Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

On Saturday Anna decided to take the plunge she had been researching for a month or two and buy a new camera, specifically a Nikon D90 to replace her D100. We were going to go get one at camera alley in Namdaemun, but instead found a great one on Craigslist. We met the seller and now friend Patrick at a coffee shop and got to talking about our blog. Patrick was excited about our homemade bacon recipes so he wouldn’t have to “go to Costco every two weeks and pay a bunch of money” for some imported bacon.

His excitement got me thinking about the sweet smell of cinnamon bacon so I decided to make up another batch for my upcoming birthday. And off to the market we went for a kilo of pork belly. Since the cinnamon cured one was so good last time I decided to make another pound of that with some added cloves. The other pound I split up between two experiments.

Prep time in the bacon lair Photo by Anna Waigand

Many curing recipes suggest aromatic ingredients so I decided to make a savory bacon with bay leaves, black pepper and ginger. I also wanted a nutty bacon, but Anna and I decided that chopped peanuts just wouldn’t transfer enough flavor to the meat. That left curing it with peanut butter. I searched around to see if anyone had tried anything this crazy before and while I found plenty of people touting the tastiness of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, it seems no one has written about combining them long before they hit the bread. I figure since the other ingredients in peanut butter are sugar and salt, which are already in the curing mix, then it will be fine. Right?

Cinnamon-clove cured bacon
500g pork belly with skin
1/4 cup coarse, uniodized salt
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Ginger and bay leaf bacon
250g pork belly with skin
3 medium bay leaves, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped

Peanut butter bacon
250g pork belly with skin
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cinnamon

For all three recipes follow these directions.
1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry. Cut off any bits of hard cartilage in the meat.
2. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with salt. Make sure to get it everywhere.
3. Combine the other spices in a bowl. Cover the pork in the mix. (For the peanut butter bacon, do not combine the peanut butter with the other spices. Instead, cover the pork with the salt, sugar and cinnamon. Then run a spoon under hot water for a minute, dip it into your peanut butter and carefully apply the peanut butter along all sides of the pork. It’s a tricky and sticky task, but just try and get some of it on each side.)
4. Place the pork in a heavy-duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. Don’t settle for cheap plastic bags. Get some Ziploc brand freezer bags. Double zipper.
5. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain the juices out of the bag and return to the fridge.
6. Refrigerate for another 4-5 days, occasionally jostling the bag to make sure the spices are well distributed.
7. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the dry rub. If you don’t have a meat slicer, put the slab of bacon into the freezer for an hour and then slice into strips. The freezer should make the difficult cutting process easier. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate or freeze.

Check back soon for the experiment results.

For some more bacon goodness read the taste test of my first attempt, see Anna’s photos on Flickr and use your bacon in our romanesco bacon soup.


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Stuffed Squash
Photo by Anna Waigand

I was at our local outdoor market when I saw a couple boxes of produce out of place next to the rice cakes, red bean pastries and bread of a baker’s stand. There were three boxes of small green squashes. I’ve never cooked with squash before, and it isn’t something I would order at at restaurant, but the smallest squashes were adorable and I thought Anna would like them. Plus it was two mini squashes for 1000 won, pocket change.

The next day Anna and I brainstormed ideas for stuffed squash on the subway trip to an expat Thanksgiving, but it took a week before we had a chance to try them out. There were a couple moments where I was sure my experiment was doomed, but I was reassured just by the rush of deep smells as I lifted off the top of the steamer. The two tightly packed balls came out beautifully.

The steaming squash
Photo by Anna Waigand

The squashes are stuffed with poor-man’s pureed carrot seasoned with pine nuts, cinnamon-sugar bacon and garlic. It comes out warm and sweet with enough depth of flavor to have you scraping the last bits of squash off the dark green rind. The juicy stuffing is absorbed into the squash and keeps it moist while steaming, and the seeds are saved and cooked up as a colorful and crunchy topping. If you can find individual-sized squashes this makes for a great first course or side dish. If you don’t have your own cinnamon-sugar bacon, look for sweet cured bacon and add a dash of cinnamon to the mix. And outside of the bacon this is a really healthy recipe. Virtually no oil, very little salt and lots of fresh veggies.

The Squash Stuffing
Photo by Anna Waigand

Serves 2 as appetizer/side dish
2 mini squashes – about the size of a cup measure
1 strip thick cut home-cured cinnamon-sugar bacon
1 1/3 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp pine nuts
1/3 medium onion, grated
pinch coarse salt

Seeds from squashes
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

The Squash
1. Put the chopped carrots in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes until soft.
2. Cut off the very top of each squash. You shouldn’t cut it in half or even far enough down to be able to see the pulp. Hit the center of the hard yellow meat with the wrong end of a spoon to break a hole into the seedy center. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp. Set aside the seeds and discard the pulp.
3. Fry up the bacon (preferably with extra to snack on). Pat dry and finely chop once cool.
4. Grate the garlic and onion into a small bowl.
5. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Finely chop.
6. When the carrots are cooked, drain them of water and return them to the pot. Mash them finely with a fork unless you have a blender. In which case, blend them. Add the carrots to the garlic and onion. Add the bacon, pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Mix.
7. Stuff the squash with the mixture. There will be a lot of juice from the mixture. Like a lot. Do not squeeze it out or drain it off, it will keep the squash moist. Place in the steamer and steam for 20 minutes or until the squash flesh is soft. Keep a close watch of the squash, you don’t want it to over cook and become dry. The flesh should turn from yellow to a solid green. If it begins to crack or become flaky it’s done, and you should take it out immediately.
8. Finish with the squash seed garnish (below) and serve immediately.

Frying squash seeds
Photo by Anna Waigand

Sauteed squash seed garnish
1. Thoroughly wash the seeds. Use a strainer to repeatedly wash and pick out pieces of squash and pulp.
2. Lightly coat a small frying pan with olive oil and sauté the seeds over low heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin. As we often say, use an oven if you have it. Roast them on a cookie sheet with the spices sprinkled on top. Otherwise improvise along with us.
3. Cook until dark brown and preferable crispy. It’s tricky to get them crispy on the stove without burning them, but they will be good no matter what.
4. Garnish finished squash with the seeds.

As I’ve done with my other food experiments, here are a couple lessons I learned while making this dish.
1. Grating onions is a sure-fire way to clear out your tear ducts. So if they’re blocked, pull out the fine-toothed grater.
2. I throw a lot of garlic in things, but I was sure I had finally gone too far on this one. I tasted the carrot mix, which has the raw grated onion and garlic in it, and was almost knocked off my feet. I reassured myself that after cooking and soaking into the squash it would mellow out, but I didn’t really believe it. I was preparing exit strategies and back up plans both to be able to eat the squash and to make something else for dinner. Thankfully it worked. Phew.
3. The carrot mix was far juicer that I was expecting. As an experiment I squeezed out a lot of the juice from one squash and packed in extra mix while the other got a juice-laden mix. As you might expect, the one with more juice had moist squash flesh while the other was too dry. Embrace the juice.
4. Raw squash is seriously hard. Like rock hard. I guess that is what you get for being a squash newbie. There’s always more lessons to learn.

Us playing with our food and more squash photos on Flickr.

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Korean Chili Powder: Dangerous Territory
Photo by Anna Waigand

See those two bottles? They look pretty similar, and if you put each powder side-by-side they would look nearly identical. But in our kitchen we keep one on the ledge behind our stove to sprinkle without measuring on any dish that needs some more spice and color. The other sits alone on the highest shelf of our smallest cabinet where no one would possibly confuse it with something else unless they went out of their way to get it down. That’s because the one on the right is un-freakin-believably hot. So hot it made us question whether we could cook at all. No matter how little we used, our dishes turned out spicier than if you generously sprinkled each meal with fresh jalapeno seeds.

For the first few weeks in Korea, we cooked mostly from recipes and some called for 5 tablespoons of Korean chili powder. Suspicious of the large amount, we used a cautious one tablespoon. The chicken still engulfed our mouths in a world of pain.

Make sure to look at the thermometers
Photo by Anna Waigand

What did we do wrong? Turns out chili powders come in widely varying levels of spiciness, and this is one area where you don’t want to just muddle through with broken Korean. So beware, when buying Korean chili powder, there will usually be a little thermometer to show its spiciness. Also, while green peppers usually symbolize a milder spice, this is not always the case here. Don’t be fooled.

Our advice: Play it safe and find the chili powder with English or with a thermometer on it and choose the mildest one.

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Round Two of Bacon
Photo by Anna Waigand

In preparation for my upcoming personal bacon day (Nov. 30, more on why in a later post), I decided to make another round of home-cured bacon. I picked up half a kilo at the butcher and decided to make a sweet version. Last time I made bacon I made a traditional dry rub and a Korean spiced batch. The traditional bacon wasn’t quite sweet enough so I decided to add a bunch more brown sugar and some cinnamon.

The cinnamon smelled amazing in the mix, but I had a problem getting the salt to stick. The much finer sugar and cinnamon mix took up most of the available surface area before the coarse salt could stick. So if you make this I recommend covering the pork with the salt and then adding the cinnamon and sugar. Instead I just added two extra pinches of salt to the bag before putting it in the fridge to make sure it cured properly.

.5 kg pork belly with skin
1 tablespoon natural salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry.
2. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with salt. Make sure to get it everywhere.
3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover the pork in the mix.
4. Place the pork in a heavy-duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. (For people in Korea, don’t settle for plastic bags from Daiso. Find a Home Plus for Ziploc brand bags. Double zipper.)
5. Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bag over every day to distribute the juices and mixture. The salt will suck a lot of liquid out of the pork, don’t worry about it.
6. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the dry rub and slice into strips. Refrigerate or freeze and then cook like normal. Now is also where you would smoke it, but we don’t have an oven or a grill, so we can only cure it.

It has been curing away in my fridge now for a couple of days and will be ready for tasting on Monday night. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you can’t get enough bacon, check out my taste test of my first attempt, see Anna’s photos on Flickr and, if you want to use some bacon, try our romanesco bacon soup.

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Photo by Anna Waigand

We were feeling good until we noticed that our meat had come in tubes. There are plenty of meats that come in cylinders, like the common sausage sizzlers in Korea, that are undaunting to eat. But if you just hollow out that cylinder, they become much more unusual.

Photo by Anna Waigand

Turns out our main course was beef intestine. We figured out the intestine part by showing a picture of a cow with its parts labeled to the guy sitting next to us. He then snaked his hand in a back and forth motion across his belly ending in a downward spout at the bottom that I won’t mention again. We weren’t sure it was beef until we showed a picture of a cow and a boar to the host and he pointed to the cow. All thanks to the Point It book from my mom.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The reason we ventured into this place is because it is The Popular Place. We don’t know the names of any of the restaurants in our neighborhood. There is The Cheap Place, The Soup Place, The Porridge Place and The Popular Place. The final one is so named because the L-shaped restaurant is packed every day of the week. On a street with cook-meat-at-your-table places shoulder to shoulder, it’s impressive that one of the larger ones is consistently filled to the bring with a boisterous, happy crowd. There isn’t a lick of English in the place, but we thought we’d give it a go.
Read the rest of the review

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Makin’ Bacon

Soon to be Korean baconThat’s going to be amazing in a week.

Everybody is a fan of bacon these days, but I’d like to consider myself a notch closer to fanatic than your average fan. When people aren’t sure what to get me for a small gift, they resort to bacon-related items like bacon chocolate from Vosges in Chicago (seriously delicious) or bacon-salt, one of the few spices I brought with me to Korea. For special occasions, mega-packs of bacon from Costco are cooked and consumed in a single night.

Bacon is a mysteriously delicious and versatile meat, as has been demonstrated by the craze of putting bacon in anything and everything. Volume also counts too. If your dish has enough bacon to give a moose a heart attack, it’s sure to be popular.

But it turns out that this magical meat is relatively simple to make. I took some inspiration from Saveur and Menu In Progress for my dry cure. As Menu in Progress says, the basic ingredients for a dry cure are “kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt (in a ratio of 2:1:1/8th by weight).” As you may imagine, everything is in Korean in Korean grocery stores so I wasn’t exactly sure what salt I was buying, and I wasn’t able to find pink salt (which is salt with saltpeter mixed in). Instead I went with “natural salt”, which is a coarse ground salt similar to kosher and more importantly not iodized salt.

A dash here

I liked the spices added to the Saveur rub, but I wanted to try and make some bacon true to the flavors of Korea. For the Korean rub I decided to use some of the basic dry ingredients in Korean cooking: garlic, ginger, chili powder and sesame seeds. Many other Korean flavors come in paste form, and I plan to experiment with those later. Crushing the sesame seeds lets out a lot more of their nutrients and smell and helps them get into the meat better. I think the Korean bacon flavor should be pretty strong, but I hope it retains some of character of classic bacon. We’ll see.

Putting the spices on

Korean Bacon

1/4 kg pork belly, skin on
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp natural salt
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp mild Korean chili powder
1 tsp crushed black sesame seeds

1. Wash off the pork belly and pat dry.
2. Combine the salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and chili powder in a bowl.
3. Cover the pork belly thoroughly with the spice mixture. Make sure to get it everywhere.
4. Place the pork in a heavy duty sealing bag or in a Tupperware container. (For people in Korea, don’t settle for plastic bags from corner stores. Find a Home Plus for Ziploc brand bags. Double zipper.)
5. Refrigerate for 7 days, turning the bag over everyday to distribute the juices and mixture. The salt will suck a lot of liquid out of the pork, don’t worry about it.
6. After it’s done curing, wash off all of the spice mixture and slice into strips. Refrigerate or freeze and then cook like normal. Now is also where you would smoke it, but we don’t have an oven or a grill, so we can only cure it.

The huge slab of pork for bacon for the second batchAbout a kilo of pork belly for the traditional bacon batch.

Traditional Bacon

1 kg pork belly, skin on
2 tbsp natural salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions are the same as for the Korean bacon. Wash, mix, cover, refrigerate, turn, wash, slice, cook, eat.

The bacon is curing in the fridge right now. One day in and plenty of juices are starting to develop in both bags. Check back for curing updates, flavor comparisons and brand new recipes.

For even more photos of this magical process, check out our Makin’ Bacon set on Flickr.

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Blueberry Muffin in a Cup

While wondering around Lotte Mart, Anna stumbled on this “Blueberry Muffin” in a cup. She decided it was a must for the blog. And what better way to show you just how it was than to make our first real video. Enjoy!

Blueberry “Muffin” from Seoulful Adventures on Vimeo.

(Go to the video on vimeo for a bigger version.)
Editing and “baking” by Anna Waigand. Videography by Andre Francisco.

Music Credits
“Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye
“The Land of Make Believe” by Diana Ross and the Supremes
“This Old Heart of Mine” by Diana Ross and the Supremes
“Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” by The Temptations
“Feelin Good” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0” http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
“Stringed Disco” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 3.0” http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
“Lunchroom Drama” by Podington Bear (http://podingtonbear.com). Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported” http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
“No.1” by BoA

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