Okay, I think I'm back a little. I'm back in the kitchen, anyway.
Last night I tried my hand at the sous-vide method of cooking (chinook salmon with roasted lemons, dijon mustard, honey and thyme). Hindsight always being 20/20, I would've bagged the portions individually before immersing them in the hot (errr... tepid 114oF) water bath for 30 minutes. The four portions were moist and delicious (claim the diners), but a little rare if I'm claiming to have cooked. I wasn't really going for sashimi, after all, and the low temp didn't totally allow for sufficient flavor permeation. But I will give it another go sometime, probably on a meat that begs for a real slow cooking, like pork.
Last weekend, in a fit of weather-induced ennui and general boredom, Scott and I found Fubonn and did a little wandering about. It was great! Everything I want (except shochu, alas) from an Asian megamart under one roof. We stopped by Meiann bakery for some tao sar bao (red bean paste bun), a green onion bun, a hot dog-cheese bun, a "Japanese-style" bacon bun, and a ham, cheese and corn bun. It all tasted like anpan but with savory fillings. I can't find the Vietnamese word for these types of breads, but it was very yummy, and for $1 a pop, I'll be back.
We had lunch at a joint called Tan Dinh for what we thought would be Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, but it ended up being a salad roll house. Oh, you get the noodles, and whatever meat you asked for. We both took the waiter's recommendation; I ended up with excellent herb-wrapped grilled Chinese sausages and pineapple, Scott with savory ground pork patties and grilled pork in a ginger broth. They bring out great platters of vermicelli, thinly sliced cucumber, and a mountain of fresh, cool lettuce, cilantro, mint and Thai basil; two bowls of nước chấm and a plate of rice paper salad roll wrappers. You dip the crisp, dry wrapper in the bowl of hot water to soften and then proceed to load them with noodles, meat and herbs, then roll and dip into the delicious nước chấm (fish sauce with lime juice, sugar, julienned carrot and chili). Even though I'd really been craving phở, this hit the spot.
Then we went over to the grocery store part of the joint (after checking out the Chinese medicine and tea store) and wandered around a bit more. You know I'm a whore for Korean ramen, but we actually successfully avoided the ramen aisle and hit the produce and meat department instead. Okay, we did pick up some udon, which I prepared Sunday night with thinly-sliced grilled pork (simple sesame, ginger, miso marinade) and king oyster mushrooms, Chinese chives (ku chai) and a little shaved cabbage and onion. It was very satisfying on a blustery day.
We also picked up some duck legs, which I finally got around to cooking tonight. I went for a more traditional (or common for me, anyways) approach this time. I simply scored the skin and popped them into a hot pan.
After browning on both sides, I added sage, thyme and crushed juniper berries to the hot fat and popped it in the oven to finish.
Served with cranberry-black pepper chutney, mashed sweet potatoes with a nutmeg-y sage-mushroom gravy (using the king oyster mushroom, which are the small white bits in the gravy pictured below) and wilted spinach, it was a nice respite from all this fucking weather we've been having.
Of course I had to coat the spinach in gravy, it's like 35 degrees out! The meat came out a bit tough, but was very flavorful. I guess duck can only really be perfect after a 2-hour bath in its own fat.
This weekend hopefully Sus and Shin will come over with their beautiful 3-week old son, Sage (who really makes me wanna get knocked up, and I mean in like a BIG way), and I can cook the last few pounds of albacore that're in the freezer. I want to surprise them with traditional Japanese winter food, but I don't know if I can use albacore to make oden or nabe. I guess I'll figure something out.