Monday, May 12, 2014

My First Week at San Francisco Cooking School

Wow, it has been almost 3 years since the last time I blogged... A lot of things happened, Porgy and I bought our first house together, got another dog (Sophia), quit my job and decided to be a full-time student at the San Francisco Cooking School. Look at my kitchen clogs and chef pants!

For our first week, we learned about kitchen etiquette, knife skills, butter, how to make a french omelette, various stocks, soups and sauces, and also visited GreenLeaf - a purveyor of produce. We sliced, diced, chopped, minced our way through a lot of onions (sniff sniff), carrots, celery, and potatoes. Even though it is hard to learn the correct technique after years of doing it my way, I think it's going to be worth it at the end. I'm still adjusting and it's going to take a lot of practice, both in the classroom and at home. As you can see from the botched turned-potatoes below, I need A LOT of practice.

Having a little OCD turned out to be an advantage in the kitchen, I learned that it is good habit to read the recipe twice so you know your action plan, put things away right after you use it, and keep you work area clean all the time. Also, do similar things in batches - for example, if you want to dice a carrot, it's best to peel all the carrots first, then cut them into planks, then into batons and then diced them. This method is more efficient than if you peel, plank, baton and dice one carrot at a time. 

Another thing that I'm somewhat obsessing in the past few days is making a French-style omelette correctly. I bought a carton of eggs so I can practice at home and I get to school early everyday so I can practice even more. You would think it would be easy to have a fluffy, perfectly cooked (no browning) omelette but in reality it's a b****. Apparently, the trick is a lot of butter and to move the pan on a circular motion for almost the entire time. Lastly, in celebration of  Mother's Day, I'm attaching a video of Julia Child - our culinary mother - doing the Omelette show. Enjoy!

PS - here are some of the dishes that we made on the first week:

Veloute of potato and leek 

Broccoli and cauliflower gratin

Turned potato and potato scraps fried in clarified butter, mushroom toast, and glazed carrots

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


A couple weekends ago, Porgy and I went to Chapeau! - a French restaurant in the Richmond District in San Francisco - for a date night. I've been wanting to go there for the past few years but somehow it just never happened... so I was super excited that we finally went. We loved our experience there - Chef Philippe greeted us, the server was attentive and the food was delicious (the Seared Scallop and Basil Risotto in Lobster Sauce was the best dish for the night!). I opted for the 4-course tasting menu while Porgy had the 3-course early bird special.

Kir Royale to start the dinner...

Blue Cheese Puff Pastry with Pear and Salad

Escargot in Butter, Garlic and Parsley

Seared Scallop and Basil Risotto in a Lobster Sauce

Duck Breast and Duck Leg Confit with Polenta and Bok Choy in Orange Sauce

Cassoulet de Toulouse - Canellini Beans, Shredded Braised Lamb Shoulder, Duck Leg Confit, Garlic & Toulouse sausage

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Apple Tart with Hazelnut Ice Cream

Banana Bread with Walnuts and Raisins

After taking a break from baking for awhile, I made a variation of America's Test Kitchen Ultimate Banana Bread - skipping the sliced bananas on top and added some raisins soaked in rum. I made this banana bread earlier this year and I really enjoyed the strong banana taste and moist texture.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup raisins soaked in a couple tablespoons of rum for 30 minutes, drained after
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray 8 1⁄2 by 4 1⁄2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  • Place the bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup liquid).
  • Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.
  • Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts and raisins, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
  • Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 75 minutes.
  • Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Beef Stew in White Wine

We were in the mood for something comforting so I made this Beef Stew in White Wine based on a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I didn't have put any anchovy fillets because Porgy is allergic to seafood or any salt pork because I wanted to keep it light. I substituted the red wine with white wine and added some fresh English peas for some crunch.

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 pounds of beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb Crimini or button mushrooms, halved
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lb fresh English peas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of corn starch
salt & pepper

  • Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  • Pat the meat cubes dry with paper towels. Do not season. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until just starting to smoke. Cook the beef cubes in batches until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Repeat the remaining beef adding another tablespoon vegetable oil if necessary, set aside.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add onion and carrots to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Cook, scrapping the bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, until onion is softened about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains, about 30 seconds.
  • Return the beef cubes to the pan along with the beef juice, slowly add wine, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase heat to high heat and allow wine to simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to simmer, cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Remove pot from oven; remove and discard bay leaves. Stir in potatoes, cover, return to oven, and cook until potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
  • Using large spoon, skim any excess fat from surface of stew. Dissolve the corn starch with 1/2 cup of water in a small bowl and pour into the pot. Stir in the English peas and mix carefully until stew is thickened about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tortiglioni with Sausage and Asparagus in Tomato Sauce

After eating plenty of Asian food in the past few days, Porgy asked me to cook a pasta dish so I whipped up this dish. It's pretty simple pasta dish - I added some asparagus and fresh basil to make it

1 package of Tortiglioni
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, remove from casing
1 28-oz canned whole tomatoes
1 asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch of basil, de-stem and chifonade

  • In a large pan, saute minced garlic, shallots and chili pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  • Add in the sausage, breaking up the pieces and cook until done.
  • Roughly chopped the tomatoes and pour everything into the pan.
  • Add in half of the basil, cook until the sauce is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning by adjusting salt, pepper and sugar accordingly.
  • In a separate pasta pan, heat up enough water to cook pasta. When the water is boiling, blanch the cut asparagus for 2 minutes, rinse over cold water and set aside.
  • While the sauce is simmering, cook the Tortiglioni pasta for 2 minutes shorter than the time according to the direction in the package. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the pasta water.
  • Add in the pasta and asparagus into the tomato sauce mixture, stir gently and cook for a couple more minutes until pasta is cooked al-dente.
  • Sprinkle the remaining of chiffonade basil on top.

Soyaki-Braised Potatoes & Broccoli

This Soyaki-Braised Potatoes and Broccoli dish is a variation from Mark Bittman's Soy-Braised Potatoes. It's a tasty vegetarian dish that's easy to make in less than 30 minutes, perfect on top of a bowl of steamed rice.

1 pound baby Dutch potatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons neutral oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup soyaki sauce
1 1/2 cup water
1 pound broccoli florets, cut into pieces
1/2 pound crimini mushroom, sliced
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until coated in oil and beginning to turn golden.
  • Add the soy sauce, soyaki sauce and enough water to barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and stirring once in a while to make sure the potatoes aren't sticking, then the heat to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes almost tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the cut broccoli florets, sliced mushroom and green onions into the pan and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Aloha! According to Wikipedia, Aloha in Hawaiian language means affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy. It also has been used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello since the middle of the 19th century. In this case, the Aloha greeting in the start of this post is a Hello to you all.

Porgy and I did a quick 5 days trip to the island of Oahu a couple weeks ago. We had been looking forward to this trip... the idea of relaxing on a sunny beach and eating good Hawaiian and Asian (mostly Japanese)-influenced food made us (well, mostly me) super excited. I researched a couple of books, online and asked our foodie friends for places to go and local restaurants to check out and tagged them on a paper map (yes, I’m old school!) to help me plan our trip better.

The weather was super gorgeous on the day we arrived in Oahu alas the weather for the rest of the days in Hawaii was not that great as it was rainy, windy and pretty cold most of the time. Although we were disappointed because we couldn’t relax on the beach as much as we wanted to, we still had a great time in Oahu. We went to several fantastic restaurants and, unfortunately, also a couple not so good restaurants.

Here are some quick recaps of the restaurants that we went to.

Highly Recommended:
  • Ramen Nakamura – a ramen place in Waikiki that specializes in Oxtail Ramen. It can be a bit messy gnawing those oxtails but it’s so worth the effort.

  • Sushi Izakaya Gaku – a sushi restaurant near Waikiki. Fresh and innovative sushi, great sake selection, friendly servers & sushi chefs!

  • Mitsu-Ken – a hole in the wall take out place around Kahili area that is famous for its garlic chicken.

  • Helena’s Hawaiian food – somewhat a hole in the wall Hawaiian restaurant (also in Kahili, almost across Mitsu-Ken). It was pretty crowded since it was featured in Travel channel’s Man vs. Food segment earlier this year. Helena (the owner) and her staff are very friendly. Love the Pipikaula- ribs (although a bit salty), the Kalua pig and LauLaau.

  • Fukuya Deli – a great place to buy boxed/take-out food to bring to the beach near Waikiki.

  • Mikawon Korean Restaurant – a Korean restaurant in Waikiki by the International Market. We wanted to eat at the restaurant but there was a wait and it’s so smoky inside so we decided to do take-out instead. Pretty good food, huge portion, friendly staff.

  • McDonald's – the best breakfast ever - Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs and rice. I wished they have this in the mainland.

Thumbs down:

  • Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin – we went to this restaurant with high expectation because we had a fantastic experience at a Tonkatsu-specialized restaurant in Tokyo and this restaurant got 4.5 stars on Yelp. Unfortunately, the food here was not good. Period.

  • Dillingham Saimin – it is supposed to be the #2 saimin place in Oahu, after Palace Saimin. We didn’t go to Palace Saimin Stand because it was closed on Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, it was not good – the wonton skin was chewy and the broth was too salty. It’s definitely nothing compared to Hamura Saimin in Lihue (Kauai).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fennel and Orange Salad

After getting disappointed with his Cheese Straws recipe, I totally scored with this Fennel and Orange Salad from the How to Cook Everything book - it's refreshing, tasty and crunchy. I thought the fennel anise taste would overpower the dish but i was wrong... marinating it with lemon & orange juice made it mellower. I added some raisins, avocado slices and a soft boil eggs and oh it's so good!

1 pound fennel (1 large or 2-3 small bulbs)
3 small sweet oranges or tangerines
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • Trim and core the fennel and cut into thin slices.
  • Squeeze the juice from one of the oranges, pour over the fennel, add salt and lemon juice, and let it sit for a couple hours while preparing the orange slices.
  • Peel the remaining oranges and segment into orange slices.
  • Add the oranges and cilantro to the fennel, toss, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  • Add raisins, avocado slices and soft-boiled.