Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Parchment Wrapped Chicken

Today the subject of Parchment Wrapped Chicken came up, actually foil wrapped, but anybody who grew up in the San Francisco area knows that Gee Bao Gai is properly made with parchment and not foil. I decided I had nothing planned for dinner and it would be simple enough to whip up a batch of this classic of San Francisco Cantonese cookery. It was one of my favorites as a child and remains a treat for me, even if I have to cook it. Becaise I am lazy and did not want to wrap up three dozen, I ended up doing half in parchment and fried the rest.

It seems that every great culinary culture has some form of wrapped and steamed dish, the Cantonese cooking canon (hehe) has many types of these dishes. The truth is, although fried, the chicken is steamed in the packets. Here is the marinade, which is based upon a recipe from Johnny Kan's book Eight Immortal Flavors, published in 1963. This book means just a little bit more to me, as it is inscribed in my cousins handwriting "From Susie and Daddy, 1967" My cousin Susan was a stunning beauty who passed away at 26. Her dad followed a few years later. My aunt gave me this book. My recipe varies as noted.

Chicken in Parchment (Gee Bow Gai)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil (I use untoasted sesame oil)
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (I use Japanese shoyu)
1 teaspoon Chinese parsley, minced (a.k.a. Cilantro)
1 teaspoon green onion
1/2 teaspoon red seasoning sauce [Hoy Sein Jeong] (Hoisin Sauce)
1 pinch salt (I used 1/8 cup Red Boat Fish Sauce instead of salt and MSG)
1 pinch monosodium glutamate

Here is where I diverge, I love the effect of ginger and garlic in Chinese cooking, this recipe really wants some of that, so I added 1 garlic clove minced and sone ginger, peeled and about 1 inch long and 1 inch thick, chopped. I also added a pinch of turbinado sugar, as it works well with the fish sauce. All of the above ingredients were placed in a bowl and muddled vigourously with a stick of wood.

Marinade ready to go

Once this was done, I used 1 cup of skinless boneless thighs, cut into one inch pieces, for the chicken. Johnny Kan used chicken filet, which I interpret as chicken breast. Thighs are cheaper. I marinaded for one hour.

Marinaded, unlike the cook

From here, pieces of parchment were cut into 2" squares, 3" squares would have worked better, the notes in the book say that. Foo! Who reads books! Anyways, I like to place a leaf of cilantro in the middle of the parchment, then the chicken then fold.

Cilantro Leaf

Chicken placed

Then folding the corner facing you up, fold the left corner in, then the right corner in, you should have something that looks like a parchment envelope, fold the top down and tuck it in. The idea is to get a nice tight sealed package. Foil is easier and looks like crap. Just my opinion. Fry in 3 to 4 inches of oil in a wok, you will want to fry in batched unless you have a large wok. I don't. Here is what you end up with.

See the nifty leaf?

The chicken is both fried and steamed, it has a unique character and due to the sealed in environment, it is also quite aromatic and intensely flavored once you open the packet. I love the texture of this method of cooking. Here is the cooks snack opened up.

Imagine these on a stainless serving dish

Chicken in Parchment!

From here, I decided I was done wrapping and decided to leverage the marinated chicken for a second dish. I took the marinaded chicken chunks, wiped them and coated with corn starch. I wanted to make a fine slurry, which was then tossed into the wok with several stems of cilantro to scent the oil. I fried in peanut oil, both for the flavor and smoke point. Here is the fried version, with a light crispy coating.


You don't see Cantonese cooking much anymore, especially the stuff we grew up with, which was Americanized to fit the ingredients and tastes of the American market. I really enjoy this type of cooking, and the food, like all food, has that powerful effect of aroma and taste that transcends time. I love this marinade for wings as well, smoked or friend, stuffed of natural, this marinade really enhances chicken. Here is a plate of appetizers to finish off the blog.

Who needs dinner?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I got a new Dolsot

What, you might ask is a Dolsot, well, it is a stone bowl, or pot if it has a lid, that is traditional to the Korean cultueral kitchen. Most commonly associated with Bibimbap in the U.S., it is actually an excellent pot for cooking Jjigae, Korean stews and braises. I am thrilled, as I love the effect that stone or masonrty bowls can have in cooking both on a stove or over coals. Of course, I first needed to season mine. I did this.

Brand spanking new Dolsot

The salt rub, I wet the dolsot and then scrubbed it with salt, I did this a couple of times to clear it of any dust or dirt from manufacture. You cannot, ever, use soap on a dolsot.

Salt-scrubbed Dolsot

Then I boiled it in salty water, to clear the pores and slowly heat it up for both sanitizing and prepration for seasoing. I boiled it for 30 minutes.

Mmm, boiled Dolsot

I then placed the dolcot into the oven, preheated to 350F, for 10 minutes, took it out and brushed it with sesame oil. The oil was applied twice more over a 2 hour period. I then removed it, wiped it off and back into the oven for another 30 minutes. Yes, it took a while. I have found with cast iron, doing the first seasoning slowly and thoroughly makes it a lot easier to maintain. I am assuming this is true with dolsot as well.

Ready to Cook!

I allowed it to cool to warm and wiped it down one more time. It has a nice sheen and a darker color. The feel is one of oiled stone, not gummy cooking oil. As a one time stone carver, I love that feel of oil-finished stone.

Once this was all done, I was ready to cook. I preheated the dolsot in a 400F oven. Meanwhile I prepared various items for addition to the dolsot. Cooked rice, which I added a little duck fat to. Some smoked chicken soaked in a shiitake pork broth, some shiitake mushrooms, leftover kim chi pancake, some blanched kale and some braised onion.

Smoked Chicken, Shiitake, Onion, Kimchijeon

I like to massage the kale, rather heavily, to break down the fibers, this makes the blancing go faster and I don't love the color. I don't care for the color and texture of long cooked greens as a rule, if I can find a way to shorten the cook time, I will go for that. Done right, the kale can actually be eaten raw or pickled in slaw this way.

Yep, it is tender, and that green

Pretty much from here, it is all about assembly. I oiled the dolsot interior with a quick brushing of sesame oil. I had some hot rice, in this case short-grained Korean rice, which I mixed in a little duck fat and shiitake and pork broth into. This was lightly pressed into the hot dolsot. Then ingredients were assembled on the rice.

Lidded and back into the oven for a few minutes. Everything was already cooked and just needed to heat through and give the rice a chance to crisp on the bottom. Ijust took a guess and removed it after about 15 minutes, which was not quite long enough.

Done and cooked, ready to mix

De-lidded and mixed to make sure the crispy crust of rice is blended into the mix of meat and vegetables, then served. The timing was not quite right, didn't quite get the crispy crust I was hoping for, just bits and pieces of it. Next time for sure, the great thing though, the texture of all the ingredients was terrific and I can see where it can be used in the live fire cookers as well.

Mixed and Served

Oh, an ale made the trip to the table as well, I brewed a Antwerpen clone ale from a recipe given to me by a friend that works out great. The head poured a little too deep, I had to spoon a little off to finsih the pour. What a great head retention and flavor recipe.

Anterpen Ale

Pork and Shiitake Broth:
1/8 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
1/8 cup Red Boat Fish Sauce
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
5 thin slices of ginger
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
1/2 cup pork broth
1/2 cup water

Bring all liquid ingredients to boil reduce heat and simmer shiitake until just soft. Remove from broth. Add onions and simmer until just soft, not fully translucent. Remove and add giner and 1 clove garlic. Remove after 10 minutes. Reduce at a boil until reduced by half of original volume. This broth is salthy, sweet and loaded with umami, it is a great accent to many foods.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Smoked Rib Soup

A few days ago I decided to make some ribs in my drum smoker, the ribs were trimmed from Spareribs to St. Louis style, which left me with the rib tips. Traditional U.S. style would dictate that these rib tips would be smoked and used as appetizers or "cook's treats". But, I don't happen to enjoy rib tips in this way, so I decided to make them into a pork stock. Eventually, I was going to shoot for making Xiao long bau, that hasn't happened yet. I did make noodle soup though.

Left-over Smoked Ribs

Pork Broth:
4 quarts of water
rib tips from one rack of spareribs
1-1/2" ginger, split in half
3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
2 star anise
8 Phu Quoc peppercorns, black
6 whole cloves
1 2" length of cinnamon stick

Bring all ingredients to a low simmer, the idea is to have almost no bubbles and to very slowly steep the ingredients to create a clean, clear broth. The steep runs about 180F and goes for around 4 hours. This is filtered, cooled and skimmed. You'll notice there is not a lot of salt, this allows me to control the salt later in the cook and gives me flexibility later in the cook.

Noodle Dough before rest

Not Hand-pulled Noodles

3/4 cup bread flour
1/4 cup all-purpose whole wheat flour
1/4 cup very hot water
2 tablespoons neutral oil

Sift flours together to blend, place in bowl of blender with paddle attachment. Mix hot water and oil together and slowly add to flour as mixer is running on low speed. The dough will start to come together as you add water. Only add enough water to make the dough into a rough loose dough. Remove and knead for 5 to 7 minutes by hand. Wrap dough in plastic wrap tightly and allow to rest for at least an hour. These will be Lamian-style noodles except I don't hand pull them. I use a pasta roller, after a couple of minutes of kneading to refresh the gluten, I roll it three times through a flat pasta roller, then use the spaghetti cutter to form the noodles. Then into boiling salty water for 2 to 3 minutes.

The Soup:
4 left-over ribs
4 cups prok broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup Red Boat fish sauce
2 fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced
green onions, cilantro to taste

This is a very simple soup, I simply simmered the ribs until the meat came off the bone, the mushrooms were added to cook, about 5 minutes before serving, I add the fish sauce. The green onions and cilantro are added just a minute or two before serving. Here is also where the lack of use of sugars and salts in the preparation of the broth comes in. I use Red Boat and call it out by brand for a spefic reason, it has no added sugars or preservatives, I believe it has a distinct flavor that is salty, sweet and pungent. Adding it is an easy cheat to add a dimension of dashi, a subtle sweetness and a taste of the sea.

Green onions, Cilantro and Shiitake

Pork Rib Soup, dark rich broth

Once the noodles have been boiled, the whole process goes pretty fast. The noodles need to go from boiling water to very hot soup, the herbal component should have just gone in as well. Since the noodles are fresh, they can overcook in a flash. 3 minutes might be just right, 3.5 minutes could well be mush. This makes a welcome and familiar dish for most anyone, but, particularly for anyone who grew up in an Asian family. Quick and simple.

Noodle Soup

Although the noodles add a great dimension of texture and help carry the flavor, as with all soups, the real deal is found in the broth, the pork broth I used as a base for the soup, along with all of the aromatics, really brings the flavor to this dish. The smoke and spice from the ribs, although not at all Chinese or Japanese in origin, really adds depth and complexity to the dish.

Look at that shine

Look at that shine, the use of the collagen rich rib tips really adds to the mouth feel of the stock, the addition of the herbs and fish sauce really enhances the highlight flavors of the broth. This soup really highlights the idea of a simple dish elevated with layers of flavors.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tri-tip tacos

Why does this fit here, don't really know. Although tri-tip is the classic representation of California BBQ cooking and California is on the Pacific Rim. Here we go.

I decided I wanted tacos, actually, I wanted cheap crunchy tacos, like from Taco Bell. But, I really cannot eat those anymore, so I cooked. I had purchased a nice Harris Ranch tri-tip, again, seasoned it with this rub at my other blog and let it sit wrapped in paper for around 2 hours. Then it sat for 30 minutes exposed to air to form a pellicle. Just a different process for giggles.

The subject in repose

Rubbed with the Mother Rub

Meat Mummy

I then cooked the tri-tip, smoked it at 250F for around an hour, or so, until it felt like it was around 125F internal temperature. The kettle was setup with Cowboy Brand lump (not my favorite) and some chunks of apple.

This is essentially, like checking for steak by touch. You poke the meat with your index finger, if it goes in easily, too rare, if it pushes back, too done. I look for a texture that is similar to if you poke the pad of flesh between your thumb and finger if they are held together. Yes, I could have used my wireless remote thermometer with thermocouple. Didn't. The meat was removed and wrapped in baking parchment to rest.

In Repose

And sliced for the win!

Meanwhile I had baked some corn tortillas, to get them sort of crispy, crispy enough to satisfy my need for a crunchy taco shell. I also made a nice cucumber and tomato salsa and a chile sauce. The chile sauce consisted of sauteing onion and garlic in some olive oil, the tossing in some home made chile powder, a pinch of turbinado sugar and some hickory-smoked salt. The chile powder is basically dried chile de arbol, cascabel, jalapeno (not chipotle) and serrano, minus the seeds and ground to a grainy powder. The chile powder is sauteed into the onions, then water is added to reach the desired thickness, a little palm sugar for texture and the whole thing is blended.

Not pretty, blender fixes that

The whole mess was assembled into the tacos and accompanied by a salad of pickled carrots and cucumbers and fresh lettuce. Yes, Iceberg, it had to be.  Oh, a fire roasted jalapeno of extra large variety was tossed half into the salsa and half into the chile sauce along with the onions.

Always a good addition

The Final dish, sort of...

After I ate the tacos, I found I wanted more, so I threw together a tostada as well. Same ingredients, different form factor. Still, all good stuff.


Love that last shot, it really shows the colors and elements quite nicely. Tri-tip is such a versatile meat and really quite quick to throw together.