toast Tag

SUNDAY SUPPERS’ RYE BREAD

I apologize before I say this simply because it’s gross and stuff, but yesterday somebody, two days in a row, decided to leave a hot steamy pile of poop right in the middle of our “aged” leather sofa…  I’m sorry, I told you, it’s gross.  But more importantly, why?  What could possibly be the reason for this deeply punishing act?  Hey beats me.  Just to fuck with the word motherhood, I guess.

I recognize the weirdness in the usage of such word, motherhood, I get it, so let’s talk about it for a sec.  Some swear by it.  Some avoid it.  And some get offended when it’s used in this context of, well, dogs.  But for the convenience of making a conversation, I struggle to find a better word.  Some say, “dog owner” is the more accurate phrase.  Hey, I hear ya, but, it’s just that… I don’t own dogs, just like nobody owns children.  They are mine, but not properties.  If someday my dogs tell me that they wants to leave the nest to go to Amsterdam and smoke pot for the rest of their lives, hey, fair game, I would just lock them up and take away all their food-money like any discerning parents.  Doesn’t make me an owner, just makes me a mother.  So for the lack of a better word, last month, or 20 days ago to be exact, I became a mother again, for the fifth and sixth time.  Yes, twin girls, two rescued Rottweiler-mix puppies.

Rottweilers × 2!?  You must be thinking I’m crazy.  And I’m starting to think you’re right.

How big do Rottweilers get?  Please don’t tell me because I have no freaking clue.  But the the fact that they are growing exponentially against our best wishes, seems to be one.  To put it into perspective, our maltese Dumpling was what, 3 kilo?  So by optimistic estimation, each of them would grow to be about 12 Dumplings, and together, 24 Dumplings.  That’s 70 kilos of pure muscles powered by the spirit of a trampoline.  We named them Sesame (芝麻), and Sticky Rice Ball (湯圓) or SRB for short, though the petiteness of their names is starting to sound more ironic than cute.

Who’s freaking out?  I’m just sayin’.

So how did this happen? Couldn’t we just try a single Rottweiler on for size and good reason first?  Well, the way we see it, we had no choice amidst a very complicated situation.

There was this adoption day thing at our local pet supply store that we simply wanted to “just check it out”, and there they were, two puppies inside the same crate.  No harm in asking a question is there?  So are they boys or girls?  “Both girls, sisters!”, answered the staff.  Hmm, girls, we’ve been wanting a girl.  This one on the right seem to be nice and calm.  Can I hold her?  “Yes, of course!  She’s the younger one.”  Awww look at her just relaxing on my lap!  Jason, Jason!  Are you seeing this?!  Wait, why is the other one acting all nervous and shit?  “The sisters are very attached to each other.”  What is this, woman?  You trying to make me feel bad?  Fine, Jason, can you just hold the other one so she’s doesn’t feel left out?

Yup.  …………………..

Oh wait you’re waiting for more complicatedness to come?  No, no, that’s it.  Yup.  The beginning of the end.  Put me on your friends-who-got-a-kid-and-gone-missing list.  Likewise, I’ll resurface the earth in 10+ years.

But on the bright side, the food side that is, giant wall-eating babies are putting me in a whole new perspective. I never understood this “easy home cooking” business.  I mean if you like cooking, what’s the problem?  And if you don’t like cooking, why you cooking?  Golfers don’t complain why is it 18 holes and not 4 holes.  But now, ehhh… I sort of get it.  The other day I allowed myself to spend a little obsession on homemade ramen, and someone ate my chair.  Literally, ate my chair.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen anymore, but the stakes for negligence are higher these days if you know what I mean.

Which brings me to mention – Simple Fare.

Look beyond the soul-sucking-ly beautiful photographs by the hands of Karen Mordechai, there is also the answer to the prayers of all bone-crushingly exhausted parents.   Take this elegant rye bread for example, which she calls “half day rye bread”, which really turned out to be “quarter day rye bread” in the warmer month that is May.  It was a cinch to put together, so much so that I was able to test two loafs at once even with two flying trapeze-artists demolishing my apartment (and Shrimpy) in the background.  I’m not an expert in the political correctness of a proper rye bread, but a smear of good room-temperature butter and a thin slice of fennel salami from Tuscany, I melted in a moment of relaxation and satisfaction, a rare one these days no doubt…

So thank you, Karen, but I simply must go because I just stepped into a puddle of pee.

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EGG FLORENTINE IN PULLMAN “BOWLS”, FOR CYNTHIA

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WE ARE GOING TO DISCREETLY PAN-FRY THESE IN AN INDECENT AMOUNT OF BUTTER, UNTIL THEY ARE PRACTICALLY SOAKED ON THE INSIDES, AND DELICIOUSLY CRISPY AND GOLDEN ON THE OUTSIDES.

YOU KNOW, THE BUTTER-EXUDING CRUNCH?

Have you seen Ben Stiller’s movie, While We’re Young?  Well, if you haven’t, there’s no need to really.  Given that it has its moments here and there, all in all, it’s not entirely spectacular.  But the reason that I’m bringing it up is because – well, equally as unspectacular and unrelating to the majority demographic – I’m kind of in the same pickle.

I’m 36 years old, and very early on in life, I have made a very conscious decision not to have children.  I’m happy married, stable, as far as I know, reproductively unchallenged and relatively speaking, mentally healthy, and I consider myself an affectionate if not responsible dog-parent.  So as I said, the decision is a very deliberate one and the reasons for which, well lets just say, don’t quite belong in this post.  Uh, ok whatever, might you add, but where’s my fucking pickle?  Well, this is where the movie might be more articulate, not to say much more entertaining, in illustrating my quandary.  Thing is, most of our friends, with all due respect and our best wishes, have buckled together on the baby-train and exited through the other side of the crossroad in life in sort of a Groupon strategy, leaving us, a bit unprepared, in a social limbo.

That’s correct.  We are them, the friends without children.  The awkward pre-middle-aged couple who didn’t get the memo that, at this point in life, a dinner party that ends at 10 pm on a Saturday night, however frisky with all the right signals to assume more, is the end of the program.  Where to next?  Theirs kids’ swimming lesson at 8 am the next morning, and our party equivalent of blue balls that night iced with yet another Netflix binging.  But listen, I get it.  People’s priorities change as life evolves, and as their friends, we shall respect that.  Which is exactly why it’s ok that the number of friends to call for a drink and their level of energy to participate is together in a fierce race to hit the bottom.  And the rule that there are things that just shouldn’t be placed in close proximity, such as fire and curtains, me and donuts, and in this instance, conversations and this thing called the baby monitors, are more frequently being broken.  Which is why, I’m not filing a complaint, but to simply say, oops.

But why now?

It may seem totally self-absorbed and obnoxious to bring this up at a baby shower.  Yes, this is a baby shower!, for my friend Cynthia who just gave birth to their baby boy Luke!  And seriously, earnestly, for Cynthia who has been one of the most amazing human beings I know of (She’s a full-time lawyer/woman/wife/daughter-in-law/blogger/then pregnant/now mother, I mean do you feel me!), I wish them all the exuberating enthusiasms and my best positivism at this special moment in their lives.  Reading her unpackaged words of tenderness and content, as a dog-mom, whether anybody disputes it or not, I can relate.  So I am happy, for her.  Even though it means that soon after, I will have to hang outside a 24/7 convenience store, asking strangers if they want to break a donut with me.

To celebrate Two Red Bowl’s baby birthday and our social demise, I have prepared, in the theme of bowls, egg florentine in pullman “bowls” with burnt butter hollandaise.  Well, more box than bowl but you know what I mean, and let’s not forget that this is a very cute and kid-friendly idea, no?… (or that I’m more out of sync with the other side of the world than I realize).  The original inspiration comes from a Taiwanese street-food where they deep-fry a cutout box of pullman bread then fill it with seafood chowder.  But that’d be just wrong for moms and kids, right?, totally irresponsible.  So for the sake of the health of our next generation of pillars of the world, we are only going to discreetly pan-fry these in an indecent amount of butter until they are practically soaked inside and deliciously crispy and golden on the outside.  You know, the butter-exuding crunch?  And with the next point, don’t say that I don’t understand raising children, because we are going to cut out a hole on top, and hide a healthy pile of garlic spinach with a bed of creamy Laughing Cow’s spreadable cheese.  Bribery.  Yeah.  I know all about that.  Then finally, we top each bowls – or what I would like to imagine as little boxed presents from Yummy Town – with bursting soft-boiled eggs and a lava-waterfall of my foolproof, burnt butter hollandaise sauce.

Each bite is a fluent, harmonic dance of crispy and runny, crunchy and creamy, buttery and buttery yet there’s spinach.  Big “bowls” for parents, small bowls for children, and baby Luke gets to suck the runny yolks.  I’ve got all grounds covered.  So.  Next weekend.  Can we exploit the only benefit of the in-laws, and let’s hit bar?

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THE WORLDLY PULLMAN-TORTILLA TACOS

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IS IT,

LET’S EAT NOW AND KILL EACH OTHER LATER?

What has this world come to?  Or, all along, this is how we always have been?

I know.  This is a food blog, rainbows and marshmallows and summer noodle salads.  Politics, world affairs… are not palatable, instead, I should be talking about pumpkin pies.  But you see, this is the thing.  Talking about foods, in a time like this.  How can we, so at ease, not taste the irony between the bettering tolerance for flavours on our dining tables, and the boiling hostility on just about everything beyond?  Food-wise, in the history of mankind, the world has never come so open-minded, so intimately close to sharing and tasting the very same beliefs that are being enjoyed from the other side of the map.  We can all agree on the cold silkiness of a piece of raw fish on a small nub of tangy rice.  The cool creaminess of hummus meandering around the sizzling spiced kebabs.  The good funk of cheese melting into the chewiness of a hand-torn crusty baguette.  A sip of wine.  It registers the same.  The contentment in common.  The smile radiating from our torsos.  Ah, yes, that wonder you’re tasting over there, I’m feeling it right here too, understanding, happy-ing, at the same time, over the same things.  How is it that we could relate so much in happiness, and yet, empathise so little in suffering.  Can we really talk about foods, without thinking about politics?  Or is it, let’s eat now and kill each other later?

Really bad things happened in Paris.  Here we all mourned, in shock, in disbelief, compassionate.  Meanwhile, the exact same really bad things, just as bad, sometimes worse, happens not that far away almost every week on that side, perhaps your side, stacking up silently like morning pancakes.  Beirut 3 days ago, Ankara last month, other cities of dwindling lights.  But… that was just inks on newspapers, no hashtags in its grief.  Has even my sympathy, where I decide to spare it, become part of the problems?  Why is it only you and I, yours and mine, and nothing in between?  We’re all micros teeming on a speck of dust in this universe, but somehow, we still manage to divide beyond our means, to sever what is better as one, to split the atoms.  I don’t.  Wanna.  Exist like this.

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PAN-GRILLED MARSHMALLOW TOASTS WITH SEA SALT

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SOME SAY WONDERFUL THINGS ARE BORN OUT OF DESPERATIONS.

BEFORE TODAY, I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT SPANDEX.

There is something I want you to know about Beijing, or perhaps, about this entire country in general.

If someday you too find yourself living as an angry tick inside the thick filthy furs on this enormous, hyper-capitalism beast, at least you’ll know this to your comfort.  Which is, fret not, because it is not only possible but entirely effortless to maintain all daily functions of life (whether a happy or miserable one…), up from remodelling your kitchen down to keeping yourself groomed, all of it … without stepping one foot outside the front door.

This is a city that takes consumer economy, bloody seriously.  You can get almost anything, luxurious or middle-class or just plainly dirt-cheap, anything, with a simple click of a button and have them delivered to your front door with fees next to nothing.  Order groceries online at 3 AM and have someone, messaging you minutes after, to ask you if you want your pork ribs chopped.  Type “yes, please” or “no, thank you”, and the next day at 4 PM, you’ll have everything you need for an all-out BBQ party including a brand new grill.  It is a, if not the only perk, of living here.

Then, there’s something else I also want you to know about Beijing, or perhaps this entire country in general, during the Chinese New Years.

Which is, that last, precious ounce of will to live that you’re holding onto so tightly through petty convenience and e-commerce therapy?  That will all… and I mean aaall, come to an abrupt and screeching halt, every year, at the first light of dawn on Chinese New Year’s Eves.

Then.  Lasts.  For.  Weeeeeks.

OK, perhaps you don’t know what this means.  It means online grocery shop, stops.  Online anything, stops.  Deliveries, half of them at least, stops.  My lifeline of this entire city, stops.  Right, of course I can remove myself from my bunker and physically go to an actual market to evade my impending starvation, but did I also mention… that it is cold here during CNY?  The kind of face-biting, ears-stinging coldness that makes the 15 minutes bike-ride between my apartment and the nearest market, feel like miles.  So thanks but no thanks.  Times like this, when desperation strikes, I could only resort to the emergency convenience store downstair.

Yes, well, that convenience store… that fucking convenience store that, when I needed it the most such as say… today, presented me with the mere company of a moldy broccoli and its desperate plea for a merciful death.  “Solly, Chinese New Years.”, the dude shrugged.  Was he serious?  I wouldn’t know what to do with a fresh broccoli let alone a moldy one.  Houston, it’s official.  You will find me stiff-cold by a torn bag of dog food in the bathroom…

Some say wonderful things are born out of desperations.  Before today I’ve always thought they were talking about spandex.  But now, now I know they were talking about things like this.  The transformation of an exhausted pantry to unexpected, glorious beauty.  What can you make from half of a baguette, a bag of marshmallows, some butter and flakey sea salt?  Apparently, much more than the sum of its parts.

As I stared into this little stack of pan-grilled marshmallow toasts with crispy edges and caramelized crusts, chewy and gooey layers of sweetness with pops of brininess, I marvelled at human’s sheer will to, not just survive, but survive well.  It took more than basic animal instincts for a blood-sugar thirsty female to patiently stood by the stove, gently pressing down the butter-browned baguette in a slow and warm embrace with the melting marshmallow, then the last 30-seconds push for it to caramelize into a gorgeous crust.  But it was all worth it.  Buttery, crispy, sticky and chewy with sparking saltiness.  A dignified end on the last day of this CNY’s starva-thon.

Tomorrow, the pulse of this city will slowly start to tick again as holiday ends.  But I have a feeling that this marshmallow toasts with sea salt is going to last much long than that.

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CARAMEL STRAWBERRY, BRIE, BUTTER/SUGAR TOASTS

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AFTER 10 months of not being able to leave… not a country, not even a state/province, but a particular CITY due to personal circumstances, at a certain point, the “think tank” starts to resemble more like a warm puddle in the middle of a barren desert.  Nowadays I seek recipe-inspirations like a stinking camel seeks for water, only minus the ability to regurgitate.  Don’t get me wrong.  All paranoid recipe-bloggers, me included, respects a well-stocked recipe-reservoir like doomsday-preppers hold high regards for canned beans.  It’s almost a co-dependant relationship and my list is about a mile long.

I guess… a closet full of recipes and nothing to cook, best puts it.

But ironically, as the painstakingly studied and tested recipes often end in heartbreaks, some of the best things I’ve cooked here are incidental occurrences on a whim.  Which brings us to today’s: So random I don’t even know what to call it.  Yah.  I don’t know what to call it because it came from a peripheral glance over the last 30 seconds of a TV-show that I don’t even know the name of, which (I think) pulled some golden-browned butter/sugar toast out of a skillet and served with soft cheese.  The idea stayed with me not because it was as hazy as a hallucinated mirage, but because instead of the more popular way of making “creme brûlée” toasts as under the broiler, this does it more efficiently and successfully, inside a skillet.

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CARAMEL STRAWBERRIES WILL BURST… THROUGH THIS BUTTERY, SUGARY, SALTY AND CHEESY GLORY


If you have ever tried making creme brûlée toasts under a broiler, you’d know that it’s an extremely volatile and unpredictable task.  Every single factor – the type of bread, the amount of sugar, the type of oven, blah blah blah – can contribute to its blackened, smokey, inedible demise.  But by doing it in a skillet – letting the toasts absorb a mixture of butter and sugar until they brown, caramelize and adhere to the golden browned toasts – the outcome is a much more controllable, crunchy, and delicious surprise.

Since we are already in the zone of talking caramel, why stop here?  Drawing inspiration from a traditional Chinese roadside snack, where they skewer various types of fruits, coat them with a whiffy thin layer of hot malt sugar then let hardened, I thought there’s no reason why caramel-coated strawberries would be unwelcomed between creme brûlée toasts and warm, melty brie.  And once in a very long while, everything just sort of goes according to plan.  The creme brûlée toasts are buttery and crunchy, with just enough heat to soften a good smear of French brie.  Then the caramel strawberries will burst through their crackly, lacey jackets as pressure applies and run their juices through this buttery, sugary, salty and cheesy feast of unnamed glory.

I guess there’s still some milage left in this tank.

  
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Makes:  2 sandwiches or 4 open-face

I don’t know why I’m fixated on making these more of a “sandwich” when in fact, it will probably be prettier and easier to eat as an “open face” (you know, like bruschetta).  So I’m leaving that option to you.  For an open-face toast, you’ll maybe need to double the amount of caramel/candy strawberries depending on the size of your bread, and also the size of strawberries.  I needed 6 small strawberries to fill 1 toast.

The freshly grated nutmeg is very important as it gives an “ooomph” to the flavour.  Don’t be shy.  You’ll want to see flakes of it through out the toasts.

Updates 2014/08/05:  Thanks to a reader we now know the show that inspired this!  It’s called Heartland Table with Amy Thielen.  In the show she uses maple syrup instead of sugar, which I think is a even better idea!  If you want to try maple syrup, substitute 3 tbsp of granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of maple syrup.


Ingredients:

  • Caramel and strawberries:
    • 1/3 cup (70 grams) of granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp of water
    • 12 ~ 14 small~medium size strawberries
    • Small cup of ice water on the side
  • 4 slices of rustic country bread
  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp of granulated sugar
  • 1 large chunk of good quality brie
  • Fresh nutmeg for grating

To make the caramel/candy strawberries:  Wash and remove the stems from the strawberries, then set aside.  Have a small cup of iced water ready.  Heat the sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat.  Cook until the sugar has melted and turned from clear to a pale yellow then to a rich, amber color (careful not to let it turn dark brown or it’ll taste bitter).  This will take approx 5 min.

Remove from the heat, then pick up a strawberry with a fork and dip it inside the caramel to coat thinly (there will be a bit of sizzle).  Let excess caramel drip off, then dip the strawberry in the iced water for 5 sec for the caramel to harden.  Remove the strawberry from the fork and set aside.  Repeat with the rest (If the caramel starts to cool down and is too thick to work with, return it to medium heat until it has loosen up again).

To make the toasts:  Melt the unsalted butter and sugar in a large flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat (if your skillet isn’t large enough to fit all 4 slices perfectly flat, then do it in two batches).  Once the butter and sugar look evenly blended (even though you may still see sugar-granules in the mixture), place the sliced bread inside the skillet with a tongs.  Swirl the bread inside the mixture for a few seconds to coat evenly, then flip and coat the other side as well.  Both sides of the bread should have evenly absorbed all the butter and sugar.  Cook the breads until golden browned, with caramel crust on each sides.

Remove from the skillet, and while hot, apply a generous layer of brie on top.  Pile the candy strawberries on top and grate a good amount of fresh nutmeg on top.  Serve immediately.

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PORKY, GINGERY SHRIMP TOASTS

“HAS IT BECOME OBVIOUS?  I LIKE SHRIMPS”

Can I rudely leave you alone with this crunchy… buttery… porky, gingery shrimpy thingy today even though you were just introduced?  Not that you’ll need any persuasions to take them home to your bed, but you know, I still feel like explaining myself why I’m in such a hast today.  Well, first, It’s been the third consecutive “blue sky day” here in Beijing which is as rare as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade through The Black Gate of Mordor, so yes first, I think I should step outside my nest.  Secondly, yesterday as I was routinely sipping my afternoon joe while courting my laptop, through the misty reflection of the screen I saw there he was… Rebeus Hagrid, in his bad hair-day.  So yes secondly, I think I should step outside my nest.  Thirdly, there’s a fabulous red skirt from Zara with my hip’s name on it.

First-second-who?

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THANKSGIVING ROUX BREAD

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For the innocent sake of running an adequate food-blog, I’ve been slowly sucked down to a rabbit hole passing the disorienting stage of flying pies and falling biscuits, deep down to the world of cultivating gas-farting micro-organism on my kitchen counter (quite deep when you actually think about it).  My falling journey has brought to you and myself, things I wouldn’t even think of doing just a little shy of 2 years ago, things like palm sugar brioche, dreamy Hokkaido milk toast, Taiwanese gua bao, Roman Bonci’s pizza, creamy carbonara pizza, clarified butter English muffin, pillow beignets and this rocking potato roll.

If I look into the mirror right now I wouldn’t recognize myself.

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THE HOT TRIPLETS

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I’m shouting out to you in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!!  Warm waves… creamy white sands… waving palm trees… oh wait oops, are you cold there?  Don’t say I’m not nice.  Here, drink this, what I call the hot triplets.  Oh, and it goes with this, the sweet buttah sandwich.  Both are mutations from my favorites of Hong Kong’s popular “tea room” culture.  Maybe I’ll chat more about it when I get back but right now, I have more important things to get to…  See ya!

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