Dairy

THE SHIT I EAT WHEN I’M BY MYSELF – GRILLED CURRY CHEESE, iPHONE ONLY

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NOT KNOWING IF (THE SWEAT) WAS DUE TO THE HEAT OF THE KITCHEN, OR HOT-FLASHES AS EARLY SIGNS OF MENOPAUSE

OK, so it’s been awhile since I last did The Shit I Eat When I’m By Myself Series, and I thought today – the day I turn 35, the day when the oestrogen has officially left the party, the day when avocado becomes a face-cream instead of food – is a good time to rekindle (it’s called letting it go).  And also, because I got this lovely birthday present from you-know-who, I thought I will follow Tiffany and do a post entirely shot/edited by iPhone 6 only!  Initially, I thought it would be the most liberating thing ever, not having to carry a heavy and bulky camera while dripping sweat, not knowing whether it’s due to the heat from the kitchen or hot-flashes as early signs of menopause…  But actually, trying to go back and fourth VSCO Cam and Snapseed to edit photos on a phone-screen, made me feel that this is probably more of a thing for the twenty-something hipsters, than the thirty-something demographic born with severe technology-defects.  So I don’t know… until now, I still can’t decide if I like working this way…

Anyhow, this is No. 5 for The Shit I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Sticking to the tradition of being completely non-sense, it’s a mixture of minced beef, melted Japanese curry cubes (boosted by cocoa powder!) and shredded white cheddar that you can keep in the fridge, then when emergency hits (like the day you turn 150), it can be quickly melt into a spicy and intense grilled curry cheese in between 2 slices of crusty country loaf (balanced by an added sweetness from raspberry jam!).

So enjoy, I’ll see you on the other side.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

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MY MOJO (COULD HAVE) SANK INTO A MENTAL ABYSS SO DEEP, IT WOULD TAKE A KRISPY KREME-SUBMARINE TO RETRIEVE

  

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Hello.  Sorry.  I think it’s been awhile.  I don’t know if there was a guideline on the Successful Food Blogging Manual specifically on post-frequencies, but I’m sure an entire week of blankness and neglect would on the other hand, dominate the entire Troubleshoots Section (As well as questions like this: What to do when you accidentally publish an unfinished post?)(Answer: Call 911.)(And: What is a writer’s block?)(Answer: Eat a donut.).  Well, the truth is… that I wish there was a more socially excusable answer for my absence, you know, dog theft, broken hips, dead grandparents… house fire?  Because really, anything is better than what I’m about to confess, which is the silent gasps among food-bloggers, the leading Do-Not’s under the manual’s flashing red, Skull-headed Section that you should probably read before Getting Started (Side by side with: Bad-mouthing Jesus.)(And also: Cursing out children).  But the truth is that, in the past week, as honestly as I can put it… I simply got tired of foods.

Yes, if you were a food-blogger, along with the acute urge to weep after a deflated cake (Answer: Ingest alcohol and blog about that instead) and recipe-deficit (Answer: Put down the donut and make that a sandwich), this complication too can happen.  But different from how I’d imagine it, which should’ve been a natural and peaceful death following a long and beautiful journey, this temporary episode came prematurely due to a self-inflicted and unforeseeable cause.  In short, I simply got tired of foods because there had been simply, too much fooding.  Can there be such a thing?  Yes.  As briefly mentioned before, I partook in an annual Beijing’s restaurants review for a city magazine, thinking it was going to be the best blogging-perk ever, but after cramming almost twenty restaurants into the past mere four weeks (that’s 3~5 restaurants per week!), things started to get a little… overcooked.  Like a bridezilla on her third wedding, I had managed to turn the single, most appreciated aspect of my otherwise ungrateful life, into just another demeaning chore.  To say the least, it backfired.

Even though this miscalculated experiment, for my wellness sake, timely ended last Thursday, it has left me in a prolonged state of mental paralysis where I just wanted to suck my thumbs in peace and not having to come up with another word to describe a meal other than cursing it out.  I wanted to just exist… on soda crackers for a month.  Or so at least, fortunately, it only felt that way.  To my surprise as well, thanks to a book here and there, it only took a few days for the cravings to cook again to slowly creep back in, and literally, exploded over this weekend.  In hindsight, if the two dishes I made over the weekend had flopped, my mojo would’ve sank into a mental abyss so deep it would take a krispy krem-submarine to retrieve.  But no, they didn’t flop.  In fact, they were both smashing success, and one of them being what I’m about to tell you – the three cheese oyster gratin.

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This recipe was inspired by what we didn’t have at Vin Vi, one of the better restaurants/izakaya we’ve dined at during this entire process, which was on their menu but unavailable the day we visited.  I’ve always loved izakaya-style cheesy grilled oysters/kaki mayo, where shucked in-shell oysters are topped with a mixture of Kewpie-mayonnaise and cheese, then go under high heat to be melted into the gloriously broken, greasy, and unapologetic beauties that they are.  Its absence from that meal (perhaps thankfully to that) had left a vacuum in my oyster-deprived heart that, even after the most vicious eating-fatigue, must be filled.  But if there was one thing I didn’t like about kaki mayo, it’d be the pool of oil they often sit on, being the aftermath of post-high heat mayonnaise that had inevitably separated.

So I substituted the mayonnaise with a thick béchamel sauce infused with dry white wine and loaded it with shredded white cheddar, gruyere, and a daring pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.  Then after blanketing the shucked oysters from all directions with this stringy goo, it was then covered again with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, more freshly grated nutmegs (the key, people, the key), and a few/or many little nubs of unsalted butter.  Baked under the top-broiler for 13~15 minutes, the sweet oysters had released their juices to be blended as part of the cheesy pool of joy, slightly shrivelled and firmed up but still supple to the bite, smoldering under a crust of golden and bubbly surface.  I’d warn you that it was hot, but again it might had been too late.  After all, even I, who have been subjected to an entire month of human-foie gras feeding regimen and was already at the stage of over-ripened-for-harvest, couldn’t resist to (huff~ huff~ huff~) tuck one into my mouth right out of the oven and part the burning white sea with a torn piece of crusty sourdough.

And guess what, it was worth the burn, worth the paralyzing month of restaurant-hammering that ultimately led to it, worth every dragging agony to crawl back to the kitchen to make it, and now the what’s-one-more bulge of fat sticking out from places I don’t even know exist on my body.  Hey, my friends, if you ever feel tired of foods, going in or churning out.  Take a couple days off, eat some soda crackers.  Then come back, and make this.  And I promise you, all shall be good again.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

Ingredients

  • 8~10 large shucked oysters
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded white cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded gruyere
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt, plus more to adjust
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to top

Instructions

  1. Rinse and clean the oysters to get rid of any impurities, gently dab dry, then set aside. In a pot over medium heat, melt the unsalted butter then cook the flour for 1 min. Whisk in the whole milk and dry white wine, and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a simmer and has fully thickened, then keep cooking for 5~6 min until reduced slightly and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn off the heat, then add the shredded white cheddar, shredded gruyere, grated garlic, sea salt, ground black pepper, ground white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, and stir with a fork until the cheese has fully melted (taste and re-season with sea salt if needed).
  2. Preheat the top broiler on high. In a shallow oven-proof skillet, spread 1/2 of the cheese sauce on the bottom, then arrange the oysters evenly and cover with the rest of the cheese sauce. Grate enough Parmigiano cheese to entirely cover the surface, then scatter a few extra nubs of unsalted butter here and there. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 13~15 min, until it's bubbly and golden browned. Grate another generous pinch of fresh nutmeg over the top (do not be shy with the nutmeg!), then serve immediately with crusty sourdough.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/04/13/three-cheese-oyster-gratin/
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BLACK SESAME MOCHI ICE CREAM FOR EM’S BB-SHOWER

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THERE IS AN UNUSUAL STURDINESS AND BOUNCINESS TO EACH BITE, AND DEEP NUTTINESS WITH EACH MELTING CHEWS

Hi Emily,

So, congratulations!  Wow, new baby huh?  I mean.. just.. WOW!  Ayee-um… Mandy, by the way.  Here, um, I sort of acted late on that race to the gift-registry and so I swear all I was left to choose with, was this leopard-print breasts-pump and a strange vampire binky…  But seriously, I swear, I am not weird.  Nor am I some random neighbour who’s trying to crash a party because she saw the sign “there will be cakes” on your lawn on her way to taking out the trash.  Really, I was invited.  But the truth is, you probably don’t know much about me.  And I guess the fact that this being a baby-shower and all, probably one of the top three must-be-perv-free environment there is (among dressing-rooms, toilets and etc…) , I should re-introduce myself a little bit.

My last name is Lee, with my birth-Chinese-name, Huei Lin.  When I was 11, in the month before my family immigrated from Taiwan to Canada, I picked out my own English first name, Mandy, from an English Names Guidebook that some idiot gave me.  It was probably one of the most regrettable mistake of my life, one that I now have to live with until I die.  I’m one of those whom you would call a “dog person” much more than a “people person”.  I don’t care who or how many people die in a movie as long as the dog lives, and which-ever movie violates that rule, sucks.  I Am Legend, sucks.  But having said that, if you actually knew me, I’m a good friend.  An overbearingly judgemental friend you might add, but that’s only because I think I care.  My favourite things in life are puppies’ tummies, eating, travelling for eating, eating with friends, last but not least, good conversations over eating.  I think whoever asks the question “what’s your favourite food?”, hates eating.  I don’t have a favourite food, because there’s too many that it can only be defined by categories.  Categories such as, carbohydrates, and proteins.  Vegetables… I don’t wanna talk about it.

But perhaps, the most important food-category of all that defines my entire existence, that trumps all other subordinate pleasures in life except for maybe rubbing a puppy’s tummy, so much so that I may not be able to friend you if you disagree… is anything and everything that could be described with the word – chewy.  Chewy is my Holy Grail on my culinary treasure-hunt, my kitchen baby unicorn, my ambassador of quan.  Chewy, completes me (and no, Jerry Maguire, doesn’t suck).  I want it in my bread, my brownies, my donuts, my cookies, I want it in places that it doesn’t even belong, and yes yes yes, even in my ice creams.  So I guess it’s only appropriate, since we’re on a roll of getting to know each other and all, that I introduce you to this closeted kink of mine – my black sesame mochi ice cream.

It’s not entirely mochi.  It’s not really ice cream, either.  This black sesame-blended mixture is thickened with just enough sticky rice flour, in order to land on that sweet spot where it’s too loose to be called mochi at room-temperature, but hardens just right when it is frozen.  It has an incredible resistance to melting, an unusually sturdiness and bounciness to each bite, and a deep and rich nuttiness that fills the palette with each melting chews.  It is almost unlikely to find a peer for comparison…  Think of the densest, zero-air/ice-molecule ice cream you’ve ever had – this is way beyond that.  Think of Turkish ice cream – well now you’re getting close.  It’s the same kind of stretchy and springy texture that make this recipe impossible for a typical ice cream-churner, and hence, must be done by working your post-baby biceps.  I mean is it too considerate on my part that I even calculated in a terrific solution for that last pound of baby-weight you’re physically but not emotionally attached to?  I told you, I’m a good friend.

So hello Emily.  Congratulations again.  You won’t be able to return that leopard-print breasts-pump because my dog ate the receipt, but this black sesame mochi ice cream, will more than making up for it.

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HOKKAIDO MILK BUNS AND PINEAPPLE CUSTARD

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These super gorgeous crochet-printed side-plates are from the lovely DishesOnly.

TO MY SHAMELESS AND UNDESERVING SELF I SAID, YES I’LL HAVE FOUR OF THOSE PLEASE

This post, on top of the rare fact that it’s the third dessert-recipe within two weeks, is also going to take a rather unconventional introduction.  Instead of my usual babbling on my, more often than not, unpleasant stories/inspirations behind a certain recipe, I’m going to gratefully credit this entire post to the unexpected blogging-perks that have been recently showering my life like a long-awaited rainfall.

First of all around 2 weeks ago, a mindfully packaged box from Italy oozing the kind of anticipation and excitement not even the strongest duct-tape can confine, quietly arrived at my doorstep.  Carrying with it, among other gorgeous sample-ceramics, were 4 beautiful crochet-printed plates that marked the exciting collaboration between me, and the lovely Italian ceramic company – DishesOnly.  In all honesty, calling this sort of thing a “collaboration” where I shamelessly ask for things without paying, sounds all too undeserving on my part because I feel like I’m taking advantage.  But when I saw these unbelievably delicate and understatedly elegant side-plates called crochet, I simply couldn’t help my greedy self.  The desire of having them among my now-seemed-comparatively-unattractive collection of plates, overrode any remaining ounce of self-consciousness.  So to my shameless and undeserving self I said, yes I’ll have 4 of those please.

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MY BIG, FAT, SPICY KOREAN CLAM CHOWDER

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IF YOU’RE HOPING FOR A SLIMMED DOWN, DECENT AND POLITE CLAM CHOWDER TODAY, YOU ARE NOT GONNA FIND IT

We all have a food that we genuinely love so much, and at every long-awaited occasions when we put a bite in our mouth, we wonder to ourselves, why don’t we make that more often? Yes, well, that to me is grilled peanut butter sandwich. This… this, my friends, is not that. This is clam chowder, and it’s something else entirely some of the best clam chowder in san francisco.

I know exactly why I don’t make clam chowders more often. I know exactly the moment in time, the passage being said, the scarred memory in my head which still hurts, that all together forged a mental blockade in between me, myself, and my beloved clam chowders, for all these years. It was a particular spring day in New York, when I was just about to order my favourite “soup” from a popular bakery with a friend of mine:

“Do you wanna know why their clam chowder is so good?”
“No?”
“The other day, I saw them making it where they dunked an enormous brick of butter into the pot at the very end.”
“How enormous…?”
“Like big. Big. Like drinking butter.”

Head down, belly tucked, I walked away from that bakery without my clam chowder that day. In fact, if you can believe it, I sort of didn’t get my clam chowder for many years that followed… Like I said, it still hurts. But before you judge me, please keep in mind that this was in my 20’s when bikini-season was still very much a possibility, when dating was still a verb, not a noun. And most importantly, this was before I started this blog…

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PERFECTLY BAKED SAUNA EGGS

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SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN 50~55 MINUTES, IS THE FIFTY SHADES OF YELLOW

OK, I admit.  For someone who has, more than once, cried sympathy for her egg-allergy, I spend an unnatural amount of time studying the perfect way to cook them.  Not just on my shortcut – 15 seconds to be exact – to creamy and velvety scrambled eggs, but there are up to this point… THREE POSTS in total, solely dedicated to detailed ways of making onsen tamago, aka hot spring eggs.  There was the genesis-post (where my heartbreaking journey on losing one of my favourite things to eat was well documented), then a second one, then a third one.  And now, here’s the fourth.

But, this post isn’t technically about “onsen/hot spring” eggs, where the eggs are submerge in a hot bath of a constant temperature at 158F/70C.  If I may, this is more about something I’d like to call, the sauna eggs.  And this could proven a revelation for those of you out there, who aren’t particular keen on babysitting a thermometer and a pot of hot water, because these, these are baked in the oven.

This mad scientific conduct came after I spotted this on Pinterest a few days ago.  But instead of omg-this-is-genenius-!, I said to myself, holy-shit-what-a-waste-!.  I mean, if someone were to look for a no-fuss method of cooking something, it shouldn’t be applied to what’s already the most fuss-less thing to do on earth, like hard-boiling an egg…  Instead, it should be calibrated, fine-tuned, solely dedicated to achieving the most elegantly beautiful transformation of a single ingredient, this mother earth has to offer.

So I set out my expedition on Wednesday.  Three cartons of eggs and a few disappointments later, I’ve arrived at the truth.  Now, there are obviously 2 major factors at play here, being the temperature, and the cooking time.  The temperature, in this case a less interesting subject, is found to be sitting slightly higher than the hot bath-method, at 175F/80C ~ 185F/85C.  But the cooking time is what’s really interesting here.  Somewhere in between 50~55 minutes, is where the fifty shades of yellow happen.

Judging purely from the appearance of the cracked eggs, you may think there isn’t much difference between 45 to 55 minutes.  And that’s because the difference lies within the yolk.  At 45 minutes, the yolk is still very runny and almost completely raw.  Then at 50 minutes, the yolk has thickened slightly, runs slower, but still hasn’t hit the sweet spot of resembling thick custard.  But in the next mere 5 extra minutes, you can see how the yolk has completely solidified, overcooked, looking more like a soft-boiled egg than what we really want.

The conclusion?  A very specific 53 min at a temperature between 175F/80C ~ 185F/85C.  Little, precious, opaque jewels of deliciousness with a texture lurking between the lines of fluid and solid, jelly and custard.  They are perfect, worth every pain of a one-way infatuation from afar, well, for me at least.  For you, it’s gonna be a full-blown romance.

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COLD AND WARM SALMON SCRAMBLED EGG ROLLS

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HERE’S A GUEST POST OF MINE THAT APPEARED ON A CUP OF JO, AS ONE OF THEIR BREAKFAST SERIES.  JUST IN CASE YOU’VE MISSED IT…

When I was little, and by little I mean before my family moved to Vancouver when I was 12, before the unveil of a whole new alien-world of eating orders, I had always believed that a hot dog-bun… was solely designed for holding scrambled eggs.  Because that was how it was always given.  And that was the way it was always perfect.  Even after many years, after such belief had endured the discoveries of freezer-sections hot dogs, sidewalk hot dogs, gourmet sidewalk hot dogs to fancy restaurant hog dogs, it had not faltered.  In fact, my stubborn childhood “fetish” had only been reenforced through diversity and comparisons.  Before college, I stood even more firmly on my ground, that the perfect thing to go between a toasty bun, was the one and only – creamy scrambled eggs.  It wasn’t a childhood-thing to me anymore.  It was the truth.

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MAGIC 15-SECONDS CREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS

THE PREVIOUSLY-THOUGHT-IMPOSSIBLE SCRAMBLED EGGS-FANTASY

SPEED, AND CREAMINESS.  ALL TOGETHER

We all think we know how to do scrambled eggs.

We all know, I hope, that speedy scrambled eggs cooked over high heat will be grainy, rubbery… and worst of all, will ooze liquid out of themselves and ruin a good morning.  Thus we all know, that it’s almost only legal to cook scrambled eggs over a low-and-slow process, to get creamy or die stirring in the pursuit of that velvety wrapped-around-your-tongue texture.  Right, no news there.

So for the longest time, that’s what I did.  So for the past blissful decade, using my very scarcely inherited patience, I’ve abided by the rules in front of all those carefully guarded wee-flames, stirring and stirring until my mind started to wonder… on that last episode of Game of Thrones, on waitwas-that-mold-I-saw-on-my-broccoli?… on anything but asking if this was the only way to the perfect scrambled eggs.

But last week, in an attempt to feed liquid-food to my temporarily anorexic dog-son, I tried thickening an beaten egg with a bit of potato starch (or cornstarch) to make an egg-goo (which I rubbed on his mouth so he would lick it…).  And who knew, that unappetizing glob… lead me to one of my greatest kitchen-revelations realized.  I thought… wait a second… maybe… a thickening agent is the answer to the previously-thought-impossible scrambled eggs-fantasy.  Speed, and creaminess, all together.

And it is!  Just by adding a little mixture of milk and potato starch (or cornstarch), the water is forced to bind with the protein even if cooked over high heat, which solves the watery eggs disaster.  But better yet, it also creates a creamy and custardy texture with the bits of beaten eggs that aren’t completely cooked through, as if, YES, that they were done slowly over ow heat!  While in fact, 15 seconds!!  Ahem, friends, here’s how:

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