Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Salmon Exchange I - Alaskan Smoked

There has been a long absence in my blogging. This may have been noticed by the astute, interested reader. This may have fallen by the wayside of readers who have found other blogs in the meantime. The absence, however, can easily be explained. I can have 2 of the following 3 things in my time: a stimulating job, fun food adventures or regular blog entries. Because blog entries require input, that is, fun food adventures or similar, I have had to reduce the amount of entires due to the advent of the stimulating job I started on August 1.

In spite of my limited time, I have managed to enjoy the summer and the company of friends. This post was inspired by one friend and made possible by another. After learning that I can consume salmon, one friend from Ireland promised to bring me some Irish smoked salmon from the Emerald Isle. I thought that Canadian Pacific Salmon might be a pleasant way to repay the favour. Every Canadian airport has a few things in the duty free shop: ice wine, maple syrup and smoked salmon. My part of this exchange would be easy to contribute. Flights to Toronto were already booked.

As I told people of my newly discovered lack of allergy to salmon, I also mentioned the plans of the salmon exchange. One day on Skype, the Workaholic's sister heard of my plans. She also made a trip out to Alaska. A few days into her trip, I got an email informing me that salmon was on it's way to the lower 48 States. I only had to get it to Toronto and then to Germany. Vacuum sealed and fully frozen, I put the pink flesh into my suitcase. After a drink in the airport bar and a 7 hour flight, the salmon was still cold. I called my Irish friend and a few others and invited everyone over for hors d'oeuvres.

Platter of Pink

On the platter was cold smoked sockeye salmon, hot smoked king salmon, hot smoked sockeye salmon and salmon jerkey. And everyone brought something over as well - organic bread, a garlic pecorino, a few bottles of prosecco, olives and other nibbles. As for the salmon - we all decided it was an indulgent treat worth the hassle of bringing it over 7,000 km.

Salmon Jerkey
We never made it out for dinner and we went through all the cheese and wine we had in the house. A small price to pay for such a lovely treat - both the salmon and the company. We all look forward to repeating the pleasure soon. The Irish salmon has already reached the continent.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Camp Paella

One of the benefits of being in a vacation home as opposed to a hotel is the fact that there is a kitchen and you can cook the foods found at the local market. The down side of cooking in the kitchen of a vacation home is that the spice rack is often bare. My task was to make dinner for 6 people in a vacation home, a stone's throw away from a local farm, with only dried cilantro and a bag of rice in the cupboard.

The farm had phenomenal corn on the cob, but we had just had that a few nights previously. I bought a pint of fresh peas, got in the car and drove to the supermarket. My plan was to use what I deemed the only salvageable item in the kitchen: the rice. My plan was a paella because it only relies on wine (readily available), stock (easily purchased at the store) and saffron (here, I was concerned). The supermarket had "American saffron" which is very different than the Persian strands I have in my kitchen. These blossoms are named "American" but grown in China and imported by a company in Quebec. I put my hesitation aside, threw the orange blossoms of saffron in the cart and continued shopping. "Try the local foods," I thought to myself, "even if they are global".

You're on vacation. Don't worry if what you cook turns into a disaster. You get the chance to try something new. Enjoy the company and watch the sun set.

Camp Paella
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
1-454g bag of rice
a glass of white wine
1/2 tsp American saffron
1 L of salt-free chicken stock
1 red pepper, diced
1 pint of peas, shelled
350 g frozen shrimp
350 g frozen bay scallops

Thaw seafood, reserving liquid.
Saute onion in olive oil, add garlic. When translucent, add red pepper. When the pepper is getting soft, add rice & stir until coated.
Add wine. When liquid from wine has evaporated, add stock. Continue stirring now and then.
Sip own glass of wine & chat with other vacationers.
Check on rice every now and then. If it needs more liquid, add the liquid from the thawed seafood. Ensure rice is almost cooked.
Add peas and seafood, allow everything to cook for a few more minutes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eating Out: Duff's Wings

"Ooh, let's order 100 wings, all medium hot; that's only very hot, not very very hot!" screams out one of the 8 little league boys at a neighbouring table. We're at Duff's in Buffalo, who may not have the claim of being the home of the original Buffalo wings, that claim goes to the Anchor Bar, but was the recent host of president Obama.

Of course you can make wings at home and you certainly don't have to go to Buffalo for the pleasure but there's something special about the wings there. I'd normally drive right past a place like Duff's, a decision based not only on appearances but also based on the fried, vinegar smell of the parking lot. Inside, the dark dining room is made even darker by wood panels. It's loud. There's no bar. The chairs are stackable and covered in vinyl. Nonetheless, we have to wait for a table for lunch.

We order 30 wings, which might be excessive but we were very hungry. We were not aware of the fact that the chicken wings at Duff's are from some sort of weight-lifting chickens with ridiculously large arms. 20 wings clearly would have been sufficient for our amount of hunger, which would have been 10 per person. This is the minimum order, and had we not been starving ourselves before, 10 mutant wings would have been enough to share.

After the wings arrive with their requisite celery and blue cheese sauce (spellt "bleu" in Buffalo), we dug into our wings, the smell of spicy vinegar permeating our nostrils before we could even take a bite. Too hot to eat just yet, I dipped my first wing into the cheese sauce. Not bad. We ordered the medium-light, after being warned that the medium is hot, and the hot is very, very hot. The medium-light sauce eats it's way through my lipstick and I can feel a light warmth outside my lips. Recharged after my afternoon snack, I leave the bar that I would normally have never entered, full of a not-so secret treat.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Football needs Wings

It's the World Cup of Football right now, and I can't stop watching matches. Last night , I cheered as Japan made it on to the next qualifying round. In a few hours, I'll put aside my things and watch Portugal vs. Brazil and North Korea vs. Cote D'Ivoire on split screens. But all this football is making me hungry.

If you're from North America, you likely think of the game with quarterbacks and huddles and big headgear when the word football is mentioned. I've never really understood the appeal of this game, it goes a little too slow for my taste. However, I love the beer and wings that go along with it. So, even if this is a different kind of football - one actually played with feet - I made some wings to go with the game. And having a Buffalonian around means that there are going to be Buffalo wings.

The wings are pretty easy, if you have a bottle of good hot sauce.
1) boil wings
2) place wings in bag with hot sauce and melted butter (lots of melted butter)
3) bake wings at 200°, turning them over once.
4) broil wings if not crispy enough
5) place wings in bowl, toss with more hot sauce and melted butter
6) serve with celery and dip.

The dip is normally a blue cheese dip, which is spelled "bleu cheese" for some reason I am yet to understand. I took 125 g of roquefort, 2 tbsp of mayonnaise, 3 tbsp of yogurt and 1 tsp of lemon juice.

There are higher fat versions of both the wings and the dip, but considering I'll be eating a few of these over the next few weeks, I can't really afford to go for the full-fat versions. Although I'd be tempted if I was in Buffalo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things That Come in the Mail: Green Tea Kit Kat

Not so long ago, a coworker announced that he was finally going to go for his dream trip to Japan. Happy that he was embarking on his adventure of a lifetime, I told him to try some Wasabi Kit Kats. At this point, all I really knew about the Japanese food that isn't really imported is: 1) you can buy nearly everything in a vending machine and 2) they really like their Kit Kats in Japan. Little did I know that Wasabi Kit Kats actually exist, but are only sold in Shizuoka. Apparently, they are intended as gifts - you travel to a certain area of Japan and you can buy an exotic Kit Kat for your friends at home. This is what I'm lead to believe, but I'm not 100% certain.

My coworker came back, full of stories, and with 1 Kit Kat in hand. Green Tea. He left the price tag on for authenticity. I didn't mind that it didn't come from a vending machine. The package is actually a box, and you can send it in the mail, like a postcard. While I love getting mail, this Kit Kat was already doomed to being crushed in my purse. It didn't need an extra crunch from a postal worker.

What's the green tea kit kat all about? It's white chocolate that has green tea in it. That's it. Not really exciting, not really offensive. Is it something that I will really crave? I don't think so. Is it something to write home about? Only if you write on the back of the box & stick it in the mail.

New Find: MSC Salmon Steaks

Although I like to cook exotic things, I stay away from fish. There are two simple reasons for this: 1) I believe in sustainable fishing and try my best to support it, at the cost of popular, flavourful fish, and 2) I'm sort of allergic.

After having seen fish in the seas, I was frightfully aware of the fact that they are not as numerous as in Jaques Cousteau films. I believe in sustainable fishing, that is, fishing that is done responsibly, ensuring that there is something in the ocean the next time we want a salmon steak.

The allergy was discovered years ago when I was a child. My face puffed up and my allergist tested my reaction against various fish. I did not seem to show a reaction to tuna, but I choose to eat tuna very rarely because, 1) it could have been in contact with other fish and 2) it is not normally caught in a sustainable manner. Yes, the dolphins will survive but they will not necessarily be playing in the oceans with tuna.

In Paris, I was severely tempted to try the salmon tartare before me. I hesitantly picked up my fork, took a minuscule piece and waited. I know what it feels like when I'm allergic to something and I knew that this was something I could eat. I discovered that I like salmon. At least I liked this salmon. Maybe I'd like other salmon. Not something I thought about much until I was in the local discount supermarket and saw this:

MSC approved salmon steaks.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organization that promotes responsible fishing. Their logo is on fish products that meet their standards for fishing. This is fish that I can eat with a clear conscience. It's fish that I know has been harvested in a way that will allow future generations of fish & fish lovers to exist side by side.

I grilled the salmon steaks for the workaholic and took a small bite. It wasn't the mind-blowing salmon that I had in Paris, but it wasn't bad. The best part is, we can eat it with a clear conscience and, because it's at the discount supermarket, a clear conscience doesn't have a high price.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daring Kitchen: June - Terrine

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

An ideal challenge for someone who loves pate. Unfortunately, the free-range chicken livers that were purchased for this challenge turned into a buttery rich meal with caramelized onions and grapes. More on that later.

We all know that I'm not a baker. Bread and I don't get along. There was the time, years ago, that I tried to make croissants. I put hours into the ordeal, only to wake up on Sunday morning, pop the effort of the last 6 hours into the oven and a few minutes later ask: where's the rest of them? I don't know why bread does not rise in my kitchen. Presumably, bread has risen in those kitchens when other people inhabited them, but there is no remaining evidence. This is my excuse for not posting photos of my malformed loaf.

Because I'm not posting on a malformed loaf, one could conclude that my pate was spectacular. The pate was spectacular, but only on relative terms. I thought it would be interesting to try something new, like a terrine or something that involved savoury jell-o. Years ago on the beach outside of Monte Carlo, I had a fantastic homemade terrine, made by my friend's mother-in-law. While I am aware of the fact that she is an excellent cook, as is her daughter, I thought I could improvise anything involving gelatin. Here, I was proven wrong. I should have added more gelatin to every layer. I tried spinach, roasted garlic & peppers and cream cheese with freshly grated horseradish. Did we eat it? Yes. Was it a surreal terrine on the beach of the South of France moment? No. Will anything be a surreal terrine on the beach of the South of France moment? Certainly. I just have to make a few phone calls first.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Paris: Le Bar a Huitres

One thing I really wanted to do in Paris was sit & have some oysters with my Workaholic. I had our getaway planned and oysters were scheduled for the first night. I booked a table at Le Bar a Huitres near the Bastille. We got out at the exact opposite metro exit, walked around the Bastille and found men shucking oysters on the street. That's how I knew that we were in the right spot.

We ordered a giant platter which had 2 different kinds of oysters, mussels, clams, cockles, periwinkles, prawn and North Sea shrimp, as well as a crab. I satisfied my craving for oysters while we drank a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé (a white wine from Bourgogne). We sat, shelled our crab, drank wine and let the hours pass. I found it was the perfect way to introduce the Paris to the workaholic.

Le Bar a Huitres has 4 locations. If you're in Paris and craving oysters, maybe there'll be one close to you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Paris: L'Argume

L'Argume is a little out of the way but it offers food that encourages you to make the journey. I called the day before our arrival, shortly after our plans had been ironed out, in the naive hope that maybe there might possibly be a table for 2 free on a Saturday night. A table on a Saturday in a restaurant that seats 30 and serves 5 course meals for under €50/person. An amusing thought. Well, instead of asking if they have anything available for lunch, we went down to see for ourselves. Everything was booked but we got one of the bar tables at the front. What awaited us? The most friendly service, explaining every aspect of the menu. We decided that the lunch sampler was our best bet, enabling us to try all 3 starters and 1 main each.

ham, belgian endive salad with apple and a mustard vinaigrette. In all honesty, this simple dish stole the show as the vinaigrette pulled everything seamlessly together
salmon tartare with lime juice. I was hesitant with this one as I have never had good experiences with salmon but it was beautiful. Oily fish in the tart lime juice with nothing but a mild olive oil, a hint of parsley and fleur de sel.
spider crab soup. All parts of the crab were used and so there was a mild bitter note at the end. Nonetheless, a nice sample.

braised beef cheeks. Done to perfection with a bit of jus and a hint of pepper.
red mullet. Again, very good.
sides: carrots and onions. They were not falling apart but they were a little overdone for our liking.

gorgonzola with arugula and apples.
warm cherry soup with rosemary and a scoop of raspberry ice cream. Both were a delight.

Having a good meal in Paris is easy if you're willing to spend loads of money. For me, the challenge was having an amazing meal for under 90€ a person. This was easily achieved at L'Argume. The food and the staff and the friendliness of everyone in the restaurant on this particular Saturday made this a meal to remember.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

L'As Du Fallafel, Paris

What makes a good sandwich? I believe it to be a combination of personal attachments, the contents, and the environment. Personal attachments might be an odd criterion for some people, but think of the popularity of peanut butter & jam; for most people it is a memory that brings us back to a certain time. My personal attachments to falafel sandwiches go back decades as my sister would sometimes bring me one when she picked me up after school. For me, L'As Du Falafel automatically has this one point in its favour.

The contents of a the falafel sandwich are good - good falafel balls that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are not in the least bit dry. More importantly, they have a reputation of consistently good falafel balls. The pita was soft; the pickled cabbages were also of good quality and quite delicious on their own. What really made the sandwich for me was the addition of 2 slices of marinated eggplant; enough for an eggplant lover, yet not obtrusive for those who hate the vegetable (at our tasting, there was 1 of each). Also, the sauces were good.

Ordering a falafel at L'As Du Fallafel is no mean feat. Many people get the €2 discount by ordering it at the counter & eating their sandwich, which comes with a plastic fork, on the street. This involves patience as well as a strict adherence to procedure. We went inside, and were treated fairly well for such a busy sandwich bar. The place is busy, it's loud and it seems as though the staff move in fast-forward.

The three components of L'As du Fallafel are firmly in place. However, when we bit into our sandwiches, we expected the "Wow, that's a sandwich!" moment. This moment never really came. It was a good sandwich, beyond a doubt, but it suffers under one additional element: hype and expectation. There's not a sandwich in the world that can live up to the expectation of being the best sandwich in the world.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daring Cooks May - Enchiladas

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

When I read about the enchiladas I had to make this month, I got unnaturally excited. I haven't had much Mexican food since I moved over to Germany. I think there was a Mexican place not too far from where I live but it has since turned into a French restaurant, adding one more eatery to the list of "food from our neighbouring country". Mexican on the other hand, is not common. It is more common to find a Spanish restaurant here in Germany than a Mexican one. This is of course, the complete opposite of North America, where it is much easier to find Mexican food. (For an amusing take on this problem, see The Onion's article: Restaurant Turns Out To Be Spanish, Not Mexican)

Suffering from a lack of Mexican restaurants means that there will be a certain lack of Mexican ingredients as well. It is extremely difficult to find tortillas, for example. I could go to my local Turkish donair shop & get them to roll me yufkas, which are like kinda like tortillas. I could try to deconstruct a nacho chip & make enchiladas out of those. Fortunately, I have a friend from Central America who wanted to make tortillas and had a bag of corn flour at home. Neither of us really know how to roll tortillas. We've seen our moms do it (mine rolled roti - another flatbread like a yufka) but never knew how to do it ourselves.

rolling tortillas

Being far away from home, far away from not only families but the cultures we call home, it makes me aware of the value of cultural goods. The value of not only having my mom around - I'm already aware of her value - but also of having people with similar backgrounds around. The next problem in the enchilada recipe was Anaheim chilies. I don't know offhand what exactly an Anaheim chili is, but research showed that it's a mild chili. I bought the next best thing. Which resulted in a very deadly hot dish. Would this problem have been avoided had I been at home? Maybe not. But at least there, I have more than 2 chili varieties to chose from. Here, it was either red or green. I picked green.

Dinner was still edible. If only because there was some yogurt in the fridge and a bottle of tequila on the table. Being far away from home has drawbacks, certainly, but there's something to be said for spending an evening with friends who share commonalities.

Finished product: deadly hot stacked enchiladas

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Things That Come in the Mail - Bavarian Alpine Cheese

Aside from monthly bills and the odd newsletter to my local wine store, I love love love getting things in the mail. Postcards, letters, packages, things I've ordered online - it's always a surprise when I come home after a day at work. I've come to value the merits of certain couriers over others. Hermes allows me to send anything back, DHL is the standard of the German Post and DPD - well, it's DPD. The friendly man from DHL came by today with the box of cheese I ordered last week. What did I order? Clockwise from top:

Emmentaler - what is normally referred to as Swiss cheese in North America. This one is old.

Emmentaler - this is a milder version. I need to compare the 2.

Bergkäse - it's Alpine cheese. Literally means "mountain cheese" the milk is from cows who are happy frolicking in the Bavarian alps.

Weisslacker - I don't know what this is but it's small, creamy and the smell could peel the paint off of walls. Kind of like a roquefort but sweet.

Bärlauchkäse - a cheese with wild leeks. This makes me happy.

Camembert - it's not a true Camembert because that must come from France. This is a Mountain Guard Camembert. It'll do just fine.

In the center: Eisenberger - a hard cheese and it looks like Swiss cheese but with smaller holes and the taste is not as nutty.

The place I ordered it from has very amusing video on cheesemaking, complete with Alpenhorn music. It's like being in a Ricola ad. See it here. I visited this cheese place on my way home from Neuschwanstein - the Cinderella castle - a year ago. I saw a cheese place that was open & I insisted that we stop.

Photo taken with new camera phone that has since broken

sign on the side of some barn at the cheese place -
translates to "our milk makes Bavaria strong!"

Dinner for a few nights is saved: nice weather, crusty bread I can get on the way home, cheese and a bottle of wine. I love living in Europe.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eating Out - McDonald's Deutschland Cupcakes

After years of trying to explain to Germans that there is life beyond muffins and its name be cupcakes, McDonald's has introduced cupcakes to its McCafé lineup. There are 4 flavours, all named after New York City areas - Chelsea Chocolate, SoHo Vanilla, Central Park Strawberry and East Village Cappuccino. I was slightly intrigued by this addition to the McCafé menu when I read heard about it last month, but not so much that I felt the need to consume the extra calories. Then I read a post on Serious Eats about this very topic. For my fellow food bloggers at home, I sampled 2 of the new cupcakes.

I ruled out the strawberry and cappuccino cupcakes right away, and settled on the Chelsea Chocolate and SoHo Vanilla. I'm not too sure why they are named after these neighbourhoods, but that's secondary. The cupcakes themselves: unspectacular. Decent cake; fatty, sugary frosting. The cupcakes were placed in a box with care by the lady behind the counter but I'm not sure that anything could have made a dent in the frosting. The cupcakes are in a cooled area and the frosting is harder than a Sara Lee cake. And not as good. It'd be better if it was from Duncan Hines. Still, the chocolate frosting is better than the vanilla.

The cake itself was decent but McDonald's has been selling chocolate muffins for a few years now, and frankly, I think they used the same batter. Not bad, but not worth the calories.

Price: €1.79 per cupcake (approx. $2.40 US), or have all 4 for €5.99.

Note: Germany has good cakes. Coffee cakes, creamy blackforest cakes, fruit flans - many bakeries have cafes where you can sit and have a coffee and piece of cake. If you're travelling here, you might want to consider that option.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Friendly Fish with Caramelized Garlic

As a diver, I love to see fish underwater. As a gourmand, I love to see fish on ice or a plate. It's not that hard to reconcile the 2 desires if you're responsible about it. Overfishing is an environmental and economic issue - if there are no fish, the environment suffers, as do the fishermen. Also, we suffer as we are no longer able to eat the fish we want. I've noticed that divers love to eat seafood when they are above water. Many of them don't realize that the meager amount of fish they saw underwater are not sufficient to sustain the restaurant industry on land. I've been to diving spots in the Mediterranean where all the restaurant fish has been imported from Asia. This makes me think that something is wrong.

Of course, it'd be difficult to give up eating fish all together. If you're not aware of it, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) examines the source of fish, how it is caught, and in the case of farmed fish, how it is farmed. If it is harvested in a sustainable manner, they give their seal of approval, which makes buying fish much easier. I found MSC hake in the local supermarket, frozen in individual filets. Hake is an ocean whitefish that has a firm texture. Perfect for pan frying with garlic. This recipe is simple, quick and perfect for 1 person. Serve with a salad.

Hake with Caramelized Garlic
1 clove of garlic
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1 hake fillet
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 slice lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Slice garlic thinly. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, it should not cook right away. Allow the garlic to brown for 60-90 seconds, stirring if necessary. Remove garlic from the pan, leaving the oil. Drain garlic on paper towels. Add hake to pan, cooking for 2 minutes on each side. Place cooked hake on a plate, top with garlic and parsley. Add salt & pepper to taste, and serve with lemon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Low-Fat, Choco-Coco-Fruity Muffins

I had this stomach virus-thing recently. Neither I nor you, dear reader, want me to go into detail. All I will state is that my diet was limited. As I was unable to eat sweets and eat fruit, all I wanted was sweets and fruits.

It's Easter today. I want chocolate & cake & everything that's bad for me. This morning, I made something that satisfied the elements of my desires, yet still adhered to the elements of my diet: Choco-coco-fruity muffins.

Choco-Coco-Fruity Muffins
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
3 Tbps shredded coconut
3 Tbps butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup milk
1 cup fresh fruit (blueberries & chopped stawberries)

Mix flax seed, coconut, butter & sugar. Blend together. Beat in egg. Mix flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa powder, hot water and milk. Add flour and cocoa mixture, slowly & one by one to the butter-egg mix. Add fresh fruit. Divide among 10 muffin forms. Bake at 180° for 12-15 minutes.

The flax and coconut add extra fiber, and the coconut adds extra fat so the butter can be reduced. The sugar is reduced by adding fresh fruit and yet the muffins are still moist because they have the very wet cocoa mixture in them. If they're not sweet enough, cover them in frosting. I have a jar of frosting in my office and I wish I had brought it home this weekend. But even without the frosting, the muffins are a nice, light snack. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food Floor - KaDeWe in Berlin

Last weekend, the workaholic & I hopped a train & went to Berlin. The hotel we were staying at was not far from the zoo, and not far from the Kaufhaus des Westens - KaDeWe. This is one of the remaining department stores where you can really get anything your heart desires. We walked in next the the Tiffany's counter, which is a self-enclosed store, just like Omega & Mont Blanc. We didn't stop to look; it was lunchtime & we got in the next elevator, went to the 6th floor & found: food. An entire floor of International, but mainly European, food. After looking at the overfilled grill, we passed by the Paul Bocuse stand, and we finally settled on crepes. For me, the Parisienne, for the workaholic, the Marseille.

Mine had crawfish and mushrooms in a cream sauce, his had tuna and olives in a tomato sauce. A good crepe, but a crepe all the same. I wanted more. So we got our things & started to walk.

We passed by the cheese counter. I asked what the layout was. "Here we have goat cheese, these are organic cheeses, here's the Bavarian cheese, next to it the Austrian cheese, the Swiss cheese, down there" (and it was 4 meters away) "is the English cheese, around the corner, we have Italian cheeses, and next to those the Spanish ones. The French cheeses are at the counter over there." And the lady motioned to another island, larger than the one she was staffing. "If there's anything you need, please let me know," she concluded - words not often heard in the German language. We bought some Roncal, because I've been having difficulties getting it with my online supplier. Then we went to look at the French cheeses. I photographed the French butters, mainly because they have over 10 different kinds.

Then we noticed that they have a cheese bar. A little nook where shoppers can sit, have a glass of wine and savour cheese, while the rest of the store hums with movement.

There was also a very well stocked wine department, which had a cooler room instead of a cellar. That was where they stored the Rothschilds and other rarities. You need a salesperson with a key to enter. I bought a bottle that didn't need to be locked up. After looking around a bit, we found the fish department, right next to the packed oyster bar. We watched the fishmonger as he skillfully made fillets out of wild flounder.

As the fishmonger told the purchaser the price, the woman simply said, that's fine - I won't eat anything for the rest of the week. 150€/Kilo is a steep price for such a flat fish.

What surprised me was the fact that I could find Canadian lobster. I've been following the lobster market from afar this season, lamenting the fact that I couldn't come home for some crustaceans. But in KaDeWe, I found some. It was in a can though, so I couldn't go through with it. Not to mention the prices did not reflect the Canadian lobster market I'd been following. Yes, other people follow stocks, I follow lobster prices.

Afterwards, we found the ham section. There was a section for Italian ham, for ham from central Germany, ham from northern Germany, ham from southern Germany, and fair selection of pata negra ham from Spain. For those of you who don't know - I love my Spanish ham. See last years post as proof. I bought some 20 month old ham to go with my roncal and wine & almost made my way out of the store. One thing got in my way - the Veuve Clicquot stand, with the Grand Dame champagne that is normally never available by the glass. We stopped, shared a glass & took our treasures back to the fridge in the hotel.

Yes, there was a lot more to see in Berlin. We made it to some tourist attractions. But for me, this was on my list of "Things to do before I leave Germany". Going to KaDeWe is now off of my list. Going back to KaDeWe has replaced it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

La Grande Dame de Berlin

I spent last weekend in Berlin. Friday night, I packed a bag, set my alarm clock and got on the 6am train. Just in time for lunch in Berlin. After dropping off my bag, I set out to the Kaufhaus des Westens, also known as KaDeWe, also known as the best food floor in the world. Yes, it outdoes Harrod's. I'll post on that later. What I'm posting about today is the Veuve Clicquot stand.

There are stands for a few of the big champagne houses, Moet, Jacquard, and Veuve Clicquot. The Veuve stand had the most seating room and had the friendliest smile behind the counter. The workaholic and I went for Veuve, mainly because we never drink it. We had a glass of the regular champagne, as well as a glass of Grande Dame. I've never seen Grand Dame for sale by the glass before, maybe because it retails for over 100 Euros. This was our unique chance to try a glass of the 1998 vintage, and it did not disappoint.

After having the lovely lady with the smile explain to us what made this Grande Dame so special (very fine bubbles, notes of apricot and tobacco - yes, this is a good thing!) we tried a glass. Opened in front of us, poured so I could taste if it was corked, I was served a glass of very fine champagne. The Workaholic ordered a glass of the Brut as comparison.

Agreed, very fine bubbles. A beautiful brut: notes that a good chardonnay strives for and a wonderfully complex bouquet on the palate that made me savour every sip. The only problem is that I was under sensory overload with 1 glass. Maybe it's for the best because the stuff is rather expensive.

More on Berlin & KaDeWe later...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Memories of a Sandwich - Avocado

Years ago, I went to San Fransisco with my sister. I'm sure the photos are in a box somewhere and if I were to look at them, I'd see us in the Japanese Tea House, us at the pier, us in a cable car and then buying shoes. I can remember all of these things. I also remember the avocado sandwich. Some sandwich bar in a surfer town north of San Fransisco had avocado sandwiches on their chalk-board menu. We ordered them. I loved mine, my sister got sick, presumably from hers. Niether of us will forget those sandwiches - I because it was the first time I had heard of the clever idea of an avocado and a sandwich all in one. My sister won't forget it because she got sick & I constantly remind her of it. To this day, she seems fears avocadoes in bread.

Today, I'm working from home. The train line was shut down this morning due to a medical emergency. Although I was annoyed, I resisted the urge to scramble for an alternate route to work, which would have taken over 1 hour and resulted in me being fed up before I even look at my emails. Instead, I walked back home, told my boss & my coworkers where I was, and I knew that I'd finally get rid of the avocado on my counter.

Avocado Sandwich
2 slices of rich 4-grain bread
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato spread (bruschetta spread)
2 small tomatoes, sliced
4 slices of grilled eggplant
1 Tbsp feta
1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Mix mayonnaise and feta. Set aside. Spread bruschetta spread on 1 slice of bread. Place avocado slices on top. Layer eggplant on avocado. Place tomato slices on top. On the other slice of bread, spread the feta-mayonaise. Place lid on sandwich & slice.

This wasn't a Proust-like moment. The taste of this sandwich did not transport me back to Northern California. But it reminded me of my sister's Achilles heel and it made me laugh.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - March - Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

It's been a busy month. I haven't posted, I've been at work instead. I'd rather be posting. Frankly, if I hadn't completed the challenge the day it was revealed, I would have never got around to it. I was in the process of making a chicken soup with leftover chicken scraps from my freezer and I saw that this month's challenge involved making your own stock for risotto. So I cheated a little. It's The Daring Kitchen. I haven't adhered 100% to the recipies to date, why start now? I had the start of Jaden Hair's pho on the stove, from a previous challenge. This stock can be used for risotto, no problems. The thing is, I'm not really into risotto at home. Many people view it as aperfect comfort food - it has carbs, is creamy and warm - but I prefer to make fake risottos. I use quinoa. So 2 cheats. 1, I didn't use the proper stock (but it was homemade) and 2) I used quinoa instead of rice. Nonetheless, I was happy. I managed to accomplish at least one post for the month.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Truffle-Scented Roasted Cauliflower

I've been bad at blogging recently. I've been bad at just about everything recently. Work has been very busy, which is normally a good thing, but it leaves me very little free time. I'm uninspired to really cook anything extrodinary, and I'm even less inspired to blog about it.

Sadly, my blogoversary came & went & all I could do was tweet about it. I didn't even use the full 140 characters Twitter allows me. I didn't even think I had anything to blog about until I ran into a commuter buddy on the way home after a long day in the office. She asked me about winter vegetables & what I do with them. I told her how I roast cauliflower and sprinkle it with truffle oil. She seemed interested. So, here I am, 2 train rides later, inspiried and posting about the roasted cauliflower I had last night.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets.
1 Tbsp sunflower oil.
1-2 Tbsp truffle-infused oil*
sea salt

Heat oven to 220°. Put cauliflower in a baking dish. Toss with sunflower oil so it doesn't stick. After about 20-25 minutes, take baking dish out of the oven. Toss cauliflower with truffle oil in the same baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt.

*I found some truffle oil in an Italian supermarket. I'm sure that a nutty sunflower oil or a good olive oil would work. This is the best use of truffle oil that I have found to date, though.

I made a risotto in the meantime. It came from a package & I had high expectations of it. The risotto was a disappointment but the cauliflower was good.

Update: My commuter buddy has a commuter blog. Visit here for her insights on the daily ride.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beets a Cafeteria Lunch

Like any job, mine has it's pros & cons. One of the advantages is that my boss sometimes allows me to work from home. I like to use days like that to make myself a light lunch, knowing that it's better than what my coworkers are eating in the cafeteria. Recently, I was working from home and made a roasted beet, avocado salad with horseradish dressing. I got the recipe from Serious Eats and made a minor change. This was a summer salad for people who don't want to turn their stoves on. It's currently winter & we can all use the extra warmth.

Beet, Avocado Horseradish Salad
(original recipe available here)
2 medium beets, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Avocado
lemon juice
salt & pepper

Sautee beets in vegetable oil until soft.
Mix horseradish, vinegar & olive oil in a jar. Set aside.
Slice avocado. Place in bowl, cover with lemon juice & water to prevent from getting brown.
Arrange soft beets on 2 plates, place 1/2 avocado on each serving. Shake jar of dressing again, pour over top, add salt & pepper to taste.

Quick lunch with lots of room for a proper dinner. And the horseradish & warm beets make me almost forget how cold it is outside.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eating In - Coa

Outside Coa

It's been quite a week with Carnival, Chinese New Year's and Valentine's Day all within a few weeks. We went out for a Carnival party but were stuck for ideas on how to combine Valentine's with Chinese New Year. We decided on having an indoor picnic with Chinese food. There was only one fault with my plan. Chinese food is really hard to find in Germany. It's normally too formal for take-out (which doesn't mean it's good) or is just a buffet (which also does not mean it is good). Enter Coa, the Asian "Feel Good Food". There are shops in Berlin, Frankfurt and in Mannheim. We went to the one in Mannheim for takeout.

I know it is unfair to judge a place based on takeout. The texture, temperature and consistency are bound to be off (unless we are talking about delivery pizza - then these are legitimate criteria). Bearing that in mind, I will judge only flavour & spices. With Coa, I was a little disappointed. We ordered: vegetarian dim sum, shui mai, chicken satay skewers, gyoza, pho bo & udon noodles with duck. The vegetarian dim sum was a dumpling with a chopped vegetable filling. The shui mai, pork & shrimp filled pockets, were very small. I was hard pressed to tell the difference between these two appetizers and the ones in the freezer section of my Asian supermarket. The chicken satay skewers came with a nice peanut sauce but the spice mix of the skewers themselves was lacking. The gyoza was good, but nearly anything deep-fried is good (it was not pan-fried as I was expecting).

I found the pho bo to be a placid beef soup with beef chunks, not slices, that were lacking the wakening spices that I love so much about pho. What surprised me is that this is from their take-out menu. When I used to beg for take-out pho from my local place at home (they didn't really do take-out), they would give me a container of rice noodles, a container of soup & a plastic bag full of sprouts & extras. Here, it all came in one container, leaving the noodles to steep until they are ready to fall apart. The udon was spicy & the duck was nice. But it's Valentine's day - it's not about the food, and I'm happy to report that the picnic was a fun success.

I think the appeal of Coa must lie in it's sleek interior. Dark wood, white walls, green accents and a few orchids; it's a nice place to come in for a quick bite. But don't expect too much flavour in that bite.

Coa - inside

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - February - Mezze

The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

A few weeks ago, the fondest memories of last January came back: Mezze in Kuwait. For whatever reason, last year I found myself in the middle of the desert with a scarf in my hair, looking to explore. Exploring isn't easy for a woman alone in the Middle East. I was miserable. Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere and the internet connection was ridiculously slow. There was one thing that had me excited: having dinner in one of these private tents.

The food was fantastic. I have no idea what it was but it was great. Warm weather (for someone who lives in Germany), bright sun, a couple of camels & mezze. The only thing that made me really want to leave was a glass of wine and a slice of Spanish ham (neither of which are allowed in Kuwait).

When Michelle posted her challenge, I knew this would be a chance to taste those middle eastern memories. I planned to make the hummus with a roasted red pepper. I started to knead the dough for pita bread. Something came up, I had to put the dough in the fridge overnight. I took it out the next day, rolled it out & placed it in a hot oven. At this point, I should note that I've never been able to make bread. Bread never really rises in the oven when I make it. One of my pitas puffed up, but not really. I left them in a little longer, hoping they just needed more time. The result: pita chips. Oh well, not bad.

The hummus was divine, the olives I had just bought from the market were great, and I have this supermarket around the corner that sells fresh pita bread. As wonderful as the smell of freshly baked bread is, as long as I live close to good bakeries, I'm going to outsource the task of baking.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turkey Burgers - or Dumpling Filling

It's true, I'm a sucker for ground turkey. I'm not really sure why, perhaps because it's relatively rare compared to ubiquitous German pork. It's slightly healthier, it tastes simmilar to pork, but really, I think I just like turkey. And ground turkey is easier to prepare than roasting a whole bird.

Normally, I favour turkey burgers with grilled figs but the local green grocer didn't have figs. I scoured online & found an idea (it's far too forgiving to be an actual recipe) for turkey potstickers. I didn't feel like making the dumpling skins myself, and it was a cold day outside so I wasn't about to buy them. I made burgers.

Asian Turkey Burgers
(adapted from The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)

1/2 head napa cabbage, chopped
300g ground turkey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 chopped scallions
1tsp minced garlic
1tsp minced ginger
1 shredded carrot
1 1/2 tsp light miso
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 rolls with sesame seeds on top

Sautee cabbage to get rid of moisture.
Mix cabbage, turkey, soy, sesame oil, vinegar, scallions, garlic & ginger in a bowl. Form into 2 patties. Grill. Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise and miso. Slice open rolls, spread a bit of miso mayo on each half. Remove burgers from grill, place on roll. Top with Kimchi & carrot.

I was not only enamored with the burgers, I was also enamored by the blog from Ms. Lee.

After clicking through a few pages, I realized I needed to order the book. While I don't normally plug anything except local farmers, I can only recommend this book. I, like many people, love Chinese food. Ms. Lee does not talk about Chinese food, she talks about the Americanization of Chinese food - a concept which can be applied to other countries as well, to varying degrees. The life of an immigrant is hard, one often is confronted with a lack of acceptance. Degrees and qualifications are not recognized; locals think that you are a threat to the local economy and will take away jobs from citizens (this is something that I have not only been subject to, it is something that I see going on around me). Ms. Lee explains how the Chinese have become more American that apple pie (When was the last time you ate apple pie? she asks. When was the last time you ate Chinese food?) and shows the evolution of restaurant workers; from illegal immigrants, to restaurant owners, to parents of children who are not to own restaurants.

At least I got to think about something while eating my turkey burgers. And by the way, even though it is a popular substitute for pork in Chinese recipes, turkey isn't Asian.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kohlrabi Greens - People Food

Kohlrabi gets its name from the German language. Roughly translated as "cabbage turnip", a descriptor which sums up the taste and shape of the vegetable. If a turnip were to sprout cabbage greens, kohlrabi would be the result.

The vegetable is very popular in Germany. One of my friends claimed it was the only vegetable he would eat as a child. In the cold days of winter, kohlrabi is one of the easiest fresh vegetables to find - my supermarket can always be counted on for crates of the alien-looking vegetable. But in the crates, there is always a pile of leaves. People pull the leaves off, and take the mini-sputniks with them.

For a while, I didn't think this was edible, but I thought of baby beet greens, which are a part of a good mesclun salad. The bigger greens can be cooked. I put a bit of research into kohlrabi greens and discovered that you can eat them. They are not just rabbit food.

The first step was going to the supermarket and filling a bag of greens. These are normally given away for free, a fact which made me feel, well, a little illicit, knowing that I would be eating these myself. Oh well, it's the supermarkets loss.

Having gotten the greens home, I washed them, pulled out any huge chunks of stem, roughly chopped them and steamed them. In the meantime, I sauteed some garlic. When the greens were cooked, I drained any extra liquid, cooked them quickly with the garlic, added sesame oil & Chinese black vinegar, and topped it with sesame seeds. The result: like spinach but with a slight cabbage taste. The vinegar was maybe a bit strong. Nest time, I want to use olive oil & lemon juice. Assuming, of course that I can swallow my pride & eat rabbit food again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mornings - Bagels

Mornings are not my friend. Only through routine do I manage to make it to work. Sometimes routine fails but normally, it works out fine. Part of my auto-pilot program is the breakfast bagel that I never manage to eat at home. I wrap it in foil, run for the train & let my bagel sit in the office for a few hours until I remember that it's there. The last few days, I've been sleeping in and running late. Today, I finally found the time to make my breakfast bagel.

There is a wonderful tradition in this country of 2nd breakfast. This is the sandwich or other snack eaten at 10am, after one has already eaten breakfast at 7 or earlier. The second breakfast is normally more than a piece of fruit. It's a sandwich, sometimes with just a slice of cheese or a few coldcuts, but when I was in university, most students packed a mid-morning snack. School children also often have their mid-morning snack. This is enough to tide people over until lunch, when they have the main meal of their day.
Germany is apparently the land of over 600 different kinds of bread, none of which is Wonderbread. Most of these are incredibly healthy whole-grain loaves that really make you count your blessings with your daily bread.

There are a few things I haven't grown used to yet. I haven't yet converted 100% to dark breads, but I enjoy 4-grain bagels. I haven't grown used to having my main meal at lunch, so I often eat again with the workaholic in the evening. But I'm all about this mid-morning snack thing.

The breakfast bagel is fairly simple (it must be easy enough for a zombie to prepare)

1 4-grain bagel
1 small tomato, sliced
1 Tbsp goat cream cheese (thicker and tastier than regular cream cheese)
1/2 Tbsp green pesto
1/2 tsp capers
1/2 tsp green peppercorns

Split bagel. Smear pesto on 1 half. Smear cream cheese on the other. Place tomatoes, peppercorns & capers on the side with cream cheese. Place pesto-smeared side on top. Slice into halves, wrap in foil & run out the door because you're late for work again.

This morning, I finally managed to take a photo of the breakfast bagel. And with the list of ingredients, maybe my coworkers will stop begging me to bring more in to feed them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I am a Jelly-Filled Donut!

In 1963, John F Kennedy stood in front of the Berlin wall & supposedly proclaimed that he is a jelly-filled donut. The problem with this theory is that the citizens of Berlin do not call jelly-filled donuts Berliners. They call them "Pfannkuchen", which translates as pancake everywhere else in the country.

I don't understand why these delicate baked goods are called "Pfannkuchen" in Berlin, because they are fried in lots of fat or oil. Yes, fat. Lumps of yeast-risen dough swimming in boiling rendered pig or chicken fat - that would be a Berliner. Originally, they would be cooked in whatever oil you could get and up until maybe 100 years ago, animal fat was much more prevalent that vegetable oil. These sweet doughy balls of goodness were originally only consumed during Karnival, the prelude to Lent, or the period of fasting.

There are certainly trials and tribulations involved with living in a foreign country. Sometimes, I sigh & say that something is just so German. Yet, there are things that I love. I am fascinated by the differences in language in such a small area (just a few minutes ago, a friend from Berlin corrected my Facebook status to tell me I'm not in love with Berliners but with "Pfannkuchen"). I love the fact that there are bakeries everywhere. I love not having to drive. I love the Berliners. They are breadier than doughnuts, not as sweet, and the filling is real jam. What's not to love?

I know I should be fasting after the period of Christmas and New Years. I'm trying to be good. I realize that I am no longer the girl who could eat 5 Berliners on her own and not have her clothes shrink. Still, a girl's got to eat. It's not my fault if the bakery didn't have any good-looking sandwiches. It's not my fault if the Berliners look adorable, is it? But beyond looks, it's somehow a part of cultural heritage. At least I can tell myself that as I eye up the rest of them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks - January - Satay Chicken

"The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day."

Words that should inspire me. Instead, they filled me with one of the most regretful sentiments, nostalgia.

Last year, the Workaholic and I found ourselves in the night market of Kuala Lumpur. It was an adventure that was slightly outside of our comfort zone, if only because we both had fears of eating undercooked anything and spending a day not able to leave the hotel. After scouring the street hawkers, we decided to nibble on small things, and the first thing we had were satay skewers. I've never been a huge fan of satay anything in the past, but they were there, they were small, they were non-committal. We ordered our skewers, the man told us how much it was while holding the meat-covered wooden sticks in the fire and just as we completed the financial part of the transaction, we got our meat. Were we afraid that this was undercooked & going to force us to make use of our international health insurance? Yes. We tenatatively bit in, dipping the meat in the little plastic bag of sauce that came with it. We were delighted. They were fantastic, succulent flavourful pieces of meat that, most importantly, dissolved all fear of hawker food. I fell in love with the food, the scenery and would so love to go back. I think the Workaholic would like to as well.

The satay skewers I made were 1) doomed to never be the satay skewers of my memories, 2) not grilled because my grill is covered in snow, and 3) not on skewers. I don't really think that the skewers made much of a difference, as the idea is to tenderize the meat through the marinade, and the meat was juicy and tender. They just weren't the same spices. This should come as no surprise, the recipe was a British interpretation of Thai, not potentially frightening Malaysian flavour that I had in mind.

The Workaholic bit into his dinner and asked, "Shouldn't they be spicier?" I had to agree. I followed Cuppy's recipe but it just didn't work out for us. The peanut sauce, on the other hand, was fantastic. The Workaholic found it to be too sweet (we don't eat any sugar any more) but I have been eating spoonfuls of leftover sauce out of the fridge (don't pretend as if you never do that!).

We may try other recipes for satay skewers that actually involve me going out to the grill and getting the burn marks I should. I might add fish sauce and chilis. Whatever I do, I'm waiting until the snow melts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Okra in Coconut Sauce

I only needed green onions, nothing else. But I saw the okra in my local green grocer & I couldn't leave it behind. Just a handful, I thought to myself. When I got home, I realized that my hands had suffered from some mutating growth dysfunction in the store because they had apparently grown. Thankfully, they've since returned to normal.

One of my first posts was about okra, and then I said that my next okra would be different. Well, let's be honest, there's not too much you can do with okra but this is pretty good. Double frying might not be the best thing for you, but it makes it very crispy, and it's a vegetable. How bad can it be?

250 g okra
oil to fry
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c shredded coconut
1/2 cup milk

Slice okra in 1/4" slices. Fry in hot oil until brown. Remove from oil, drain, and fry again.

In a skillet, warm mustard seeds until they pop. Add curry powder, chili powder and garlic, stirring not to burn. When smell of curry powder hits you, add the coconut.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Duck Into the Year

I wanted to ring in 2010 quietly. My original plans fell through & then I thought, my ideal would be to stay at home with take-out Chinese food. This is what I would have done if I was at home in Canada, where there is good Chinese take-out that is open on New Year's Eve. In Germany, however, there's little Chinese take-out, and I think the only thing open on NYE is the local Donair shop. While I like a good donair, it's not the "pick out the container food that is going to last me until 11pm" food. I decided I was going to make my own. And if you're going to do anything, you might as well do it right. Hence my decision to make a Peking Duck. For 2 people. With homemade Mandarin Pancakes.

Peking Duck
Here I managed to find a 1kg wild duck, which was perfect for 2 people. I thawed it, and plucked it, because my duck still had lots of feathers attached. It reminded me that I should make an appointment with my aesthetician.

Then I dipped the duck into boiling water. I think this is to make the skin taught. I then let the duck dry. After it was dry, I brushed a mixture of:
5 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp 5 spice powder
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp rice wine
The duck got coated in this & it was poured into the cavity.
Next, the duck is supposed to dry, and I read about putting it in front of a fan. When I brought out the fan, the workaholic grew concerned. He suggested I use the "fan only" feature of the oven. A good idea. My only concern was, how did he know there's a fan only feature and I didn't?

After 6 hours, the duck was dry, so I filled the pan with water, left it on a grate & roasted it at 200°, starting with the breast side down, then up, then down again. I think it was in there for about 1 hour. Let the bird rest & then slice.

Homemade Mandarin pancakes (I'm not going to give a recipe because I'm not good at them), stuffed with Hoisin sauce, green onions, cucumber & carrots, as well as slices of duck. A good way to bid 2009 farewell. Things I'd do different next time: get a bigger duck. It was really good.

As it turns out, we didn't ring in the new year quietly. I got a text message & at 11:40pm, ended up in a bus on the way to a bar where a few friends were getting sparkling wine ready. Oh well, I tried. At least the duck worked.
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