What a Jerk-y!

A friend of mine asked why I haven’t been posting lately. Well, life gets in the way. But also I’ve been cooking much of the same things so nothing too interesting or new, lots of Korean dishes (they need their own posts). There has been a few of things in the past month that I found interesting and new. The most recent has been homemade beef jerky and the one I’ve been most excited about.

Yup, beef jerky. We love them, eat them by the pound if we had them. Years ago when Bisher’s was still in the Old Poway location (and under the old ownership), they used to carry a spicy sweet jerky that was akin to crack. Couldn’t stop eating it but it was almost as costly as its weight in gold. Could have been for all I knew. I would have sold the kids if that’s what it meant to get more. Luckily I don’t have kids. Well, that’s if you don’t count the four-legged versions. Anywho…

The notion of making jerky is not a new one, been rolling that idea in my head for quite some time. Even tried the oven method once upon a time with sub-par results. Just never got serious about it since a dehydrator would be another gizmo to store somewhere. I really didn’t want to do the whole smoker method which required that I sort of watch over the smoker all day. With a dehydrator, I could just plug it in, walk away and in so many hours, jerky! Since life is short, I said why not. I had a gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket (as the Mister claims) and so I gotz me a new food dehydrator. The Mister wasn’t convinced that it would be cost effective to make our own say to buying Jack’s. But it’s not about being cost effective but more about time effectiveness AND having jerky that’s better than what we could buy.

I got the Nesco FD-80 based on the reviews. I liked the shape of it and the ability to control the temperature. It was a bit bigger than I realized but I was glad for the size when I did my first batch of jerky.

The recipe I used was pretty straightforward. I was making kalbi that day so I used the same liquid base and went from there.

  • 1 C soy sauce (I used Sempio Korean soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine (can substitute with sake or soju, I was out of both)
  • 2 tablespoon Worchestshire sauce
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 3/4 C sugar (you can use brown sugar too)
  • 2 garlic cloves (can substitute with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 2 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), adjust amount to your own liking
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon powder ginger (you can always use fresh, I was lazy)
  • Pinch of Accent (msg), about 1/8 teaspoon (leave out if you’re squeamish)

Everything went into the blender for the marinade.This will marinade up to 2.5 lb of sliced beef.

I went with flank steak from Costco since flank is low in fat content. There were 2 pieces in the package but I just used one of them, about 2 lb. Sliced it without freezing it first. One hour in the freezer will make slicing easier but I didn’t this time. I removed some of the excess fat but there weren’t much. I was able to get two fairly consistent thickness, the thickest being 1/4″ and thinnest at 1/8″. Didn’t worry about the different thicknesses since the thicker ones went on the top 2 trays and closest to the fan and heat. Beef went into the marinade, into the fridge for 20 hours. It was 20 hours only because that’s what it worked out to be. Goal was to marinate overnight. I don’t know, can the meat be over-marinated for jerky? Certainly if the slices were too thin.

Next morning, drained and patted dry the meat so they weren’t soaking wet. Stacked and ready for drying! Like I mentioned, the thicker slices were on the top trays with the thickest on the outside of the trays since those areas dry faster.

I checked around the 5-hour point. The thicker ones were starting to look good and the thinner ones are coming along beautifully. The thinner ones were ready in about 7 hours and the thicker ones 1.5 hours later. The flavor turned out great. The thinner ones were very similar to the ones from Bisher’s, just not as hot (more pepper flakes next time!). The thicker ones were chewy, the way the Mister likes them.

The cons of having this inside the house is that the whole house smells like a teriyaki jerky factory all day long and when it gets to the almost ready point, I found it really hard not to sneak a thin piece, for taste testing purposes of course. The pros obviously is a turn-on and leave setup, for the most part. And that you can easily sneak a piece to taste test. Also after the first few hours, my nose got used to the smell. Drove the dogs crazy.

The jerky will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for 3-4 weeks, as if they will last that long in this house. If the jerky has some fat on them, like in some of my strips where I couldn’t trim them away without tearing the meat apart, those should go in the fridge if not eaten in a few days. Those were the ones I ate first actually and the rest went into the fridge after a few days. Got a bag of it stashed way in the back for the MIL since I promised her a bag to call her own.

So was it time consuming and did the Mister think it was cost effective? He loved the taste and said it was better than any store bought version. And since all he had to do was open a bag to have some, it was extremely time “un-”consuming for him, hehe. But really, compared to what else I’ve attempted in the past, this was quite easy in prep and clean up. Oh yeah, the trays went straight into the dishwasher. So easy.

Next batch will be an attempt to make a Paleo version for the Mister at his request. I’m planning on using tamari, lots and lots of cracked black pepper with lots of red chili flakes to give it heat. He wants it hot, he’ll get hot. If it turns out well, guess what the SIL is getting for Christmas? (Holy crap, only 77 more days as of this posting.) So stay tuned for that one in the (hopefully) near future. It’ll be a good one for those who don’t want or can’t have sweet jerky.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House (San Diego – Del Mar)

For this year’s wedding anniversary, I suggested Ruth’s Chris Steak House. We’ve always enjoyed our past meals here and this one didn’t disappoint either.

When we arrived, we were led to a large booth that seats 6 people. I requested a booth when I made the reservation but I didn’t expect this! The host that walked us to the table sprinkled a handful of rose petals on the white linen table before he sat us down. I thought that was a nice touch. He wished us a happy 18th anniversary and gave us our menus.

After placing our order for drinks, our server went over the menu with us since it has been a few years since our last visit. Not too much has changed with the exception of the specials menu.

The Mister decided to start off with the Tomato and Onion salad. Very nice start.

I had meat on my mind (that’s what she said) and since they had filet carpaccio as a special appetizer that night, I knew exactly what I wanted. The Mister and I actually have this deal that if we were dining out and carpaccio was on the menu, we would always order it.  Deal fulfilled.

I don’t know what the deal was with all those long cheese croutons, overkill if you ask me but they were tasty. I only ate one of them. The carpaccio was awesome. I like the little side greens and generous amount of shave parm.

Apologies for the quality of the remaining pictures. I was losing natural light and the flash made much of the dishes washed out.

For sides, we usually each pick one. I chose shoestring fries as my side. (eegad, that picture is awful) This was really good! Enough to share.

The Mister chose cream spinach. This was really good! A side of ketchup for the fries.

The Mister got his usual, New York strip, cooked to a perfect medium-rare, with the blue cheese topping.

I was craving a t-bone steak. Medium-rare please!

Uh, yeah. That t-bone was huge! I only ate about a third of it.

They usually have a set dessert that they give for free for anniversaries and birthdays but our server was really nice and let us choose whatever dessert we wanted. The Mister chose the Caramalized Banana Cream Pie.

This was just okay but the Mister was in the mood for some kind of banana dessert since we were talking about banana fosters. The bananas and cream were decent but the crust bowl that holds everything together was meh.

Nonetheless we really enjoyed our meal and made a vow to come back for another visit soon.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
11582 El Camino Real
San Diego, CA 92130
(858) 755-1454

Lunch
Friday  11:30am-2pm

Dinner
Monday-Thursday  5pm-10pm
Friday  5pm-10:30pm
Saturday  4pm-10:30pm
Sunday  4pm-9:30pm

Strawberry Freshcream Cake – Paris Baguette (in Zion Market)

Can you believe summer is almost over? We have been in the steady low 80′s here, not that I’m complaining. August has been typically the hottest month in San Diego. Records showed that on Aug. 12 the year we got married, it was 87 degrees F. The record was 93F in 2003. I always seem to focus on August’s temperatures since our wedding day 18 years + 1 day ago had felt like the hottest day ever. It really wasn’t but it felt that way.

For this year’s anniversary, I decided to get a Strawberry Freshcream cake from Paris Baguette. I was running  errands in the Clairemont area so ended up at the Zion Market location. There’s also another location in H-Mart in Mira Mesa, just fyi.

I’ve been wanting to get a freshcream cake from Paris Baguette for some time and have been waiting for the right occasion. The cakes are not cheap for the size of the cakes, certainly not something I would just get on a whim. Included in the price, you can get complimentary candles as well as a plastic serving cake knife, which I thought was cool. The good news for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out $28-40 dollars or just don’t need a whole one, some of the cakes are available by the slice.

The freshcream cake reminded me of the birthday cakes my mom would buy me from Asian bakery stores when I was growing up. I love these kind of cakes because the cakes are fluffy, just lightly sweet so the fruit filling can shine through. Whipped cream frosting and filling are my favorites.

I got the smaller of the cakes available since I wasn’t sure how we (I) would like it. I figured that if we loved the cake, I can get another one for the Mister’s birthday in a couple of weeks. To quote him after his first bite, “Mmmmmm, oh this is really good.” He concurred that this was the best cake I’ve brought home to date. Even better than the strawberry coconut cake I got him last year.

Here’s a look at the x-section. The only complaint I had  was that there could have been more strawberries in the filling. What little there was was sweet and fruity. I’m using all the will power that I can muster not to go slice a piece right now!

While I was waiting for my cake to be boxed, I got really hungry staring at all the pastry so I bought a small red bean mochi and a soft cheese cake. I ate both of them before I had the mind to take pictures. I did say I was really hungry, didn’t I? Both were very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cheese cake but it is NOT like the Western cheesecake. This was an actual cake with cheese flavoring. The texture was soft, as in the name and had a mild cheese flavor. The texture and flavor are hard for me to explain but I liked it. You should try it. I think I’ll pick up a few more variety of desserts the next time I’m there. Certainly have to get one of these soft cheese cake for the Mister since he gave me a hard time for not getting him one. Not really a hard time but hey, I was hungry, okay?

One more thing, not hard to notice that my blog has a different look. I’m playing around with an updated theme and color scheme. There are some limitations to the template so I decided to go back to my old logo header rather than spend hours on end editing the the codes to fit the animated version. Simple is best these days. Let me know what you think.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their summer so far. Have a great rest of the week!

Choco Pie Fever

The Mister and I have been on a choco pie kick for the past few months.  Love having one (or two) of these chocolatey chewy pies with the morning coffee! So far I’ve only tried the two main brands, Lotte and Orion. Both available at the local Korean markets. But while The Mister was in S. Korea, he sent back some Orion choco pies. It wasn’t until I bought some Orion locally that I realized there were slight differences between brands and even within the same brand. So let’s take a look at some side-by-side comparisons.

Here we have the Korean Orion brand on the left in each picture (the ones the Mister bought in Korea) and the Lotte brand on the right (bought locally in SD). Orion’s package is a little bigger than the Lotte because the actual pie is slightly bigger.

 

It might be a little easier to see in these pictures. The Orion is the pie on the bottom.

 

As far as taste, they both had the same flavors, meaning if I were to close my eyes and bite into them, I wouldn’t be able to tell solely based on taste. Texture-wise, on the other hand, was the big difference. The Orion had a softer cake. The Lotte ganache was firmer, reminding me of a s’mores like texture although the cake wasn’t dry like a graham cracker. The cake was drier than the Orion brand. The Orion was more like a whoopie pie. I think because of the softer ganache and cake, the marshmallow texture seemed to be more prominent. I tried just the marshmallow from both to see if one was softer than the other but no, they were both the same. The Mister and I both preferred the Orion brand. But neither of us would say no to a Lotte choco pie.

Even though we can get Orion brand locally,  we still prefer the Korean version of Orion. Here’s why. Introducing the Orion US choco pie on the left, Orion Korean on the right.

The first thing I noticed was that the US version is smaller. The picture makes the US ganache seem shinier because of the lighting but it really isn’t.

The US cake is just minimally thicker at the most. Two other side-by-side comparison showed more of the size difference.

 

I didn’t take any comparison pictures of the Lotte and Orion US versions but they are pretty similar overall. The only slight difference I noticed was that sometimes the Orion cake was a little softer.

So there you go. I got some other snacks as part of the care package but they will have to wait for another post later.

Hope everyone has a fun Independence Day!  Stay cool and safe!

Braised Black Cod with Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms

Some time last October, Trader Joe’s had black cod on sale. I never bought frozen seafood from TJ before but it was the perfect opportunity to final try Morimoto’s braised cod recipe from his book Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking. You can actually find a copy of his recipe here if you don’t have a copy of the cookbook.

I love braised fish dishes. And since I’ve had one of the braised fish dishes at one of Morimoto’s restaurant before, I was pretty sure this was going to be delicious. Yup, it was wonderfully delicious, one of those where we could just kept eating until our bellies popped. I only had 1.5 pounds of black cod so I decided to half the remaining ingredients in the recipe. There was plenty of yummy sauce with lots to spare (drizzle that over some steamy white rice, yum!). Made me wish I bought an extra piece or two of black cod.

As a side, I just used what I had in the fridge. Some sauteed mushrooms and spinach with garlic. Very quick to throw together.

You’ll need:

  • Rinsed spinach (about a bunch), make sure all the grit and dirt is gone
  • sliced button mushrooms (about 8-10, more if you like, Creminis are nice too)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon low sodium chicken broth (optional)

In a skillet on medium heat, butter and EVOO. Add mushrooms and salt, saute until mushroom is brown. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add spinach, Tamari,  and chicken broth (optional) and cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately.

My mouth is watering now just thinking about this. Oh yeah, one other thing, I julienned some green onions (soaked in ice water for a few minutes to make them curl) and fresh ginger to garnish the top of the black cod. Purely optional. As a matter of fact, I remembered about these just as we were about to scarf enjoy our dinner. It didn’t add a whole lot to the dish IMO but it did make it look prettier.