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The Comfort of Curry

Wednesday, 9. April 2014 5:26

A spice mix not to be without.

A spice mix not to be without.

 

My spice drawer collapseth over.

Try as I might to keep the jars and tins in neat alphabetical order, there are just far too many for all the cuisines dabbled in to do so.

In my parents’ kitchen that I grew up in, though, that never was a problem. Their spice collection snuggled neatly in one metal pan in the cupboard that held barely a dozen in total. Cloves to stud the Easter ham. Cinnamon for baking oatmeal cookies. White pepper to sprinkle into rice porridge. And that all-important jar of curry powder that my Dad would reach for whenever he made lamb curry.

Nowadays, I keep a jar of curry in my pantry for many uses. But when spring hits, I can’t help but think of lamb curry first and foremost as my Dad so often did.

His lamb curry was made in a pressure cooker, the kind that sat on the stovetop with a metal knob screwed into its lid that hissed and whistled like mad. He’d cut up potatoes, carrots and onions and throw them into the pot with chunks of lamb with plenty of chicken stock, some spiky star anise, and a few generous shakes from that curry jar — and let it all bubble away under that locked lid.

Sometimes I’d have no idea what he was making for dinner. But the moment he lifted the lid off that pot, that unmistakable aroma would fill the house, letting me know it was curry lamb night. The fragrance is so recognizable — pungently earthy, musky, even a tad sweet, and with the promise of something a little exotic.

My Dad’s version was golden and brothy — meant to be eaten with mounds of fluffy rice. All it took was one mouthful to warm you deliciously from within.

Tadashi Ono's lamb curry.

Tadashi Ono’s lamb curry.

My husband who is Japanese-American also grew up with curry and rice. But the type he is accustomed to is far more gravy-like. It’s a deep, dark pool of sauce, so thick you can barely discern what’s below until you really dig a fork into it. It’s also delicious. And like the version my Dad used to make, quite tame on the heat spectrum, compared to Indian curries.

In New York Chef Tadashi Ono’s newest cookbook, “Japanese Soul Cooking” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is full of home-style dishes, including ramen, tonkatsu, tempura, and donburi. It also includes a curry dish that marries both of the styles my husband and I grew up on. The sauce is a little thinner than what my husband is used to and with a scant more weight than the type I favored as a child.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, General, Recipes (Savory) | Comments (8) | Author:

Chicken Wings: Low, Slow, Let’s Go!

Friday, 21. February 2014 5:26

Steaming soy sauce chicken wings -- straight out of the oven after a long, gentle bake.

Steaming soy sauce chicken wings — straight out of the oven after a long, gentle bake.

 

When it comes to cooking, culinary teacher Andrew Schloss wants us to take it low and slow.

How slow?

Think meatloaf that takes up to eight honors in the oven or a Black-Bottom Banana Custard Pie that bakes for as long as six hours.

Before you scoff, though, consider that all of that is fairly unattended cooking. Slide it into the oven and go about your day. Meantime, all that extended time under gentle heat does its magic by rendering food soft, supple and suffused with flavor.

You’re essentially turning your oven into a giant slow cooker. But unlike a slow cooker, which has a tight-fitting lid, oven-cooking allows for more evaporation. That means flavors get much more concentrated, Schloss says.

I’d have to agree after receiving a review copy of his book, “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More” (Chronicle Books). Many of the recipes intrigued, but I decided to try one already familiar to me to get a real sense of what a difference this style of cooking might make.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Cool Cooking Techniques, General | Comments (8) | Author:

Make It A Hot and Sour Lunar New Year

Wednesday, 29. January 2014 5:29

Warm up with a different version of hot and sour soup.

Warm up with a different version of hot and sour soup.

Hot and sour soup is not a traditional dish on the standard Lunar New Year menu.

But when you have one this delicious, it’s hard not to want to share it with friends and family for a wonderful celebration such as the start of the “Year of the Horse.”

This version is by talented Pastry Chef Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Massachusetts. It’s from her second cookbook, “Flour, Too” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

You may already know Chang for her most excellent pastries and breads. But her Myers + Chang restaurant also serves up satisfying savory selections, many influenced by her family, as well as classic Taiwanese dishes.

This soup comes together quite quickly. In fact, in the book, Chang writes that her mom used to whip it up as a fast lunch on a regular basis for her kids. Now, it sells out routinely at Meyers + Chang.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, General | Comments (11) | Author:

“Top Chef” Alum Edward Lee’s Miso-Smothered Chicken

Wednesday, 23. October 2013 5:25

Miso-smothered chicken with tangy, crunchy jicama pickles.

Miso-smothered chicken with tangy, crunchy jicama pickles.

If you’re a fan of “Top Chef’‘ like I am, then you’re sure to remember Chef Edward Lee, who is Korean, cooks with French techniques and makes his home in the South.

Those three cultural heritages come together deliciously in his new cookbook, “”Smoke & Pickles” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy.

Lee may be chef-owner of two acclaimed restaurants, 610 Magnolia and Milkwood, both in Louisville, KY. But the food he presents on these pages is the rustic, bold-flavored type he makes for friends, family and even for staff meals.

“Miso-Smothered Chicken” exemplifies that. It’s bowl-food at its best: A mound of fluffy rice  with tender, braised chicken seasoned with garlic, cayenne, orange juice, chicken stock, soy sauce and miso. It’s chicken stew — Japanese-style.

smoke-and-pickles

What really makes the dish is the accompanying pickles. Yes, they take a little more work, and have to be made at least a day ahead of the chicken. But one crunchy bite later, you’ll be so glad you made that extra effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, Food TV, General | Comments (7) | Author:

You’ll Never Guess What’s in This Seafood Curry

Wednesday, 4. September 2013 5:26

Calamari and crab star in this curry dish -- along with an unexpected ingredient.

Calamari and crab star in this curry dish — along with an unexpected ingredient.

 

Yes, watermelon, of all things.

Crisp cubes of it, as well as its own bright pinky-red juice.

“Watermelon and Seafood Curry” is from “Full of Flavor” (Kyle Books), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Chef Maria Elia of Joe’s in London who has a way with unexpected flavor combinations such as with her “Blueberry and Coffee Muffins” and “Jerusalem Artichoke and Chestnut Soup with Chorizo and Apple.”

Of course, with summer watermelon in abundance, it was the curry recipe that really intrigued me. Sure, I’d enjoyed my share of watermelon just eaten out of hand in big cold wedges. And I’d eaten plenty of watermelon salads accented with salty feta or pops of chiles. But in a warm seafood stew? This was a new one.

Summer watermelon used in a unique way.

Summer watermelon used in a unique way.

The base of the broth is watermelon juice that is cooked down on the stovetop to concentrate its flavor. You think it’s going to be way too sweet, but not after you add in ginger, lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chiles, as well as fresh lime juice and fish sauce.

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Category:Asian Recipes, Chefs, Fruit, General | Comments (16) | Author: