New Nifty Nwebsites

My new favourite website. A cookthink search is how I dug up the short rib recipe below. It's perfect for those times when you can't figure out exactly what dish want to eat, but you know what you're in the mood for. (This happens to me. A lot.) I just knew I wanted "figs, red wine, and slow." It's like a magical, gastronomical mind reader.

One thing I love about cookbooks is the gorgeous colored photos. Oftentimes, it's the picture that makes me want to try a recipe. I think it's so important for food to look great since, as that cliche goes, you taste with your eyes first.
Foodgawker is sort of like a food photo album. Your first impression of a dish is from a picture, rather than the name of the recipe or the recipe itself. It is fed by food bloggers on a daily basis so the site is always fresh. It's also a great source of inspiration for food photography/styling.

(P.S. For more wow-that-looks-soooo-scrumptious-I-want-to-eat-my-computer-screen photos, also check out foodporndaily.com. You know you want to...)


Where to Eat: Japa Dog

New York has the mobile food concept down to a science. Its streets are spotted with those ubiquitous hot dog and pretzels stands, halal food carts, and even dessert trucks (Wafles and Dinges for thick and crisp Belgian waffles, or the Dessert Truck for all things sweet and decadent). Many of these highly successful businesses even keep their fans privy to their current location via Twitter. I had a hot dog from a street food cart today. But it wasn't in New York City.

Japa Dog is Vancouver's answer to the high quality, trendy mobile food movement. Established by a Tokyo ad salesman named Noriki Tamura, the cart has claimed its territory on the corner of Burrard and Smithe since its establishment in 2006. Having been highlighted by the local media and frequented by visiting movie stars, the cart is often surrounded by a sizeable crowd. On a cold, drizzly day like today, the wait wasn't much longer than ten minutes. Offerings include many types of sausages (turkey, beef, pork, veggie) served on a warmed bun, garnished with Japanese-style toppings. These include nori (seaweed) shreds, daikon radish, bonito flakes, and fried cabbage, to name a few. They also offer fried onions, possibly as an homage to the usual, "normal" hot dog carts (and also because that cooking onions smell is the most effective form of advertising for any sausage vendor).

I had the Edamame Terimayo hot dog. It consisted of a bratwurst sausage embedded with edamame beans, covered in teriyaki sauce, japanese mayo, nori shreds and fried onions. I also added wasabi mayo from the little squeeze bottle on the side. It was sooo juicy, flavorful, and well worth the $5. Yummmm.

I highly recommend this not-so-secret food destination. And with three locations (two in downtown Vancouver), it is easily accessible to visitors and locals alike.

Eat Here!
Japa Dog Food Cart (Look for the crowd. Or follow your nose)

Burrard and Smithe St.

Burrard and Pender St.

Coal Harbour Community Center


Their Big Break: Perfect Roast Potatoes. (with Braised Beef Short Ribs with Black Mission Figs)

Sometimes I think winter days were made for slow food. And slow food, this is. This meal is one of those hearty, homey and satisfying ones. It is simple food that is also deceptively complex.

When I feel like I have a little time to spare, I like to make what I'd call "projects" for myself. I'll find a complicated recipe, pick apart the steps and figure out how to best approach the execution. Here, the side dish was the "project," rather than obvious star of the meal which would be the braised short ribs.

The humble roast potato is often added to a menu as a culinary afterthought; something inexpensive, filling, and only good to soak up sauce with. But what makes a roast potato exceptionally satisfying and delicious? To me, it would be the golden brown, crunchy crust, and soft fluffy inside. Luckily, somebody's already figured out how to do it. I just needed to get it right.

I suppose the idea of the "project" was inspired by Heston Blumenthal. The chef and owner of three Michelin starred restaurant The Fat Duck, he is also known for his innovative and scientific approach to cooking. I also think it is remarkable and inspirational that this incredibly talented chef is, in fact, self taught. In his television program "In Search of Perfection," Blumenthal attempts to create the ultimate version of classic dishes. In one of episode, he tackled a traditianal roast chicken dinner. With it, he served the perfect roast potatoes. After a series of tests (from potato variety to salted vs. unsalted water) he created a recipe that truly resulted in some pretty scrumptious spuds.

Sure, it is much easier to parboil some baby waxy potatoes, toss them in oil and roast them. But these tips really do create a nearly french-fry-like result. A few features:
-the recipe calls for Maris Piper potatoes. After a bit of research, it appears that this is a common variety in the UK, but rare in North America. I used a normal Russet potato because I wanted the graininess
-boil the potatoes in salted water (they brown better later) until they nearly fall apart
-shake them in the colander when you drain them. The dry, roughed up edges create that crunchy crust
-heat the oil in the roasting pan before you toss in the spuds
-patience, patience, patience. Boiling the potatoes took 20 minutes. Roasting them took a little over an hour. You will be rewarded.

Surely it would be unfair if I neglected the short ribs. They took a decent amount of time too in the sense that they simmered away for four hours. But as long as you are capable to stirring the pot every hour or so, it isn't demanding at all. Browning the meat until it is wonderfully seared develops tons of flavor. If you have trouble skimming the fat off the top (and there is a significant amount), try to make the ribs a day ahead. Let the fat solidify in the refrigerator overnight and discard it.

The slightly unusual twist in the recipe is the addition of figs. I love how they add a thick, sweet depth to the sauce. Unfortunately, fresh figs aren't in season, but dried ones worked just fine for me. I wanted to keep the bone in for presentation's sake, but the meat was so tender that it fell right off. Well isn't that just too bad...?

The Perfect Roast Potatoes

  • large maris piper potatoes, 1kg
  • olive oil, enough to fill the roasting tray to a depth of just under 1cm
  • garlic, 4 cloves
  • fresh rosemary, 1 generous bunch
  • table salt
  • Preheat the oven
    • to 190 celcius / 375 farenheight / Gas 5
  • Wash, peel, cut and rinse potatoes
    • Wash the potatoes thoroughly and then peel them.
    • Reserve the peelings and tie them in a muslin bag.
    • Cut the potatoes into quarters
      (the quartering's important because it's the edges that get nice and crunchy: that's why reasonably large potatoes are needed for this recipe)
    • Leave the quaters in a bowl under running water for 2-3 minutes (or put in a bowl of water for 15 minutes, changing the water every 5 minutes).
  • Boil the potatoes
    • Bring a pan of salted water (10g salt per litre of water) to the boil
    • Add the potatoes and toss in the bag of peelings (they
      contain lots of flavour).
    • Cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft: take them as far as you can without ending up without potato soup. (It's the fissures that form as the potato breaks up that trap the fat, creating a crunchy crust.)
  • Preheat the oil
    • Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a roasing tray (it needs to be large enough to hold all the potatoes in one layer) and place in the oven.
  • Drain poatoes
    • Once the potatoes are soft, drain them in a colander and discard the bag of peelings.
    • Give them a gentle shake to roughen the edges and drive off any remaining drops of water.
  • Roast the potatoes
    • Put the potatoes in the hot roasting tray and roll them around so that they are completely coated in oil.
    • Roast for an hour or so, until crisp and a lovely golden brown
      • Turning every 20 minutes.
      • Add the garlic and rosemary after 50 minutes.
  • Season with salt and serve.
Braised Beef Short Ribs with Black Mission Figs

for the marinade;
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

for the braise:
6 beef short ribs, about 2x3 inches each
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 carrot, diced
2 medium onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup red wine
1 cup diced Black Mission Figs
6-10 cups veal stock, or chicken or beef broth

1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in an extra-large, resealable plastic bag or a large dish. Mix well. Add the ribs and coat well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

2. Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. Remove the ribs from the marinade and scrape off any excess marinade. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Set a large, heavy Dutch oven or roasting pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Sear the ribs in batches on every side until nicely browned, making sure the drippings don’t burn. Set aside the ribs.

4. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of water, scraping up any flavorful browned bits. Pour the deglazing liquid and bits into a small bowl and reserve. (If the drippings seem to be burning, remove the ribs immediately and deglaze the pan with a bit of water. Wipe out any burned pieces with a paper towel, reduce the heat, add more oil, and continue browning the ribs.)

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

6. Once you've deglazed the pan, add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the carrots, onions and celery, and cook until the vegetables are browned. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Pour in the red wine, stirring the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits.

7. Add the seared ribs and reserved deglazing liquid, plus the figs and bouquet garni. Add enough stock to cover the ribs by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer. Cover and braise for 4 hours, turning the ribs every hour and skimming off excess fat. (If the sauce seems to be drying out, add more stock.)

8. Remove the ribs, smother with the sauce, and serve with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta and a glass of Côtes du Rhône.

Potato recipe from "In Search of Perfection" by Heston Blumenthal
Beef recipe from cookthink.com
Image property of beets and bites