Saturday, December 21, 2013

Deviled Eggs - with an Asian Twist

My friend, Matt, hosted an Oscar Night Potluck Party last year and I tried to find a fancy deviled egg recipe that would impress the crowd.  I plowed through Pinterest and Foodgawker but found delicious recipes that use the same set of ingredients.  I wanted a dramatically different one fitting for the Oscars.
That's when I came up with Deviled Chinese Tea Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms!  I usually attempt to be humble, but I can't help but brag about this burst of creativity!
Boiled Eggs
Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (soaked in a bowl of hot water until plump)
Jalapeno (optional)
Sesame Oil
For the Tea Egg Marinade:
Soy Sauce
Shiitake Mushroom Water
Bay Leaf
Dried Red Chiles
Star Anise
Five Spice Powder
Black Tea or Oolong Tea
I made hard boiled eggs first, cracked the shell but kept the shell on the eggs, and dunked them in a pot of simmering soy sauce, shiitake mushroom water (the warm water that I used to soak the dried shiitake to plump them back up), and various spices (see ingredients list).
Cracked Hard Boiled Eggs Simmering in Tea-Soy Marinade
I let the eggs simmer on low uncovered for 30 minutes, turned off the heat, and covered the pot to let it soak for another 2 hours. The longer they stay in the marinade, the more dramatic the cracked pattern on the egg and the more flavorful the egg whites get.
While the eggs were marinating, I sautéed some finely diced onions and some of the soaked shiitake mushrooms that I diced (make sure to slice some shiitake mushrooms for presentation) in some tea-soy marinade.  I put the sautéed mushroom and onion mixture aside and sautéed the sliced mushrooms with some marinade separately.

Happy with My Tea Eggs!

Once the eggs have cooled, carefully shell the eggs and reveal the gorgeous cracked pattern!

Isn't this gorgeous?
I halved the shelled eggs and scooped out the egg yolks into a bowl.  In the bowl of egg yolks, I spooned in the tea-soy marinade and mixed in the sautéed mushroom and onions.  I drizzled a little bit of sesame oil while mixing and added some scallions into the mixture.  Once the filling mixture was creamy, I spooned the mixture into the tea eggs and topped each off with a slice of sautéed shiitake mushrooms.

Deviled Chinese Tea Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms and Jalapeno Deviled Eggs

Deviled Chinese Tea Eggs with Shiitake Mushrooms and Jalapeno Deviled Eggs

Next Door Brewing Company

My co-worker, Stephanie, was in town in November, and in our mission to explore Madison restaurants together, we picked out the fairly new Next Door Brewing Company in the Atwood neighborhood.
It was a perfect place to wind down and we went early enough before noise became an issue.

Beer Flight

We shared three awesome appetizers - Pickled and Deviled Eggs; WPA Beer Battered Sassy Cow Curds with Chive Dressing (MY FAVORITE CHEESE CURDS IN MADISON!!!!); Next Door Pickle Jar.
Pickled and Deviled Eggs

Cheese Curds with Chive Dressing

House Pickles

The cheese curds are the best curds ever!  What makes them special is how light and airy they are.  The beer batter must've contributed to the light crunchy texture.  The deviled eggs were pretty standard but the pickled eggs were really interesting - sweet and tart.

Mike and I shared the Ssam Pork Sandwich and the SASY Bird Sandwich.  The sandwiches are both delicious but Mike finds the pork a little bit disappointing as he kept wanting it to taste more like a pulled pork sandwich. 

Ssam Pork Sandwich with kimchi sauce

SASY Bird Sandwich with harissa mayo and brie on a Stella's cheesebread

Stephanie indulged in a sublime sweet potato pie. I loved the light, delicate crust!

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Overall, this was a great place to relax and catch up about non-work-related things!  Can't wait for you to experience Forequarter in January, Steph!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Versatile Pomegranate Seeds

I was first introduced to pomegranate seeds by a Thai co-worker 6 years ago and was pleasantly surprised by the juiciness and crunch.  But I didn't have the confidence to cook with it until my DC housemate, Jamie, and I put our feet down and decided to incorporate pomegranate seeds into our cooking.

Once, I accidentally cut open a hard, unripe avocado.  Avocados are expensive so I tried to think of ways to salvage the fruit.  I originally wanted to make guacamole so in a similar vein, I thought that I could make a crunchy avocado salsa and substitute tomatoes with pomegranate seeds.  I tossed them with lime juice, salt and pepper, seedless cucumbers, and chopped scallions.  It turned out sublime!

Crunchy Avocado, Cucumber, and Pomegranate Salsa

Another successful use of pomegranate seeds is Pomegranate and Rose Water Rice.  I found a delicious-looking rosewater nut pilau recipe but didn't have all the ingredients.  I cooked short-grain Japanese rice, which is softer and stickier than basmati, with rosewater.  When the rice was done, I fluffed the rice with pomegranate seeds and toasted almond slices.  I paired the rice with Za'atar seasoned chicken legs and roasted asparagus. 

Rosewater Pomegranate Rice with Za'atar Chicken and Asparagus

Rosewater Pomegranate Rice
When I got an ice cream machine, the first ice cream Mike and I made was vanilla ice cream with pomegranate seeds.  Frozen pomegranate seeds are delicious, but Mike and I have to find a better vanilla ice cream recipe before I share with you the recipe.  

Pomegranate Vanilla Ice Cream

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend in Chicago!

This was my first Thanksgiving spent with my significant other`s family! I'm lucky that it wasn't nervewracking because I've spent time with Mike's family on many occasions previously and adore them.  Mike's mom created an awesome itinerary for us.  She must know my penchant for well-planned events!

Mike's mom took me to get my first manicure ever!  I have the tiniest fingernails so it may not look impressive but I felt super feminine!

We had a lovely family dinner at a unique wine bar, Cellar Gate, that's designed like a small intimate house, where the kitchen is the size of my humble apartment kitchen!

Cellar Gate in Highwood, IL

Chicken Flatbread and Kobe Beef Slider
Artichoke Dip and Caprese Skewers
Awesome dessert plate

We ended up pulling Apples to Apples off a shelf at the bar to play along with eating our desserts

Another highlight is heading into downtown Chicago for the Art and Appetite exhibit at the Art Institute.  Too bad I couldn't take photos of the paintings of food!

I can't help thinking of Roger Ebert. I'm sad that I can no longer read his reviews on new movies!

Holiday Season at the Art Institute

We stopped by my favorite Reuben sandwich restaurant, The Berghoff, to warm up and wait to meet up with more family for dinner elsewhere.

The Berghoff

The Family

Black Cherry Soda and a Giant Pretzel

We ended the evening on a frantic 45 minute walking tour conducted by our very own bona fide Chicagoan, Greg, while trying to find the restaurant where we were meeting with the rest of our party. Don't worry, Greg, I actually enjoyed it!  We got to walk by places that I added to my list of places to visit next time, like the donut shop next to the train terminal that sells croissant-donuts, Burke 's Bacon Bar, and Eataly!

Chicago Nightscape

Thank you, Joan and Greg, for an amazing Thanksgiving Weekend!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Apricot Nutmeg Bread

"What's this purring box? Is a cat stuck in there?"

Karla Peering inside the Bread Machine

"When in doubt, sit on it! Show the stranger who's boss!"
Karla Sitting on the Bread Machine
Ever since I unearthed the bread machine from the storage, I've stopped buying bread from the grocery stores. Why buy pricey loaves with loads of additives and preservatives when you can easily make delicious bread with inexpensive and creative ingredients!
Here's a successful Apricot Nutmeg Bread recipe I followed from Taste of Home.  The recipe churns our a firm, dense bread that's perfect for a filling breakfast.  In the future, I'm going to try adding some kind of herb - perhaps sage.

Apricot Nutmeg Bread

Middleton, Wisconsin: National Mustard Museum

 Besides cheese, what other culinary delights can Wisconsinites be proud of?  Apparently, mustard to go on their beloved brats! 

The National Mustard Museum in Middleton shows off 5,566 mustards from all over the world.  The best part are the free samples in the mustard store!  You can get a taste of any mustard in the store by asking a staff in the mustard bar!  I tried the truffle mustard.  Mmmmmm!
National Mustard Museum in Middleton, WI

Mustard Vending Machine

5,566 Mustards!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No-Name Bao Zi (Filled Buns) and Rou Jia Mo (Meat-filled Burgers) Trailer

I'm starting to see great potential in Madison's Chinese food scene!  I can't believe I said that, but one visit to the bao zi trailer on N. Mills and University Ave. on the University of Wisconsin campus made me somewhat "glass half full!"
I have no idea why the trailer doesn't market itself better with at least a name so admirers can spread the word.  Afterall, they did go as far as paint nearly all that's on their menu on the Chinese...
This awesome trailer focuses on Chinese pork steamed buns 包子 (bao zi) and Shaanxi-style "burgers" 肉夹馍 (rou jia mo).  Besides these two items, they also have daily specials that they write in Chinese.  I don't know what advice to give besides go with a friend who can read Chinese or be adventurous and point to one of the specials to try out.  I believe the bottom special remains the same everyday, 豆浆 (dou jiang) soymilk.  
包子 "Bao Zi" and 肉夹馍 "Ro Jia Mo"

Daily Specials in Chinese

Unlike Dumpling Haus, the bao zi here tastes homemade rather than frozen.  This trailer serves up authentic baozi.  The quality of the filling is high.  It's juicy and flavorful without being too oily.  My fear with dumplings and baozi when I'm eating out is that they would just fill it with low-quality meat or drown the ingredients in oil.  No worries here!  

Shaanxi-style burger and bao zi

The Shaanxi-style burgers are delicious but very different from what is shown in their trailer photo. Instead of sliced roasted pork, the meat is ground or finely shredded and chopped braised pork. It doesn't have the smokiness and crunchiness that I expected from their menu photo. It's also a lot bigger too! Even with these disparities, the burger is juicy, fluffy, and super filling. Perfect for cold, damp days. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tucson, AZ: Sushi in the Desert?

The job that brought me to Madison entailed traveling to different customer sites in the U.S.  The two sites that I was assigned were Tucson, AZ and St. Louis, MO.  I count myself as lucky in that both cities have a wealth of culture, diversity, and amazing food. 
I had never been to Arizona before I started working with the client in Tucson, so I was extremely excited.  When I landed in Tucson for the first time, I embraced the flat roads in the city and the high, dry mountains rising all around.  Everywhere you looked, there were mountains, giant cacti, and blue sky.
My Mom in Awe of the Cacti

Seeing how nice and dry this place is, it makes total sense that my mom asked to eat at a sushi restaurant for dinner when she came to visit me over the weekend.  I told her that she was crazy, but she pointed to an ad in the hotel's "places to see" magazine that featured a picture of a sushi boat.  My mom countered my protests by reasoning, "See! There's a sushi place!  Why would any business owner willingly shoot himself in the foot and open a sushi restaurant that's bound to fail?  It must be good!"
I gave in.  I think it's because Madison doesn't have many options for sushi, and I hoped that my mom was right so that I would have a go-to sushi place when I'm in Tucson.
Ginza Sushi is the name of the restaurant that I thought would give me inauthentic offerings drenched in super sweet teriyaki sauce at best and unfresh fish at worst. 
Ginza Sushi (5425 N. Kolb Rd.)
Boy was I wrong! Just look at the gorgeous Ginza Chirashi.  Yes, I made the photo extra large for your viewing pleasure.

 Ginza Chirashi - Uni (sea urchin), Toro (fatty tuna), Amaebi (sweet shrimp), Tako (octopus), Sake (salmon), Ikura (salmon roe), Hamachi (yellow tail), Akagai (red clam), and Hotatagai (scallop) over rice
Something as simple as raw seafood on a bed of well made Japanese rice can taste this good because it's fresh!  The ingredients aren't hiding under globs of sauce or fancy accoutrements.  My favorite part is allocating the fish roe so that I could pop at least one in my mouth with each bite of rice and seafood.  Mommy's right...sigh.
Mom and I also shared teppan squid with ginger sauce and hamachi kama, which were both delicious.  The squid was tender and smokey.  Mom and I order grilled squid dishes at Japanese restaurants for nostalgic reasons.  Growing up in Honolulu, my parents would always take my brother and me to Shirokya on the weekends and have lunch at their cafeteria.  My mom and I always craved their squid.  After we left Hawaii, grilled Japanese squid just wasn't as easy to find...until I found myself in the desert...
Hamachi Kama is a family favorite as well.  If it's on the menu, we have to have it.  The collar is particularly flavorful and flakey.  It's usually just seasoned lightly with salt and served with a side a ponzu.  Again, simple but the natural flavor of fresh ingredients makes it amazing!
Teppan Squid and Hamachi Kama (broiled yellow tail collar)

Needless to say, I revisited Ginza on subsequent work trips to de-stress:

Agedashi Tofu

Nabeyaki Udon
Yuzu Miso Halibut

Spider Roll
Here are photos of my last meal in Tucson with my co-workers.  What a great way to say goodbye to a great city!:
I can't remember all the different Ginza Special Rolls...

Izakaya - Chicken Karaage, Agedashi Tofu, and Seafood Dynamite
Green Tea and Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream

Green Tea Cheesecake and Tempura Apples
Awesome Co-Workers