Friday, November 20, 2009

Chef Jeff: Three-Cup Chicken 三杯雞

I decided to try this dish because this is one of my mom's favorites. There used to be a place that we frequented that made a kickass Three-cup Chicken. Unfortunately, they're no longer in business. =( The recipe I used is from recipezaar. This was a pretty fun dish to do, very straightforward and very delish. This is a classic Taiwanese dish that everyone loves.

Mostly just chopping needed. Chop the chicken into bite sized chunks. Mince the garlic. Julienne the ginger. Chop the Serrano peppers into slices. Chop the scallions.

Saute the garlic, and ginger and the pepper in the sesame oil. Once they're warmed up, toss in the chicken. Once they are white, mix up the soy, rice wine, and sugar in a bowl and then pour it into pot. Here's the point where I screwed up, I was supposed to put it on low heat, but it seems the burner I used doesn't really do low heat. The simmer in low heat at this point was supposed to go for 30 minutes, but by 15 minutes, the sauce was already dried up.
I managed to salvage it by continuing on. It wasn't a disaster, just a little dry with no sauce.
To finish up, put the scallions and the basil in at high heat for 2 minutes.

Overall result: 4.5/5
The one major screw up was the drying out of the sauce. I'm pretty happy with the flavor though it's a little off, it might have been the fact that there was not enough sauce and not having the simmer probably lacked the proper flavor infusion. I only used about 1 bunch of basil though I probably should have used 2 instead to give it more of a fragrant smell.
You can see in the last photo where my mom is trying to scrape the remainder of the sauce with the rice from the pot. Hahaha.

Apply low heat properly
Try using more basil
Maybe less soy and more rice wine (Dad found it a little too salty)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chef Jeff: Wine-steamed Mussels

I bought the mussels at Superstore. Large, fresh Atlantic Mussels for CDN$2.99/Lb. I probably got too much ending up buying a total of CDN $12 worth of (61) mussels. My recipe is based off a wine-steamed clams recipe from

Make sure to leave holes in the plastic so that the mussels don't die before you cook them. If you're not cooking the mussels soon after you take them out of the water, you must keep them alive by either putting them on ice (but make sure they don't die from freezing) or use damp towels to keep them moist.

Chop onions up and some garlic and saute them with some olive oil in low heat until they are soft. Pour in white wine. Put mussels in to steam. Once mussels are open, they are okay to remove. In the pot is the remainder of the white wine and juices released from the mussels. I use these juices and mix in some parsley, butter, and some of the garlic to create as a sauce and then pour over the mussels.

Overall result: 4/5
I'm pretty happy with the overall result. It was odd that it was a little on the salty side considering I didn't add any salt at all. Next time, I might not even bother with the parsley and butter and just pour the cooking juice without adding anything to it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Buying Books: Online or Retail

I recently walked into a Chapters and I was delightfully surprised to find Malcolm Gladwell released a new book, What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures. I was absolutely sure I was going to buy the book on the spot. His previous books: The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers are all outstanding reads that I recommend to everyone. The book was priceded at CDN$35, with a sticker that said 30% off, and another 10% off with my irewards membership.
However, when looking up information on my iphone to see the online reviews I was appalled to see the online price was listed as CDN$17.49. Factoring in the stickered discount, I would still be paying more than if I order it online.
I honestly don't understand how this pricing structure works. Shouldn't I be paying less considering I go into the store to pick it up from your inventory? It doesn't make any sense logically. This doesn't apply to electronics retailers like Best Buy or Future Shop. They sell at the same price either way, but it's up to the customer to pick up or get it shipped. But how do you justify different AND more expensive pricing for the customer to go into the store. Truly mind-boggling.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chef Jeff: Mushroom Risotto

The risotto is one of my favorite dishes. My fave is a squid ink risotto from a place that I can't quite recall right now. Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish. It's different than regular rice in that it uses short-grain round rice as opposed to the usual long-grained rice. The most common variety used is Arborio, though the Italians probably prefer some other varieties (like Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano). I'm not too familiar with different rice varieties at the moment. The choice is important though as each variety has its own absorption rate and will vary the cooking method and time.

This dish is my first big disaster. I used the recipe I found in Chatelaine magazine in the Nov 09 issue. There's also a copy of the recipe on the Chatelaine website: Classic risotto. I went with the mushroom variation.

There isn't that much prep required for risotto, it was just the onions and some of the mushrooms for the flavor.

This is (what I feel) is a technical dish. I'm not really a chef, so what the hell do I know. From what I've learned, the risotto is all about your cooking technique. It's not complex. It's just arduous and slow. You prepare the chicken stock by heating (to a boil, then let it simmer). The recipe I used added some mushrooms to give it more mushroomy flavor.

In a pan, I toss in butter, chopped onions with some olive oil. Once they are soft, the rice is ready to rock. The rice goes in and then while stirring, slowly add in white wine.
Now comes the super technical part, also the most tedious. Ladle in the soup stock that you have prepared, just enough to cover the rice, and then keep stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed. Keep doing this until all of the stock is gone.
(This is where I screwed up, and had to repair. I ran out of stock before the risotto was cooked to my liking. I had to add more stock, but the recipe could be off. You could either use less rice or more stock to compensate)
Stir... Stir..... Stirrrrr. Constantly. In order for the rice to cook evenly, the mixture needs to be stirred so that it absorbs the moisture throughout at the same rate and infuse the soup stock into each grain.
Once the rice is ready, you can add some more butter, and chives, but I didn't bother.

Sidetrack notes:
My risotto was fine up to this point, and probably would have tasted delicious, but I followed the recipe and added cheese. I used Asiago because the recipe said it would be fine. Let me tell you. IT IS NOT. Don't use Asiago. It's too strong and does not go well. Go with the standard parmesan. And even then, you might not even need it. It doesn't need to be that creamy. It chunked up my rice, and made it pretty hard to swallow because of the strong taste.

Overall result: 2/5
I learned a lot from doing this and it isn't actually too hard. It just needs lots of patience. Though I was happy with my technique, the result at the end was just too horrible to ignore. The cheese ruined it to the point of disgusting.

-Stir. Constantly. Stir stir stir.
-I've heard the mark of a good chef is a good risotto. Not sure why, but probably the focus required in making this properly. (I'm obviously not a good chef as I ruined it haha)
-Do not use Asiago for the cheese.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Chef Jeff: Baked Scallops

I didn't really intend on doing scallops over and over again but it just seemed to come up. Although this time it's a different approach. Instead of the sear this time, I went with baking scallops in the shell. This was a trial run for baking and I was pretty sure I'd screw up and sure enough I wasn't all too exuberant with the result. The inspiration for the recipe is from another blog I found on Google, Kathryn Cooks With Jamie.

I got beautiful, large sea scallops from Yaohan. These cost about CDN3.50 each; they are alive fresh.

Shucking them open was pretty straightforward. Cutting along the flat edge of the scallop to shear off the muscle that clamps the shell.

Second part was the sauce. I chose to go with the Asian style sauce from the recipe I found.
Fresh chopped ginger, mixed with soy sauce, chinese cooking white wine, freshly grounded coriander, lime, sugar, sesame oil. Mixed the sauce and poured them onto the scallops. Drizzled some olive oil over the scallops.
The first screw up was the cooking, I wasn't too sure about the temperature and cooked at 350F for 5 minutes. I realized it was still undercooked so I put it in the oven again for another 8 minutes.
The scallops were cooked at this point, but they were also overcooked. Just a little, but enough to make the meat chewy already.

Overall result: 3/5
I wasn't too distressed about the overcooking. I went in expecting this, but I didn't have a clear idea of what the expected cooking temp/time was. The sauce was way too salty. I probably should have mixed in less soy (even though I already used less-salt soy sauce), and used more sesame oil and wine.

Try 425F for 8-10mins next time.
Also try a different sauce, soy doesn't go too well with the scallops.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Chef Jeff: Seared Scallops

Searing scallops. Take two.
I tried to dry the scallops before cooking as much as possible. Any suggestions? I used paper towels to absorb the moisture about three times each.
Unlike the last time I seared scallops where I didn't put enough salt or seasoning, this time, I put a lot of salt this time.
The scallops absorb the salt like crazy so be liberal in salting. I also put a lot of pepper to season and give it flavor. The scallops are pretty thick so they needed a lot to give enough taste to all of the meat.
On to cooking... I used some butter and cilantro to give some smell and texture to give it that extra kick.

I'm very happy with the overall result. Perfect sear with balanced seasoning.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

RestoReview: Mission Hill Terrace Restaurant

The Mission Hill Terrace Restaurant is located on the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in Westbank in the Okanagan. The Mission Hill Winery itself is a marvelous example of modern architecture, the Terrace restaurant (I'm not sure what the actual name is), is a natural complement to the winery itself. Terrace seating overlooking wonderful greenery and the waves of the Okanagan.

A view of the entire restaurant. The tables line the 2 rows of pillars on both sides of the terrace hall.

Winery-Made Dips & Roasted Olives (red lentil hummus, chèvre herb cream) - The bread was served with 2 different types of breads, baguette style slices and thin crunchy bread chips. I preferred the crispy snaps as they gave a more interesting texture to pair with the hummus and the goat's milk cheese. Both were strong, but not overly pungent. Enough to give you a taste but leave you wanting for more. The olives was a nice counter balance to the thick and creamy dips.

Queen Charlotte Halibut, Olive Oil Sorbet (spot prawn ceviche, sea beans & squash) - This is seafood served straight and simple. The halibut was cooked perfectly, not too dry. The olive oil sorbet was certainly interesting. I'm not sure how else to describe that. The prawns for the ceviche were tender and crisp. The greens gave a good balance to the seafood and the cream sauce.

Kurobuta Pork Belly, Seared Diver Scallop (white bean purée, fennel & apricot) - The scallop is absolute bliss. Seared to perfection with a slight caramelized glaze on the outside and tender on the inside. Kurobuta pork was tender as expected, and goes well with the white bean puree. I had higher expectations for this though, it still doesn't compare to the Kurobuta from The House (in San Francisco).

Jack’s Sooke Ruby Trout, Tarragon Cornbread (green tomato chutney, garden herb purée) - This is awesome! I've never had trout prepared like this. The green puree and green tomato chutney were an amazing choice to give a light flavor to the saltiness of the trout.

Another order of the Kurobuta Pork

Roasted Duck Breast, Crispy Confit Raviolo (almond bok choy, cinnamon jus) - I love everything about this dish. The duck was soft and tender and tasted terrific with the cinnamon jus. The Ravioli was a surprise since I thought it would overpower the duck, but it was a light vegetable filling. Hmmm... the whole dish tasted like the color you see, it tasted orange. (That totally doesn't make sense).

The Dessert Menu

A cup of their coffee with biscotti.

Vanilla Bean Chèvre Cheesecake (hazelnut crisp, caramelized blackberry) - Omgomgomg! This was absolutely fantastico! The goat's milk cheese just makes an absolutely incredible cheesecake. Soft and melting, it gives a strong flavor and a totally unique version of the classic cheesecake. The blackberry coulis, and the green one (I'm not sure what that is), but it tastes magnificent with the cake. MUST TRY!

I am absolutely blown away with this place. Beautiful scenery and absolutely amazing cuisine. The one regret is that I wasn't able to taste more of the menu because I'm sure they would taste as stellar as everything else.

Jeff recommends this. 5 stars++!
Mission Hill Winery Terrace Restaurant
Link to June Menu

Service & Setting: 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Cost Level: 4.5

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Purge Update: Day 35

My new bookcase is up. This is the first time I've actually had a fully "functioning" bookcase. It looks very sleek and sexy too.
Hmm... I'm very behind now in my cleanup. One computer is gone/donated to a friend, and I have just yet to throw out the other one. I am also excited about bringing in my new mac. It should have been here on Friday but I wasn't here to pick it up. I should have it y tomorrow... and yes it should have been by in that last sentence.... my b button is breaking! D:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jeffrey's top 50 things to-do list

In no particular order
1) learn to fly a plane
2) go surfing
3) go fencing/swordfighting/kendo
4) evasive driving lessons
5) play at the world series of poker main event
6) go snowboarding (26 feb 2009)

aaaaand second time on (13 mar 2009)

7) go sailing
8) go fire a rifle
9) role/extra on a film or tv show
10) see/climb the pyramids of Egypt
11) go to Italy and see the Colisseum/take a ride on a gondola
12) visit every continent (4/7) - Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America
13) climb an active volcano
14) watch kickboxing at Lumpini Stadium in Kuala Lumpur
15) fly in a fighter jet
16) be a spy
17) learn how to paint
18) write a good song
19) learn how to ballroom dance
20) go to hawaii
21) visit the great wall of china (30 dec 2008)

22) visit thailand
23) visit vietnam
24) ride a jetski
25) get published/printed
26) go parasailing
27) visit the galapagos islands
28) go back to China and eat snake/starfish/grasshopper/larvae
29) learn to speak Japanese
30) learn to speak Mandarin fluently
31) learn to speak German/Russian/Spanish
32) play the theremin
33) eat Fugu
34) attend a TED conference
35) rappel
36) rappel face-first
37) go scuba diving
38) try bjj
39) try archery (04 dec 2009)