Category Archives: food

Treat Yourself

So, as a follow up to my SAD post

I feel it’s appropriate to clarify that the best thing to do when you want to eat a lot of carbs is to just eat a lot of carbs. The past few weeks have seen me whipping up heavy comfort food like there’s no tomorrow. The result of all this is that last night I had a spinach salad and it was possibly the best thing I have ever put in my mouth, ever. I guess my body finally reached a critical mass of buttered foods.

Since it’s been a while since I did a recipe, here’s one that’s a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, but only in the sense that it has a lot of all those things. Especially the last one. You’ve got your eggs (protein), your dairy (fat) and of course, toast (carbs). Also some parsley. That’s good, right? Right?

I got these ramekins ages ago from Cost Plus, which is my mother’s favorite store. I think I originally intended to use them to bake creme caramel and other custardy things, but so far I’ve only used them as prep bowls and to make these baked eggs. I learned this technique from an old coworker, who made breakfast for everyone a couple years ago during a three-day bakery potluck event that I may still be recovering from. Heavy as it is I should point out that I’ve only ever made this dish on work days, never on the weekend. Why I put myself and my loved ones through such gastrointestinal hurdles is beyond me, but it does make for an enjoyable start to the day.

Also notable is the use of garlic in a breakfast dish. IMO it’s the only thing keeping this from being overly rich, but if you’re not up to garlic mouth at 9 am you can leave it out. Other fresh herbs that would be nice are chives, maybe dill, but parsley is what I usually have, so hey. The bake time depends on how done you want your eggs. If you leave it so there’s a little jiggle in the center you get a nice sort of egg/fat soup that you can dip your toast in, but more often than not I forget to check the oven until the whole dang thing’s baked through. Which is still nice! It’s like a really well seasoned soft boiled egg. Basically there’s no way you can fuck it up because even if you overbake it it comes out tasty.

Baked Eggs

(serves 2)
4 whole eggs
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh parsley, minced
4 T. sour cream or creme fraiche
salt and pepper
Equipment: 2 buttered ramekins, a shallow pan to bake in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter the ramekins and put about half the garlic in the bottom of each, along with a tablespoon of sour cream and half the parsley. Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin, season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining garlic, sour cream and parsley, and place in the baking pan. Fill the pan with warm water until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekin and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Serve with toast.

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Big Pimpin’ in Seaside

It is my belief that Lewis and Clark,

Soggy and suffering from a recurring strain of malaria, were looking for one thing and one thing only when they stumbled into Seaside, Oregon. It wasn’t money or fame, or even a decent bed or the company of a good (hopefully syphilis-free) woman. It was the thing we all seek at one point in our lives. The thing that brings us together, binds man to sea and potato to shellfish.

That’s right. Clam Chowder.

“WELL WHERE THE FUCK IS IT???”

-M. Lewis, January 8, 1806

It wasn’t the chowder specifically that brought Yean and I to Seaside a couple weeks ago, but I will say that our journey did involve a lot of food hunting. Portland’s turned a bit chilly by now, but Seaside was still a comfortable mix of sunny and breezy. I always feel bad when we head to other places on the coast like Astoria, because we end up passing through Seaside without a second glance. We scoff at the Pig n’ Pancake and outlet shops and go on our merry way. But there’s more to seaside than whet you see along the highway! This is alarming to me, as someone from a beach town that’s pretty much exactly what you can see from highway 1.

Seaside is kind of like if Monterey and Santa Cruz had a baby. And then that baby started banging Pier 39. It was October, so it was a little on the dead side, but there’s a long touristy street with bright ice cream and fudge shops and semi-shady nautically themed restaurants/bars. At the end of that is a little turnaround with the statue from the top of the post, and a looooong hotel-lined boardwalk extending in either direction. We walked up and down it exactly 5,000 times.

I’m not ashamed to say our first stop was The Buzz On Broadway, an enormous candy shop boasting fudge, gummies, and A LOT of bacon-related goodies. Now, I am not one to be swayed by candy shop selections. I work with sugar all day. I’ve seen it all. And there’s no nostalgia factor for me because my parents did not let me eat that shit. But I am strangely taken with these gummi cola bottles, which smell like ass but taste delicious. Also there is a massive fudge selection. You can get a “6-pack” of fudge, ensuring you’ll never have a real six pack but oh who cares it’s buy four, get two free, or B4G2F. Faced with the undeniable bargain of B4G2F, Yean and I bought six initially impressive pieces of fudge which we of course had no desire to finish after day three. We liked pumpkin the best, creamsicle the least. Peanut butter swirl was good but needed more peanut butter. Chocolate-walnut and milk/dark layered were good but nothing to write home about, and maple pecan was…sweet. Very sweet. And the nuts could have been fresher. I gained five pounds regardless.

Then we went to the Aquarium! To see seals! The Seaside Aquarium is one of those old-timey boardwalk attractions that has somehow survived despite the fact that it looks like a place where fish go to die. But hey! The aquarium has octopus and a giant lobster exoskeleton and a thriving Harbor Seal breeding program. These are no loose seals.

Is it wrong to say that I found this really enjoyable? The dorky laugh at the end of the video is me being alarmed at the splashing of some frustrated seals who had HAD IT UP TO HERE with the tourists next to us, who were being indecisive with handing out the little fish you can buy at the ticket booth. Sadly, it had the opposite effect the seal intended and we all ran away giggling instead of giving up the tasty snacks. Later they had a “real feeding” with bigger fish, and the noise was fucking ridiculous. I found myself jealous of these seals. “Those fat bastards.” I thought. “I’d like to swim around all day while people give me treats. I guess it would get boring, but then you could just go hump something.”

We really needed a vacation, is what I’m saying.

Then we went for a nice little walk on the beach, which was surprisingly clean and condom-free. There wasn’t even a Taco Bell to interrupt the view. SERIOUSLY, THIS BEACH TOWN GIRL IS CONFUSED. You actually use your beaches for recreation? And people are okay with that?

We rounded out the day with linner at Norma’s Ocean Diner, which had sub-par chowder but DE-FUCKING-LICIOUS fried oysters. Even the tartar sauce was amazing, and I am not necessarily a big tartar sauce person. Yean had a salmon BLT, which she claims was exactly as wonderfully decadent as it sounds. I didn’t try it because I didn’t want to share my oysters. Sometimes it’s like that when we eat.

I can’t even feel bad about the chowder, which was a tidge skimpy on the clams and very, very potatoey. But I knew from the start it wouldn’t be my One And Only Chowder. It says right on the menu that it’s pork-free, and me, I’m a pork girl. The search continues! Side note: why do saltines taste so good in soup? They’re so bland otherwise. But put a soup cup in front of me and I go all Napoleon Dynamite.

“You gonna eat your ‘tines?”

Yean gave me hers. She didn’t even make me bark for it. I did slap my belly, though.

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Just A Bite

Portland is cold, and we are broke.

So today Yean and I made another excursion to the Rose Test Garden, which is free (free!) and very pretty. It’s rare that I end up in the 23rd-ish area of Portland, which is a shame because Ken’s Artisan Bakery, my favorite bakery in Portland, is there. On our way down Burnside to Washington Park this exchange occurred:

YEAN: Oh, aren’t we near Ken’s?

EMMY: Omg, yes.

(moment of silence)

YEAN: You wanna swing by there?

EMMY: OMG YES. I mean, I am a bit peckish.

YEAN: (makes wild right onto 21st.)

I always tell people Ken’s makes the best croissants in Portland. I have not sampled all the croissants in Portland (though that would be an AWESOME THING TO DO) but I do know that Ken’s bakes theirs nice and dark, which is not common! You know those anemic Costco-type croissants that are all floppy and pale? I know, I’d totally still eat them too, but to me the proper way to bake a croissant is nice and dark, helped along with a healthy egg wash. It gets all nice and flaky, but still stays chewy and yeasty in the middle. Basically, if you’re not making a huge crumby mess when you eat it, you’re doing it wrong.

And yes, my hand is that tiny and cute. It’s a gift.

Yean got a morning bun, which reminds me of the ones I used to bring herĀ  from Grace Baking and La Farine in Oakland. It’s a Bay Area staple, but in Portland they do it a bit different. Is that raw sugar I spot on the outside?

Yean says there was some sort of lemon zest mixture in the middle, but I can’t confirm that. I didn’t try it.

When it comes to pastries, we don’t share. We’re cruel like that.

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Call Your Mother

Mommy was in town last week.

Some people don’t like the word “mommy.” Some people, I’d even say, are sickened by it. But I feel all right using the word at 24 because a) it’s not that unusual in Asian families, b) I’m pretty comfortable with my level of independence from my mother, and c) If I stopped now, I’d break my mother’s heart. Well, that’s not fair. My mom’s a hearty sort of woman; I’m sure she’d understand. But to me, she’s Mommy. I can refer to her as “my Mom” to other people, but on the rare occasion when I get to see her, she’s Mommy. Name: Mommy. Occupation: Mom. She also has a real name and occupation, but look at her. She’s just so dang cute.

Such a Mommy.

So the first thing we did, of course, was take her to Mother’s Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Portland. I hate that I like this place so much. It’s big, it’s in the middle of the city, and you can always see the chefs taking a smoke break when you’re waiting for a table. I hate that. I had a teacher in school who refused to enter Jake’s Grill downtown for this same reason. But the food at Mother’s is so, so good. The egg dishes are gorgeous. The biscuits and gravy is rich and meaty. And they make an eggs benedict that jiggles like an angel’s boobies. I don’t even care about the nicotine-sucking cooks (like RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR). They make a bangin’ hollandaise.

I have to try very, very hard not to get biscuits and gravy every time. Or eggs benedict. But I’m also in love with this stuffed fritata, which is essentially an omelet with broiled cheese on top.

The next day, we went to the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. I’ve actually never been before, despite the fact that I used to live one MAX stop away from it.

I took a lot of pictures. A LOT. And it was very bright, so I couldn’t quite see what I was doing. But some of them came out okay! Actually, most of them. I guess you can’t go wrong with pretty roses.

Let me tell you, that place is huge. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d just gone to the Japanese gardens and at that point were severely hungry, I could’ve wandered around for hours. Did you know there’s a Julia Child rose?

And a Karl Lagerfeld one?

All in all it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. And it felt fitting. Roses for Mommy, because she’s awesome. Even though she’s not fond of receiving flowers, and also I think it’s illegal to bring Oregon plants into California. As I am writing this she’s just called my sister and told her that she’s home safe, even though she couldn’t sleep in her hotel last night because the woman in the room next door was making loud sex noises.

That’s my Mommy. I miss her already.

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Sometimes, I Want the Spicy

Well, that was an Oregon summer.

I guess it’s over? This week the sun promptly faded and the rain came out. I’m a bit sad that the sun went bye-bye and the rain and humidity are once again making macaron-baking a struggle, but on the bright side, soup season is here! I love soup season. I really do.

Okay, so this is really more of a stew/braise, but I’m all about the curry right now. My life has been touched by ambiguous curries. My dad used to make…well, who knows what my dad got up to with a dutch oven and free reign over the spice aisle, but he use to make these searingly hot (to my ten year old palate) concoctions, full of spicy meat and vomit-colored sauce. When I complained he’d just say, “You don’t know what’s good.”

The basis of all that is holy and good

Well, crap if he wasn’t right. I don’t know when the shift occurred; maybe sometime during the weekly dinner outings to the Thai place in Pacifica where my parents used to go. We went out a lot after my Dad died, something we almost never did when he was alive. It was a shift in the dynamic between mother and daughters; suddenly I could relate to my Mom in a way I couldn’t when I was younger. The three of us would go out for lunch like girlfriends, giggling over spicy curry and Thai iced tea, and it was like us against the world. Learning to like spicy food was like a rite of passage, one that I wasn’t capable of passing until just then.

Ah, jeez. Are you crying yet? If not, go chop an onion. Chop it good.

Anyway, this is an experimental sort of curry. I can only barely make Chinese recipes and I’m half Chinese, so I reserve the right to not know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to Thai flavors. Thai-ish. I believe I adapted this recipe from a spicy soup recipe from Epicurious, and also from some other random recipe that called for sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes, they spoke to me. I made it once, I think at my mom’s house? And it was so good that I made it again a few weeks later for a work potluck. Last week when the weather turned gray I made it for the third time. And oh, I’ve missed it.

WARNING: If you do not enjoy the smells of delicious curry cooking, you should not make this. There is no escaping the tantalizing aromas. Neighbors and roommates will be very envious of/annoyed with you. But they can suck it.

Also I do not have any stovetop process photos, because even though my Dad was right about spicy meat being good, I was right about the sauce. It ain’t pretty. And my kitchen gets terrible lighting. If I could make a scratch and sniff website, I would. Actually, I might not, because that would be embarrassing and inappropriate in libraries and such.

Youll need tome rice, of course

I’d advise doing ALL the prep at once, marinating the chicken while you chop everything else. Once this baby gets going you’re not gonna want to stop. I made the mistake of forgetting to peel/chop my sweet potatoes until the last minute, and let me tell you, peeling potatoes is even less fun when you’re trying to do it on the fly. Also don’t shake your coconut milk when you buy/use it. Ideally I like to find the dingiest, dustiest can in the store, so the fat is nicely separated from the water. We’re gonna deglaze with that fat, baby. I’ve been told the fat helps to toast the spices and bring out extra yummy flavors, but I forget where I heard that or whether it makes any sense. But it looks impressive, and it makes it easier to incorporate the thick curry paste into the sauce.

Garnish with lime, green onion and cilantro

Experimental Curry

2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. lemongrass, minced
2 T. ginger, minced
2 T. curry paste (I used red curry paste, available in asian markets)
2 T. curry powder, divided
1 t. chili garlic sauce (The kind with the rooster on it…I call it cock sauce. You can use another name.)
2 cans coconut milk
2 c. chicken broth
2 1/2 T. fish sauce
2 t. sugar
3 c. sweet potato, cut into 2 inch chunks
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved

Toss the chicken with half the curry powder, let marinate while you prepare the other ingredients, about half an hour.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and brown the chicken in 3-4 batches, over high heat, turning as soon as the pieces brown enough to unstick themselves from the bottom of the pan. Place the browned chicken in a bowl and set it aside. reduce the heat to medium and, in the same pot, sautee the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass until the onions are translucent and some of the liquid has released. Add the remaining curry powder, curry paste, and chili sauce, along with the fatty part of the coconut milk, skimmed off the top of the can. Stir it together and let it cook down a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and the browned chicken and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the chicken pulls apart easily, about half an hour.

Serve with steamed rice and garnish with cilantro, green onion and fresh squeezed lime.

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This Will Be a Post Where We Use The F-Word

Today is my Saturday. I got all my Saturday plans done and it’s only 6 pm.

To be fair, these are my Saturday plans:

9 am: Wake up because I forgot to turn off my alarm, curse and drop phone on floor.
10 am: Get dressed
10:08 am: Finish getting dressed, pester Yean to do same
11 am: Go to brunch at dim sum place, eat an embarrassing amount.
2 pm: Go see “Julie and Julia” in the Beav. The dark theater conceals my food baby.
4 pm: Wander out of theater and directly into bookshop across the parking lot. Buy related Julie/Julia books.
5:30 pm: Still full, waddle home an write a blog post.

So huzzah! You see I have challenged myself a lot. The only thing I might add to my to-do list is to eat a light salad, then blackberries with whipped cream. Those berries have been sitting in the fridge for days, too tart to consume on their own. Gotta bust out my whippin’ arm.

streep as child

So Julie and Julia! Can I just say, I love movies for the ladies? As a professional cook (and I guess AS A LADY) there’s something incredibly powerful about sitting in front of this unabashedly girly food porny lovefest for two hours. At one point I nudged Yean and whispered “macarons!” and then when I decided she hadn’t heard, “opera cake!” I also was on the verge of tears the entire film, which is an accomplishment because I am typically dead inside.

A lot has been said about Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child, to the point where a lot of people expressed a desire to see a straight up biopic of Julia. I for one would love that, and probably Julie Powell would love it too(because IT WOULD BE AWESOME). But the fact is that this whole project was inspired by a book that was inspired by a blog that was inspired by a cookbook/tv show. The narratives don’t exactly go together, in movie form, and it’s a valid point that what made Powell’s blog, and later book, compelling doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. My favorite scenes with Julie were ones where her narration of blog posts was laid over scenes of her cooking. While die-hard Julia fans may dismiss the Julie narrative as whiny and tiresome, it actually says a lot about how we relate to cultural icons.

There’s a scene toward the end of the film where Julie finds out that Julia Child, then in her 90s, didn’t care for her project. She’s crushed, of course. “Do you think it’s because I occasionally use the f-word?” she asks her husband. Sadly, it really happened, and Judith Jones, Child’s editor, had no kind words for Powell either. The unfortunate thing about this is that is really is just a generational difference. At that point Julia Child had become this untouchable goddess of cooking, and Powell thought she was honoring her by attempting her recipes. Child and Jones were suspicious that Powell was just trying to cash in on her years of work, but to Powell it was about documenting an emotional journey. “Julia’s perfect!” Powell’s character moans. “The one in your head is,” her husband corrects, “and that’s the one that matters.”

But ultimately, the Julia in Powell’s and all of our heads is fictional. The real Julia was imperfect, as we all are. And I think a lot of the kerfuffle over the Julie side of the movie could have been eased if the narrative had confirmed this. Instead we get a dreamlike account of Julia’s life in France, with amusing anecdotes and an alarmingly attractive Stanley Tucci. Compared to that, even Amy Adams has to work to make her storyline sympathetic.

There’s also some interesting stuff about blogging and the internet in here. I wish the film didn’t have to explain and justify blogging as a hobby or as a profession. There’s a lot of “what the fuck is the internet?” sort of discussion going around, which is another mark of the generational difference. It’s true that the more delicate Julia fans out there would be put off by the dirty words in the blog. But you know, this is the world we live in now. People write blogs. They connect with each other on online communities. It can be as superficial or as serious as you want it to be, but it’s there and it’s valid. It’s not a sign of the apocalypse. And can we please dump this idea of blogging as a profession for the lazy and impatient? Look at what Powell did; 524 recipes, 365 days. All while working full time and somehow finding the energy to write about it. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Most people wouldn’t even attempt it. Girl had spunk, and drive, and more than a little cooking skill. She made good on the merit of her writing, which was funny and emotional, not on concept alone. And I can personally assure you that blogging is not and never will be a get rich quick scheme.

So go see it! Now that I have said all these mean things, I will say that it is an incredibly gorgeous food movie, and everyone in it is wonderful in it. The movie succeeds because it hits us in that nostalgia place that makes us love everything. Watching Julie and her husband crack up over the Dan Akroyd SNL sketch, seeing Julia’s sister (played by Jane lynch) have a squawking tall girl reunion, it’s all brilliant and beautiful. And it really, really makes you want to cook. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look up this beef bourgignon recipe.

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Astoria’s Flavel House – Why is this not my house?

I’m sure there are a lot of complex psychological reasons behind my need to torture myself with things I’ll never afford, but now is not the time for that! Now is the time for pretty, pretty pictures of pretty, pretty houses. That some guy lived in a long time ago. I think his name was Flavel?

Ah yes! The Flavel House Museum, in Astoria, Oregon, which is a good place to learn about history and architecture and also a nice place to go if you’re bored and it’s too hot in Portland. I day-tripped out there a couple weeks ago with my sister lovely Yean for some fresh sea air and fresh sea…food, which they also have a lot of. I’ve got a general Astoria post in the works but first I’ll talk about the highlight of our trip, the Flavel House (which I think is pronounced flah-VELL, even though I’ve been rhyming it with “waffle.”)

This hallway was totally haunted

This hallway was totally haunted

Yean’s a sucker for old-timey home decor, and I’m a sucker for old-timey kitchens and also possibly haunted places, so we ended up having a blast despite our shared fear of breaking something expensive. Plus we’d both just read Victorian-era romance novels and now we want a historical romance set on the West Coast. He would be a rich frontier businessman and she would be the heiress to a cannery. Someone could even get shanghaied. Think of the fish-related shananigans!

Where the magic evidently happened

Literary cliches aside, the Flavel House has been lovingly restored, with original fireplaces and woodwork shining like new and period-appropriate furniture adorning the massive rooms. Compared to wealthier towns it’s rather modest, but for 19th century Astoria, this place was the shit.

This little gem was in one of the guest rooms, next to a diorama of stuffed dead birds and dried flowers under glass. I’m not entirely sure what was up with the hair wreath. Maybe people were just thriftier with their hairballs back in the day. Modern crafters have felt and faux fur and baby alpaca yarn to work with…these people had hair. Go fig.

I was probably more enchanted with the kitchen than I should have been. But hey, I’d just read Sherry Thomas’ Delicious and I was imagining it as the Kitchen Of Magical Sexing.

I think I might start a rolling pin collection. They're handy in the kitchen and useful in case of a zombie attack.

I wish I’d gotten more pictures, but it was quite dark inside to protect the furniture and flash photography wasn’t allowed. We got a dollar off the ticket price for having a AAA card, so for four bucks each it’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon. I’d say it’s worth it just to pace in front of the massive fireplaces pretending to be a brooding man of the house, which I totally did. Also the Historical Society must have figured that after all these roped off rooms and no-touchy rules, people, especially kids, would need a place to go nuts, so they dedicated the nursery to being the interactive learning room. I thought it was a nice way to sidestep the creepier aspects of antique toys, but clearly there was some sort of supernatural force at work anyway. Look what it did to Yean:

I don’t think that chair is period appropriate. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw it at Fred Meyer last week.

Flavel House Museum
corner of 8th and Duane st.
Astoria, OR 97103
503-325-2203

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