I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tri-tip Steak

I bought a cast iron pan a year ago and I have been using it once a while to cook steak, lamb chop, and chicken chop. As many people have said, cast iron pan is perhaps the best thing one can use to cook a piece of steak. I bought a piece of tri-tip steak from a local grocery store. Not the best cut but it is at least affordable. 

My preparation is very simple. Marinade the steak with Worcestershire sauce, dry thyme and dry parsley. 

Did someone say BUTTER???

Deglaze the pan with some left over wine. Season the glaze with salt and pepper

Rest the meat for 10 minutes


This steak was cooked to medium-well because my family prefers it that way. If it was entirely up to me, I will take the steak out 3 minutes earlier at the medium-rare stage.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

10 Dishes Every Beginner Cook Should Master

10 Dishes Every Beginner Cook Should Master http://zite.to/1EbL33x

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce

This is one of my all-time favorite pasta dish and I am sure many of yours too. The recipe below was adapter from Jamie Oliver's, which is actually quite simple.

Jamie Oliver added bacon into his pasta sauce to create flavor but I took it one-step further by adding ground pork to increase the complexity of the meaty flavor

Star of the bolognese sauce. I used canned tomatoes imported from Italy. Save the canning juice! You need it......

My own secret ingredient. First person to guess the answer gets a small prize from me!! 

The rest of the recipe is fairly standard. Jamie Oliver's Spaghetti Bolognese

Cook the aromatics and the meat

Add the tomatoes

Add the tomato sauce that you saved

Add some red wine

Add a few other aromatics such as bay leaves, rosemary leaves, oregano, etc.

Let this cook slowly for a few hours. Add water if the sauce becomes a bit dry

Season with salt and pepper

The only ingredient missing from this dish is the CHEESE

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pork Schnitzel

The original dish is called the Wiener schnitzel a.k.a. Viennese schnitzel. This is a traditional Austrian dish made up of a thinly sliced meat, pounded, breaded and deep fried. It is also traditionally made with veal (young calf).

I first came across this dish at a restaurant called Edi & The Wolf and it was one of the most memorable meals I ever had, for three reasons. This restaurant has the the "chillest" decor (see the pictures below for yourself), and the most amazing piece of fried meat - the schnitzel. What made that evening truly memorable was the atmosphere of that evening. It was one of those cool autumn evenings and I was with a group of buddies. We ate, we drank, we chatted, we laughed while the world passed by us in a slow motion. This is what life is all about - surrounded by friends, enjoying good food in a quirky place. 

Image source: www.ediandthewolf.com

Now, back to the star of the evening - Wiener Schnitzel. Two things about this dish at Edi & The Wolf stood out - the crust is super crispy and puffy (more on this later) and the meat is super thin and tender. 

Here is what the owner of this restaurant said on TV

                                   Edi & The Wolf's Wiener Schnitzel (image source: CBS News)

"2/8th of an inch, pounded....perfectly fried....crisped and puffed."

There you go again, the word "puff" is used. Let me explain. When you bread and fry a piece of meat, the breading will stick to the meat like glue, but not the Wiener Schnitzel served at Edi & The Wolf. Their breading puffed up, which creates an air pocket between the crust and the meat. This creates two additional effects - the crust is very crispy and the meat feels tender on the teeth. 

               Edi & The Wolf's Wiener Schnitzel (image source: http://culturesplosion.wordpress.com/)

When asked how he created the puffed schnitzel, this was what he said:

The meat has to be "perfectly pounded, perfectly breaded....the flour has to be perfectly strained...and fried...."

I have two challenges to overcome - I don't know where to find veal and I don't like to fry stuff at home. My solution is to use pork loin and then "shallow fry" it on a skillet. 

I sliced the pork loin to about half an inch thick before pounding it thinly then I seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, a bit of light soy sauce and a bit of dark soy sauce (schnitzel purist don't shoot me). Next, I dip the meat in flour, shook off excess flour, dipped it into the egg wash, shook off excess egg wash, then coated it with bread crumbs. 

I bought a cast-iron skillet not too long ago and what I really like about a cast-iron skillet is that I can heat the oil to a very high temperature and it will not damage the skillet. This gives me the function of a faux-fryer. Not perfect, I know.

I served my pork schnitzel with a quickly made hummus. 

Did my crust puffed up? Clearly not. Was it crispy? Oh yes. The meat was tender, from the pounding, and the flavor was subtle yet flavorful. I am not here to create a replica dish but to cook something new and delicious. On that end, I think I have succeeded.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Second "My Burger Lab" review (official name is myBurgerLab)

If you missed my first review, you can read it here review.

I went to myBurgerLab for the first time more than a year ago (too long!) and I went again recently (still thinking about it!).

For those who have little patience to read through this page, here is how I would describe the experience:

took the first bite..."this is so good"....took a second bite...."hmmmmm"....took a third bite....."this is amazing".....took a fourth bite......"look at the juice"...took a fifth bite......"I don't recall it being this good the last time"......took a sixth bite....ate in silence........and.....I am out of burger.

You get the gist.

My first review wasn't glowing because of two things - The QUEUE and The Nostalgic factor. You see, I was still too hung up on Shake Shack. It was only when I learned to let go that I learn to enjoy the new. On top of that, I went on a weeknight so the QUEUE was a breezy 5-8 minutes of waiting in-line and 5-8 minutes for the food. Compare to 45-50 minutes on a weekend. I feel blessed to have the option of going there on a weeknight.

A few things got this place going for me again - the burger was very juicy and the beefy flavour was very prominent. I also ordered the double-patty burger, which came with two slices of cheese. Double the meat juice and double the cheese made this a winner. The fries wasn't over-salted like last time and I would like to think that the managers read my first review.

Now, I am already plotting my 3rd visit.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Pasta (Pasta Oglio Olio)

Has it really been 5 months since I last posted something? Wow!!

This is an uncomplicated dish that is easy to prepare and simple to make. It is as simple as saying A-B-C, or rather R-C-M.

R - roast the vegetable
C - cook the pasta
M - mix everything together

Still following?

Right. Let's continue. 

I have selected bell peppers and zucchini as the base of my pasta. Mushroom was added as an after thought. 

1. Cut the vegetables to similar size.
2. Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper over the vegetable.

3. Place a few cloves of garlic.
4. Roast the vegetable at 200 degree celcius for 1 hour (remember to pre-heat the oven)
5. Cook the pasta (it is all about timing).

6. Drain the pasta and mix the roasted vegetable with the pasta.
7. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to adjust the taste.
8. Garnish and serve.

I am not a big fan of bell peppers nor am I a big fan of raw garlic. Roasted bell peppers and garlic? Now that's something else. The roasting process mellows the taste, caramelizes the sugar and brings out the sweetness. With some good quality olive oil, just enough salt and black pepper, this dish is D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.   How much simpler can it go?

The only drawback? It takes a long time to roast the vegetable - 1 hour. It would have been better if this dish can be put together in 30 minutes.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Vietnamese Sandwich (Bahn Mi) - My way

Bahn Mi, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my top top favorite food (note the repetition for emphasis). Vietnam was once colonized by the French and, as a result, Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by the French cuisine. Bahn Mi, aka, Vietnamese Sandwich is a birth-child between the marriage of French and Vietnam cuisine.

                                 Banh Mi at Banh Mi Zon in Manhattan (picture: Banh Mi zon)

Here are the elements of Vietnam and French cuisine found in a Bahn Mi:

French - French Baguette, Pate
Vietnam - meat and pickled vegetable.

I am not learned-student of either cuisine nor have I experienced the real deal in Vietnam. The experience that I had is based on the Anglo-American version, with each restaurant adding its own unique take. Have I tried an authentic Bahn Mi, probably not; did that take away my enjoyment of this sandwich? No.

One of my favorite Banh Mi restaurants in NYC (picture: yelp user Louis K)

I have seen many kinds of Bahn Mi, from Sloppy Bahn Mi (sloppy joe on a baguette) to Char Siu Bahn Mi (cantonese roast pork on a baguette), to minced pork on a baguette with mayonnaise sauce, to good old pate. For me, it does not really matter what they put on the sandwich as long as it meets the following criteria - a) fresh baguette, b) balance sweet and sour pickled vegetable, c) distinct flavorful meat.

Cut to the chase, I have been craving for Bahn Mi and I decided to take things into my own hands. To start, I need to make my own pickled vegetable.

Pickled vegetable
1. Start with fresh carrot, cucumber, and radish
2. Julien or slice the vegetable into fine strips with a mandoline
3. Put the vegetable into an air-tight glass container
4. Add asian rice vinegar and sugar to the vegetable
5. Store the pickled vegetable overnight in the refrigerator

How much vinegar and sugar to add? you might ask. Well, that's where you got me. Honestly, I don't know because I didn't measure. I started with maybe a quarter cup of vinegar and a few tablespoons of sugar. Then I adjusted the amount of sugar and vinegar bit by bit until I found the right balance that I want. I was told by someone experience in pickling vegetable that the ratio of vinegar to sugar should be 1:1  (ie: 1 tablespoon of vinegar + 1 tablespoon of sugar).

Meat (In this case, pork, but it could be anything)
1. I bought a piece of pork tenderloin then butterflied it, which I did poorly
2. Then I pound the pork tenderloin until it became flat
3. Transfer to an air-tight container and season with five-spice powder, salt, pepper and some soy sauce. (sorry, I wish I can give you a precious measurement)
4. Season the meat overnight in the refrigerator

Putting all together the following day,
1. I cooked the meat with my new toy - cast-iron skillet (AWESOME!)
2. Toasted some baguettes (not as fresh as I want, fresh baguette is hard to come by in my area)
3. Sliced the cooked pork and overlay it with the pickle vegetable

The result?
Not as good as the "commercial" Bahn Mi, that is for sure but it is delicious no less. The deliciousness of Bahn Mi (mine and others) can only be described in one-bite. The harmony of the sweet and sour pickled vegetable, the crunch of the vegetable, the savory flavor of the meat and the softness of the fresh bread. This, ladies and gentlemen, is marriage made in  heaven.

 Sloppy Bahn Mi at "Baoguette" in NY (picture: Flickr user Christa)