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.