Brewing project

We use alcohol a lot in cooking, mostly for deglazing things and marinating things. The last batch (not shown, but here’s a prior experiment we tried) is close to running out, and buying alcohol through grocery delivery services is a bit complicated (I’m not sure if they just ask you if you’re 21, or if you have to slide the delivery person your driver’s license under the door and hope they don’t run off with it).

So I’m starting a new batch! I’m vaguely following these instructions.

We used some arborio-style rice we got for cheap from our food rescue grocery delivery service
Add the koji, a culinarily important mold used in making many different Asian fermented food products (miso, sake and other rice alcohols, rice vinegar, soy sauce).
After about 3 weeks.

After a week or so of fermenting, the koji sank, indicating (I hope) reduced density of the liquid due to increased alcohol content! Apparently rice takes longer for the yeast to ferment compared to simple carbohydrates, like sugar, so you’re supposed to let it go for several weeks in total.

Hydroponic garden is going slowly

J received a hydroponic garden system from his parents as a Christmas gift. Gardening is not so much his interest as mine, so I’m glad to play with it.

The promise!
The setup. The light is soooooo bright; this photo was taken in a well-lit room.
So we normally wrap it in foil to keep it from being blinding. Another J family member blocked theirs with construction paper.
The first plants to sprout (7 days in) are the Italian basil and the Thai basil. I hear the other herbs (thyme, parsley, mint, and dill) can struggle.

We’ll see how much output we get from this kit. If these particular seeds don’t do well, I’ll stick my own into the growing medium. It’s some sort of dirt-foam material.

Christmas food!

Coleslaw
Chickpea salad
Left to right, front row: chickpea salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, hummus; second row: roasted cauliflower with raisins, walnuts, and capers, plate of bell pepper, avocado, goat cheese, mozzarella, plate of brie and romano (?), cream cheese, peppadews; back cluster: bacon bits, baba ganoush, artichoke hearts, marinated sun dried tomatoes, olives, zucchini salad, lox.

We also had focaccia and homemade bread. Friend J, the one who does robotics, pointed out that this is a very Greek/Mediterranean meal.

Christmas Eve food!

Cinnamon rolls and hot cross buns before baking.
A bit over-done. The corners were hard. Sibling A tells me that she has a new recipe that stays soft, even around the edges!
A huge amount of lasagna – this is a 13″ pan.
Lechón and rice. We didn’t make this, we bought it from a local Filipino restaurant.
Apple “galette”. It was supposed to be thinner, but turned out very pie-like. Maybe I used too many apples. The spice seasoning for the filling (included Chinese five spice) also wasn’t super strong.

Both the lasagna and the cauliflower soup (not shown) were good, but quite rich. Not a good combo since we didn’t have any plain dishes. Next time, I’d decrease the amount of cream in the soup by half or three-quarters.

Holiday menus

We’re also staying in New York for Christmas and New Year’s…

Christmas buffet

Christmas Eve menu

The Christmas day menu is a bit sparse – I used up all my interesting food ideas on Thanksgiving.

Pudding

These recipes combine a Betty Crocker recipe and one from my grandma. It is surprisingly fast to make!

Chocolate pudding

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch (or other refined starch) or 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, starch, and cocoa powder in pan, being sure to remove lumps – sift if needed. Combine milk and egg yolks. Gradually add to pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Let boil for 1 min, then remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Chill.

Vanilla pudding

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch (or other refined starch) or 4 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla

As above, stirring in butter with vanilla. Chill.

Delicious but not photogenic

Tips

  • If you are having trouble with lumps forming during the cooking process, use a whisk to stir vigorously and make sure the heat is on low. As a last resort, strain the pudding after cooking. Do it fast before the pudding cools and thickens.
  • I’ve only used the starch for this recipe. Flour has approximately half the thickening power of pure starch, so the flour amount provided should be about right, but you might need to adjust a bit.
  • For thicker, richer pudding, replace some of the milk with cream and/or boil for longer than 1 min to reduce the water content.
  • Butterscotch variation: substitute 2/3 cup brown sugar for sugar in vanilla pudding recipe.
  • I find this pudding to have a gelled consistency rather than a gloopy consistency. If you want more gloopiness, try decreasing the amount of starch/flour.

Homemade udon noodles

Recipe from Jun’s Kitchen

  • 300g flour
  • 140ml water
  • 15g salt (optional)

Sift the flour. Add water and salt. Knead until smooth. Let rest for an hour (optional). Roll out on a floured surface to a diameter of ~16 inches. Fold into thirds and cut into noodles about 1/4 inch wide. Boil for 10 min.

Unfold the noodles before boiling. The ends can stick together.
Good view of our kitchen.
Eat with dashi, green onion, a hard-boiled egg, and fried… something!

Best pizza we’ve made :o

We used the quick bread recipe, but let it ferment overnight in the fridge to get better flavor. Besides good dough, I think the keys to good pizza are salty toppings (hence the bacon; the margherita used especially salty cheese) and putting the oven as high as possible.

We’ve forgotten to use an upside-down cast iron pan as a makeshift pizza stone the last few times, but that seems to improve the crust as well.

Zucchini-bacon.
Margherita with homegrown basil!

In other holiday news

Our jack-o-lantern for Halloween. This pumpkin was intended for eating but it starting molding, so it was repurposed. I wanted to put the pumpkin in our window, but J was worried about setting the apartment on fire. Besides that issue, the pumpkin was too small to be very visible over the windowsill.

The Thanksgiving spread!

Full menu and recipe info here.

All the dishes
J’s plate (rice, chicken, Sichuan potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and stuffed mushroom)
Chicken braised in soy sauce and coke. The consensus was that, while good, the result wasn’t worth the extra cooking effort compared to, say, just roasting the chicken. We did decrease the amount of soy sauce and sugar in the braising liquid; I presume not doing that would produce restaurant-level seasoning (i.e. very salty and savory).
Stuffed mushrooms. Good as always!
Sichuan matchstick potatoes. A bit overcooked
Brussels sprouts with bacon, hazelnuts, and dressing. A bit more vinegar or salt would be good, but overall quite nice
Pumpkin soup. It seemed no matter how much liquid I added, it never got to soup-consistency. And I didn’t want 2 gallons of soup.
Fried radish greens and walnuts, for topping soup
Buns
Pumpkin pie. Something went wrong with this one and it didn’t taste amazing, likely because we used fat free evaporated milk (bought in the midst of the first pandemic-induced panic buying spree with no option to get the normal full-fat version)