Again I go MIA for a few weeks. The usual excuse: work gets in the way of me and the blog. I’ll eventually fix this situation but for now I can only work on my cooking/blogging with some restrictions and many interruptions. The good news: I relocated to LA and now I actually have a kitchen and all my kitchen gear out of storage. FINALLY. It’s awesome and the apartment gets a lot of sunlight which is a first. I can finally start doing more photography in natural light during the weekends. The other good news is that my new home is not even a block away from the awesome Marukai market on pico boulevard which leads me to…. shishamo. I had no idea what shishamo was until now. These beautiful sardine-looking fish are eaten whole after pan fried or deep fried. I didn’t use any batters but I think that’s my next shishamo project. They can make great appetizer or to garnish dishes. Their flavor has a ton of personality with sweet notes and a solid of presence.
Ok, this is a couple of weeks late but happy 4th of July to America! I had an amazing time celebrating with the people I love and the food I love. If you have been following this blog, just a day before the 4th of July I attended a butchering lesson, and I was eager to cook some of the pork bounty I had earned after 8 hours of hard work, sweat and blood, literally. Pork shoulder, slowly roasted in the oven, after a long and flavourful marinade overnight session fit the bill.
When I say 8 hours of hard work, I mean 8 hours. That’s how long it takes to butcher a whole pig the traditional way although I’m sure it goes faster without annoying photographers or eagerly curious students asking a bunch of silly questions like I found myself asking.
Before we go any further I want to warn you. I just participated in the killing of a pig. I also documented it with pictures. I will do my best to avoid excessively-graphic imagery but as you may know, the process of butchering an animal is a dramatic event so if you’re not comfortable with this kind of content kindly skip this post. I will stick to the facts and present this subject as mindfully and respectfully as possible and only to show and share my love and appreciation for food, cooking and all that it entails.
As a meat eater, I was feeling compelled to witness and participate in the butchering of an animal. I felt that without doing so… eating meat was just a convenient luxury, far removed from the harsh reality of taking life to feed people. I also wanted to participate out of respect for the animals and the butchering craft that I know so little about. I thought If I were to continue to eat meat, I needed exposure to the entire story. And not the theory which we can all look up somewhere. I needed to see what was really involved. There’s drama in the act of killing no matter how “humanely” the killing is carried out. Our butchering instructor minimized suffering and worked as swiftly as possible.
I’ve been busy at work and also looking for a new home here in LA. The search is over for now. I’m going to be renting out a place soon and by soon I mean in a week or so. I’ve been prepping for the move. I think I have pretty much everything ready. I’m excited to be living closer to work again and to have a bigger kitchen. The light inside the place is nice, soft but plentiful. So hopefully I will be doing a bit more natural light photography soon. I much rather use natural light but as you may know… I’m a late night cook. That’s when I have time.
I haven’t forgotten about my blog by the way. Pictures of food keep piling up on my hard drive week after week and I can’t seem to get in the rhythm of blogging or find a good window to do so. This is one hot summer in LA so my indoor kitchen cooking tends to be a bit more limited. No hot ovens or pots of boiling water but lots of sous vide cooking. I don’t have A/C in here either. I don’t have a yard or a grill so there’s that too. I’m thinking of getting an electric grill though. Something small, easy to clean and super hot. If you have any suggestions, please direct them my way.
I will admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of tamales in general until like 2 weeks ago. I had some amazing ones at the farmer’s market here in Brentwood. Usually, when I get them at other places it’s always same story… dry, boring, bland, like what’s the point of all this. I thought they were hopeless and could never understand their popularity… well, until the farmers market incident. That there changed my whole view on tamales. There was definitely hope! I went from “f-off tamales”… to… “I love tamales” in one bite. I also went straight to the groceries store and got a beautiful pork shoulder which I roasted in preparation for the tamale feast that was about to take place only a few days after.
I’m not mexican but I’m no stranger to corn masa flour either. I’m from venezuela, corn masa is the venezuelan equivalent of bread. We eat corn masa 7 days a week with pretty much every meal… although I still prefer bread personally (sorry guys! I do)..hmmmm bread…I love gluten too btw.
I’m also no stranger to pork. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you know piggies definitely go on the menu pretty often. And stuffing anything with pork is the most effective way to ensure success and popularity in the non-vegetarian world. I like to think I’m right in assuming this.
I’m in the other hand a bit of a newbie when it comes to cooking with chiles, specially dried ones. I’ve used them a few times in the past (in one occasion I had to evacuate my apartment, it was like a can of pepper spray went off in there after opening the pressure cooker, that was some serious heat my friends, which I could remember the kind of chile I was using) but I haven’t really experimented with them much since. So I figured, I have this beautiful piece of pork, I got these dry chiles, I have a renewed hope in the mexican staple… it’s inevitable. It must be. Tamales happened.
I chose the wrong time of the year to roast a 15 pound pork shoulder for sure. The heat wave that’s hitting southern California right now probably contributed to the amazing quality of the crackling I got. I mean, it is HOT and DRY in here! But that didn’t stop me. I wanted to make pork tamales really bad and starting with a perfectly roasted pork shoulder is what I consider key… ok, I don’t know if that’s how most traditional recipes approach it but that’s how I make pork tamales. I’ve found many recipes suggesting boiling the pork, which is fine, but roasting develops more flavor complexity. Guess what…. I love complexity sometimes. Sure, it will take longer, but it is SO WORTH IT.
This pork piece could be served as is, carved at the dinner table and you would definitely impress your dinner crowd. It looks amazing, extremely elegant! and it smells amazing as well. Whether you’re thinking of serving the roast straight or using the meat for far more ambitious applications let me break down the process of making this roast in 3 very easy steps.
The beauty of cooking pasta. I love cooking pasta because of how simple and delicious it is, even plain noodles are amazing. It really takes no effort to come up with an impressive meal. Throw together a a few ingredients and make a simple sauce. Done.
The simplicity of making pasta for dinner is undeniable and one of the reasons noodles are such a huge success pretty much everywhere, specially in my kitchen.
I love the versatility of pasta.
I love eggs and I love cooking them. They have been a constant in my cooking even before I took on cooking more seriously later on. Since I was little I loved cooking eggs. I remember hard boiling eggs with my mom, making omelettes, etc. Today… on a skillet, eggs have to be cooked as gently as possible… I love walks on the beach and sunsets and all that and I also love egg whites with no browning at all and egg yolks runny but not cold. It’s a fine balance and a fun challenge when making eggs for breakfast. My house could easily be an all-day breakfast joint. I love breakfast and I mostly it at non-breakfast times because either I’m too late for work or I feel way too lazy until about noon on weekends. Although… that’s not true… but some would disagree.
Do you need boiling water to cook eggs?
The terms hard-boiled or soft-boiled are a bit misleading. Specially at sea level 🙂 Eggs don’t need to reach 212F (100C) to get cooked. They cook way below boiling temperature but for the purpose of this post, let’s assume we’re using boiling water to cook them eggs which is what we’re all most familiar with. We can get into sub-boiling temp egg cooking at another time. Sous vide time can wait. You sous vide enthusiasts out there are familiar with the concept of waiting, so let’s wait.
The 10 minute egg.
Cooking soft boiled eggs can be tricky. There are way too many variables. Specially temperature-related variables which are difficult to control if not impossible, but let’s just say that within a reasonable margin of error they can be controlled. The more we know about the variables we wanna control the better. Let’s for now only focus on 2:
- Temperature of the egg.
- Temperature of the water.
What’s the internal temperature of an egg?
Cold eggs? room temperature eggs? somewhere in between? yeah.. I’m overwhelmed my self thinking about it and it’s not like we can stick a probe thermometer into an egg. Some people are ok with surprises and would “wing” it being ok with whatever outcome… sometimes, soft boiled eggs will be there, sometimes, overcooked rubbery HARDboiled instead…yay. Some people like you and me… we prefer to predict the result. Just like roasting or baking… it’s all the same. Controlling the outcome.
I hope all my US friends had a great long and relaxing weekend full of sun and plenty of grilling action. It has certainly been relaxing on my end but zero grilling. I’ve been busy working on a cheese making post and that has taken pretty much 2 full days of work in the kitchen and I hope to have the post ready sometime this week. I won’t give away any more details but I think it’s gonna be good!!!
What about these dogs? If you’re venezuelan or have visited that country you know we don’t grill our hotdogs, we boil them. I have no idea why they’re boiled but it’s awesome and I love them cooked this way. Having lived in the US for many years I know this way of making hotdogs can be an invite for a lot of questioning, eye rolling, funny remarks judging and confusion (that’s how controversial hotdogs can be) but hey, I too love them grilled dogs, or pan seared, deep-fried, straight out of the bag (I’m not kidding here).. my love of hotdogs knows no limits.
I love making pasta dishes because simplicity is usually the way to go. This is a simple but surprisingly incredible pasta dish, just a few ingredients ingredients and although the cooking times might seem a bit extensive, it takes about as much time as making bolognese pasta. In any case, if you’re interested in simple cooking and umami explosions read on.
Mushrooms don’t need a lot of help to shine. Their flavour can be incredible when well exploited. I love cooking them but I’m not a big fan of eating them raw though. The texture is great but the taste is bland in my opinion and I always find my self searing them on a hot skillet or over a grill to develop some flavour and then cooking them for a bit to reduce that water content. I figured I would simplify my mushroom pasta go-to recipe to its most basic form and highlight the main ingredient. Hence, this recipe has actually 3 or so ingredients.
If you like mushrooms and have tried a bunch of different ones you probably would agree that white mushrooms are not the most exciting of the bunch. Well… at least that’s kind of what I thought before trying this w approach explained here on this recipe. Every time I cook something I learn something new or reinforce something I have learned. I should have never blamed white mushrooms for not being interesting because they are and is just my ignorance getting in the way as usual. What can I say, I fell in love with white mushrooms all over again and would actually argue that I prefer them over shiitakes or even portobellos. Another great thing about white mushrooms is the cost. They are the cheapest at least where I live, so I bought 2 pounds of fresh and beautiful white mushrooms and headed back to my kitchen.
How to extract flavour.
If you’ve made your own stocks at home you know that simmering any ingredient in water for a long period of time will extract its flavor. I love pressure cooking and making stocks this way, specially vegetable stocks. It’s a lot faster. It also helps preserve flavor since there’s less evaporation of water in the process. Your house might not be as perfumed by what’s happening in the kitchen but that means the flavour is kept where it belongs. It that pot.