Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Decade!

It's 2010...Holy hell, it's 2010... Not only a new year, it's a new decade. When I first started writing this posting, I thought I was going to be giving an update on my life since my last posting in September. But I've thought of something better to do. A lot of people make New Year's resolutions. I've made them in the past. I think I may have actually kept one once for a whole year. This year, however, I'm going to do something different. It's the start of a new decade, and really the start of my true adult life, since I'm graduating this year. So I thought, why not make the next ten years' worth of New Year's resolutions in one go? So here it goes, my New Decade resolutions:

2010 - Graduate!!!
It's coming up on four years since I started college. I'm miles away from where I began in Pre-Med. But I'm happily rushing to finish my B.A. in International Relations by May 14th, 2010, Graduation Day, and my 22nd birthday. It's a lofty goal for me, but I think straight A's would be a great end to my undergraduate education. In addition to graduation, I've also named this decade the Decade of Languages. That means, another year = another language. I mean getting at least conversational, not just learning some words and phrases. This is absolutely crazy, I know, but you have to aim high. So for 2010, get fluent in Russian, and learn Polish. I'm learning Russian in college still, so it's not that much of a stretch to imagine being able to do both.

2011 - Save and Invest!
In 2011, I want to be working and making money. Whatever I'm doing, in the bank I want to have saved at least $10-20k. I thought I would want to have more, but thinking more about taxes and cost of living, I think this is a good range to shoot for. Hopefully I'll be able to pass this up easily, but I consider this a good solid reachable target. In addition to savings, I want to have two things started by the end of 2011: a Roth IRA and a long-term stock portfolio. These I'm going to have to research, but I have friends that are my age that have both, so I think that two years from now, I ought to as well. As for languages, get fluent in Polish and relearn Spanish. I think it would be possible to gain fluency in Polish this year while relearning Spanish, which is why I have both in one year. I think I might even be able to gain fluency in Spanish too, since I have somewhat of a base already.

2012 - Visit Asia
In 2012, at some point, I want to visit Asia. Doesn't matter which part (Central, South East, China, Japan, Russia), doesn't matter for how long. My only rule, it has to be the destination. I can't do a trip to Australia or something and do a connecting flight. I think the most likely scenario would be if my dad got a job with a client in India or Japan, or if my dad becomes mayor and schedules a trip to Alameda's sister city in China. But that's my goal by the end of the year in 2012. For languages, I want to add Japanese. It'll be the first dive into an Asian language, and from the small amount of research I've done of various languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, etc.) it seems relatively easy. One of my cousins studied it in college, so at least I know I'd have someone to practice with. I suppose I should mention that I want to keep up with my other languages as well.

2013 - Own Some Property
By the end of 2013, I want to have some property. This means a few things: I have to have a steady job to be able to pay a mortgage. I have to be living and working somewhere where the housing market is "entry level." Central east coast, maybe? There are some decent housing prices in Kentucky, where my aunt lives. But my dad made a good point, that the cost of heating and cooling a house is higher in those places. But, depending on my situation (i.e. if I'm the only one living there), I know I'd be fine without too much heating and cooling. Whatever the case, I'll be 25 years old, and I want somewhere to call my own. As for languages, I've decided German for this year. I think I've ignored a lot of Central Europe in general. I don't know a whole lot of the history before WWI. I hope studying German would help fill parts of that gap in knowledge.

2014 - Learn How to Play the Cello
The cello is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world in my opinion. I know how to play a lot of instruments, but not any of the bowed ones. The "sounds" I can get out of a violin are horrible. I just want to be able to play some of Bach's cello suites, which are some of the most relaxing and emotional pieces of classical music that I've heard. So for this goal, by February, I want to have enough money saved up to buy a cello (not rent). Then if I haven't gotten to where I want to be by August, take two months of lessons, just to learn the basics, then go back out on my own. For languages, I'm taking on Mandarin. It's a tonal language, and since my life goal for the year is learning something musical, I might as well stay in the category. I know that Mandarin is crazy hard, therefore I'm giving myself two years to learn this one. As such, I expect myself to really keep up my other languages in these two years, either reading, writing, or speaking them on a daily basis.

(P.S. I've been writing this post for a few days now, from when I was home over break until now, the Sunday before school starts again... and probably until later this week unless I can write 5 more years before going to bed.)

2015 - Get in Major Shape!
This is a big one. I generally don't have a problem being fit, but I need to get in major shape this year... This year's entry is short... You'll understand the goal in the next one. Also, continue Mandarin of course.

2016 - Attend the Olympics!
Whether as an athlete or a spectator, I want to go to the Olympics. I guess this makes 2015's goal clear. If you don't know, I'm a rower. Rowing (or crew) is the best sport in the world. Period. I fell in love with it in the summer before high school and know it's going to be part of my life forever. I'm not exactly the right body type for it (not 6'0" or taller), so the target is lightweight pair, double, or single scull. In any case, in 2015 I'll train to get into the national team selection camp, and if I don't make that, train up to go to qualifiers as an independent athlete. If I don't make that, then oh well. It's a story of a lifetime, and promises to be a rewarding experience nn its own. To go along with this, I want to learn Portuguese (the Olympics are going to be held in Rio de Janeiro). I'm sure you agree that it just fits.

2017 - Visit Africa
I think Africa in 2017 sounds pretty good. Not sure where in Africa I'd like to go specifically. It's more of that I want to see it all. I'd like to see northern Africa (I really want to visit Morocco and Egypt), but I also want to visit Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, and pretty much all of the other ones too. It's definitely too big of a continent to fit into one year, unless I'm working there. Which is a possibility, because I'm very interested in development theory and would love to help some African nations develop. If I'm just going to be taking trips, then I'll have to split it up between northern, central, eastern, western, and southern. I think each of those regions deserves a trip. As far as languages, I think I want to spend the next two years learning Hungarian. It's super difficult, but seems like a good challenge. At the same time, it sounds slavic, french, and nordic. It's a really interesting language because it's like none of the languages around it. Since it's so difficult, like Mandarin, I'm giving myself two years to do it.

2018 - Get Published!
I'd like to get published at some point in my life. I may as well get it done early, right? There are a few options: get an article published (in a newspaper or magazine/journal), or actually get down to writing a book. If you don't know, I have an idea tossing around in my head about a children's book series. I'm brainstorming for the first book at the moment, and have been writing it on and off for about a year now. It's kind of hard with school, but I imagine it will only be harder when I'm actually out working in the real world. But still, I think it's a good idea, and I'd like to pursue it, even if it's not until I'm old and retired. But the goal for 2018: Get Published! As I mentioned above, I'll be continuing Hungarian into this year.

2019 - Reevaluate
Honestly, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do for this last year. So I'm cheating. I'm taking this year to see if my life is what I want it to be. I'll be turning 30, and I think that I'll still have enough time to change if I don't like what I'm doing. I still think this is kind of a cheap way out, but I'm sticking with it. I'm also going to be lazy in my languages: gain fluency in them all. I guess I can't really say I'm being lazy; 8 languages in 10 years is pretty nuts. So really, I deserve this year.

Well, that's it then. Ten years of New Year's resolutions. Let's see how it goes! Here's a final recap of things:

2010 - Graduate; Russian (fluency) and Polish
2011 - Save and Invest; Polish (fluency) and Spanish (fluency)
2012 - Visit Asia; Japanese
2013 - Own Property; German
2014 - Learn to Play Cello; Mandarin (first year)
2015 - Get in Shape/Train; Mandarin (second year)
2016 - Attend Olympics; Portuguese
2017 - Visit Africa; Hungarian (first year)
2018 - Get Published; Hungarian (second year)
2019 - Reevaluate; general fluency (Russian, Polish, Spanish, Japanese, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Hungarian)

These goals are designed to be attainable wherever I'm living, whatever I'm doing. There are a few that are kind of restrictive, such as owning property and training for the Olympics. I won't be able to buy anything in the Bay Area (unless there's a severe drop in prices again, which there won't be), and I'll need some sort of still water to train on, hopefully at least 5-10k of water, not to mention a pair or doubles partner. Everything else, though, I believe is doable. So let's get it done!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

I just wish...

I just wish I could both skip ahead in time about 9 months to graduation and go through and enjoy the experiences I'm going to have this last school year at USC. Three weeks into my second-to-last semester, four weeks since coming back to the sport I love (my back is finally letting me row again), three weeks before heading to the Bay Area to schrimmage Cal's varsity boat, three weeks and 2 days from taking the Foreign Service Officers' Test. I have a lot going on, now that I think about it. But I figured it was, again, time for an update:

1) I am no longer working at Bottega Louie. I stopped working there shortly after my Kentucky trip. School was starting soon, and I had my Montreal trip to get ready for. I loved working there and plan on going back many times as a customer.

2) As I said, second-to-last semester at USC. Last semester of student tickets to Trojan football. Last Fall semester of 10k's and 45-minute erg workouts getting ready for NARF and Head of the Harbor. I've still got 9 months, but I'm already wondering if I'm going to miss L.A. Certainly not the traffic. Definitely not the air quality. But when I'm cold I'm sure I'll think back to the sun and blue skies of southern California. This semester, 20 units. So far, not so bad. I've already done one of my two presentations for IR 454. And I have my topics chosen for my research papers. Now I just have to write them. They're interesting classes, too. And the sweetest part of it all is that next semester, I can basically do whichever classes I want. I'll have completed my foreign economics concentration, my regional requirement and my 400-level requirement. I'll be in Russian IV and then three more IR classes (though I may look into finding other classes that can be counted towards my major). It would have been awesome to be able to travel abroad to study, but I figure I'll have plenty of opportunity to live and work abroad. College has been amazing (still is), and I feel I've made it exactly what I wanted.

3) I'm back, baby! My lower back has finally been feeling loose enough to let me row. With that said, I'm terribly out of shape. But it's coming back quite well. I didn't miss the blisters, but I've realized in these last few weeks just how much happier I am when I'm rowing (whether on the erg or in a boat, even riding on the launch). We've gone through novice recruitment, and of course we'd like more numbers. But the guys that we do have, whew... they are going to have a good season. Everyone on the team is impressed with how these guys have picked up the sport so quickly. I'm really excited for this season overall.

Well, I think I'm going to end this post. There's so much that I could go on and on about, but for now, I'll give myself time to organize my thoughts. Even though my cooking has be nearly nil, I'll still sign off with: Happiness begins in the kitchen, be BOLD!


Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer is Slipping By

So yeah... it's July 3rd... The last time I posted was May 1st. Shameful, isn't it? But I figure it's time for another update on everything. So here goes:

#1) I still work at Bottega Louie. Still a food runner. Haven't gotten into the kitchen yet, but I've expedited a few times. That is, I called the orders that come in to the linecooks and put the finishing touches on food as they go out. It's hectic but incredibly fun. I think I've got the best schedule, Friday - Monday evenings. The restaurant is getting crazy since it's gotten a few great reviews. The most we've served in one evening to date (at least while I've been working) is just over 850. And we've been doing a steady 500+ on weekend nights. Some notables that have come in to eat: Topher Grace, Emilie de Ravin, Shannen Doherty, Milo Ventimiglia. I'm sure others have come in, but those are the ones I actually remember bringing food to. I'm thinking about talking to Chef Davis about trying my hand in pastry. I really like to bake, and I think I could do the nice presentation of the desserts well. Other than that, work is work. I don't do much on the days I work (or on the days I don't work for that matter).

#2) I'm going to Kentucky in 11 days to visit my Aunt Diana and cousins Shannon and Amanda. There are horses there, which I'm excited about. Also, it'll be the first time I've been to Kentucky, which is always exciting. Next, I'm going to Montreal with my dad in 30 days. That is going to be a lot of fun. First time going to Canada. I've planned out our itinerary, and the days are going to be packed. Still, it should be relaxing. I've just recently purchased a 35mm film camera (Canon Rebel K2) and am looking forward to taking some great pictures with it. Hopefully some slides as well (something I hope comes back as a tradition for the Matarrese family). Those are the two major trips I have planned (also going home for a few days before and after the Montreal trip). I'd like to get down to San Diego for a day or two, take the train down and just bum it on the beach. At some point in the next year I want to go camping, use my backpacking gear some more (and of course take more pictures).

#3) I've started the application process to become a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department. A Consular officer to be specific. Those are the people that you speak to at the visa window. I'm planning on taking the initial test in October. There are many steps to go through to actually become an FSO, but here's the rundown of it: initial FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test), writing a few personal statements, getting through a reviewing board, getting interviewed in D.C. for a final review, getting medical and security clearance. It's a very competitive process, but it should be because FSOs are most of the world's first and only impression of the U.S. It seems like the perfect job for me. Living abroad at embassies and consulates, speaking the native language everyday, and serving my country. What could be better? Not even to mention the free housing, the decent salary, and the job security. It would be the ultimate "change in scenery," every two years or so a new country. I've been assigned a mentor from the State Department, a very nice man serving as a Consular officer in Peru at the moment. He's been a great source of information for me about the Foreign Service. Overall, it seems like a good fit, so I'm going for it. I'll keep y'all updated on it.

#4) Slowly but surely, my back has been getting better. It has not been bothering me at all. That being said, I tried erging a few weeks ago, very low pressure low rating, and I still can't get the proper bodies over position. I'm not 100% sure, but I think my collegiate rowing career is done. It's a real shame, especially as the USC Men's Crew team is just starting its Renaissance with the two new coaches. I am still doing my stretches trying to get better, but without being able to erg, there is no way I can be in competitive shape to earn a spot in the top boat. I plan on staying in contact with the team, in essence being on the team, go to races and such. Perhaps I can be the team photographer. I wouldn't trade my time on the team for anything in the world, and hopefully someday I can get back in a boat, even if it's just for recreational purposes. My love affair with the sport will end when I die.

#5) Next semester is going to be insane. I'm taking 20 units (four classes = 16 units = full load). I have to take 20 units in one of my last two semesters in order to graduate on time. And since I found what sounds like really interesting classes, I figured I'd do my 20 in the fall. My classes are: Russian 3, The Global Economy (IR 213, the last introductory class in the major), Multination Enterprises and World Politics (IR 324, all about international businesses and their political and social influences), Political Economy of Russia and Eurasia (IR 439, combines a few things I like: Russia/Eastern Europe and political economics), and The Political Economy of Development (IR 454, again with the political economics, and development, something I took a really interesting class in this last semester). Two 400-level classes, a 300-level class, a 200-level class, and a third semester language. It's going to kick my ass. Even if I was physically able to row, I don't think I would have the time. That also means I'll have to not be working. Whether I have to quit or just take leave from working at Bottega Louie is yet to be determined. I'm spending the summer trying to get ahead for the classes though. I'm reading the first book for IR 324, thinking of some possible topics for my research paper for IR 439, and trying to increase my Russian vocabulary. Hopefully I will survive (not have I have a choice).

And #6) I have been slacking in my cooking, but I have two things for you: a spice rub of my own creation, and a recipe for Chinese pork buns that I rocked. First the spice rub that I made:

Sweet Mustard Rub

I used this on beef chunks that I pan sauted. I didn't really have a
clear idea what I was creating, and didn't taste it until after the beef was
cooked. Luckily, it turned out well. Try different amounts of the
various ingredients to get different tastes (obviously):

ground mustard
ground nutmeg
caraway seeds
brown sugar
garlic salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Roll the meat in the rub. Pan
saute with a little olive oil until a nice crust forms on the outside.

I suppose if you added lemon juice, you could make a sauce out of it, or you could deglaze the pan as well, since the sugar carmalizes some tasty bits onto it. This on chicken would make so wicked kababs.

The next recipe is for Cha Siu Bau, or pork buns. They are those white doughy buns with the pork inside. They come with the paper stuck on the bottom usually. I found this recipe online. It makes the perfect dough, I think the filling could use some work though. It's tasty, and generically "Chinese," but there could be so much better fillings too. Here's the recipe:

Chinese Pork Buns (Cha Siu Bao)
Category: Pork Entree
Serves/Makes: 24

6 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
1 pound finely chopped pork
1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in 1 3/4 cups warm water, and then add the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until mixture is frothy. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons shortening and the yeast mixture; mix well. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover it with a sheet of cling wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has tripled in bulk.

Cut the pork into 2 inch thick strips. Use fork to prick it all over. Marinate for 5 hours in a mixture made with 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, and 1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce. Grill the pork until cooked and charred. Cut roasted port into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, oyster sauce, and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Mix cornstarch with 2 1/2 tablespoons water; add to the saucepan, and stir until thickened. Mix in 2 tablespoons lard or shortening, sesame oil, and white pepper. Cool, and mix in the roasted pork. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a long roll, and divide it into 24 pieces. Flatten each piece with the palm of the hand to form a thin circle. The center of the circle should be thicker than the edge. Place one portion of the pork filling in the center of each dough circle. Wrap the dough to enclose the filling. Pinch edges to form the bun. Let the buns stand for 10 minutes. Steam buns for 12 minutes. Serve.

Mine came out, to be quite honest, perfectly. My housemate Kevin Chin (from South Korea originally) said they tasted like "store-bought," which I take as a good thing. I plan to make them again, with some veggies and maybe some with preserved fruit inside. They are really good. I put each bun on a square of wax paper before steaming so they wouldn't stick to the bottom of my steamer and really, they are just like those I've bought in Chinatown. Unfortunately, my friends and I ate them all before I took any pictures, but I'll be sure to snap some when I make them again. Well, that's just about it for me. I'm almost ready for school to start again, just to find stuff to do (not that there's not plenty of stuff to do in LA, or plenty of things I could be doing). Hopefully, I'll get back into the habit of updating this thing (I definitely will after my trips, because I'll have plenty of pictures). Until next time, remember:
Happiness begins in the kitchen, be Bold!


Friday, May 1, 2009

It's been a while, old friend...

Happy May, everyone. The summer weather still hasn't fully taken hold here in L.A. My 21st birthday is in 13 days, my last final of junior year in 11, and my flight home for a week in the Bay Area in 14. My last post was over 2 weeks ago, and so I should have a large credit of recipes to make up for the weekends I've missed. It's a good thing, then, that I've added to my collection of culinary resources recently. I now have The Joy of Cooking, The Escoffier Cook Book, The New Food Lover's Companion, and Good Cooking with Herbs and Spices. This last book is somewhat of a gem in my collection. It's another one of Frank Dorn's books (I don't think I mentioned it, but my copy of The Dorn Cookbook is actually a signed copy by Brig. Gen. Frank Dorn himself). My copy of Good Cooking with Herbs and Spices also happens to be a first edition, got off I plowed my way through Kitchen Confidential, which was an interesting read. I took the book with a grain of salt, having read all the reviews to the effect of "the industry has evolved so much since the '70s... the narration is a caricature of how things used to be... etc." But still, it is an interesting read, and kind of makes me want to open my own restaurant eventually. What else? Bottega Louie is doing well to my knowledge. Our triumph to date (at least in my eyes) was our 1000+ cover day about a week ago. Some nights get extremely hectic, but we're falling into a groove I think (not a rut, mind you). I had my last class of junior year yesterday, and now am studying for finals. I actually went to the LA Trade Tech College today and got a registration appointment, so I should be all set to sign up for the very first Orientation I course of their culinary program. That will keep me busy this summer, in addition to working at the restaurant. *doorbell rings* ... Awesome, the mailman just delivered my copy of Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making. I'll have to look at that before I go to work. There are so many things going on, but they're all fun/good. Even once I get on that plane on the 15th to go home, that night I'm bar hopping in Alameda, the next day I'm cooking a pasta dinner with my dad, visiting with family all weekend, hopefully going to SF one of the days (I'm planning on eating at Nopa, the restaurant where Richie the author of linecook415 works). At some point between now and the 14th I will hopefully get my licence renewed (nice and early). I have to register for my culinary class. Sidenote, my schedule for next semester rocks, even though I have 20 units (a full load is 16), of which 2 are 400-level, 1 is 300-level, 1 is 200-level, and then Russian III. But they all sound super interesting (IPE of Eastern Europe, Politics and Economics of Development, Multinational Corporations, and The Global economy). After the end of this semester, it's all IR classes and Russian, all the time. Very interesting stuff, but then again I can't wait to finish. After college, still planning on moving to NYC. Some other possibilities have come to mind as well: move back to the Bay Area and work in the industry somehow (possibly open my own restaurant); stay in L.A. for a time and really work towards getting into the kitchen of Bottega Louie to learn the trade; stay in L.A. and go to culinary school here; see if I can get into the Opreyland Hotel Culinary Program (culinary school while you get paid since you're actually working for a hotel); move to D.C. and work for the government in some aspect; move to Europe and work for an MNC; take a culinary tour of the world (my friend told me I must go to China and see what they're doing over there); do something with the Armed Forces (still an option for me, though not a strong pull). In all, I'm feeling pretty good, though. Not as frantic to know what I'm going to be doing after college. And I'm happy knowing that I'm just doing what I think is best to prepare for whatever I end up doing. Let's see... Oh, I've also been designing/developing my website idea. It will be like a lot of sites that already exist (Chowhound, Foodbeast, Epicurious, etc.) but it will cater to young adults (college age) and culinary minds. I'm keeping the name and design under wraps until I get it near completion. I'm always looking for like-minded people to join the team, or else this is going to be slow goings as I haven't done HTML coding for a long time. Anyway, back to reading some books, and getting ready for work in a bit. After about two weeks, I should be back to more regular posting. Until then (to my handful of readers), remember:
Happiness begins in the kitchen. Be bold!


Monday, April 13, 2009

My mistake...

So in my post about the chocolate souffle recipe, I bashed on the suggested cooking time written in the book, saying it was wrong.  Nope... I was wrong.  My assumption was based on the number of containers I used, not the batch size from the recipe.  I made my mixture according to the ingredient list, which yields one batch (they say either one large souffle, or you can divide it into different ramekins).  I opted to divide it in 4.  Then the recipe says to bake it for 15 to 25 minutes per souffle.  This translates into "one batch."  If I doubled the recipe, then I could have cooked it for 50 minutes.  But I didn't.  No wonder they came out drier than those we serve at the restaurant.  Oh well, live and learn.  Just means I'll have to make them again.  I'm thinking peanut butter next time, since Buck doesn't like chocolate, and I feel bad that he didn't get to try one from my last batch.  So the lesson here, pretty much just think things through, and cooking time per *item* is usually according to the serving size in the recipe.  Ok, time for class.
Happiness begins in the kitchen.  Be bold!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Part Deux: Back with a vengeance... Weekend Recipe(s) - 4/12/09 (and 4/13/09)

Ok. Back from work, and writing up my second recipe for the weekend. With this one, I should be back on track with one per weekend. This, like I said in my last posting, is one of my own recipes. I used the quickbread recipe as a base, with a little modification. Then I added a pretty basic glaze, and made it my own. I call it the Lemon-Honey Top Quickbread:

Lemon-Honey Top Quickbread
Makes: 1 large pan-sized flatbread
Time: 5-15 minutes prep, up to 40 minutes baking

This recipe would make a good morning pastry. It's not too sweet, and plenty filling

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
.33 cup neutral oil (vegetable/grapeseed/canola)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

3 parts lemon juice
2 parts honey
1-2 parts granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375*F. Mix dry bread ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl. Pour in the oil and mix. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk. Mix well (adding flour if necessary) to form a non-sticky but still elastic dough. Lightly grease a 9x13 standard baking sheet and press dough into rectangle. Allow shrinkage, flip the dough over and repress. Heat the honey and lemon juice in a microwave safe container until it is no longer viscous. Stir in sugar until it is dissolved. Heat once more in the microwave to return to a non viscous state. Using a basting brush, spread a layer of the topping on the dough. Bake the dough for 40 minutes, rebasting every 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into squares and serve. May be served hot, warm, or chilled.

Here is the result I got. It's a very dense biscuit-like pastry that's not at all too sweet (you know how some of those "breakfast" things can be like desserts). When it first comes out of the oven, the crust is still soft in the middle, but the bottom is stiff enough for each square to be able to take some sort of additional spread (maybe some cottage cheese, or a fruit flavored cream cheese, or even just plain cream cheese). Once chilled, the crust becomes more compact and flakey, but still extremely tasty. Here are some of the pictures I took after baking this:

This is trying to show how the glaze pools near the edge where the crust dips a little bit. If you choose to roll out the dough with a pin, then the glaze should spread evenly, but you won't get these tasty little wells of goodness.
Here's a picture that I think really shows the beautiful coloring that this dish takes on. The crust gets a really nice golden brown coloring, and the glaze tints it with yellow. You can see in the piece near the bottom that there can be some discoloration due to the sugar, but I think that was because my oven wasn't heated uniformly.
In all, it's just an awesome dish. The color of it is nice, the taste is great for breakfast (or anytime really), the texture is complementary of the taste, and the ease with which you can make this dish makes it accessible to just about everyone. I think this could also be a gread base recipe to build on.
Anyway, so there are the recipes. It took me three days to get through those two posts. That's what I get for starting them pretty much immediately after getting home from a 7 hour shift running food (at 12am or thereabouts no less). It's interesting though; I have absolutely no idea how large my readership is. I know of a few people (my parents for instance, Hi Mom and Dad!), but even then, I'm not sure how often they check it, and I certainly don't know anyone who has tried one of my recipes. I hope someone has at least been inspired to cook more, because everything is better when it's homemade. Well... unless you absolutely have no idea what you're doing and screw it up (that just reminds me of the first time my brothers and I made an omlet at home; we mistook teaspoon for tablespoon in regards to the salt content, and since we were tripling the recipe, we put in 3 tablespoons of it...). Regardless, you will never learn unless you make mistakes. A lot can happen when you say "Hey, so that doesn't work. What can we do instead?" The possibilities are endless. Some side notes:
1) Flippin hilarious how you can hear the cans of beer being opened during Linecook415's podcasts. I think that's funnier than the toilet flushes myself. Next podcast, I'm going to keep a tally.
2) Work is awesome. Plain and simple, it's exciting and super awesome for someone like me who loves food. I just can't wait to get into the kitchen part of it.
3) In addition to the blog, I'm thinking of starting a website geared towards students who appreciate good food in Los Angeles (and whichever city I end up in after college) as well as aspiring chefs and foodies in general. I'm thinking forums, restaurant reviews (both myself in my free time, and from newspapers and such), recipes, basic technique lessons, and interviews with chefs, servers, managers, and owners if I can swing it.
4) I still lament that USC has no cooking classes. We have at least three types of dance classes, lots of PE classes, and countless other Fine Arts classes. So adding to the "list" (you know, the list of stuff to do before you die), "Start an School of Culinary Arts and Restaurant and Hotel Industry at USC." All it takes is some rich donar to agree to put their name on a building. To see what else is on my list, you'll have to ask me yourself.
5) If you are a reader, please respond with your thoughts. I'm interested in knowing what people think about things. Even if you just say, "I like puppies," I'd be completely down for doing a post on the variety of recipes one can use puppies and other domestic animals in... A joke, people. Maybe in bad taste, but that was a joke...
Anyway, I think I've found my "signing off" phrase. Inspired of course from Linecook's podcast, but not nearly as clever (or vulgar).
Happiness begins in the kitchen. Be bold!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Back with a vengeance... "Weekend" Recipe(s) - 4/11/09 (and 4/12/09)

So I have two recipes for you, which I will compliment with the stories behind each. The first one comes (of course) from what is becoming my Bible, How to Cook Everything. And it is (dramatic music swell with drumroll) Chocolate Souffle!!! Huzzah! ...O_O... But really, here it is:

Vanilla or Chocolate Souffle
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended

Undercook this souffle slightly so it remains moist in the middle and needs no sauce, then dust with confectioners' sugar. Or cook it until it's dry and serve it with Vanilla Custard Sauce (page 924), Whipped Cream (page 882), fruit puree (see page 923), or any light sauce.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon for the dish
.5 cup sugar, plus more for the dish
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
Pinch salt

1) Use 1 teaspoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart souffle dish or other straight-sided deep baking dish. (If you want to make individual souffles, use a little more butter and grease four 1.5 to 2-cup ramekins.) Sprinkle the dish with sugar, invert it, and tap to remove excess sugar. Set aside and heat the oven to 350*F.
2) Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat with the remaining .33 cup sugar. In a second saucepan, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. When the foam begins to subside, stir in the flour. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the flour-butter mixture darkens, about 3 minutes.
3) Stir in the milk, a little bit at a time, using a whisk. It will be quite thick; stir in the chocolate if you're using it and remove from the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat the egg yolks and stir them in. Add the vanilla if you're using it. (At this point, you may cool the mixture, cover it tightly, and refrigerate for a few hours.)
4) Beat the egg whites with the salt until very stiff but still glossy. Stir a good spoonful of them thoroughly into the sauce to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, using a rubber spatula or your hand. Transfer to the prepared souffle dish(es) and bake until the center barely jiggles and is set, or nearly so, 30 to 40 minutes (15 to 25 minutes for individual souffles). Serve immediately.

Okay... I had heard enough to know that some cooks hate to bake souffles. They are supposed to be extremely fickle and difficult to cook. I had just about no problems when I cooked them a few days ago. The hardest thing for me was beating the egg whites and making the whipped cream with just a wire whisk (no electric mixer for me). I developed my own technique for it (which worked in the end, so know that it's not impossible to do), and learned tonight at work that there is supposedly a much easier way to do it. I can't wait to try out that technique. But anyway, with all I had heard about souffles, I feel that they really shouldn't be intimidating at all. It's one of those things that makes me feel like "Hey, maybe I really can get good at this." Check it out:

Here's one of the four souffles that I made. The taste was spot on, and the texture was what I expected. I'll learn eventually to time it just right so the surface doesn't dry out enough to crack like that. I'll worry about the aesthetics next time.

Here's the whipped cream. Heavy whipping cream, sugar, and cinnamon. Not too sweet, and the cinnamon really adds a great flavor.

So if I can produce a chocolate souffle in my tiny little galley kitchen with the minimalist equipment that I have, then I really just can't wait to see what I might be able to do with good tools and good ingredients in a professional kitchen. I know it's not the tools that make the chef, but I still intend to try end find out what I could do with those professional tools (or even, you know, just some basic kitchen essentials). But hey, maybe it's good for me to learn the basics with really crappy tools, so I'm pleasantly surprised how easy it is later. Random interjection, I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again: Linecook 415 is an awesome blog. I'm currently listening to their most recent Podcast and it's hilarious. I hope they put out a new one soon. Anyway, a note about the actual souffle recipe. I had four Pyrex dessert bowls placed in the middle of the oven inside a 9x13 Pyrex casserole dish for stability. My oven thermometer was reading ever so slightly above 350*F, and I set the kitchen timer for 50 minutes. Three times I opened the oven because there is no internal light (so some heat naturally escaped). At 50 minutes, the tops were drier than the ones we serve at the restaurant and slightly cracked. The interior was just about perfect though. So what the recipe says about 15 to 25 minutes per souffle (which would have put me at an hour 4o) is wrong. If you have a clear oven door window and an internal light, you'll be able to judge for yourself much better when they're done. And a note to those who might be intimidated by certain recipes: Just go for it. Worst case scenario, you really screw the pooch and burn down your house or something. But really, what are the odds? Anyway, this post is kind of all over the place; I started last night after I got off work at 12:30 this morning, and got more distracted continuing it now with the podcast on in the background. So I'll post the second recipe tomorrow with the pictures from the results. So you know, it's one of my own personal recipes (I'm sure the idea has been done before, but I like the way mine tasted so I wrote it down and called it my own). Perfect for breakfast in my opinion. Last words: Happiness begins in the kitchen. Be bold!
How to Cook Everything was copywrited in 2008 by Doubly B Publishing Inc., and published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in Hoboken, New Jersey. This representation of the text is intended for educational use only.