A Little Hawaiian Vocabulary - We're here on the Big Island again (visiting Kona), and it struck me that knowing a few Hawaiian words can come in handy while visiting the islands. Aloha ...
Friday, May 17, 2013
After overhearing rave reviews from a couple coworkers (Dan & Porter), this week I made Jemil's Big Easy my food truck of the week, and circumstances allowed me to go three times and try four menu items. And I'm glad I did.
I started off with the Blackened Chicken Po' Boy sandwich for $7.99 - one of several po' boys they sell. On any given day, they have three standard ones (chicken, shrimp and catfish), plus one or more specials (I've seen oyster and crawfish). The portion is good and the flavor was great. The chicken was seasoned and cooked well, and the accompaniments (lettuce, tomato, pickle, special sauce) made for a moist, flavorful bite. Coincidentally, Dan (who recommended the place) showed up just after me, and when our orders were up, we realized we ordered the same thing. It turns out it's Porter's favorite sandwich, so I guess I chose correctly.
Next up, I returned with the intent of trying one of their rice dishes. With three to choose from I was torn. I ended up doing a little research to better understand the difference between Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Etouffee. As blogger YumSugar explains, Gumbo is a soup served with a side of rice, Jambalaya is a similar to Paella - rice cooked together with stock, veggies and meat, while Etouffee is meat/seafood served smothered in roux (gravy), often over rice. Armed with that, I opted for the Jambalaya (medium size for $6.99). It was indeed very similar to paella, though darker in color. Mixed into the rice were chunks of chicken and sausage, and the dish had a satisfying heat to it - not overwhelmingly spicy, but noticeable.
For my final visit for this post, I decided to go all out and ordered the $9.99 Muffaletta sandwich (nicknamed the 'Big Ass Sandwich' at Jemil's), plus the dessert of the day - a Bread Pudding served with Whiskey Sauce ($3.99). The sandwich was indeed huge - nearly the size of a dinner plate. It contains cured meats and an olive 'salad' that reminds me of tapenade. They have the sandwiches pre-built, but then cook each one to order on the flat-top. The result is a warm, somewhat greasy sandwich with TONS of flavor. And it's way more than any sane person would eat in one sitting. This is easily a 2 person sandwich, at least. I ended up getting through about half of it, then stashing the rest for tomorrow.
Of course, I ate dessert first, knowing the sandwich would fill me up. The bread pudding wasn't warm, but was still delicious. It's incredibly dense and moist, swimming in a sweet whiskey sauce. It's also a non-ridiculous portion... or maybe it just seemed small compared to the sandwich.
After months of not being inspired to try Jemil's, I'm really glad Dan & Porter were talking it up. Everything I tried was full of flavor, and the service was quick and incredibly friendly. I'll definitely be back to try more of the menu.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Back in February, I shared a culinary goal I set for myself this year: to make a multi-tiered cake. After years of watching cake competitions and cake reality shows, and after growing up watching my mom bake and decorate beautiful cakes, it was time I dive in and give it a try.
As with many goals I've set for myself in the past, I spent the past few months without getting past the first step - buying the stuff. I can't tell you how many projects I've purchased the gear for, but never seen them through. But this week, I changed that - at least for this goal.
Our Mother's Day celebration w/ Dan's family got shifted to Saturday, and I was asked to make dessert - but not given any specific request. I took that as my opportunity to push myself and accomplish this goal. I had all the gear I needed, so I stocked up on flour, sugars, cocoa, egg whites and vanilla extract, and started doing my research.
Given the number of guests, I found that two tiers would be more than enough, and would allow me to do a different flavor in each. Although the recipes and techniques I used were all from Confetti Cakes For Kids, I found the Wilton.com site incredibly useful in figuring out how much batter to make for each of the four pans I was using (2 six inch, 2 eight inch). Using their guidance, and the ingredients lists for two recipes from the book (one chocolate, one yellow), I estimated I needed one full batch of yellow cake batter, and a half-batch of chocolate. Everything went just fine with the cake making, and while they cooled I made a vanilla buttercream recipe - the kind with egg whites that requires heating. I also made a rhubarb & sugar jam that would become the filling for the yellow cake. So far so good.
Next I got to put my new revolving cake stand, using it to help trim the tops off and cut each of the 4 cake in half, creating four layers for the bottom cake, and four for the top. Using a piping bag, I created a dam of frosting all around each layer of the yellow cake, filling in ('torting') with the rhubarb jam, then adding the next layer. Once the top layer of yellow cake was on, I did a crumb coat (a thin layer of frosting over the entire thing, then wrapped it in cling wrap and put it in the fridge. I repeated those steps with the chocolate layers, but filling them with more frosting rather than jam. There was enough trimmed from the chocolate cake that I got to taste it with a little frosting, and it reminded me of an Oreo cookie.
I also made a batch of sugar cookie dough using a recipe from the book, and after resting in the fridge overnight, baked little circles - some with wooden lollipop sticks in them. Using royal icing (yet another recipe from the book), I decorated them. My intent was to use flooding techniques and get smooth, pastel colored icing on each cookie - but I failed to re-read the section on flooding and didn't realize I needed to water down the icing to use it in that way. I figured this out after most of the cookie pops and cookies were done, but did get to try a little of it. Next time they'll turn out much better. I did three pops that spelled out M-O-M and four more with hearts and stars - all in pastel yellow, pink, green and purple.
The morning of, I pulled the cakes out of the fridge, did a little trimming and adjusting with frosting, and inserted dowels in the bottom tier (to support the top tier). My first dowel (actually hollow plastic tubes) was cut a little long, so I had to pull it back out. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave me a core sample from the rhubarb-filled yellow cake, confirming that even after a few days in the fridge, it stayed moist and delicious.
Support structure in place, I got to kneading the fondant. I used store-bought fondant, and it was very easy to work with. To keep things simple, I didn't try tinting it. I wasn't sure how much I'd need for each layer, so thought it best to keep it all white while learning. This proved a good plan, as I ended up with much more fondant than necessary when I covered the top tier. Everything went pretty smoothly with both tiers, and the 1/4 inch thick fondant (the advice in the book) covered a multitude of bumps and lumps in my cakes, and the results were two smooth, white tiers.
A few dabs of royal icing secured the top tier to the bottom, and allowed me to attach the cookies around the bottom layer. I also put the pops in the tops of both layers, with "MOM" on top. Last but not least, I added pink food coloring to the leftover frosting, and piped a border around the base of each layer, to cover the seams.
I made some mistakes along the way, and learned a lot, but in the end, the cake turned out great. It was something I could be proud of, and was enjoyed by everyone. Our nephews both took pictures, and Blake posted one in Instagram... accruing a 'like' in less than 1 minute.
Some of my other goals for the year are not culinary, but this has inspired me to push myself more in and out of the kitchen. I strongly recommend Elisa Strauss' books if you're interested in learning to make this type of cake.
Friday, May 10, 2013
For this week's Food Truck adventure, Hilo and I wandered around a bit before finding Box Nature Sushi parked across from the Firestone in South Lake Union. In addition to their mobility, they also differentiate themselves from other Seattle sushi restaurants by offering multi-grain rice in their sushi, as well as using only sustainably caught fish. I went for the signature sushi roll - the BN's Spicy - with multi-grain rice, for $4.50. It combined salmon and tuna, plus cucumber and greens, and claimed it had a spicy sauce. The rice added a little nuttiness to the dish, and perhaps more importantly made me feel like I'm making a good choice. The fish was super fresh tasting, and the greens were a nice addition. Unfortunately, the promise of spiciness wasn't delivered... even after I added a bunch of wasabi. I do like things on the spicier end of the spectrum, but didn't get any heat whatsoever from the roll. The wasabi was also oddly bland. (I didn't give their special blend of lower salt soy sauce a try.) Thinking I couldn't possibly be satisfied with just $4.50 of food, I also ordered the 'Greens' salad ($6). The menu says it's a mix of kale, local greens, asparagus, cilantro, mango, tomato and edamame, but I don't recall (nor can I find in my pictures) any asparagus or edamame, nor was their much dressing. After the first few bites, I was left with a pile of dry greens. The mango gave it a bright, sweetness, but otherwise it fell short. I would go back for the sushi, especially at that price point, but won't repeat the mistake of paying $6 for a dry salad lacking two key ingredients.