brunch


Back when I used to live in San Antonio (yes, in Texas), the small Mexican restaurants in town would serve homemade menudo during brunch hours on the weekends. Once my family discovered this soup, it quickly became a weekend favorite. After all, what is not to love about a rich, spicy, warming soup of hominy and beef tripe? At the time, though, I had no idea that menudo is supposedly a great cure for hangovers … which begs the question: did my parents sneak out to some fun parties while my younger self was sleeping soundly??

Although I do have a soft spot for menudo, I’m also not prepared to mess with cooking tripe at home, so I’ve been searching for alternatives. Then one day, at a little Yucatecan restaurant, I discovered pozole, a hearty, warming, green soup full of hominy and chicken. A while later, Nathan and I randomly stopped into a different little Mexican restaurant for lunch and there was pozole on the menu there too! But theirs was a different version, a rich, spicy, red soup full of hominy and pork (menudo-esque, if you will), and that’s the one we’ve been obsessing over ever since.

After some research, we learned that there are many different regional versions of pozole, roughly categorized into the three colors of the Mexican flag: green (verde), red (rojo), and white (blanco). For our beloved rojo, we eventually dug up two different recipes: one from Señor Bayless himself and one posted on Chowhound. Being the most indecisive people in the world, we couldn’t choose so ended up using parts of both of them. In a moment of insanity, we also decided to double the recipe and ended up with way more pozole than we could handle or even store. But then, that’s when you can count on your sister, friends (like Ben and Erin), and neighbors for backup, right?

You know, with Thanksgiving only days away, you might actually hear your leftover turkey bones and meat whispering ‘pozole’ to you on Friday morning (but not in a creepy way). I know if I do, you just might find me back at the stove again working on another giant cauldron of pozole, a green turkey one this time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Baked Eggs

Recently, I’ve been having another bout of my so-called ‘brunchitis’, an unfortunate condition where I cringe at the thought of going to brunch. You see, brunch and I have what you might called one of those complicated love-hate relationships.

If you know me, you already know that I love brunch and have been known to declare this fact loudly and often. And let’s be honest here, if you don’t love the idea of a lazy morning lingering over cups of coffee (or Bloody Marys) and munching on deliciously eggy dishes with perhaps a ribbon or two of crispy-chewy bacon, I will most likely declare you to be a bit loco, especially if I’ve had a couple of those Bloody Marys. But like any relationship, my relationship with brunch every so often comes across an obstacle, one which makes my love falter and questions my devotion.

This obstacle is what is commonly known as the San Francisco Brunch Scene.

Like myself, it turns out that the city of San Francisco loves brunch. The overall result is, unsurprisingly, huge crowds gathering at brunch-serving locales all across the city, leading to over-an-hour waits and lines so long that I would feel bad doing any sort of lingering over anything. It only takes a few encounters with the SF Brunch Scene for me to develop this rather terrible condition of ‘brunchitis’ and I’m quarantined at home on weekend mornings.

Being a veteran of this condition though, I’ve developed a few trusty ‘home-opathic’ remedies, one of which is these baked eggs. I first had these in a little French cafe I lived near and have been absolutely addicted to them ever since. A while later, I saw Ina Garten prepare them on TV and committed the basic method to memory. Trust me, baking eggs is so easy that once you’ve done it, you won’t even need to look for a recipe next time – well, if you can even call what’s written below a recipe.

If ‘brunchitis’ should strike you too, baked eggs like these, enjoyed luxuriously slowly with a steaming cup of coffee, will cure you in no time and reaffirm your love of brunch. Before you know it, you’ll be back out there with the rest of the city, writing your name on that little clipboard at Zazie’s.

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Tortilla de Patatas

Ahh Thanksgiving… an entire day devoted to cooking, eating, and hanging out with friends and family. My sister and I spent a relaxing and mostly lazy Thanksgiving day cooking various things from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks: roast chicken with bread salad a la Zuni Cafe, Heidi’s always-awesome brussels sprouts (you will not want to eat them any other way after you try hers), a simple creamed spinach from Alice Waters, plus freshly baked French bread (courtesy of The Bread Bible), topped with tapenade and white bean-garlic spread. To round out this already giant meal (remember, we only had two people!), my sister made a cranberry-apple crisp. Oh and let’s not forget the big pitcher of sangria to quench our thirst. Cheers to another successful Thanksgiving!

Of course, now that the big dinner’s over and I’m hiding out at home to avoid scary Black Friday madness (have I told you that I find crazed shoppers really, really creepy?), I’m no longer thinking about Thanksgiving recipes. And thanks to some self-restraint on our part, I don’t even have to think much about using up leftovers and my stove can get some well-deserved rest today.

Although… there are a bunch of unused potatoes sitting in the fridge that’s just asking to be used in a Spanish tortilla. Well… I’m sure the stove won’t mind doing a little more work.

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Wow, sorry for the lack of posts in over a month! I’ve been away on three different trips since the middle of May, so you can imagine that doesn’t leave much time for cooking or blogging. The only cooking I got to do while I was away was with Nathan for a double-lasagna dinner for all the relatives in Wyoming, which ended in a smoky kitchen but relatively happy diners. (Hi Mary! Hi Jodi! I forget who else from Wyoming might be reading this – Hello!)

Before Wyoming, I was on this whirlwind tour of China, Singapore, and Taiwan for work. Even though the schedule was literally packed with talks and meetings, I ventured out to eat as much delicious local foods as I could. Perhaps there’ll be a future post about this … although I won’t have any recipes and will thus violate rule #1 of this blog. Before Asia, we went to Banff for our friends’ Brian and Michelle’s beautiful wedding!

To ease back into blogging, I thought I’d start with a recipe that requires not much work but does require much time and patience. We got a slab of uncured pork belly from our subscription to the meat CSA and after emailing the CSA members for ideas on what to do with it, we decided to make our own bacon!

The whole week our bacon-to-be was hanging out in our fridge, I was constantly worried that it had a weird, grayish tone since supposedly, one reason you add sodium nitrite is to keep the meat pink. So because the meat was not pink, I thought I must have not added enough sodium nitrite and that we will certainly get food poisoning from eating our own bacon (because the other, more important reason you add sodium nitrite is to prevent botulism). But after slowly roasting in the oven, the bacon came out beautifully pink and gorgeous and it turned out Nathan’s right (again) that I worry too much.

I’ll follow up this post with a recipe using said bacon soon. The only major note about this bacon is that it’s quite salty so it’s best used it in a dish rather than eating on its own, breakfast-style.

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Romanesco Frittata

A few weeks ago, I learned about the Mariquita Farm Mystery Thursdays from one of my favorite foodie blogs 101 cookbooks. Since our regular CSA boxes from Terra Firma Farm don’t usually come with extra-crazy vegetables and I’ve been wanting to explore some exotic ones, I convinced Nathan to try out a ‘mystery box’ from Mariquita. Lucky for us, the next delivery was scheduled for Incanto, one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants!

After handing over $25 on a drizzly night, we were handed a ginormous bag loaded with way over $25 worth of goodies, some of which definitely satisfied my exotic craving. We got a huge bag of baby carrots that look like they were just pulled out of the ground, a bunch of red(!) carrots, a few bunches of tatsoi, a couple heads of escarole, some tiny heads of little gem lettuce, a gnarly celery root, a few parsnip-like objects that turned out to be parsley roots, a few bunches of puntarelle (which came with the simple suggestion to dress them in a mustard-anchovy vinigarette – yum!), a winter squash, a romanesco, and a bag of red potatoes for good measure.

Our favorite item of the entire bag was this beautifully fractal yet slightly surreal romanesco:

Romanesco

After admiring it in our fridge for a few days, we finally decided to do something with it even though it really hurt to mess up such a lovely manifestation of a mathematical concept. But let’s say it’ll still be fractaly in our stomach, shall we? Part of the romanesco ended up in a simple pasta dish with red chile flakes, lemon, garlic, and plenty of olive oil. The other part ended up in a frittata. I used a sprig of green garlic that came in our regular CSA box but a small clove of normal garlic will be fine too. And of course, you can use any ‘sturdy’ vegetable you like in place of the romanesco – in the coming spring, asparagus would make a great frittata!

Will eating fractals make you better at math? I hope so!

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jook.jpg

Is it weird that I’ve never gotten a flu shot?

I’ve lived 30 years of my life with the explicit mission of getting poked by as little number of needles as possible and it’s done me pretty well so far. But last week, I started to wonder if I need to reconsider my stated mission. Not that I’ve kept track, but looking back, I think I have gotten the flu every time I start to see flyers about getting your flu shots. Hmm…

When I was little, every time I would get sick, my parents would make me eat giant bowls of really bland noodles in a clear soup with a few chunks of fish floating around – what I dubbed ‘sicky noodles’. Even now, when I see ‘fish soup with noodles’ on any menu, I associate it with sickliness and avoid it at all cost. (“Why not order something with taste instead??”)

Unsurprisingly, being sick makes me not want to cook. Well, not much anyway. While I still can’t bring myself to cook ‘sicky noodles’, I have started to believe in the power of jook (or congee, or rice porridge, whatever you want to call it). Jook is probably on the comfort food list of every Cantonese person — even my sister who hated jook when she was young now craves it every so often.

So last Thursday, since I was just laying on the couch feeling miserable, I decided I might as well be useful and babysit a big cauldron of jook I can have for dinner. Jook is easy but takes quite a bit of time – when you’re down with the flu, though, time is something you’ve got plenty of.

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