Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Weekday Friend (Braised Shoulder Steaks)

I've always had a love for braised foods.  As a young boy, one of my favorite dishes that my mother made was her Roast Beef.  Even as a 10 year old, I knew that the soft, melting meat on my tongue and the collagen left on my lips were something to be celebrated.  As an adult, I'm always playing around with different cuts of beef and putting them through a nice braise with the same anticipation I had as a young boy.

For this particular dish, I ended up using Beef Shoulder Steaks from Costco.  While being the cheapest cut in the meat department that day, they were also cut into 1 1/2" thick steaks which meant shorter braising time.  With a regular 6 lb chuck I can normally expect a 3-4 hour cooking time.  With these steaks, I was able to cut the total prep/cook time to 1hr 45mins!

Since summer extends a little longer in Hawaii, I wanted to cook these in an Italian fashion and used a braising liquid of tomatoes, oregano, thyme, garlic, onions, and balsamic vinegar.  After searing my meats and putting them aside, I layered all my other ingredients and covered them with my two 1.5lb steaks.

  Left on low simmer, I was rewarded 90 minutes later with a wonderful sauce and that coveted melting beef. 

Next time you are at Costco, consider this cheap meat and why not give it a whirl.  With the colder months coming soon, why not add this to your weekday dinner repertoire?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Restaurant Review (Hog Island Bbq)

Good bbq is hard to come by in Hawaii ( just like Mexican cuisine) so it was through sheer serendipity that I discovered Hog Island Bbq this afternoon during an also rare opportunity of having lunch with my wife.

Hog Island is a small unassuming place in the back of a strip mall and shares a building with other ethnic restaurants such as an Italian, a Jamaican, and a Himalayan eatery.  Modest in design, there is only a small take-out counter to order from and anyone who wants to eat on location need to go to the few tables available on the second floor

For lunch, I ended up ordering a very delicious Brisket sandwich w/side cole slaw.  The brisket was served at 7oz on a nice chewy French Roll and the cole slaw was done very well having been made in a "chop" style as opposed to the traditional "shredded" style.

My wife decided on going with the hefty Mix Bbq plate which was a 1/4 rack pork ribs, 6 oz pulled pork and two sides (bbq beans and mac/cheese).  While very tasty, the surprise star of this dish was the Mac & Cheese comprised of 4 distinct cheeses with a nice crunchy Parmesan crust on top.

Like any bbq joint, the price for lunch was not cheap ($26 for two) but it is certainly worth a visit once in awhile when the craving for good bbq strikes.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Food Challenge Update (Chicken and Peas Tagine)

During the week, I'm usually in a rush to cook anything and usually I look at what I have in the fridge for inspiration for my dishes.  As we are trying to encourage our 3 year old to eat more vegetables, I felt that doing a dish using peas (in the freezer) and chicken (also in the freezer) was the way to go.  Looking online, I ran across this fantastic recipe for Tangine that happened to include ingredients of which I already had 90% of at home.  Most importantly, it gave me a chance to finally use some Saffron in a way that wasn't for a Paella or any ordinary rice dish.

Cooking the dish itself was pretty fun.  As I didn't have an actual Tangine pot, nor did I want to buy one at this time, I just used a Dutch Oven.  While I'm sure, the actual end result was probably different had I actually used a Tangine to make this, the end result was pretty tasty.  What made this particular dish interesting was that I never put my burner higher then the 1st setting and just left it there for 2 hours.  The low heat extracted so much flavor from what amounts to 5 ingredients and 7 spices.

With regards to the food challenge, this is where it stands:

  1. Cardamom
  2. All Spice
  3. Cloves
  4. Almond Extract
  5. Pumpkin Spice
  6. Garam Masala
  7. Vanilla Beans
  8. Saffron
  9. Nutmeg
  10. Ground Mustard
  11. Turmeric
  12. Coriander
  13. Sage
  14. Thyme
  15. Celery Seed
  16. Tarragon
  17. Cumin
I still got a lot of work.....

Thanks for reading

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Restaurant Review: Marukame Udon

Growing up in Hawaii, and for the most part a mile outside of Waikiki, there are certain absolute truths about the cuisine in that area. 

#1- Food is always more expensive in Waikiki
#2- There are no good places to eat in Waikiki

Recently Marukame Udon, a Japan chain, opened up in the center of Waikiki forcing me to change my perception of those first 2 truths.  While most people who visit from the mainland US have a perception that Waikiki is for the Japanese, there really aren't many Japanese restaurants in this area so Marukame is a welcome addition.  Honestly, who needs yet another Cheesecake Factory or Margaritaville?

Marukame Udon is what could be best described as "Fast Food" noodles.  Set up to be served in a cafeteria style setting, they only sell a few things on their menu, udon and assorted tempura.

  To order, a customer tells the counter worker which of the 5 different udon bowls he wants, then moves on down the line to receive their noodles from another counter attendant.  After receiving your noodles, you can choose from about 8 different tempura dishes to accompany your bowl.

It's worth noting that in the front of the store, there is a dedicated worker who's only job is to make the noodles during his entire shift.  This is not to different from the workers I've seen in Old Town, San Diego who spend all day making tortillas in front of their respective restaurants. 

Today, I shared my dinner with my son and we went with a bowl of Onatama Udon (noodles in broth with soft poached egg).  As my side dish, I order some tempura asparagus, fried chicken, and a musubi (rice ball) with dried fish.  Total cost with a soft drink, $7+. 

The taste of the food itself was passable.   The broth was a little on the tepid side, since they go through such high volume, but still very enjoyable.  I ended up only having one bite of the noodles as my son pretty much finished the whole bowl by himself.  The tempura was crisp and the musubi packed a lot of flavor, but he rice was a little too wet.  Still for the price I paid, it was certainly a very good meal that I would go back for, provided I can find free parking in Waikiki.

With Waikiki having gone through a face-lift over the last 10 years, Marukame is certainly a welcome addition for the budget traveler.  Definitely recommended for visitors who want a filling satisfying lunch but don't want to pay too much in Waikiki. 

Thanks for reading