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Chwinamul and Wild Spring Greens

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I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in wild spring greens in my life until this year; looking back childhood, there was a moment my family had a field trip to some countryside with about an hour long of bus ride to dig up some, mostly mugworts(쑥). It happened only once.

Thanks to weekly trip to Kyoungdong Market, now I can realize the presence of them, and have been trying to cook and eat them as much as possible. In the market, there are some booths specialized for greens. Most of them are not very expensive, about 100g/1,000 KRW (about 80 cents?), except fatsia shoots (두릅, Dureup), which is about three times more expensive than others.

I have tried several different kinds of greens, but today I just want to focus on my favorite one, ‘Chwinamul (취나물, not sure how it goes by in English as Wikipedia also goes by this anglicized Korean name),’ Having very pungent aroma, which comes out when snapping the stem (as the lady at the booth would present), and slightly bitter taste in very appetizing fashion, it has been my favorite spring green since I was a kid, when my grandmother would prepare big bowl of them.

There are several different kinds of Chinamuls currently available, but I have only tried the one from Hadong, as the lady merchant recommends it as the best. As I  believed the owners of those specialized green booths were the experts of greens, I asked several more questions other than what was the best of Chwinamuls. And they are:

1. What is the best way to prepare them?

Blanch first, and then clean.

You can cook Korean wild greens several different ways, but to do that you need to blanch first for most of them. The preparation of greens is not really hard, but very time consuming as you have to pick every stem to take the dust off the root end and pick wilted leaves out. In fact, that had been the reason I haven’t really tried to cook them seriously. In some booths you can buy pre-blanched ones but that is not my style as there will be nothing I can learn from it.

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When blanching, I borrow the page about “Big Pot Blanching”, from French Laundry Cookbook. I have no idea Korean housewives would season the blanching water as they don’t even think I am someone they can exchange cooking tips with, but I do to avoid over-season it with soy sauce (more about it later). When water reaches to rolling boil, put the greens and blanch 1~2 minutes, and put into cold water bath. When blanching, all the dirt comes out relatively easier, and the rest will take off when rinsing.

ImageOnce cool, drawing out the water as much as possible is the key as the residual water makes the seasoning bland. I know it sounds way too much basic, but I have ran into a lot of watery greens, whether cooked or not, in Korea. Once I had blanched Dureup at Korean restaurant of some five star hotel, and it literally spat the water out when biting. It was about $120 lunch. I am not kidding. Anyway, with the help of salad spinner and heavy duty kitchen towel, you can squeeze most of moisture out.

2. How to season it?

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There are some greens you use only salt for seasoning but for Chwinamul, soy sauce works well. But it needs to be different than the one we usually use. The lady said it should be Korean traditional one, called ‘Chosun soy sauce (조선간장)’, which is less sweet and a lot more brinier. As mentioned above, I prefer seasoning it with salted blanching water as too much soy sauce will dominate the aroma of Chwinamul itself with its own one. For same reason, I do not use toasted sesame oil: a little bit of extra virgin olive oil works fine for me. For textual variation and subtle aroma, I sprinkle some dried perilla seed flower on top. Other than that, no garlic or scallion.

Once prepared, you can keep it in the refrigerator at least for three days. Maybe you can keep it longer but for me, it is too tasty to keep it any longer than that.

Written by bluexmas

April 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Food-Korean

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Croissant Challenge: Failure Guaranteed

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I have really wanted to bake croissants for a while, and it is such a bizarre desire since I don’t even like it that much. I know a lot of people drool over for those flaky butter-rich pastries like croissants and pains au chocolat any time, but I really don’t. Anyway I just wanted to give it a shot, just to see how high of skill set  I have developed for last 7,8 years of self-taught amateur baking.

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And the result is… not that pretty as you can see it for yourself. The problem was that, a major disaster happens at the very last step, cutting it triangular shape. Following the recipe of America’s Test Kitchen, I rolled the dough, folded in half, cut into triangular pieces, and the unfold… not! I couldn’t unfold double layered triangles as they just stuck when folded in half. It had been about 9 hours passed since the beginning of the process, so I just wanted to cry and throw it away, quit. But it also meant that the hours already had spent would be wasted, with all the expensive French butters I had put into the dough as well.  So I tried really hard to salvage the dough by putting the pieces into a mass again. After chilling the dough enough, I divided it with four pieces and then rolled, cut, and shaped: not to repeat the same mistake. I should have floured the dough firsthand. I know, I know.

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And the result is like this. It tasted OK, but that is not all for the croissant, so I ended up concluding that my skill set isn’t really that great. I saved half of rolled dough to make something else, but do not expect it to be great. After getting through all this, I reconfirm the conclusion I had made when challenging for the macaron: there is something you should never try as an amateur. Just enjoying something the professional does can make everybody happier, as the professional earn money, the amateur gets happy. The problems is that, there are a lot of pseudo professionals, and the macaron has become the laughingstock if pastry work in Korea as you can find all the bad ones permeate every coffee places and bakeries.

Written by bluexmas

April 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Posted in baking

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Crazy Hokkaido Pumpkin Pie

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If there weren’t Hokkaido pumpkin in the mart, I would not dare to try to bake this pumpkin pie. This is such an intimidating recipe to try from the beginning, just because it is a pie. To make even a OK pie crust seems so hard for me thus I have never challenged seriously.

Even after passing the test with decent pie crust, to make a filling for this pie looks more difficult than any other ones I know the recipe of. The biggest obstacle is that there is no canned pumpkin puree in Korea, as far as I know. In addition, the recipe calls for canned candied yam, which hardly I believe available. Eventually I had to roast pumpkins  and sweet potatoes in oven, as I did not want to give up on trying the recipe as the pumpkin was so sweet and delicious when I had tried for the first time.

By deciding to try it, I paid the huge price as the filling was so hard to make it, especially the last step , which was sifting; it was very dense mixture(had to cook on stovetop to get rid of some moisture and intensify the flavor).

After all, the effort was rewarding as the pie comes out at least decent(I always have hard time to call the food I cook tasty). This is in fact the first time I made the pie crust so there is a lot to be improved, but it was at least passable. The taste of filling is very intense(think I overbaked a tad bit), so it was better eating with cream loosely whipped. It was worthy trying, but I am not sure I will bake another one in near future or for only myself.

Written by bluexmas

November 22, 2010 at 11:58 am

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Project Sandwich Loaf

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I have been dabbling in baking for quite some time, and I’ve had some OK breads like ciabattas and country loaves. However when it comes to sandwich loaf, struggle is the right word representing the outcome. More than anything, the outlook never matches with store bought ones; I never have one rises really well.

That is why I decide to practice baking sandwich loaf with same recipe, at least ten times, without too much of high expectation. The first goal is to have right shape which is only by proper implementation of fermentation.

And the one in the picture above is the third one. I have been baking with same recipe about once in a week. The recipe is originally from <Baking Illustrated>, but I adjust the amount of all purpose flour to add whole wheat flour with the ratio of 3:1. The recipe calls for milk, but I substitute it with water since  but I wanted to test it out with water first.

The most important feature of the recipe is that you use the oven for fermentation to make it rise rapidly. I don’t have real good sense to recognize when I finish the second fermentation, which is for the shape, and I guess I got it a little better this time. This one looks real store bought sandwich bread at least by appearance. Unfortunately, the texture lack a bit as it felt a bit dry and crumbly. However, I was satisfied at the the shape was right. This one stayed about 5~10 minutes longer in the oven that I originally intended, until when I had the oven heat around 130 degree Celsius or so. For next one, I am planning to try cold rise for the first fermentation. I like to do cold rise, but never done for the sandwich loaf.

Written by bluexmas

November 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

triple, not so triple

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Considering the original meaning of the word as an adjective, trifle should be some trivial desserts; not so. While it is one of the easiest desserts to make, it can also be one of the best. What you need to do is to prepare ingredients and assemble them, and put in the refrigerator overnight to meld all the flavors together. As it must be made beforehand whatever the occasion is, I think it is one of the best desserts anyone can make.

The one in the picture is made of strawberries, whipped cream and pine nut meringue cookie from Berkeley, CA. One friend of mine sent them to me and I immediately liked the taste of pine nut, which is very subtle and not overwhelming like other nuts. I happened to like putting things I got from others as gifts to fuse into other stuff, i.e., making ice cream out of the tea. So the idea of crumble the cookie into the trifle, and it was successful.

After assembling everything and let them rest overnight, I put strawberry and basil leaf as garnishes. It is not surprising that strawberry and basil get along really well.

Written by bluexmas

April 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Food-Others

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whole wheat bagel

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From both of his fantastic baking book A Bakers Apprentice and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread, what I wanted to bake at first was bagel, even though I never have been a big fan of it. Once in almost every other week, people brought in bagels from Einstein bagel located right across the street from the office, and I barely ate it. The beauty of bagel is that chewy texture, but I never like it.

However, I really wanted to bake myself at least once to see whether I can really achieve that chewiness or not. In addition, I thought that whole shaping and boiling process was pretty cool. So I tried white wheat version first, and the result was OK; it was definitely chewy, and also a little bit tough.

Once making the white wheat version to get the hang of it, I tried whole wheat version right away to see that whole wheat baking thing is really working. The result of white wheat version was kind of given, even though it was a bit more tougher than I had expected, since it was just standard process of baking. However, baking with whole wheat flour is a little bit of different story as it is believed that with whole wheat flour, developing gluten is a challenge. In fact, I have tried to bake quite a few whole wheat version of my baking repertoire by simple substituting as much as the half of white wheat flour into whole wheat one, and the result was without a doubt, drier and tougher. I really didn’t care about that driness and toughness, but always wondered how to make it better with better guidance.

Finally, I could try with Peter Reinhart’s recipe for whole wheat bagel, and it was near disaster until I saw the final result. I really don’t feel like to elaborate the recipe here, since I will do it on my Korean blog, but I think I should mentioned that the dough was way too sticky than I had expected after mixing all the ingredients as the book directed, with that ‘delayed fermentation’ method, and I still can’t get why.

When I first tried white wheat version, the dough was extremely stiff so that the motor of my kitchenaid mixer was overload, and I ended up dividing the dough into  half to finish the kneading. Since  I had expected the whole wheat version would be the same as the book had indicated, I could not understand why the dough was like that; it was too sticky so that the devided dough could not retain its signature bagel shape after the second proofing. In fact, the dough did never form a ball after the second proof. It just collapsed. For the boiling, I had to reform the dough since it just could not retain its form.

Anyway, everything settled down after baking. Since the dough was very sticky, it turned out to be softer than the white wheat version I had baked before that, and tasted nice and nutty. For the topping, I put the coarsely chopped pecan I had kept in the fridge and it went very well with the flovor and texture of the bagel.

I ordered huge batch of domestic whole wheat flour and it is on the way, so I will bake more once I have them on my hands. I wonder domestic, not imported flour is the key of difference, as there can be difference in the ratio of gluten from in the flour.

And the other thing I should point out is that the baking time for whole wheat bagel is much longer than white wheat one. I had to underbake slightly than the book had indicated as I was afraid of buring the dough. I think I have to look at other recipes to  crosscheck.

Written by bluexmas

September 7, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Food-Others

Bulgogi Marinated Cheesesteak

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I have always liked to apply Bulgogi marinade to fajita recipe. Just marinate skirt steak with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and other ingredients for bulgogi maranade and put it in the refrigerator for few hours, or even overnight, then grill and serve like you do for regular fajita. You will find it working really well.
 
Few weeks ago, I tried Bulgogi marinade to fix Philly Cheesesteak. Not long ago, I bought whole pack of ribeye steak from costco(too much for the single guy, but there meat is the best in both price and quality if going wholefood is not your everyday option, they say it is USDA choice…), which was sliced thinner than
regular ribeye, and put some of them in the freezer after marinating and letting it sit in the refrigerator for few hours. 
 
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There is not something I need to call as a recipe; just prepare ribeye or other thinly sliced cut of beef, and grill or pan fry it, combine with peppers and/or onions, then put everything on the roll(I couldn’t find Italian roll, so just used Wholefood baguette), top with cheese(mine was provolone), broil it few minutes until cheese melts. I always like to use sauteed red onion with balsamic vinegar, so that is my version of Cheesesteak and it was a lot better than I expected.
 
The side was oven “fried” yukon gold with seasalt and dried oregano. I also cooked potato leek soup with homemade chicken stock I made out of leftover bones and meat scraps after filleting meat from bone and skin-in chicken breast. I don’t even need to have whole carcass to make the stock only for me; split breast gives me aplenty. Overall, it was very nice late fall dinner.

Written by bluexmas

November 30, 2008 at 8:27 am

Posted in Food-Korean

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