All posts for the month September, 2007

I know it’s off topic, but even after so many years, I still have to take a moment to remember those who worked to rescue others during 9/11, those who lost their lives during the attack, and our troops overseas.  No matter what your politics or food preference, we all want our soldiers to be safe.

If you are the type to pray, say a little prayer that our troops are okay and that one day we’ll have peace.

On the campout this weekend, I fixed the best scrambled eggs that I have made and I owe it to two things: high heat and fresh ground black pepper.

To make the eggs, I cracked a dozen into a nonstick skillet, added a pinch of salt, a pinch of garlic powder, and about ten turns (quite a lot) of black pepper.  I then set the pan on the fire, not on a grill over the fire.  I let the eggs sit for about fifteen seconds before and I picked up the skillet and stirred the eggs.  I then repeated this method four more times, letting the eggs cook between fifteen and thirty seconds each time.

The eggs would cook and coat the bottom of the skillet as if I was making an omelet.  I then used a spatula to stir the eggs, separating the cooked egg from the bottom of the skillet, and mixing it with uncooked egg.  Eventually I had a multilayered mound of light, fluffy scrambled eggs.  Unfortunately, my wife then told me to go back and cook them until they were brown and rubbery.  :: shrug ::

I am going to repeat this process on my home stove, putting the burner on high heat and using the same process of letting the cooked eggs coat the bottom of the skillet before mixing in uncooked eggs to get the same layered effect.  I hope my stove puts out enough BTUs.

In addition to the heat, I really enjoyed the black pepper.  I tend to not aggressively season with black pepper because it can be overpowering.  The eggs, however, more than held their own and struck a terrific balance between the kick of the black pepper and the earthiness of the eggs.  There was something about the black pepper that made the butteriness of the eggs all that much better.

Only six hours until breakfast.  I can hardly wait because I just made myself hungy.

This weekend I went camping with my family who, while supportive of my vegetarianism, would not touch seitan with a ten foot pole.  (And upon first glance, I cannot really blame them…)  Still, I was able to successfully prove that I can go out into the wild, eat not a touch of meat, and never once want for food.

The menu was pretty simple.  I took the easy way out the first night and had Boca burgers when everyone else was eating hamburgers.  No real trick there.  However, my wife and I also dined on seitan simmered in barbecue sauce that I made on the grill and grilled portabella sandwiches.  The key to cooking those meals,  as always, was to control the amount of heat that gets to the cooking vessel (in both cases a trusty teflon skillet I brought from home.)

One of Tina’s relatives brought along a two level metal grill under which we built a fire for a three zone cooking setup.  I could put the skillet directly on the fire (which I did for eggs), on the above the coals for direct cooking, and then on the second level for more indirect heat (ie simmering.)  Cooking over the direct and indirect portions of the setup were much slower than a stove while putting the skillet in the fire was much, much faster. 

 What I ended up doing was putting the skillet on the coals to get it charged and then dumping the food in to let it cook.  This method worked and netted me five perfectly cooked portabellos and probably the finest scrambled eggs I have ever had.  The seitan was tinder, but failed miserably in the taste category due to some horrific Jim Beam barbecue sauce.

On Monday, I made salmon en papillote, which is salmon cooked in a pouch of parchment paper.  Having watched Alton Brown and my cooking instructor’s sous chef create salmon en papillote, I was pretty (over)confident that I create the dish.  I learned the hard way not to be stingy with the parchment paper.  That is another post, though.  To make my dish, I used these ingredients:

  1. 6 oz of coho salmon
  2. 1/4 of a yellow onion, diced
  3. 3 mushrooms sliced
  4. 2-3 oz of a semi-dry white wine
  5. 1 clove of garlic, smashed but not diced
  6. The juice of one half of a lemon
  7. 1/8 teaspoon of lemon zest

I put all of the contents into a parchment pouch and baked for twenty minutes in the oven at three fifty.  The result: perfectly cooked salmon, flavorful veggies, and a nice wine/lemon sauce.  I toyed briefly with the idea of mixing in a few tablespoons of butter and a little heavy cream with the wine/lemon sauce, but by the time I had the thought, my wife was chowing down.

Unfortunately, I left the bottle of wine Monday night and found that it just did not taste the same the next morning.  This got me thinking about the wine I use for cooking and how different varietals and styles of wine affect my cooking.

Which makes me wonder: what wines do you use to cook?  How much difference do you think it makes?

On the recommendation of one of my loyal readers (who really should comment instead of email ;)), Tina, Ethan, and I tried Fire Wok on Johnson Drive by the arts theatre despite a promise to ourselves that we would never eat at Chinese buffets again.  Our aversion to Chinese buffets comes in no small part from the preponderance of fried foods, oils, and those prepackaged cookies that pass as dessert (mmm…imitation Oreos), none of which are healthy.  However, we were in a hurry and we were hungry and we were in the neighborhood–a deadly trifecta.

Fire Wok turned out to be pretty good.  I have to admit that it is hard for me to approach Chinese buffets that same after my conversion to vegetarianism because so many dishes have meat.  However, I was able to find several vegetable only dishes that were good and used my seafood exemption to chow down on the critters from the sea.  Much to my diet’s chagrin, they had fried scallops aggressively seasoned in salt–a masterpiece of fried seafood eatery if I’ve ever seen one or as I told my wife: “The first hundred of the scallops were great.  The second hundred were just okay.”

Tina, still engaging her carniverous side, chowed down on the sweet and sour chicken and the chicken on a stick all of which met her approval (Her comment: “The sweet and sour chicken was unbelievably good.”)  She also felt the egg rolls would be good to most people’s taste (“It was warm and crunchy and tasty.”  But, according to her, they had too much meat.  Even as a vegetarian I’m not sure how you have too much meat.)

On the downside, there was a plethora of fried and heavily oiled foods, leaving us with the choice of either rolling with the grease and suffering a stomach ache or eating nothing but plain fried rice.  In other words, Fire Wok ain’t health food.

All in all, if you are down on Johnson Drive or if you are just hungry for Chinese and do not mind the heaviness, you gotta put Fire Wok on your list.

Tonight Ethan and I went to Shogun Japanese Steakhouse.  I have been fairly remiss in not reviewing the restaurant until now because Shogun is the finest sushi place I have eaten and I eat a lot of American-style sushi.

The owner, Andy, is also the head sushi chef and does a lot of work in the kitchen as well.  Always ready with a smile or a story, Andy is an artist and a master at the sushi bar.  His creations are always technically excellent, flavorful, and made with only the finest ingredients.  He is a man who will send back any ingredient that does not meet his standards and he got me to eat uni.  A feat others have tried and failed at miserably.

The one thing I have noticed about Shogun, which some may not like, is that he does not have a bunch of crazy rolls.  Some resturants go out of the way to create over the top sushi roll menus featuring everything in the kitchen.  While Andy does have a large selection of rolls, his creations are grounded in more traditional American sushi unless you ask for something crazy.  Like his seafood crunchy roll or his strawberry cake roll (sushi rice, tuna, cream cheese, and masago combine to make a roll that looks just like a cake.  It was awesome.)

Oh yeah, whatever you do… don’t order the Crown Royal.  Or at least don’t tell him I told you to.  🙂

Shogun also has three teppanyaki tables and offers a selection of vegetables, seafood, steaks, and chicken.  Each is prepared by skilled chefs so that the food tastes terrific, though Shogun can, at times, be lacking in the pagentry and outlandishness that teppanyaki is often associated with. 

All in the food is exquisite and the price is decent (steak and scallops aren’t cheap, neither is raw fish.)  If you are in Kansas City, I highly recommend checking this place out.  And ask for the yum yum sauce.  My wife wants to bathe in it.