Category Archives: food i eat

Potatoes: A Recipe and Tips for Roasting

Here is a recipe and some tips for roasting potatoes. This dish is extremely versatile. I often make these as a snack or as a side dish.

Plated Potatoes

Ingredients

  • Yukon Gold Potatoes | 1/2 inch thick slices.
  • Olive Oil.
  • Salt.
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper.

It does not get much simpler than that.

Potato Ingredients

Method

  1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place potatoes in some salted cold water in a pot on high heat.
  3. Once brought to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Drain potatoes well and transfer to large bowl.
  5. Toss in salt and olive oil until the outsides of the potatoes are coated in a starchy paste (1-2 minutes).
  6. Quickly remove baking sheet from the oven, drizzle olive oil on the baking sheet and arrange the potatoes evenly before putting back in the oven.
  7. Bake until potatoes are crispy on the outside (around 20 minutes flipping after 10 minutes).
  8. Adjust seasoning and then finish with black pepper and/or herbs.
  9. Serve immediately.

Why boil the potatoes most of the way?

Boiling Potatoes

Gently simmering draws sugars and starch towards the surface of the potato. This will help the caramelization in the oven.

Why toss the potatoes roughly?

Tossing the potatoes roughly increases the surface area. It does this by roughing up the surface and creating imperfections. This speeds up the evaporation. Caramelization can only occur after the surface water content has evaporated. This also increases the rate at which fat can be absorbed.

Why Yukon Gold?

The cooking method relies on water evaporation in order to create a crispy exterior. Yukon gold has enough moisture that it won’t dry out completely even though we’ve maximized the evaporation rate. We therefore end up with a crispy exterior and a creamy interior.

 

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Bacon Cooking Methods: Microwave vs Stovetop vs Oven.

There are very few documented cases of people not liking bacon. I’ve witnessed it convert weak vegetarians and it features in a lot of people’s ideal breakfasts.

I’ve been arguing with a friend about the best way to make bacon for years. He maintains that microwave bacon is the best. On the other hand I’ve been trying to convince him that bacon cooked in a pan is much better. After years of back and forth I decided to take a closer look at the most popular ways bacon is cooked. Spoiler alert: we were both wrong.

Microwaved Bacon

Bacon in the Microwave

Pros

Because of the nature of how microwaves cook, your bacon will turn out less greasy than it would in a pan. This however might not be a good thing depending on how you look at it. The dehydration as it cooks in the microwave helps create a crispy texture throughout. This is most preferable as a garnish or in salads as opposed to just eating it on its own as we often do for breakfast.

Shredded Bacon

The most obvious benefit to cooking with a microwave is speed.

Cons

This speed however means that it is harder to time the cooking of your bacon. This problem of inaccuracy is exacerbated by the fact that it is hard to see into some microwaves. Although its impossible to not dehydrate the bacon at all, completely dehydrated bacon is too often the product of the microwave method.

This is probably because we’d rather dehydrated jerky bacon than soggy bacon. The problem is that one changes into the other in a very small window of time.

Undercooked Bacon

Another issue with microwaving bacon is the fact that you can’t add any flavours by way of a marinade or anything like that.  It simply will not take on any of the marinade flavour in the short time that it has to cook. The marinade will also be reduced far more than desired in a microwave. The same issues with timing apply to the marinade as well.

Stovetop Bacon

Bacon in the Pan

Pros

In my opinion, the benefit of speed that the microwave provides is not worth the inaccuracy. That is why the best thing about cooking bacon on a stovetop is the fact that it is the most accurate method.

The process happens slowly and in front of your eyes the entire time. It is very easy to get bacon to the exact doneness that you want with this method.

Cons

Although this was my preferred method for many years, I would always be annoyed by the fact that you could only cook so many pieces of bacon at a time.

More importantly, the fat curls when heated and makes it very difficult to get even cooking. Most of the time you have large portions of the bacon soggy from the steaming that occurred because of the curling while other parts would be burned if cooked any longer.

Curled Bacon

Turning down the heat on the stove for a much longer cook fixes the issues of curling a bit. This however further fuels the problem of not being able to cook that many pieces of bacon at a time.

Oven Bacon

Bacon in the Oven

Pros

Lets start off by addressing one of the weaknesses that the stovetop had. You can cook way more in the oven at a time.

More importantly, because of the fact that the oven provides heat from every direction as opposed to the stovetop, it allows for the bacon to be cooked evenly even if the fat curls.

It also does not take up space on the stovetop and only takes 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect amount of time for you to make eggs, toast, and coffee. You just have to set a timer and forget about it.

Cons

Oven Cooked Bacon

It is hard to find a con for this method. If you really want to get nitpicky I guess it’s not as fast as the microwave.

Bottom Line

I thought microwaved bacon shined with regards to convenience and the stovetop was how you got the best results.

It turns out the oven is only marginally slower than the microwave and if you are cooking a big enough batch it can actually be faster than the microwave.

It also provides you with the best results. It is no wonder why oven cooked bacon is now my preferred method.

 

 

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Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly

Ingredients

  • Trimmed Pork Belly – cut into 2 inch cubes.
  • Coconut Juice
  • Whole Thai Chillies
  • Ginger
  • Scallion
  • Shallots
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sesame Oil
  • Juice of one clementine
  • Soy Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Salt and Black Pepper

Method

1. In a medium heated pot, slowly fry off the shallots in sesame oil.

2. Move the shallots to one side of the pot and make a light caramel with brown sugar.

Pork

3. Brown the pork belly in the brown sugar and deglaze with clementine juice.

Pork

4. Add coconut juice, ginger, thai chilli, fish sauce, and soy sauce.

Pork

5. Simmer on low for about two hours (or until falling apart to a firm touch). Make sure to stir occasionally.

6. After turning off the heat, sprinkle on scallions to let them soften from the residual heat.

Pork

7. Serve over steamed rice.

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Cooking Fried Rice (Some Key Tips)

To make life easier for yourself before cooking anything, its best to prepare all the ingredients first. In french cuisine this is called mise en place which means putting in place. This practise is particularly useful when making things like fried rice.

The actual cooking time for fried rice is quite short so its next to impossible to prepare things while you go.

Rice

Mise en place

Usually, I pick ingredients for fried rice based on what I have left over in my fridge. It is a great way to get rid of the produce you’ve yet to use. For the best results however, its ideal to use the freshest and most vibrant of ingredients.

I often like to use fermented products for seasoning because they add a lot of savouriness without making the dish even heavier than it already is. Soy sauce, fish sauce, and Sriracha are my favourites.

Rice

Photo by Irvin Mai

Some key tips for making fried rice.

1. A good trick is to use refrigerated rice. If the rice is freshly cooked it has a tendency to stick together and become mushy if fried right away.

2. Cook each ingredient separately. Each ingredient takes a different amount of time to cook. It is pretty hard to time everything if you are cooking it in one pan/wok.

3. Cook the rice last and fold in the rest of the already cooked ingredients.

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Using Salad Dressings

Taste buds are always looking to be stimulated. Salad dressings are a great way to make this happen. Some salads are one dimensional in terms of their flavour profile. This is particularly true with simple leafy green salads. Leafy salads are generally bitter but are not much else. Making a complementary salad dressing for these leafy greens would at least involve some sweetness, sourness, and saltiness. The making of each salad dressing will depend on each salad but here is an overview of some of the more popular salad dressing components.

1. Fat.

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

If your salad is mostly crisp vegetables, it’s likely that it lacks mouthfeel. This is where fat comes in. If you’ve watched the food network you’ve probably been conditioned to think that olive oil is the first ingredient in any salad dressing. Any fat however, can add mouthfeel, body, and luxuriousness to salads. It is most convenient to use various oils however one of my favourite fats to use in a dressing is brown butter.

2. Acidity.

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

Whenever there is fat you’ll want acidity to cut through it. I always feel unsatisfied when I eat a burger without pickles or at least an acidic condiment like ketchup.

3. Sweetness

Salad

Photo by Irvin Mai

This is not as essential as the first two but people generally like salad dressings that have an element of sweetness to them. The same can be said for spices. Dijon mustard is one of the more popular ways to add spice to dressings.

Salad

Boston Lettuce, Red Onions, Tomatoes, Radishes dressed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Dijon Mustard, Maple Syrup, Salt, and Pepper.

 

Salad

Kidney Beans, Corn, Avocado, Tomatoes, and Dill dressed with Avocado Oil, Lemon, Cumin, Smoked Paprika, and Salt, finished with Dill.

 

Salad

Broccoli, Red Pepper, Yellow Pepper, Corn, and Shallots dressed with homemade lemon aioli and finished with grated gruyere.

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My Favourite Three Ingredient Omelette

There was a time when I used to make an omelette every day for breakfast. Those days are long gone.

Everyday for the past few months I’ve woken up to coffee and toast. I believe my coffee addiction has resulted in my inability to make anything more complicated than toast first thing in the morning. At the very least its destroyed any desire to.

I figured I’d give it a try today. To make things easier on myself I stuck to a relatively simple omelette.

Ingredients

  • Eggs.
  • Gruyere.
  • Chives.
Omelette Ingredients

Photo by Irvin Mai

Method

  1. Whisk eggs in a bowl.
  2. Grate the desired amount of gruyere and then some (for snacking).
  3. Heat butter in a pan until it starts to brown.
  4. Toss in eggs and agitate for 10-15 seconds.
  5. Let eggs cook until 30 seconds from completion.
  6. Sprinkle on gruyere.
  7. Kill the heat and fold the omelette in half.
  8. Transfer to plate or cutting board and cut in half.
  9. Garnish with chives and freshly ground black pepper.
Omelette

Photo by Irvin Mai

The result is a delightfully tender omelette with just-melted gruyere. The chives work well as a garnish providing a suggestion of an oniony bite. This compliments the richness of the omelette and cheese.

I used to add a lot of ingredients to my omelette. Over the years I’ve found that my favourite things to eat are generally minimalistic. I can’t think of anything I could add that would enhance this omelette.

A common mistake I used to make was culinarily jumping the shark. Sometimes you just have to recognize that you have the perfect game going. Think of how amazing sashimi can be.

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The only two knives you need.

This article is reposted from Spoon University of Guelph.

Knives are often sold in sets, but who actually uses them all? Even culinary school can be done with two. So two for the rest of a non-professional cooking life is plenty. There are much better—and fun—ways to blow money than buying a bunch of knives to take up space in your kitchen.

Why Good Knives Are a Must

The most important thing about a knife is how sharp it is. I’d prefer a cheap, sharp knife over an expensive, dull knife every time. Sharp knives are actually much safer than dull knives. Dull knives often slip on foods, like tomatoes, and it’s only a matter of time before they slip onto fingers.

It is also commonly found that after one gets used to cutting with a dull knife, their cutting technique involves a lot of downward pressure, making the case of the knife slipping all that more dangerous.

Sharp knives never slip, since they always break the surface of whatever is being cut. This inevitably leads to less downward pressure in one’s cutting technique. Even if an accidental cut occurs, the pain is less noticeable.

It is good to note that all new knives are sharp and that any knife can be sharpened. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is actually one of the reasons why the regular home cook may benefit even more from investing in good knives than a professional cook.

Knives

Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring) being sharpened on a Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone)

Although all knives come sharp, some dull quicker than others. Since the average home cook doesn’t know how—or even want—to sharpen their knives, investing in a good knife with relatively resilient steel will ensure a safer and more enjoyable chopping experience.

The Only Two You Need

Chef’s Knife

Knives

Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife)

Your chef’s knife is your workhorse. This is the knife you’ll use for 90% of your tasks. If you could only choose one knife, this would be it. It’s the one you’ll be chopping, slicing, and even smashing with.

Knives

Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)

This is the knife you’ll use for those hard-to-reach places or for cutting jobs that a chef’s knife might feel too big for. Most people use theirs for mincing garlic, pitting strawberries, cutting up fruits, and peeling the skin off things like ginger and onions.

What To Look For

If you are going to put money towards a knife, it’s good to know what that money is getting you. The two most important things to look out for are comfort and the blade material.

Comfort

Knives

Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife) shredding lettuce

You’ll be holding your knife pretty often for the next few decades, so you might want to pick something that feels nice to hold. This means that it’s safest to buy the knife in stores where you can try it out or at the very least hold it.

It’s ultimately up to you, but larger hands generally call for larger handles. A lot of people advise to go with an 8-inch chef’s knife, however it’s more important to pick the knife that feels most comfortable.

Material

Knives

Peeling an apple with a Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring)

For a home cook, a good quality stainless steel knife is the way to go. It’s easy to take care of and it’s extremely durable. This means that your knife will stay sharp longer.

Where To Look

Knives Collection

Naniwa Professional (Chosera) 1000 grit stone (sharpening stone), MAC Black Ceramic Honing Rod (honing rod), Takeada Stainless Aogami Super Banno Bunka 6.8″, Takamura R2 Petty 5.9″(paring), Mcusta Zanmai Pro Damascus Pakka Wood 8.2″(chef’s knife), Kanehide Hankotsu 5.9″(boning knife), Tojiro DP Serrated Bread 8.5″(bread knife).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in Guelph with a good selection of high quality knives besides Casual Gourmet. If you want a second opinion and are willing to travel, Toronto is home to Nella Cucina; they supply to a lot of restaurants in Toronto. If you are feeling particularly fancy, Toronto also have Tosho and Knife.

Another option is to order knives online. It’s a bit of a gamble in terms of how it’s going to feel in your hand, but it’s convenient and the prices are often the best you’ll find. You can find most knives on Amazon.

A popular trick is finding the knife you want in a store and ordering it on Amazon for a better deal. If you want something ultra high end, Chef Knives To Go and Chubo Knives have pretty great selections.

What makes a good knife may be personal, but anyone that’s had one will say it’s invaluable. Once you get your hands on one, you’ll never go back.

 

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BBQ Pork Meatballs on Vermicelli

I grew up with friends that would go out for Pho once a week.To this day I’ve yet to order Pho at a restaurant because I’ve always been able to get my hands on some homemade stuff. Now I’m finding a lot of my friends falling in love with Vietnamese Vermicelli. The three classic proteins are BBQ pork shoulder, pork spring rolls, or BBQ pork meatballs. Any combination of the three is delicious, although I prefer all three as its a great way of serving pork three ways.

Vermicelli

Marinated Pork Shoulder Slices fresh off the fire.

Like most Vietnamese dishes, pork vermicelli relies on how fresh the ingredients are. Luckily for me, my herb garden grows both mint and purple perilla. You’ll find that most Vietnamese restaurants will add pickled carrots to the mix as it is a great way to add texture and acidity. It is also much like a salad in the sense that you just toss the ingredients in fish sauce and it is ready to enjoy. My all time favourite protein with vermicelli is the BBQ pork meatball. The sweet and spiciness is unique and it also just so happens to be the most visually appealing.

Vermicelli

You’ll want to see this full size.

This has always been my favourite Vietnamese dish. I always found it to be underrated growing up although judging from my what my friends now order I believe that to be changing. In my opinion, this dish sums up everything that is great about Vietnamese cuisine. You have a lot of raw components which taste horrible if they aren’t fresh. You also have a very light tasting noodle in order to keep the overall fresh mouth feel. Next, you have a complexly sweet, savoury, and smokey protein (and in the case of the spring roll you also get a more obvious texture contrast). Last, you get a wonderfully balanced fish sauce which tastes incredibly light considering it has one of the highest glutamic acid concentrations that you’ll be able to find (what makes things taste savoury). Usually in other cuisines you’d smother the protein in some tomato product. It is not by total chance that Indian tomato based curries have become popular worldwide, along with tomato based pasta sauces and our favourite, Ketchup! Just a light glazing of this fermented fish product however, gives you a deep meaty sensation. It does this without compromising the light and fresh feel of the dish which to me is incredible.

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Deviled Eggs Revisited (Recipe)

I did deviled eggs last fall but I didn’t include a recipe. While I was stuffing my face with these last week I decided that something I love enough to overeat every time I make should be shared. I often find that the simplest things to make taste the best.

Ingredients:

  • 12 – Eggs.
  • 1/2 cup – Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
  • 1 stick – Minced Celery
  • 12 Slices – Double Smoked Bacon
  • 24 – Cherry Tomatoes
  • Salt, Pepper, and Smoked Paprika to taste
  • Chopped Chives for garnish

 

Deviled Eggs

Click for full size

 

Method:

  1. Hard boil the eggs and take off the shell.
  2. Cut the eggs, in half, lengthwise and remove the yolk into a bowl.
  3. Use a fork to mash up the egg yolks and combine with the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, celery, salt, and pepper until smooth.
  4. Fill each egg white with the egg mixture.
  5. Fry off the bacon and use the smokey bacon fat to cook the cherry tomatoes in on medium heat until they just burst a little.
  6. Garnish with more minced celery and chopped chives.

Tips:

  • The egg mix can also be used in an egg salad sandwich (egg salad sandwiches with smoked bacon is in my top 10 all time best sandwiches).
  • They can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.
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Reflecting with Marinated Mushrooms

A while ago I had a conversation with a friend about deleting old content. This is a natural temptation I used to face almost daily. With practice, we all better our skills and after about half a year of blogging I grew embarrassed  of my old stuff. The most obvious thing is how much better my photos look now in comparison. Also, my views on food, cooking, and eating have changed enormously which is perhaps the most embarrassing thing about reading my old posts. I think it is for this very reason however, that it is important not to take down my old stuff.

Before I started publishing anything on Mai Food I talked to another friend and her most memorable advice was to make sure my blog had something to offer people that would make them want to come back. I’m not sure I was successful in this regard despite my best efforts. A few months ago I started posting recipes. If I made anything clear when I started blogging it was that I did not believe in recipes and that I would never put them up despite moans from friends and family.

I feel like my maturing philosophy towards food makes it difficult to commit to one set of ideals when it comes to blogging. As I continue to learn, the nature of my posts are likely to continue to change. I’ve become very interested in this idea which is why I think it is important that I keep all my old stuff up. To me, the process of maturing is more compelling than any one thing I could ever write about.

With that in mind, one of the first things I ever blogged about was marinated mushrooms. I’ve never written anything that has got as much attention as these marinated mushrooms. I’ve got no idea why because everything that I find embarrassing is evident in this post and yet nothing I write now can even grab a tenth of the attention these marinated mushrooms got. I’m not hugely popular or anything but the fact that what I’m most known for is something I find extremely unpolished was becoming annoying. I decided I’d give marinated mushrooms another go in hopes of besting my previous work:

Marinated Mushrooms

Click for Full Size

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion – julienned.
  • 4tbsp – red wine vinegar.
  • 3/4 cup – water.
  • 1tbsp – salt.
  • 1tbsp – sugar.
  • 1 handfull – enoki mushrooms.
  • 25 cremini mushrooms – cut however you want (I even had some whole)
  • 5 sprigs – fresh thyme (separate the leaves from the stems)
  • 4 slices thick cut smoked bacon – cut into matchsticks.
  • 1/2 cup – butter

Method:

  1. Mix 3tbsp of the red wine vinegar in with the salt, sugar, and water and bring to a boil.
  2. As soon as it boils, pour the pickling liquid into a jar containing the red onions and reserve.
  3. Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy and reserve.
  4. In the same pan, cook the mushrooms in the bacon fat on very high heat in order to ensure that the mushrooms gain colour instead of boiling
  5. Throw in the thyme stems and the butter.
  6. Wait until the butter becomes brown butter and then add in the remaining 1tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss.
  7. Remove the stems and reserve.
Marinated Mushrooms

Click for full size close up

Plating:

I like to put the cremini mushrooms down first and then drape the pickled red onion over top. Then, I like to fill in all of the crevices with bacon bits and enoki mushrooms before I finish the dish with the brown butter, bacon fat, and red wine vinegar vinaigrette and fresh thyme leaves.

Hopefully people like this one more than the first one. I know I do.

Thank you Kasley and Rosalyn for our conversations.

 

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