071: Recipes That Slap
And other low hanging fruit, ripe for SEO
(SB) Welcome back, sweet readers, to our humble newsletter. It’s offensively chilly outside for a third day running, and I’m feeling rather under slept to top it all off. I’ll be honest and let you all know that I’ve run on the grumpier side lately: frustrated with the various institutions I nominally work for, exasperated with politics as a whole, and particularly hostile to the ceaseless tasks of cooking, cleaning, and “writing*” I also believe that there are mice living in my stove, but I am too afraid to do a more serious investigation at this time. Due to the chronic undervaluing of the humanities and systematic exploitation of educators, I also find myself looking forward to a somewhat extra-broke summer season. Please send me any low-lift opportunities where the money/time equation seems to be on the side of the worker (rare!). In the interim, I’ve decided to pump myself up with a verbal vision board of sorts: it’s about to be the summer of the beach lounge, packed sandwich, park beer, and library books.
*This is in scare quotes because, really, what is writing? (JS: It’s giving Roland Barthes.)
Before I go too off the rails, here’s what I ate:
Inspired by both my co-editor and cooking for desi dinner party, I too made Padma’s chili crisp– but used it to top some Indian-ish Nachos. I’ve honestly been living off various leftovers from said desi dinner party. One highlight was re-heated lamb kebab with fried eggs, yogurt, and naan.
I made Hetty McKinnon’s tofu dan dan again this week, and will be making the Nanohana Shira-ae Jake featured in what feels like a different lifetime in short order.
Thrillingly, this week marks a perhaps premature return to cold oatmeal season. I enjoyed one batch made with a black sesame almond milk I snagged in my most recent Imperfect order. (Not sponsored, but I am open if you’re reading this, Imperfect Foods!!!)
(JS) Readers, I’ll be honest with you: I’m absolutely exhausted this week, and the winter encore certainly isn’t helping. I find myself in the thick of multiple freelance projects for no obvious reason other than my crushing inability to say no – how do people do it? Perhaps one day I’ll learn to advocate for myself, but for now I remain “no worries if not!!!!” to my core. Food-wise, I’ve been coping with a lot of large format, weekend cooking, so that weeknights have mostly been a remixed leftovers situation. Some might call it meal prep? Oh, and happy belated Korean American publication day to those who celebrate! In case we had not made it clear already, this is an Eric Kim stan account – there’s only one man we’ll fry eggplant for.
Here’s what I’ve been eating lately:
Deb’s roasted cauliflower with brown butter and lime – I’ve made this with lemon and subbed the pepitas with whatever nuts are kicking around my freezer. It’s dependable and delicious, whether warm, room temp, or straight from the fridge.
Greek fava, which – contrary to what the name might suggest – is actually yellow split peas. I like Diane Kochilas’ recipe, finished with chopped red onion or shallot and capers. It’s great with bread or crackers, or as the base for something between a bowl and a salad.
I had a sudden and intense craving for Padma’s chana and paneer with Indian chili crisp, so I whipped up a batch of the latter and approximated the former with ricotta, adding in some berbere roasted squash for a little extra bulk.
A Brisket, A Brasket
Through a comedy of errors we’re not at liberty to recap here, one of us came into possession of an extremely high quality brisket primal. With a little help from Youtube, we eventually managed to trim the fat and separate the point from the flat, freezing the former to still end up with… well, for lack of a better phrase, a shit ton of top notch beef prime for braising. Now we know what you’re thinking – brisket is famously fatty, and that will shrink down by about half after cooking. True, and yet… the abundance seemed to know no bounds. And so, we took it upon ourselves to divide and conquer, working our way through a glut of leftovers in new and exciting ways. Consider this your primer for how to make the most of the oncoming paschal feast, kosher or otherwise.
(JS) Historically I’ve sworn by Deb’s tangy spiced brisket, a more or less classic Jewish braise that’s smothered with onions and really lets Heinz do a lot of the heavy lifting. The sweet and sour ketchup and chili sauce combo offsets the richness just enough, though it really shines with a little vinegar-y slaw and some challah. Eager to try something a bit different, this time I went with a Nancy Silverton recipe from the Chi Spacca cookbook, a red wine and beer-braised brisket inspired by the one her mother cooked when she was a kid. It’s definitely on the richer side but Nancy serves it with two essential sauces to help cut the fat – a very Nancy salsa verde and a zesty horseradish creme fraiche, preferably with Atomic horseradish (I used Gold’s – show me a cut that inspires more brand loyalty than brisket).
Even with these condiments, a little goes a long way, so I found myself seeking leftover applications where the brisket was the best supporting actor rather than the lead. Farinata seemed like as good a vehicle as any, and so I blended some chickpea flour and water with a splash of olive oil, then let the batter sit for an hour while I fished through my crisper and couple large pinches of brisket in a low oven. I thinly sliced some radishes and fennel with a mandolin and tossed them with the leftover salsa verde, extra lemon juice, and a bit of salt. The farinata cooked quickly, first on the stovetop with a good glug of olive oil, then finished for 3 or 4 minutes in the broiler, emerging golden brown and custardy in the center. I fortified the dregs of my horseradish cream sauce with a bit of Greek yogurt and spread this across the farinata, then adding the shredded brisket and topping the whole mess with a tangle of salad. And there you go – a protein-packed, pan-Mediterranean, piled-high supper.
For my second act, I found myself just a bit peckish late Saturday evening after enjoying une petite pâte de fruit courtesy of friend of the letter and chef/girlboss behind @shanghighsweets Viv. Despite a mounting desire to melt into the couch, I persevered against all odds and pulled Korean vermicelli from the pantry, as well as a few produce odds and ends (carrot, onion, cabbage), an egg, some Sichuan pickled bamboo shoots and a knob of ginger from the freezer – we were making brisket japchae, or something like it. I used Sohui Kim’s recipe as a basic guide – she insists on sauteeing each of your vegetables separately to ensure optimal cook time (despite the accompanying photograph showing precisely the opposite). My cuts were a little more rustic than hers and I used a whole egg instead of just yolks, but otherwise I more or less followed the directions. Just before adding everything back to the pan with my cooked sweet potato noodles, I added a handful of torn brisket, stirring to warm just through. Once tossed and sauced, the jumble was everything I wanted – a most pleasing mix of fresh and deep flavors, united by the uniquely bouncy noodles.
(SB) Luckily for me, my co-editor is a generous man and sent over a hefty serving of brisket for me to experiment with as well. I’m personally a big fan of the brisket sandwich, and my first round with these leftovers was dedicated to perfecting the form. I used both a grocery store roll and a few mini-loaves of focaccia as my bases, and you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the better bread was well worth it. Given that this particular brisket was especially rich and succulent, I slathered my (toasted!) bread with veganaise that I had horseradish punched up with lots of horseradish and greeted ginger, topped it with pickled jalapenos and lightly vinegared pea shoots. After a taste, I also doused my meat with several potent drops of Uncle Yankey’s Peppa! Sauce. Inspired by this piquant pairing, I also used some of the shredded brisket to top the Indian-ish nachos that I had been experimenting with. It made me want to kiss my fingers when sampled with the spicy green chutney.
Excitingly, I had enough brisket leftover to experiment anew– and soon set to making a repurposed brisket chili. I browsed around for a few different recipes, but settled on winging it with what I had on the fridge. The broad strokes included browning some chopped bell peppers and onions along with a cumin-heavy spice blend, adding in some cooked Hidatsa Red beans, chopped up brisket, and a can of crushed tomatoes. After an extended low-and-slow simmer, I served it with sour cream and pickled onions.
Readers, I realize I’m flying close to the sun, but I actually do have one small bit of brisket leftover. I think I’ll be using it in some Japanese curry.
GLD: Basque Cheesecake
(JS) Did you know Basque Cheesecake – much like yours truly – is a 90s baby? I wrongly assumed the New York Times’ 2021 Flavor of the Year was a traditional and rustic treat with rich and storied roots, but if I had taken a second to actually read the 3 accompany sentences to explain that award, I would have learned this bien cuit beauty in fact made her debut at La Viña in San Sebastian around 1990. (Sidenote: Are flavor trends subject to astrological phenomena? What other flavors are due for their saturn return?) For my first foray into tarta de queso, I turned to our Substack colleague and general fountain of knowledge Nicola Lamb, whose weekly newsletter Kitchen Projects lays bare the real deal behind recipe development. Ever the over achiever, Nicola offers a deeply researched method and measurements to adapt for 6 and 8-inch springforms. It was only upon returning from the market, eager to dive into an 8-inch medium that I discovered my springforms were in fact 7 and 9 inches. Thank goodness for the Kinja Labs recipe divider, a trusted widget for all who eschew basic algebra (shoutout to my Never Ending Salon girlies for the rec).
The beauty of Nicola’s project is her attention to detail, consistently “doing the work” as the kids say and documenting it to a tee. This newsletter, for better or for worse, is a little more freewheeling. To achieve the optimal texture (bronzed exterior, soft and creamy interior), your oven temperature really should be accurate. I started by attempting to preheat to 480F – the closest I could get to Nicola’s 250C on my weird digital oven display – but after forty minutes, the thermometer still read as below temperature, so I cranked it up to 500 and hoped for the best. I paddled my cream cheese til homogenous then paddled in the sugar to dissolve. I added my eggs one at a time, rounding up rather than splitting an egg to hit the precisely Kinja-scaled measurements. Finally I added my sour cream and heavy (double) cream, then began my half-assed liaison; to call what I did “sifting” would be generous.
I poured the batter into my parchment lined springform, filling the pan to a height that should have worried me. But in an uncharacteristically carefree move, I decided to let go and let God, placing it in the oven and setting my timer for 22 minutes for no mathematically sound reason beyond the fact that 22 is between 20 minutes (for the 6 inch cake) and 25 (for the 8 inch medium). The silhouette was positively souffle-like, puffy but not spilling over, and in a move which goes against everything we know about souffles, I ultimately opted to open the oven door and check on her at minute 21. There she was, a rich mahogany, with just the desired jiggle at center. For whatever reason, this was the moment I was compelled toward precision, and so I opted to temp check the interior: 141F, smack in the 60-62C range Nicola noted.
I don’t generally have strong feelings about cheesecake. But I cannot stop thinking about this cheesecake. I want to make this cheesecake again and again, and maybe even be a little more intentional when I do it.
WINTER IS BACK: Steamed Breve Ginger Milk Pudding
(SB) I hope everyone on the Eastern seaboard (and Midwest?) enjoyed our cloudy little flirtation with False Spring, because winter seems to be furiously and temporarily back. After leading an (admittedly charming!) group of high schoolers around the sights and sounds of the queer lower east side in below-freezing temperatures this week, I arrived at my post-dinner hours eager for both a sweet treat and a talisman against illness. After some bleary-eyed searching for ingredients I already had at home, I came upon a promising candidate: Cantonese ginger milk curd.
Most recipes I found follow a simple formula: milk and sugar are heated together, and then poured onto ginger juice (extracted by grating and squeezing ginger over a fine mesh sieve.) A protease in the ginger juice, zingipain, curdles the milk in a few minutes– leaving a soft pudding. It’s traditionally served warm, but many enjoy it chilled. The proportions tend to hover around about 200ml milk to 1 tablespoon of ginger juice, with a ten minute chill time.
Because I’m loathe to follow instructions and compulsively unable to let things go to waste, I made mine using about three parts milk and one part heavy cream. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I brought my dairy to a boil on the stove and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of turbinado sugar until everything had dissolved. I poured the mixture into two bowls lined with ginger juice– one to be enjoyed hot, and one to be enjoyed cold. While everything curdled admirably, I think it was a mistake to include so much cream. My milk pudding was extremely rich (Willis said it made him feel like a cat, which, to be clear, was not a bad thing) when it could have been rather light and fresh. I’ll have to report back on the chilled version in our next letter.
PERMANENT ROTATION: This week’s submission comes from friend of the letter and OG reader sweet baby April. She’s shouting out her mom’s famous myulchi bokkeum (aka anchovy granola) “a staple banchan dish with a sweet and salty glaze that is enjoyed all year long. This particular recipe is a Kim Rim original and one that has been perfected in a wok over many decades. My favorite way to enjoy it is by wrapping gim (aka nori sheet) around myulchi bokkeum sitting on top of white rice.”
(SB) As mentioned, I’m trying to be a packed-lunch girl at the beach and park all summer long. I’m currently coveting this chic not-so-little terra cotta insulated lunch box from Hydroflask. I’d look cute carrying it, right???
(JS) I want a new trash setup – the bin in my kitchen is currently too large so it starts to smell before really filling up. Does anyone have a good in-cabinet option to recommend?
(SB & JS) There are a lot of great events planned, both URL & IRL, for Eric Kim’s book tour, including chats with Alexander Chee, Mayukh Sen, and Melissa Clark.
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