Archive for November 2007
Even if I do not like the direction of Food Network, which seems to concentrate more to the reality show and series of weird competitions and challenge, I still like watching Iron Chef America since it always shows great deal of craftmanship and toughness from the chefs. Eventually, that is another representation of passion of the professional which should be pursued by anyone who takes their job seriously, no matter what they does.
Having said that, yesterday’s show looked like a self-insulting disaster to me, as they deliberately tried to remove that seriousness of the show, for which they have spent enormous time. Whether it was for fun or not, Paula Deen was never a good fit; for me, what she had cooked looked disgusting, and it was made with some iron chef who had put the term ‘iron chef material’ in her mouth in last duel for the Next Iron Chef over and over. Ok, their stuff at least looked more for the serious competition except that Paula Deen’s processed cheese crap. However, their male counterpart was total disater which made people like me suspect their work ethic as the professional. At first, their all five dish didn’t look good at all; it just looked like they had cooked it halfheatedly. As far as I know, there had been no single challenger who have cooked dish looked like that bad, and they were the FN’s own celebrity chefs. Moreover, that Yule Log by Tyler Florence should not have presented if he were real professional, simple because it was not what it should have been. There were couple of times Robert Irvine refused to bring some dish in his show ‘Dinner: Impossible’, just because it was not as good as it should be, something done by professional chef. Everytime he faced such kind of situation, he used to say “I cannot present this with my name.” Well, he should have had some fist fight to refrain Florence putting that ugly cake on the table, and he could have won easily, considering that scary bicep he has.
I know I might be overreacting: hey, it’s only TV show and I know it and I like it fun, but the problem is that the show not is for such kind of comedy and disaster. It could have been forgivable has they put that show on air with different title.
Gourmet Next Door
This was the second time I watched Gourmet Next Door, and she looked alright overall, except that weird acccent(or intonation?): at the every end of sentence, her accent(ot just call it the pitch) just fell to the bottom so suddenly. I have no idea how to explain this, but the way she talks in the show sounded very weired to me, and I don’t think she talked like that in the competition. Is there any kind of training involved? I don’t know, but it wasn’t so much fun to watch her show…for now.
Iron Chef America
Now Symon is the winner, so I embraced the fact and had waited for the show, but it wasn’t very exciting. I think it was mainly because the secret ingredient wasn’t exciting: they said it was ‘thanksgiving’, but it was just turkey eventually and had been used two years ago for the battle between flay vs. Hot Tamales(as far as I remember, I wasn’t bothered to find it). After watching so many battles, I find myself not intereted when the protein was the secret ingredients. I even thought that they had chosen relatively easier secret ingredients and oppenents to Symon to give him first win, and I don’t mean to underestimate Symon as I do not think he underperformed. If the battle got lame, I think FN should take the blame. I just wanted to see FN gives some crazy secret ingredients to make Symon react.
The opponent, Moore, looked lost a little bit. I think the most important thing in the competition is poise, and he seemed to lost it as time went by. To me, that raw venison loin was just hilarious. But It was good to see some black chef working in TV, whatever or however he did.
The most surprising thing was the huge gap of total score: I thought that it could be close battle considering positive feedback from the judges, but it wasn’t. Did they refrain themselves from putting more critical comments for the viewers not guessing the result so early? Or did they think it wasn’ t even worth criticizing Moore’s dish that hard as they thought it wasn’t at the level they thought it should have been?
Do you like Bulgogi? I think it is one of the most popular and well-known Korean foods with Kimchi, however, I guess Kimchi is not as popular as Bulgogi due to its taste and smell based on heavy usage of ground pepper and garlic, along with fermentation which is critical to achieve that unique taste(Thus I guess Kimchi might be more notorious than poplar: in my office, there is legendary guy who used to bring Kimchi for lunch…).
Anyway, I just want to know where you used to eat Bulgogi, and how it tastes like: if you have had it in some Korean restaurants and it have tasted sweet and kind of greasy, I am afraid to say that it might not be the real taste of Bulgogi. I dare to say that. It has been real while I have not eaten out, especially for Korean food, but the biggest impression to meat dish like Bulgogi in most of the Korean restaurant I have visited was too sweet and greasy. I have no idea how they have come up with that taste, but for me, the sweetness from sugar should not overpower the entire taste spectrum; as known, the main ingrediets for the Bulgogi marinade are soy sauce and sugar, but neither of ingredients should overpower. I know it sounds very much cliche, but there should be some kind of balance between the saltiness from soy sauce and the sweetness from sugar, as well as other minor ingredients takes care of aroma and other subtle flavors. In overall, soy sauce gives the background of overall flavor with saltiness and the aroma as well, and for me, the sweetness should come as the aftertaste of other ingredients like garlic, green onion, and toated sesame seed oil. Again, not overpowering like in ones you used to eat in most of the Korean restaurants in US is very important.
In Korean groceries I used to buy Korean cut meats, they label the Bulgogi cut as ribeye(and it looks like thinly sliced ribeye). In Korean cookbooks I have for the reference, the corresponding cut is actually sirloin. I do not know which one is right, but it doesn’t matter much to me. If you can find thin cut of beaf with some fat, it will be fine as the Bulgogi marinade can be used in any cut of beef if you want to(Galbi, the Korean rib, used to be marinated same way).
As mentioned above, soy sauce and sugar are the main ingredients in the marinade, and by the cookbooks, there ratio should be 2:1, and here is the recipe:
Thinly sliced beef : 300g(0.66 lbs)
Soy Sauce: 2 1/2 Tbs
Sugar: 1 1/4 Tbs
Scallion, minced, only white part: 1 Tb
Garlic, minced: 2 tbs
Tosted sesame seed salt: 1 tb
Tosted sesame seed oil: 1/2 tb
Pinch of pepper
As mentioned, the most important thing in this marinade is to keep the ratio of soy sauce and sugar. You can either add or subtract the other ingredients based on your preference. These days, most of Bulgogi recipe in the Korean cookbooks calls for some kind of citrus for tenderizer: pineapple, kiwi, etc. I think it will be OK without it, but if you must, I think the juice of Asian pear is the best and closer to the tradition, as its smooth sweetness without tartness works very well with other marinade ingredients as well as the tenderizer.
How to prepare Bulgogi? Just mix all the marinade ingredients in one ball, and mix well. Then pour it to the meat and toss well, and keep it in the refrigerator for few hours to a day before you cook. As for the cooking(grilling in fact), use very hot pan and cook it quickly. If you choose right cut with right thinkness, it will not take more than few minutes to cook it thoroughly.
I don’t think to make Bulgogi is such a big deal: it neither requires prolonged cooking time nor extensive ingredients list. If you keep the ratio of sugar and soy sauce, the failure will never be yours as far as making Bulgogi.
If you once feel comfortable with making Bulgogi marinade, you can apply it any kind of cut of beef. I will find my database(which is just a hardrive contains picture of food I have been cooking in fact), and come up with other kind of western beef dish in which I applied Bulgogi marinade.
I wrote this when the first show had been aired, and I haven’t been able to watch the next one since. I am not so sure FN will air the show this Sunday, as the schedule seems to be stuffed with Turkey, Stuffing, and stuffed Tylor Florence; I watched Turkey episode of his Ultimate, and really thought that he had been pregnant. Seriouly, now his belly can be right next to the Emeril’s now(I happened to watch his 2007 shows few times, and he is now really bulky… So Tyler is 2005 version of Emeril, and Emeril still rules mightly in that department). Oh by the way, that was not the worst thing I had seen in FN that day, Elvis’s daughter: I just lost my words, and my jaw was dropped. I was actually SCARED.
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I think I have to admit that I have waited her show for a while, even since Amy Finley won the competition for the next food network star: it was not that I had liked her to win the competition, but I had been feeling sick and tired of watching all the shows hosted by female hosts. Just check this out with me for a second:
-Sandra Lee: the worst, ever. The food, the concept. I just cannot believe that the show with this kind of concept has been running for a while.
-Rachel Ray: If the worst can be a two-headed monster, she will be the second head, next to Sandra Lee. I just do not like her clumsy chacracter and husky voice any more. Oh yeah, at least she cooks, so tick better than Sandra Lee.
-Giada De Laurentiis: Am I the only guy who is not interested in her cleavage? Please stop wearing that deep V-neck top. If you cook well, you really don’t need to wear that. I am so sick of watching her trying to look that cute in ‘Weekend Getaways.’
-Paula Deen: in the interview with Atlanta newpaper, she claimed that why southern food can be such an issue regarding to excessive use of fat since her mother or older generations used to cook and eat same way and had had no problems. Well, at least they might have moved their body much more than she does now, thus been able to burn more calories.
-Ina Garten: There are three cookbooks by her in the bookstore, and you can reorganize it by chronological order very easily since her on the cover gets bulkier… Just kidding, and her show is at least very consistent and not boring to watch as it all comes down to cooking. So I kind of like her.
-Nigella Lawson: …Her food never looks delicious to me, but not sure it is just because she is not just my taste or…she is just a British.
Oh, just cut the crap and go back to the point. Even if she was not someone I had rooted for, I kind of hoped that she makes some great show and knocks out some of boring programs and hostess behind the curtain. Thus I have waited for this show. I know it is very early to say, however, the first show didn’t look very promising to me, and I felt disappointed.
The main reason was that the atmosphere they wanted to create, at least to me, looks like French home cooking version of Giada’s Everyday Italian. Easy, simple, yet looks kind of elegant… The sets, music, and even Finley’s accent(I know both of them are from southern California, but…) sounds very familiar. Thus If you take out Amy Finley, the show hostess, and put Giada De Laurentis, the show will be exactly same and it will not matter whether she cooks French or Italian. I don’t have any idea that the producer set the tone like this or she wants to play safer bet, but all in all, the show doesn’t have any vibrant color which I have expected from the new show host. While watching the show, I had found out that she wasn’t much of vibrant or vivid character as much as she looked like; she was rather shy individual or at least pretended so during the whole show. However, it was not quite like this as she looked so flat that I do not know how can I remember her except the fact the she just started her own show? She didn’t seem capable of creating her own atmosphere no matter what it is and that was why I felt disappointed. If she looked on the way of making hers and made some mistakes, I would have felt OK, but she looked completely tamed from the beginning, as if she was set to do that.
Oh, I know I kind of rushed to make this judgement, and I will take a close look for a while. I am pretty sure that she is much better than Sandra Lee, Rachel Ray or Giada De Laurentiis to me anyway just because she is the new girl on the block.
I know some people say ‘Holy Mackerel!’, but I am not so sure how many among them have eaten the real fish. In fact, I never seen any western restaurant serves dish with the mackerel. After my 10 seconds research, I found out the restaurant named Holy Mackerel*, but even there is no mackerel dish. What an irony!
In fact, I cannot think of any kind of western dish can use the mackerel as its main protein ingredients since no sauce combination comes to my mind. However, cooking and eating mackerel is very simple, and neither sauce nor complicated cooking is needed; you just can salt and grill them, and that is it. When I was a kid, the mackerel was the main fish(or protein) comes to the table very often, mainly because it was inexpensive and readily available, and very delicious and nutricious as well. When there was no mackerel available, either fresh or frozen, we could have canned one with the sardine as the alternative. However, the story has been somehow different as the mackerel has been a little bit rarer than when I was a kid mainly because of too much fishing(I do not have any research can back this up, but I remember I heard it from news).
I guess one of the reason people don’t eat the mackarel is its smell; when it is not fresh, I think the smell is worse than other fish because of their dark flesh, and it rots really fast as they get caught and die. Therefore, it is hard to get mackerel sushi or sashimi even if you want to; I always ask the chef that they have one that day, but sometimes it is pickled with vinegar or slight cooked even if they have.
Anyway, the mackerel has a lot fat, so they can hold up during the prolonged cooking method like braising(it is not like braising short rib; it would take only about 30 minutes with soy sauce marinade and thickly sliced radish or potato on the bottom of the pot). However, simple grilling is always good choice if you want to taste the meatiness of the mackerel: you just sprinkle generous amount of kosher salt on both side, and put it on the toaster oven with broiler mode for about 7-10 minutes(or even less: I tend to overcook fish) each side, but always skin side down first. By cooking skin side later, you can have crisp skin with very moist, juicy, and slightly fatty meat underneath it. I used to buy one mackerel from the Korean grocery store and get the gut and fin out, then cut it into smaller pieces, put those on the foil, and salt and wrap them. You can always freeze pieces you will not eat soon, and thaw them the day before you eat in the refrigerator(safer way to thaw, you know that). And when the time comes, you just can unfold the foil and put it on the toaster as I mentioned above; do not forget to poke some halls at the bottom of the foil so that excessive fat can be taken out.
The one I cooked the other day(in the picture) had some blisters on the skin as if getting bombed by napalm, but the flesh was very moist. Few weeks ago, I’ve been to Wholefood in my neighborhood and saw some kind of mackerel. I do not know that was what I used to eat, but will figure out next time.
* The restaurant looks likes having some connection with legendary Harry Carey.
Yes, I was very disappointed by the result. In fact, I did not expect Chef Symon would win. I don’t know why I had thought like that…Maybe I had been fascinated by Chef Besh’s cockiness a little too much, so I had not been able to realize that Chef Symon had been actually better competitor during the entire competition. Chef Besh had put great amount of complexity in his dish, but that didn’t seem to be all for the win. He had always pushed the envelop to prove he was the guy who could do something more to exceed judge’s expection, however, the flavor matters most eventually; all of his dish looked so great just by seeing it, but I will never be able to know it would taste as great as look, and that was the why I somehow admitted that Chef Symon was the winner. All in all, the judgement had been made by the people who had eaten their dish.
Even if I can care less about the result now than yesterday, I just cannot help myself questioning this: did current Iron Chefs vote for someone who they really think can compete with the same level they have done? Or there might have been some kind of personal preference involved even without tasting the food? I am not so sure I can give full credit to the judgment of Flay and Cora for that reason: they might have not liked the cockiness of Besh. I don’t know, it is just my guess, and why bother? It’s only a TV show.
Anyway, I cannot remember when was the last time I watched TV show with this much of excitement. After the ending, I felt myself exhausted as if I had cooked all the dish there. It had been fun, but I feel very ominous since the direction of Food Network now seems more like the TV channel for the reality show and/or extreme sports competition.
Bulgogi, the Korean style marinated and grilled meat is the most well-known among Korean dish to the non-Koreans. You can cook the bulgogi with pork, but in that case it is better using red pepper paste(gochujang) than soy sauce. The pork just tastes better with it, and the red pepper paste works well with the smell of pork which somebody may not like. In addition, ginger matches very well with pork.
This recipe is from the book I have, and one of the most basic recipe for pork bulgogi.
Slice Pork 600g (a little over 1 1/4 lb): Pork butt is good for this recipe, I can buy it sliced(thin, but not to thin) from Korean grocery. If you like pork belly, it is fine, even if I think it is too greasy for marinade recipe. If you can’t go to Korean grocery, you can do it with any sliced pork you can find in ordinary grocery, but it is always better to have one with little fat than leaner pieces. Thus I would buy Pork Steak: it is inexpensive than pork chop and very tender with moderate amount of fat spread all over the cut.
Leek or green onion, thinly sliced(preferrably cut diagonally)
Red Pepper Paste (gochujang): 2 Tbs
Soy Sauce: 1 Tb
Toasted Sesame Seed: 1 Tb
Toasted Sesame Oil: 1 Tb
Ginger, finely minced: 1 tb(I prefer adding more)
Garlic, minced: 1 Tb
Sugar: 1 Tb (I think honey is better)
1. Mix all ingredients except pork for marinade
2. Put pork in the marinate and mix well
3. Put in the refrigerator. Marinade it about an hour to preferrably overnight
4. Put the pan on medium high heat and grill them. The marinade can be burnt even before the meat it cooked if the heat is too hot, so please pay attention.
Usually the lettuce accompanies beef bulgogi, but the sesame leaf is the one works perfect with pork one, as the aroma of sesame leaf brings good balance to the pork and its smell. As mentioned, this marinade is very basic for the pork, so you can use it for almost any cut of pork if you want to.