Voracious readers and eaters alike! Summer is oover! Time to put away summer indolence and get back to school and back to life. So, it’s been a while since a real entry, but don’t be quick to call me lazy. Quite the contrary. I have buried myself in the Bioscience Library on campus, hidden between the shelves, reading dusty volumes, working up a small tornado of dust particles in my corner, taking copious notes spanning several legal pads – what exactly am I reading? Cookbooks!!! I was recently asked by a friend to make a cake for the Youth Mass Four Year anniversary. And the best part? Absolutely no specifications, which means unwonted autonomy and free reign to interpret and do as I please. The only problem with this is, well, I’ve never made a large cake for a crowd. So where does one even begin? So, this is where the research comes in. Every good scientist has to start with research, right? But the books – so many! Shelves and rows, oh goodness! It was only by divine intervention that The Cake Bible fell from the skies (top shelf) and into my humble hands. And suddenly, the florescent lights began to flicker and the faded markings on the old book cover began to glow. Even the wording on the spine glowed a faint gold. I was saved! Ok, so I obviously exaggerate, but I sure felt like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.
Since then, I have been preoccupied reading up on cake technique and methodology. Complicated and somewhat daunting. But at the same time, how exciting? So, before the real deadline, I decided to do a test run of recipes that I thought might do. I know that in your heads you are like, “Tell me more, tell me more!”, but here’s a small preview to keep you interested:
I couldn’t resist! I ate the crumb layer before frosting it all the way!
But no, this isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing! Oh no! My family and Kari recently headed north to Tomales Bay (Point Reyes) for fresh oysters. For the outing, I made my (in)famous Balsamic BBQ Chicken, and it was very satisfying. The Balsamic BBQ sauce is surprisingly delicious – tangy and sweet, and not to mention, sticky! You will be licking your lips, fingers, plate – just see for yourself!
Balsamic BBQ Chicken
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced [I used a lot more]
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce [soy sauce is a great substitute]
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard [I omitted this, and it was fine]
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*green onions and/or yellow onions, chopped and sliced, respectively
-10 Fryer thighs, cut in half [wings, breasts, drumsticks, anything really]
-Salt and freshly ground pepper
*not in original recipe
After cleaning your meat (salt and water), place in a large container (heavy-duty ziploc, tupperwear, etc.) and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Throw in the chopped onions and distribute evenly. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients (minus the chicken) until it bubbles and thickens, stirring occasionally. The balsamic vinegar will mellow out as it cooks, so it won’t be too acrid to the taste, but you certainly add more sugar (taste-test as you go) if you find it too tangy still. Allow to cool to room temperature before pouring 3/4 of the sauce over the chicken, reserving a little for basting while grilling. Seal your container and allow to sit in fridge overnight.
When you are ready to cook your chicken, you have the option of either grilling or baking. I have tried both, and they are equally superb, THOUGH grilling does win aesthetically thanks to those grill marks. Anyway, if baking, the oven should be at 375*F, and cooking should take about half an hour. Alternately, this can be done thrown on a hot grill. I like to baste the chicken in extra sauce as it cooks, because it keeps the chicken moist, and the sauce is addictive. The meat is thoroughly cooked when you don’t see PINK. However, if you are very careful and use a meat thermometer, the center of the chicken should register at about 160* or so. Serve hot, or as we do it – eat off the grill. Yuum.
Additionally, our entire extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.) made our annual camping trip to Big Sur – and you haven’t seen camping until you see how we do it – essentially, we set up camp near a stream and start the never-dying fire. For the duration of the weekend, it stays on, because we are EATING and DRINKING and COOKING at all hours of the day and night. We all gather by the fire and just eat and talk and eat some more, then chat it up and joke around, and then eat some more.
Throw in a few Sierra Nevadas and several boxes of Heineken later, and we have a very jovial family gathering. And all this is VERY tiring, so we take a break and hit the stream – all like 30+ of us and splash around and have water fights, and bond. We come up from the banks, and guess what? We eat some more. I love the great outdoors.
The bulk of the cooking was done by my auntie (Co Dung), and she does killer BBQ. We had the most tender beef steaks; the juiciest, finger-licking good chicken wings; and deliciously succulent pork kebabs. Sometimes BBQ just starts to taste all the same after a while. But not hers! Each one was distinctly flavored and ooh soo yuum. I will post all the recipes soon, but here are just a few quick ones for now.
Co Dung’s Chinese Five-Spice BBQ Beef Steak
your choice meat cut, though I believe we used sirloin
your favorite BBQ sauce
freshly extracted ginger juice (get creative with this one)
Chinese five-spice powder
The bulk of these ingredients go into the marinade. Taste test as you work, and with every addition. Go ahead and whisk these ingredients together and set aside. To ensure that steak says nice and tender, we usually cut them into thinner 1/2″ pieces and pound (with a mallet or back of a knife) the life out of them. I’ve also heard that marinating them with some sort of carbonated drink (soda even) helps with tenderizing the meat. Any one know?! Anyway, we let the meat sit in marinade for at least a night (the longer the better) in the fridge before tossing them onto the grill.
Co Dung’s Soy Salad Dressing
This goes really well on most greens. My favorite use of this is over baby spinach – top it off with a few mandarin pieces and sliced almonds, and you are set for some serious yuum-time.
Whisk and flick. Just kidding. Stir together and add more of required ingredient as necessary. Taste test with each addition, and go easy on the soy sauce.
See readers? I haven’t been lazy – just doing some R&D. We are doing updates and adjustments on the site, and I would like to introduce everyone to a new contributor, someoneiknow. Previously just my guinea pig, someoneiknow will now be a regular, (“…tell me more, tell me more, like did he have a…”), and entries will be up shortly. But I just thought I’d check in to assure everyone that I am still very much alive and active. Summer was a blast, and it’s time to get a move-on. Cheers and love, from my kitchen (BBQ pit) to yours!
“But ooh, those summer niii-iights!”