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Posts tagged “spicy

Downward Spiral

About four years ago, My Brother’s Wife introduced Me to what rapidly became one of My favorite places to eat. The Uni Deli, inside the United Noodles Grocery store. In the time since, They have had a small, but reasonably consistent menu. Tonkatsu/Tonkotsu Ramen being the gem of the line-up. The afore stated bowl of deliciousness has, without question, been the single best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities for years now. I have told dozens of people to head that way, with statements such as “It’s just amazing,” “You won’t be disapointed,” or “simply the best” ringing in their ears. Nearly everyone has agreed with My assessment. My sister-in-law has sent even more people that way, as she has been shopping at the grocery store aspect of the place her whole life. This past winter, a group of us made a weekly ritual of tonkatsufying ourselves, but no longer.

This year, particularly the last four months, things have changed DRAMATICALLY! The Uni Deli seems to have lost focus. In early May, I went there three days in a row, taste buds anticipating the wonderful thick tonkatsu stock flowing in to My belly. However, I was thwarted each time. Monday has become experimental day, okay, that’s fine, You’ve got to test new ground. Their label for this has been “4 unique ramen varieties every monday.” Which is a lie, since one and often two of the offerings aren’t even ramen. Soba, udon and other things are fine and dandy, but don’t lie about what You’re offering! Saturdays lately have been their “Asian Grill” experimental day. Again, I’ve no isue with testing different things and seeing how customers respond, but how many days a week are You going to stop offering that which got You where You are? Keep the experimental stuff to one day a week, or less. Try once every other week!!!

I have gone over all My receipts from January 1st of this year, up til now. I have gone there and ordered food 37 times this year, nearly every time with friends, often their first encounter with said deli. There is only one thing I want! TONKOTSU RAMEN!!! In the realm of ranking food, it has been a consistent 9/10. There is nothing else on the menu which ranks better than 6/10, that is an honest truth.. In those 37 visits I had tonkatsu 28 times. Sometimes trying other things to remind Myself why I don’t get them more often, other times because their experimental days mean they simply do not offer the regular menu. Sadly, I can also tell You that in the same time period, I have gone there EIGHT TIMES, only to find them closing early, thus getting NOTHING AT ALL. I know sometimes there are technical difficulties, such as the record rains this year made a hole in the roof, or electrical issues preventing people from swiping their debit/credit cards. By all means, close shop and fix the roof, I won’t complain, but when the electro payment is not working, don’t close like You did. We were there as a group of six people, perfectly happy to go find an atm and pay in cash. We watched 50% of the people entering the grocery store, turn around and leave without getting anything, because they came for the Uni Deli. Clearly, somebody cares nothing for their customers, even those who drum up more business for You…

Which brings Me to another failing that the Uni Deli has undergone recently. The prices went up by $1 per bowl of soup, PLUS if You want it spicy, it is now an extra 50 cents. They use to put plenty of chili oil on top, but now that You have to pay for it, they give You half as much. On top of that, the quality of the food has gone down. I’ve had different noodles, bland tasting broth and 45 minute waits in the last couple months. I AM OKAY PAYING MORE TO KEEP THE QUALITY LEVEL WHERE IT IS, BUT PAYING MORE FOR A LESSER BOWL OF SOUP IS NOT ACCEPTABLE ! ! ! If You are going to skimp on the supplies, don’t raise the price. If You want to keep the same supply, but it’s costing You more, then raise the Price. Pick one, not both! The waiting would make sense if they didn’t have 6, 8, or more orders sitting on the counter, ready for customers, but not getting to customers. So it isn’t like the kitchen was that far behind.. More than once I have walked up and taken My food, without them calling the number on My receipt, wondering why they can’t just grab the microphone and call it out. It isn’t that hard to look at the order tickets and see which ones are the oldest and thus should be filled first is it? The lowest number is the top priority, right?

WTF, Bland Broth Having Tonkatsu Ramen, with Different Noodles Than Usual @ Uni Deli RATING 5/10

WTF, Bland Broth Having Tonkatsu Ramen, with Different Noodles Than Usual @ Uni Deli RATING 5/10

I do not like leaving negative reviews, particularly when it involves a place that I am, or in this case HAVE BEEN, a fan of, but You deserve it Uni Deli! Get Your act together and stop this two, or three day a week experimental crap! It is hurting Your reputation. I know all these hipsters have finally discovered You, but that is not a liscense to turn Your back on those who have poured thousands of dollars into Your register over the years. Keep the menu small and simple, You do not need to cater to everyone. You have a niche that until recently, only You did well. Now that You are sleeping at the wheel, others are under-cutting Your position. Now if You’ll excuse Me, I am going to have some Tonkatsu Ramen, at Fuji Ya(Someone named Michael has stepped up the game). Which is where I shall tell other people to go, unless You can stop Your madness and stick to what You’re actually good at. What a shame. .. …

 

~~~UPDATE~~~ 6-30-2014

 

I went back to the Uni Deli this past weekend. Having gone there so many times, I couldn’t actually stay away.. Unlike the last couple of times, the tonkotsu was up to par with what I’ve been use to getting from them. My brother ordered the shoyu ramen, which was a little different than in the past, but still a pretty average bowl of soup in My opinion. His wife ordered the black tonkatsu, which is on the regular menu now. It was about the same as the first time I had it there, but the times inbetween were far less flavorful. There was a distinct garlicy flavor that wasn’t so pronounced the last two times, they also salted it more, which was a good thing. Hopefully they don’t toy around with the regular tonkotsu recipe anymore!

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Meat on the Grill, Meat in a Cloud


Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (1)

I am in love with this soup! Layers of porky flavor make it a delight to devour. I originally intended to make a bacon and bak choi soup, but instead I used what was in My freezer. Thus stumbling upon this lovely combination. Baby lima beans add a great texture and are perfect for reducing the spicy impact on Your taste buds. Obviously, bacon adds to almost any meal, but by cooking it in different ways, bacon can take things to the next level. I have been playing with different methods of cooking it for quite some time. Treating a pack of standard, sliced bacon as a single piece of meat is the key to this dish.

Soup takes time to make. It is very easy, since You can ignore it most of the time, but it’s a long process. 3 hours of simmering on the stove seems to be the minimum for getting all of the flavor and nutrients out of the ingredients. Simmering for 4 to 6 hours before reducing has yielded the best soup stock for Me. Be sure not to reduce too far, the general rule is that You want to cook it down by half. You don’t want to end up with soup concentrate. Making this soup is a two part recipe. First, one must make the stock that provides the base flavors. Then, You fry Your bacon and finish the soup with spices. I tend to make stock half, to three quarters of a gallon at a time, since the largest pot in My kitchen is 8 quarts. Storing any that is not being used right away in the freezer for later. It will last about a month in the freezer, so You can save time and make the stock well before the day You intend actually to serve the soup.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (2)

Supplies Needed: TWO 8 quart stock pots(the second is for straining), a decent sized strainer and a skillet for frying.

~For the Stock~

Ingredients:

2lbs Ham Shanks, or the bone of a mostly eaten ham

3 large Carrots, cut in half, or thirds

2 large Onions, halved

half a bushel of Celery

half a bulb of Garlic

2 Bay Leaves

1.5 to 2 gallons of Water(as much as can be fit into the pot with the other ingredients)

Andor's Porky Soup Stock © Andor

To Cook:

Put all the above ingredients in a stock pot, adding as much water as possible(1.5 to 2 inches from the top of the pot). You don’t want to boil it, set the burner to whatever setting You need to keep it simmering. Continue simmering for 4 or more hours. Then, strain the ingredients from the liquid, pressing as much of the broth out of them as possible. Discard the solids(eat the meat, if there is any) and return the liquid to the stove. Now You want to bring it to a boil and continue until the soup has been reduced to about half of the post-straining quantity. You don’t want a full rolling boil, with a foamy top. A ‘low boiling’ is ideal, constant large bubbling is what You want to see. Once reduced, let cool and place in the fridge over night. When it’s nice and cold, remove the fat that has solidified on the top. Now proceed to the next part of the recipe, or put it in containers and freeze.

~Finishing the Soup~

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Cajun Spice blend

A 1.5 to 2 inch wide slice of the Bacon slab and half a cup or more of Baby Lima Beans per person

1 tsp freshly ground Peppercorns(multi-color medley is best for this)

Salt to taste

Slow Cooking Sliced Bacon © Andor

To Cook:

Over medium-low, or even low heat, start frying the bacon, spreading the pepper evenly on the top and bottom. It is best to slow cook, flipping every 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the temperature low, so You don’t burn the outsides before the center has been cooked. This should take 45 minutes to an hour. You may also have a hard time keeping the bacon from splitting apart, I suggest using a tongs for flipping, so You can hold each piece together as You maneuver them around. Once the bacon is ALMOST cooked through, heat Your soup stock on high. Once the soup starts to boil, add the baby lima beans, cajun spice and salt and reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally. At the same time, turn the burner for the bacon to medium-high and fry until the outer edges are nice and crispy(burnt is ok too), then remove from the pan, placing on a towel to pull out the excess grease. Make sure the beans are cooked to Your liking and turn off the burner. Ladle the soup and beans into bowls and place a chunk of bacon on top. Serve hot!

Notes:

I have only served this when also making other dishes. I’ve never tried it as a stand alone meal, it’s a great fit for multi-course dinners.

Cooking sliced bacon in this manor provides a unique texture, similar to tender un-sliced meat. Half pound slabs cook up quite well, but are hard to slice afterwords without breaking it all apart. I prefer Corn King brand bacon. You may laugh, or turn Your nose to the sky, but the brine and smoking process they use produces a superior tasting grease. I use bacon grease instead of cooking oil in most of My cooking, so such things matter to Me. Yes, I am telling You that a mass produced product of Iowan factory-made bacon is better than bacon from a quality butcher shop!

Baby lima beans are really tender inside. If You are substituting regular lima beans, You will want to boil/steam them with water and add to the soup when plating. Otherwise they will be tough and meaty in texture.

This soup is very barbecue friendly. I saved 15 bones from pork spare ribs that I had smoked, added them, burnt edges, sauce and all, instead of the ham. It was delicious! I was unsure about how the charred ends and the messy, sweet remnants of bbq sauce would affect the flavor, but it came out really good. The only burnt parts were maybe half an inch at the tip of each bone.  The soup lacked the hammy flavor and aroma, but was instead smelling like a barbequed bowl of goodness. I admit to also using one head of bak choi in place of the carrots that time too. The spice blend really helps this soup fit in to a barbecue menu as well. The spiciness just invites one to eat more sweet, savory, saucy ribs.

I have also found the broth, which is the soup after straining, but before reducing, is very good for sauces. 1 cup of broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger, some garlic and a splash of chili powder made for a delicious thick sauced stir-fry.

Bacon & Baby Lima Beans in Spiced Porky Soup (3)


Fancy Feast

Fancy Feast © Andor

Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.

First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.

February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.

I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.


Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli

Spicy Garlic Chicken and Broccoli © Andor

My cooking style has always been to throw a bunch of things I like together, then hope it’s delicious… That’s how I made this one 5 or 6 years ago. I’m not sure how I lost this recipe, which was the most popular on My old site. I recently found it on an antiquated external hard drive that I haven’t been using, so here We go. One of the great many flavor combinations I’ve stumbled upon over the years. A good blend of savory, sour and sweet, followed by a round of  heat! As with all Stir Fries, this is straight forward, fast and quite easy to make! Matched with a side of bread, noodles, or rice, this serves about 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or High Sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board. As well as a Large Bowl, Pot, or Pan to shuffle the cooked veggies onto while the meat cooks.

Ingredients:

2 or so lbs of Boneless Chicken, chopped
1 Bag of frozen Broccoli, thawed
6 to 8 large Garlic cloves, minced
1 Habanero Pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
3 tbsp of Rice Vinegar
2 or 3  tbsp Soy Sauce
1 and a half  tbsp of Lemon Juice
3-4 tbsp of Hoisin Sauce
1 tbsp Mild Chili Powder
1 tsp of Terragon flakes
half a tsp of Turmeric
2 tbsp of freshly crushed Black Pepper
1 tbsp of Sugar(optional)
and 1 or 2 tbsp of veggie/canola/peanut oil.

Prep and Cooking:

Using med-high heat, put half the oil in the pan and start frying the Carrots, once they’ve started to cook a bit, add the Onions, Turmeric, half the Pepper and a third of the Garlic, stir fry til the Carrots and Onions are about half way done, add the thawed bag of Broccoli. Stir fry until all 3 ingredients are done, then remove from the pan. You don’t need to clean the pan either.

Set burner to high heat. Pour the rest of the oil into the pan, adding the Chicken, Habanero and remaining Garlic. Stir it up a bit and add the Sugar and liquid ingredients. Stir it again and add the remaining seasonings. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through, turn off the burner. Put the veggies back into the pan with the meat and mix everything thoroughly. Enjoy!

Notes:

If You’re using fresh Broccoli, simply steam it and mix into the pan at the end…

Some stove tops will have high enough heat to make the liquids sauce down, which is good. Others will have liquid in the bottom when the chicken is done cooking, that’s fine too! It still tastes great! Just use bread, noodles or rice to soak it up!

Obviously, this works just fine without the Habanero Pepper, for those who can’t handle the burn.


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Attacking Oysters


Cajun Spiced Chicken Stir-Fry

Many people tend to think stir-frying is just an asian thing. This, however, is simply not true. This particular recipe is My most recent stir-fry developement! A very basic flavor combination that goes well with most vegetables, pictured here with carrots, onions and broccoli, served on toasted whole grain bread. Albeit untried, I do beleive this would go well with pork or beef, amongst other things. Paired with rice, bread, or noodles, this recipe serves 2 ravenous teenagers, or 4 people.

Supplies Needed: A Wok or large, high sided Fry Pan, Knife and Cutting Board, Large Bowl, or Sealing Bag for marinating.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, sliced a quarter inch thick or thinner
2 Large Carrots, chopped into thin pieces
1 Onion, Chopped up too..
Half of a Bag of Frozen Chopped Broccoli, thawed
4 Tbsp – Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp – Worcestershire Sauce
2 or 3 Tbsp – Cajun Spice Blend
1 Tbsp – Minced Garlic(2 large cloves)
2 or 3 Tbsp – Pure Honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bacon Grease or Cookig Oil as needed

Prep and Cooking:

Mix the sherry, worcestershire, half the cajun spice and half a tablespoon or so of salt into a large zip-lock bag and drop the chopped up Chicken into it. Mix that up and let it marinate for 20+ minutes. Now is a good time to chop Your vegetables! Heat Your wok at medium-high heat, grease the pan and start stir-fying the chopped carrots with half the garlic, after the carrots start to soften a little, add the onion and broccoli, continue frying until the ingredients are cooked to Your liking. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken and all the contents of the marinade to the fry pan, also adding the rest of the garlic and any additional salt and pepper You want. Turn Your burner to high heat and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the liquids start thickening, then add the last tablespoon of the cajun spice, pour the veggies back into the pan, drizzle the honey over the top, turn off Your burner and mix it all together. Plate and serve!

Note: The amount of sherry listed is for the lower end stuff found in most big box grocery stores here in North America. If using a quality sherry from a winery or liquor store, try using half the amount stated.