Gochujang is the new Sriracha

Gochujang 2.2 lb tub

This is our house brand of gochujang

2016 is going to be the year where we will all be squirting and spooning gochujang, or Korean chili paste, on our fried rice, hot dogs and what not. It’s like ketchup with an umami note, a bit of sweetness, and extra heat. A number of brands are available but I’ve found the taste difference to be subtle, also like American ketchup.

We keep a tub of Sempio in the refrigerator for cooking, and a squeeze bottle of an unknown brand for use as a condiment. I haven’t tried Chun Jung One but it’s the top hit on Amazon, and two bottles are an affordable $9.99 with Prime shipping.  You might want to check the ingredient list before you order; Sempio lists fermented rice paste as first ingredient, and also contains koji, while Chun Jung One advertises itself as gluten free.

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A New Years shocker for sour slaw fans

Sour Slaw with Oil

A splash of salad oil gives sour slaw a glossy sheen and smoother, more nuanced taste. It’s not HPC-authentic, however.

Sour slaw is one of the most unforgiving of all foodstuffs. Too much time in the cure and it becomes wilted; too little and it has an unpleasant barnyard taste and smell. And since the cabbage itself varies from one prep to the next, it’s impossible to hard-code an ideal ratio of water, sugar and cider vinegar for the nectar-like marinade. Even Highland Park Cafeteria has been known to slip up on occasion and offer an off-quality version of its gem.

I hadn’t made sour slaw in a while and thought I was in control when I whipped up a batch this week, but it lacked something. Carving off small portions for experimentation, I tried adding MSG (took it in the wrong direction), extra salt (needed only if the initial cure wasn’t long enough, which this was) and ground black pepper (not traditional, but a sprinkle can’t hurt). Then, with trembling hands, I reached for something that often shows up in online recipes from apparently reputable Southern cooks but is definitely not used at HPC: oil. Specifically, the jug of Wesson vegetable oil.

That was it. Just a splash was needed to round out the sweet/sour taste, adjust the mouth feel, and help the dressing adhere to each forkful instead of dripping back into the bowl. New Years is supposed to be a time of rethinking old habits, and here is the proof of why this is a meritorious thing to do. If you happen to like the low-caloric nature of the original sour slaw, this won’t change it much because you need no more than 1/4 cup against a full cup each of water and vinegar.

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LocalFlavor won’t honor credit requests

Like a lot of my readers, I use Groupon, LivingSocial and LocalFlavor (formerly DoubleTake Deals, and affiliated with Clipper Magazine) to save a few bucks when I go out to eat and try a new place. You pay in advance for the coupon which usually gives you 50% off list prices, then redeem it at the restaurant by a deadline date according to restrictions which typically include dine in only. I don’t always get around to using the coupon by the deadline date, but I don’t worry because it’s always good for the cash value. If the merchant goes out of business, I am similarly confident I can get credit to my account for another purchase.

Recently I visited a local restaurant and asked to redeem an expired LocalFlavor coupon for the amount I paid. To be clear, I’m not asking for an exception, just the cash value which is clearly stated in the purchase policy. The restaurant refused to honor it. I contacted LocalFlavor customer service and asked for a credit to my account and after several weeks I got this response today from Jenny W:

“We apologize that the Merchant will not honor the paid value of your deal, and we have escalated this on to our Merchant Loyalty team so they can help educate the Merchant on this law.

“That being said, it is a Federal law that states that the Merchant is to honor any gift certificate, discount voucher, or gift card for the price paid up to five (5) years after the date of purchase. This is not something that LocalFlavor can enforce because this is a law and not just a policy of LocalFlavor.com, we do apologize that we are unable to intervene in an effort to enforce that they follow this. It becomes a legal matter after that expiration date. Our contract with the merchant expires at that time, therefore there is not much we are able to do except to try and contact the merchant and attempt educate them. When the promotional value of our certificate expires that is when our contract with the merchant ends. Because your request falls outside of our refund policy we are unable to offer a refund or a credit for the amount that you paid.

“Again, we understand that this policy may not work out with exactly what you were looking for today. All LocalFlavor policies were written to provide the best overall experience to both our consumers and our merchant partners. We hope you understand and will continue to take advantage of our great services and products.”

In other words, because there is a federal law that covers the matter, LocalFlavor refuses to step up for its customers in the matter. I guess I could take this restaurant to small claims court but am not inclined to do so for $10. Since I can assume the same will happen with any other coupons from Local Flavor if I have problems in the future, their value has declined significantly in my eyes. I’ll avoid them henceforth, and you might want to consider my experience in your own future purchasing.

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Recipe: Quick Pickled Onions

Quick Pickled Onions

On the top of these fresh pickled onions is a 12 oz wide mouth jar filled with water; once they’ve wilted a bit I will transfer them to said jar and refrigerate.

Why put regular onions on your burger or sandwich when you can have pickled? Makes 1-2 cups.

1 red onion, sliced thin
3/4 c cider vinegar
3/4 c water
1 t pickling spices
1 t kosher salt
1 clove garlic

Method: Place garlic then onions in a pint measuring cup or similar heat-resistant vessel. Combine water, vinegar, salt and pickling spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the onions immediately. If bits of onion are sticking out above the liquid, put a weight of some type on them to push them down. (I use a 12 ounce canning jar filled with water which will later become the container for the pickles.) They’ll have a mild pickle flavor immediately, reach their peak in a few hours, and will keep a week or so in the refrigerator.

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Cheap Tricks

UPDATE: This post was originally about an outfit called TryTheWorld and a special offer they featured at holiday time. Apparently I misunderstood the offer, and it’s not online any more to verify. The deal is that you get shipped a box of gourmet goods from a different country every two months, for which you pay $39 shipped. The link above should get you a 15% discount, and you also get a free box with your first order so it may be worth checking out. A negative is that their online support is quite difficult; if you have a problem it will take a lot of back and forth to resolve it.

While on the subject of cheapness, which you know is near and dear to my heart, here are a couple of other strategies:

  1. When you’re shopping online, fill your cart and set up an account with your email address, then “abandon” it by just leaving the order there. Very often the retailer will email you with an extra incentive to complete the order. This will not work in all cases, but it can’t hurt to try it, EXCEPT with the daily specials on Amazon where if you don’t buy right away they will sell out and disappear.
  2. Want to subscribe to a magazine? Go to the library and find an issue from several years back then shake it so the blow-in subscription card falls out. Very often it will be at a much lower price. Write a check and send it in and see if the magazine honors it. They may because they get most of their revenue from advertising, which depends on paid subscriptions. Won’t always work but you can’t hurt to try it.

That’s it for now. Have a cheap and happy weekend.

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Recipe: Harvey Randall’s Egg Cream

Harvey Randall is a member of the Gates of Heaven Congregation in Schenectady NY who makes this concoction each year for the Jewish Food Festival. He shared his recipe with Daniel Berman of Fussy Little Blog. It’s untraditional, but close to what you’d get at a New York lunch counter, and very easy.

1 part chocolate syrup (he specifies Fox’s U-Bet but I’ve used Hershey’s without serious consequences)
4 parts whole milk
8 parts seltzer water

Method: Milk and seltzer should both be chilled. Combine ingredients in a wide-mouth jar with a lid. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds until very fizzy. Pour into serving glasses and serve.

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What to do with leftover sourdough starter

Being obsessively thrifty, I have traditionally not had extra sourdough starter after making a recipe. I keep around 150 g of 60% starter (for no good reason, I have several of them) in the refrigerator and when I get ready for a bake I add whatever additional amount of flour and water is required to make the quantity I need, plus a little bit for insurance, then let it sit a day or so till good and bubbly, then make my bread and put the remainder back in the starter jar for the next batch. Everything gets used, now or later.

But that’s stupid. First of all you don’t need that much starter to get a fresh batch going (many recipes will tell you to start with a spoonful or so) and second a starter used after a single refresh is never going to be as strong as one that’s kept lively through regular feeding. So, with a bit more baking time recently, I’ve been refreshing my starter more frequently without making bread which means I have leftovers. These I transfer to a 1-liter plastic container (the kind your takeout hot-and-sour soup comes in) and when it’s full, deal with it. Here are some options:

  • Turn starter into a holiday gift. Package an 8 oz jar with our Kettle Bread recipe inside a cast iron Dutch oven; add a sack of stone ground flour if you like.
  • Make a recipe like sourdough onion rings, sourdough English muffins or sourdough waffles* that uses large amounts of starter for flavor, not leavening. Or do your own experiments with a batter/base/dough made with a ratio of 1 part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour and salt as needed.
  • Dry it. Spread some starter on a piece of parchment paper and dry it in a dehydrator or just leave it out on a counter (if you’re not afraid of introducing new wild yeasts) till dry and flaky. Transfer to a Ziploc bag then store as you would yeast packets, in the refrigerator or freezer. Reconstitute by adding flour and water in your original proportions (60%, 100% or whatever) then refresh several times until lively. I haven’t actually tried this, by the way, but no reason it shouldn’t work.
  • And here’s one thing NOT to do: pour it down the drain. It’s very likely to turn into library paste and bring a visit from the plumber.

Many of these ideas are from this old thread on The Fresh Loaf which has even more; check it out.

* When making this or any KAF sourdough recipe, remember that they use a starter at 100% hydration and ours is 60%. So you need to do a bit of simple math to adjust the flour/water ratio.

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Food for Thought: ChefSteps Premium

I’ve previously endorsed ChefSteps for their elegant and professional videos of food prep techniques and complete recipes. This page has enough free videos to keep you busy for quite a while… the old fashioned donut recipe definitely has a place in my queue.

However, ChefSteps has recently added a Premium channel which is where I expect they’ll put more and more content in the future. I’m not clear on what determines free vs firewalled content but at $39 for unlimited access I’m happy to support these guys.

Did I say $39? Through January 15 ChefSteps Premium is only $19. Great gift for somebody who is obsessed with food. Check it out.

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Betrayed by the Bowmore

Bowmore 12 year old

From the Bowmore website, which promises “Puffs of peat smoke and pools of honey, sharpened by lemon zest.” I think not.

I don’t always drink Islay single malt, but when I do I drink Bowmore. In addition to peat and smoke there’s an extra note that might be called seaweed. It’s easy to conjure up a picture of a bubbling spring flowing through moss somehow intertwined with kelp to produce a salty, bracingly acidic base for the intense smoky complexity of the malts.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the legendary 1991 Port Matured and then some proprietary bottlings from K&L Wines which are offered at cask strength (close to 60% ABV, which is half again as strong as off the shelf whiskeys). I had also tried and dismissed the “darkest red” which is sold at retail. But it wasn’t until my supply of the cask strength bottles ran low, and I saw that K&L had no more on offing, that I panicked and ordered some bottles of the 12 year old at close to $50 each.

And you know what? It’s fine as a well Scotch, but for anybody looking for peat and smoke it’s a total disappointment. I can’t believe the accolades that are all too easy to find on the web which I think are from people giving credit to the Bowmore brand and think this bottle is a relative bargain. It’s not. Trader Joes’ Finlaggan provides more smoke and peat for 1/3 the price. And while I’ll admit the Bowmore 12 is a bit more complex than Dewar’s, my go-to drink in a bar, I could get 1.75 liters of Dewar’s plus a bonus pocket bottle for what I’m paying for my 750 of Bowmore 12 year old.

I like to advise folks on what to eat and drink in this blog, not what to avoid. But this is just too heinous. Go elsewhere for your Islays, or seek out the rarer Bowmore bottlings and be prepared to pay the price.

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Recipe: Chef Salad

Chef Salad (missing the turkey, but that's okay)

Chef Salad (missing the turkey, but that’s okay)

Is it Chef Salad or Chef’s Salad? Considering its roots in the aspirational 1950s, “Chef” might have been some food writer’s idea of a descriptive adjective connoting quality—the kind of salad a chef (as opposed to a mere cook) might make. Or, it could be the chef’s own salad, like he or she would eat in the kitchen, a variation on the “family meal”. That’s a more recent and more sophisticated perspective, so I’m going with “Chef”. Serves one as a main dish (recommended) or 4 as a salad course.

½ head iceberg lettuce or 3 c sturdy greens like romaine or frisée—no micro greens
¼ c ham, bacon or prosciutto, chopped
½ c turkey or chicken breast meat, chopped
¼ c grated cheddar or provolone
¼ c croutons
1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped, or 4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/8 c chopped onions or scallions
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
¼ French dressing

Method: Toss all the salad ingredients and serve with the dressing on the side, for diners to add themselves (if pre-dressed it gets too gloppy).

our-growing-edge-badgeI’m adding this post to the international food bloggers’ monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This month is hosted by Jazzmine at Dash of Jazz. The theme is NOSTALGIA, and what could be more nostalgic than a nice bowl of Chef Salad.

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