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Oct. 14th, 2008

Taiwanese Sesame Oil Chicken

Sesame Oil Chicken is one of Taiwan's most popular dishes—it's basically a chicken soup with sesame oil and ginger. My mom taught me this dish when I was a sophomore in college, and throughout the last 8 years I haven't changed the recipe except by adding some garlic. That's because I sneak garlic into every meal make, except for my PB&J sandwich. And cereal.

Joseph, Quinlan, and Ansel.

I created a play-by-play recipe for my brother-in-law, Joseph. Quinlan told me his older brother is really busy with work but still tries to cook as much as he can. Sesame Oil chicken is simple and quick, however it you'll find that it has more depth and dimension than your typical chicken soup. 

First of all, start cooking some white rice.
Sesame oil chicken takes only 20-30 minutes to cook.

Chicken wings & drummettes   (1 pkg)
Chicken drumsticks   (4-6 pieces)

Sesame Oil   (3 tbs.)
Garlic    (2 cloves crushed)
Ginger   (1 bulb sliced thin strips)
Salt       (1 tsp. or more)


Chicken Preparation depends on what chicken you found at the store:

Whole wings should be cut into wings & drummettes (discard wing tips).
Drumsticks don't need prep but require a longer cook time.
A package of already-cut wings & drummettes is the way to go.

Over medium-high heat, allow your pot to get very hot.
Add sesame oil. Stir in ginger.
Let them sizzle for a minute and enjoy the magical and nutty aroma.
This is the best part!

Add chicken and sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt.
Brown chicken pieces until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Add water to cover all pieces (I added more after this picture).

Reduce to medium heat.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes for wings.
30 minutes for drumsticks.

Add salt to broth if needed.
Serve as shown, with white rice. Makes 6 servings.

I hope you all enjoy it! Let me know what you think.



Sep. 4th, 2008

i guess i'll call it "shrimp linguine alfredo"

Coming from an immigrant Taiwanese family, I remember always going to loud and rowdy Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles, but rarely any American ones.  I had to learn about a lot of popular "American" dishes by eating TV dinners while my parents were at work on the weekends:

Salisbury Steak, Swedish Meatballs, Beef Stroganoff, Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo was a favorite of ours.  My brother and I would eat that in front of the TV—we used to take turns microwaving them so at least one of us could keep up with the ongoing TV show.  So I finally took a shot at it, and this is what I came up with.

Shrimp Linguine Alfredo (with bacon, broccoli, and mushrooms)

I was very pleased.  The natural sweetness of the broccoli contrasted very well against the strong cheese sauce, and the shrimp was delicately meaty (unlike chicken chunks).  I basically grabbed a random recipe on and modified it like crazy. 

1. Boil linguine
2. Steam broccoli
3. Pan fry bacon, chop
4. Saute shrimp, olive oil, garlic, seasoned salt, dried parsley & basil, white pepper
5. Saute butter, onions, mushrooms
5. Stir in half & half, milk, flour, parmesan cheese, salt & black pepper
6. Stir all cooked ingredients together.

It's quite a process but it was all worth it. Just trying to get better everyday!


Sep. 2nd, 2008

aikou's mid-life crisis

Aikou used to be a free spirited long-haired feral cat from the Su Casa apartment complex on 39th Street and Speedway in Austin, Texas.  He loved people who had food, but had a major attitude with those who didn't.  None of those people could pet him or hold him.  Actually, no one could hold him—it's a feral thing.  He was a homeless jerk, so I adopted him so I could show him some love.  But he still turned out to be a jerk.

I remember this one day my college roommate, Stephanie, was petting him as they rested next to each other on the loveseat.  After a few seconds, which was more than enough for him, he stood up, stepped away and out of arm's reach from her, and laid back down on the loveseat.  To this day, I think that was one of the funniest, coolest, and most jackass thing he's ever done.  

"No food? Bug off, man."


It's now been 7 years since I grabbed him off of the streets in 2001.  He's strictly indoor and has had plenty of time to flip through GQ and Instyle magazines during the daytime.  He was still a difficult and unaffectionate cat this whole time, until about 2007.  All of a sudden he's clinging to us every minute we're home, taking our laps into his possession whenever possible. He also likes to stay lean, and he HAS to have a close shave.  
"I'm a sexy lap thief."

 He's stolen numerous laps in his lifetime:






Sep. 1st, 2008

Tis the freakin' season.

I'm not sure about you, but I cook up bacon religiously.  I went through a number of bacon-only fasts during college (Austin, TX), and I still worship it every weekend.  With such devotion to bacon (and now to cast iron), I realized that I need something precious to cook these strips of holiness the proper way.  And for this simple need, I'm sure as hell not gonna buy a $120 enameled cast iron pan for that.  {:^)

After a quick trip to a camping surplus store today, I found myself seasoning a 12" Lodge cast iron skillet ($20). I went with Jack McGrew's advice for seasoning. 

Step 1:  Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil.
Please note that successful seasoning requires the presence of cats.

Step 2:  Dry upside down for 2-4 days.
Step 3:  1 hour in the gas oven at 500 degrees.
This was done 1 day later. Note the dark brown sheen and shaved cat.
Steps 4 through 1,000:  Use it, use it, use it!

I just completed seasoning the pan in the oven today, and I think the next thing to do is to cook lots of bacon!


Aug. 31st, 2008

No wedding, no cookware, no problem.

My husband and I were married in Dallas County court on June 4th, 2007.  We never planned to have a wedding, and so far we still haven't regretted it.  However our house is full of our old college stuff, including our cookware.  I love Quinlan, and I love cooking for him.  But for the price of a pedicure, I could've been cooking safer and tastier food on this fabulous piece of equipment.  and piece of art.

Update International Super Steel 12" frypan

For four years I've been preparing my precious meals on scratched up Teflon crapware from college, which may been turning my innocent stirfries into small doses of poison.  After a month of researching cooking materials, I carefully chose pieces of cookware that would add to my life.  and peace of mind.  and impulsive purchasing. 

Update International Super Steel 12" frypan with 4.5 quart Saute Pan

It's nice to be an amateur cook using professional cookware.  These pieces are constructed of stainless steel for durability, and the bottoms contain a layer of highly conductive aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel.  The hollow handle is cool and comfortable, and the handles are welded to the pan rather than riveted.  I owe my happiness over these pans to a helpful internet citizen who had previously documented her cookware research online and was nice enough to provide loads of information to me.  Thanks Dawn!

Just an hour ago, I seared my ribeye steak beautifully and evenly on the frypan, using a medium flame and just a little oil.  I pan fried bacon afterwards, reserved the grease in the pan, and deglazed with chicken stock to create a beef/pork/chicken gravy. The saucepan boiled water much more quickly than my old crapware, and boiling potatoes was a total breeze.  In about 40 minutes I had a ribeye steak with mashed potatoes and homemade gravy. 

I've also been hearing about the magic of cast iron, and began researching that as well.  Apparently cast iron cookware comes in two forms: raw cast iron ($) and enameled cast iron ($$$$).  Since I'm attracted to nice and expensive things, I bought the very first enameled cast iron object I saw:  a Staub dutch oven at Tuesday freakin' Morning.

 Staub 4-quart dutch oven "La Cocotte"
It's lovely.  I have lots of plans for this one.  Braised ribs, lamb chops, pork belly, stews, etc.


Aug. 30th, 2008

desert storm

Tucson, Arizona is sunny most of the year, but when it's not...



it's even more beautiful than a boring sunny day.


Aug. 28th, 2008

meet my cats

Please meet Aikou and Scooter.

"Hi, nice to meet you, but this bowl is empty."



roasted asparagus and mushrooms

My mother never roasted anything, therefore I never did either.  I recently discovered the convenience of roasting vegetables (like asparagus).  Asparagus always intimidated me in the produce section, but I think I found a way to defeat it.  It took only 15 minutes.


1 bundle asparagus, broken at natural snapping point
**2 trays white mushrooms, stems removed
**1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
**2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil

**optional if you're running low on time, ingredients, or energy.

1.  Mix in a bowl, sprinkle with salt/pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
2.  Place on foil in roasting pan. Roast at 350-deg for 15 minutes.
3.  Serve to starving loved one.


bolognese = that meaty spaghetti sauce you always wanted!

It was one of those days where I was flipping from TLC... to Bravo... to Food Network...

Food Network!  Apparently Mario Batali's sous chef on Iron Chef has her own show: "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef."

She explained the secrets of making Pasta Bolognese, a traditional Italian meat and pasta dish. I went online, found her recipe, and gave it a shot!  Here's my take:

brown the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic puree -- 30 min.

brown ground lamb, pork, and beef -- 20 min.

brown tomato paste, add red wine (cab) -- 20 min.

add water, thyme, and basil. reduce twice. -- 1.5 hr.

add a can of diced tomatoes, reduce -- 30 min.

3 out of 3 people who tasted it, loved it.  I like to serve over linguine or fusilli.



Apr. 1st, 2008

chaotic biotics

i took some antibiotics which killed off the friends that have been with me my whole life—the ones in my gut.

hopefully i can flush myself out with yogurt, and i possibly have new friends in the end. sweet.