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I love the sub-title for The Basque Book, by Alexandra Raij with Eder Montero.  It says, “a love letter in recipes from the kitchen of Txikito.”  It’s a bit poetic, yes?  I guess it fits my mood these days.  That and some part of me wanted to expand my culinary horizons.

9781607747611

Do I need another cookbook?  No, but we’ve had this discussion before.  I had the chance to pick up The Basque Book or The Wurst of Lucky Peach.  I waffled between the two books for a few days before settling for the former.  Eventually, I decided to pick the one that felt more out of my comfort zone.

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Luckily, I’m pretty happy with this book.  The pictures are has romantic as the sub-title.  It’s also definitely filled with recipes that are generally unfamiliar to me.  Unfamiliar doesn’t have to mean complex though.  All the recipes have a very un-intimidating ingredient list.  That doesn’t mean that I have easy access to all the ingredients but means that the ingredients list isn’t an entire page long.

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And for the things that I don’t have easy access to, the book provides a DIY recipe most of the time.  The recipe for quick salt-cured cod is a perfect example of this.  A couple of the recipes were a surprise, because they were not Spanish styled at all: Chinatown-style periwinkles, and tempura-fried soft-shell crabs.  (Granted, the crab recipe requires making escabeche first, which is a technique for flavoring and preserving seafood/meat by poaching it in a vinaigrette.)

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But there are recipes that are on the to-do list.  For me, the lentils with chorizo stew recipe has massive appeal.  I don’t have any cured chorizo in my house right now, but I do have cured loukaniko that I’ve been desperately thinking of ways to use.  So, a version of the lentil stew is likely happening this weekend.  And if it doesn’t disappoint, I’ll try my best to post it.

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The book is split up into sections by main ingredient/type of dish.  They are: basic recipes, tapas/bar type food, vegetables, egg, seafood, soups/stews, Basque recipes for gatherings*, sweets, and then drinks.

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* = I am having trouble summarizing the Txokos, Asadores, Sagardotegis, and Ferias chapter.  It doesn’t help that it’s a relatively small chapter.

But I’m glad I made a leap of faith on this cookbook.  There’s a good handful of recipes that I think I want to try.  It also makes a lovely coffee table book if you prefer your cookbooks to be visually stunning.

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(If it matters to you, I ended up checking out The Wurst of Lucky Peach from the library.  Half of the book is more like a reference book, so there weren’t nearly as many recipes as I had hoped.  So, I think I chose wisely.  There’s nothing wrong with the new Lucky Peach book.  It just didn’t appeal to me, personally.)

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/243474/the-basque-book-by-alexandra-raij-with-eder-montero-and-rebecca-flint-marx/

http://www.bloggingforbooks.com/

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

In hindsight, I think I wanted to peruse Home Cooked by Anya Fernald for mildly silly reasons.  Don’t get me wrong, the Blogging for Books description sounded enticing enough:

Anya Fernald’s approach to cooking is anything but timid; rich sauces, meaty ragus, perfectly charred vegetables. And her execution is unfussy, with the singular goal of making delicious, exuberantly flavored, unpretentious food with the best ingredients. Inspired by the humble traditions of cucina povera, the frugal cooking of Italian peasants, Anya brings a forgotten pragmatism to home cooking; making use of seasonal bounty by canning and preserving fruits and vegetables, salt curing fish, simmering flavorful broths with leftover bones, and transforming tough cuts of meat into supple stews and sauces with long cooking. These building blocks become the basis for a kitchen repertoire that is inspired, thrifty, environmentally sound, and most importantly, bursting with flavor.

Still… I think I mostly got the book because I liked the cover.

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Anyway!  The rational comments first:

This book is fairly gorgeous.  I loved the photo for the blood orange salad.  It was vivid and delicious looking.  There’s a series of photos for the toma cheese  with green herbs that I think is inspiring.  The pictures for salmon confit are lovely and bright, contrasting the red-orange meat of the fish against the grey-ish countertop and Fernald’s blue-white striped apron.  For people who want lots of pictures in their cookbooks, this one fits the bill.

The recipes themselves are varied.  The chapters of the books are: building blocks, snacks/starters/cocktails, pasta/ragu/risotto/eggs, vegetables, fish/meat, and desserts.  There’s a recipe for liver pate, a savory pie with lots of greens in the filling, cracked crabs with lemon-chile vinaigrette, and twice cooked orange duck.  Each recipe is fairly striped down to the essential ingredients.  The list length of ingredients isn’t intimidating.  If anything is intimidating, it might be some of the ingredients themselves.  Rendered pork fat, trotter broth, and bone broth are examples of ingredients that most people don’t keep around.  (Well, urban dwellers like me anyhow.)  They might get turned off from a recipe for that reason.  From Fernald’s perspective, these ingredients are nothing exotic.  She’s the co-founder of Belcampo, a farm/butcher shop/restaurant.  Belcampo even has a meat camp!

Objectively, I would give this book four out of five stars.

From a more personal perspective, I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of this book.  At the moment, I’m mesmerized by the cheese-making recipes and the anise seed breakfast cookies.  I haven’t given up on this book yet, but realistically it might not live on my bookshelf for too long.  I guess it’s more of a three star book for me personally.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/248626/home-cooked-by-anya-fernald-with-jessica-battilana/

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P.S.  Random comment – the amazake turned out well.  I just kept forgetting to take photos of it.  So I’ll have to make a second batch just to show it off.  (^_^)

It’s hard to see, but the radishes in my dongchimi had some color change.  Everything smelled fine, but I wasn’t convinced so I didn’t eat it.

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Both photos were after I drained out the liquid.  Before I drained it, it looked like this:

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That’s a lot of life going on in there.

I haven’t had the energy to buy the ingredients again.  But I still wanted to work on some fermentation so I decided to try my hand at amazake.

Amazake is a drink made from sticky rice and koji grains.  Koji are rice grains that have been inoculated with the bacteria you would use to make miso soup and other Japanese fermented products.  Amazake, like yogurt, needs a certain temperature range to ferment.  It was the primary reason why I never bothered to make it.

Last week, it occurred to me that I had access to a couple of sous vide products which could make DIY amazake possible in my house.  So, it’s currently doing its thing in a slow cooker hooked up to a Codlo device.

This is what determination looks like:

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It’s not the most thought-out set-up, but that’s what I get for not planning ahead.  What you see is a 3qt sauce pan (with the rice and koji) set into a 4.5 qt oval slow cooker.  The sauce pan was too tall, and the handle was in the way.  So, I resorted to covering it with aluminum foil.

I am ridiculous, I know.

This also won’t be done until about 10pm because cooking the rice and then cooling it took me longer than I had anticipated.

Faster, kimchi! Faster!

Trying my hand at dongchimi for the first time.

I made it on Sunday.  I plan to open it and try it this coming Sunday.  The only problem with fermentation is that I get impatient.  (^_^)

I was using Koreatown and The Kimchi Cookbook as my reference guides.

kimchi

First of all, I may or may not be addicted to dongchimi right now.  (Dongchimi is a radish kimchi that lacks the red color from gochugaru, Korean chili flakes.  It’s a fairly mild kimchi and a great gateway drug into Korean fermented foods.)

Second of all, a friend of mine expressed an interest in a special event at a local restaurant called the Feast to Celebrate the Debut of Koreatown: A Cookbook.  Per the event page:

The Kirkland Tap and Trotter is excited to welcome Chef Deuki Hong and writer Matt Rodbard to The Kirkland Tap & Trotter for a one-night-only event celebrating the soju-slamming, pepper-pounding, kimchi-everything adventure that is Koreatown: A Cookbook (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; on sale February 16, 2016). For two years, co-authors Hong and Rodbard gathered recipes, stories, in-the-moment photos, and thoughtful interviews from Korean American neighborhoods all across the country to comprise their portrait of a culture in Koreatown. With a penchant for global comfort foods, killer wood grill to complement the flavors of Korean barbeque, and convivial atmosphere, Kirkland is the ideal place to kick-off the cookbook tour.

I was immediately intrigued, and did some digging around.

It turned out that I had this book available to me to review.  OH HAPPY DAY!

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This cookbook is definitely Korean American in flair.  Some recipes are traditional (ie. baechu kimchi* and kongguksu*) and some are not (ie. kimchi triple-cream grilled cheese and Korean fried broccoli).  But it still provides a great sample of Korean dishes.  I think recipes for all the most popular dishes are here: jjampong*, jjajangmyeon*, and gamjatang*.

I also love how the Korean names, hangul, and English translations are listed for every recipe.

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(That makes a lot of dongchimi.  I’m also unsure about the use of soda for serving.)

The photos are pretty gorgeous, and interviews with Korean Americans across the U.S. are a nice addition.  There are definitely recipes that I want to make.  The first one might be the kalbi meatballs because kalbi is always a good reason.

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Long story short – I feel inspired and this book has a permanent home on my bookshelf.  I hope to have a follow up post in the near future, so I can let you know how a recipe went.

Reference:

baechu kimchi =  napa cabbage kimchi
kongguksu = soy milk noodle soup
jjampong = spicy seafood noodle soup
jjajangmyeon = black bean noodles
gamjatang = spicy pork neck and potato stew

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/feast-to-celebrate-the-debut-of-koreatown-a-cookbook-tickets-20933491637?aff=ebrowse

http://koreatowncookbook.com/

(note – the official cookbook website has 3 recipes available)

P.S. Completely unrelated to Koreatown, I made the octo vinaigrette from Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes book.  I used it as a dipping sauce for a hot pot night with friends.  If I remember correctly, I didn’t use the full amount of garlic but it was still plenty garlicy.  And I got compliments.

(The menu below was altered from the published menu to reflect what was available at the time of dining.  I forgot to take a photo of the actual menu, so I bet this isn’t 100% accurate since I’m doing it from memory.)

NEW YEAR’S EVE 2015

First

Kampachi Crudo
fennel, orange, olive, fried quinoa

Duck Confit and Sausage
sweet potato, lentils, pistachio

Grilled Mushroom Salad
potato, marjoram, egg yolk caramel

Seared Foie Gras Skillet ($12 supplement)
black pepper gougeres, gooseberries, whipped honey

Second

Cauliflower and Black Truffle Soup
thyme oil, parmesan, salsify

Salt-Roasted Beets
aged goat cheese, hazelnut, rye cracker

Baby Greens and Chicories
avocado, pinenut, grapefruit

Lobster Bisque ($10 supplement)
crab cake, coconut, basil

Main

Potato and Herb Gnocchi
brown butter, chestnut, parmesan

Seared Scallops
parsnip, brussels, pomegranate

Roasted Duck Breast
fennel, spiced carrots, dried fruit jus

40-day Dry Aged Bone-in Sirloin Steak ($15 supplement)
potato mille fuielle, black trumpets, bordelaise

Dessert

beeramisu

Indian Pudding
port, cornmeal, fig

Chocolate Mousse Trifle
hazelnut, brown butter cream, praline

hot apple cider
armagnac, fig, warm spices

might i?
tiki-style rum cocktail

czech & balance 
slivovitz, lillet blanc, burnt orange

church
gin, aperol, lemon

paper plane
bourbon, nonino amaro, lemon

pisticci cocktail
lucano amaro, privateer rum, sweet vermouth

thaw in the straw
bourbon, honey, lemon, ginger beer

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The crudo.  The person who ate this liked the fried quinoa best.

Continue Reading »

A Story of Star-crossed Lovers

Sort of.

Ok, not really.  But this is a story about some carbon steel skillets that I really wanted, only to realize that they’re not quite the right fit for me.

For almost a year now, I’ve been on the hunt for a carbon steel pan.  However, I had trouble deciding on one.  Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen champions for the Matfer Bourgeat, but in doing so caused many Matfer Bourgeat pans to sell out.  At the time of this post, the largest Matfer Bourgeat is priced over $200 on the Amazon Marketplace because it’s nearly impossible to find until the manufacturer releases more.

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of reviews on carbon steel skillets.  In general, it feels like the internet embraces cast iron skillets.  I got excited when my other favorite food company/website, ChefSteps, gave Darto pans a thumbs-up.

Darto is an Argentinian company.  I bemoaned the fact that shipping was going to cost more than one pan.  Earlier this December, they offered free international shipping for a minimum order of $150.  I found a friend who expressed interested and we shared an order.

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I bought the 20cm and the 27cm for myself.  They are beautiful!  They are made from a single sheet of metal which means that there are no bolts where the handle meets the body of the pan.

So, the pros:

  • construction
  • price (well, before shipping costs to the US)
  • handle stayed cooler than I thought it would
  • carbon steel has a wonderfully smooth surface (which is why I wanted it)

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The cons?

One con, and one con only.  The 27cm is really difficult to use for my smaller stature.  I’m not even 5’3″.  The handle of the 27cm pan was too tall, and too long.  The only way I could comfortable hold it was to brace my arm against the length of the handle.  That’s not the right way to hold a pan.  If it had a helper handle, I could probably over look the issue.  Sadly, it doesn’t.

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The 20cm is smaller all around, so I can use it more easily.

In sum, the search for a carbon steel skillet continues.

Reference Links

https://www.chefsteps.com/forum/posts/carbon-steel-pan-comparison

http://www.darto.org/us/

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