June 30, 2004
Goodbye, Tuna Salad
I had some left over salmon filet in the freezer that I took out yesterday to thaw and hopefully have for dinner tonight. But since I ruined my dinner on frozen cheese taquitos and carrot sticks and salsa I decided to turn it into a snack for work tomorrow in the style of traditional Tuna Fish Salad except with a twist. All the basic ingredients are the same -- fish, an emulsion or oil dressing, something pickled for some tang, something crunchy for some, um, crunch. Several weeks ago I got a Kewpie style squeeze bottle of wasabi mayonnaise at the "New Oriental Market" on Airport Blvd. It's heavenly (with a heavenly green hue). Starting with that and my jar of Pickled Ginger (I can't get enough of that stuff) as inspiration I went to work on my Salmon Ginger Wasabi Salad.
8-10 oz Salmon filet
2-3 Tbsps of Mayonnaise
1-2 Tbsps of Wasabi Mayo (to your taste)
1/4 cup of diced celery (or cucumber would be really good!)
2 Tbsps of sliced Pickled Ginger, excess moisture squeezed out and finely chopped
2 Tbsps of finely chopped Cilantro
1 squeeze of half a Lime
Make a foil pocket for your salmon filet, top with salt and fresh pepper and put it into a 350° oven for 30 minutes or until well-done. I usually cook my salmon to rare but you want it to be completely cooked for this salad. Shred the Salmon with a fork and let it cool, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Chill! Eat!
(I didn't include a picture because no matter how I tried, photographing mayo-based fish salad is not appetizing on camera.)
June 26, 2004
The Biggest Foodie in Asia is not Kaga
The LA Times and The Atlantic have articles about Kim Jong Il's personal cooks who have published books about their service under the food-loving North Korean dictator. The man was sending people all over the world to buy rare ingredients for him and ordering servants to pick over his grains of rice.
Excerpts from Kim Jong Il's Chef via The Atlantic:
Kim Jong Il has an exceptionally discriminating palate. There is an episode I remember well that demonstrates this. I was preparing sushi in the Number 8 Banquet Hall. All of a sudden Kim Jong Il said, "Fujimoto, today's sushi tastes a little different."
He had had a lot to drink that evening before the meal, and I suggested that maybe that was the reason.
He replied, "Maybe..." He seemed doubtful, but didn't pursue it any further.
However, when I returned to the kitchen, I checked the seasoning used that day and found that the sugar was ten grams less than usual! Kim Jong Il was the only one who had noticed. Even I was astonished at this.
With respect to rice, before cooking it a waiter and a kitchen staff member would inspect it grain by grain. Chipped and defective grains were extracted; only those with perfect form were presented.
And from The LA Times:
So insistent is Kim on eating the best of everything that he sends trusted couriers on shopping missions around the world. His sushi-chef-turned-author, who writes under the pseudonym Kenji Fujimoto, revealed that he made trips to Iran and Uzbekistan to buy caviar, to Denmark to buy pork, to western China to buy grapes and to Thailand for mangos and papayas.
Kim insists that his rice be cooked over a wood fire using trees cut from Mt. Paektu, a legendary peak on the Chinese border, according to a memoir written by a nephew of Kim's first wife. He has his own private source of spring water. Female workers inspect each grain of rice to ensure that they meet the leader's standards.
Now I can appreciate pickiness when it comes to food, but this guy is way out of my league and ridiculously eccentric. The LA Times article goes into explaining he psychology behind his fickleness with food:
Jerrold M. Post, a psychiatrist who founded and was the longtime director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, says Kim's obsession with eating the best food comes from being the son of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, revered by the propaganda machine as a god-like figure. Post diagnosed the younger Kim as a malign narcissist in large part based on information about his eating habits.
"This is how you prepare food and water for a god. Nothing remotely imperfect should cross his lips. He has this special sense of self so that there is no contradiction between the exquisite care that goes into his own cuisine and the fact that half his population is starving," said Post, who also has profiled such figures as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Jo Yung Hwan, a South Korean scholar, says Kim's preoccupation with food grew after the death of his mother when he was 7. Jo was particularly struck by an account of a Japanese waitress who claimed that Kim as an adult liked to have food put in his mouth as if he were a child.
"That kind of behavior comes from lack of motherly love," Jo wrote in a 1996 psychological study of Kim.
I wonder if The Iron Chef's Chairman, Kaga Takeshi was loved by his mother.
[via Boing Boing]
June 10, 2004
Cheeseball Encrusted Chicken Cordon Bleu
Yeah you read it right. Cheeseball encrusted chicken. Last week I went to my favorite discount wholesale outlet CostCo and bought a 35oz plastic barrel full of fluorescent orange Cheeseballs.
After my guests tried to make a dent in the Cheeseball barrel while playing video games all night, and after I ate out of it for all three meals the next day, I thought there's got to be a way to make something out of all of these leftover Cheeseballs. What goes really good with Cheeseballs? A Ham and Cheese Sandwich is what. What has ham and cheese in it? Chicken Cordon Bleu! The experiment began. I called Nathan and Jill and told them to come over at lunch time. I crushed the Cheeseballs in a ziploc bag with an empty Tito's Vodka bottle. I got three boneless and skinless chicken breasts and pounded each out flat to about 1/4" thick. Seasoned the breasts with salt and pepper, spread a little grainy mustard on each breast and layered each one with Ham and Swiss Cheese. I rolled it up, tucked the sides in and pinned each roll together with a toothpick. Then a quick dredge in flour, egg wash and then a roll in the crushed Cheeseballs.
Then into a 350° oven for 30 minutes. They retained their radioactive orange color throughout the cooking process. Scary.
But good. Very good! I served them with a side of greens tossed in a Lemon and Oregano Vinaigrette. Although the color was a little scary and it made it look like we were cutting into an oversized Cheeseball (which was actually pretty awesome), it was really an excellent combination. Ham. Cheese. Cheeseballs. You can't go wrong with those flavors.
For dessert Jill had some Cheeseballs. Then she died.