salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies sous vide hamburgers stir-fried fresh rice noodles with beef sourdough waffles

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winter, we hardly knew ya

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Recipe: sous vide hamburgers

Looking at my calendar, I see the first day of Spring is next week and I have two thoughts: 1) Woohoo, SPRING! and 2) Where the hell was winter? Winter visited us for about a week or two in February, but overall I think it dissed us for the season. We didn’t even get our skis tuned, and I was happy about that every time I ran over a rock in the backcountry (which I wasn’t happy about, but hey – I try to be positive). Now, with the sun rising ever higher in the sky, temperature plays into when you ski. That is… assuming there is snow to ski. I sometimes feel like I just want to give this ski season a big ole boot in the ass and shout “good riddance!” But then when I’m out there on the snow, I remember why I love skiing.

neva was soooooo excited to get out into the backcountry

both of them patiently waiting for me to take a photo

jeremy skins up crappy snow (but at least there is snow)

Last week, my dad texted me to ask at what temperature do I sous vide my burgers. Ever since I taught my parents how to text, they text me all the time with photos of their food, pictures of wine bottles, random reports of their activities (“We are shopping at Costco” – of course they are), selfies from their travels, texts that were meant for other people, and Googleable questions that require immediate responses. I thought I had blogged the recipe, but I hadn’t. So I checked my recipe notebook and sent Dad the various temperature ranges and times for different levels of doneness. I got a kissing emoji reply which meant that I had unlocked the Good Chinese Daughter achievement.

I hadn’t thought to sous vide burgers until my friend, Debra, mentioned that she prepares her burgers this way regularly. The first time we tried it, I couldn’t believe how juicy they were. And now we don’t prepare our burgers any other way.

salt, pepper, fish sauce, beef

You’re probably wondering what’s up with the fish sauce. This is a tip I learned from my friends, Todd and Diane: add a dash of fish sauce to your burgers for that extra umami blast. It doesn’t taste fish saucy, it just tastes damn good. Clearly, I pick up lots of excellent beta from my friends. The key is to have friends who know what they’re talking about. If you don’t want to use fish sauce, just add another half teaspoon of salt. And if you do want to use fish sauce, but need your burger to be gluten-free, there are some decent gluten-free fish sauce brands like Red Boat which is recommended by my friend, Shauna a.k.a. Gluten-free Girl (because I asked her specifically).

yes to the fish sauce

**Jump for more butter**

forever a noodle girl

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Recipe: stir-fried fresh rice noodles with beef

I’m always on the lookout for a good Chinese cookbook, and I tend to make tiny mental notes when my cooking friends rave about the same book. Last month, I got an email asking if I wanted a review copy of Chinese Soul Food by Hsiao-Ching Chou. I usually decline book reviews – it’s not worth my time unless it is something I am personally interested in checking out – but recalled a couple of pals had sung its praises.

chinese soul food by hsiao-ching chou

The good news is that the book is full of accessible and delicious home-style Chinese recipes and good information on ingredients, equipment, and techniques that are commonly utilized in Chinese cooking. The bad news (for me) is that I’ve already made and blogged some version of most of the recipes in the book. Happily, I was able to find a handful of recipes that I haven’t blogged before, and settled on a noodle dish. I will choose noodles over rice any day, but this stir-fried noodles with beef uses fresh rice noodles. A delightful compromise.

you can find fresh rice noodles in the refrigerated section of better stocked asian markets

mung bean sprouts, gai lan (chinese broccoli), water, hoisin sauce, kosher salt, cornstarch, flank steak, soy sauce, vegetable oil, fresh rice noodles

In her notes, Chou says if you cannot find gai lan, you can substitute other leafy greens including Chinese broccoli. Gai lan IS Chinese broccoli, so I think that may have been an editorial oversight. It’s true that you can use other leafy greens, but gai lan has great flavor and texture that pairs well with the chewy, delicate rice noodles. I increased the amounts of greens and sprouts and omitted the carrots because they do absolutely nothing for me. When the rice noodles are cold (they are usually refrigerated at my market), they are quite brittle. Allow them to come to room temperature or gently warm them in the microwave so they are pliable and easily separated. If you try to cook the noodles unseparated, you will have a giant blob of rice noodles with an uncooked center.

washed and chopped chinese broccoli, separated noodles, sliced beef, washed sprouts

mix the beef with soy sauce and cornstarch

stir-fry the beef

**Jump for more butter**

i’ve been doing it wrong

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Recipe: carnitas nachos

I’ve been watching reports of The South receiving snow and frigid temperatures for the past week while the good people of Colorado have been enduring daytime highs nearing 70°F in parts of the state. This kind of slight from Mother Nature hits me squarely in the heart. But she had not forsaken us, the patient (but somewhat depressed) skiers and lovers of mountain snow. On Saturday night, our temperatures dropped into the teens, and beautiful fluffy white snow graced our mountains and forests and trails by daybreak Sunday.

our top priority is that neva is plenty snuggy and warm

skinning up in 10°f and falling snow – perfect

jeremy was equally delighted with the fluffy fluff

As of Monday morning, the storm has (sadly) moved on and we are back to sunshine and wind. It’s always like that here in the Front Range: snow and blow. What used to be a beautiful blanket of snow on my deck has been sculpted into an art installation of sastrugi. At this point in our terribly underperforming winter, we will take any snow we can get. I recently realized that the Super Bowl is on the horizon and checked the date. That’s the day I want to ski, when sportsball fans will empty the slopes to indulge in pre-game festivities, rabid fan chest-thumping, screaming at television screens, and massive consumption of alcohol and appetizers. I am a huge fan of appetizers, the ever-tempting noncommittal meal. But for the longest time, I made nachos the wrong way. I thought they were simply tortilla chips with stuff piled on top. While not technically incorrect, it isn’t exactly right.

corn tortilla chips, shredded carnitas, cilantro, cheddar and jack cheeses, red onions, black beans, pickled jalapeño slices

I was made aware of the discrepancy between my nachos and restaurant nachos when we ordered some at happy hour a few years back. My version was akin to a cold nacho salad – more vegetable matter than anything else. No wonder the restaurant nachos were so addictive! They arrived hot and greasy, dripping with cheese, and with fatty bits of pork piled on top. Things were never the same after that and I figured out how to make my own mountain of crunchy, salty, spicy, cheesy addiction.

Start with a good tortilla chip. Thick and sturdy chips give you the structural advantage of loading each bite with as much stuff as you can fit, but I have to say that I like the delicate snap of a thinner chip (my current favorite is Trader Joe’s organic corn tortilla chips). It’s a matter of personal preference. You can choose whatever protein you like: chicken, beef, ground beef, pork, shrimp, tofu. Shredded, seasoned, grilled, fried. There is enormous flexibility, so customize away! I love shredded carnitas (sous vide carnitas), but you can skip the protein altogether to make it vegetarian friendly. Probably the most essential component of nachos, aside from the chips, is the cheese. I should say cheeses. First off, you need to use more cheese than you might assume, as it serves to bind everything together. Second, while cheddar brings great flavor to the nachos, jack cheese produces the creamy meltiness that I find so desirable. A combination of the two is the ticket.

shredding sharp white cheddar

cheddar and jack

**Jump for more butter**