Archive for the ‘ Food ’ Category

Deep Dish Pizza

Suddenly moving across the country can quickly teach someone the little things of a city that you can take for granted. While I can’t say we miss the frozen months served up during Chicago winters, Jerry and I agree that few things are more effective at fighting off Lake Michigan’s gusts of  liquid nitrogen than a helping of Deep Dish Pizza. To celebrate this amazing food in the Bay Area, Jerry and I decided to take matters into our own hands (restaurants that serve this are few and far).

Recipe adapted from here.

As with any pizza, the crust is the foundation that the house of flavor is built on, which is why we planned for this in advance. 24 hours before baking and serving, it was time to whip up the dough. This was the KitchenAid’s natural stomping ground

After sitting in the refrigerator overnight, I was glad it did not decide to crawl all the way out of my bowl and walk away. The following evening we  divided the dough in half, and placed them in well-greased 9″ cake pans and set to work of working the dough out from the center of the pans all the way to the edges. Working with a pan can be much easier than traditional disc crust. A lot less detail (and skill) is required to get proper coverage in order to set the stage for the toppings.

Remember, a pizza will only be as good as the ingredients you put into it! For ours, Jerry layered some freshly sliced mozzerlla and provolone, while I browned the spicy Italian sausage with some onions.

Jerry made the pilgrimage to Chicago for some famous Lou Malnati’s sauce (with tomatoes from California, ha!). Finishing the pizza was as simple as covering the cheese/toppings with sauce, and sprinkle with some fresh basil and Parmesan, and the pies were ready for baking.

25 minutes later, it felt like we just landed 2000 miles away. (Only thing missing is a nice cold Goose Island)

-John & Jerry


Lemon Raspberry Creme Brulee

Having made vanilla variants of creme brulee several weeks earlier to great success, Jenn and I decided to try making a more exciting variation. Hence, when we stumbled upon a recipe for a lemon raspberry, we knew we had to try it. (Recipe here:

With the ingredients all assembled, we were set to go.  Using the zest from a single large lemon and almost 2 cups of heavy cream, the mixture was brought to a boil then let to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, 4 egg yolks were separated and combined with the sugar and a pinch of salt.

Once thoroughly combined, the now warm lemon-infused heavy cream mixture was added slowly (in order to not cook the egg).  Lastly, the lemon juice was stirred in and the custard was complete.

Having preheated the oven to 320 degree F, approximately  6-7 raspberries were allocated to each ramekin and custard was poured on top. Despite the original recipe calling for straining the custard, we figured that the texture of the lemon zest was worth keeping–since it worked so well in a pomegranate gelatin lemon panna cotta that I had tried out before (original recipe here: ). Anyhow, I digress.

Placed the ramekins into pans and filled halfway with almost-boiling water and baked for 30 minutes until just a bit wiggly in the middle. Let cool for a minimum of several hours and top off with sugar, and caramelize with a torch. It was the perfect unison of flavors–the tangyness of the raspberry was perfectly complemented by the subtle richness of the lemon custard with the sweet crunch of the toasted caramelized sugar. Absolutely delicious. And not bad to look at either. Enjoy.


Salmon Rillette

[Woah, I can’t believe my last post was in June. It’s been way too long.]

Salmon Rillette: a spread that I had first experienced whilst enjoying a meal with friends in the New York location of Bouchon Bakery, one of Thomas Keller’s many restaurants that he opened after enjoying the phenomenal success of the French Laundry, a restaurant that garnered numerous international awards and produced innovative chefs that have gone on to achieve similar success such as Grant Achatz of Alinea or Eric Ziebold of CityZen. It was a perfect combination of smoked and fresh salmon; several months later, I have finally decided to attempt a recreation as detailed in his book: Bouchon (

Ingredients (Not pictured: lemon juice, olive oil, salt, white pepper)

The ingredients: the recipe called quite a few things-fresh salmon, smoked salmon, shallots, chives, butter, creme fraiche, pernod, white pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. After trekking around to various supermarkets and still unable to find any trace of creme fraiche, I had to settle with sour cream as the closest alternative.

Starting off, I skinned the salmon and trimmed off the dark meat as the recipe dictates–the latter I assume was primarily for aesthetic purposes as the darker flesh would look less appealing in the finished product. I marinated the salmon in Pernod, an anise-flavored liqueur, and white pepper for 40 minutes in the fridge–flipping the fillet halfway through.

While waiting for the fish to marinate, I used this time to prep the other ingredients. 1/2 cup of shallots needed to be minced and sweated with 1 tbs. of butter, smoked salmon needed to be trimmed of the dark meat and cut into 1/8″ pieces, two yolks needed to be beaten until slightly lighter, and a stick of butter needed to be whipped and combined with a 1 tbs. of sour cream/creme fraiche [random aside: if you have not seen this episode of SP, I would highly recommend it.].

After, I put in the salmon to steam for about 6 minutes until medium rare. In a large bowl after breaking up the salmon in smaller chunks, I combined all the ingredients–and voila, salmon rillette! Unfortunately, the spread will only hold for 2 days–that is unless it is sealed somehow, which calls for clarified butter. Having never used or made clarified butter, I found the process to be rather simple. 1) Heat up butter (but do not let it brown). 2) Remove from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes and scrape off white foam on top. 3) Carefully pour off liquid. 4) You now have clarified butter. Scoop some salmon and relocate to smaller vessels and pour a good amount of liquid clarified butter over top to seal. Salmon Rillette should now keep for a week.

Salmon Rillette at Bouchon was served on croutons but if you’re lazy like me, water crackers seem to also do the trick. Sprinkle with chives and serve. Enjoy.

– Jerry

Lemon & Blueberry Scones

[A new J in the Herbal Kitchen?? Don’t worry, I’m not here to replace Jerry. Due to our proximity, we will post projects that we work on together]

I think everyone knows what to do if life gives you lemons. But what about a big box of fresh organic blueberries? I think the possibilities get much more interesting… With a big box of blueberries in my fridge on the verge of reaching the point of no return and spoiling, Jerry and I decided to take some drastic action and satisfy the hankering for some baking at the same time. This Lemon & Blueberry Scone recipe found its way to the top of our browsing list while eating lunch at a local Indian restaurant. A quick stop to the shops, and we were ready to get started.

The recipe is fairly straightforward, but we made a mistake in reading the recipe; the orders are for DRIED blueberries, a fact that we overlooked in our excitement. Once we got our ingredients in line, it’s a quick spin in the mixer, and the dough starts coming together. Don’t be shy about the butter!

With the wet ingredients incorporated into the dry, it’s time to fold in the blueberries.

Once I started to work the dough to get the berry distribution as uniform as possible, our mistake in choosing fresh blueberries quickly became evident. The extremely wet dough brought back childhood memories of playdough or mud…

Happily, sifting some more flour (about 1/3 cup) got things under control, and we were soon shaping approx. 6 inch discs to chop into the delicious wedges. We decided to bake the pastries on my pizza stone to help wick away the steam and pull some of the excess moisture out.

Two are scones sitting in the middle of the oven when one says to the other....Bake for 20-25 minutes; about enough time to watch a nice portion of a Top Gear episode. The rest of the episode can be enjoyed with a freshly baked snack and some smooth French-Pressed coffee.



Basil Garlic Salmon and Hasselback Potatoes

Last Friday, Maciek and I were wondering what to make for dinner and we decided to try out a couple things we had seen on foodgawker a while back. The first part involved Hasselback Potatoes (original recipe here: We picked up a couple of large russet potatoes from Jewel and it was time to get to work! We began slicing our potatoes, taking care to stop about a 1 cm before actually slicing through. We cut up about 6 cloves of garlic into thin slices which were inserted between the slices of potato. After applying a bit of butter, olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and paprika + cumin for a kick, the potatoes were good to go and baked in the oven for about 50 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

While waiting for the potatoes to cook, we began preparations for the salmon. Seeing how Maciek’s basil plant “Bazzle” was at a healthy size, we decided to try out a baked garlic basil recipe found here: We had bought a nice 1.3 lb Salmon fillet earlier which we laid whole on a baking sheet and added large amounts of olive oil, diced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and ground pepper. We stuck it in the oven along with the potatoes and twenty minutes later, we were ready to feast.

After taking our usual pictures, we feasted–the potatoes were crispy and tender at the same time though perhaps we could have use even more paprika; the salmon was most definitely ‘succulent and juicy’ and incredibly flavorful. Overall, it was pretty fantastic meal and it all came out to be less than $8 for each of us. So much better than dining hall food. Stay tuned for more updates soon.


Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

Hey guys, sorry this took so long for me to get up. So this weekend, Jerry and I decided to make a spicy beef noodle soup! Being the Asian connoisseurs (and cheap college students) that we are, we decided to head down to Argyle, the soft-core version of Chinatown. After experiencing Pho for the first time at Pho 777 (it was delicious, by the way), we headed down to the supermarket, where all things can be bought, and bought for cheap! For someone like me, bringing a friend who knows what is what is a necessity, otherwise I would wander around the place in amazement, but having no idea and not enough courage to actually get anything (except for maybe some spicy ramen…) We purchased all of our ingredients, which included 3 lbs. of beef shank for $3. I had also wanted to get some won-ton spoons, but after seeing the label on the back that said “do not use with food. may poison food” I decided against it. Ah the joys of the Argyle supermarket.

Once we got home we immediately got down to work, as the beef needs to stew for a good 3-4 hours before it becomes tender enough. We started out by boiling the beef with a whole bunch of green onions and a couple slices of ginger. I am slowly learning that whatever kind of food you are making, chances are, it will only become better if you add some green onion to it. Consequently, I have added green onion to my small garden (which I will post about soon). While the beef boiled, we got down to making the flavoring for the soup, which included an entire head of garlic, anis seed, cayenne pepper, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, and many other delicious and flavorful things. If you don’t have a kitchen hood (like my apartment) I highly suggest covering your mouth and turning a fan on, as when you throw all of these ingredients into a hot frying pan, the cayenne pepper has a tendency to kick up in the air and find its way into your lungs. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience. If everything turns out right, you should get a colorful and fragrant concoction, as pictured to the right. After the beef had been boiled for around 45 minutes, we took out the onion and ginger, and cut it up into more manageable chunks. As you can see, the beef is starting to get brown, but still looks nice and red and juicy on the inside. We want our flavor to penetrate all the way through the beef, and smaller chunks help with that. The beef will be pretty tough at this point, so you will want to make sure that you are using a good knife: my super-serrated Brazilian Tramontina knife (somewhat literally) sawed through the beef with no problem, but if you try using a smooth knife you may run into some issues. Once we showed the beef who was in charge, we put it back in the broth (which was already starting to get a very nice flavor), and dumped our spices into the mix as well. PROTIP: if you are making this soup, make SURE you have a strainer. There are tons of peppercorns floating around, and we tried to get them all out with my multi-purpose tea-ball, but there were still more than a few peppercorns floating around when we finished. Not a huge problem, but it can be disconcerting to bite into some noodles and hear crunching all over the place.

At this point we let the stew sit and simmer, started playing some God of War III, and waited for a few more friends with supplies. We were going to try our hand at pulled noodles, but I had an ominous feeling. I had told one of my friends about our hope to make them, and she, in so many words, told me that without years of practice and the help of a parent who had grown up doing it, I had a small chance of succeeding. Not to be discouraged, we pressed on, weighing and mixing the ingredients carefully. The dough has to be kneaded for around 20 minutes, so we each set up a little station and got to kneading. The noodles call for a mixture of cake and regular flour, the idea being that the low gluten content and constant kneading will create a dough consistency that will stand up to repeated pulling. A painful 20 minutes later, our dough felt no better than it had when we started. After trying some, shall we say, creative methods of needing (which included but were not limited to: microwaving the dough, adding more water and leaving it in seran wrap, and punching the dough) we decided to give up and go with pre-made noodles. Somewhat disappointing? Yes. Delicious nevertheless? Verily.
After we had cooked the noodles, fried up some Bok Choy, and added spicy bamboo shoots, everything was ready. What was initially supposed to be a regularily-timed dinner turned into a late night feast. The beef, after simmering for hours on end, had become tender beyond belief, it would nigh-literally melt in your mouth, and apart from the occasional peppercorn, the broth was simply amazing. It had been a lot of work, but was it ever worth it. Definitely an experience I hope to repeat, but next time I hope to be the proud owner of a proper strainer!

(photo courtesy of John Yu)

At this point we had 3 photographers, 4 camera bodies, and tons of lenses lying around, so naturally we spent about half an hour just taking pictures of our creating before getting on to the all-important task of actually eating it. It’s true what they say: waiting only makes it better. I think we have officially started a tradition: every adventure will, and in fact must, end with a food coma. Full stomachs, slumped back on the couch, we sat back and simply enjoyed the effects of this wonderful dish. This upcoming weekend brings a twist on adventures, as it is my roommate’s birthday, so stay tuned for Alton Brown-style pan seared steaks!


4/23 Food Begins!

Having recently stumbled upon a quick and easy recipe for ciabatta ( Jerry and I decided to make chicken sandwiches. After buying a basil plant (who is, of course, name Basil), we got to work. Baking the ciabatta was incredibly easy and we managed to get 6 nice even sandwich-sized pieces out. Jerry marinated the chicken in sesame oil, soy sauce, chili powder, garlic, sea salt, and pepper, and it turned out amazing!

After adding some fresh mozzarella, basil from Basil, tomato, and barbecue sauce from Lil’ Porgies in Champaign-Urbana, we were ready to chow down!

If you have ever had a fresh sandwich at Panera, you can begin to understand the absolute heaven that these sandwishes were. fresh bread, freshly baked and carefully marinated chicken, home-grown basil, fresh tomato and mozzarella, all of these premium (but cheap!) ingredients coming together in a mouth-watering mix, pleasing the palette in every way. After two sandwiches each, we were so full and had to spend some time in a food coma.

As you can see, we could barely put down the sandwiches for long enough to take pictures of them. Feel free to try your own variations, the most important thing is the freshness! Strike when the ciabatta is still warm, and you will not forget the experience.