kruizing with kikukat

Monday, September 24, 2012

Looking for a Heart Attack: Dongpo Pork

This past week at work seemed very busy, albeit much less dramatic than the previous week.  Thats good on one hand, but on the other hand, all that trouble making was never resolved.  I feel for Uncle, but he needs to get a handle on things and step it up if he wants to be respected.  I don't get paid to be Uncle's keeper, but I am enjoying the entertainment aspect.

By the time this post hits the net, there will be less than 5 days of work before Fall Intersession.  Yay!!!  I need to take D1 to the doctor for a follow up visit (from her recent bout with walking pneumonia), and I was also hoping to squeeze in a facial w/Jennifer.  I have 2 brisket flats taking up space in my freezer, so I'm going to tell The Help to fire up the kamado.  I also hope to bake some Halloween-themed cookies and try out my new tart pans.  I'm thinking about all the high-fat high-flavor foods I could make, and as I'm running through the list, I realize its been a long time since I've had some good pork belly.

I really love pork belly, but I can't have it too often.  Every four months or so, I go to the doctor so she can be sure I'm being a good girl and working hard to bring down my cholesterol.  My efforts have been paying off because within the last year, I've managed to bring it down by 20 just by watching what I eat and walking on the treadmill daily.  Unfortunately, that tells my doctor that I can control my cholesterol on my own and don't need to be put on meds to bring it down.  Some of you might be thinking this is a good thing, and I guess it is, but if you are like me and love cholesterol (pork belly, chicken skin, crispy bacon, etc.), a pill that allows you to eat taboo food without repercussions doesn't sound like a bad thing at all.  Bring me a tall glass of Lipitor with my pork rinds, please.

When it comes to pork, the Chinese have got it going on.  I have a hard time going to Leung's Chop Suey House and not having kau yuk as part of my 2-choice plate.  I love how the meat just falls apart and the fat melts in your mouth.  The kau yuk at Hilo Rice Noodle is similar to the kau yuk I've had in Honolulu (I recall Hee Hing making the best), which is similar to Dongpo Pork.

Like Dongpo Pork, Honolulu kau yuk is brown (kau yuk in Hilo is almost always red).  I spend a lot of my time checking out blogs, and many Chinese food blogs somehow find a way to blog about Dongpo Pork.  Some bloggers describe almost an other-worldly experience when eating Dongpo Pork.  I hope I live long enough to try real Dongpo Pork ("real" meaning not made by me).  I will definitely need to take a day-long plane ride to accomplish this, as I have never seen Dongpo Pork on any Chinese restaurant menu anywhere in the 50th state.  I'm guessing its because real Dongpo Pork takes a long time to cook, and many Chinese restaurants in Hawaii do lots of business with "fast food" and take out service.  Since going somewhere with real Dongpo Pork is not a realistic options now, I had to make my own. 

Dongpo Pork is not hard to make, but you need to be willing to go through the trouble tying the meat in packages (see above pic).  The reason for the tying is to keep the meat intact.  Because the meat is cooked for so long, the meat and fat will eventually separate.  The string holds it all together.  And no, you don't eat the string!  Dongpo Pork is cooked for a long time at a low temperature.  While that sounds easy to do, careful monitoring to avoid burning is required.  Thats it!

The ingredients are all fairly easy to find.  If you can't find shaoxing wine, sherry can be substituted.  Rock sugar may be hard to find, but its sometimes labeled "rock candy", and most asian stores (yes, like the Chinese store) will sell it.  I've included a pic of the box and the product.  You may need a hammer to break up large chunks of the sugar.  You may also need a quadruple bypass if you eat this too often. . .just saying.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Dongpo Pork

     2 1/2 lbs pork belly
     1/4 c light soy sauce
     1/4 c dark soy sauce
     1/2 c shaoxing wine
     4 oz rock sugar
     1 piece ginger, sliced
     3 stalks green onions, knotted
     1 star anise
     2 c water
Slice pork into 1 1/2" wide strips.  Cook pork in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Rinse well.  Cut pork strips into 1 1/2" cubes, being careful to include a skin on each piece.  Tie each piece with string.  In a heavy pot, combine all remaining ingredients.  Add pork cubes and simmer for 2 hours, carefully turning pork periodically so all sides cook in the sauce.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Almost 12th Avenue Grill: Kim Chee Steak

Last week was a really bad week as far as work was concerned.  Lotsa feathers ruffled, lotsa feelings hurt, and all started because two people made three poor decisions, and a flurry of bad behavior ensued.  I'm embarrassed for them (no, its not me, and I am not the receiver of the verbal venom  either), and I hope there will be some "coming-to-the-senses" coupled with some much-deserved apologies issued sometime this week.

What kicked all this shit off was frustration behaviors (eye-rolling, loud sighing, etc.), being perceived as disrespect.  I liken this to looking into the window of someone else's house and seeing a person with a cleaver raised in a position about to strike. . .without the peeping Tom knowing there is a cutting board with a Hong Kong style roast chicken in need of carving.  People who don't see the whole picture should keep their mouths shut!  The High Commander always preaches, "know the context."  She is so right!

The hotness flaring at work has quite possibly made me ono for Korean food.  Between us, the Help and I have eaten bi bim bap at 3 different places in the past 2 weeks.  All the banchan that gets served alongside the main dish just makes my mouth water.  I love cucumber kim chee. 
I was going to make chap chae, but I lacked the gumption to go digging in the freezer for thin-sliced rib eye (I know I have some from Costco).  I thought for a moment about making family-style bi bim bap, but I didn't wanna deal with preparing all the vegetables.  So I had to think hard for something Korean to make.  Then it hit me. . .kim chee steak.  Let me give you the background:

A few years ago, I went to 12th Avenue Grill on a hot date and ordered kim chee steak with a side of macaroni and cheese.  First of all, 12th Ave Grill has one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes I've ever tasted (tied with Kincaid's macaroni and cheese with lobster).  Studded with ali'i oyster mushrooms, the creamy sauce cradles every bit of pasta real estate. Yum.  But today's blog is not about macaroni and cheese.  Its about kim chee steak.

Not knowing what to expect, I ordered kim chee steak, thinking I'd see chunks of meat stir-fried with pieces of won bok kim chee.  What arrived at the table was far from that.  It appeared to be an unassuming grilled steak, but after the first bite, I realized this was no ordinary steak.  The flavor was like "kal bi on steroids".

12th Avenue Grill uses flank steak for their kim chee steak, so I knew I had to do the same.  In my best attempt to recreate the flavor, I started with a kal bi-ish marinade then used kim chee base to give the steak a Korean twist.  The final product tasted very much like the original.  As you can tell from the pics, I ate it with fried rice.  Macaroni and cheese research will be saved for a much later time.

Praying this will be a better week. . .

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Kim Chee Steak

     1 flank steak, 1-2 lbs
     1/2 c shoyu
     2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
     1 tbsp honey
     1 tbsp sesame oil
     2 tbsp Momoya kim chee base
     1" piece ginger, grated
     2 stalks green onions, chopped
     dash of pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Marinate steak for at least 6 hours.  Grill steak on hibachi, reserving marinade.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain.  While steak is resting, boil marinade until reduced to half.  Use as sauce for steak slices.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Insanity: Kikukat's Monster Cookies

Last week was an INSANE week.  Being a 4-day work week meant that all the crazy nuttiness was crammed into 4 days, rather than stretched out over 5 days.  My job doesn't pay enough for all the abuse I take!

I'm grateful to have survived the work craziness.  I took part in a 2-day draining (I was one of the drainers), and there were times when I thought the SSCs were gonna riot.  I don't envy the task ahead of them, and if they are not strong writers, they will be up shit creek when its time for them to write the reports, which cannot be "cut and pasted" anymore.  This is gonna majorly jam some people up.  But I don't make up these rules.

Speaking of insane, I recently decided to bake a batch of cookies using a recipe I first tried 2 1/2 decades ago.  I think the recipe is insane because the ingredient amounts are copious.  Even the recipe yield is hilarious:  "makes enough to feed an army".  And if you are a baker, you'll notice that flour isn't in the ingredient list!  When you get to the recipe below, you'll definitely see the insanity.

I first made monster cookies when I came home on a break from college.  I'm not sure where I found the recipe, but being clueless (even though I thought I knew everything), I went ahead and made a batch.  Yes, I used the dozen eggs and 18 cups of oatmeal.  Needless to say my family had monster cookies coming out of our ears.  In order to stem my parents' growing concern that they'd be eating monster cookies for the remainder of summer, I gave bags away to my friends who were here.
A was given a bag, and right away, she called me for the recipe.  Her mama, a home economics teacher, wanted the recipe.

Fast forward ten years or so...A gives me a cookbook...its a 50th anniversary cookbook of the institute of higher education which gives A a paycheck.  I attended for 3 semesters, so I guess its sort of my school too.  Anyway, she submitted my recipe, the full version with the 18 glorious cups of oatmeal!  Way to go, A!!!

Being older and wiser, I was smart enough to make a quarter batch this time.  I've listed both recipes.  One for the shock value (the original that I made back in the late 80s) and the one I made when wisdom kicked in.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 c butter
     3 lbs creamy peanut butter
     12 eggs
     8 tsp baking soda
     1 lb M & Ms (plain)
     2 lbs brown sugar
     4 c sugar
     1 tbsp light corn syrup
     1 lb chocolate chips
     18 c quick cooking oatmeal

     1/2 c butter
     3/4 lb peanut butter
     3 eggs
     2 tsp baking soda
     1/4 lb M & Ms (plain)
     1/2 lb brown sugar
     1 c sugar
     3/4 tsp light corn syrup
     1/4 lb chocolate chips
     4 1/2 c quick cooking oatmeal

The procedure is the same for both:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease several baking sheets.  Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars.  Add eggs and corn syrup.  Quickly add baking soda, M & Ms, chocolate chips, and oatmeal.  Mix well.  Plop large scoops on prepared baking sheets.  Flatten.  Bake for 12-20 minutes, depending on the kind of baking sheets you use and how crunchy you like your cookie.  I like my cookies crunchy so I bake them for the full 20 minutes on airbake sheets.

And for the record, mom DID flip out when she saw the original recipe (yep, the version with the dozen eggs).  I wasn't working then, so she is the one who had to pay for all the ingredients!

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Ultimate Salad and Dressing

Happy Labor Day!!!  I'm old enough to remember the time when the school year in Hawaii began AFTER Labor Day.  I miss those days.  Thats when Hawaii followed the same calendar as the rest of the nation and held summer time sacred.  I don't think we'll ever see those days.  How can Hawaii kids be college ready when the school system won't allow them to participate in summer pre-college programs.  This was the argument years ago when many Hawaii schools contemplated moving to a year-round calendar.  I guess people forgot the voice of reason, and I don't know of any university changing their calendars to enable Hawaii kids to participate without missing school. 

The work week went by pretty quickly.  I had two meetings with school personnel.  One of the meetings was out in Naalehu.  I ate a seafood salad sandwich at Punalu'u bakery prior to meeting with a scattered admin (thanks for the indigestion), but I did not go to Hana Hou for mac nut cream time.

I stayed out one day for funeral leave (farewell to Aunty Hisae "Stella" Nagano).  I was voluntold to make dessert for the post-funeral food table.  I made brownies (mom's contribution) and lemon bars (my contribution).  While I made the lemon bars from scratch, I used the Costco Ghirardelli brownie mix for the brownies.  I followed the directions on the box to make a bumboocha batch (half-sheet pan), thinking one pan would save me a lot of trouble.  Epic fail.  The brownies took over an hour to cut because I had to keep wiping the knife.  If there is a next time (brownie making, no need the funeral part), I will make the brownies in separate pans.  I still have 3 bags of brownie mix left (Costco size comes with 6 bags).

One thing on my "to-do" list for the week is to take D2 to Famous Footwear to buy some decent footwear.  In getting ready for Aunty's funeral, I realized she really only had rubber slippers.  We found a pair of Crocs sandals on the shoe rack, and she ended up wearing those to the funeral.  They were a little snug, but D2 was a good sport.  In spite of her crocs, she was not the most casually dressed person there.  UJohn showed up in sandals, polo shirt, shorts & suspenders!  ASandra's coworkers thought he was so cute.  The Help pointed out that, to UJohn's credit, he showed respect by wearing dark colors.  True dat.

I had a hard time deciding what recipe to feature this week, but a recent trip to Costco (same trip where I bought the brownie mix) helped me decide on this recipe.  I bought one of those trays of fancy artisan lettuce and wanted to make a dressing to showcase the lettuce.  Additionally, its been hot, hot, hot recently so we are still enjoying salad weather.

When I worked for the Office of Human Resources, we did a lot of collaboration with the nice mentors in Central District.  One of the ladies, Amy, cleaned house and gave me a whole bunch of cookbooks.  She told me her contribution to one of the cookbooks was a salad dressing recipe, which turned out to be Ultimate Salad Dressing.  Ultimate Salad Dressing is great on its own, but its even better when you throw together a kick-ass salad.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
     2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
     2 tbsp olive oil
     1 tbsp rice vinegar
     1 tsp salt
     grated garlic

Combine dressing ingredients and mix well.  Drizzle over assorted salad greens and toppings (carrots, red onions, bell pepper, feta cheese, bacon bits, cranberries, croutons.

Look who was on the Hawaii News Now photo stream!

Apologies for the blog pics this week.  I took them myself with a point-and-shoot.