grill Tag

CHICKEN SATE W/ “DIRTY” PEANUT SAUCE

WHY NOW?  WHY THEN?  NO REASON.  IT WAS JUST A SWITCH TURNED ON,

LIKE THE DAY WHEN A GIRL STARTS TO LIKE A BOY.

Craving, is a strange thing.

It’s been 8 years since the first and last time I visited the island of Bali, and not in the almost 3 decades before nor the years after, had I given this thing called sate (or satay) even the slightest attention.  Weird, given that I have, since then, graced through the feeding grounds of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong, trapped in the seduction of rice noodles folding under that intoxicating broths, infatuated with fish heads bubbling inside the sinisterly red gravy, undistracted from the fetish pursuit of just how transcendently sexy it could be, inside the supple thighs of a chicken gently poached in herbed stock and served over rice.  Might I even add that when it comes to meats-on-a-stick, I did plenty damage around the globe.

But sate?  Yeah sure I saw it somewhere here and there.  But what, why and how, honestly, I couldn’t care less.

Perhaps I’ve always suspected them to be dry, a reasonable doubt given the skimpy amount of meats having to fully char over charcoal.  Or that they, out of the mere once or twice close encounters, appeared to have been on the sweeter side of seasoning, a repellant for a set of taste buds that can’t appreciate dinner oozing into the dessert category.  Either way, it’s just never been my thing.

But then, out of nowhere, in the least likely form of seduction, it caught my attention on a Thursday night TV program playing on repeat.

As far as the AFC program goes, I can’t gush much about it, just an Asian traveling show featuring an assortment of sate in Indonesia.  In terms of writing, not even a great one.  As I said, an unlikely seduction.  But before I even understood what I was feeling, first, curiosity blossomed.  Why now?  Why then?  No reason.  It was just a switch turned on, like the day when a girl starts to like a boy.  What is sate?  What have I missed?  The eye-smearing smokes coiling above glowing charcoals started to intoxicate.  The snippets of meats clothed in pastes, fanned out and flapping above the fire started to portray, not dry, but tightened strips of meats condensing in flavours.  The oily and sticky dipping sauce… the squishy bread in mopping duty… the bitten pickles that sharpened my imagination…   all of a sudden, aligned.

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OLD BEIJING LAMB SKEWER

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THERE are many virtues about Beijing, and as far as I’m concerned, they are all true.  The widely studied, highly evolved lung-capacity of its residence to withstand extremely volatile air molecules is among the most celebrated.  The profound unity and rewardless participation in the national sport of competitive spitting, for god and country, is none but true patriotism.  Then, perhaps the most famous although not as extraordinary as the former points, that it’s true, these fine citizens do know how to roast a damn duck.

Like actually actually.

But the most extraordinary things are those that go unadvertised.  The best-kept secret, the silent do-er in this fine metropolis is tucked away in every unknown streets and corners, and I mean every streets and corners.  It’s the most note-worthy and representative of Beijing street-food scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it is this word – 串.

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WORLD’S EASIEST SEXY RACK

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” I’M BRINGING SEXY RACK “

The 6-4 carnival stretches on… There are bloody evidence of its squanders everywhere, the skin and bones that the beast chewed and spat out, all over my jabbed and crippled internet. My brain is still scrambled from yesterday’s epic, titanic emotional meltdown. My eyes staring into the blinding whiteness on my browser in a futile effort to locate all the premeditatedly murdered URL. There are broken signals of my poisoned VPN. They occasionally wink back at me… I need to get a new antivirus software to scan my PC, got knows what’s on it! If you’re looking for a safe PC, you could check out websafetyadvice.com for any extra info.

But this is not where I put my head down. Even if it means I have to sit right here, on this uncomfortably designed chair that stings my ass, that I have to upload each and every single one of these photos, every fucking, excruciating hour at a time, then so be it. I’m going to get this done. That’s right you nasty spitting beast,

I’m bring sexy rack.

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This isn’t just a recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. When I first discovered its method – witnessing how Thomas Keller gave life and colour to a humongous chunk of rib-roast, too large and uniformly shaped to submit to any traditional browning techniques – it was a revelation. It meant beyond what the specific recipe was designed for. It meant that from then on, the path to a piece of meat’s medium-rare doneness, as well as a gorgeously charred surface, can be walked separately.

How many times have I tried to imitate a steak-house rib-eye at home – the kind that shimmers over its deeply caramelised crust with a properly pink and bloody interior – but instead found myself scrubbing down a grease-raped kitchen with the smoke-detector still screaming from the imposed horror, and worse, all for a flap of unevenly and under-browned meat sobbing over its own greyish and overcooked body? Too. Many. Times. But it could, and has, all stopped here. The moment when I stopped pretending that my kitchen could conjure the same level of scorching heat as a professional kitchen. The moment I realised my vent-hood couldn’t even eliminate cigarette smoke let alone the volcano clouds erupting from my cast-iron pan. Th moment when I discovered, that this could all be done, with none of these silly ruckus.

The answer is a standard, dependable blow-torch.

N…no… what, what is that you’re waving at me? That impotent little girlish thingy that came with the impulsive creme brulee-set I picked you picked up on your way to get shower-curtains through Bed Bath and Beyond? N… no, I’m talking about an actual, standard, torch burner that goes on top of a butane canister. It’s the ultimate fixer-upper in the kitchen, the air-brusher to make up for other cookery’s shortcomings. In fact it’s the first thing I would recommend if you ask me what’s a must-have in my line of gadgets. Get, an actual blow-torch. What it’s able to do, among other things, is that it can apply beautiful, glorious, and most importantly, even browning and caramelising to any specimen of meat no matter how big or small, or how uniformly and awkwardly shaped.

Such as, oh how coincidentally~ a rack of lamb.

You can’t brown a rack of lamb evenly no matter if it’s on the stove… in the oven… over the grill… under the broiler… or by whatever means you can think of (unless you’re prepared to deep-fry it in a bucket, in that case, I solute you). You just can’t. Especially with it’s variably thin strip of meat which, by the time you’re done nuking it, could have been disastrously overcooked. I didn’t say it will. I said it could, and uncertainly isn’t something I’d like to season with my pricy cut of meat. Especially when “precision” comes with so little effort. The thing with a blow-torch is, you can easily apply intense heat that chars the surface beautiful without penetrating deeper into the part where it deserves a gentler treatment, a treatment say, a slow and tender roast inside a warm oven until every section of the meat is brought to the same, even level of pinkish and juicy doneness. Almost sous-vede! Then after a proper, beauty-resting, you can give this rack another spanking of heat to get it hot again, without affecting the interior doneness of course. You rub its cheeks with a kiss of Dijon mustards, and pad it with a thick cake of spice-crust made with ground cumin and fresh mints. A few more flakes of sea salts before introduction… curtains down… and it’s show time.

Hey, nobody would think that this sexiness came without dropping a sweat amidst the summer? I say, that’s at least one thing to be cheered for, if you were me.

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Serves: 2 ~ 3 people

I have done steaks before with the same method, but a rack of lamb has even more reasons to benefit from it (evenly more awkwardly shaped). This is a typical 7-ribs lamb rack that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams (31.7 oz ~ 38.8 oz). It doesn’t really matter how big the lamb-rack is, the cooking method is exactly the same. And you can be really flexible about the herb/spice rub that goes on top. If you are not a big fan of fresh mint and cumin, feel free to substitute with parsley or etc.

Please DO NOT use those mini-torches that come with a creme brulee-set or something. They are only as good as a cigarette lighter. This is the exact torch-burner that I use, which is comparatively economical and practical. It goes on top of any butane fuel canister that you can buy almost anywhere, and each canister will last a very long time.

A note to pay attention to during roasting is that, the internal temperature will continue to climb about 8~10ºF/5ºC, after the lamb’s removed from the oven. So you have to calculate that into the desired doneness. 130~140ºF/55~60ºC is a perfectly pink, medium-rare. Anything else, I do not endorse.


Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of lamb that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams
  • 1 ~ 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ~ 3 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • Herbs and spice rub:
    • 3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint
    • 2 tbsp of ground cumin
    • 1 tbsp of chill flakes
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

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Start 1 hour before serving. Preheat the oven on 300F/145C.

Trim off some excess fat on the lamb rack if you need to. Place the lamb rack inside a baking sheet and set the baking sheet securely under the kitchen vent-hoods. Turn the vent on high. Evenly rub a few nubs of unsalted butter over the lamb, and with your torch-burner, start searing and caramelising the entire surface of the lamb rack. Keep basting the lamb with the melted butter and rendered fat, and make sure every inch of the surface on both sides (especially the fats) are deeply browned and caramelized. Some smokes and sparks will arise from the process, but don’t worry, it should be minor and dealt with by your kitchen vent.

Your lamb rack should now look as if it’s gorgeously roasted, but in fact, the interior is still completely uncooked. Now, season the lamb rack on all sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then set it inside the same baking-sheet with the meat-side facing up. Insert the meat-thermometer into the centre of the meat, then place it on the middle rack inside the preheated oven. Keep the thermometer facing outward so you can read the temperature without opening the oven. Slow-roast the lamb until the internal temperature reads 132ºF/55ºC (remember, the temperature will continue to climb later). This will take approx 30 to 40 min (there won’t be much happening in the first 20 min).

Once the lamb reaches desired temperature, remove from the oven and cover loosely with a foil and let rest for at least 8 min. DO NOT remove the meat-thermometer at this point. You will risk juices escaping through the hole before the meat is properly rested. Meanwhile, mix the “herbs and spice rub” evenly together. After 8 min, the temperature should have stopped rising and reads around 140ºF/60ºC (perfectly pink and medium-rare). Remove the foil (I usually like to briefly torch the lamb at this point to get it “sizzling” again. it won’t further cook the meat), then brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard covering the meat-side. Apply the rub over the Dijon and pat gently to help it stick.

Cut the lamb-rack in between bones and season with more sea salt. Serve immediately.

 

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Funky Business

All right.  I admit it.  I have been hiding something dirty from you.  I have been for quite sometime now playing the role of a girl who gushes about red velvet things, woos-and-ahhs over seasonal muffins for weekends and salutes to tacos, sandwiches and raviolis for everyday meals, who even contemplates (but no luck so far) on creating the ultimate fairy-food salads to tackle the hippie crowds.  Don’t get me wrong because I love all that (maybe not the salads…) as much as the next American and who wouldn’t?  But… there’s more to it me and it’s despicable that I’ve been tucking it away in a dark corner to lick off its own shame.  Today I’m going to let my closeted funk-fetish get exposed…

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Nice Rack

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There are many who shy away from lambs, including a number of my personal friends.  So I’m not going to say anything rude here, only … what the hell is wrong with you?  Lamb is one of the most flavorful meat!  In some cases even tops beef!  Its unique flavor and aroma (is someone gagging right now..?) has no equal.  Yes, I’m talking about the “gamey-ness”.  What “gamey-ness”?  How come beef isn’t tagged with any condescending adjective, but only nice words like “beefy” and “meaty”, whereas lamb is stuck with “gamey” and “lamby”…..  Because of it, some restaurants would go the distance, like 12 extra steps to remove the unique flavor of lamb or goats.  What is this?  Tastes like beef.  If I wanted beef I would’ve ordered beef….  Now where’s my lamb?

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