Thursday, June 28, 2012

Triggerfish Meunière with Sautéd Green Beans on top of Roasted Vegetable Polenta

Triggerfish Meunière with Sautéd Green Beans on top of Roasted Vegetable Polenta. This was such a wonderful dish that required a very minimal number of ingredients. The individual flavors of each component of this dish (fish, green beans, and polenta) were able to shine on their own without a long list of distracting ingredients.
I cooked the triggerfish meunière style, which consists of lightly breaded (in flour) fish that is pan-fried in a combination of butter and oil (about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil with about 1 tablespoon butter) to form a nicely colored thin crust on the outside of the fish. I believe that this style of cooking allows the true flavors of the fish to stand out better than if it is heavily breaded and deep-fried.
I prepared the polenta by cooking it by itself (cornmeal, water, and butter, that is it!), then adding in some roasted vegetables at the end. The roasted vegetables I used were leeks, an orange bell pepper, a poblano pepper, half a purple onion, one clove garlic, and a yellow squash. I actually got the idea for roasted vegetable polenta from the main dining hall, Rastall, where I go to college (Colorado College The food there is outstanding, especially for college cafeteria food).
The green beans were simply sautéd with a little olive oil for about four minutes.
I also made a meunière sauce (brown butter sauce consisting of browned butter, lemon juice, and parsley) that I spooned over the fish during plating.

While I think the dish tasted wonderful, I will definitely need to work on presentation next time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summertime Quinoa

I have really come to enjoy quinoa in the past year, despite the fact that I have only eaten it a small number of times. In fact, tonight was the first time I have ever cooked the South American grain. I treated it like I do rice, except this time I added some "flavor enhancers" beforehand.

I began by rendering a slice of bacon (sliced longways once, then across in 1/2 inch pieces) in a small saucepan until just before crispy. I then added a handful of chopped leeks, a large clove of minced garlic, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes until the leeks became slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. I then threw in a small handful of minced herbs (oregano and thyme were the two I used tonight) and 1/2 cup of quinoa (I have heard that you are supposed to rinse the grains prior to cooking, however I forgot to do this and it still tasted great). I toasted the quinoa for about two minutes then added 1 cup of water and let simmer.

The quinoa simmered for about 15 or 20 minutes until there was very little (or no) standing water at the bottom of the pan.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sono vs. Flights: Battle Noodles

The most recent battle in the Fire in the Triangle cooking series "went down" last night in Raleigh. It was my first time at such an event, but having watched numerous cooking battles on TV I had a good idea of what to expect. Although I have never been to Sono nor Flights, I was pleased (in general...) with what they cooked last night. We were served a total of three courses from each side, equalling a total of six dishes. The secret ingredient was noodles. Being forced to use noodles probably was not ideal for these chefs, given that they would probably prefer to make their own from scratch, however the clearly worked around this.

While Chef Michael Lee of Sono was responsible for my personal favorite dish, Soy Braised Pork with Beet Infused Sweet Potato Puree, Crispy Wonton and Iced Green Onion Salad, he was defeated by opposing Chef Dean Wendel of Flights. While Lee's soy braised pork was my highest scoring course, the "pro" judges obviously thought differently as they awarded it a very low score. Their low score was likely due to the use (or lack of proper use) of the secret ingredient, noodles (in this case, a fried wonton wrapper was used as a sort of garnish for the potato puree, see below). Another possible reason why Lee lost was due to his lack of a desert course. Instead of including a desert course, Lee decided to include two starter size courses, leaving Chef Wendel's desert to stand by itself. In fact, Chef Wendel's desert was the best of any of his three courses, giving him a big leg up on his competition.

Regardless of the scoring, both chefs preformed quite well in such a high pressure environment.

Chef Lee's Soy Braised Pork with Beet Infused Sweet Potato Puree, Crispy Wonton and Iced Green Onion Salad (note the use of the wonton wrapper. Creative? not so much)
 Chef Wendel's Wonton Pistachio Crusted Blackberry Cake with White Chocolate, Strawberry Sherbet and Pistachio Wonton Cigarette

Photo Credits: Competition Dining Series

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese

This is my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. It is my slight variation on Tyler Florence's recipe. It is a great dish for parties, pot-lucks, and eating at home! The two things that give this macaroni and cheese a leg up on many others is the garlic and thyme-infused milk and the bacon, onion, garlic, and thyme topping. 

Thyme sprigs (whole sprigs) and smashed garlic cloves (both will be strained from the milk mixture so there is no need to remove the skins from the cloves or woody twigs from the thyme)

 Shells (I sometimes use bowtie pasta. I used 2 lbs. because I was doubling the recipe)

Tons of shredded white and orange cheddar cheese (sharp and extra sharp).

Roux for the cheese sauce (equal parts flour and butter). 

Infused milk after being strained and added to roux. 

This time I decided to kick things up a notch with a couple splashes of hot chili oil.

Chopped parsley waiting to be added to the pasta and cheese mixture. 

 Post mixing. 

Cheese-topped pasta with cheese sauce awaiting the oven. 

Bacon, onion, garlic, and thyme topping (to be added to the mac and cheese after it comes out of the oven).

Finished product.

Chirba Chirba Dumpling Truck

 Visited the Chirba Chirba Dumpling food truck in Carrboro this afternoon. They were located in the Cliff's Meat Market parking lot in Carrboro. Though I have seen and heard about them many times before, this was my first time actually trying their food. I give them 10 out of 10 stars. I got five Bayside Chives and five Juicy Buns. They were both awesome. The dough was perfectly chewy and the filling was full of flavor. Additionally, they have about five different sauces to choose from which were all wonderful additions.
I highly recommend this place to everyone, especially if dumplings are your favorite food like me!

See my review of Chirba  Chirba on Yelp.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cherry Tomato Salad with Farmers Cheese

While mozzarella cheese is often used in tomato salads, I decided to change things up tonight and use the tangier farmers cheese instead. I used farmers cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill. I had never had farmers cheese before I tried it on a tour of the creamery last spring and have been a big fan ever since. It reminds me of a combination of mozzarella, feta, and goat cheeses. The colorful cherry tomatoes are from the Durham Farmer's Market.

I simply sliced the tomatoes in half and arranged them on the serving platter with slices of cheese in the middle. I also added some thinly sliced red onions in there as well. I then splashed some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar over everything, added kosher salt, ground black pepper, and oregano leaves from the garden as a garnish.

We ate the salad along with my dad's grouper fish tacos and corn salad which were also both delectable.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pesto Chicken Salad

Pesto is one of those unique foods that is simply amazing. It makes sense once you consider the ingredients: basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. Now puree all of that together and you have creamy goodness.

In this recipe (my variation on Sara Foster's recipe in The Foster's Market Cookbook) I actually made a pesto vinaigrette. Starting with basic pesto, I added lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, white wine, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and ground black pepper, which resulted in a slightly thinner consistency better suited for a chicken salad. I then mixed this vinaigrette with shredded grilled chicken breast, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts and walnuts, basil, and baby arugula and served it over a bed of warm pasta.


This dish is very versatile. I love this salad served over a bed of pasta as I did tonight, but it can easily be used as a filling for a delicious sandwich. It is also just as good cold as it is hot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jujube of Chapel Hill

Hands down one of the best restaurants I have been to in a while. I will admit, I am a huge fan of asian cuisine, and an upscale, though unpretentious, asian fusion restaurant such as Jujube is an ideal restaurant for me. Everything that we ordered was bold, had good-sized portions, and full of flavor, and it seemed like the other menu options were no different.

We started out with fried calamari and pork belly dumplings. Fried calamari is a staple on many menus, probably because it is hard to mess-up, however at the same time it is not usually a dish that is outstanding. Well, this calamari was outstanding. One of the things that made it so good was the "roasted ginger aioli and scallion oil" that came on the side. We ordered the pork belly dumplings because 1) dumplings are arguably my favorite food and 2) because nearly everyone else on Yelp raved about them. They were very good, but nothing extraordinary as they seemed slightly one-dimensional in flavor.

For the main course I ordered the Fried Chicken with XO sauce, garlic studded grits, and pea shoots. Ridiculously good. Fried chicken is not something you typically see on an upscale asian menu, however it was amazing. The XO sauce that was drizzled over the chicken is actually the "sauce", or broth, from their "Angry Seafood" soup which added a nice kick (the "Angry Seafood" soup/stew was very spicy) to the chicken. The creamy garlic grits were so amazing they melted in your mouth.

I had been to Jujube many years ago and do not remember it being anywhere near as good as it was this time. I think they have improved tremendously recently and it is definitely worth going if you haven't been in a while or if you have never been at all!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Old photos

Here are some miscellaneous photos of some food/dishes I have made over the past year:

First time cooking pizza on the Big Green Egg. Having grilled pizza on the BGE twice now, I have achieved maximum temperatures of around 675 F, more than 100 degrees hotter than my kitchen oven.

Hickory smoked salmon (on the BGE) with grilled vegetables (onion, red bell pepper and scallions) and romesco sauce (poblano pepper, tomato, garlic, parsley, cilantro, toasted almonds, toast, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar).

Red pepper parmesan risotto.

Pan-seared North Carolina flounder with a gazpacho garnish (red and yellow bell pepper, cucumber and blanched zucchini skin).

Sautéed asparagus.

Grilled bruschetta with homegrown heirloom tomatoes.

Kaiser rolls

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Durham Food Truck Rodeo 6/17

Attended my first Food Truck Rodeo this past weekend. I was able to talk some friends into going with me which made everything better. The rodeo was held in downtown Durham at the Durham Central Park, the same place where the Durham Farmers Market is held every Wednesday and Saturday. While I had eaten at a couple of the local food trucks such as Only Burger that have been around for a little while, many of the ones at the rodeo were new to me which was great.
An event such as this one with such a high concentration of trucks serving delicious food made me giddy. There was a great diversity of foods being served out of the individual trucks, such as frozen yogurt from LoYo on the Go, to thin-crust pizza from Pie Pushers, to burgers and fries from Only Burger, to Chinese dumplings from Chirba Chirba Dumplings. Had lines not been an issue I would have definitely hit Chirba Chirba first for some dumplings, but seeing as their line was one of the longest, I settled on a slice of Pie Pushers pizza. I got the Local Farmhand, which was a slice of pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, local italian sausage, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. Everything about it was delectable. The pizza was followed with some pickled sugar snap peas ("peackles") from Sympathy for the Deli, chocolate frozen yogurt with granola and strawberries from LoYo on the Go, and shaved ice from Kona Ice.
After a great experience at my first ever Food Truck Rodeo I am sure I will be at the next one soon.

First Post

I am starting this blog in part because it will give me something extra to do this summer and because my brother Wesley urged me to do it while eating Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan at dinner earlier tonight. I dream about being some sort of food writer or journalist one day and a food blog seems like a logical starting point.
Food is a passion of mine that I hope to share through this blog by posting thoughts on restaurants, recent dishes I have cooked, or simply food-related thoughts (something that I tend to get a lot).  The title is a work in progress as I am still open to new ideas. Any feedback is much appreciated.