Chicken Feet, Maybe a New Favorite

There has always been one thing in the meat department of the super market that has caught my eye. And at the same time that in intrigues me, it has scared the crap out of me. Yes by the title I am guessing you figured it out, chicken feet.

I know that for a lot of people feet are kind of a taboo ingredient. However as a chef I find that it is my duty to be open minded. So over the last couple of weeks one of my coworkers and I have been playing with new foods. And this week we tackled the one that neither one of us had tried. We had no idea where to even start with these things. But oh my gosh, did we hit the jackpot. So let me walk you through what we did.

So to start with we spent a good day talking and brainstorming what to do with them. We decided that we would sort of treat them as wings. And as I have recently just moved back from Portland, when I thought wings my mind instantly went to Pok Pok. One of the best wings that I have ever eaten.

So chicken feet are mostly just skin, tendons and cartilage. The decision was made we needed to give them a nice long cook to break them down. As many of you know, to me this screamed sous vide. I found the recipe for Pok Pok wings and sealed the feet in a bag with fish sauce, sugar and garlic.

Chicken Feet Sealed in Marinade

Chicken Feet Sealed in Marinade

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Grilled Octopus on Marinara Sauce

Experiments with Sous Vide Octopus

I decided this week I needed to get my cooking and experimenting groove back. So on my days off I decided to pick up an octopus. My goal, techniques and experiments with sous vide octopus. Now getting an octopus isn’t as easy as running down to the local grocery store and picking one up at the seafood counter. So I got to take a trip to one of my favorite stores, Uwajimaya. Oh how I can get lost in that store. I really need to go in there some time with someone that can tell me what everything is. However I really love shopping there. They have such an amazing seafood department as well as the deli.

Left to Right: Buddah's Hand, Finger Limes, Octopus

Left to Right: Buddah’s Hand, Finger Limes, Octopus

So I grabbed my octopus right off and then decided that I wanted to walk through the produce section. I found two things that I have always wanted to try, finger limes and Buddha’s hand. Finger limes have been something that have always intrigued me. When you cut them open they expose a bunch of little spheres of  flavor delight. Buddha’s hand is another citrus which is known for its amazing scent and the zest is often used in desserts and drinks. Continue reading

The dishes that Wai-Man and I cooked up

Our Version of “Chopped”

Our own version of “Chopped”

For the last few weeks instead of having a class on Tuesday’s we have been doing a cooking demo. It has been a lot of fun. Not only does it allow us to use up extra product and keep it from going bad but it has also allowed me to do some cooking. So the premise behind these demos is to take things out of the fridge and trying to make dishes out of them. I have really enjoyed this process because it has made me really do some creative cooking!

So this last demo we did had a little twist to it. Myself and my assistant, Wai-Man, had a cook off with a tray of ingredients that was wrapped in foil, so we had no idea what was on it. It was in essence our own version of “Chopped” without the prize money!

Now to what was on the tray, because i’m sure your wanting to know what we had to work with. When we unwrapped the tray there was a chicken breast, a shot of bourbon, a Fresno chilli, a 1/4 head of red cabbage, a couple of slice of bacon, 2 red potatoes, and a granny smith apple, and the real brain teaser was 2 amareti cookies. So many good ingredients, and so many possibilities. The only thing that threw a wrench into all plans was the cookies. They are delicious on their own, sweet and crispy, but a tough thing to work into a savory dish.

Now we were just planning on having a nice friendly cook off, however the people that were there watching us cook decided that it was necessary for us to have a time limit. So we set the time limit at 25 mins, enough time to get everything cooked but also keep a little pressure on us. Continue reading

Beef Tongue: My favorite meat for tacos

I decided since I now have a sealer that I can make all kinds of fun things that would have been to tough to do with my FoodSaver. So I picked up one of my favorite meats for tacos, beef tongue! This is something that I have been wanting to do ever since I got my immersion circulator. I reached out to the awesome community at Chefsteps to see if anybody had any good recipes or tips. One person suggested the recipe that I am using for this preparation. It can be found here as well as at the bottom of this post.

First thing was going to my favorite butcher and pick up a beef tongue. And they never let me down when I go to Greenfield’s. I picked up a couple of beautiful tongues. Next up was to gather the rest of the ingredients that I needed.

Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue

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Soy Sauce

I was recently lucky enough to be contacted by a company called “Little Soya“, and as you may have guessed they make a soy sauce. Now this may not excite everyone like it did me but they offer a really cool product. They produce a gluten free, non GMO low sodium soy sauce. I am going to guess that a lot of people didn’t realize that there was gluten in soy sauce to start with, but there is! Since my Mom eats gluten free this has been a super exciting find.

Well I received a big box from Little Soya and was so excited to open it up and see what awaited me. When I opened the box up I was greeted by an amazing amount of products. I could not believe everything I received. There was a box of little soy sauce packs that you can take to go! The best part is as you can see in the picture is they look like little fish!

Little Soya Box Contents

Little Soya Box Contents

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Where do you Find Inspiration

A great question that I find myself asking is, where and how do I get inspired by food? I think you can find inspiration from something as simple as just eating. I find myself asking questions about what I am eating and what and how I can re-make that, and in some cases, what would make it better, all the time. To me the best part of eating a meal is thinking about recreating the dish. Mentally breaking down a delicious meal gets the creative juices flowing and that leads to inspiration.

Inspiration

I think my love of cooking comes from my Mom and my Grandpa. Growing up eating great meals cooked by my Mom and her letting me help out in the kitchen when I was growing up. To this day one of my favorite things to do is cook up a big dinner with her. One of my favorite holiday’s is Thanksgiving just because of the fact that I know get to cook a nice meal with her. We always come up with some creative things to try and are always pushing recipes further to see what we can do with some of our favorites. My Grandpa is also a great inspiration for me, he is always tinkering with bread recipes and has one of the best spaghetti sauce recipes I have ever had. The best part is that it is a secret family recipe, but it is still fun to play around with it to see if there is anything you can do to make it a little better. Without these two people in my life I don’t think I would be the cook that I am today! And for that I am forever grateful.

There is something about eating a meal and enjoying it, but still thinking about how else you can use the ingredients and what else that ingredient would be good in.
I have found myself doing this a lot lately when teaching and helping in classes. I love how when working with food that you find yourself not just blindly following a recipe but actually breaking that recipe down and thinking about what the final dish  is going to  taste like in the end. And then when you start doing that the next step is to start thinking about how making some small changes to it make it even better. It could be something as simple as adding some roasted garlic or a splash of Worcestershire sauce. It is amazing when you start playing around with what you’re cooking how much your eye’s will be opened up to being more creative with you are cooking. Most of the chef’s and friends that I have that love to cook, look at a recipe as a starting point to a good dish and add to it to make it an extraordinary dish. But be prepared, it doesn’t always work out. In some cases the original one is already amazing or your first attempt at changing it will be a failure. This is part of the learning process and what makes it fun. Failure is part of the job.

Jordan-failure-meme

There are even some unlikely sources to find inspiration such as a movie. How many of you, like me, watched and loved the Disney movie “Ratatouille” and wanted to recreate the ratatouille from it. Then there are some of the amazing dishes that are created in the movie “Chef”. So many of the recipes in that movie look so amazing and flavorful. It is said that we eat with our eyes first and just seeing someone cooking in a movie or a documentary can give you a spark or an idea to try that you never thought of.

ratatouille7

This is why I love cooking! Almost anything or anybody can inspire you to try something a slightly different way that will make your life that much easier or make your dish that much better. It is fascinating to see a mind at work when hit with inspiration or an idea. Even when the results may not work or be what you were expecting. The most important part of this all is to learn from your mistakes and keep trying to reach the point of perfection.

Bacon Slices

Quest for the Perfect Burger

Is there such a thing as the “perfect burger”? If your anything like me, every time you eat a burger you have that thought of “I wish there was something that made me want to eat that again”. It seems like every time I have a hamburger from somewhere I am let down. Either they are to greasy or really bland. But lets be honest, a really good flavorful burger is not something that is that difficult. All you really have to do is add a few basic spices and flavors to make the “Ultimate Burger”. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you take your next burger to mouth watering heights.

So we all know that a great burger can be one of the best things out there. Cooking a burger is one of the things that can get anybodies mouth watering. It all starts with the meat. In my eyes you don’t need to go crazy and get the best ground meat you can, but the better the meat the more flavor your burgers will have. I personally like to use ground sirloin when I can but most of the time I just buy the ground beef at my local Costco.

 

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next thing that I have discovered thanks to Nom Nom Paleo is the perfect ccombinationof add ins to my burger. I start with dicing up some cremini mushrooms and then saute them up with a little salt and pepper. Cook them up until all of the water has cooked out of them and they are nice and caramelized. This adds that beautiful umami flavor to the burger as well as some extra texture.

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini Mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

The next step is to dice up some bacon. Oh that’s right, bacon! You can never go wrong with adding bacon into your burger. Now most of the time you see this added as an extra and just laid over the top of the cooked patty. But here is the secret. If you add this into your burger you can get away with getting a leaner grind of meat, because we are going to add it into the ground beef. Start by dicing up you bacon into a nice small to medium dice depending on taste. Then take the bacon and toss it in a bowl with the ground beef and cooled, cooked mushrooms. Add a good healthy pinch of salt or two and a generous amount of black pepper.

Bacon Slices

Bacon Slices

We are almost ready to form the patty! Mix all of your ingredients together, the key is to just mix it enough to get everything mixed without over working it. Your burgers will cook up much more tender and juicy this way. Once you get the burgers mixed up start forming them into patties and feel free to make them as large or as small as you want. A really tasty addition to your burger that I got from the Ideas in Food blog is to cut a nice fat piece of onion top of your patty.

Onion On Top of Burger

Onion On Top of Burger

This is a really great idea and adds not only a great look but also some really great flavor! Since you have already thoroughly seasoned your burger there is no need to add any more seasoning to it. Just throw that delicious burger on a nice hot grill and cook it to what ever temperature you like. Just remember that you have raw bacon in it and I have found that even if you cook it almost well done it is still nice and juicy!

I promise you that if you try all of these ideas out you will have a mouth watering burger that your friends will be dying for you to cook again!

I am going to try making one of these up and cooking it sous vide and then just searing it off in a hot pan just to see how it comes out. I have a feeling it will be just as delicious but the cook in me wants to know what the difference would be like. Remember that playing with your food is not a bad thing!

 

Sous Vide Salmon Experimentation

I picked up some beautiful wild caught Coho Salmon this weekend and have decided to have some fun with it! Oh you guessed it, more sous vide fun!

Coho Salmon Fillets

Coho Salmon Fillets

I decided to go with a play on one of the ideas that I put in a previous post about ways to cook salmon. I mixed up a little red miso paste, soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil. I then mixed that up and put it in an ice cube tray and froze it, so that it would be easier to seal in my FoodSaver. I set my sealer to the gentle sealing and moist contents in hopes that it would not crush my salmon.

Salmon and Marinade Sealed up.

Salmon and Marinade Sealed up.

I cooked the salmon with the Sansaire immersion circulator that I borrowed from work at 55 C for about 30 minutes. It came out cooked through but still super moist and tender. I had left the skin on the salmon with the thought that when I pulled it out I would throw it in a hot pan and crisp the skin up quickly. I think the next time I do this I would cook it at a lower temperature to under cook it a little so that I could sear it more without the worry of over cooking it and drying it out.

Salmon Sealed and Cooking

Salmon Sealed and Cooking

The marinade, which later turned into the sauce, was a great addition and added a lot of great flavor to the fish. One of the really cool things that not only did the sauce add flavor to the fish but the fish also imparted a beautiful flavor to the sauce. It added a nice light salmon flavor back to the sauce that gave kind of an ocean-y flavor that was oddly comforting.

Finished Salmon with Sauce

Finished Salmon with Sauce

For the sauce to finish I simply took the liquid from the sealed bags and put them in a pan and started to reduce it. When it started to get to the consistency and thickness that I was looking for I finished it with some salt and pepper and a knob of butter to round it out. Then I just took some green onion and cut it as a nice thin bias to add a little color as well as that beautiful bright flavor.

A couple of things that I have learned from my experiments in cooking sous vide, is that it is important to season your protein before sealing it and not relying on the sauces or marinades to add enough to it. Secondly with the salmon it seemed like the shorter the cook time the more aggressive you need to be with your seasoning and sauce.

Now on to the next experiment, which will be either trying something with potatoes or move on to the rib-eye’s!!

Cooking Salmon: Pro Tips

Are you tired of putting the same old thing on your salmon and cooking it the same way? It is so easy to get stuck in a rut with ingredients and the way we cook things. I think that cooking salmon is one of the things that this happens with the most. So many times you just see it grilled or sprinkled with some lemon pepper.  This is such a blank canvas of an ingredient with so many exciting possibilities. Lets take a look some new exciting options for the next time you want to impress someone with this stunning piece of fish.

Boring Lemon Pepper Salmon

Boring Lemon Pepper Salmon

Sometimes the classics or standards are a really great way to start things out. For example cedar plank salmon, a really great way to impart some good flavor. The key to this is to do something to elevate it. You can do something fun to it like a nice marinade and take it any direction. You can go all kinds of different routes with the flavor of a marinade, such as doing something Asian inspired or something to balance the smokiness with a sweeter flavor. As strange as it is I like doing a marinade of maple syrup, water and salt. I would let that go for a couple of hours then throw it on a plank and cook it to a nice medium rare. I would then finish it with a new salt that I have discovered working at Sur La Table that is a alderwood smoked salt. It has a really intense smoke flavor and I think a nice sprinkle of that to finish it would be a beautiful touch.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Cedar Plank Salmon

One of my other favorites for salmon would be a nice miso glazed salmon. It is a super simple preparation but oh so delicious. It is as simple as mixing some miso paste, which you can pick up at your local asian market, soy sauce, water and a little bit of brown sugar. put all of that in a bowl and give it a good mix to combine it. Place you salmon in a dish and baste the salmon with you miso glaze and you can either toss that in a pan and cook it or put it in a oven save dish and toss it in the oven. Make sure you baste it as your cooking it to the desired doneness. I would finish that with a nice thin bias cut of a green onion sprinkled over the top or some nice fine minced chives.

Miso Glazed Salmon

Miso Glazed Salmon

One of the newer and really excited methods is called uni-lateral cooking. This one might not be a favorite for some people. It is essentially putting a piece of salmon down in the pan skin side down and not flipping it at all. You basically get all the best textures of salmon. The crispy skin a nice cooked salmon and the top layer being raw. This is a simple method that you can do it is easily accomplished by using a non stick pan and a little bit of oil. Start by putting it in a hot pan skin on and skin side down. You just let it go and a medium heat and let it cook until you can see it is cooked a little over half way up the side of the fish. Remember that when you pull it off the heat it will continue to cook a little bit. The best part of this method is that it is really a beautiful presentation and you get to experience the salmon in all of its best forms.

Uni-Lateral Salmon

Uni-Lateral Salmon

One other way to prepare salmon, which is the one I want to try next, is to cook it sous vide. This can be as simple as putting some olive oil in the back and maybe a little thyme ( or whatever herb/herbs you want) and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then cooking it at 125 f. for about 20 mins. Best part about sous vide is that you can go longer without the fear of over cooking your fish.

No matter how you decide to go salmon is such a great ingredient and you have so many options for cooking it. Have some fun and don’t forget that the experimentation is the exciting part of cooking. You never know when you will stumble across a delicious new combo and change the way you think of salmon for all time to come!