Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bachelor Recipes

I cook fairly often, but I also cook simple.  Often I don't get back from a gig until late, and working 8-10 hour shifts without a meal break means when I do eat, I want to eat something filling.

Thus the lifestyle sets the major constraints; should be simple to cook, should be healthy and hearty, should be cheap, and the materials should keep well (because you never know when your schedule is going to change).  And most of my cooking involves rice cooker or stews, because I do a lot of work at home and it is too easy to get focused on coding and forget you have something on the stove.

So, like most bachelor cooking, most of my meals fall into the category of "bulk grains/starch given flavor and a modicum of variety by something out of a can."  Most of my "recipes" involve slicing some fresh produce in there with the bulk grains.

Japanese Stir-Fry:  I used to make this with thin-sliced meat, but now it is veggie.

- Daikon, peeled and thinly sliced disc-ways
- red bell pepper, long slices
- white onion, curly sliced (like half-onion rings)
- carrot, unpeeled, disc-sliced
- white short-grain rice

Cook the rice in a rice cooker, prep the veggies (other veggies that work well are brown mushrooms, snow peas).  Heat up olive oil in a pan and quick-fry one serving of the veggies with a splash of tamari and a drop of aji-mirin.  Don't overcook, and don't overdo the aji-mirin or the veggies will get soggy.  When they look about right (they should be crisp and just starting to take on color from the olive oil) throw in equal measures of aji-mirin and tamari, quickly slosh around under high heat and pour hot over one serving of rice.  Then rinse the pan pronto.

(The main balance here is the daikon and the red bell; the two flavors play well off each other.  This is a chopstick dish, and everything is made in chopstick sizes.  It is also chosen for aesthetics; there is a good variety of colors and shapes in the final presentation).

Indonesian Hot Rice:

- basmati rice
- large tablespoon shrimp paste
- a smaller spoon of Uncle Chen's hot chili paste
- cumin
- a bare teaspoon of rice vinegar (it is really easy to overdue the rice vinegar)
- soy sauce as necessary to hold the flavors together
- fresh chopped ginger (dried ginger root can substitute)
- fresh-chopped garlic
- olive oil

The above make up the flavor base, and the mix between them is a matter of trial and error of balancing the ingredients.  The shrimp paste needs a little time in the pan under medium heat; it is a bit pungent at first.

- snow peas
- firm tofu, cubed (the bulk tofu at Berkeley Bowl is wonderful for this)
- sliced water chestnut

The above make up the near-necessary ingredients.  After that it is stone soup; I've tried carrot, daikon, bok choy, all sorts of things.

Cook the rice, simmer the sauce base until the garlic is done and the shrimp doesn't stink so, put in the veggies in a time frame that leaves them crisp, and stir in the rice.  Can serve immediately; the flavors gel more as the hot sauce is absorbed into the rice but it tastes good just-made, too.

Quick Noodles:

- Soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
- red miso paste
- dashi no moto
- wakame (I have a packet of Mendicino wakame right now that is salty but flavorful)

Boil water and toss one bundle of soba in for about four minutes.  Stop just past al dente (soba never quite gets soft at the core, but it will turn sticky if overcooked).

Heat a second measure of water, roughly one bowl worth, and toss in a fistful of wakame, a half-packet of aji-no-moto, and a heaping tablespoon of miso paste.  Bring it to a rolling boil, hold it there for under a minute, then turn down.

Drain the noodles (traditionalists would rinse them in ice-cold water at this stage), put them in a bowl and add the soup base.

Basic Curry Rice:

- Basmati (again)
- red curry paste
- sugar (I use bulk brown sugar)
- coconut milk (the Thai kitchen brand seems to work well)
- sliced water chestnut
- diced tofu
- canned baby corn
- canned chicken meat (tuna also works well, as does chicken breast.  It works meatless but appears to lack an essential flavor).
(canned bamboo shoots also work but require a stronger curry ratio to play against).

Cook rice in a cooker.
Cook everything else in a sauce pan (use milk to thin, as needed).
Serve rice into a plate and pour the curry sauce over it.

Simple Clam Chowder:

- enough red creamer potatoes to fill a small pot, diced small in their skins.
- white onion, diced
- can of clams

Pour the water from the canned clams into the pot along with the potatoes and onion, and add enough milk and water (in about a 2:1 ratio) to fill.  Add a large pat of unsalted sweet butter.  A tiny dash of tamari sometimes helps as well.

Cook on medium/low until the potatoes are soft and starting to break up.  Add the clams late; give them no more than fifteen minutes in the pot lest they get tough.  Is best, like all chowders, chilis, and stews if you can let it sit for a day but is fine served just-made.

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