Wednesday, 29 May 2013

BBQ-Week 1: Korean Ribs and Grilled Asparagus!

Summer is finally here! And you know what that means, time to light the BBQ! To me, grilling chunks of meat in front of a BBQ has always seemed like a guy's job. But after hearing many good things about this particular BBQ cooking class, I decided to give a try. I had no prior experience of BBQ cooking besides grilling a couple burgers and buns for a quick dinner, so a lot of new techniques are ahead of me to learn! Unlike all my other classes, students work in teams in this one and we are working in a special lab, equipped with industrial food prep tools and gadgets. In this first class, we made Grilled China Town Style Beef Short Ribs (really, it's more Korean than Chinese) and Balsamic Grilled Asparagus

1.5 lb cross cut short ribs, quarter inch thick
salt/pepper to taste

1 cup pineapple juice
60 g ginger grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Thai chili
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tsp seasame oil

1. combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk
2. save 1/4 of the marinade for basting later
3. marinade the ribs for about 3hr
4. grill on medium heat, and use the 1/4 marinade to baste

* to get nice grilling marks on the meat, grill them 45 degrees to the grill mark first, then turn the rib 90 degrees (perpendicular to the initial direction)
* if you don't have a BBQ, you can just cook the ribs in a non-stick pan or in the oven using broiling for a few minutes 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sunday brunch - Baked avocado egg!

I have been craving for home-cooking for a week now as I spent a few days in San Diego at a conference. As today is the first Sunday that I got since my return, I decided to have a lazy morning with some home-made brunch. I found this recipe online a while back, and finally, I got a chance to try it. Usually I am quite skeptical about online recipes, but this turns out to be really nice!

1 large avocado, halved and cored
2 eggs
Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste

1. choose a large avocado, ripe but still firm. Cut the avocado into halves, remove the core, and  use a spoon to take out more flesh so that the hole is big enough to hold 1 egg each
2. season the avocado with salt and pepper
3. put one egg into each avocado half
4. grate some cheese on the avocado
5. bake at 400F for 15-20 min, depending on how hard you want the egg to be

* the baked avocado egg was served with Ciabatta bread. Once baked, the avocado becomes softer. You can almost spread the avocado on the bread like a pâté! 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Indian-Week 1: Lamb Curry!

Spring is finally here! So is the spring semester at George Brown! Having taken the French course and two Italian courses in the past winter term, I started to notice that even though we got new recipes in every class, the cooking techniques, on the other hand, are getting repetitive: browning, braising, baking, roasting, etc. If you are like me with a short attention span,  learning new techniques, even with a risk of messing up, is a lot more appealing than repeating the reliable old tricks. So here I am, signed up for the Indian class, which I know absolutely nothing about. 

Unlike all the other classes, Week 1 in Indian is not just a Demo-only class. It actually has a lab component, and we made lamb curry. I knew that I found the right class when I couldn't identify half of the ingredients on the recipe. Challenge is good. Challenge = Excitement. 

600g lamb, boneless, diced 
40g ghee 
5g cumin, whole
1 cinnamon stick
2pc cloves
3pc cardamom
5g red chili powder
5g turmeric powder
5g coriander powder
5g garam masala
ginger paste
garlic paste
1 onion, chopped
250mL canned tomatoes, crushed
1 lemon, juice
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
salt to taste

* Our Chef kept emphasizing the secret of good Indian cooking: the sequence of adding ingredients. Garam masala needs to be added at the very end. If it's added during cooking, it'd add a bitter taste to the dish. 

1. get a pot, heat up the ghee
2. add all of the whole, seed-based spices (cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom), wait until the cumin starts to crack open
3. add chopped onion, sauté until golden brown (takes about 20min w/o lid on the pot)
4. add garlic and ginger paste, sauté for 2 min 
5. add all the powder-based spices EXCEPT garam masala  (chili, turmeric, coriander)
6. add the tomato sauce, mix well
7. add the lamb, cover the lid, cook at low-medium heat for 1hr (1.5hr to get very tender meat)
8. once the meat is done, stir in garam masala
9. garnish with lemon juice and chopped cilantro 

TA-DA..... my very first Indian dish! 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Northern Italian-Week 3: Polenta con Gorgonzola, salsa funghi

Polenta at Osteria Giulietta e Romeo

Also in Week 2's class, we learned how to make polenta with gorgonzola cheese and mushroom sauce as a side dish for the breaded lamb rack.  I find that this polenta loaded with cheese is too heavy to company the lamb, so that I made it separately and served it like a main course. The first time that I tried an authentic polenta dish was in Verona, last summer when I visited my two dear Italian friends. They took me to Osteria Giulietta e Romeo for lunch. If you ever find your way to Verona, I highly recommend this awesome restaurant where you can get a nice tasting menu of Northern Italian food. Being lactose-intolerant and having grown up with Chinese food, I have only been  learning in recent years to appreciate the beauty of cheese in small quantities. The Gorgonzola is definitely one of the stronger tasting cheeses that I still need to get used to. But for the sake of this traditional Italian dish, I kept this cheese in the recipe regardless. 

Polenta flour, 250 g
1 L water to get firm polenta, or 1.2 L water to get softer polenta
gorgonzola cheese, 400 g
4 portobello mushrooms
1/2 onion
beef stock, 1.5 cups
1 garlic clove
salt/pepper, olive oil

To make the mushroom sauce:
1. add oil in a pan, sweat the onion and garlic
2. add mushrooms, and a pinch of salt to further sweat the mushrooms
3. deglaze the pan with the beef stock
4. simmer the stock and reduce the volume until it thickens up

To cook the polenta:
1. in a pot, boil the water, season it with salt generously
2. pour in polenta while stirring fast
3. when polenta starts to thicken, change to low heat
4. keep stirring for another 1 min 
5. take a tray, splash the surface with some cold water,  spread a layer of polenta, then add a layer of cheese chunks, then a layer of mushroom sauce, repeat the layers for one more time 
6. garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley

Northern Italian-Week 2: breaded lamb rack!

In this week's class, I learned a new way to prepare lamb racks, the "Modena" style. Basically, the lamb rack was first breaded, then pan-seared, and finally baked to complete the cooking. To be honest, this is not my favourite way of making lamb racks. I find the breaded surface  a bit weird. I prefer the French way ( to cook the rack a lot better, which gives you a lovely crispy skin on the lamb from the browning process. 

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
1 egg beaten 
white breadcrumbs, dried
1 clove garlic
1 sprig sage
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig mint
flour, salt/pepper, olive oil

1. French the lamb rack to expose the bones
2. take some flour, add salt and pepper, mix well
3. beat the egg, add a splash of cold water
4. prepare the breadcrumbs: chop up the herbs and garlic,  mix them into the breadcrumbs as well as a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil 
5. roll the rack first into the flour (make sure you shake off the excess flour), then dip the rack into the beaten egg, then cover the rack with breadcrumbs and herbs. 
6. add oil into a pan, heat it up, and brown the breaded rack at all sides
7. transfer the rack to a baking tray, bake at 400F for 15 min (medium rare) to 20 min (medium)

*always rest the meat before you cut it, so that you wouldn't lose too much of the juice

8. balsamic vinegar goes really well with lamb. To make a balsamic sauce, you can add the vinegar into a small pot, heat it to simmering, and reduce the volume to half, then whisk in a bit of olive oil to thicken up the sauce. Or if you feel lazy like I did, use a thick, aged balsamic directly works well too.