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4.085 Steak au Poivre


-Cycle 4, Item 85-
31 (Sun) March 2013

-French-
Steak au Poivre

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife

Steak au poivre is a classic French dish.  It consists of a steak coated with cracked peppercorns ("poivre") and sautéed/seared in a skillet to develop a blackened crust from the peppercorns.  Typically, like many French steaks, it's served in a pan sauce involving stock and/or alcohol (to deglaze the fond), shallots and/or parsley (as aromatics), and butter and/or cream (for the extra calories).  

This was my first attempt at steak au poivre.  As with all of my French dishes these days, I adapted a recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (see generally posts relating to Mastering the Art of French Cooking).  Being an impromptu undertaking, I had to settle for the ingredients on hand, including a cheap chuck steak, black peppercorns only, and Grand Marnier, which made the whole thing a bit too sweet and citrusy.  Next time, with better meat, a variety of peppercorns, and proper cognac, I anticipate greatness.

4.084 A(e) vs. Z(ucchini): The Hobak Jeon Taste Test


-Cycle 4, Item 84-
30 (Sat) March 2013

-Korean-
A(e) vs. Z(ucchini): The Hobak Jeon Taste Test

3.0

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Here's some background on the two types of squash featured in this post.  Zucchini is a dark green cylindrical squash that's popular throughout the world, especially in Europe and North America, where it's added to stews, for example, or grilled as an accompaniment to barbecued meats (as I did yesterday).  The Italian term "zucchini" is used in the US (and Italy), while the French term "courgette" is used in the UK (and France).  (2) Ae hobak (애호박) is a light green cylindrical squash that's popular in Korea, where it's sautéed as a side dish, for example, or pan-fried into jeon (see generally 1.066 Assorted Jeon) (as I did today).  The term means "child/young (ae) squash (hobak)."  I couldn't find any references to the squash's English name.  Indeed, although I did once encounter something very similar to ae hobak in Hong Kong (see 3.140 Noodles with Shrimp and Squash), I've never seen it otherwise outside of a Korean context.  Zucchini is also available at supermarkets in Korea, referred to as "zucchini (쥬키니)" or "dweji (pig/fat) hobak (돼지호박)," but, come to think of it, I can't recall ever seeing it used in Korean cooking except for a few slices tossed into a pot of complimentary doenjang jjigae provided with a barbecue spread (see for example 3.247 Boriso Special).  My understanding is that zucchini and ae hobak are the same species belonging to a large family of edible squashes (see generally Wikipedia on Cucurbita pepo).


For the sake of comparison, I made both ae hobak and zucchini into jeon.  The idea was inspired by reader Gustaf, who'd prepared a plate of zucchini jeon as part of our on-going Korean-Swedish-cross-culinary exchange (see 4.069 Kroppkakor in Zucchini-Picada Cream Sauce).  As far back as college, when ae hobak could only be obtained at large Korean markets far away from campus, and I would substitute zucchini where ae hobak normally would be used, never really noticing a huge difference, I've always wondered how they would match up in a side-by-side appraisal.  In the present experiment, I kept everything the same between the two, applying my basic jeon recipe to each simultaneously (see generally 3.200 Saengseon Jeon with Pickled Chili Soy Dipping Sauce), even cooking them in staggered batches so that the ever-browning oil wouldn't affect the outcome.  

I was aiming for somewhere around 400 g--how about that for precision (reminds me of how sushi chefs supposedly can make a rice ball consisting of exactly 100 kernels in a single handful).

In a blind tasting by myself, the wife, and Dominic, the clear favorite was the ae hobak.  They didn't even hesitate.  I also preferred the ae hobak, which I found to be somewhat sweeter and firmer, but didn't consider it to be categorically distinct or significantly superior to the zucchini, which I found to be just slightly more bitter and flabby (more moisture within).  Perhaps if sliced a tad thicker and/or cooked less and seasoned with a touch of sugar, the zucchini could constitute a virtually indistinguishable replacement for the ae hobak in jeon.

On a technical note, the cast-iron skillet from my previous go at jeon had worked much better to produce a steady, even browning; this non-stick griddle, which I'd decided to use because it could accommodate larger batches, necessitated moving the pieces around to brown everything at the same rate, making the process ultimately more of a hassle.

4.083 Pan-Grilled Chicken & Zucchini in Mario's Kick-Ass BBQ Sauce


-Cycle 4, Item 83-
29 (Fri) March 2013

-American-
Pan-Grilled Chicken & Zucchini in Mario's Kick-Ass BBQ Sauce

1.0

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

I suspect that the sauce (see generally 3.123 Pan-Grilled Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes in Mario's Kick-Ass BBQ Sauce) may have turned a bit.   Following last week's less-than-successful BBQ pulled pork sandwich (see 4.078 Baguette Sandwich with Pulled Pork in Mario's Kick-Ass BBQ Sauce), the meat lightly dressed with a few tablespoons from a batch made a couple months ago and store in the freezer, I noted that the otherwise reliable sauce "didn't seem to work very well here in the context of a sandwich."  Using up the rest of that batch tonight, this time as a standalone sauce for some pan-grilled chicken and zucchini, I could taste the flavors more directly and discovered that it had taken on an extra layer of tartness than in its original form, as if it had fermented, certainly still edible but too sour to be pleasant.  I didn't realize that such a thing were possible in a frozen sauce.

4.082 Cowboy Burger


-Cycle 4, Item 82-
28 (Thu) March 2013

-American-
Cowboy Burger

2.5

at Smokey Saloon

-Sinsa, Seoul-

With MtG and Noh SJ

Smokey Saloon is a burger chain.  It has several locations around Seoul, including this one in Sinsa/Apgujeong.  The burgers, offered in a variety of styles, are made to order and made reasonably well.  Most are priced around 10,000 won, which doesn't seem that bad until factoring in a soft drink at 3,000 won and fries at another 3,000 won and maybe even an upgrade to a larger patty for 4,000 won--indeed, the basic patty is puny--plus 10% VAT, and suddenly the meal isn't looking so cheap.  Smokey Saloon belongs to a family of fabulously overpriced restaurants founded(?)/owned(?)/run(?) by restaurateur David Hyun that includes Isabelle's Porterhouse (see 1.360 Grilled New York Strip Steak) and Butcher's Cut (see 3.330 New York Strip Steak) (the latter now seems to be under different management).


This meal didn't happen by accident.  The evening's main event was a movie date with MtG to watch Django Unchained, which recently opened in Korea.  (Come to think of it, the last movie that we'd watched together was Inglorious Basterds, another film by Quentin Tarantino.)  (We also watched Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain together, but never mind that.)  (His wife joined us this time, rendering the atmosphere distinctly ungay.)  Given the theme of spaghetti western (or "southern," as Tarantino has been labeling it), Smokey Saloon seemed a most appropriate dinner venue.  As we were looking over the menus, both of us simultaneously selected the Cowboy Burger.  Of course we did.

The Ambulance Burger is their signature item.

The Cowboy Burger was okay.  Aside from the pathetic size, the construction was fundamentally sound: a (not overcooked) beef patty with (melted) monterey jack cheese on a (not sweet) (toasted) bun.  The additional components, however, including the (too thin and too few) slices of grilled mushrooms, the (too thick) (somewhat mushy) disc of grilled onion, and the garlic mayo (tasted like mayo), needed some reworking.  In any case, I'm not sure how any of that constitutes "cowboy."  Cowboys don't eat mushrooms, certainly not on their burgers, not even gay cowboys.


The wedge fries were actually very good.

4.081 Pulled Pork with Salsa in Lettuce Cups


-Cycle 4, Item 81-
27 (Wed) March 2013

-Mexican-
Pulled Pork with Salsa in Lettuce Cups

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

solo

Despite the minor controversy concerning national attribution that erupted the last time that I made something similar to this (see 2.083 Grilled Pork & Onions with Salsa in Lettuce Cups) (by "controversy," I mean that Number One Fan Lisa got all nitpicky about it), I'm again exercising my rights as the creator of the dish, as the writer of the blog, as the know-it-all of the food to categorize it as "Mexican."  Here, the meat was leftover pulled pork from the weekend, which I'd initially fashioned into something "American" (see 4.078 Baguette Sandwich with Pulled Pork in Mario's Kick-Ass BBQ Sauce).  BBQ sauce = American.  Salsa = Mexican.  The logic is unassailable.