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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home Cooking

My hands smell like garlic.

My brother has been bugging me to cook dinner for the family while I'm on holiday. The reasoning is that I'm not a cook. If I'm home alone and it's meal time, I'd most likely grab some instant noodles and poach an egg in it. That's the extent of my cooking. So my brother insisted that I learn and what better way to learn than to actually make a meal for my family? They would be understanding if I screwed up! Ha, probably not. I would most likely be ridiculed.

So to avoid any kind of mistakes, I took out a cookbook that would work best for me and for the food my family usually eats. Normally, I would try one of the dessert recipes when reviewing a cookbook, but let's veer towards something new and different this time.

Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes 
By Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with Genevieve Ko
Photographs by John Kernick
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN 97803077179

Have you heard of Jean-Georges before? The famous chef responsible for  starred restaurants in the United States, the United Kingdom, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. To tell you the truth, I learned about Jean-Georges through Johnny Iuzzini, who is the Executive Pastry Chef for Jean-Georges' restaurant in New York City.

Not to worry though, the cookbook begins with Jean-Georges telling you about his past, his travels, and his training. Trained in French cooking, trips to Bangkok and Chinatown changed his life, he began adding Asian influences in his dishes. The summary initiates into an introduction as Jean-Georges explains the  idea for this book. It's not the fine dining recipes from his restaurants that you'll be getting, but the simple, unfussy, and comforting food you eat with family. This is why I picked up this cookbook to cook for my family.

There are ten main chapters in this cookbook: cocktails and appetizers, salads, lunch, fish and seafood, poultry, meat, side dishes, desserts, brunch, and basics. In the back, a pantry listing and an index. Some of the pages I have tagged include a Parmesan-Crusted Chicken, a few sides: Buttered Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan, Fresh Corn Pudding Cake and Herbed New Baby Potatoes. For dessert, a Tarte Tatin and Chocolate Cake. For a weekend brunch, French Toast with Roasted Apples, Stone Fruit Bruschetta, and Buttermilk Pancakes.

There are full page, coloured photos that will having you thinking, I want to eat that. There wasn't a photo for the recipe I tried (how brave of me), but I could almost smell the flavours when reading the ingredients that I had to try it.

Bulgogi-Marinated Grilled Flank Steak
Adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes
(Serves 2-4)

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove
1 scallion, white and green parts
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 red chili
1 whole (1-pound) flank steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a bowl or shallow dish that is large enough to hold the steak, grate your lemon zest. Jean-Georges actually has orange zest written down, but I didn't have any.
  2. Peel your garlic and then mince it, add it to the bowl (I accidentally used more than 1 clove...).
  3. Mince the scallion and add it to the bowl.
  4. Add in the soy sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, and sesame oil.
  5. Carefully slice the red chili and add it to the bowl. You can add more than one if you want it spicier. Jean-George actually lists 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red chili flakes.
  6. Use a fork to poke holes all over the steak. Add the steak to the marinade and massage the marinade into the meat. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 12 hours. I didn't have 12 hours, so I cut the steak into small cubes and left it to marinade for 3 hours.
  7. Before cooking, let your steak stand in room temperature for 10 minute.
  8. Meanwhile, heat your grill (I used a pan) to high. Carefully grease the grill/pan with oil.
  9. Rub the steak in the marinade again and season with salt and pepper. Place it on the grill/pan.
  10. Cook until the bottom releases easily from the grill/pan, about 1-2 minutes. Then flip and cook. Flipping every 20 seconds to desired doneness. It was about 5 minutes for medium-rare for me. Transfer to plate and let it rest for 5 minutes. Serve!
So how was it? The meat was soft and tender. Jean-Georges's home interpretation of bulgogi is different from the Korean flavours, but it was still tasty. My Dad ate two as a test - so he claims - before dinner was served. There were no leftovers, and I mean no leftovers. When the beef was all gone, Howard scooped up all the sauce and mixed it into his rice.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Lindsey Reeder from Random House of Canada for sending us a review copy of Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book.

If you're wondering, I didn't only serve the steak for dinner. I even made a steamed fish! This is a Thai dish from Chef Andy Ricker, of Portland's award-winning Pok Pok.

Steamed Fish with Lime and Chile
Adapted from "Simply Thai" by Hugh Garvey. Bon Appetit, January 2012, page 99.
(Serves 2-4)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro stems, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
1 red chili, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce 
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 whole head-on green bass (1 1/2-2 lb.), cleaned, scored to the bone on both sides in 1" intervals
2 tablespoons of chicken broth
  1. Lightly crush garlic, cilantro stems, and chili until a coarse paste forms.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix with a spoon until combine. Set the sauce aside.
  3. Place the fish on a plate that will fit inside the steamer. Add water to the steamer, about 1" deep and bring to a boil.
  4. Transfer the fish plate to the steamer and pour the chicken broth over the fish. Cover and steam fish until for about 10-12 minutes. Pour the sauce over the fish, cover and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Using 2 large spatulas, transfer the fish to a serving platter. Spoon the juices on the plate in the steamer over the fish. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
By now, you can see why my hands smell like garlic today. I peeled, chopped, and minced a lot of garlic. The cilantro and lime aromas seem to have washed off, but they were pretty strong last night.

I'd say the dinner was a success! There were no leftover beef or fish. The sauces and flavours were well received. My dad praised the taste of the fish. My brother said the overall meal was good.

I felt a warm glow of satisfaction at the end of the meal. It felt really nice to have everyone appreciate the work I put into making these dishes. Of course, I still had help from my mother. I don't think I would have been able to pick the right piece of steak or fish from the grocery store. So really, thank you mom. We should do this again.

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