Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
The NY Times article I read a few years back first put Portland, Maine on my radar as a dining destination, but back then, I already moved out of Boston and was adjusting to the more French and Southern inspired DC dining scene. When I moved back this winter, I made a goal to take a trip out with Katie and Krissie and as of this past weekend, I could cross it off my list. Sadly, we did not make it to any of the restaurants mentioned in the list, although Duckfat was by the same people who created Hugo’s.
My sister came over for dinner on Sunday, and I was going to make Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken, but since it was only the two of us, I butchered a whole chicken into 4 cuts (2 white meat and 2 dark meat cuts). Since my sister prefers white meat, I managed to remove the breast bone and roasted it with salt and pepper. The simplicity of roast chicken is mind boggling, and over the years I think I’ve gotten better and better. The two tweaks include being more liberal with the kosher salt and tempering the chicken. Letting the chicken air dry lets the skin dry out a bit, which makes for crispier skin and speeds the cooking process. The middle of the meat is also likely to cook all the way through. Enjoy an easy lesson and go make a chicken like the best chef in America!
After roaming around Central Square, I stumbled across an Asian (Korean) market and saw rice cake aka nian gao, aka rice ovalettes. Usually in Korean cuisine, I’ve seen these served in a soup form, but I grew up with a fried version along the same lines of chow foon, fried rice, and lo mein. With a whole head of napa cabbage left from last week’s Asian vegetable haul, I decided to make chao nian gao (fried shanghai rice cake). These come out soft and chewy and in a slightly light/gravy-esque sauce.
After failing to find a popular recipe for the savory version of rice cakes, I poked around a few blogs and youtube videos, and I came up with my own recipe based on what I had on hand. I typically see this served with shredded pork and napa cabbage so I went out and got some center cut pork chops and sliced them for the recipe.
Rice Cake, Napa Cabbage, and Sliced Pork
Meat and Marinate
1/2 lbs. sliced or shredded pork
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves minced garlic
6 leaves napa cabbage sliced horizontally 1/2 inch thick, (divide stem pieces from leafy pieces)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp oyster sauce
In a bowl, combine pork and marinade ingredients and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Also, combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Prepare nian gao or rice ovelettes as directed on the package, drain and set aside. I just put mine in boiling water until softened (about 2-3 minutes). Heat wok or skillet over high heat. Pour vegetable oil and move around to coat. Add garlic and cook for 5-10 seconds until it just starts to brown. Add pork and remaining marinade and toss in wok until pink is barely visible/not fully cooked. Move to side of wok and add white stem pieces of napa cabbage. After stem pieces cook in the hottest part of wok for 15-30 seconds, mix pork with stem pieces. Add remaining cabbage and toss another 30 seconds or until leaves begin wilting. Lower heat to medium, add sauce nian gao. Toss and let cook 15-30 seconds until mixed well. Serve and enjoy. If nian gao begins to stick add a tbsp or 2 of water or stock.
When I visited Boston last fall, Katie, Krissie and a few others went to Blue Ribbon BBQ in West Newton. A few days ago, My sister, her boyfriend and I went to the Arlington location. Both visited yielded the same belly warming sense of euphoria. On my first visit, I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with bbq baked beans, and cole slaw. I finished the plate, but didn’t feel so great afterward, and when I burped, I swear I could taste smoke. Yeah, it’s that good.
This time, I ordered the half rack of Memphis ribs, cornbread, black eyed corn and rice and beans. Although the ribs were piled high (5-6 ribs), the amount of work it took to eat in a civilized fashion and surprisingly not too filling made for a delicious meal without regrets. The ribs were tender and could easily be pulled off the bone, which made for good dipping in the various sauces. The black eyed corn was balanced and no ingredient dominated the side. The rice and beans were very well blended and was flavorful and even juicy, though each still held form, if that even makes sense for rice and beans. The cornbread left a lot to be desired as it was on the harder and less moist side. Overall, I think the pulled pork outshine the ribs. You just can’t beat the fatty juice that good pulled pork gives you. I will be looking to give the brisket a try in the future.
Memphis Ribs, Cornbread, Black Eyed Corn, Rice and Beans
Pulled Pork, Cornbread, Black Eyed Corn and Mashed Potatoes
Beef Brisket Sandwich, BBQ Baked Beans and Cole Slaw
This is fast becoming Asian week on Read. Cook. Digest. Daniel Boulud has been put on the back burner in favor of Asian ingredients. Opps. Today, rice took a back seat to my favorite Japanese noodle (sorry ramen). Udon noodles are great because they are filling, hearty, and fun to slurp up. They are also great in stir fry or soup mode.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
10 stems of baby bok choy
1 lbs. udon noodles
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. mirin (rice vinegar)
Get Your Ingredients for a Group Shot
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add udon noodles. Let cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside. Heat wok over high heat. Add vegetable oil and swirl around in wok to coat bottom and sides. Add eggs and scramble with chopsticks, spatula, or large spoon. Once eggs are cooked, set aside. Reheat wok and add bok choy. Toss and cook bok choy 3-4 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Add noodles, bok choy, and eggs back into wok. Mix and cook for another 1 minute. Plate and enjoy.
Nice to Look at, but Better to Eat