Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chimichurri is a classic sauce from Argentina, which is often served with steak or other grilled or roasted meats (e.g. roast chicken, grilled fish). Since chimichurri is a robust sauce, it goes best with flavorful cuts of steak such as skirt steak. It would overwhelm a delicate tenderloin, but it goes well with leftovers from fancy steaks, if there are any.

Last night I made "Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak" (using tenderloin and rib eye) from "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan and mashed potatoes. We had some leftovers. By chance, I had lots of parsley in my fridge, so the next day I made chimichurri and served it with the leftover ribeye steak, mashed potato pancakes*, and the leftover cognac cream sauce from Dorie Greenspan's recipe. The sauces made the leftovers nearly as good as the original steak dinner.

To cook skirt steak to serve with this sauce: Rinse the steak and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Place on a plate and let sit on the countertop for about an hour so that the steak becomes room temperature. Pat the steak dry again with a paper towel. Heat a heavy cast iron pan on medium to medium high. Turn on your fan. Add enough oil to coat the pan, and place the skirt steak in the pan. Let cook for a few minutes until the bottom sears and the steak is part way cooked. Turn over and cook the other side. Gently press the steak with a spatula; if it feels very soft and lets out lots of juice, continue to cook until it is done how you like it. At this point is is okay to turn it over several times to help it cook evenly and to improve the searing on either side. (See here for an explanation for how to gauge doneness by touch.) Place the steak on a plate a little before it is cooked to your liking and let sit for 5 minutes so that the meat reabsorbs its juices (the meat will cook a little more as it sits from the residual heat). I like to cut my skirt steak into thin strips, against the grain, using a knife and cutting board before serving. Sprinkle a final seasoning of salt over the meat and serve.

Recipe: Modified from "Chimichurri" from Puerto Viejo restaurant in Buenos Aires, published in
Rating: I choose it because it just has parley, which is what I had around. most recipes also seem to include oregano, but I didn't have any on hand.
Status: Made twice.

Serves 4 (The recipe can be halved to serve 2.)
  • 1/4 cup finely minced flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 very finely minced, peeled garlic cloves (some might be left over)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp diamond crystal kosher salt
In a small bowl, add the parsley, chili flakes, black pepper, vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix together (this allows the salt to dissolve in the vinegar before you add the oil). Mix in 1/4 cup olive oil. If the olive oil doesn't cover or nearly cover the herbs, you can mix in more olive oil, up to an additional 1/4 cup.

Some raw garlic can be more harsh and acrid than others, depending on the age and the variety of garlic. Start by mixing in half of the minced garlic. If it is already pungent enough, then reserve the remaining garlic for other recipes; otherwise add the rest of the garlic (or a portion of it, to taste).

Taste and add more salt if needed.

Let the chimichurri stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours to allow the flavors to blend and develop (if you are in a rush, let it stand at least 30 minutes).

It can be kept in a tightly covered jar in refrigerator for up to a week.

Variation: Add a tablespoon of minced fresh oregano in addition to the parsley.

* To make mashed potato pancakes: Shape large spoonfuls of mashed potatoes into disks. Heat a pan on medium. Add enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 Tbsp). When the butter is hot (it will melt and bubble), lay a few pancakes in the pan. (Do not crowd; if you have lots of pancakes then cook them in batches). Sprinkle salt over the tops of the pancakes. Pan fry until the bottom of the pancakes are brown (about 5 minutes). Turn the pancakes carefully; the pancakes may be very delicate, depending on the consistency of your mashed potatoes. Sprinkle salt over this side of the pancakes. Pan fry until the other side is brown (about 5 minutes).

Ethiopian Cooking Class @ Brundo Culinary Studio in Oakland

Sunday, December 08, 2013

At the "Meat Cooking Class" at Brundo Culinary Studio in Oakland, California, I learned how to prepare Doro Wot (my favorite Ethiopian dish). The class felt a bit hectic since we started cooking right away instead of listening to a lecture describing the ingredients and cooking methods; however the food was fantastic. This is the best Ethiopian that I've had in the Bay Area; the spices were very fresh and flavorful, and they taught us how to heavily toast them to bring out their flavors. It closely ranks with the best Ethiopian restaurant I've ever been to, which is Jarra's Ethiopian Restaurant.

(Hawaiian) Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie with Haupia Topping

Recipe: Modified from "Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie with Haupia Topping" reprinted in "Best of the Best from Hawaii Cookbook: Selected Recipes from Hawaii's Favorite Cookbooks" edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley. The recipe is originally from "Hawai'i's Best Local Desserts".
Rating: Great!
Status: Made once.

This pie has a vibrant purple layer (made from Okinawan sweet potatoes which are naturally purple), a rich coconut milk layer, and a delicate shortbread pie crust. Since the Okinawan sweet potatoes taste similar to chestnuts or taro, this pie is reminiscent in flavor (but not texture) to a Chinese-style chestnut filled cake (a moist spongey cake layered with chestnut purée and topped with a whipped cream icing). I made this for Thanksgiving, as an unusual Asian-inspired take on a Thanksgiving sweet potato pie, but this pie can be made any time of the year.

Okinawan sweet potatoes have tan or brown skin and a dark purple flesh that becomes even more vibrant when cooked. They have a dry dense texture, taste sweet, and are similar in flavor to chestnuts or taro. This pie must be made with Okinawan sweet potatoes; other types of yam or sweet potatoes cannot be substituted. They are most likely to be found in Hawaiian or Japanese grocery stores.


Press-In Shortbread Crust:
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 sticks cold butter (12 Tbsp) (3/4 cup)
  • (optional) 1/2 cups chopped toasted Macadamia nuts
Okinawan Sweet Potato Filling:
  • 1 stick room temperature butter (8 Tbsp) (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 generous cups Okinawan sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Haupia Topping (Coconut Pudding):
  • 2/5 cup sugar (about 6.5 Tbsp)
  • 2/5 cup cornstarch (about 6.5 Tbsp)
  • 1-1/8 cup water (1 cup + 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 can (19 oz) coconut milk (e.g. May Ploy brand)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Press-In Shortbread Crust:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter or lightly oil a baking pan you would like to use (you can use a pie pan if you would like to make slices of the pie, or you can use a rectangular or square shaped baking pan if you would like to make bars or squares.). Combine sugar and flour. Cut or use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture until sandy. You can place the mixture in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to cool, if the butter becomes too soft or starts to melt and then continue your work when the mixture is colder.

Press the crust mixture lightly into the bottom baking pan as evenly as possible. If you are using a pie pan, then press the crust mixer lightly onto the sides of the pan and use a table knife to cut the top of the crust to an even length. If you are using a rectangular or square shaped baking pan, there is no need to press the crust mixture onto the sides (The Okinawan sweet potato filling which touches the sides of the baking pan may turn brown after baking; if so you can trim off a thin slice of the brown edges before cutting the pie into squares or bars). Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes to harden the butter.

Bake at 325 F for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the crust is pale but very lightly browned. Let cool.

Okinawan Sweet Potato Filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

You can cook the Okinawan sweet potatoes by baking, boiling, or steaming them. I suggest steaming them whole, since this best preserves their color and moisture.

To steam the Okinawan sweet potatoes whole: Fill the bottom of a large pot with a tight fitting lid with a few inches of water (the water level should be below the shelf of your steaming rack or metal colander so that the Okinawan sweet potatoes don't get wet). Heat on high until boiling. Reduce heat to medium. Place a metal steaming rack or metal colander in the pot. Place the Okinawan sweet potatoes on the rack, cover with a tight fitting lid, and steam until they can easily be pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes). They should be steamed over gentle heat; reduce the heat if the top of the pot is clanking a lot due to releasing steam.

When the Okinawan sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and then mash them. I suggest using a potato ricer to get the finest consistency so that the pie has a smooth texture.

Beat the butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs. Gradually mix in 2 cups of mashed Okinawan sweet potatoes. Add the evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt. Slowly increase the mixing level to medium-high and whip the mixture as you would to make whipped potatoes (e.g. to level 8 out of 10) in order to incorporate air into the filling.

Pour the filling into the crust; stop when it fills the crust halfway. If you have extra filling, you can bake it in another pan to make a crust-less pie or you can make an additional crust to bake it in (the pie tastes best with the shortbread crust).

Cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil so that the edges won't become overly browned. Bake at 350 F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, but preferably still has some moisture or a few crumbs stuck to it (this indicates that the filling is cooked through but still moist). Cool.

Haupia Topping (Coconut Pudding):

Mix sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a medium pot. Stir in water and blend well. Add the coconut milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, but doesn't boil. It will become very thick, similar to a frosting.

Cool slightly, and then pour the haupia over the pie filling, until the haupia covers the pie and nearly fills the crust (a small portion of the sides of the crust should peek out above the haupia). Use a spatula to smooth the top of the haupia topping.

If you have extra haupia or if you baked extra filling in another pan, then you can spread the extra haupia in another pan and serve it as a separate dessert after it has solidified or you can spread it over the extra baked filling.

Refrigerate; the haupia will become solid, similar in texture to Jello and other gelatin desserts.

Cooking Classes in Beijing

I took three cooking classes in Beijing. All classes were wonderful!

"Sichuan Cuisine", "Shanxi Cutted Noodle & Sichuan Dandan Noodle", and "Wet Market Tour" at Hutong Cuisine Cooking School

"Traditional Chinese Dumplings" class at The Hutong

Wet Markets in Beijing

Saturday, December 07, 2013

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