Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Meat-and-Potatoes Kind of Dinner

People always ask us if we saved the top tier of our wedding cake to eat on our anniversary.  The answer is no.  First of all, I (Marilyn) will be out of the country on our first anniversary.  Second, and more pertinently, we simply have no space to waste on old cake with Wes's habit of incessantly picking up pounds upon pounds of protein from the market or Costco every time he sees a good deal or an irresistibly beautiful marbled piece of meat, which happens a lot more frequently than you would think.  The good thing is, we always have something available to host last-minute dinners or to bring to unforeseen potlucks.  So, when Grace and Thomas came to visit us in Pasadena, we promptly removed one select porterhouse and one prime New York steak from our meat library.  We needed to clear space for some fresh loaves of bread from Schat's Bakery anyway, which we were inevitably going to visit during our upcoming trip to Mammoth.

Wes allowed the steak to dry out for just a day in the refrigerator, uncovered.  A quick pre-sear on the patio and a 3.5-mile hike at Eaton Canyon later, the steaks were cooked sous-vide to a tender medium rare and ready to be torched and served.  Wes also baked some blistered rainbow potatoes while I whipped up some maple balsamic brussels sprouts and a salad with from-scratch dressing.  It was a nice, hearty dinner which we didn't have to put all that much thought into.  Now, what we did save from our wedding was: wine.  Since we were able to bring our own, we overcompensated and ended up with a few extra cases of red, white, and rose--perfect for times like this!  We had a bottle of red between the four of us and polished off every last bit of food.  It was an ideal ending to a fun day!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Chasing the Snow

I lived the first six years of my life in Long Island, New York.  A vivid jumble of loose memories gather in the back of my head from those early years - chicken McNuggets dipped in honey, the soaring steeple of a familiar church at the base of a sloping road, the pine Christmas tree at my preschool, the steel rodded spinning platform and chipped wooden see-saws at the playground, and of course, snow.  Drifting to the ground through the bay window, coating the stout bushes surrounding the lawn, obscuring the Power Ranger house in the school yard.  It was nothing but magical to me.  When I came to California, I initially wondered if there would be snow here, but I basically forgot about it and moved on.  As for Wes, an LA native, snow was always associated with winter sports.  It wasn't a backyard occurrence and if there was a large amount of it, it would most likely have been man-made.

Last weekend, the two of us went up to Big Bear.  Along with throngs of snowboarders and skiiers, we wanted to experience the culmination of the week's El Niño storms in full force, since neither of us have gone snowboarding in real, a hundred percent heaven-sent snow.  As we drove to the base of the mountain, our GPS directed us to the back route, where supposedly there would be less traffic, but more ice.  Glad that we went this way - the scenery was stunning.  It seemed like we had crossed this imaginary line, where brown ended and white began.  I was immediately taken back to Long Island.  Seeing thickly padded snow on tree branches, roadsides, rooftops, and street signs felt different and more nostalgic than simply seeing snow on the slopes.  I was so excited that I took a bunch of pictures on my phone.  Wes was focused on keeping the car from sliding out from under us, but he was able to appreciate with what mental and emotional devices he could muster at the time.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hainan Chicken Under Pressure

Still riding on his success with the St. Louis style ribs, Wes decides that he wants to attempt the unknown: Hainan chicken in the Instant Pot pressure cooker.  We love Hainan chicken rice.  Wes used to buy the cold boxed version from Phoenix Food Boutique as his go-to weekend bachelor meal.  We took two orders from Savoy Kitchen to-go on the day of our engagement photoshoot; I ate it in the car with my curled hair and manicured fingernails.  Wes's mom would make heaps of the ginger sauce for us to take home when we stopped by.  This dish is one of the rare exceptions to our rule of never duplicating orders when we eat together.  With Hainan chicken rice, we each get our own, with extra ginger sauce on the side.   There's something about the simplicity of it that makes it so craveable.

We have made Hainan chicken at home before, using the sous vide method and two chicken leg quarters.  This time, though, Wes brought home a whole chicken.  He's always trying to make a statement with his food, but I guess I'm not complaining.  We had everything else on hand already, and by "everything else," I mean like three other ingredients.  It wasn't complicated at all and turned out great!  Wes plated it restaurant-style, and we totally dived into it like fiends after the photos were taken.  We broke our rule and had to share it this time, but there was more than plenty to go around, and we didn't have to trouble a waiter for more ginger sauce.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Pot that Exceeded My Expectations - St. Louis Style Ribs

I never cave to Wes's random urges to purchase the latest gadgets and shiny new toys, even if they are kitchen gadgets and cooking toys.  I like my wok and wooden paddle and I barely know how to operate half the things in our place, whether it is the patio grill or the waffle maker.  It's half my embarrassment of the consumeristic indulgence of it all and half fear of feeling more and more clueless in my own kitchen.  But anyway, Wes decides on Black Friday that he really wants to have an Instant Pot pressure cooker.  And of course, I rejected the idea without even finding out what the contraption did.  The reason I actually typed in my credit card numbers and clicked "Place Order" was that Wes gave in and stopped bugging me about it.  I was impressed with his self-restraint and wanted to reward him.  Or maybe it's because I knew that with a chef like him around, there's no way we can't win with a new piece of kitchen equipment.