Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bread Grave

I was going to publish all my passionate thoughts on feelings about shave ice, but it's been a month since I was in Hawaii, and it just feels way to cold and Christmas-y to evoke such thoughts of granular ice crystals doused in liquid sugar.  So I will hold off until it gets a bit warmer.

Instead, I bring you the answer to all your winter problems -- not one, but two recipes that make awesome use of bread past its prime and will keep you super warm and stuffed.

Picking up a fresh baguette (usually of the Semifreddi's or Acme variety) on the way home is instinctual for me.  Sometimes I don't even know why I do it because I usually have a loaf already waiting at home from the previous day.  But one must survive, and to do so, follow instinct.

I eat tons of bread.  But a lot of times, working your way through a baguette free of preservatives before it goes stale is not possible.  You can make croutons.  You can make breadcrumbs.  Or you can make a meal out of it. 

All rise and hail:
Pappa al Pomodoro and the Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Panade

I love and make pappa al pomodoro pretty regularly because a) it's always pretty cold in SF, b) it's cheap, easy, filling, and tasty, c) it's a respectable place for old bread to die.

Pappa al Pomodoro (aka Tomato Bread Soup)
from my sister Laura
serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 - 1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
32 oz chicken broth (about four cups)
32 oz can whole peeled tomatoes*
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste

If your bread isn't totally dried out, toast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten minutes or just when edges begin to turn golden brown.  This will ensure it is able to soak up the soup and turn into dumpling-esque bready things.

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and tomatoes, turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, turn heat to low, add bay leaf, basil, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Mash the tomatoes if they are not broken down enough.  *You can also use diced tomatoes, but I prefer whole peeled because they have been processed less.

Stir in the bread cubes and simmer for 30 more minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with more chopped basil.


I've never been to Zuni (please, someone take me there), but if this panade recreated at home is any indication that the restaurant is worthy of its reputation, then please, take me there.  It is everything good all at once: French onion soup, stuffing/dressing, a casserole, cheesy, and therefore bubbly.

This was much more of a feat than the aforementioned tomatoey standby above (great for weeknights!).  Knowing this, I did what I could the day before -- cubing the bread, sauteing the chard, and grating the cheese.

Most of my slight adaptations stem from the fact that I was absolutely determined to use as few dishes as possible, mostly just my dutch oven.  You can also cook everything in different pots and pans and then assemble the panade into a deep 2 quart+ souffle dish if you do not have a dutch oven. 

Chard, Onion, and Gruyere Cheese Panade
adapted from Orangette who adapted it from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
serves 4 - 5 as a main dish
1 ½ lbs yellow onions (about 2 1/2 medium onions), thinly sliced
1/2 a stick of butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb Swiss or rainbow chard, thick ribs removed, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
1 whole stale baguette, or 10 oz stale artisan bread cut into rough 1 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
About 2 loosely packed cups grated white cheese, preferably Gruyere (I used a blend of Pecorino Romano, Fontina, and Comte because it was cheaper and what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Component 1: Onions

In a large saucepan or dutch oven if you have one, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Cook onions until bottom layer is golden brown, stir, and repeat for top layer, about three minutes.  Reduce heat to low, stir in garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cover and cook onions until they are a pale amber color, tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Component 2: Chard

Using the same saucepan or dutch oven, saute chard in 2 tablespoons olive oil and a tablespoon or two of water over medium heat until the leaves are just wilted, about 2-4 minutes.  Set aside. 

Component 3: Bread

Toss the cubed bread with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup of the broth, and a few pinches of salt.
 Layer the bottom of the dutch oven or souffle dish with a good amount of onions, loosely top with bread cubes, more onions, chard, 1/3 of the cheese and repeat (should be able to about one or two more times), topping with bread.

Bring the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth and 2 cups of water to a simmer in a separate pot.  Slowly pour liquid a little at a time over the assembled panade.  Top with remaining cheese.

I diverted from the recipe and topped it with bread and cheese not only because I'd run out of onions and chard, but because I'd hoped for the bread and cheese to crisp up nicely together, which they did.

Set the dish over low heat on the stove top, bringing its liquid to a simmer until it bubbles around the edges. 

Loosely cover the panade with foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  If your dish is filled closer to the top than mine, you may want to place it on a baking sheet to catch any drippings that bubble over.

Uncover panade, raise oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Served with a side of roasted cauliflower

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ono Kine Grinez

Waimea Beach on a particularly cloudy day

My tan from my Oahu trip a couple weeks back is already fading, but it's okay because by the end of it I barely fit into my swimsuit anyway.

Next First stop:

Multiple locations.

I couldn't find any videos of the "Next stop: ZIPPY'S" ad campaign, but this 1992 commercial precisely illustrates what it feels like to eat at Zippy's. 

Worth the trip indeed.

I first wrote about Zippy's in reference to their mac salad.  Their familiarity and consistency naturally begged for Zippy's to be the first thing I ate off the plane. 

Spam not pictured

I opted for the comprehensive Surf Pac.

I wanted to sit down since I had just gotten off the plane, thus the slightly overboard price of $10.25, but if you want to dine in the to-go area, the Surf Pac will run a couple bucks cheaper.

Pa'ala'a Kai Bakery
66-945 Kaukonahua Rd
Waialua, HI 96791
(808) 637-9795

I grew up down the street from this place so I will stand by it no matter what.  The custard honeymoons were always my favorite as a kid in stark contrast to my sister's favorite chocolate honeymoons.  As adults we can now find middle ground with the chocolate and custard honeymoon.

Honeymoon, donut holes, butter roll, smokies, aka breakfast.

Sweet donuts aside, Pa'ala'a Kai is most famous for their smokies wrapped in an insanely buttery dough.

Young's Fish Market
1286 Kalani Street
Kalihi/Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 841-4885

Young's offers authentic Hawaiian food rather than your standard "plate lunch," which is local to Hawaii but not necessarily Hawaiian.

After three hours of raiding the yet-to-be-picked-over Savers in Kalihi (much unlike Bay Area thrift shopping), I was unusually ravenous for poi, which is taro root pounded so much that it reaches a goopy consistency.

My half of the butterfish laulau combo plate

I split the hefty butterfish laulau combo plate which includes butterfish laulau (available only on Fridays), lomi salmon, pipikaula, poi, steamed Okinawan sweet potato, and extra rice.

Butterfish laulau basking

Laulau is pretty much the best present you could give someone because you can eat the wrapping paper too.

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory
98-040 Kamehameha Hwy
Aiea, HI 96701
(808) 485-1107

You cannot get chow mein like this on the mainland.  Serious.

Char siu, honey garlic chicken, and kalua pig manapua
Chun Wah Kam is my favorite place on the island to get manapua, or "steamed bun" in layman's terms (though an afterhours manapua from 7-11 is like the best thing ever when you realize how much whiskey you've drank).  Chun Wah Kam offers a ton different types of manapua and even a pizza manapua that happens to rule.  Of the three I had, the classic char siu pork reigned supreme.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
+ several other North Shore locations

Garlic butter shrimp plate

This is a picture of Cristy's garlic butter shrimp plate ($13).  I don't like shrimp, but you probably do so I thought I'd include a picture from this famous truck.  If it were the case that I simply hadn't ever had good shrimp, Giovanni's would have changed my mind.  But it didn't because I just don't like shrimp.  Unfortunately, I feel a lot of important food doors will remain unopened until I do.

Opal Thai Truck
66-460 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
(808) 381-8091

Pineapple fried rice.
Since I was in the shrimp truck gulch and realized I still didn't like shrimp, I opted for a shrimpless entree at the Opal Thai truck.

Kozo Sushi
Multiple locations

Ahi tartare roll

It's a little embarrassing but I am only now at this point in my life easing my way into eating raw fish/sushi.  I can't speak for how awesome this local sushi chain may or may not be except that I loved the ahi tartare roll ($6.99), and that is all I've ever tried there.  After finishing my roll I came to the realization that SF is really lacking in affordable sushi take out like that all over Oahu.  Without submitting to supermarket sushi, I can't think of anywhere in SF where you can order a freshly made roll to go for under $10.  In a way, sushi is like the burrito of Hawaii, and places like Kozo akin to taquerias but you won't leave with a case of burrito-butt.

As massive as this list is and all the food was, I still missed several spots I'd meant to hit up.  There is never enough time nor appetite, even at a rate of four meals a day.  Did I mention I also had a full traditional Thanksgiving meal and plowed through the leftovers also? 

A mochiko chicken musubi from Diamond Head Grill that I stole a bite from

My missed connection food list goes as follows:
-ramen at Yotekko-Ya
-anything at the KCC Farmer's Market
-musubi or manapua late night at 7-11 just because I'm an adult and I can
-malasadas at Leonard's Bakery
-Garlic ahi fried rice from Irifune

Lengthy essay on SHAVE ICE coming soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kalua Pig

Thanksgiving and fall recipes seem to be the only things going around these days, so here's some pig for reprieve -- not to mention in one its most easy, economical, and satisfying forms.

Our new(ish) apartment needed to be warmed.  So we decided we needed 6 lbs of pork butt to do it. And some spam too!

Spam musubi, realized in bite size form

The traditional Hawaiian method of cooking kalua pig (also known as kalua "pork" on the mainland) is in an imu, or an oven dug in the ground.  At my high school, some classes had fundraisers selling kalua pig instead of say, chocolate or cookies.  Someone's dad would go shoot a pig in the mountains, haul it back, and cook it in an imu that had been dug next to the football field.  If I remember correctly, they were pretty successful fundraisers.

Straight from the Aloha Stadium swap meet

Whenever I explain kalua pig to people not from Hawaii, there tends to be confusion with the "kalua" part.  "Is there Kahlua in it?" 

Kahlua - a Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur.  The name is derived from the Veracruzan Nahuatl language spoken before Spanish conquest.

Kalua - "to cook in the ground" in the Hawaiian language.

I suppose you could try braising some pork in Kahlua to make Kahlua pig.  I think liquid smoke works better though.

Questionable yet effective

While I do have a 3'x10' area at the bottom of my apartment building, it is not suitable for imu digging as it is unfortunately covered with concrete and trash cans and smells way too much like pee than it should (it's enclosed...who pees in back of their apartment??!).  But thanks to today's available artificial flavors and the technological feat that is the oven, I was able to make this at home without picking cement or getting so much as a whiff of urine.

I've seen kalua pig recipes that call for pork shoulder and am going to recommend against it.  I tried to do a mix of butt and shoulder to keep it from being overly fatty -- MISTAKE.  Unless you have several more hours to roast the shoulder longer at a lower temperature, stick with the butt in all its tender glory.  And for those who are like "ewww, BUTT!" (have you eaten a hot dog lately?) pork butt, also known as Boston butt is not actually of the butt, but rather a part of the shoulder.  So really, I was just unknowingly mixing a superior cut of the shoulder with an inferior cut of the shoulder.  Luckily though, the butt fat covered up the dryness of the shoulder.

More information about butts and shoulders can be found here.  Do not fear the butt!

Done cooking, but not shredding

Oven Roasted Kalua Pig
adapted from so so many sources
Serves about 16 people

5-6 lbs pork butt, a.k.a. Boston butt*
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sea salt (I used orange Ala'ea salt from Hawaii)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim excess fat.  This is important.  I love fat as much as the next maiden of fat but I did not trim enough and, once cooked, was left with big fat globs I had to dig out.

Lay out foil in roasting pan and place pork on top.  The entire piece will be enclosed in this piece foil before cooking, so make sure it is big enough to do so.

Score pork with shallow slits, about 1/2 inch deep, all around.

Rub 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon salt into meat (I recommend trying to maneuver this with a spoon because the liquid smoke gets into your skin and makes your hands stink even after multiple washes).

Wrap foil so that meat is completely enclosed.

Roast for about 4.5 hours, or 45 minutes a pound at 325 degrees.

Once cooled to room temperature, shred with two forks.

Dissolve remaining 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke in about 1/2 cup of water.  Pour over shredded pork and let stand til absorbed, about 10 minutes.

If you want to add cabbage (highly recommended), throw about 1/4 cup of the pork drippings in a pan, saute chopped cabbage until wilted, and mix in with pork.  I used about a half a head of cabbage in the end.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

THE Mac Salad


THIS is what you were expecting when you took your first bite of mac salad on the mainland.  But it is not what you got.

Instead, the sickly sweet hyper-tang collides with your now instantly bummed out taste buds and you try to smile mid-conversation 'cause no one eats mac salad alone, for it is a social delicacy.  You smile like you ate something you actually meant to in an attempt to hide your pervasive cringe because it was like someone took a pickle, dipped it in mayonnaise, topped it with a noodle and shoved it in your mouth.  Except it was all on your own accord.  You let this happen.  On your own watch.

You try to figure out what you're gonna do with the previously assumed as tasty mound of mac salad that, yes, is already starting to pollute the rice on your plate.  The meat is next.  So you sacrifice a few grains of rice building a barrier around the "mac salad" in hopes of saving the rest of the food on your plate.  Don't worry, it's worth it.  But those are grains of rice you will never get back.

What's that?  You're not from Hawaii?  Oh, so mac salad is supposed to taste like that?  Why would I eat a noodle-based side with rice, you ask?  Is that a serious question?  What high school did YOU go to?*

If this stuff is what defines an American classic, consider me un-American.

This is not the mustard-laden vinegary sugar pickle shit you buy in your grocer's deli island.  When it comes to mac salad, I am not one to relish in relish. 

For those of you outta the know, Zippy's is a popular Hawaiian chain that serves up plate lunches, great fried chicken, awkward spaghetti, and, of course, mac salad.

After a lot of research I feel confident when I say I have cracked Zippy's mac salad recipe.  I don't trust the dozens of recipes floating out there that call for boiled eggs, tuna, vinegar, etc and still claim to be "Hawaiian" -- especially when they came from some haole on the mainland.  While you are welcome to add those, you will be missing out on the subtly of simplicity.

Hawaiian Style Mac Salad, like Zippy's
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise, to start (Best Foods brand recommended -- but anything's fine as long as it's real full fat mayo)
1/4 cup milk (optional depending on how thick you like your dressing)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 an onion, grated
1 stalk of celery, grated
2 carrots, shredded/grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
many twists of freshly ground black pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare elbow macaroni for the maximum cooking time as directed.  For example, if it calls for the noodles to be boiled for 8-10 minutes, boil them for 10 minutes.  Al dente noodles only get more dente when chilled.

Cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator for at least two hours, or until cold.  This can be done overnight.

In a large mixing bowl, stir mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, grated onion, grated celery, and milk (if using) until completely incorporated.

Fold in carrots.

Fold in chilled macaroni and stir so that every noodle is entrenched in mayo-y goodness.

Cover and chill in refrigerator for six hours or preferably overnight.

The next morning, stir salad.  You will probably want to add more mayo at this point, and please do so.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Kalua Pig and Mac Salad.  Did not find each other on

Serve with the following recommended pairings:
Kettle Chips, preferably Salt & Pepper flavor, as a vehicle to dip into the mac salad
Budweiser or Heineken, just like home
Kalua Pig (recipe forthcoming)
Any form of BBQed meat with rice

*The high school one attends on Oahu is of utmost importance in determining how to most accurately pass judgment on an individual based on sweeping generalizations associated with their respective high school.  These stereotypes include but are not limited to: socio-economic standing, race, intelligence, and the ability to dominate physically; ie, "Barack Obama attended Punahou High School, therefore he thinks he's better than everybody."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Because it looked like this outside:

I had only one option.

I believe in diplomacy, and this soup is what middle ground is all about.  This is like a good DTR talk about the potential of a LTR...of soup.  Or whatever.  Meet me half way, okay?

This soup embodies some of the richness that often accompanies mushroom soups in the "cream of" category but stands its ground against being just another dull-ass soup of healthfood yesteryearwater.  In other words, this shit is bomb without making you feel like you just ate one.  And it's totally not boring at the same time (I'm looking at you, chicken noodle... especially when I'm not sick).

Paprika I brought back from Hungary that is probably way too old to use.

I couldn't get my hands on any "wild mushrooms," and didn't feel like foraging 6th Street for anything growing out of all the (usually human) doodoo chilling on the block, so I settled for some baby portabella mushrooms I found on sale.  Though I will confidently say I believe cremini, straight up button mushrooms, or whatever kind you find on sale will work.

With that said, the only adaptation I made was leaving out the "wild" part.  'Cause if I wanted to get wild I wouldn't be eating soup.

Hungarian Wild  Mushroom Soup
slightly adapted from Edible Portland

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion (about one medium to large onion)
1/2 cup chopped leek (about 2 stalks)
2 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 lbs cleaned, roughly sliced wild  mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp paprika
3 Tbsp fresh dill weed, chopped
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
Black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup sour cream
Parsley, roughly chopped for garnish

In a large stockpot, melt butter over medium heat.

Add onion, leek and garlic.

Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent but not browned.

Add mushrooms, salt, paprika and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Stir well. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, stir and simmer uncovered for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Sprinkle flour evenly over mixture. Simmer while stirring continuously for another 5 minutes.

Add stock,cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add milk and black pepper to taste and turn the heat to low.

Whisk in sour cream, a little at a time. Be careful not to boil the soup from this point on.

Add salt to taste.

Not entirely recommended

I foolishly stuck my immersion blended in the pot without taking some of the soup out to preserve a chunky mushroom texture.  I would recommend setting half aside, blending it all up until thick and creamy, then dumping the unblended half back in.  This is all, of course, very optional and questionably superficial.  For some, texture is a pretty big deal, as illustrated by the band Catherine Wheel in the opening track of their 1992 debut full-length Ferment (and consequently the beginning of the end of shoegaze?  Blending -- only for the brave). 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brunch: serving the server

When my good buddy (and only person I refer to as "buddy") Shannon, a server at a popular brunch spot, was off on a Saturday she suggested we go out somewhere so that someone could server her some brunch.  I, not one for waiting in line, or paying more than I know I should for food retorted, "Let me serve you."  Done deal.

She showed up afflicted with a full-blown Enter the Void-induced hangover from the night before.  I haven't confirmed with her, but I think the meal proved an effective cure.  I plan to take the plunge while it's still in theaters, but not without another brunch menu planned for myself.

Having never made crepes, I felt this an opportune occasion to try the Mushroom Crepe Cake over at Smitten Kitchen since I couldn't justify all the work without sharing the results with company.  Tasty indeed, though the slices were like limp triangular mounds.  I could have reduced the liquid in the mushroom filling a bit more, laid off the mozzarella topping, and perhaps took more caution layering it together.  But I figured the eaters involved could give a shit.  I'm pretty sure I was right.

MAKING CREPES IS FUN.  Which is why I didn't mind spending the end of my Friday nite cooking them up after watching the Giants lose (it's okay, they have since beat the Braves afterall) with some whiskey and a burger.  Or maybe it's the other way around...Either way I prepared the batter Thursday nite (after coming home from watching the Giants win with some beer) so it could hang out for a day to achieve righteous texture.
At the end of the middle of the day, it was all about the ole standby biscuits and gravy.  I have had bad biscuits and gravy.  To me, that annoying saying about pizza and sex applies to biscuits and gravy (and ice cream and fried chicken).  You know the one.  For me, when something that is supposed to be good even when it is bad is actually just bad when it's bad, it makes it even more...bad.  Especially when you're well aware that the tasteless slop you're consuming is made up of fat and carbs and totally not worth the cal's.  Travesty.  Thankfully I have also had good biscuits and gravy, and this foolproof recipe in my arse-anal. 

I've made these biscuits too many times to count (ok, something like seven times), and they never fail.  NEVER.  The best part is that, while you can get all fancy with biscuits with buttermilk, sour cream, and heavy cream if you want, this recipe calls for ingredients I usually keep stocked in my fridge.

Like butter.

makes 12 biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, cold
3/4 cup milk, cold

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F Mix first 4 ingredients together in a bowl.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender or a fork, or two knives, until crumbly.

Add milk.

Stir until it forms a ball.

Add a bit more milk if necessary to make a soft dough.

Roll or pat to 1 inch thick.  Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter or a floured glass (I usually do this but this last time I treated them as drop-biscuits and formed mounds on the baking sheet just to mix it up).

Arrange on a greased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes, depending on your oven.

The original recipe suggests variations that include cheese and herbs.  I added about a tablespoon of finely chopped scallions I had on hand and had great results.  Plus, the green flecks add to an otherwise colorless dish.

Vegetarian Gravy
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk, to start (I used whole)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I've found it gives it a more robust flavor)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
Water, optional
Herbs of your choice, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan.

Add onions and cook on medium heat until soft, about five minutes.

Stir in flour so that it evenly coats the onions.

Add the milk and stir until smooth.

Once milk is heated, add bouillon cube and nutritional yeast, if using, and stir until completely incorporated.

Reduce heat to low and cook until thickened, stirring frequently and scraping the edges (a rubber spatula does this beautifully).

If mixture is too thick, stir in more milk or some water depending on how creamy you prefer the gravy to be.

Add herbs, if using.  I wasn't looking to go very herby here (though you could!), so I did 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary.

Salt and pepper to taste, though I found the bouillon has the salt department covered pretty well.

Serve hot, spooned over biscuits and eat it all.  That's part of the directions.