do you slice them, boil them for roughly 7 minutes, pour sherry vinegar and olive oil over them and toss them with fresh herbs? Or, do you make gnochhi???

I'm not really good at listening to and following directions. When I was in elementary school, I received an "O" (for Outstanding) in every category except this one, where I got big, fat, ugly "N's" all the time (for NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.) Screw you teachers! I still went to college, and even graduate school!! Don't let discouraging marks stop you from pursuing your dreams, kids.

With that said, I hardly ever follow recipes, except when I bake because you kinda need to follow those carefully, baking being a science and all. But even in baking I tend to deviate.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is...go by FEEL and TOUCH. The humidity in your house can change how much or little liquid or dry ingredients you need when you cook (and even bake!) So, live freely and it'll get you into grad school. I guarantee.

To make gnocchi, boil some potatoes, peel them, and while still warm, rice them. If you don't have a ricer, use a cheese grater. Works like a charm. (Ricing potatoes gives them a light, fluffy texture, perfect for "mashed" potatoes as well.)

Make a well in your potatoes, crack an egg yolk in it, add a pinch of salt(or full egg if you have several potatoes), sprinkle some flour over everything, and using a fork, start to combine everything, like making pasta. Add flour if too wet. Soon you'll have a lovely soft dough. Let rest, form into dowels, cut, and flick off a fork. You're ready to rock.

Wish you could have a bite,

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Maximizing your Oven - Part IV: Salmon en papillote

Photos: Julienned vegetables over salmon, packages ready for oven.

Everyone likes opening gifts right? Well this method of cooking allows every guest at your table to feel special, and it's also a one "pot" meal. No separate side dishes necessary.

It works best with heartier, thicker filets of fish such as salmon, cod, or halibut. All you need is parchment paper for the "giftwrapping" and some patience. First julienne your vegetables. This is integral to the success of the dish in both presentation and taste--since the fish only cooks for about 10 minutes, you want to make sure your vegetables cook all the way through. I like to use asparagus, red bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms and carrots for color and texture.

Next cut out rectangles of parchment paper large enough to contain the fish when folded over. Gather some herbs together (parsley, thyme, tarragon, dill, whatever you like) and make a bed for the fish. Salt and pepper your fish, and place a little olive oil or (herb) butter over it. Arrange your vegetables neatly over the fish, maybe another sprig of herb, and wrap your package, making sure your folds are tight. Brush the paper with some oil and place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 10 - 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. Serve immediately.

Surprise! Be careful not to burn your guests with the extremely hot steam rising from your "gift." Probably better if you make a slit for your guests before serving.

Pretty and delicious. The fish should be extremely moist and succulent.

Wish you could have a bite,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

That's My Hood!!!

This is a quickie--just wanted to share an article that my friend just sent to me. Apparently, my hood is the place to eat in Los Angeles--smack dab in the middle of the Fairfax District.

Love it!

NY Times Article

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Photo: Quyen's beef stew served with asparagus, carrots, and garnished with parsley.

I LOVE BRAISING, stews, soups... Does that make me a lazy cook? Or a crazy cook? Whatever. I love it, and so should you. Turn cheap into luxurious--a rags to riches story every time, without fail.

This past week has been uber slow in terms in cooking. That is, long hours for every dish, and loving every minute of it. After having been spoonfed by my mom as my muscles atrophied over the holidays, I didn't think I would have missed cooking my own food so much until I got back to LA. Sure it's nice to not have to cook and have every meal--whatever your heart desired--prepared for you with absolute love, but I must say it was too easy. I can only imagine what it was like for our hunting and gathering ancestors. Any man who comes to me with a bison draped over his back will win my heart forever...or maybe a paycheck and a set of good knives will do.

Anyway, this week was ridiculous. I cooked all 3 meals every day. I was on fire. Literally...just now I made carrot ginger soup and seared mahi mahi with herb butter for lunch, and my fish caught on fire. Forget about waxing those eyebrows. I'll follow up with my carrot soup recipe later for all the vegetarians out there...

The cheap in me finds incredible pleasure in turning inexpensive cuts into gold. You can find meat as cheap as $1.99 / lb under the label "chuck" or "stew meats." I had a slight cold this week so decided to make a hearty beef stew. The secret to developing flavor lies in really really SEARING well seasoned (S&P) meat in a very hot pan, until all sides are a dark, rich brown. The rest is easy, but if you take the time to do this first step (and it does require patience), you can't go wrong.

So after you've done that, remove the meat (cut into chunks), set aside, turn the heat down and add your onions. Sweat until translucent, add the bouquet garni, red wine, carrots, add the meat back in, fill with water or stock to cover the meat by at least a third ABOVE the meat, and simmer for several hours. The meat will melt in your mouth. Perfection guaranteed. (I like to make my stews in a Dutch oven, placed in a 325 degree oven for several hours, but you can do it on the stove top in a heavy bottomed pot over a low flame.)

Try it. You'll love it. Other dishes I made will follow when I get back from (another holiday).

Wish you could have a bite,

PS What do to with heavy cream and herbs so they don't go to waste? Make a rich dark chocolate ice cream from Valrhona 71% cacao and herb butter. Duh. Or, chop your herbs, place them in ice cube trays and water, freeze and you'll have fresh herbs all year round.