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My Brussels Sprouts Kimchi Sucks!

I've recently begun making my own kimchi as well. I've made a batch with asian radish, and a batch with nappa cabbage. Both turned out pretty good, but both times I felt like every step was trial and error. I'm thinking that with time, experience, and several more batches I will have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. So don't give up.

What might have gone wrong with your brussels sprouts kimchi and what might you do differently? I have a few ideas, just in case you wake up tomorrow and decide that you're not going to give up so easily. First off, don't worry that you used japanese pepper instead of korean pepper. Really, don't worry about any of the ingredients that you used, because I believe that kimchi is completely about the technique, and that it will more or less work with any analogous ingredients.

The recipe called for 3 ½ ounces of kosher salt in 2 quarts of water. Maybe this wasn't enough salt, or too much water. Most of the techniques I've read don't use this brine, they just pack the vegetables directly in the salt. The effect of the salt on the vegetables isn't necessarily instant (it can still take a few hours), but the effect is dramatic. You can see substantial drainage of water, the volume of the vegetables decrease substantially, and crisp vegetables get soft and rubbery. So suggestion number one would be to pack your brussels sprouts in salt and rinse well later rather than using the brine.

Kimchi involves a process of lacto-fermentation. Again, the recipe includes a heavily salted pickling brine. I think all that salt may inhibit the growth of the bacteria that transform the veggies into kimchi. I suggest doing away with that salty pickling liquid all together. While we're on the subject, after the initial salting of the brussels sprouts, make sure to rinse all of that salt out. Many recommend three good rinses to get rid of all of that salt.

We also have to look at the water that you're using. If your tap water is like mine, it is municipal water that is heavily chlorinated to kill any bacteria in the water. Making kimchi is about growing bacteria. So if your tap water is heavily chlorinated, find some nice spring water or distilled water to use, so that your kimchi bacteria can do their thing.

Once your kimchi preparation is made and jarred, you should stick it someplace that is room temperature for several days to jump-start the fermentation process. If after several days the fermentation hasn't happened yet, don't try to remedy the situation by placing the jars in the refrigerator. Cold will always retard fermentation. If fermentation hasn't happened after several days, have patience, make sure the kimchi is someplace nice and warm, and wait a few more days. You will know that there has been some fermentation when you open up the jar and get that funky rotten smell of fermented goodness. Even after fermentation begins, you can choose to leave the kimchi at room temperature for several more days to really dial up the funk.

Brussels sprouts are very little leaf, and lots of core. They are naturally tough. If anything is going to soften them up, it is going to be the lacto-fermentation of real kimchi, and not the salty brine of traditional pickling technique. However, if you have achieved that good strong rotten smell and sour flavor, but the brussels sprouts have still not softened, then maybe that vegetable is better off being softened by more traditional cooking techniques, and then sauced in a puree of old kimchi.

So I guess the bottom line is that if you have it in you to give Brussels sprouts kimchi one last try, toss this recipe and instead use a more traditional kimchi recipe and merely apply it to this stubborn vegetable.

Hope this helps!!!

Apr 30, 2014
Habanero in Features
3

Egg Salad

This is a very nice basic egg salad recipe. But egg salad can be doctored up and stretched in many different interesting and delicious directions. The first thing I would almost automatically do to basic egg salad is to give it a good hit of cayenne pepper powder for a bit of zing, and a bit of color (I love the way the specs of red look in that sea of yellow). Or maybe I would add some finely chopped fresh jalapeño pepper, for its zing and its additional crunch. If I went that route I would use some paprika to dress it up with those little red specs that make egg salad look so much more appetizing.

Like defoodie55 I might also add some finely chopped onion. I would soak it in water for fifteen minutes to take some of the sting out of the raw onion. Given a choice I would use red onion, just because. I might also liven up the egg salad with a bit of finely minced garlic.

Tomato goes very well with egg salad, but I would not add it to the salad itself as a dice, because of all of the liquid that the tomato gives off. If you enjoy tomato with your egg salad sandwich (as I do), you would be best off thinly slicing the tomato and adding it to your sandwich separately.

You can take even take your egg salad in a completely different direction by adding generic curry powder. I prefer the hot jamaican curry powder. Or how about some de-constructed bacon and eggs with some real bits of crisply fried bacon in your egg salad?

Summer is a great time for egg salad, so don’t be afraid to experiment and have some fun with it. Like David Chang says, “It’s all about deliciousness.”

Jul 17, 2013
Habanero in Recipes

Leftover Turkey Redux

Here in the U.S. many of us cook turkey no more than once or twice a year, for special holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But in Mexico turkey is a common fowl that people eat year round. In the mexican restaurants I've been to here in the U.S. mole poblano is almost always served as a sauce for chicken, but in Mexico turkey is just as likely a candidate for mole.

And so my favorite preparation for leftover thanksgiving turkey is to slather it in mole poblano. Even dried out, overcooked turkey can be given new life by this miraculous sauce. I strongly prefer the Rogelio Bueno to the Dona Maria. I dilute the mole with the stock I make from the turkey carcass.

With some turkey stewed in mole poblano and served over white rice, some fried sweet platanos and sliced avocado on the side, an ice cold Corona and lime to squeeze over everything, I can pretend for a few minutes that I live someplace warm.

Nov 24, 2012
Habanero in Home Cooking

Easy New England Clam Chowder

My heart is with grammywheels and the other keepers of the chowda flame here--keep clam chowder pure. I agree that when the true star of the show (fresh clams) are available, they are only slightly more work than opening some cans and jars, and yield a MUCH BETTER result. But let's remember, most of this country is not lucky enough to have the clams that we have in New England. In the Great Plains, canned clams and bottled clam juice are all you've got. But if you live in New England where the real thing is readily available, there is little justification for using any substitute.

The other thing to remember is that clam chowder is not high cuisine. Chowder was born as working class food. It was a way for fishing families to prepare, extend and ultimately enjoy the parts of the daily catch that at the time had relatively little market value. When chowder developed there was no recipe carved in stone by Neptune himself. Chowder was made from whatever surplus or unsellable fish or shellfish were available. Chowder was also made from whatever scant starches and vegetable were available. As often as not, chowder used hardtack or other biscuits instead of potatoes as both extender and thickening agent. And so once again, while my heart is with those who struggle to maintain the tradition, we can never forget that what we think of as the tradition was not always thus.

And so my chowder begins with bacon, which I prefer to the more traditional salt pork. Leeks and shallots instead of onion and garlic. No butter--I fry the aromatics right in the rendered bacon fat. I use some of the other veggies that inhabited most New England gardens, such as diced carrot and celery. Because I'm on a budget, I use whatever fish or shellfish I can find that is freshest and cheapest (which is where traditional chowder began). Russet potatoes, fresh thyme, a splash of heavy cream and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.That's heaven on earth for me.

If I'm in Kansas City, I'm going to eat barbecue. The concept of New England clam chowder makes no sense in KC. But if I'm someplace I can see the working boats pulling in and out, I'm going to eat chowder. That makes way more sense than eating just another steak.

Oct 08, 2012
Habanero in Recipes

How Do You Make Popcorn?

That's exactly the kind of "out-of-the-box" answer I was looking for. Thanks Becca!

Apr 28, 2012
Habanero in Home Cooking

Help with knife repair!

Any serious cook should know how to properly steel their knife before use, and even to occasionally touch up the blade on one of several available sharpening systems. But for issues of serious blade damage or blade geometry I whole-heartedly recommend seeking out a knife sharpening professional. There is definitely a point where a cook's ability (and responsibility) to basically maintain a blade ends, and where a professional's knowledge, skill and experience takes over.

Knife sharpening might not exactly be rocket science, but there is more than a little science in knife sharpening, which involves everything from blade geometry to crystalline structure of the steel. But even more than science, knife sharpening is an art that (like any art) requires daily practice to master and to retain.

Professionals have the correct tools, they have the experience, they have the instinct, and they have the art. There is nothing shameful about seeking out professional help when we reach the limits of our own abilities, and the limits of what we should reasonably be expected to know how to do for ourselves.

I promise that you will not be disappointed. You might think that you do a pretty good job of sharpening your knives. But I bet when your knife comes back from the pro you will have to say "Wow!!!" when you experience the difference between your edge and the professional's edge.

All of the best chef's maintain their own knives. I guarantee that every one of those chefs also periodically send their knives out for professional maintenance. I suggest that you bite the bullet, swallow your pride, and do the same.

Apr 28, 2012
Habanero in Cookware

How Do You Make Popcorn?

I agree with you about using fine table salt instead of the the kosher salt. Most of us "foodies" are used to using kosher salt out of habit. But in this case you are absolutely right: the finer grain of table salt adheres to the popcorn much better than kosher salt. I've often wondered if there was any salt that was even finer than table salt. Is there any such thing as a powdered salt that might be analogous to powdered confectioner's sugar? I think something like that might be even better still for popcorn. Does anybody know of any sort of powdered salt product? Let us know.

Apr 28, 2012
Habanero in Home Cooking

Spiked Pineapple Agua Fresca

Any sort of tropical fruit mixed with rum never fails to transport my spirit to the tropics. There are a million different variations on this theme, and they're all foolproof. How can any sort of tropical fruit mixed with any sort of rum ever turn out badly? Even if you just get one of those Dole cartons of orange/mango/banana or whatever is their fruit concoction of the month, and mix that with rum, you'll never go wrong. Or how about mixing rum with any frozen fruit drink concentrate, and blending (still frozen) in the blender, for a slushy, rummy slurry? It's impossible to go wrong.

Apr 27, 2012
Habanero in Recipes

How Do You Make Popcorn?

I recently read (I think it was someplace here on CHOW) about using a wok for popcorn. What a great idea!!! The gently sloped sides channel un-popped kernels down into the heat, and the hi domed wok cover allows popped kernels to migrate upwards. Although I own a couple of different size and type woks, and I use them often, I've always used a fairly heavy-duty soup pot. Now I feel like a moron for not having thought for myself to use a wok.

Since I'm using the wok, I use peanut oil out of habit. But I also add a shot of toasted sesame oil to the peanut oil. Toasted sesame (whether it be the seeds or the oil) is one of my favorite flavors / aromas in general. Adding a hit of toasted sesame oil to the popping oil ends up infusing the popcorn with the sesame flavor, which compliments the distinct toasted corn flavor very nicely. For popcorn I prefer this toasted sesame flavor much more than the 'traditional" butter flavor (even if it's real butter).

I finish the popcorn with some salt, garlic powder and a hit of cayenne powder. If some of you think that this treatment for popcorn is strange, then I think you are going to be really shocked when you discover how much of the world dresses its popcorn with curry flavor.

Apr 27, 2012
Habanero in Home Cooking

How do you drink your milk?

Exactly!

Apr 14, 2012
Habanero in General Topics

How do you drink your milk?

In a dirty glass!

Apr 14, 2012
Habanero in General Topics

Add Smoke and Fire with Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

There was a time not too long ago when nobody had ever even heard of chipotles. And then for some inexplicable reason chipotle became the hot new fusion ingredient (no pun intended): there was chipotle mayonnaise, chipotle vinaigrette reductions, etc. Soon there was even a national chain of restaurants named after this smoked jalapeño that up until a few years ago nobody even knew how to pronounce.

If you're as cynical as I am about foodie fads, you might be tempted to exclaim "enough with the damned chipotles already!!!" But here's the thing: Those little 8 ounce cans of chipotles en adobo have more intense and exquisite flavor in them than 8 ounces of anything else I can possibly imagine. Long before chipotles hit the foodie limelight, I always kept a couple of cans of the chipotles en adobo in the pantry in case of emergency. A couple of judicious tablespoons can add an instant WOW!!! factor to many preparations.

Tthe easiest way to use these whole chipotles en adobo is to just puree them in the food processor for a couple of seconds. Make sure to include all of that yummy adobo sauce from the can. If you want to reduce the heat a bit slice the peppers open and scrape out the seeds before pureeing. Just try not to lose too much of the good stuff in the process.

Buen provecho.

Mar 10, 2012
Habanero in Features

New England Clam Chowder

My clam chowder:

Bacon (to render for fat for frying aromatics, and crispy goodness to sprinkle on top.

Butter for frying aromatics. Yes, I know we already have bacon for frying aromatics, but modern clam chowder is a decadent dish, and nothing says decadence like butter in addition to bacon fat. I think the butter also helps to integrate the cream with the rest of the chowder.

The holy trinity (french version, alternate) - diced carrots, diced celery, and leek instead of onion (which provides much more flavor than onion without the accompanying sweetness of onion, and much more of the typical flavor we associate with chowder).

At least one clove of garlic (not really traditional, but it's tough for me to resist throwing a clove of garlic into just about anything).

Fresh clams - for cooking broth and meat. If you have absolutely no access to fresh clams, canned clams and bottled clam juice make a very good substitute. Chicken stock is not a reasonable substitute. If you save you shrimp shells and tails from the packages of frozen shrimp we should all keep in our freezers for emergencies you can boil these into an incredibly flavorful stock which will greatly enrich either fresh or bottled clam broth.

Spices - fresh thyme, and perhaps a bit of fresh flat leaf parsely as well. I don't think bay leaf belongs. Spices are best done as a bouquet garni and removed after they have infused the chowder.

Potatoes - Yes, by all means. After all, what's chowder without potatoes?

Thickening agents - If I'm going to go to the trouble of making clam chowder, I'm going to make a large pot that will last a few days. After a day or two the potatoes naturally break down and thicken the chowder. If you need thick chowder immediately, just remove some of the potatoes, mash and return to the pot. No need for the flour and wine routine in the above recipe (very classic french, but not at all traditional). Ohers use cornstarch, but again it is not necessary with all of the potato starch already present.

Heavy cream to finish.

All of those potatoes just cry out for a strong hit of black pepper and a nice dusting of paprika. Alternately, I might just go with a good hit of ground cayenne pepper. Not traditional, but so good.

Oyster crackers - a modern accompaniment to clam chowder. These crackers are actually a thowback to a time when hardtack or some other sort of cracker was used as a thickening agent instead of potato, flour or cornstarch.

These are my suggestions as a modern New Englander for a clam chowder that respects tradition, works within modern limitations, and perhaps even improves a bit on the original.

Mar 10, 2012
Habanero in Recipes

Quick Mojito

Because of a half-century embargo against Cuba, the Mojito is one of the most misunderstood drinks around. I'm not sure how this drink even managed to achieve the fad status it has enjoyed in the US for the past several years.

I have to start by correcting Johnhoff: The Mojito is not "...a drink for peasants." The Mojito comes from La Habana, on of the world's great cities by any definition.

Okay, let's discuss some of the ingredients for this drink. Most important is the rum. In La Habana Mojito's are made with Havana Club white rum. To me, that is the real taste of a Mojito. You will never make a great Mojito using a nasty tasting rum like Bacardi. If I can't get the Havana Club, Don Q Cristal is about the next best thing.

Next, let's talk about sugar. Sugar is king in Cuba. For much of its history sugar was Cuba's entire reason for existing. Sugar in Cuba is not over-processed to death as it is in the US. Our over-processed sugar has a nasty chemical taste to it. Cuban sugar tastes sweeter, and actually has a fruity flavor to it, rather than just a neutral sweetness. And so again, to me, the taste of a great Mojito is inseparable from the taste of Cuba's superior sugar. I recommend using turbinado sugar, which, like the cuban sugar is much less processed, much better tasting, and a bit coarser crystals. Yes, the turbinado sugar is light brown in color and might tint the otherwise clear drink. But the cuban sugar has a bit of color to it as well. In the end, it should be all about taste, rather than photogenic drinks worthy of food porn.

The sugar brings us to the next issue: mint. In La Habana the mint is muddled with the lime juice and the sugar. The coarse sugar granules are essential for releasing the mint's oils. For this reason I absolutely reject any Mojito recipe that uses simple syrup instead of real sugar. Hubby Santa is indeed correct that mint in Cuba is different than in the US (as are so many other things). If I remember correctly, the mint they use for Mojitos is called yerba buena.

Finally: a Mojito contains rum, sugar, lime juice, mint leaf, club soda and nothing else. A drink made using different liquor, additional liqueurs, flavorings, garnishes, etc is not a Mojito. As surely as there is only one way to make a true Martini, there is only one way to make a true Mojito. Beware of menus offering nineteen different "types" of Martinis, or "the largest assortment of Mojitos."

Chow is just as guilty as any other hipster. Look to the right on this page and find the "Satsuma Mojito." While this looks like it might be a wonderful drink, it is definitely not a Mojito.

End the madness!!!

Mar 01, 2012
Habanero in Recipes
1

Basic Bloody Mary Mix

This is just about the ultimate Bloody Mary mix--all of the good stuff, with no fluffy nonsense. There is a relatively new Tabasco sauce made with Habanero peppers which is significantly hotter than the original, which I prefer. With plain old regular Tabasco sauce I would have to use a lot more to get the same level of heat, and that much Tabasco adds a significant vinegar flavor which I don't like (but sparky403 probably would). To finish off the drink I like to hit the top with a bit of coarse kosher salt and a hit of fresh, coarse ground black pepper. I don't think the olives or dill pickle spears mentioned above are appropriate garnishes (although the pickled prawn and pickled green tomato garnishes sound unique and promising). I personally prefer a celery stick and a wedge of lime as garnishes. If I've used the Habanero pepper Tabasco sauce and I really want to go over the top, I might use a thin slice of fresh Habanero (or closely related Scotch Bonnet pepper), which I can often find year round in our local supermarket.

Feb 19, 2012
Habanero in Recipes

The Real Aphrodisiacs for Valentine's Day

The most complete and intelligent treatise on this subject is a 1998 minor masterpiece by Isabel Allende entitled "Aphrodite: A Memoir of The Senses." Her suggestion is that any food that is fresh, fragrant, tasty, visually appealing and lovingly prepared can be aphrodisiac. She suggests that aphrodisiac foods should have the same qualities that are appealing in a lover. Her other bit of indispensable advice is that aphrodisiacs always work best when their intended effects are explained ahead of time.

I generally agree with Helena that lighter, healthier fare leaves diners in much better shape for post-dinner activities. I personally think that sushi makes for a perfect Valentine's Day dinner (despite the fact that the most jaded among us might find it passe). Sushi, is light, flavorful, artistic, visually appealing and still somewhat exotic.

For Valentine's Day I suggest enjoying sushi in the privacy of one's dwelling, either as take out, or even better yet, prepared from scratch together at home (it's not really that difficult, and it's a lot of fun to prepare together). Dinner should be enjoyed seated on the floor (japanese style) at a low table. Dinner attire should be simple silk kimonos with absolutely nothing on underneath. The sushi should be served with plenty of sake. Be careful where the wasabi ends up.

Feb 19, 2012
Habanero in Features