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Gyuudon June 6, 2010

Posted by lonegamer in Cooking.
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It’s been just about a week since moving into my new apartment, and tonight I made something new, one of my favourites from Japan – Donburi! Donburi is a delicious bowl of meat and vegetables served over rice, often with an egg topping. I used beef in mine, which makes it ぎゅうどん (gyuudon, literally “beef bowl”). I followed this recipe because it was one of the simpler ones and I wanted to get the basics down before trying something more complicated. I used green beans as my vegetable, which I will admit I don’t remember having on a don before, but it was pretty delicious. I also seasoned the meat with salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne to give it a bit of extra kick. I guess I’ve grown to like a bit of spice in my food. I considered adding garlic powder with the scallion, but it didn’t feel right. Maybe I should have used some onion powder, or used more onion, as that flavour didn’t come across as well.

The beef was a little tough, I will need to cook it a little less or tenderize it for next time. I’ll also need to get larger bowls for proper presentation. All in all, it was delicious and I am quite happy with it. It’s just my nature to nitpick.

Beef donburi in the new apartment

I haven’t found my camera yet. It’s in a box somewhere, I’m just not sure which one. Until then, cell phone pictures. I’m strongly considering making katsu kare in the next couple weeks. Cooking with Dog‘s video looks pretty straightforward.

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Equipment brands May 8, 2010

Posted by lonegamer in Cooking, Meta, Personal, Projects.
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I know, I know, I haven’t been posting. I’ve been busy with work and just not motivated to cook anything interesting. Also, given my position as an employee at Relic, it’s not exactly kosher for me to talk about video game ideas any more. Not like I posted much before So, the blog’s going to be focused entirely on cooking now, articles online that warrant more than a Facebook link and quick comment for me to dissect, and critiques of games I’ve been playing. For example, the latest privacy changes to Facebook and why my account is stripped of almost all information, and my disappointment with Final Fantasy XIII, especially the latter part.

For the meat of the post, though – I am moving out in June, into a pretty decent new-ish apartment in New Westminster, near the Skytrain. I’m going to need to buy my own pots and pans, and kitchen knives, and could use some recommendations. A good friend’s former boss at EA is a trained chef and once upon a time, recommended All-Clad pots and pans, and GLOBAL knives. I’d like to hear more suggestions on what other people use, or the brands they’ve tried and didn’t have success with. I’m by no means a trained chef; I’m decidedly an amateur who wants to become a better cook and make delicious, eye-catching food.

To that extent, I should really research the different materials that go into modern cooking equipment. Why is copper so good? Why stainless or aluminium? What about ceramics for ovenware? There’s too much I don’t know right now.

Anyway, input desired.

Breakfast for Dinner – Omelettes January 24, 2010

Posted by lonegamer in Cooking.
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So I came back from Japan safely back in November, cooked a bit, and didn’t bother to blog about it.  I’ve made sushi twice and my stirfry once, using a new wok I got over Christmas.  But that’s not what this post is about.   This post is about the omelettes, hashbrowns, and cinnamon toast I made for dinner tonight!

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Going clockwise, there’s chopped genoa salami, tomato, Yukon gold potato, green onion, and cheddar cheese.  The salami, tomato, and green onion went in a pan with some margarine and cooked over medium heat, becoming the filling for my omelettes.

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The hashbrowns were straightforward.  Chop the potatoes and put them in a pan with a little oil over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally after the first 10 minutes to prevent sticking and evenly cook the sides.  Salt and pepper was to be added at the end, but I put it in after the first 10 minutes to draw out more flavour.

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I’ve never made an omelette before so I wasn’t quite sure how to work with it.  Once they started to cook and I wasn’t pushing liquid around I started to get a feel for them.  On with the fillings!

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The cinnamon toast was easy.  Lightly toast the bread, apply margarine and a mix of cinnamon and white sugar, toast more.

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Everything came out really well.  I’m not normally an egg person but I would have this again and experiment with different fillings.

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Day 5 – WAK Japan, Teramachi November 10, 2009

Posted by lonegamer in Cooking, Japan.
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Today was a day of learning. Also of a little bit of frustration but everything worked out in the end. As mentioned I had booked some courses with WAK Japan to do some origami and learn how to make teriyaki chicken and sushi. I had no problems getting where I had to go on the subway, but my details for the last leg weren’t quite specific enough and I got lost. 😦 10 minutes late after asking many people for help, someone misread the address and dropped me back at Marutamachi station. Hustling back, I made a quick stop in an internet cafe (Y400 for the first 30 minutes, I used 2 minutes, sigh) and it turns out I was less than a block away from my destination.

I finally made it half an hour late, paid, and was able to catch up. It turns out everything was one on one, I had small groups in mind but that was not the case! The instructor was forgiving and happy to see me. She was worried I had cancelled, and said she does not see many male students for cooking. In this session, along with the main course, I learned how to make miso soup and komatsuna to kamaboko no karasimisoae, a salad of Chinese cabbage and boiled fish paste. The dressing is miso-based and delicious. After eating, it was time for origami. Not much to say here, I made a kabuto, candy dish, spinning top, and a jumping frog. The time went by quickly.

Faced with a three hour break until my sushi lesson around dinner time, and light rainfall, I wandered over to the nearby park to orient myself and figure out what to do. Turns out, it’s the park containing the Imperial Palace grounds! Suddenly I was oriented in that I knew I was near where I was two days ago, and the abridged map in the tour book I got for my birthday confirmed it. The rain let off so I spent some time sitting on a park bench reading it, and decided to head for the central shopping district south of my current position. My goal was “Duty Free Kyoto”, an English-friendly electronics shop to get that backup battery for my camera. I didn’t make it there, as I found a camera shop that did the trick for me. nikon no denchi o motte imasu ka?

I wandered around the main drag for a bit and found Sofmap, a five level electronics store. I imagine Akihabara is full of such stores, I’ll see in a week and a bit. Anyway, it was full of DVDs (largely of anime) and games, and had an Apple section and what appeared to be a computer repair area on the same level as the PC software. The top level appeared to be all eroge given the overabundance of pink. Japanese culture seems very open about this sort of thing, unlike Western culture. In shopping streets like Doubutsuenmae and Teramachi, every store is proudly displaying their wares. Let’s just say I saw my fair share of frills walking around.

Back to electronics, though. I saw Ace Attorney 1-4 lined up for Y1850 each, and the International editions of most Square Enix RPGs in recent memory, including FF12 International Zodiac Job System. I considered buying it but I didn’t know if it had an English mode or if I really wanted to try playing 12 again. FF12I ZJS fixes one of my issues, the License Board, but not Gambits. Anyways, turns out it has English VA and Japanese text, moving on. I also saw Ace Attorney Investigations, in Japanese of course, for Y2680. I was incredibly tempted, but ultimately I just don’t know enough kanji to be able to attempt to play. I’ll just have to wait for the English version in February.

Back on the street, I saw a fancy-looking burger place, Mos Burger. I think at some point I really need to have a burger or two in Japan, just to see how they compare to Western burgers. I mean, not all burgers are equal, and some look really appetizing, I just have to figure out what they are. Fortunately it looks like most of the menu is written in kana.

Another place I might have to go is Japanese KFC. Both locations I’ve seen so far have had statues of Colonel Sanders outside, but today’s was dressed up as Santa Claus. I’m not sure what’s up with Christmas in Japan. I’ve seen places that have “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas” permanently written onto their stores. I mean, carved into the wall, clearly by owner’s intent. Interesting…

I bought myself a Fullmetal Alchemist capsule toy, Y300 but it’s bigger than the other capsules I’ve seen around. On the note of FMA, yesterday when I was buying my ticket for the cruise around Osaka Bay, the radio was playing Tsunaide Te, the current closing theme for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. When I was having kushikatsu on the 6th, Golden Time Lover, the opening theme, came on the radio. I guess anime themes are pulled from the local music scene, or radio versions are made after they’ve been on shows? I dunno.

A vending machine later I’ve still managed to avoid buying duplicate bottled water, which is quite a feat. I guess there are local brands in Kyoto and Osaka contributing. It’s kind of silly, I know, but it’s fun and I’m applying the same thing when I get any other drink, try to avoid duplicates, try new things. Who knows when I’ll be back?

I wandered into an arcade and saw a game that is awesome purely for the nerd factor: Gundam VS Gundam NEXT. It’s like Virtual ON, but with mobile suits from a wide variety of Gundam series, and one joystick instead of two. It’s also 2v2. You’ve got the stick for movement, left and right attacks, jump/boost, and change targets. Left and right attack simultaneously is your mid attack, and somehow you could call another unit for aid. I didn’t figure that out. I played as my favourite from Wing, Heavyarms, and had some fun blowing enemies up from afar.

Back to WAK Japan to make sushi! This time I was early, as I gave myself plenty of time to find the place again. Sides with the sushi were miso soup and a spinach salad with a ground sesame seed dressing. I preferred the previous salad, but this was still good. The instructor had already prepared rice, we made and added a vinegar dressing and mixed, then left it to cool. This rice got incredibly sticky, by the way, but was easy to work with for making sushi. The sushi was filled with carrot, cucumber, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette, surprisingly delicious), imitation crab, and smoked salmon. Accordingly these ended up being the largest pieces of sushi I’ve seen in a long time. Before I forget, the tamagoyaki was two eggs with sugar and dashi, I think.

Before I leave I think I need to get a makiyakinabe, a small rectangular pan, to make tamagoyaki. I also need to find some makisu, bamboo mats used to make sushi. Apparently I can find the latter in Y100 stores, but I’ll have to ask Angelica about the former. She said she knows a place where I can get good chopsticks before, and I’m sure when I get home everyone’s going to want me to make authentic Japanese food.

Finally, it was pouring rain on my way back to the hotel and I got soaked. Overcast? Yeah right.

Photos

Greater Chicken Quasedillas of Awesome +3 October 31, 2009

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Back in May, I posted about some awesome chicken quasedillas I made.  I’ve made them a few times between then and now, and I’ve improved things a bit.  First, I added cayenne pepper, blending it in with the cheese.  A year ago, who would have thought I’d be adding more heat to a recipe?  I guess I’m over my dislike of spicy food.

The bigger improvement is in my cooking technique.  With all the stuff I put in these things, it frankly just doesn’t work well to go with the sandwich approach of layering tortilla shell, filling, second tortilla shell.  Observe the less-falling-out-itude while in the pan:

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Accordingly, doesn’t it look much nicer on a plate when the filling is inside the quasedilla instead of falling out?  There is still the issue, however, of simply having too much stuff in them.  The filling sometimes comes out when slicing, but maybe I just need larger shells for that.  Or less filling.  But that would decrease the level of awesome.  A big part of why these are so awesome is that there’s so much good stuff jammed into them.

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Red Jambalaya October 14, 2009

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This post is only a month overdue!  Oh well.  Way back in September, I was still cooking a bunch of new stuff up, and the latest thing worth posting about was this shrimp jambalaya I made.  So here it is!  I started with red and yellow peppers and white onion.

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To this I added tomatoes, basmati rice, cayenne pepper, thyme, and garlic.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough, use a white rice for this recipe, dark rice just doesn’t work.

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The vegetables went in first with some oil, then the rice and seasonings, let me tell you there were some real nice sizzles and aromas going on as this got going.

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Soon I added stock and let it simmer away and reduce for about half an hour.  After that I added the shrimp (the recipe calls for small pieces, so jumbo shrimp would need to be sliced up), let it sit for a few minutes to cook the shrimp, and served.

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As it turns out, I don’t like shrimp.  Still, Mom absolutely loved it.  The vegetables were good, but as I said, for this kind of dish you really need white rice.  Dark rice simply doesn’t take in the flavours the same way.  Next time I think I will try the meat-based variant in my book.

Cooking again September 13, 2009

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With the new job, I’ve been slacking on my cooking. Last Saturday I stopped being lazy about it and made a new recipe! I picked up some basmati rice and cooked it with onions, then topped it with a vegetable stir-fry and some teriyaki chicken. It didn’t work as well as I would have liked, unfortunately. It was still decent, but there were some things I need to keep in mind if I do this particular dish again.

  • The rice needs another minute or two to cook through and soften up.
  • Less onion, it overpowered the rice.
  • Mushrooms let out a ton of water while stir-frying. I shouldn’t have to drain a stir-fry.
  • More chicken.

No pictures from last week, but I’m definitely making sure to post pictures from this week. Shrimp jambalaya!

Chicken Quasedillas of Awesome +2 May 29, 2009

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Potato salad didn’t work so well last week, in no small part because I used too much parsley.  Sunday night (yeah, I’m five days late in posting this), I made some chicken quasedillas, based on a recipe in the ever-useful new cookbook.  The recipe called for grated cheese, scallion, green chilis, and salsa.  I ditched the chilis, added red onion and peppers (red and yellow).  The Old Dutch southwest salsa has a nice kick to it, there’s corn, black bean, more onion, and jalapeno in there without setting my mouth on fire.  The salsa went inside, not just on the side.

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The book recipe had no chicken, but because I was making a meal out of it, I wanted to add protein.  When I was picking up the tortilla shells, I noticed a pack of “Chicken Taco” seasoning.  I thought it might be interesting to use that instead of the normal barbecue seasoning, so I picked it up.  And it really worked well.  Lately we’ve been using Cattle Boyz barbecue sauce, it’s different and absolutely delicious.  The new seasoning improved the flavours even more!  One downside, because it was in a pouch, not a shaker, it was difficult to evenly distribute on the chicken.

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After heating a skillet and putting some oil in, quasedilla construction began in the skillet.  I did them one at a time, a few minutes per side, and as they finished I put them in the oven to keep them warm while I worked on the rest.  Top left, you can see the first one made, which didn’t brown enough, but was still delicious.

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Once everything was said and done, I sliced them into quarters using a pizza cutter, and served them up.  Mom had salsa and Helluva Good dip, I ate them without any additional sides.  Mom’s the quasedilla fan in the house, and she said they were better than any restaurant quasedilla she’s ever had!  They really were delicious, quite possibly the best thing I’ve made yet out of the book.

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Parsley’s sappin’ mah salad! May 17, 2009

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Last night, I tried the potato salad recipe out of my cookbook. I made up the vinaigrette; the vinegar taste was a bit stronger than I expected but I figured it would work out in the end. The ingredients in the potato salad seemed pretty straightforward: Red potato, onion, the vinaigrette, with a number of optional things that could be added as well. I added some chopped celery. The last ingredient, and the one that seemed to wreck the flavour, was the parsley. I’ve never seen parsley used as anything other than a garnish, but this one wanted a half cup of minced fresh parsley leaves.

I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe I got a little too much stem in with the leaves. Maybe I didn’t mince finely enough. As someone who hasn’t minced before, a herb like parsley is difficult to work with. From experience dealing with brown sugar, I packed the parsley into the measuring cup until it was quite full at half a cup. When I stopped packing it in, the cup was a little over full. In any case, when I mixed everything together, the parsley overwhelmed the other ingredients and it was quite foul tasting.

When discussing this on IRC, Peter linked me to a recipe off the Food Network he normally makes, then cursed me for making him have a craving for potato salad. Mom tried some when she got home, and observed the potatoes were breaking apart. She suggested, for next time: Less vinegar, more potatoes, cook the potatoes whole before slicing them, try cilantro instead of parsley (and less of it), more celery, maybe add bacon.

Worth a try, I guess. But not right away, there are other things on my “to-cook” list. In any case, we had romaine in the fridge so I was able to make a quick Caesar up to go with the burgers instead.

Mother’s Day May 10, 2009

Posted by lonegamer in Cooking.
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How to Cook Everything strikes again!  After the successful stir-fry two weeks ago, I’m feeling pretty confident in my cooking skills.  Plus, I was behind on my plan to cook something new each week.  So, I made two new recipes for dinner tonight!  First up, the main, homemade gnocchi!  Gnocchi is basically potato and flour, but it still a challenging recipe because I don’t work with dough all that much, and when I do, it’s usually cookie dough, which doesn’t require kneading or rolling out for slicing.

First, the potatoes boiled in their skins for 45 minutes.  I know boiling potatoes aren’t the most interesting thing to look at, but I think the still of boiling water is kind of cool.

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After that, I removed their flesh (very easy, it was literally falling off) and started mashing them with flour, salt, and pepper.  I know this post is less colourful than the stir-fry post, but mashed potatoes aren’t that colourful unfortunately.

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After kneading and rolling out the dough, the I boiled the gnocchi and prepared to bake them with sauce and cheese.  Mom loves cheese, so there’s a base of gnocchi, then layers of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and finally cheddar.  As I’m getting out and cycling more, I’m less worried about the fat.

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Here’s the finished product, which was amazingly delicious.  I served it with a side Caesar salad, but that’s not exciting enough to take pictures of.  Maybe a little too much cheese, though…

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End result: Delicious and just about the right amount of sauce.  A bit starchy, of course, given the potato base, and the cheese was quite gooey, to Mom’s delight.  Parmesan was available on the side.  Not much was left after we were through with it.  Dessert was even better.  The recipe was for blueberry cobbler, but I couldn’t find any fresh blueberries, so I went with mixed berries (strawberrry and raspberry).  The raspberries added a very pleasant kick to the dish.  Here’s six cups of berries tossed with 1/2 a cup of sugar.

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While working on the crust, I had a slight mix-up with my choice of tools.  I thought I could get by with the blender, but it could not blend the necessary stick of butter in with the dry ingredients, so I had to pull out the food processor (which we thankfully had) and transfer the ingredients over.  The food processor did its job well and I had a well-blended crust batter, which I then added egg and vanilla to.

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As you can see on the right, dishes are starting to pile up in the sink.  I topped the cobbler with the crust batter, and into the oven it went!

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I wasn’t quite sure to expect, the main reason I wanted to make the cobbler, to be honest, was because I saw Guy Fieri making a delicious-looking cobbler earlier this week.  Mom’s allergic to nuts, so I couldn’t use his recipe, though I guess I could have tried substituting something for the almonds, or just leaving them out entirely.  Here’s how it turned out (the remaining gnocchi is on the right):

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There was a lot more liquid than I expected in the finished product, but it was incredibly delicious, especially after putting a little bit of vanilla ice cream on top.  It may have been even better than the gnocchi, it’s hard to say.

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So, yeah!  Ryan.mCookingSkill++;

Now I just need to figure out how to top this next week, and stay on the bike.