Mum's Birthday, the Celeriac & the Hangover


I woke up bleary eyed, thirsty, tummy aching, and tired from my expeditions the night before. After downing about three cups of whole milk (my hangover ritual) I napped half-conscious in the living room with the gentle buzz of the tv. But late afternoon rolled around quickly and I had to get started on my mom's birthday dinner.


I wanted a simple and comforting menu for our small family dinner. I decided to serve Barolo Wine Poached Filet w/Celeriac Puree (Jamie Oliver), Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Emeril), and Trader Joe's Tiramisu (yeah I cheated a lil).

Now when one is hungover, especially me, the super strong scent of celery or celeriac is not pleasing at all. In fact, it is pretty disgusting. I had to peel the ugly thing, chop it up, and boil it. I did a lot of mouth breathing but pushed on saying to myself I can do this. The water came to a boil and the celery-scented steam was produced with vigor. It got to a point where I thought I was going to throw up. I chucked the whole thing (still breathing through my mouth), minus the russet potato I put into the mix. I had to light candles all over the house bc I would smell celeriac EVERYWHERE! I was not in a good state of mind at that point and wanted the house back to pre-celeriac abomination.

Thank god there were a few potatoes lying around. I switched to good old mashed potato with butter and milk to serve with the filet of beef. The filet was cooked to a tender medium-rare but the wine I'm not sure if I was too fond of the wine I used. It was some Chilean cab. I ended up returning the second bottle of it back to TJ. I guess I am sure. The wine sucked.

The filet was a bit bland. Even though the poaching liquid was seasoned it was not enough to season the filet. I think homemade rosemary-salt would be a great to sprinkle over the filet before serving.

The soup was okay. My family members liked it but I thought it needed way more butternut squash than the recipe called for. I tasted way too much of the mire poix and not enough of the sweet roasted squash. I served this with a salty crunchy parmesan-ciabatta crouton. I originally wanted to place the crouton across the soup bowl but the crouton fell a tiny bit short. Another thing gone wrong. Bleh.

So a pretty unmemorable dinner but effort counts right?


Mum's Gochujang Soup


My mom threw this soup together one day with nothing to eat for dinner and a drawer full of vegetables. Cut up some onion, zucchini, potato, mushroom, scallion, garlic. Add pork/pork broth or spam if you have it on hand. Bring it to a boil with a few spoons of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) and a few jalapenos. So fast and simple and completely addicting. I suggest serving it with some rice because the spice will be fierce and gochujang is a little bit salty. Yumm.


Turkey Day 2005

My cousin, Vivian, and I were in charge of Thanksgiving dinner for our family of 19. And since our Grandma's birthday is within a few days of this gluttonous holiday, we made it a double celebration dinner party. Unfortunately I was feeling a bit under the weather and kept putting off duties til late afternoon. Then, busy busy busy! Here is what we cooked and ate into a comatose:

Leftovers from last party...
Warm Picholines & Olives
French Cow's Milk Cheese Plate
Rosemary-Dijon Lambchops w/Pistou

Herb-Butter Roasted Turkey w/Gorgonzola Sauce
I didn't want to cook a whole bird and didn't want to have gravy. So I roasted a few turkey breasts and thighs and made gorgonzola sauce instead. The gorgonzola sauce is soo much better than gravy, imo.

Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/Pancetta & Balsamic
I tried brussel sprouts for the first time at AOC last week. It was so good and that I was inspired to make a similar dish for Thanksgiving. I forgot to get veal stock reduction for mine but it was still delicious. When the sprouts were carmelized in the pancetta fat with the crispy pancetta, red onion, and garlic, I drizzled in some balsamic vinegar and let it reduce for a sec.

Autumn Panzanella of Root Vegetables
This was my mistake of the night. I thought it would be brilliant to roast the veges under the turkey breast and finish it off later in super high heat with herbs and balsamic. But there was too much meat on top of the veges for it to roast. It steamed instead. The roasted veges with the shaved pecorino were still delicious but this was no panzanella. I'll have to rethink this recipe.

Bread Pudding w/Grand Marnier, Dried Blueberries & Candied Pecans
For some reason I was craving condensed milk and had a box full of bread crusts leftover from the last party. So bread pudding it was. I soaked some dried blueberries and grand marier, cut up one apple, got some golden raisans out. Voila, bread pudding. Topped it with La Bread Bakery granola and candied pecans. It came out so very dense but delicious. I need practice on this one... it is baking afterall.

Vivians' dishes...
Broccoli w/Lemon-Butter, Pinenuts & Parmesan
A simple vegetable dish topped with toasted pinenuts and parmesan. I like broccoli a lot so there was a lot of picking one out of the serving bowl everytime I passed by the dining table.

Thyme Popovers
These were popped over when we took it out of the oven. When we turned our backs for a second they completely deflated! I think this may be my doing because I peeked and the recipe says "Do not peek." Oops.

Sweet Potato Pie
[this one was devoured before i got a chance for a photo]
Mmmm... so comforting. I love sweet potatoes. Damn, is there anything I don't love?

Red Velvet Cake
Such a pretty cake for our grandma!


South Pole Departure Party

There are leftovers to be had from my brother's Departure Party. SO MUCH leftovers! Everyone stuffed themselves silly, imbibing delicious wine and seasonal beer and having a relaxed time. Here is what we ate to silliness...

some tj italian salami, candied pecans, crackers, and walnut-date crostini

French Cow's Milk Cheese Plate:
a. Morbier
b. St. Agur Blue Cheese
c. (crap, i don't remember the name. something really frenchy)
*oh my god, st.agur blue cheese is amazing. it's a double creme blue cheese. when the silverlake cheese monger gave me a piece of this i just want to melt. i think it was also the most expensive at $35. it's so much fun shopping for cheese (at a cheese store) bc you get to try so many different cheeses. just go into a cheese store and ask for their help and opinion. and many cheese samples will come your way.

[blurry warm picholines and almonds]
Warm Picholine Olives & Almonds
*this is from Lucques restaurant. whole foods was out of lucques olives so I subbed picholine, which worked great. I really like the meaty texture and juiciness of picholines. the best part of making this dish was when i combined the hot toasted almonds to a bowl of marinating olives (olive oil, thyme), and off went the crackling!

Goat Cheese Mousse on Walnut-Date Crostini
*this recipe is adapted from the French Laundry website. i used an 8oz trader joe's garlic and herb goat cheese. and i picked up an extra 4oz of french goat cheese at the silverlake cheese store in order to double the recipe i added this dish last minute so i had to pick up a few extra items. luckily the cheese store was selling bread that day, supposedly their first batch, and i didn't have to make a separate trip. the bread was delicious. although a super simple dish, it was a big hit.

Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta with Mushroom Ragu
*this is adapted from giada's (everyday italian) recipe. i cooked 2 lbs total of cremini and button mushrooms with thyme, rosemary, garlic, dry marsala, and sherry vinegar. i added a drizzle of white truffle oil off the heat and it really gave that extra vavoom to the dish. giada's recipe did not call for any herbs. :P wth, i say pooey to that. her food is really uninteresting but it's still useful to get a general proportion for things. i think polenta always needs more salt then what the recipe calls for. first batch was a little bit bland but i fixed that by sprinkling some kosher salt before i broiled them. i shaved a bit of pecorino after i topped the polenta squares with a small spoonful of the mushrooms. even mushroom haters loved this dish.

Croque Monsieur
*next was this delectable, cheesy ham and cheese sandwich. just watching the cheese bubble under the broiler was almost unbearable. it was a beautiful sight. i used black forest ham in this. why? bc i was at costco and that was what they had. i would prefer to use thin slices of french ham. god, it was soo good. anything with that much cheese can't be bad. the aroma of the browned cheese is amazing. one thing i would do differently next time is to toast the bread a little bit more before assembly. i have an electric stove so the heats not always even. the bread should have been a light golden brown.

lamb on a beautiful disposable plate :)
Rosemary-Dijon Rack of Lamb
*finally, we got to the meat dish. since this event was supposed to be centered around finger foods, i served these sliced up on a big platter with a beautiful green dollop of pistou on each one. delicious.

Truffle Brownies and Chocolate Truffles
*finally, finally, the desesrt. i got the truffle brownies from town & country bakery and made the truffle. when i tried to roll the truffle into a ball, quickly, it kept melting into my hands! with the addition of coffee, vanilla and grand marnier (barefoot contessa recipe) these truffles came to life. unfortunately they almost killed a few people with their easily breathable powdered sugar and cocoa. desserts are definitely not my specialty but i still had fun making these.

At the end of the night, I served a few bottles of Cristalino Cava. Another noteworthy drink of the night was Anchor Brewing's winter ale. So frickin good. A nice touch of spice but not overwhelming, balanced with a good amount of hops.

I really had fun planning and executing this event. I think this is my biggest production to date. My brother left today for the South Pole. I hope he left with some memories of good food and fun people. Have a good trip!

My Side Stint as a Kitchen Intern at A.O.C.

As I was driving up Crescent Heights going to my hopefully second "work," I couldn't believe I was going to work in a kitchen. For the last few months I kept telling myself that I will look for a kitchen job, get in touch with some restaurants and such. But being the big chicken that I am I kept putting it off. I hate rejection!

But I finally did it, put pen to paper, or more realistically, put fingers to keyboard, and wrote an email to AOC, one of the five restaurant on my list to hit up. And to my surprise someone got back to me. And there I was, walking through the door of AOC and heading back to the kitchen with my knives, wrapped in cloth napkin in a paper wine bag.

I worked helping with some vegetable prepping and dessert plating. I had fun and more importantly it felt very comfortable. So yesterday was a chance for the kitchen staff to feel me out and see if they want to keep me but I think I did well. The staff there is really great because everyone is pretty young and easy to get along with. Plus they made sure I got to taste a bit of everything they made. Throughout the night someone would say "make sure Susan tastes some!" :D I think I would really enjoy working with all of them.

Now onto the juicy bits, I tasted some delicious food. It's been a while since I ate at AOC so the menu is completely changed now. I ate a bite of each but if you add all that up it's a small and delicious meal.

halibut, celery root, sunchokes and hazelnuts
veal saltimbocca with madeira brown butter
farro and black rice with pinenuts and currants
brussel sprouts with balsamic and pancetta
crème fraîche panna cotta with spiced persimmon compote and maple pecans
chocolate pot de crème with hazelnut bark and pirouettes
roasted dates, parmesan and bacon

There was nothing that I didn't like but the brussel sprouts and the roasted dates really stood out to me. Simple but packed with flavor. I am kind of tired today but yesterday was my exciting first day in the culinary world. I am working this Saturday so more updates to come.

8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048


Farewell Brother and Hello South Pole!

Of all places you thought you would ever go to, does the South Pole ever come to mind? I didn't even know there were people down there! Well now one of those people will be my brother for a few months. He is going down there to do some scientific research stuff. Stuff at the other extreme of delicious food.

So what better way to send him off to the freezing temperature and 24-hour sunny snowland than a dinner party with friends? Since feeding sixteen people a sit-down meal may be a bit difficult for one dining and one coffee table, I opted for a night of small bites.

To start off...

French cheese plate of Salers, Roquefort, and ___ (undecided).
Warm Picholine Olives & Almonds

Sun-dried Tomato Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu

Croque Monsieur

Rosemary-Dijon Lamb Chops with Pistou

Chocolate Truffles

*All to be eaten with clean phalanges and a small plate.

The lovely guests will be contributing a bottle of wine for the festivities. {I hope no merlot or chardonnay!} I on the other hand am supplying a few bubblies, Cristalino Cava, and few reds.

Well the craziness began yesterday after food shopping at both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, as usual. I candied some pecans for the cheese plate. Ehh, it turned out alright. I know, I know, it's just candying nuts and I could I mess that up. Maybe I will do them over again. But then who's gonna eat the first batch?

I also made the mushroom ragu and sun-dried polenta with Giada Laurentiis's recipe tweeked a bit. My mom said the mushroom ragu was good but I don't think it was mind-blowing or anything. The polenta was just okay too. I think I will make a second batch tonight, adding more salt and herbs. I think a touch of pecorino after assembly may do the trick. I also added a few drizzles of white truffle oil to the mushroom ragu for delicious aroma and depth of flavor.

Last minute I decided to make dessert too, the chocolate truffles. The brownies I will buy, thank god. Why did I decide to drive myself crazy and make the dessert too? I don't know. I may add another dish too. Running out of food will be a nightmare and maybe even a riot!

I hope everything turns out okay. I am looking forward to the end of tomorrow night, when hopefully people will be inebriated and full with delicious food, and when I will be able to knock back a few and relax. Until Monday that is when it will start all over for a family Thanksgiving dinner of eighteeen.


The Stupidest Person on FoodTV

Sandra Lee, hands down, no competition, period. When I turn on FoodTV and I get a minute's glimpse of this moron babbling off about how "cool and easy" her food is my blood starts to boil. She really gets on my nerves, ten times more than hyperactive loony Rachael Ray.

The food she cooks is digusting. Her table setup is horribly tacky and super matching so everything blends with each other. Even her clothes match sometimes. She goes out of her way to be "semi-homemade" when she can make something homemade and actually delicious for the same amount of time and money. The longest duration I've watched this show is about 3 minutes. She disgusts me.

I am glad to find that others are disgusted with Sandra Lee as I am and that the world is not coming to an end. People like her that promote bad food and bad cooking philosophy should be cast off onto an island and forced to eat only their food til death, which no doubt they will love with their bad taste.


The Doom of the 1st Roast Chicken

Last year for my family's annual Thanksgiving gathering, I was assigned to the duty of the turkey. I was not particularly happy about this assignment but everyone (the diligent ladies of the family to be exact and not the lazy men who play golf all day. minus my mom who plays golf with all the men. traitor!)does as they're told. Now, cooking up a whole bird, especially one that's huge, sounds like a very unattractive proposition unless the dish in question is sam-gye-tang (Korean chicken), which uses little cornish hens. Well thank god I wasn't required to make a homemade turkey. I ordered a roast turkey from Gelson's and called it a day.

But I finally came to grips with the fact that I will need to roast a whole bird sometime because: a)who doesn't make roast chicken!; b) I want to be a well-rounded cook; and c) because it's frickin delicious silly. When I came to that realization and faced my fear of roasting a whole bird, that's when things began to go wrong like a mysterious horror film.

The naked bird...
I am facing the naked bird. A whole carcass to be exact. This makes me feel a lil bit uneasy because I am forced to face the connection between my food and its former animal life. It's not same as the deconstructed pieces of food that are nicely packaged into "thighs" or "breasts," far removed from our minds as Clucky, the cute chicken. I get over it and rub it down with olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and fill its cavity with lemon, herbs, celery and onion.

The roasting pan...
I ordered a roasting pan from amazon. I awaited the package anxiously and when it was delivered I opened it with a gusto of a five-year old birthday girl opening her most ginormous gift. It was beautiful as I expected it to be, gleaming and shiny without a nick to disturb its smooth stainless steel essence. If anything delicious was going to be made in this beauty it was going to be a roast chicken.

Now the adventures...
After seasoning the chicken, I trussed it, placed it in the middle of the roasting pan, surrouding it with a crowd of garlic cloves, onion and lemon wedges, and herbs. In it went. Being the completely impatient cook that I am, I had to try really hard not to open the oven door to peek, lest all the heat escape into the night. But unable to see through the window on the oven door (due to the fact that it had never been cleaned before) I could not see a damn thing! So I did it. I peeked.

Oh, it was beautiful. The skin was browning nicely and the aroma of the roasting chicken and veges filled the kitchen. I closed the door quickly and excitedly waited for the timer to go "beep beep beep." I was a proud little yoony, hearing no doomed soundtrack from a horror flick.

"Beep beep beep!" Carefully grabbing the mighty roasting pan, I took out the golden chicken and let it rest on top of the stove, after poking the breast of the chicken to see how crispy the skin was.

Finally after about 10 minutes I grabbed a knife to start carving. I placed the sharp knife along the breast bone and began to push down to cut off the hopefully juicy piece of white meat. However, the knife did not cut through the meat and no steaming juice dripped from the cut. Now the skin that once looked golden and crispy was not so. What the hell was going on?!(insert doomed music here).

I continued to carve the rest of the meat off the chicken, making sure to neatly cut off the wings and legs, the best parts imo. I was very disappointed at my first Roast Chicken. What had gone wrong? Was this fate's cruel joke at my attempt to avoid roasting poultry for 24 years? Was I sabatoged?

Nope, no cruel joke and no sabatoge. Silly me, I roasted the chicken upside down! No wonder I couldn't carve any meat off. The mistake also contributed to the uneven browning of the chicken. At that point my disappointed turned into a less disappointed laughter. I had also forgotten to season the cavity. Arg! Next time I will conquer you upside-down-bland-chicken! Next time...


But I did make a delicious side to go with my supposed-to-be-delicious roast chicken, a Chorizo Stuffing. My saving grace of the night.

The Smell of Autumn & Winter


When I was wee and skipping through the streets of Yesan, South Korea, when the leaves were turning color and the cool breeze would begin to pick up, the streets were filled with the smell of autumn, and winter for that matter. The smell of delicious warm food.

Vendors would sell hot buns filled with meat and vegetables, charcoal-grilled flattened pieces of dried cuttlefish, and last but not least, roasted chestnuts. The smell of roasting chestnuts... so warm, nutty, and just downright comfy. That memory has only been recently relived (I haven't eaten roasted chestnuts since I was a small little thing) when I passed by a vendor in Little Tokyo and caught a whiff of that familiar but distant aroma.

I walked over with my eyes fixed on these little gems, much smaller than most chestnuts I had ever seen. I grabbed a sample and slowly opened up the cracked outer shell and popped it into my mouth. Its sweetness being outrageously reverse-proportioned to its smallness, my mind screamed "so good!"

So here it is folks, a simple pleasure of exiting summer and plunging into autumn.