A Thanksgiving menu for all posterity!

This Thursday I'm hosting a bunch of "homeless" (not literally) friends from around the area for a spectacular feast.  Quite a few people are pitching in and I am super excited about the menu, which is somewhat traditional and yet not really:

Dishes to Make:
12-lb. Turkey (Wendy)
Stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes (Grace)
Steamed fish (Vince)
Cranberry sauce (me)
Homemade garlic aoili + stuff to dip (me)
Butternut squash risotto (Candace)
Sweet potato souffle (Genevieve + Scott)
Vegetable tian (Genevieve + Scott)
Rosemary focaccia + pumpkin chutney (Bhumi)
Sweet potato fries (Bhumi)
Some kind of pie (Wendy)
Some other kind of dessert
Homemade (Lactaid) eggnog (me)
Small batch of mulled wine (Gilbert)
Some kind of tasty dish (Michael + Steve)

Things to Buy:
La Brea Bakery bread (Costco)
Drinks + ice (Trader Joe's?)

Foodie Tuesdays: A well-seasoned wok.

Garry used to live with someone who is a cook and a baker, and I was inspired by this traditional carbon steel wok I saw hanging from her rack of pots and pans.  My family had only ever used nonstick woks, and I was in need of a really good one after a bad experience with a cheap IKEA wok that kept flaking bits of nonstick coating into my food.

I was in Walmart the other day and came across this carbon steel wok for about $16.  I thought, what a steal!  Haha, no pun intended.  I glanced over the seasoning instructions and they looked simple enough.  I gave it a chance.

I took it home and the shiny smoothness of it made me happy.  I was excited to get started with the seasoning.  Here's how I did it:

1. Fill wok about 2/3 with water.  Set on the stove and boil for about 10 min.
2. Drain wok and scrub with scouring pad and hot, soapy water to remove protective coating.
3. Immediately season.  Use 1-2T cooking oil and place over medium heat on the stove, using a paper towel to distribute oil evenly on wok's interior surface.
4. Tilt wok occasionally to heat sides as well as bottom of the wok. (This is where I screwed up.  I tilted the wok to one side and then went to eat some dinner.  When I got back to the wok, I had burned an ugly brown area onto one side of the wok and spent the next half hour or so scrubbing it desperately to get the burned stuff off.  It never did completely come off.)
5. After 10 min, take off heat and let cool.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 about three or four times. (Yes, very time consuming.  Who knew this was so much work!)
7. Wok is ready for use!
8. After initial seasoning, DO NOT wash wok with soap.  Just use hot water and a scrubber.  Coat wok with oil before storage to prevent rusting.  If rusting occurs, scrub off with hot soapy water and repeat steps for initial seasoning (which, considering how much work it was to begin with, should deter anyone from being so careless as to let their wok rust up).

I'm excited for the yummy stir-fries I will be making with my new wok!

Made that leek tart I've been fantasizing about.

Ever since I read that article in Bon Apetit and learned how to make leek confit (see the Foodie Tuesday post about it), I've been wanting to try the recipe for Belgian leek tart that was featured in the article.  It just sounded like the perfect marriage of so many of my favorite things: buttery pie pastry, eggs, leeks, and cheese.  What's not to like, right?

In case you were wondering, the basic difference, that I can see, between a savory tart and a quiche is the egg-to-cream ratio.  I put a lot of dairy into this... 1/2 c. 2% milk (the recipe called for whole) and 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream.  But the recipe only called for 1 egg and 1 egg yolk.  I threw in 2 whole eggs, and if I had to do it again, I would probably throw in more, because I was craving a quiche. 

I decided against making the crust from scratch because a) life is too short, b) I don't have a food processor to cut in the butter, and c) Trader Joe's has these lovely ready-made pie crusts in the freezer section.  So I relied on good ole TJ's.  I think I used too big a pan though, because the crust, while nicely crimped in the first photo (and dutifully pricked all over), did not cling to the edge and shrunk abominably upon baking.  It was ok though, I didn't have a Springform pan anyway, so I was going to go with more like a leek pie or a frittata with crust.  Haha.

I added 1 small zucchini to spice things up a bit and I really like how pretty it turned out!

PS. The recipe called for aged goat cheese but I couldn't find any so I just used regular goat cheese.  Next time I will try something a lot more pungent.

Noon brunch for two: Reggie'd be proud.

This was my very first time making corned beef hash from semi-scratch.  I'd gotten some leftover corned beef from a while back, cut it up really fine, mixed it with finely diced potato and finely chopped onion.  Trying to make it as similar to the canned stuff as possible, cuz that's what Garry likes =P.  Paired with fried eggs over easy and stir-fried broccoli for good health, plus that Milton's wheat bread.  It was delicious!

Just one more reason to love LA.

In any other city, food is expensive.  Going to Safeway for fruits and veggies means paying $4/lb for bell peppers.  But here, at the local Mexican ranch market, you can get a cornucopia of food for so absurdly cheap you'd think you were dreaming.  Your eyes do not deceive you: 
  • The watermelons below are $1.99 each (compared to $6 at your average supermarket)
  • The cantaloupe is $0.33/lb
  • The raspberries (actually they are bushberries, a hybrid) are TWO CONTAINERS FOR $1.  Tell that to Safeway, which sells them for $3-4 per container.
  • Fatty artichokes are also 2 for $1.

My dad and I walked out of there with 10 and a half pounds of cucumbers, onions, cabbage, lettuce, lemons, etc etc etc for a grand total of $7.43.

I love this greater metropolitan area.

Pure genius in design.

Yesterday Wendy made nian gao for dessert to follow a night of hotpot.  As we bit into the chewy-soft goodness, we noticed there were a disproportionate amount of edge pieces.  Turns out it's because she used this ingenious device our old roomie Teresa gave her, otherwise known as an edge brownie pan.  It's designed especially for people who are always fighting for edge pieces which tend to be chewy and crisp, rather than ooey, gooey and somewhat shapeless.  I just looked it up online and found one on amazon.  It's just brilliant.  Thanks to Wendy for the recco, and Teresa for finding it in the first place =)

A delicious and nutritious breakfast.

Albeit a bit girly.  This was a perfect way to start the day after a long week.  I have long been a fan of parfaits (made with some mix of berries, usually of the straw and blue varieties, vanilla or plain yogurt, and granola on top), but sometimes they are too sweet for me.  When, the other day, I saw a coworker put together this concoction, I was like, you're brilliant!  She adds splenda but I think it's just fine without.  Ingredients are simple:

1. One yellow nectarine or peach (banana works in a pinch)
2. Big dollops of cottage cheese
3. A sprinkling of Smart Start cereal, which is always delicious.

There is something about the combination of soft sweet fruit, creamy cheese curds and crunchy cereal that sends the pleasure receptors in my brain a-tingling.

Chili dreams.

Tonight I made chili for the first time in my life.  Chili is one of those things that seeps down deep in your soul.  I can never pass it up, if I see it on a menu.  I have fond memories of cracking open a can of Stagg chili when I was a kid, but I have since graduated to ever-soaring heights of flavor with all the fancy-like chilis to be found in diners, cafes, and the like.

But I really wanted to be able to wield this kind of power myself.  I want the freedom of having chili whenever and however I please. 

I love chili so much, that I refrained from eating it tonight (except for many taste tests to make sure it was coming together).  Instead, I'm letting it sit overnight in my fridge, to let the flavors meld together in that magical way stews have of tasting even better the next day.  It's hard, though, not to fantasize about spooning up a bowlful tomorrow evening, topped with shredded cheddar (aged 3 years!) and diced onion, and with a fat square of fresh buttered cornbread to go with it.

I can't wait!  Pictures forthcoming.