Friday, February 19, 2016

Constantly in Starbucks's Shadow

Love it or hate it, Starbucks has become an international force dominating the coffee and now tea scene. Mike and I aim to try out different cafes here as Seattle is known for great coffee that isn't tied to Starbucks, but we'll make an exception when Starbucks-addicted friends and family visit. Our first visitor was my sister-in-law who happens to be the biggest Starbucks fan I know. The first thing we did when she landed was head to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery for lunch. This isn't the original Starbucks, which is located at 1912 Pike St, but it is where they roast rare beans in small batches, test out new beverages that have not yet been rolled out to regular Starbucks stores, and chat with customers about the different ways to brew coffee and the different flavor notes of each Starbucks Reserve bean.

This place is beautiful.

The grand entrance

Serious Pie inside of the Starbucks Reserve

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Pear, Hazelnuts, and Black Trumpet Aioli

Soft Eggs, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

Starbucks Reserve Beans 

Siphon flight in progress ($22 for 2)

Beans that get refilled through the pipes

The downstairs tasting room

Bags that don't meet the weight standards are pushed into the barrel

After a delicious lunch at Serious Pie, we walked around, took in the rich smell around us, and tucked into our comfy chairs with our smoked butterscotch latte with milk produced by Serious Pie. Yes, it's over-the-top. I felt so special drinking this test-run latte, but it debuted this week at all locations! However, I doubt that your latte contains milk that is specially made by Serious Pie, ha! It's actually the least sweet latte I've had at Starbucks. The smokiness is very pronounced. 

Smoked Butterscotch Lattes

Being a wide-eye tourist, I talked myself into buying some of these much hyped about "rare" beans. We got into a detailed conversation with a barista about the beans that have the least acidity and still taste awesome. The Guatemala from Monte David is the least acidic of the reserve roasts that will be rolled out en masse soon, but the Tanzania Mt. Meru has some acidity and is the most exclusive roast that will never be mass produced. I had to take home a small bag of each, and they're indeed delicious and true to the flavors described by the barista.

Low acidity roasts

As unique as this particular Starbucks is, Seattleites can't feel special for long. Apparently, they plan to open more Reserve locations throughout the U.S. soon - Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. :-/

Weeks after our first visit to the Reserve, I got a job in the SoDo area (south of downtown), and my office just happens to be right behind the Starbucks corporate headquarters. 

View of Starbucks Corporate HQ from my office

What to do but to celebrate at the Reserve again with a mole mocha!

Mole Mocha - espresso with milk, smoked chocolate sauce, sesame, and chiles

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Crispy Skin Salmon and Experimenting with Beets

Continuing on with the whole salmon I purchased from the previous post, I wanted to use one of the fillets to try to achieve a true crispy skinned salmon. All my past oven-roasting attempts failed to crisp the skin. This time I cooked the salmon in a pan skin-side down for 80% of the cooking time, and achieved the perfect crunch!

For the side, I forced myself to experiment with the golden beets (roots, stems, and leaves) I got at the market. Beets have always been intimidating to me because of the color and the raw earthy taste. I couldn't resist buying the golden beets because they were so pretty and the leaves looked really fresh. I chopped the beets into half moon pieces and roasted them in the oven with sliced onions. I chopped the beet stems and leaves into quarter inch pieces and sauteed them with sliced garlic, cooking the stems first then the leaves. The beet stems and leaves are surprisingly tender! I actually prefer it over spinach because it doesn't leave an irony after taste.

To bring the dish together, I made a blackberry reduction with fresh blackberries, white wine, blackberry jam, salt, and pepper.

Crispy Skin Salmon with Blackberry Reduction, Oven-Roasted Beets, and Sauteed Beet Greens

Dinner was sublime! I was able to use the leftover salmon and sauce for a salad the next day. The blackberry reduction served as a delicious dressing!

Crispy Skin Salmon with Blackberry Reduction

Salmon fillets (4 oz pieces)
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbs blackberry jam

Blackberry Reduction

Put the blackberries, white wine, and jam in a small sauce pan on low heat. Let the sauce cook uncovered while you cook the fish. Season the sauce with salt and pepper once it has reduced.

Crispy Skin Salmon

Sprinkle salt on the skin side of the salmon and let the fish sit for 5 minutes. The salt will draw out moisture. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Heat up 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in a medium sized pan. Cook the fish one or two at a time so you don't crowd the pan, which will steam the skin rather than fry it. When the oil is shimmering, place a piece of salmon in the pan, skin side down. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the flesh side of the fish in the pan. When the fish starts to looked cook halfway up, flip the fish over flesh side down. It should only take a minute or two at this point. 

Oven-roasted Golden Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens

Beet stems and leaves, cut into 1/4 inch
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
Golden beets, cut into half moon 1/4 inch thick pieces
1/4 onion, sliced

Beets all prepped!

When you prep the beets, make sure to separate the stems from the leaves because you'll want to cook the stems first before the leaves to soften it enough without making the leaves mushy.

Beets ready for the oven

Place the half moon beet pieces in a rimmed baking sheet with sliced onions and toss with olive oil and salt. Make sure all the pieces are arranged in a single layer and bake at 375 F. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Sauteed Beet Greens

Heat a pan with 1/2 Tbs of olive oil. Saute the garlic until fragrant then add the stems. Cook the stems until the stems are shiny then add the leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

When you plate the dish, make sure to put the reduction at the bottom of the plate to keep the salmon skin crispy!
One of my favorite meals!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What To Do with Salmon Bones

I'm really enjoying cooking lavish meals on a reasonable budget recently. First off, it helps that we live close to several great grocery stores with deals on organic meats and produce and wild caught seafood. Thanks, Trader Joe's, Fred Meyer, and Central Market (not the same Central Market chain as the one in Texas)!

Fred Meyer had another sale on wild caught whole sockeye salmon at $3.99/lb. I purchased a $15 salmon and they filleted, scaled, and saved the bones in a bag for me! The service was fantastic! I didn't even have to ask them to save the bones for me! Last time I bought a whole salmon, I opted not to have the fish monger fillet the fish for me because I wanted to try cooking it whole. The problem was that Mike struggled with the bones, and it took me a long time to take out the bones on the remainder of the cooked fish for the fish cakes. Unless my mom, the fish queen, visits, I'm going to stick to filleted salmon.

Salmon Broth
Salmon bones
4-5 Slices of ginger
1 Cup of white wine
A handful of dried seaweed
A medium pot of water

The first thing I did with the fish when I got home was freeze one of the fillets and boil the fish bones with a couple slices of ginger in a pot of water with about a cup of white wine to make fish stock. Once the stock started to boil, I remembered the bag of purple seaweed (dulse) that my mom gave me from her trip to Nova Scotia. I added a chunk of the dried seaweed to the stock to bring in the natural saltiness of the sea. I lowered the heat and allowed the broth to simmer for 30 more minutes and strained the broth. After the bones cooled, I carefully separated the salmon scraps from the bones so I can add the meat to a breakfast omelette or mix it into cream cheese for a bagel spread later.

Salmon Broth

I love making broths because they make a delicious base for so many dishes! After the salmon broth cooled, I used 2 ladles of it for a bowl of chawanmushi and froze the remainder. Chawanmushi is a super simple savory Japanese egg custard dish that's usually filled with some seafood ingredients and a ginkgo seed. We recently had it at Miyabi 45th, and I was eager to see if the homemade salmon broth makes my version even better.

Chawanmushi with Salmon Broth
2 ladles of homemade salmon broth (or 1 cup of chicken broth)
3 eggs, beaten
Any bite-size ingredients you want to put in the custard cooked or raw
A pinch of salt

I put several pieces of frozen shrimp, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, and broccoli stems in a large bowl inside the rice cooker. Then I whisked the eggs with the salmon broth and strained the mixture into the bowl of ingredients. I should have steamed the custard for 10 minutes, but I overcooked the custard because I had to run an errand in the middle of steaming. You can tell it's overcooked because of the craters on the surface of the custard. Regardless, it's deliciously sweet because of the salmon broth and shrimp! This pairs really well with steamed rice.

Shrimp, broccoli stems, and shiitake

Straining the egg and broth mixture into the bowl

Finished Chawanmushi