Thursday, April 28, 2011

Korean-Style Beef and Asparagus

Here's one that utilizes all the fresh asparagus that's out there right now, and that let me try out the griddle option on the new range. (!)

Start a pot of rice. I like Jasmine, and I like to cook it in chicken stock instead of water. There you go.

Mix together a marinade of 4 Tbs. soy sauce, 2 Tbs. sesame oil, 1 Tbs. Mirin, 3 minced cloves of garlic, and a Tbs. of minced fresh ginger in a large bowl. Then slice a pound to a pound and a half of New York strip (or other beef steak) crosswise into 1/8 inch pieces and mix them in with the marinade. Let that sit for about 30 minutes.

Trim the woody stem part off a pound of asparagus.

Heat up the griddle (or a cast-iron or other large skillet) to medium-high and let it get hot. Drizzle the asparagus with a little vegetable or olive oil and sprinkle it with kosher salt and drop it on the griddle.

Cook that for about 7 minutes, until the asparagus is tender, then set the asparagus aside and heat the griddle (or skillet) up to high heat.

Put your Pootie in the doorway of the kitchen and make him keep you company and read to you while you cook. (He's done this for me for years, and it's wonderful. I'm reading "As Always, Julia" and she mentions that her husband, Paul, used to do the same for her.)

Once the griddle is hot, brush it with a little vegetable oil.

Add the beef and cook it quickly - just long enough to brown it and leave the center pinkish - about a minute or two per side.

Set the beef aside, and lower the heat to about medium-high again on the griddle or skillet. Brush with oil again and crack as many eggs as you have servings (this will serve about 4, maybe 6) onto the griddle. Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of kosher salt.

These are prettier if you don't flip them, but I don't like runny white, so I always do mine over easy. You want the yolk runny.

When the eggs are done, serve the beef and asparagus over rice and top with an egg. Sprinkle it with a little chopped green onion.

Here's the .pdf if you want to sample the wares yourself.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Big Little Kitchen Redo Thank You Party

Forty-eight months ago, our kitchen remodel began.

Well, OK. It was more like four weeks ago. But it sure seemed like a long time to be without a kitchen. Especially since we'd just been without a bathroom and a laundry room before that.

During our remodel process, a few good friends made our existence a lot more pleasant. To show our appreciation, we had a little get-together to thank them and let them be the first to see the new digs.

Because I thought I was going to take pictures at the party, I didn't take pictures of the food prep. Because I was busy showing and talking and laughing, I didn't take pictures at the party. Well, that's not entirely true. I took four. They were all really blurry. Here's one.

The kids watched "Up". Obviously, a couple of them spotted me. They told us to keep it down a couple of times. We were too loud.

I decided to put the whole kitchen and the backyard through the wringer for this one. There wasn't much that I didn't use. I baked, I roasted, I grilled, I cooked over high heat on the stovetop and used the vent-a-hood, I shredded and chopped, and I juiced a LOT of limes. (Pomegranate margaritas, baby!)

We're very lucky to have such good friends, neighbors and family, and they ALL know their way around a kitchen WELL. During the Big Little Kitchen Redo:

Steph and her boys generously offering to let me come over ANY TIME we needed a home-cooked meal. When we failed to invite ourselves (I really suck at that), she told us to haul our kiesters over and she made us an excellent thai noodle dish.

Ned and Melissa and their kids had us out to their place for a kickass curry and comisseration. That was right around the time we were having HVAC installer issues. Those goobers. (The HVAC guys, not Ned and Melissa.

Jenn and David told us to bring Dinky with us and come have one of the best pork chop dishes I've ever tasted (yes, I got the recipe) with them and their little people and their puppy. Poor Dinky was worn slap out by the time we left.

Jim and Darlene, our next-door neighbors, put up with us parking in their driveway frequently when we got overrun with service vehicles and had nowhere else to go.

Morgan and Jesse, our other next-door neighbors, with whom we share a driveway, suffered the service vehicle overrun and graciously tolerated it. On top of that, they gave us a key to their house and free access to their bathroom and laundry facilities when we had none, and brought us a meal, too! We gave new meaning to the word "impose".

And of course, my wonderful in-laws also provided a spare bathroom, laundry facilities, meals and very importantly, empathetic moral support. During our bathroom and mudroom phase, and part of our early kitchen destruction, they were going through a kitchen renovation of their own with the same contractors. Our pain was their pain. Except their kitchen is MUCH more spectacular than ours - it's a real beauty, and huge! - which of course means their suffering was also much more spectacular.

Certainly we're fortunate as hell to have the ability to do a renovation like this in the first place. But it's not without its stress. These guys all made it a lot easier. Of course, I figured the best thanks was to feed 'em and liquor 'em up. (Except the kids, of course. They had lemonade.) We had a great time, the weather was perfect, and there was just enough food left to let me know everyone had enough.

Here's the menu, with links to the recipes.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes (just peel them, cut them into big chunks, drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt, and roast at 400 for about 45 minutes.)

I recommend some Andy Narell for the playlist for this menu. Unless you hate steel drums, in which case I guess you could just play Marley.

I confess, for the short people, I bailed and just did a Costco cheese pizza  cut into small squares. They didn't complain. Neither did the adults I caught  swiping a few pieces.

Thankfully the kids struck back and didn't just stick with the pizza.

Everyone left in a pretty good mood, and cleanup was minimal. Someone played elf in the kitchen while I was sitting on my butt in the living room talking. I know Pootie did some, but whoever was helping him, thanks. It took us all of 15 minutes to clean up after the last guests took off.

This morning, there were few remnants left.


This squirrel is scrounging for half-finished beers.
Such a nice party Saturday night made for a lovely lazy Sunday.

Thanks to Jenn (holla!), I even had a fun new toy for cooking my egg for breakfast!

Oh, that girl is a stitch.

Thanks again, you guys. Here's to many more meals in the New! Improved! Kitchen at 305.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Big Little Kitchen Redo: Shakedown Cruise

It's all over, y'all.
The kitchen is finished. We were moved in as of yesterday, and but for a couple of tiny little loose ends, we were ready for the inaugural REAL meal.

Because y'all scared me so bad with your "What's going to be the first thing you cook in the new kitchen??" questions, I totally panicked, bailed and tossed the ball to a professional. (This is why I don't play sports, people.)

I've raved about Tony Rosenfeld for a long time. I've had a cook's crush on him for years because of his contributions to Fine Cooking. He's good looking, too. Much too young for me, but still a handsome fellow. Most importantly, though, he's my kind of cook. Practical, not fussy, dabbles in all kinds of cuisines and flavors, and every one of his recipes is rock-solid. Not a clunker in the bunch.

Well, recently, Tony launched his great new site, Cook Angel. The idea is one of those "why hasn't someone done this sooner?" things. You give him the ingredients you have on hand and a photo, and he'll build you a meal. Pretty lickety-split, too. Give him a submission and the next day, he'll have your game plan for you. His launch timing was perfect. They were just about to finish up and I was armed with a brand-spankin' new kitchen and... nothin'. No inspiration whatsoever. I had writer's block, as it were.

So Tony put on his cape and boots and in he swooped! You can read his post for me here. How did he know I was a meat and potatoes girl?

This menu let me test drive the high heat capacity of the new stove, the sucking power of the vent-a-hood (it works!) and the low heat burner for keeping the potatoes warm. AND it was a fairly fast meal for a weeknight.

I boiled my Yukon Golds whole instead of dicing them, because I had a little more time, and because I use a ricer rather than mashing. That's just how I roll.

Check my ricer in one of my handy new drawers. Man, I love this kitchen!
Once I had the potatoes riced, I prepared them the way Tony suggested and popped them over the extra-low heat burner to keep them warm while I seared the phoo out of the steaks.

Looky at the smoke being pulled OUT of the kitchen by my kick-ass vent-a-hood!

If you don't have a tiny kitchen, you don't understand how important and cool this is.

After a proper searing, I put the steaks in the oven to finish off and I started on the pan sauce. I had some mushrooms I needed to use, so I added those to the shallots. I didn't think Tony would mind.

When the sauce was finished, I quick-cooked the spinach in a little garlic. And, as it turns out, too much salt. Evidently, I've forgotten how to cook.

Then dinner went right onto plates

and we went straight out the back door. 

We opted for outdoor dining, since it was a nice evening.

Have you met my dog, "Useless"? Dinky is just sitting there, waiting for a steak delivery.
Pootie gave his smile of approval. I cajoled a little. He hates smiling for the camera. But he did love his dinner.

I can't wait until Tony's new cookbook, Sear, Sauce & Serve gets here. I pre-ordered it. It will really let me use the stuffin' out of my new range and hood.

This menu was the perfect first meal for the new digs. Thanks, Tony.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Big Little Kitchen Redo: We're in (!)

We're still waiting on the tile backsplash, but the cabinets were ready and we had a sink to wash a month of dust off all the cookware. Note the tile supplies in the mudroom, waiting to be used.

Saturday morning, Jeffrey the Beneficent, who recently restored my toilet, arrived a little before 8:00 AM to plumb the dishwasher and the sink. Were we ever glad to see him!

He left around 11:30, and we were all of a sudden able to REALLY wash dishes! Oh, my head! So we immediately left the house.

Yes, Pootie always wears a tie, and I always look this good when I leave the house. Don't you?
 We had some errands to run. Groceries, for starters. Nothing much yet. I haven't planned meals out, but pickins were pretty slim around here. I needed bagels.

Then we got back and have spent the remainder of the weekend moving in.

Putting things in drawers...

Organizing spices...

Filling the Pantry...

Figuring out where to put things in the cabinets...

Elise Higdon, I hope you're reading this and notice that the canister you gave P. in high school is still in use in our kitchen, holding sugar, as it has been for over 20 years now.
and basically just getting things cleaned and put away after weeks of living like this:

Dinky worked hard. He was worn out.

It's Miller Time!

And yes, I've cooked dinner the past two nights. Last night I did a curry that was so hot I couldn't eat it. Poor me. Clearly, I've forgotten how to cook. Tonight, I grilled some salmon and served it over white beans with rosemary and a salad. No, I didn't take pictures and all that. I'm beat.

I don't really count these past couple of nights as "the first meal I cook in my new kitchen". Because it's not completely finished - we still have at least two more days of tile work. And after working all weekend to purge old stuff and move all the crap back in, (would someone explain to me why I was keeping a package of Quinoa from 2005? ),I was too tired to get all jiggy in the kitchen.

But I have something kind of special planned for our innaugural meal. Stay tuned and you'll get to share in a pretty cool experience. Shh! It's a secret for now.

While we're all waiting, I'm going to go lie on the floor in the new kitchen and take it all in.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Big Little Kitchen Redo: Stage Fright

The kitchen is coming along. We still don't have running water, so I'm still not cooking, but it's imminent. As in, this weekend. And the most frequent question I'm getting is:

"So what is going to be the first thing you cook in your new kitchen??"

Wow. Talk about pressure.

I should probably admit that I've already cooked a few things. Things that don't require a large load of dishes. Things like eggs and baked potatoes. Lots of baked potatoes. Lots and lots of baked potatoes. Lots and lots and lots... you get the point.  But surely those don't count. No, I think the question:

"So, what is going to be the first thing you cook in your new kitchen??" means "No, seriously. What BIG ELABORATE HUGE HONKIN' USE-EVERY-SQUARE-INCH-OF-THE-NEW-SPACE THING are you going to CREATE????"

To which my response is:


Am I up to this gauntlet that has been thrown down? Or do I resort to my most common response of "What? You mean we don't go out to celebrate this achievement?"

I honestly haven't given it a moment's thought. I've been way too busy with work (I have a job, which thankfully is paying for this redo), and answering contractor's questions, and riding the asses (sorry, but trust me, it's warranted) of some of the sub-contractors who would rather go get Bojangle's biscuits than make my countertop.

But in the face of these questions, I feel the need to pull out something... amazing! spectacular! the likes of which only the royals have ever seen! Babette's Feast!

Of course, there's only the two of us. Which puts the brakes on a good bit. I mean, there's only so much we can eat anyway.

We do have a small gathering planned for the ossum peeps who have been thoughtful enough to feed us and who have contributed materially to the project (like our sweet neighbors who haven't complained about the used car lot our driveway has become). I HAVE planned what I'm cooking for that. But I haven't sent out invitations yet, because I'm waiting for a functioning kitchen to become a reality. If there's one thing I've learned through this process, it's to not trust the contractor's time estimate. Things happen outside his power. (Yes, Billy the Biscuit-Eating Sheet Metal Slacker, I'm talking about you.)

He did do a nice job on the countertop. Finally.

Nick is smiling because he one-upped Billy the Sheet Metal Slacker. He likes it, though. It looks good. That's Pootie on the left and Nick, the contractor, on the right.

So what to cook? The reality is that it's probably going to be mid-week before we're completely finished. Like Wednesday. Who cooks an elaborate meal for two on a Wednesday? That's the stage fright talking. I feel like I'll be letting my three readers (none of whom are related to me, I might add) down by cooking something prosaic. Like meatloaf.

The world! (all three of them!) is watching! Anxiously awaiting what will be the first REAL meal I cook in this slightly-less-than-spectacular-honestly-just-a-pleasant-small-functional-kitchen. So I should probably think. And plan. So I don't let you down.

I promise, even if it's just baked potatoes, I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Sit Around and Wait Stage

This is us.

Brad left us all alone a week ago. In the Redo Diary I'm keeping, the past five days have read: "No work on kitchen."

This is where we are, more or less.

We have most of the cabinets, but one is missing, along with some of the shelves. Plus, the hardware still has to go on and so does the countertop on the sink side, so we can't actually use them yet.

And we still don't have a kitchen sink or a dishwasher. So any kind of real cooking is out of the question. It's just not worth messing up a bunch of dishes and having to wash them in the bathroom sink.

Besides, all the food is still in boxes sitting in the living room. It's not easy to find anything.

But we've restored order to the dining room and cleaned. And the mudroom is one hundred per cent complete, thanks to Pootie.

Here's Pootie, cleaning up in the mudroom. I like this shot. Doesn't he have nice legs? Sorry, ladies, he's mine.

Behind those louvered doors are my new stackable washer/dryer. And no one has taken them away from me and they're still working. So that makes me happy.

But the kitchen isn't. Working, I mean. Not fully.

The contractor was supposed to send the plumber Friday to hook up the dishwasher and sink and install the countertop. But he emailed today and asked if we would mind waiting until the missing cabinet and shelves, etc. arrive supposedly on Wednesday.

This was my reaction.

Then this.

Then this.

Then this.

Because, you know, I'm tough. And I have to always look fabulous. There's that.

So we caved and said "OK, we'll wait." With the caveat that if the cabinet people screw us over again, we want a Plan B that doesn't involve waiting another week. Important note: The "missing cabinet and shelves" were shorted by the cabinet folks, but the contractor, despite us specifically requesting that he check the shipment before he tore out our kitchen, didn't. Check the shipment, that is. Yes, I'm a little annoyed about that. So far, we're waiting for the sheet metal guy to finish the countertop anyway, so IF the missing cabinet and shelves and such come in when they're SUPPOSED to, we'll only be three days behind. But if they don't, and we're stuck another full week without being able to wash dishes or put things away...

Things could get seriously ugly around here.