something I made for a little girl’s third birthday party recently…
something I made for a little girl’s third birthday party recently…
I am so sorry for disappearing, but hopefully I am going to be appearing on a regular basis now. Ever since my last posting…my life has been jammed packed with all sorts of happenings and activities. Just a quick update. I’m pretty much working as a staff member at The Herbfarm and having an amazing time. It’s tiring but I am learning a lot. This year is completely differently from last year. Different crew, different chef and more acreage too! The farm has increased by one more acreage, so now we have six acres, plus we are adding in an orchard on top of it. I’m looking forward to summer and fall when we can harvest all the goodies that are being planted right now.
Last week, beside weeding and tilling, we planted into the grounds romesco, kale, collard greens, and raspberries. We also pulled up tons and tons of leeks and parsnips that were planted last year and utilizing the brassica yellow flowers, rosemary flowers, nasturtium flowers and pineapple sage flowers.
Another debate/discussion that has been happening is what direction should I take this blog. I feel really torn because some people has mentioned that I should just focus on food and others has said any topics that falls under the “home/nha” category. When I first started this new blog, I wanted it to be more about what I was interested which happens to be about food and also about crafting. The debate is which one should I focus on? To be honest I am still passionate about both and want to share what I am cooking and making. Another person also mentioned that I should just start another separate blog, but to be honest, it is already really time consuming to do one, so two will be very hard for me to do right now. So I’m going to leave it you to my readers…what would you like to see more? Food with farming/gardening or all the other topics that might randomly come up?
On a side note, there is an amazing giveaway happening that I think you should enter. The Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything iPhone app – Not Martha and Seattle Tall Poppy are both hosting the exact giveaway and giving away five copies each…meaning there are at least ten chances for you get it! Unfortunately I have already brought the app and used it. My review – I really love this app and love the smiple and easy to use layout very much.
Pros, I love that fact that it’s great to use while you are grocery shopping or just brainstorming for ideas on what to make on the fly. Another plus is I do not have to write down the ingredients and worry about that I missed an item that I forgot to jot down and buy. Second it’s better and lighter than lugging the big book around. Also at $1.99 this is a great investment to future really good meals, plus a great way to preview the book before it, which I think you should purchase anyway.
Good Luck and I hope you win the free app download!
Be warned there is a lot of graphic pictures on this posting, but it is very educational, especially about breaking down a duck, using the French technique.
Yesterday I spent 16 hours with the Herbfarm staff and owner, Ron Zimmerman, learning about ducks and how to humanely slaughter and break the ducks down on Shaw Island. It truly was an unique learning and memorable experience that I will never forget. Our instructor that day was Neal Foley, aka PodChef. He was so knowledgeable and gave a thorough guide on raising ducks and butchering them. Below is a picture of the PodChef in his kitchen with a cup of coffee giving us some background and history of the Rouen Ducks. They are known as the civilized ducks and are flightless because they usually gain too much weight too fast for their wings to develop and accommodate them in flight.
Afterwards the Podchef took us outside to the area where he was holding the ducks in their individual cages.
He said he went out early that morning to catch all the ducks and put them in the cages to calm them down before we actually did anything to them. An interesting fact he told us was that meat usually last much longer and cure better when the animal is not stressed out. Also one whole month before this day, he has been “fattening” up the ducks with a diet of cracked corn that he usually soaks in milk for 24 hours before he feeds them. Before that month he would give them whole grains and let them forage for fresh greens and bugs in the field.
The most humane way in killing a duck is with a killing cone and below is a picture of it. This technique calms the bird down and restrain them so they are not flapping around too much. The other metal contraption is from the UK where it snap off the neck of the bird, but with that method you actually have to hold the bird throughout the whole process until the bird stops moving.
Back to the cone, you basically put the duck head down first and the head comes out of the small end. With this method it makes the blood rushes to the bird’s head and calms the duck down further. Then you hold on to the beck and then with a knife cut into its two arteries in the throat area.
The Herbfarm actually asked to keep the blood to use in sauces, thus you see him holding a container to catch the blood. It’s a technique where you use the blood to thicken up wine sauces.
Next you will want to need a pot of hot water enough to put the entire bird in to scald it, which will loosen the feather so that it will be easier to pluck the feathers. Next you will want to add a drop or two of liquid dish water, Podchef used Kirkland’s Environmentally Friendly Liquid Dish Soap.You will want to get the temperature to 160, if you were scalding a chicken the temperature would be at 140. Once you get it to the right temperature you will want to dip the bird up and down and get the entire bird wet, this will take about 10 to 15 seconds.
Then you will want to hook the legs up and then start plucking away! You will want to start with the wings and the tail and then move inward.
The next step was the waxing of the bird, this process helps to remove all those darn pin feathers that you see in the above picture. The below pic is a pot of cheese wax that is melting down so we can coat the bird with.
We first dip the birds in the pot of wax and then with a brush went over any area that the wax dip could not reach. We waited for a couple of minutes for the wax to harden and then proceed to remove it. This process really helped to remove a good majority of the pin feathers that was not removed during the plucking phase. Here are some shots of the staff plucking the birds.
Here is Chris, sous-chef, with his bird,
Ron in his yellow overall documenting the day with his camera
More staff pictures
The following pictures are very graphic and shows a lot of different parts of the duck, including innards and blood.
Breaking down the Bird
This picture shows the duck totally broken down to each individual parts, carcass, organs and head.
With the French technique, you start at the bottom of the duck by cutting a slit where the ribcage ends and then sliding your fingers and most of your hand in and slowly start separating the connecting tissues and then you start pulling very gently but with strength to get all the innards out.
You will want to be extremely carefully you do not tear any intestines or rupture any of the organs. Then before removing all the organs you will want to carefully cut out the poop vent area and remove the tail. You will also notice that the duck butt will have two large capsule-like yellow fatty bumps, you can also remove that too. This is their oil gland that the duck will uses with their beck to manipulate the oil around their feathers to “oiled” it so their feathers will be waterproof.
After you have completely empty all the organs out and separate the heart, gizzard, and kidneys. You will need some clippers and cut the neck, the wing tips and the feet off. After that you will want to make a cut down the back and then start separating the meat from the bone with your knife.
And there you have it, a broken down duck. Overall it was a very interesting process.
Here are some more staff pics with Lisa Nakamura, the Chef de Cuisine, and Ron Zimmerman breaking down some ducks
We ended up vacuuming sealing with the MultiVac that the staff had brought along and then we packed them in a ice chest filled with lots of ice to bring home with us.
We ended up with 26 Rouen Ducks, almost a 100lb of meat, that day. I think the hardest part beside killing the ducks was pulling all the pin feathers out by hand. Everyone was lamenting about the fact we did not have any fine tweezers on hand. Overall, it was quite an experience for me, especially hanging and getting to know the fine staff at The Herbfarm. They are truly a talented and fun group of people.
I really really love Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home book. It is so user friendly and the instruction are clear and concise and all the dishes are really easy to throw together for the household use. I have never cooked so many dishes from one book before. I usually am going through different books, blogs and old recipes and going from one resource to another to find the right recipe to use. I have to admit I am really enjoying this experience about cooking from one book, especially from a man like Thomas Keller. He is just so talented and offers tons of great tips in the book.
Okay back to the New England Style Clambake. I love this recipe, simple and really show off all the different seafood and his tips about using eggs to see if your clambake is ready was spot on.
Here’s the recipe, plus you will need clean rocks to cover the bottom of a 20 quart pot and one pound of seaweed, rinsed well in hot water. I had a really hard time find some fresh seaweed/kelp/wakame in the East Side and I had to call a few places to find it, so do your research before you make this dish. I finally found it at Uwajimaya in Bellevue and had to call twice because they were not sure if they were going to get it in that day, but do not let it deter you – it’s worth the effort. Plus you will about 2 yards of cheese cloths.
Here are my rocks and seaweed in a huge pot:
With the rocks and half the seaweed in the pot (save the other pot to line your big platter to serve the clambake), add water to come to just below the top of the seaweed. Basically the ingredients will be steamed and will not come in contact with the water. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
Toss the potatoes with the canola oil and generously toss with the fleur de sel. Cut an 18 inches square cheesecloth and placed the potatoes in the center and tied it up.
Wrap the clams and mussels in one cheesecloth. Wrap the shrimp in another square and the sausages in another square.
Time to cook everything. First place the potatoes in the center and cook for 12 minutes, then add the corn, sausage and then tuck in the shellfish bundles and add the lobster. Lastly tuck in the two eggs. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove one of the eggs and crack it open. If the eggs are hard-cooked, then the clambake is ready to be taken out and enjoy. If not, cook for another three minute and check the second egg.
Here’s the clambake ready to be devour!
Verdict: Everyone thought the clambake was well cooked, not over done, the shellfish, especially the shrimp were juicy and plump. The corn was another hit but the potatoes were really good, though the husband said it need some butter (which I had some on the table), otherwise it was fluffy and creamy at the same time.
I also made a dipping sauce that I nabbed from Kappo when we went there last year. It was just butter, soy sauce and sake. They heated the sauce until the butter had melted and emulsified with the soy and sake. This dipping sauce was just amazing with the shrimp and lobster – luxurious and rich and silky at the same time.
Here’s some fun photos of my friend and I holding the waving lobster before we put it in the pot, a good shot and then a shot right after one of the lobster try to EAT us! (That’s the reason why the photo is out of focus.) We had fun that night.
Check out one of the claws from the lobster. It was huge and delicious!
and a final picture of the clambake again. This is a great meal to have for a special occasion and to share with your friends. I want to wish Quyen a very very Happy Birthday and hoped you enjoyed the dinner and your new quilt!
1075 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, WA 98009
If you go anything between Friday and Sunday, just be prepare to wait. The line is out the door and when you walk in the door, your tummy just rumble with hunger and it’s saying feed me, feed me! Don’t worry it won’t break your bank either. The price for each of the item is so reasonable and the portion was just right too. We had their special citrus fruit tea, an appetizer, two courses and dessert for $30.
We started the meal off with some hot citrus fruit tea. The base of the tea is black tea with oranges, lemons and limes slices added in with a bit of honey to sweeten it. It was yummy.
Then we had what every Yelp review said to get was the Pork Burger and boy were we glad we did. It was so good! Basically it was a very tender pork belly with a bit of meat with some pickled cabbages, and sweet and salty peanut mixture and house sauce. The bun was made of hum bao or banh bao bun, soft and tender, a great carrier for the great fatty pork. It reminded me of Momofuku steamed pork bun dish in New York but in a different way. This pork appetizer really whetted our appetite for the next dish we were to have.
So the main reason why we went to this restaurant is to get the spiced pork stew over rice. Yvonne Wong was the first person to tell me to order this dish. I want to shout out and say “Thanks Yvonne it was so good! I loved this dish!!!” I’ll just say this dish is fantastic…fatty, flavorful and delicious!
The next dish our waiter actually recommend and said it would pair well with the pork over rice and it did. It had lots of vegetables, which I think was the Vietnamese water spinach, and meat, lamb. I love the fact this dish had a great lamb flavor without being overly lamby and that the vegetables was not overcooked.
We polished all the food off and had a bit of room left for their shaved ice. We order the Everything Shaved Ice with red beans, taro root, boiled peanut, green bean, grass jelly, pinto bean, press barley and then topped off with condensed milk. I like the fact that they added a flavored simple syrup on the shaved ice before topping it off with all the toppings.
We ate and drank everything we ordered. It was a very satisfying meal and the perfect amount of food (We walked away happy and full, but not in a food coma way, which is good). I can’t wait to get some of my friends together so we can try more dishes. I also wanted to say the wait staff there are super friendly and efficient. My husband without me propping gave them a very very nice tip, which he never ever do. Good job honey!
Here’s my latest quilt for my good friend, Quyen. She is just the coolest person around that I know here and I love her and her family to bits and pieces! I just gave her the quilt last night so I can post her quilt up. We both just love the fabric on the back. It’s an Asian print of butterflies and dahlias. So pretty. The front is a combinations of different fabrics but mainly Joel Dewberry (Orchids and Butterfly print) both in green and dark fuchsia, and then I threw in some Amy Butlers and a few other that I have been collecting the past few months. The white is from Kona.
Here’s a close up of it
This quilt was surprisedly quick to make, it only took me one day to cut all the fabric and sew them together and another day to quilt it and then two days to hand bind it. I came across this pattern when Wise Craft featured this Marquee pattern from this book, The Modem Quilt Workshop, written by Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle last year and I saved the link for future reference. Last month I was over at Raindrop Stitches’s house and she had the book, and I was able to thumb through it and fell in love with the book. Lots of great patterns and easy instructions to understand. This is a great book to add to your quilt library. I’m already planning another quilt from this book, but first I need to finish my tea towel swap and whip up another baby quilt for a baby shower in two weeks!
was a big hit. This is going to be a long post but filled with lots of recipes.
We had these amazing giant fresh sea scallops that my friend, Vy, brought over. Keller advises that you do a 10 minute sea salt brine, dry it off and then seared it. That’s it, that’s the recipe. It was simple but delicious way to cook excellent scallops. The flavor was sweet, rich and flavorful from the brining. I highly recommend brining all your seafood in the future, from shrimps, clams, mussels, which which did for a New England Clam Bake, a post will coming up shortly for that. His ratio is 2 cups of hot water to dissolve the 2 cups of kosher salt and then an additional 8 cups of cold water.
I also made the Summer Vegetable Gratin and that was so good. I’m going to save the recipe to write up later this summer when I harvest my own vegetables to make this. If you need the recipe sooner, just let me know, otherwise, please wait until later this summer.
The soffritto was the key to make this vegetable gratin extra special. Go the extra effort and make the soffritto. Soffritto is basically a onions and tomato mixture that is cooked low and slow and add so much flavor and oomph to any dish!
Here’s his recipe:
This recipes does take about 5 – 6 hours to make, so if you are making veal stock, this is a good time to make this and keep in hand all the time. Basically you are cooking the onions for about 2.5 hours until the onions are a rich and golden color, and the oil is clear. Then you add the tomato puree and cook for another 2.5 hours. The paste will separate from the oil. Turn off the heat and then add some salt and garlic. Keep refrigerated.
I’m so sorry this pic is not so great, but overall this dish was a hit! Caramelized Leek Bread Pudding.
If you were to make any dishes that I have posted, you HAVE to make this dish. That weekend I made three of them and brought them to three separate parties and it was one of the first dishes to vanish and declared what a delicious dinner it was!
Here’s the recipe, you just have to make.
Preheat oven to 350F
Put the leeks in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, season with salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. As the leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to medium-low. The leeks will release liquid. Stir in the butter to emulsify and season with pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a parchment lid and cook, stirring every 10 min, until the leeks are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If at any point the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in about a tablespoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
Meanwhile spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 20 min, until dry and golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl and add the leeks to the bread and toss well, then add the chives and thyme.
In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese in the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan and sprinkle another 1/4 cup cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over the top with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough of the custard mixture to cover the bread and press gently on the bread so it soaks in the milk. Let soak for about 15 minutes.
Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling.
Notes: I actually thought he had too much custard, or maybe I didn’t have enough crouton to soak all the custard up, so use your judgment on the the custard to crotons ratio. Definitely use Comte cheese…it lent a buttery and lovely taste to this dish that another cheese would not have offer. Make this for Thanksgiving, because I know I will. So good!
We also had the marinated skirt steak. The marinade was quite different from my usual Asian style marinade because his is a emulsified herb oil of
Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Add your Six 8 oz trimmed outer skirt steaks and refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Half another before serving, remove your meat from the marinade and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking; discard the marinade. Dry the meat with paper towels. Season well with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
All the above ingredients to the pan and then sear each piece and constantly basting the meat the with the flavored oil. Then transfer the meat to the oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the center register 125F. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minute before slicing/serving.
I made a Port mushroom gravy to go with this meat, you do not need it but it was tasty with it.
Minced up one large shallot, caramelized, then add in your sliced mushrooms, cook it down until all the water is evaporated, then add your port, reduce the sauce by half and then season to taste and take the sauce off the heat and then add bits of butter (about 2 tablespoons) to the sauce and let it just melt away, stir gently. This will make your sauce silky and rich and just beautiful That is one of the reason why I love butter!
I also made a Chocolate Caramel Banana Cake and served it with faux banana ice cream, and the ice cream was a huge hit. All you have to do is freeze really ripe bananas and then put it in the blender, add a little bit of liquid (I add a bit of vanilla soy milk that I had on hand) to puree the whole thing and then just serve like ice cream. The texture and taste was amazing… it tasted exactly like ice cream but without all the calories and dairy! This would be great for kids who want something sweet and cold this summer. A really healthy treat to have on hand and easy to whip up with a blender!
I have been collecting lots of picture for my ideal kitchen, but it won’t happen for a long time, maybe another decade or so. I am happy with my kitchen, though I wish it had more cabinet and counter space, and I wish the space was larger to accommodate more cooks. I have a lot of friends that love to cook and several people has asked me to giving them cooking lesson, which I am seriously considering but my kitchen probably wouldn’t allow more than two students at a time.
This morning I woke up to early and started browsing through my RSS feed and came across this kitchen and realized this is exactly what I want, and Gwyneth Paltrow had it! Check it out – found via Bijou Kaleidoscope. Check out the two white gorgeous chandeliers, her grill stove top and her two ovens and the black glass cabinets. Love Love Love! I also love her huge woodblock island and that she has such a huge window on one side, and she also has sky lights to bring in more light. Just lovely…I am in love and totally want!
Here are some more random pics that I have been saving for a long time. I’m sorry I can’t give credit out, but if you recognize, please let me know and I’ll update it!
Here’s another view of her kitchen that I have had for a long time and didn’t even realize it belong to her
As you can see, I am loving the color black or the dark charcoal grey and white combinations with open space and lots of lights and windows. I think that is a must for me because I love the outdoors and cook so much with fresh and local ingredients, aka my P-Patch!
As for the appliances, I had a Viking stove when I had my catering business and would go back to them hen I get my stove top and a definitely two ovens because most dishes do not cook at the same temperature. If possible two dishwashers, one for the heavy duty items and another for all the glassware and chinaware. I would love to get a Sub Zero fridge and wine storage too since we are talking about my ideal kitchen. Plus a walk in pantry area to store all the dry items and to store all my heavy duty food equipments and machines. I think also really important is to have a heavy duty hood over my Viking stove because I believe in searing and grilling your food before cooking it.
What is your ideal kitchen?
A recent breakfast at Saimin Says, that I highly recommend going if you love Hawaiian Food. It is a little bit out of the way, but definitely worth the drive because it is in Kent; but if you are going to IKEA that day, stop in for breakfast and power up for all the walking you will do later.
26218 Pacific Hwy S.
(between 260th St & 268th St)
Kent, WA 98032
If you come here order, make sure you order a side of Kalua pig and Cabbage. It was so flavorful and yummy, and don’t forget to order an extra side of Portuguese Sausage. Oh and also go with a few people so that you can actually taste it other food, because I couldn’t decide what to order because everything looked so good. In your group, make sure at least one person order this
and also this
The pancake is the Macadamia Nut Pancake (so fluffy, light and just sweet goodness) and the French toast is the Sweet Bread French Toast (omg so delicious, if you love the Hawaiian King Bread, which we all did!), and don’t forget to order the coconut syrup to go with these two dishes.
Other things we order the Loco Moco, Haleakala Sunrise, which comprise of two eggs, fried rice and Portuguese sausages, Fried Rice Omelet, Spam Musubi and a Rainbow Cake. Everything was so good and homey. It was a perfect breakfast for me that day. I had a taste of the Loco Moco and it was good. I think it was the gravy that pull the whole hamburger patty, rice and fried egg together. The fried rice in the omelet was a great consistency to go with the omelet, and a great tip that I learn from my Japanese friends from college is eat it with ketchup! Yup – ketchup. Somehow the tangy and sweet ketchup just make the dish even better, the only bad note of the dish was the toast that was served with it. It was a little bit too dry for me.
We also order the spam musubi which was great, because it came out freshly made and hot! It was good, but I have to admit my older sister can better version of it. She fries her spam first so it is extra crispy and then caramelized the sauce so it is sweet and sticky and so good to eat. To finish off our great meal, we all shared the rainbow cake. Surprisedly it disappoint us, because it was so fun to look at and smelled so tropical and delicious. It turned out to be a little bit bland. I was really expecting the guava and the passion fruit to really pop out, but it didn’t.
Overall the food here was delicious and priced really well. All the dishes we order was under $8 and the portion side was a good size. We all walked away in a food coma but happy! I can’t wait to go back and try their signature Saimin Noodle Bowl. Yum!