November 8, 2015

Japan, Vietnam, Korea (Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap)

My family seems to think I've become obsessed with foods from Asian cultures lately. From Sichuan, to pho, to Korean japchae, to ramen, I just can't get enough of the flavors. And there's still so much to learn. I had some of the usual suspects over for a night of ramen a couple weeks back. We made to versions, my old standby, Ivan Orkin's shio ramen (pictured above), and chicken paitan (below).
Chicken paitan is full of rich, fatty chicken flavor, extracted from the pounds of chicken feet in the stock. Yes, you want fatty stock, so put in some chicken feet! Both of these ramen bowls were as good as most ramen you can get around town and there's nothing quite like knowing how to make a decent ramen at home. It's not as difficult as you might think.
Chicken and country ham pho has become one of my favorite go-to soups. The recipe comes from Ed Lee's terrific book, Smoke & Pickles. The key to a good pho broth is that it is super-clean. Lee's stock calls for simmering a whole chicken, with onion and ginger, with the slightest little bubble of a boil for about two hours. Even when not making pho, this has become my favorite recipe for pure, clean chicken stock.
After lunching at Yet Tu on Buford Highway, I added Korean food to my new list of things to obsess about. Although, Ed Lee's book referenced above is a Korean-Southern mashup, so the flavors are familiar. I recently made bibimbap, the traditional Korean rice bowl that can be topped with just about anything. I used seasoned ground beef, carrots, spinach, a gochujang sauce and more. A satisfying bowl of goodness on a rainy, wet night. 
While I was at it, I also made kimchi pancakes. Keep your batter ice cold to get the fried pancake good and crunchy and you have a fun Korean party snack.

October 17, 2015

Obsessed with Sichuan

I'm becoming increasingly obsessed with Sichuan food. You can see here and here and here....Last week I had some of the usual suspects over for a night of cooking Sichuan dishes. Without planning to do so, must of us references Fuschia Dunlop's works in preparing these dishes. I did not make all of these dishes, it was a team effort, but here is a snippet of what we did. Above is boiled, fiery and spicy beef. Wicked hot, and the brisket achieved a level of tenderness I wouldn't have thought possible with this preparation. Awesome.
Husband and wife beef slices. A classic dish, traditionally made with lung and organ meats, but ours was brisket. Less spicy than the previous dish with added complexity from the peanuts and greens to round things out. Great dish.

A pretty standard riff on dry-fry green beans, though I never seem to get this dish quite right.
Poached white fish doused in chilis (fresh and pickled). This was perhaps the dish of the night. Be brave and feel the burn. Thanks to this guy for making this tasty dish. And it looks kick ass, too.
Spicy chicken pot. Fun little number. We managed to each crank out some tasty dishes taking turn manning the stove in my wish-it-was-a-heeluvalot-bigger galley kitchen.
With all the spice, you need wines that carry some residual sugar, like the Riesling and Gewurztraminer from legendary Alsatian producer Zind-Humbrecht.
These Rieslings were pretty good as well. And they can be found at Le Caveau in Chamblee if you are local and looking.

October 5, 2015

Recent Cooking Exploits

A quick update on some recent cooking exploits. As the weather finally cool off a bit, it's time to get back to some heartier dishes. The lasagna bolognese is as decadent a lasagna as you could possibly want to eat. It's filling, and a fun splurge. The recipe comes from Kenji, and like many of his successful recipes, he does the research to create the best possible final product. This lasagna requires you make an all-day bolognese, so plan ahead. It also a features an uber-rich  besciamella sauce that the entire thing bathes in. Did I say it was decadent?
As I said above, cooler weather brings out some of my favorite recipes like the David Chang's take on ramen. I had been making Ivan Orkin's seafood stock-based ramen last year, but went back to the traditional tonkotsu with Chang's recipe. The rich stock topped with pork belly, pork butt, soft-boiled egg, some nori and scallion will make you happy. I'm not really a student of ramen, I've probably had my own as often as I've had others. That being said, I was quite happy again with the results.

The key here is simmering five pounds of pork neck bones, along with some smoked hocks, for about 7 hours. There's nothing like the richness of a fatty-all-day pork broth.

September 21, 2015

Recent Gavage

I've been busy and not posting here like I once did. I do some work for Eater Atlanta now which takes time and thought away from my updates here. Since I still take obnoxious amounts of pictures of food and wine, here are some things I've been in to this month.

Banh Mi at Guy Wong's Le Fat on the Westside. A nice crunchy and airy baguette (as it should be), ours were stuffed with head chesse and pate (traditional) and the other was lemongrass steak. Good, solid banh mi. Maybe a bit pricey at $10 when you can get 5 for $10 at Quoc Huang on Buford Highway (lol), but these were quite nice for in-town banh mi.
Le Fat's red oil dumplings. Good, but tough to compete with the brilliant recent renditions at Good Luck Gourmet.
Ponce City Market's restaurants are finally coming to life. As of this weekend, Holeman & Finch's two outposts, H&F Burger and Hop's fried chicken were open. The fried chicken sandwich above was, eh, uninspiring. Almost as good as Chik-Fil-A! Judging from the huge crowds already at PCM, all the food stalls will do well and foodies will rave about it and your Instagram feed will blow up with all the food pics...and so on...
Squid ink spaghetti at No. 246 in Decatur. One of the better dishes I've had there in some time.
The slight chill in the air last weekend had me thinking red wine again, finally. Figured it was time to check-in on this Mourvedre from my friends, Dirty and Rowdy. This was a nice match with ribs and brisket smoked on the Big Green Egg. The Dirty & Rowdy wines are popping up around town with more frequency now, so be on the lookout and give the local boys a shot if you've not yet tried their truly idiosyncratic wines.

August 31, 2015

Nerds Rule at My Parents' Basement in Avondale

 My Parents' Basement opened recently in Avondale Estates in the space once occupied by the James Joyce Pub. Billed as a Nerd's paradise, it's part comic book store, part video arcade, and part pub with a large selection of local and regional beers on tap.  One of the wall of comics is pictured above.
There's a very workable and affordable menu with close to a dozen sandwiches and several sides and small plates as well. Pictured above is the South Philly-style cheesesteak with shaved ribeye, caramelized onions and Cheese Wiz. It's not going to win any best cheesesteak in the city awards, but it might scratch your cheesesteak itch. And it is a substantial sandwich that comes with a side for $12. The side dish of farro salad with radish was actually one of the best dishes of the night.
"Chicken and Waffles"is one of the small plate appetizer offerings. Fried chicken piece are baked into the waffles, which is a nice idea, but I wanted more of a salty-fried chicken presence to balance the sweetness of the waffle. Pickled mustard seeds are a nice touch. We also tried the Pine Street Market salami and butter sandwich and the breakfast sandwich on runny egg and bacon on white bread.
Plenty of space at the large bar. Lots of good local craft beers on tap from the likes of Three Taverns, Second Self, Orpheus, Monday Night, Creature Comforts, an so on...
There are only three video games right now, but the games are a fun way to kill some time while having a beer or two before or after dinner. And they have Centipede! I would imagine that My Parents' Basement will do well, and judging from the big crowd gathered on the patio on a recent Thursday night, they appear to be off to a good start.

August 26, 2015

Good Luck Gourmet

Here's a quick update on a couple of recent visits to Good Luck Gourmet on Buford Highway. A few months back, Sichuan star, Gu's Bistro departed their Buford Highway location to concentrate on their Krog Street Market outpost. Without much fanfare, Good Luck Gourmet moved in to the old Gu's space and is doing a good job carrying the Sichuan torch. Raves for Good Luck have rolled in recently from local publications. It's definitely worth a quick drive from Decatur, though get the on the early side for lunch as the place gets packed. Pictured above is a plate of Good Luck's red chile oil dumplings; perhaps the best in town right now.
Another Good Luck standout: Eggs and Black Fungus. Think scrambled eggs and black mushrooms covered in leeks. Not pretty, but delicious.
Chengdu style cold noodles. Pretty standard, good and spicy and quite tasty. Yum.
 Pork in spicy garlic sauce.
The spread on a second visit recently. Spicy chicken and dry-fry green beans.

August 9, 2015

Revival, Decatur

Some pics above from my first visit to Kevin Gillespie's Revival in Decatur. The restaurant is an homage to Gillespie's southern roots and Sunday suppers at his grandmother's house. Set in a historic old home at the southernmost end of Church Street in Decatur, everything about Revival makes you happy to be in the south. We tried a number of things off the including the bacon-wrapped meatloaf and fried chicken. Being as how I am a Yankee by birth, and am not a pedantic student of fried chicken, I'm not going to deconstruct Revival's chicken. It had an exceptionally crunchy exterior with juicy and flavorful meat throughout. As good as any fried chicken I can remember. Dinner comes includes a basket of cornbread for the table that will become your favorite-ever cornbread once you try it. The trimmings shine, too, including the fatback-cream corn and mac and cheese, both soul-comforting in their richness and layers of flavor. The Revival bar program features some old drink favorites from Gunshow like the Toasted Old Fashioned, as well as some classic southern punches and cocktails. Revival has come along at a perfect time in Decatur's evolution as a dining destination and it fills one of the few remaining voids in Decatur's food scene. I'm already planning my next visit.

August 2, 2015

Cooking Things and It's Still Hot

I guess I need a sexier excuse than, "I've been busy," as a reason for not really updating blog anymore. Seems I get my, "Hey, look at pictures of food I cooked and/or ate"-itch scratched in real-er time by Instagram these days. I've left this remnant of the oughts behind in some ways...Since it's August, and it's hot out, and I'm cowering inside with the AC cranked, I figured I'd check in here with some recent cooking exploits. Above is szechuan-style green beans that I've made a handful of times this summer. I use Kenji's method, of broiling the beans, then dousing them in a sauce of ginger, garlic, Szechuan peppercorns, and whole chile de arbol. Spicy? Yep.
Homemade pizza using the skillet-broiler method. I swear, I don't have a weird thing for Kenji, but I am considering burning all my cookbooks and just following Kenji. Pizza is good.
Smashed fried potatoes, Waxman-style. These are some yummy potatoes and a nice alternative to french fries. The master, Jonathan Waxman, crushes parboiled, whole Russets and then deep-fried them in large chunks. My chunks could have been bigger, but the potatoes do fall apart a bit when you crush them in your hand. Still awesomely delicious.
95 degrees and sunny calls for white wine, like this zippy Weszeli Gruner Veltliner I got for $25 from Le Caveau Fine Wines. This wine just works in the summer. Drink it with anything. Spicy, szechuan green beans, for example.
More white wine goodness from Lopez de Heredia. I've professed my affinity for LdH here before. Unique and singular wines that age remarkably well and aren't like most wines most people drink. So there, go find some.

July 10, 2015

David Sweeney at Cakes & Ale

Dynamic David Sweeney has been popping-up around town a good bit lately. Most recently, he did a popup as part of Cakes & Ale Sunday Supper series. Sweeney is a vegetable whisperer. Eat one of his meals and you'll start thinking you'd be happy as a vegetarian. The dish above featured peas and tomatoes with feta cheese smothered in a pickled tamarind cream. Brilliant, fresh, and stunning flavors. Still thinking about it.
Another of the nine dishes that came Beans and grilled radicchio.
Crudite with green goddess dressing. Beautiful and refreshing.
Chanterelles over a delicate sweet corn puree. So freaking good.
Grouper en papillote with fennel, cumin, lemon. Delicious. As the paper opened, the table filled with the scents middle eastern spices. It was a great meal all around. If you have not had David Sweeney's food, be on the lookout for another popup and go get some.

July 5, 2015

Recent Kitchen Exploits

Seems a month has gone by since I updated this blog. Just don't have the time lately, and it seems that I get feedback more quickly dropping pictures on to Instagram where my legions of fans rush to double tap it. That being said, I've had some time for cooking. Here are a few highlights:
Black vinegar-glazed pork belly buns from Kevin Gillespie's, Pure Pork Awesomeness cookbook. Pork belly is brined for a couple days, compressed for a couple days, then deep fried, and topped with pickled carrots, cabbage, and cilantro. I bought the buns on Buford Highway; I'm not that crazy. Tasty as heck, but too much work to make these with any regularity at home. I'm looking forward to Kevin's Revival, opening this month in Decatur.
I had some buddies over last week for a night of cooking, eating, and mass wine consumption. Like we did in the good 'ol days, circa 2011. Above, my dish of pickled shrimp (can't get enough pickled shrimp these days, I blame Edmund's Oast) on pumpernickel toast with fennel, radish, and chive oil.
Beef tartare topped with fried oyster and broccoli sprouts and balsamic reduction. Too much acid in this and learn.
My buddy Jimmy made these tasty sopes with beef that was kept sous-vide for four days. The beef was fall apart tender with great flavor. Always wanted to make sopes and now I get it and will do them again soon.
We drank some decent wines. It was a good night. I was moving slow on Thursday. Until next time...

June 9, 2015

Summer Homecooking

Some recent home cooking exploits as the weather heats up and my palate shifts to fresher and lighter flavors. Above, some-Szechuan-style pork dumplings in a spicy chili oil. A tasty dish, from a recipe by Fuchsia Dunlop's great book, Every Grain of Rice.
Making dumplings isn't easy, and you need to dedicate some time to do it right. I  need to work on my folding, to get the traditional "water caltrop" shape, but I was pretty happy with how these turned out.
I also made this terrific pickled shrimp salad on pumpernickel dish. My homage to the great dish at Edmund's Oast in Charleston picture below. I'm developing a real love for pickled shrimp as a warm weather snack. While many southern chefs have renditions, I used the Lee Brothers' recipe for this dish. The shrimp plays great off the aioli, warm bread, and crunch from the fennel and radish.
Edmund's Oast's killer version that lead me down this path.