Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Butterfly Chicken Breast

The first meat I ever butterflied was turkey, by accident. I wanted thiner pieces of turkey to roll and layer. Then I started experimenting with "butterflying techniques" on other meat, but it was one failure after another. My meat would be uneven or have a lot of holes and the chicken would be too soggy or too dry.

Thankfully, the butchers at Market Meats came to my rescue.

He started off with a whole piece of skinless bones chicken breast, cut it in half, and trimmed the excess fat. He showed me that the side of the breast that was at the center of the chest was tough and hard to cut through (center in the photo). It is better to cut from the outside in.

He placed the chicken, rib side down, and pressed down firmly on the meat with all his fingers up He was not going to cut it from the middle (which I had been doing and causing holes in my chicken). Instead, he cut the chicken about ⅔ way up. cut from his right to left .

He left about ⅓ to ½ of an inch uncut and simply fold the chicken out. Then he placed a plastic sheet over the chicken and GENTLY pound it with his tenderizer a few times. (I had been doing this wrong too, because I was pounding the chicken with all my strength).

Then he proceeded to butterfly all 14 pieces of chicken breast for me, while listing off all the different ingredients I can put inside the chicken. My favourite was the fresh basil pureé.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crusty Sesame Ahi Tuna

Dennis and I are trying to cut out carbs for dinner. This is incredibly tough, since Dennis and I LOVE sushi and sashimi. This is one of the series of fish related food I have come up with for dinner: More-filling-than-sashimi-riceless-sushi-thing. I use seeds for crust, small seeds, whatever I have around the house. I find that black seeds are the best for color, and I love the flavour. This dish can also be prepared earlier in the day and store in the fridge until dinner.

I would have prefer grilling these tuna. Since I don't have grill, I resort to deep fry them quickly and then thoroughly dry them with paper towel after. I had to prepare 12 portions of these for March's Dinner Almost Impossible. I tried cutting these myself before and they are always look quite ugly, so I contacted Lily at Seven Seas Fish Market on Forth over the phone. She was super helpful and got supplier to cut them into 12 perfect 1½ x 1½ x 3 inch blocks for pick up on Saturday. The dish looked like a fancy restaurant dish and my guests loved it.

This recipe isn't very scientific. The crust ingredient here is only a suggestion and color. Feel free to use any small seeds you have in your kitchen and experiment. Feel free to use fresh or dried onion or garlic. The upside of using all dry ingredients is that you can store it in a jar for future use, but I prefer fresh garlic.

Ingredients (for 2)
3 Tbsp Black Sesame
3 Tbsp White Sesame
2 Tbsp Puppy Seed
2 Tbsp Dry Minced Onion
1 Small Bulb of Garlic (minced)
1 Egg (or in my case, 2 Tbsp egg replacer)
2 Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna 1½ x 1½ x 3 inch
2 Cup Grape Seed Oil
Fleur de Sel

1. Beat the egg white until it is frothy.
2. Slight dry the minced garlic with a paper towel.
3. Mix garlic, onion, all the sesame in a bowl.
4. Salt the fish with fleur de sel.
5. Then, dip it into the fish in egg white.
6. Then roll it in the sesame mix. Press the fish into the mix slightly.
7. Put the fish on a rack and let it sit for a few minutes. Or you can put it in the fridge if you are making this dish ahead of time.
8. In a small pot, heat grape seed oil to 375˚F. If you are like me and don't have a thermometer for high heat, put a small leaf of rosemary in the oil and see if it fizzles.
9. Fry the fish for no more than a minute. You cannot undercook sashimi grade fish.
10. Place the fish on a rack to rest for a couple minute and pat dry with paper towel.
11. Cut each block into 4 slices.

You can enjoy these the way it is or with some wasabi and soy sauce.

For wine pairing, aim for highly acidic unoaked white wine such as Riesling or New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc. I would like to experiment with unoaked Barberas for next time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Garlic Chicken Roll

This is Dinner Almost Impossible dish for March: Chicken breast stuffed with herb soaked garlic, fresh basil, parsley, oregano, harissa sauce, baharat spice. This chicken is pan seared and then steam baked. The dish comes with two sauces: sweet corn pepper pureé and mustard wasabi sauce. The two sauces are suppose to be eaten together.

My guests had difficulty believing this dish had no cream or butter. I used lean chicken breast and grape seed oil. The pan-seared-steam-baking ensures nice crust and maximum moisture inside the chicken. Everything else is just calorie-less spices and herbs. Every ingredient were natural or organic. It is also easy to put together and can be prepared in advance. The chicken can be eaten without the sauce, but the mustard sauce really enhances the dish.

My butchers at Market Meat taught me how to properly butterfly chickens to ensure the chicken is tender but not too soggy. I will spent a whole post on butterflying techniques later, but Market Meat would be more than happy to butterfly meat for their customers. The olive oil mix left over from this recipe can be used for other dishes or salad dressing.

Ingredient: (serves 2)
  • 1 whole boneless and skinless chicken breast
  • 2 bulbs of garlic (peeled)
  • 1 spring of rosemary
  • 2 springs of thyme
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 4 leaves of fresh basil (or 2 tsp of dried basil)
  • 4 springs of fresh oregano (or 1 tsp of dried oregano)
  • 2 springs of fresh parsley (or 1 tsp of dried parsley)
  • 2 tsp harissa sauce
  • 1 tsp baharat spice
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 Tbsp Mustard or Wasabi Mustard (you can buy it at 7 seas or Whole Foods)
  • ½ cup White Wine
  • ½ cup Vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper

Instruction: Preheat oven to 375˚F

1. In a sauce pot or small pan, heat olive oil, garlic, rosemary and thyme at simmer to low heat for 20 minutes or until the garlic is slightly brown (the longer it takes the better).
2. Meanwhile, chop parsley, basil, and oregano. Then cut the whole chicken breast in two pieces and butterfly each. Salt and pepper both side of the chicken.
3. Spread harissa sauce on one side of the chicken and then sprinkle on baharat spice.

If you are quick and still waiting for your garlic to cook. Prepare parchment paper for steam baking. If you don't have parchment paper, line a baking pan with aluminum foil. The paper or foil has to be big enough to create a steam pouch for the chicken later.

4. Once the garlic is ready (aromatic and slightly brown outside). With a slotted spoon or chopstick, remove the garlic from the oil. Alternatively, you can use a strainer to extract the garlic. Place the garlic on a piece of paper towel to soak the left over oil.
5. Line the garlic horizontally ½ inch away from the narrower edge of the chicken. Line the chopped herbs on top or beside it. Use a pairing or butter knife, hold the garlic in line and fold the chicken over and make a roll.
6. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Sear the chicken roll up on all sides, before placing in steam pouch.
7. Fold up the steam pouch and bake it for 15-20 minute or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160˚F.
8. In the mean time, add mustard, wine wine, chicken broth, unused garlic to the pan that was used to sear the chicken. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about ¼ of the original amount.

If you are preparing this in advance, you can wrap the raw chicken roll in cling film and store it in the fridge overnight.

For wine pairing, an unoaked fuller body white wine with really ripe juicy fruit would be the ideal. Wine such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Chardonnay would be good. If you are daring, try reds such as Beaujolais or Chiliean Merlot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner Almost Impossible: March

I play this facebook game called Restaurant City. You can design your own restaurant and level different dishes using different ingredients. These are their graphics. Aren't they cute?

Dinner Almost Impossible (DAI) started in January when I entered an online cooking contest where I need to create a dish using 3 specific ingredients and submit photos and recipe at the end of the month. I would spend the month trying to come up with something and Peter would take the pictures. Although the contest was put on hold for March and April, I wanted to continue my monthly cook-off. I had Alice, Jessica, and Mike choose the ingredients: Wasabi, Corn, Chicken.

For this Dinner Almost Impossible, I had to prepare food for 13 guests. I found that February's dinner was very rushed, and I overwhelmed myself by trying to prepare too many dishes, so this time, I focused on three specific dishes and made some effort to perfect them. There was another goal for this dinner: low calorie. My personal trainer attended my dinner and a lot of my friends wanted to lose weight.

Cheese Combination: Cherry Tomato, Granda Padano, Italian Wine Salami Dinky
I make one of these for each DAI. The baguette slices were rubbed with a garlic herb olive oil I made the night before. I then toasted them for a few minute, before putting slices of salami, halved tomato, and padano shavings. Salt and pepper to taste. It was all gone by the time I sat down to eat. One was saved for me. It needed more cheese and oil for dipping.

Appetizer: Everything Salad
I made this salad by accident for the February's DAI, by putting some of the left over greens, herbs, and sauces together. The guests loved it, so I spent the month refining the recipe. At the end, I forgot to put salt and pepper on it, but the guests didn't seem to have noticed. The trick is in the sauce, which has no butter or cream.

First Course: Black Sesame Ahi Tuna
I have a "crust" obsession since my panko crust albacore tuna. I wanted to make something that is not bready (which is over done) or shake'n bake crust. I went with a seed crust and black sesame offered a nice color with the red tuna.

Main Course: Garlic Chicken Roll
This is the contest dish containing wasabi, corn, and chicken. Another dish that was created by accident. Chicken breast stuffed with roasted garlic, harissa sauce, baharat spice, basil pureé, oregano, and parsley. It was pan seared and steam baked. The chicken came with two sauces: mustard wasabi no-cream sauce and sweet corn pureé. On the side, I roasted star shaped potato. So far, I haven't use my cookie cutters to cut cookies.

Dessert: Helen's Plum Wine Jelly
Helen makes amazing desserts. She topped the dinner with this delicious dairy and egg free dessert. The flavour was delicate and the perfect balance between sweet and sour. She said the trick for this incredible yet simple dessert is to get the perfect bottle of plum wine.

I will post the recipes later.

Japan: Tokushima Part 2

In Japan, we had seen some hilarious attempt at English on signs, billboards, and T-shirts. Tokushima and Kochi took the hilarity to a new level. For example, this was a riverside "Itarian" Restaurant and Bar. The sign was so funny enough that Dennis and I wanted to try out the food, but the restaurant wasn't open. We never tried that restaurant, as it was never open, but we did eventually tried another similar restaurants a few blocks away, and the food was overpriced and terrible: pasta with meat sauce with Kraft Parmesan and cream with some coffee in it. It was a tourist trap, well, a funny one.

By the way, NOTHING was ever open in Tokushima. Stores opened late and closed early in the evening, and the whole city shut down for the weekend. People were always celebrating something by the riverside. On the weekend we were there, it was the local anime convention for anime artists and students. They lined one side of the street with student rock band and little tents filled with monitors and DVDs. Riverside restaurants were all booked for anime company or graduating partying.

On Saturday, it was the local dairy farmer's expo on the other side of the street. You could sample fresh unpasteurized milk, yogurt, pudding, cream, butter, cheese, and get information about local farming practices and nutritional benefit of milk.
There were milk cows being milked by hand, calf, and even smaller baby cows. A sudachi mascot was there too, getting kids into the town's local products.

Two blocks away at the local historic museum, there was an outdoor puppet show put on by the local elementary school. Imagine: two dozen little first graders recites children poem in unison (well, an attempt at being unison): so cute, soo cute. There were a (heathy-veg-centric) BBQ organized by a nearby stores for the parents.

Also, do you know...Junky Loves Baby....and...haircuts!

A Little Behind

I had an incredibly busy week. Mr. Lube broke my car when I went in for an oil change, the property manager at my building is terrible, getting my tax done, various appointments, and stressful work week. But now March's Dinner Impossible is done, I have sometime to catch up on my blog.

Let's see.. I gotta write Dinner Impossible dishes and recipes, one Japan trip post, and today's what not to do with food. Hopefully, I can get all this done today.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Onion: Efficient Chopping Method

I have accidentally started an onion series.

Let's talk about how to create those perfectly square small pieces of onion without crying.

This is the most clear and accurate video I have seen:

I am going to clarify a few things though.
1. Use a serrated knife, like the one in the video.
2. Imagine the onion is a planet. The root is south pole and the head is north. When you cut it in half, it is from north pole to south pole, and NOT along the equator.
3. When you are cutting one half into slices, leave the last ¼ from the narrow end uncut.
4. Cut the onion vertically, not into wedges

The angle of the knife can be misleading, but it is so I can show you how my fingers are curl up. The knife should otherwise be perpendicular to the cutting board.

5. When it is time to cut the onion horizontally, make sure you know where all your fingers are. If you are doing this for the first time, keep all of your fingers up. It might make the cutting a little messy, but at least you wont' cut yourself.
6. Thickness is up to you, but I prefer cutting it in quarters.
7. Again, leave the end uncut.
10. Time to cut it into the final product. Again, thickness is determined by personal preference. For perfectly square pieces, you want to cut at it the same width as your previous cuts.
11. The knife should be perpendicular to the cutting board.
12. All your fingers should be curl up behind the knife. All your fingers should be applying pressure to secure and stabilize the onion.
13. Don't put the onion through towards the knife. Instead, move your hand and knife backward to the uncut part. Your knuckle should always be against the side of the knife.

With practice, it will take no more than 30 second to cut an onion. This method can also be used on other round product, such as shallots, tomato, etc. This is how chefs is able to create tiny little pieces of food out of something that is round.

Onion on Foodista

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wine tasting Basics: Part 2

Now we have the wine in the glass, we can now start to examine the wine.

1. Appearance: Tilt the glass against the light and against a white surface.
  • Condition: If it looks dull or hazy, the wine may be faulty. However, some wine are naturally hazy or dull. However, if the wine is dull, cloudy, and dark brown, it is almost certainly be faulty.
  • Color: Wine is not just simply red or white. It can have all shades of color indicating different characteristics of the wine. Pros can often distinguish wines and identify their age just by looking at the wine. White comes in a spectrum of green to gold with hint of orange, and red goes from light red to deep red with hint of brown. Identifying the color tells people what to expect and narrow down the possible suspects in a blind tasting. This is a knowledge acquired through experience.
  • Legs: or "tears of wine" means the streaks of wine forming on the side of the wine glass. This is another way to judge the viscosity and body of the wine without drinking it. The slower the liquid seems to move when you swirl it and the slower wine's "tears" move down the side of the glass after the wine settles down means the wine has a lot of alcohol and is fuller bodied.
  • Deposits: Some wine has deposits. This is NOT a sign of spoiled wine. Some wines are unfiltered.
2. Nose: The most important step in wine tasting. During a long wine tasting, I don't even bother tasting the wine at the end. Swirl the glass gently and put the glass to your nose and give it a good size sniff.
  • Condition: does it smell good? If it smells like rubbing alcohol, dull, stale, cardboard, wet socks, the wine is most likely spoiled.
  • Intensity: how strong and definitive is the aroma? Is the wine so intense you can smell it a room away? Or is the aroma subtle and delicate? Or little bit of both?
  • Aroma: This is actually pretty simple and scientific. The basic step is to identify if the wine has: fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak, or something else. The the pros go a little further and tell you exactly what type of fruit, spice, etc they smell.
This step is repeated at least a few time to narrow down all the characteristics. Sometimes, there may be several characteristics in a wine and the aroma seems to evolve and change with each sniff - this one would be complex.

3. Palate: now we take a small sip, drawing plenty of air in. Swish the wine around your mouth, making sure every part of your tongue is exposed to the wine. Do this for at least 30 seconds.
  • Dryness: (A.K.A Sweetness) Does the wine taste sweet? Little bit sweet (off dry)? Not Sweet (dry)? Not sweet at all (bone dry)?
  • Acidity: This is what makes lemon taste sour. Does it make you salivate?
  • Tannin: This is the bitter and astringent taste you would also get from strong black tea. Tannin dries your mouth and make your gum feels unpleasant
  • Body: This describes the sensation of richness, weight, and viscosity. This is result of alcohol, tannin, sugar, and flavour. Although Vodka has a lot of alcohol, it is still light in body, because it has no other flavours and substance.
  • Flavour: flavour is only detected when wine evaporates off the tongue and rise up to the back of the nose. The flavour would be identified in the same way as sniffing for aroma.
  • Finish: (A.K.A Length) how long the flavour linger in the mouth after the wine is swallowed or spat out. A long, complex, pleasant finish is an indicator of quality.
  • Did you like it?
  • Expressiveness: Is it a good example of the style, age, the type of grape, the region it was grown, the climate, and the earth it grew from?
  • Balance: Is sweetness, acidity, tannin, and aroma well balanced? Or is it too cloying, sour, or excessive?
  • Complexity, intensity, and length.

Wine Tasting Basics: Part 1

The best advice I have heard is that wine tasting is best learnt from tasting than reading. Here is a little guide to start your wine tasting experience.

Preparation: In order to accurately pick up the fine nuances of wine, we need to first remove all outside influences.
  • Light: we need good natural light, not too dim, with a white surface or background. (A white napkin would do)
  • Odour: Make sure the glass don't smell like cleaning product, and the environment doesn't smell like tobacco, food or perfume
  • Flavour: Our palate should be clean. Swish your mouth with water or chew a piece of bread can help.
  • Health: Make sure you are not sick or have a stuffy nose. A functioning nose is the most important tool for wine tasting.
Preparing the wine: White, rosé, and sparkling all require chilling. Even some red wine requires a little cooling if you are tasting in the summer. The temperature is determined by the amount of alcohol and sugar in the wine. The less alcohol and the sweeter the wine, the cooler it needs to be.
  • Medium-Full bodied red: Room temperature @ 17-18ºC (62.6-64.4ºF)
  • Light-bodied red: 12ºC (53.6ºF)
  • Medium/full-bodied oaked white: 12ºC (53.6ºF)
  • Light/medium-bided white: 10ºC (50ºF)
  • Sparkling and Sweet wine: 6-8ºC (42.8-46.4ºF)
Once the wine is chilled, you can go ahead and open it. Here is a great video about how to uncorked a bottle of wine properly. However, sparkling wine requires a completely different method.

Glass sizes: You may have heard that different wines require different shape and sizes of glasses. This is sort of correct. If you put a delicate wine wine is a large bordeaux glass, it would have a negative effect on the tasting experience. If you put brandy in a champaign glass, you will probably kill more than a few nerves in your nose and brain. However, the differences between serving wine is an one-size-fits-all standard glass and a wine specific glass are very minimal. In fact, professional wine tasting only use ISO glasses, which only come in one size.

Here is a pretty good video about temperature, glass, amount of wine.

Next post, we are ready to actually "taste" the wine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Can We Drink or Cook with Hot Tap Water?

Has anyone watched the first season of Hell's Kitchen? Remember that Chinese contestant embarassed herself and got kicked off the show, after she said "cold water boils faster than hot water". My mother has always taught me to never use hot tab water to cook food. I have no idea why, but it was a cardinal sin, but when I worked in restaurant, the chef there used hot water to cook. Is hot tap water is safe for drinking and cooking?

A quick googling would tell you that hot water increases the rate in which lead inside the water pipe is leached into the water. For most people, the research would stop here and they would go on with their life being fearful of hot tap water and tell their kids to do the same. Those kids would probably then grow up and get kicked out of Hell's Kitchen. Being really stubborn, I couldn't accept that government would really allow lead in pipes, and I could actually get lead poisoning from eating at restaurants, so I researched further.

Guess what? In Canada, there is a legal limit for lead content in drinking water, measured at the tap, and the maximum concentration is calculated for the consumption of water over the course of a life time of 70 years, regardless of the temperature of the water. Since 1975, it was illegal to use lead as material for pipes, and in 1986, it was illegal to use it in solder. If your house or water heating appliances are more than 24 years old, there are probably a low level of lead in your drinking water and, yes, higher level of lead in hot water. If your house or water heating appliance are more than 35 years old, well, you are ingesting the same amount of lead regardless the temperature of your water. Time to replace some pipes or that water heater. For newer houses, there are no differences in the amount of lead in hot or cold tap water, even if the service pipe in your community is old.

Here is what we have learned:
1. Regardless how old the pipings are, the amount of lead consumed over a 70 year period is not known ot cause any health risk.
2. Even if lead is being leaked into water, the temperature of the water does not matter. Same amount will be leaked even in cold water.

We have been asking the wrong question. The question we should be asking is: how old is your house and water heating appliances? If they are much older then you or you suspect some defects, don't drink hot tap water. Otherwise, go ahead and save yourself a few minutes boiling water.

Most of UBC are newly developed and my apartment is only 3 years old. I think I am safe. The hot water at Hell's Kitchen is definitely safe to use for cooking.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Japan: Tokushima Part 1

From Hiroshima, we back tracked to Okayama and took this really old train to Takamatsu. From there, we again changed train which took us to kochi before back tracking a little and turn East to get to Tokushima. The train ride took all day, but the scenes where breathtaking. We passed little villages with farms, fruit trees, and green houses, went through long tunnel under lush mountains, and, most impressively, cross the ocean on the longest bridge in the world. On the bridge, we saw cute little romantic islands with temples, an industrial island where giant ships were built, but we didn't see any whirlpools. Maybe next time.

Shikoku is a medium size island South East of Japan, and Tokushima is one of the major prefectures on the East. Tokushima had yet been discovered by and commercialized for international tourism. Dennis got a lot of stares from locals. There were two gorgeous rivers cut through the city with stone bridges. Stone paths on both sides of the rivers with cafe, little food stand, and festivals. At night, there were school girls practicing guitars on the bridge and the paths has these star that lids up at night. Imagine quiet, cool night, gentle breeze, sound of river, guitar, and singing. The only light were the light from the city and the Milky Way under your feet. Photos just couldn't do this place any justice. Tokushima is a clean and quiet version of Paris.
Tokushima is also the land of Sudachi, a citrus lime-like fruit. It is made into everything: saki, shochu, jam, soy sauce, garnishes, soups, mochi, etc. It is very delicious and unavailable in Canada. For our first dinner, we stumbled upon a restaurant with a gigantic sudachi sign in the front. It was an izsakya serving food and alcohol that were locally sourced. On the menu (which was mostly in hiragana), it indicated which prefecture the food were sourced (which was mostly in Kanji) and special note for organic and natural. Not knowing what we were ordering, we decided to just order everything on the menu from top to bottom and same with the drink list.

First to arrive were house made tofu with bonito sourced from kochi and local sudachi soy sauce. Then, slow braised karabuta pork with daikon all sourced from a village 30 minutes away, noodles from Takamatsu, locally grown organic mushroom sauté with rice, and fresh (raw) giant scallops. For drinks, sudachi saki, sudachi shochu, potato shochu, wheat shochu, rice sochu, and then I can't remember anymore. I think there were grilled fish, sashimi, soup, sudachi cocktail... The whole menu: $80, according to the recipe, but I don't remember paying. How did we manage to get back to the hotel without falling into the river?

Friday, March 19, 2010


Hi-Nippon used to really bad, like food poisoning bad. Then, it switched owners, and now it serves cheap, good sushi. It's not the best sushi, but where else in the west side of Vancouver can you get stuffed on good quality sushi for $7.00? This is now our default sushi place, because it's cheap and they serve both brown rice and black rice.

Food: 4/5
It has cheap lunch deals. Teriyaki dons for $6-something, combos starts at $7.00. Food isn't memorable, but it is above average, consistent and satisfying. They don't cheat you on portions either; I can never finish my usual Udon+Sushi+Teriyaki combo @ $8.25. Two people can eat like kings for under $20 and not feel disgusting afterwards. Customers can even request for brown rice or black rice. I still wonder how they are able to pull off such good deals at their location. How do they afford the rent? It's a mystery.

Service: 3/5
The service is above average. Sometimes, they are a little slow refilling water, tea, and brining the bill, but it's serviceable. The servers are polite and speak perfect English, but they don't smile or chat with you. I suppose they are too busy.

Ambiance: 3.5/5
This is a great place to bring a date. They have these really cute private booth where couples can sit kitty corner to each other. Their tea comes in nice ceramic cups. Now, imagine a couple huddle up in a both holding their tea cup and chatting away shoulders touching. Isn't it cute? Because the restaurant is pretty small, the place can get really crowded and loud, during lunch. There is no music.

Overall Experience: 3.5/5
This restaurant wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary if it was located in Richmond or Burnaby. It is its location and the price that mattered here. Great place to grab a quick bite to eat before grocery shopping. Free parking at underground at Capers for an hour.

Total: 14/20
Hi-Nippon Japanese on Urbanspoon

Sad day for BC milk

B.C. court just bans sale of unpasteurized milk. Selling raw milk has always been illegal in BC, but people have been able to get around the laws by employing a co-op structure and selling "cow's shares" to people who want to buy raw milk. Now the court has ban that too under the reason that the farm "was willingly causing a health hazard". Hm...cigarettes?

People in North America tend to perceive raw animal products as dirty, diseased, and deadly. However, these are not problems caused by the raw products themselves, but by the terrible ways in which human handle the animals and animal products. Should we ban the sale of raw chicken? No, because A. people know to cook it. B. in Japan, some chicken can be eaten raw just like almost every other meat product.

I mean, it's really hard to get your hands on unpasteurized milk. It is not available in any grocery stores, small or large. Until now, people had to go out of their way to purchase the rights to a quarter of a cow at the farm, in order to have a small quantity of raw milk. If they make such a huge effort to drink raw milk, I am sure they know what they are doing, and I think they should be allow to drink it.

Raw milk indeed has more nutrients and taste better. In food processing, such as cheese, butter, or cream sauce, the differences between raw and cooked milk are very noticeable.

I think this is the wrong approach to food safety. Instead of banning the product, the government should strengthen and further regulate the way in which cows are handled and milk is process. I am sure this would make raw milk more expensive, but I am sure consumers would prefer this over not having the product.

A sad day for foodies in B.C.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

White Wine Cream Pasta Sauce

Making my own pasta is a lot of fun and a lot of pain. This is made at Dirty Apron, and I haven't had the chance to replicate it. Once I move to a place with bigger kitchen, I will definitely be investing in a pasta maker, because this is super delicious. For now, I will just post about the pasta sauce in the picture, which can be easily made at home.

For the wine is the sauce, I would recommend something not too acidic. A cheap $7 BC chardonnay would do just fine. I would not use cooking white wine for this sauce, because we want to control the salt ourselves.

The recipe below is pretty calorie intensive. When I make it at home, I use grapeseed oil instead of pancetta and home made cashew cream instead of heavy cream.

  • 120g Pancetta (1/4 inch dice)
  • 8 springs of Italian Parsley (chopped)
  • 2 Shallots (finely diced)
  • ½ Bulb of Garlic (minced)
  • 6 Cherry Tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 125 ml White Wine
  • 125 ml Heavy Cream (whip cream)
  • ½ cup Arugula
  • ¼ cup Kalamata Olives (pitted)
  • 10g Parmesan Cheese (grated)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Olive Oil
1 Over high heat, coat sauce pot with vegetable oil, cook the pancetta until browned and fat has been rendered (released). With a slotted spoon, removed the pancetta to a plate lined with pepper towel.
2. In the same pot, at medium heat, sauté the shallot and garlic for about a minute.
3. Add white wine and reduce the liquid to about half of its original volume.
4. At low heat, add the cream and parmesan then cook until slightly thickened.
Season with salt and pepper.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add it into the cream sauce along with arugula, parsley, cherry tomatoes, olives, and the crispy pancetta.

For pairing, you will need a medium bodied, lower acid white wine. French Sauvignon blanc, Chenin Blanc, French Riesling would be good matches.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Onions: How to avoid the tear gas

Cutting onion can be a pain, literally. The sting is a defensive mechanism utilizing sulfur the onion absorbs from the ground. The onion incorporates sulfur into four different kinds of chemical ammunitions which float in the cell fluid while the enzyme trigger is kept separately in a storage vacuole. When an onion is damaged by chopping or chewing, the enzyme escapes and breaks the ammunition molecules in half to producing the sting. When this sting reaches our eyes, it further breaks down into various sulfur compounds and sulfuric acids which make us cry.

However, these irritating molecules are also responsible for producing the awesome onion flavours we want. These flavours are produced when sulfur reacts with other parts of the onion, and oxygen, so different ways of processing onions will produce different flavours. This is why onions must be rinsed after chopping if it is to be used in salads to remove the pungent flavour.

We were told a lot of different tricks to avoid the sting, but what works for one person doesn't seems to work for another. Here is a list of some methods:
  • Run the knife under hot water before and during cutting
  • Using a very sharp knife
  • Cut onion next to a strong fume or draft
  • Cut onion underwater
  • Cut onion near a steam
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Chew gums or bread
  • Using Science goggle
  • Talk a lot
  • Breath through your mouth
  • Put vinegar on the chopping board
  • Soak onion in water or salt water
  • Chilling the onion in fridge or under cold water
  • Light a candle near you
  • Look away
We have all experienced some form of relieve using other methods, because they all employ these key points: moisture, temperature, barrier, and aeration. However, when you are cutting several onions finely, extra measure are needed to be taken. I tried all these methods, and none of them stops the sting completely, especially when you are cutting a large quantity. Wetting the onion is a bad idea if the onion is meant for sauté, and vinegar and salt can also alter the flavour profile of your final dish.

The only scientifically proven way is chilling the onion in a cold bath for an hour, but even this is not 100% effective.

Here is what I propose: These methods requires minimum preparation and resources

1. Chill your onion for at least hour either in the fridge, ice bath, or running water (which is cold enough in Vancouver). Make sure to pat them dry before cutting if you are using it for sauté. I store my onion in the fridge at all times.
2. Cut near an open window or fume, making sure the air current is moving away from you.
3. Stand tall, don't slouch.
4. Breath out of your nose and in with your mouth. It is not as effective if you breath out from your mouth.
5. If you are a pro cutter, look away.
6. Get all your other cuttings done first before cutting onions. Use the sharpest knife in the house, cut it quickly (safely). Don't linger too long by the chopping board after it is done.

Feel free to add more methods in addition to these. Dennis finds warm knife trick particularly useful, but make sure to dry the knife before cutting, so you don't end up with excessive water in your final dish.

Onion on Foodista

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pirouette 2006

Variety: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah
Producer: Augstin Huneeus, Sr. & Philippe Melka
Specification: unfiltered and unfined red blend
Vintage: 2006
Region: Columbia Valley, Oregon
Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $44.00

Appearance: Clear, deep dark red, young
Nose: Clean, complex, black cherry, cinnamon, licorice , earth, tree, rasin
Palate: Dry, layered, medium+ body, ripe fruit, tannin, bold, long finish.

How do you describe this wine? If Bordeaux married Chateaux du Pape and had a cute kid, it would be this wine. It is not as sickly sweet as Cheuteaux du Pape but are interesting than the ordinary Bordeaux. You can kind of taste a hint of French oak, but no too much. Personally, I would like to see wine like this sit in the barrel a little longer, but I understand the urgency for vineyards in Oregon to want to lock in profit early. It is very hard to have consistent climate in Oregon to produce good red wine, and this wine is unusually good for this regions.

This is probably as North as I would get to support big personality red wines. While $44 dollars are a little pricy, but I would buy this bottle if I see it again, because I want to support unique blends and styles.

Quality: Good. Need another few years of aging.

For food pairing, duck, mushroom, non-cream butter based French sauces, lamb, meat balls, Italian pizza with red meat toppings, Venison. Stay away from spicy food or seafood.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon + Merlot = ?

My favourite wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot are really a match made in heaven. Cabernet Sauvignon adds tannin, acid (structure and personality), while merlot adds body and fruit (elegant flavours and gentleness) to the the wine. The wine is often very complex and can be aged for decades. The best way to understand the blend is to taste a cabernet, merlot, and their blend side by side.

Premium Regions:

Bordeaux: This is undeniably the best region for cabernet-merlot blend. Several appellations produce wine that retails at thousands of dollars a bottle. I happened to be fortunate to attend a private wine tasting event featuring a bottle of Petruvs. The perfume aroma was surreal and has been permanently etched into my memory. It was worth every penny. I will spend at least another two posts on Bordeaux. Generally, any wine labelled Bordeaux is good, but the wine can be quite pricy. Moreover, bordeaux needs to be aged at at least a few years before the flavours to start maturing.

Napa and Sonoma Valley in California: These two regions produces better and better wine every year. When the 2003 Insignia won the best wine of the year award, it ruffled more than a few feathers. Bordeaux has competitions! I have tasted countless cabernet-merlot blend from California between $30-60 that are better than Bordeaux of the same price range. For Vancouverites with easy access to the border, Californian wines come with a better price tag and availability. In fact, majority of my wine cellar contains wine from Napa, such as the Insignia.

Hawkes Bay in New Zealand: This region would be win the bronze meddle for the cabernet-merlot blend. If currency is on your side, you can find some really good bottles at bargain price. These typically have medium or high acidity and tannins with herb aromas (cedar, blackcurrant a leaf)

Australia produces some good blend, especially around Margaret River. It's also a buyer's market for Australian wine right now, but there are a lot of nasty wines out there. I will post about it if I stumble upon some.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Not To Do With: Olive Oil

Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil 500ml bottle at $55
Don't cook with it.

My earliest memory of cooking oil was lard. People didn't know better than. Then, we switched to corn oil, then canola oil, then olive oil, and then extra virgin olive oil. Oil made from olive contains high level of monounsaturated fat which reduces risk of heart disease and lowers your calorie intake. The oil also has a nice aroma and flavour. I think I will write another post about the science behind olive oil later.

I am here to talk about why we should not use olive oil for medium and high heat cooking.

Commercial grade or refined olive oil should not be heated to more than 230 °C/446 °F about high heat. Extra virgin olive oil cannot be heated heated above 177 °C/350 °F about low to medium heat. Unrefined particles in the oil get burned causing the flavour compounds to deteriorate and create toxins. The toxin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, is carcinogenic. Refined olive oil is more heat tolerant, but it is still not healthy for high heat chinese stir fry. Cooking with extra virgin olive oil is a waste of money, creates a burn or bitter tastes in your food, and it is also counter productive for your health.

Extra virgin olive oil should use for cold dishes such as salad or food that has already been removed from heat. The most heat I use with olive oil is boiling water when I cook pasta. I might use refined olive oil to cook my low heat sauté common for Moroccan dishes, but why carry an extra bottle of olive oil?

Should you go back to canola oil? Not necessarily. There are other lower calorie, good for health oils that can tolerate high heat.

Grape seed oil: This oil has a muted clean tasted, which is not great for salad but perfect for high heat cooking. It lowers your cholesterol and also has trace amount of antioxidant reducing the risk of cancer. While most grape seed oils in stores are about 120 cal per tablespoon, same as most other oil, but grape seed oil acts differently when heated. It becomes less viscus than other oil, almost like water, so less amount of oil is used when cooking and the food is less likely to absorb it. I actually ingest less oil.

Coconut oil: This oil can tolerate moderate amount of high heat (340˚F) and a lot of health benefit. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, so not only does it reduces risk of cancer, heart problems, it also detox and strengthen the digestive system. It is also 120 cal per tablespoon. Coconut oil has a strong sweet nutty flavour and is not suitable for dishes with delicate flavours.

Safflower Oil: This flower extract is in fashion in the organic and vegan culture, and also very expensive compared to other oils. I am starting to see a lot of new foodie recipe call for this oil. It is tremendous good for health. Amongst all the other health benefit other oils has, it actually effectively combats type 2 diabetes and age related weight gain. Yes, it actively helps weight loss. It has a very light and clean tastes adaptable for any use. Also, it has a high smoke point and can be used for deep frying, but I am not sure that would still be health beneficial.

Avocado oil: This oil has the highest smoking point (tolerate the highest heat) of all the oils, but it's nasty. I did some research and apparently there are delicious avocado oil out there, but the qualities and flavours are very different from brand to brand. I have seen it on restaurant menu for creamy dishes though. It does add a beautiful color to the dish.

What oils do you use at home?