“Getting to know you…Getting to feel free and easy…When I am with you…Haven’t you noticed suddenly I’m bright and breezy…Because of all the beautiful and new things I learn about you…” – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I”
Two weeks ago I kick started my holiday season in New York City, and spent the most wonderful time with my dearest sister, niece, my cousins and their better halves.
We talked, we laughed, we cried, we shopped, we drank, we ate….Life is wonderful and filled with precious moments, I am truly thankful.
I am happy and content to be back in “Raincouver” with my hubby; until the next time I see my family again, I miss you all (OO)
Here’s a snapshot of some of my favourite moments and places:
Alone time at ramen-ya in NYC: now that’s a first for me..
And the next day we cooked up a storm for Thanksgiving Family Dinner..(childhood memories and flashbacks)….and we had plenty of leftovers the next day
What’s on the menu: Roast organic turkey, lobster mac and cheese, homemade cranberry sauce, cauliflower and zucchini mash, savoy cabbage and radicchio salad (remember this dish?) and delicious desserts brought over by Amy’s lovely parents..
In between we shopped and (window shopped) everywhere (Black Friday Sales!)…
A busy Saturday….Finally I made it to Per Se (Thomas Keller’s second Three Michelin starred property, the first being “French Laundry” in Napa Valley
At night we went enjoyed the musical “The King and I : I have a special reason for wanting to see this (you’ll find out in the end)…(I cannot believe my wonderful cousin Cary accompanied four ladies to a “chick musical”, thank you so much for the special treat!
We spent a lot of time in Chelsea, a neighbourhood on the west side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City..
A seafood feast from the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market, where we spent four hours shopping and eating…
Korean Food Wave Revisited: Two weeks ago on the Thanksgiving long weekend, I went “work-clothes shopping” with my friend “Mui Mui”, a fairly level-headed “youngster” who recently got a new job and need a little assistance with wardrobe selections.
She can only have soup or congee (braces!!); we popped into H-Martfood court (on Robson Street) for a casual dinner (shopping is just about the only time I’m willing to forgo a proper “sit down” meal, taste is important still); it was great to revisit Wang Ga Ma food stand, where I had one of my all time favourite Korean dish, Kimchi jjigae. It was absolutely delicious, just “hit the spot”, perfect dinner on a rainy Friday night.
I like Jjigae for its simplicity and heartiness, it is what it is. Unlike SoonDuBu (Tofu soup), this dish is not readily available anywhere. Whenever I have a sudden craving, I must make my own at home. It’s my “go-to” dish during the gloomy Vancouver winter months.
The taste brought back many fond memories, the years (since 2005) of my absolute fascination with my third “adopted” culture (behind Japanese/French)…Korean language classes (at SFU Continuing Education)…My three trips to Seoul, especially travelling with my language class schoolmates (who remained in touch as good friends until this day)…dinner outings to different establishments with our wonderful teacher Anne…Korean cooking classes…
Upon returning home, I “dug out” an old cookbook – “Korean cooking” by Han Chung Hae; In 2005 and 2007, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunities (yes twice!) to attend her cooking school while I travelled to Seoul for leisure! I’ve learnt some interesting basic dishes – kimchi jjigae (by special request), Japchae, Bulgoogi (secret marinade), seafood pancake, just to name a few! The cookbook and a few copies of recipes written in Korean (yay have not forgotten everything entirely!) are prized souvenirs, I treasured most the experiences and friendships, they will always remain very dear to my heart.
Last night on the way home we made a quick stop at T & T (Asian supermarket) to pick up the pork and konnyaku (kimchi is always in our fridge!)…Here you go!
2 cups (packed) kimchi (readily available at most supermarkets, chopped in bite size), 150 grams organic pork shoulder (thinly sliced or bite size, trim excess fat), 1 small onion (thinly sliced), 3 teaspoons grated ginger, 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (can always add a little more), 1/2 cup kimchi juice (squeezed from kimchi), 2 to 2 1/2 cups of anchovy stock (*similar to Japanese dashi made of dried kelp and dry anchovies boiled in water), 2-3 teaspoons of gochujang (Korean chili paste), 150 grams konnyaku, 2 scallions (thinly sliced for garnish), 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil, 1-2 teaspoon of soy sauce (preferably Korean, Japanese soy will work also) for marinade and season to taste; 2 teaspoon Japanese sake (rice wine).
*You can use water if you do not have any stock handy, the anchovy stock adds more depth and flavour to the soup. I always have Japanese dashi stock (kelp/bonito) ready at home and it works just as well.
It’s my personal preference to use mostly organic products, the pork shoulder (it’s less fatty) and konnyaku (a Japanese zero calorie product made of plant from taro family) instead of the usual tofu (OO). For other versions, skip the meat and add other vegetables for vegetarian, or use canned tuna for chamchi jjigae.
– Slice onions, grate ginger, mince garlic and chop scallions, set aside.
– Trim excess fat off pork shoulder, slice thinly or bite size; marinade with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon of Korean chilli paste (gochujang), 1 teaspoon grated ginger and a smidgen of garlic at least for 30 minutes.
– Prepare the kimchi juice: Remove 2 cups (fully packed) kimchi from jar, squeezed hard into a bowl to obtain “juice” (approximately 1/2 cup), set aside.
– Bring a small pot of water to boil, add the whole block of konnyaku to parboil for approximately 10 minutes. This will get rid of the “smell”, slice konnyaku into 1/2 inch thick.
– Using medium high heat, heat a hot-pot (nabe – remember to follow instructions if you using one) or 5 quart heavy bottom stock pot, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, when hot add the pork slices. Saute for approximately 2 to 3 minutes (do not cook pork entirely) and allow the fat to render. Remove pork from pot.
– Using the same pot (add a little more oil only if necessary) over medium high heat, add the onions, saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent, add remaining ginger and garlic and 1 teaspoon of gochujang, saute until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the kimchi juice and a splash of Japanese sake to “deglaze” (you will hear it sizzling) and scrape off the little brown bits (don’t burn) from the bottom.
– Add kimchi, konnyaku and soup stock (or water) to the pot, stirring everything together to combine.
– Bring to a boil and taste for spiciness, adjust with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) if you want to increase the spiciness, season to taste with soy only if necessary.
– Turn the heat down to a low simmer and let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes. Let the flavours develop further.
– Return the half-cooked pork slices to the mixture, cook until meat is tender.
– Add the scallions and quickly stir to incorporate. Turn off and remove from heat, serve immediately straight out of the pot with rice. Enjoy!
My sister-in-law Marcia is a pescatarian/vegetarian and a serious dessert/chocolate connoisseur; for almost every Festive family dinner gatherings when a “meat” dish is usually the main event, our mother-in-law would happily make our family’s favourite “Not real sushi – California rolls” (recipe already posted) or baked a salmon fillet for her, changing the sauce (Teriyaki, beurre blanc) each time. Although she enjoyed them always, it became a routine…
I decided to change things up just a bit after revisiting the classic recipe: I know it’s not major or “life defining” culinary moment, the thought process behind the thinner crispy potato crust (instead of usual mashed potatoes) was very simple; the “pie’ idea was inspired by Marcia’s past lovely desserts and believe my entire extended family will find this more enjoyable, it’s less carbs (haha) and less fat (from the sauce to the filling). Over time, I find myself putting even more consideration and thought into the food which I cooked for family and friends, a lot of times it is for health reasons and their preference; this is my way to express my love to those close and dear to me.
This dish, along with the juiciest turkey I’ve ever cooked together with my mother-in-law, and the sides and salads (Thanks Barb and Gina) and desserts (thanks Marcia! The chocolate truffle cake and apple galette were divine) prepared by my sisters-in-law were devoured in no time.
That was another happy busy day in the kitchen, happy meal, happy gathering, happy family moment together…I have so much to be thankful for.
On another happy note: I submitted the “pie” picture to Vancouver Gastropost for last week’s “Pie Oh My” Mission, it was selected and featured in Saturday’s weekend paper! Thank you Vancouver Sun for the acknowledgement (OO).
Ingredients: (For 9 1/2 inch pie plate)
500 g wild sockeye salmon fillet, 2 leeks (white part only, finely sliced), 4 to 6 Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and grated into strips), Japanese panko (handful), fresh juice of 1 lemon, 1 Tablespoon fresh dill (chopped), 1-2 Tablespoon grapeseed oil, sea salt and white pepper (for seasoning), grated cheddar (as you like and it is optional)
For Lemon dill infused bechamel: 4 cups of “tempered” unsweetened almond milk, 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh dill, peel of 1 lemon (strips), 1 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or to taste), 1/4 cup (approximately) of all-purpose flour, 3 to 4 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (traditional roux calls for butter, fat and flour is usually 1-1 ratio, I’ve used less than 3 Tablespoon of grapeseed oil). **Using grapeseed oil and unsweetened almond milk is my personal choice.
One Day Ahead: Prepare Lemon dill infused Bechamel Sauce
– In 4 quart Sauce pan, start “tempering” and flavouring of almond milk: (this is an important step as cold milk will result in lumpy and grainy sauce)
– Rinse saucepan with cold water (do not wipe dry – this will prevent the fats and protein from scorching the bottom of the saucepan), add unsweetened almond milk, then the aromatics – sprigs of fresh dill, lemon peel, bay leaf.
– Using medium low heat, bring liquid to a simmer (Do not bring to a boil), turn off the heat, cover with lid and let the flavours steep for at least 15 minutes (I did for 20 minutes).
– The hot milk should now be ready; it can now be strained into a measuring cup. Discard all flavouring ingredients.
– Wipe the saucepan clean, over medium low heat, start making the white roux (combining fat and starch together): add olive oil to saucepan, when oil begins to bubble, begin adding flour, keep stirring to form a smooth thin paste. The flour should be incorporated into the olive oil fully, continue to cook the roux by stirring constantly over medium low heat in order to prevent scorching (burning), the process should be no longer than 2 minutes (white roux does not take on colour), you are looking for a smooth and thin consistency (not thick and lumpy).
– Once the roux is ready, add hot milk to hot roux a bit a time while constantly whisking (easy to use a flat whisk) or stirring (spatula), let the mixture come back to a simmer each time before adding more hot milk. Once all the milk has been added, bring it to a gentle simmer while stirring. Lower The heat and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, pot uncovered (important), in order to cook out the starch flavour. Be careful not to bring to a boil as sauce will burn or split. Using a whisk, stir occasionally, make sure you scrape the bottom edges of the pot. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon nicely, once it finishes cooking, turn off heat, season to taste with sea salt and white pepper (optional). Strain the sauce into one more time for a silky smooth texture.
– To store properly, pour sauce into a glass bowl and place a plastic wrap over the hot bechamel, when cooled completely, refrigerate. The sauce will thicken considerably; to reheat the next day, add a little water (or stock) to the cold bechamel, stir and bring to a simmer.
Preparation on The Day Of:
– Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F (to bake the salmon).
– Clean and pat dry salmon fillet with paper towel, using tweezers (I keep one for cooking) remove pin bones.
– Place salmon fillet (skin side down) in baking tray. Mix 1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, and drizzle over the salmon. Season by evenly with chopped dill, sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) to taste. Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until salmon is easily flaked with a fork; the salmon should still be pinkish and moist.
– While salmon is baking, peel and grate (or using a knife to slice) the potatoes into thin strips, place in a sieve, add 1 teaspoon of salt. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can with your hands; leave to drain for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat the process again with another teaspoon of salt, leave for another 10 minutes and again squeeze hard to remove as much moisture as possible. Pat dry with paper towel, cover and set aside.
– Once salmon is cooled considerably (don’t burn yourself!), start “flaking” the salmon by using a fork, the flakes should come off the skin easily. Flake them in “bite-size” (not large chunks), do not include salmon skin, make sure all bones have been removed. Set aside
– In saucepan reheat the bechamel sauce by adding a little water to the cold sauce, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat when ready.
– In separate 6 quart pot, add drizzle of grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned, then add salmon flakes. Turn off and remove from heat, using a spatula, slowly and gently “fold in” bechamel sauce (a few spoonfuls at a time) with salmon mixture. the filling should not appear runny (Do not stir)
– Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.
– Mix the grated potato strips with a handful of Japanese panko. Lightly brush the bottom of the 9 1/2 inch pie plate (mine is my Mom’s “vintage” Pyrex) with grapeseed oil, then sprinkle with chopped dill. Then pour the salmon filling, and top with the grated potatoes in an even layer, lightly brush the potatoes with just a little grapeseed oil, the crust should brown nicely.
– Place on a baking tray in the oven and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until heated through and bubbling, the potato crust should be golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately.
– Bechamel sauceand salmon flakes can be made one day ahead; just remember to let all prepared foods cooled down, store in proper containers before refrigerate.
I actually prepared this salmon flakes and the bechamel the day before our family’s Thanksgiving gathering; it’s all about “mise en place” – getting organized and give yourself some breathing room on the day of!
If you choose to make the bechamel sauce at the same time, prepare it while the salmon is baking in the oven. Have to work pretty quickly!
– Bechamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is made from roux (butter/flour) and milk. It is a “mother sauce” in French and Italian cuisines, and used as a base for other sauces (for example French Mornay sauce – add cheese to bechamel), so it’s handy to learn how to make the base properly. The choice of herbs to flavour the milk can be changed according to recipe.
The bechamel sauce cooking method is something I’ve learnt through the online cooking school Rouxbe; I am a life-time registered student/member for amateur programs. Their instructional videos are very informative, the instructions I’ve written are based on the narration. For serious home cooks, it may be worthwhile to register (http://rouxbe.com/); they also have professional programs available.
– Be mindful with the seasoning as salt is used to season all ingredients separately (especially the potatoes, salt was needed to “draw” the water), you don’t want to end up with a very salty pie!
– Always adjust all seasoning according to your taste and dietary needs.
– As I’m only a home cook, I’ve tried my best to record the measurements while I was preparing this dish, please feel free to adjust if necessary.
– Adding cheese (grated cheddar) is optional as it makes the dish “heavier”: I did when I made this pie (see main picture) for Thanksgiving dinner, I skipped when I made our smaller home pot-pies for dinner, which I served with peas for dinner. Enjoy (OO)!