Monday, March 11, 2013

Snack Attack: Homemade Parmesan Crisps

Okay, so I know that Louisville is psyched to have a Trader Joe's now, and I am too, but there are snacks that are completely doable at home. I had a nibble of the parmesan crisps the other day and thought to myself, this is definitely cheaper to do at home than $6 a pack. Seriously, it was a handful of toasts with some parmesan sprinkled on wasn't delicacy that would necessitate such a sacrifice to the wallet. So, here is my version. It is easy, cheaper, delicious, and awesome when you get it crunchy out of the oven!

Homemade Parmesan Crisps
Sliced baguette (preferably day-old...which you can also get on sale)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
Olive oil (optional)

The very basic idea is to spread a cheese/butter mixture on your chosen bread slices and dry them out in the oven. I can't explain it any easier than that.

I heated my oven to 300ยบ and arranged the bread slices on a cookie sheet. I melted the butter and brushed it on the bread slices. Alternatively, you can make a melted butter and olive oil mixture and brush that on. Just know that it will have a different (probably even more awesome) taste due to the olive oil. Finally, liberally sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and press down lightly so that it adheres to the butter-brushed bread.

I let it hang out in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. It will smell incredible, so prepare yourself for some serious salivation before these crispies come out of the oven. They should not be browning, but still the same color of the cheese as you put it in. If they do start to brown, lower the temperature of your oven and continue to bake until they are crisp.

Cool them on a wire rack to ensure maximum crispiness. 

Enjoy in one sitting...because they won't last any longer.

Buon appetito!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Continuing a Zen Kitchen Study: Tamagoyaki

This is the third installment of this particular trilogy focused on Japanese cuisine. This will most definitely become part of a continuous series, as we move on through experimenting with new techniques.

Tamagoyaki is a wonderfully simple dish. My history with it started with a shared dinner in a third floor university dorm kitchen. A friend from Korea and a friend from Japan wanted to share a meal with us and prepare some traditional dishes for us to try. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited about soaking up all of that food information. This may have been the first instance in which I was paying attention and questioning cooking methods in order to replicate them in my own kitchen later on. Hm, funny how that came about. Our meal began with tamagoyaki.

If you are not familiar with tamagoyaki, it is basically an egg omelet rolled up on itself and sliced in to pieces, not unlike a sushi roll. Tamago, meaning egg in Japanese, is often seen on Japanese restaurant menus here in the States, and it comes cut into a rectangle and served nigiri-style atop some sushi rice and banded with a strip of nori seaweed (beware of pre-made packaged tamago...please, if you can't fry an egg, you really shouldn't be running a restaurant). The intriguing part for me was that tamagoyaki is sweet egg dish, and I had only ever had eggs in a savory fashion...usually doused in hot sauce or seasoned with chili powder, curry, salt and pepper. The sweet egg is a happy side to any meal, traditional Japanese or not. I found it especially calming when we were introduced to some spicy kimchi later on in our meal.

The only trick is in the technique, which I will detail below, but it will beg a little patience, especially if you aren't into multitasking inside a hot frying pan.

4-6 Eggs
1 T or so of Sugar
Dash of Soy sauce
Cooking oil
Sesame seeds or seaweed for garnish (optional)

Tamagoyaki begins with fresh, bright eggs whisked to oblivion. You want to achieve fluffiness in between each layer. Whisk in your sugar and soy sauce and you're ready for the hard part.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and drizzle with cooking oil. This can be canola oil with a dash of sesame oil for some flavor, or whatever you think tastes good. When the oil is shimmering, ladle in your first layer of egg. You want to make sure that it covers the bottom of the pan. When that starts to cook just enough that you can move it, you want to start rolling it up on itself--so take one side and roll it as you would a burrito. When you get to the other side, let the roll sit there and ladle in another layer of egg, making sure that it covers the bottom of the pan again--so do a little swish action if need be. When that layer starts to set, take your already existing roll and roll up the new egg layer in the opposite direction. You continue building these layers, rolling it back and forth until all of your egg is used up and you have a nice round roll of sweet egg!

Note rolling technique: Tamagoyaki
Take that egg roll out of the pan and slice it into pieces. It should be bite-sized, and the size of a sushi roll.

It's quick, easy, and a delicious and balanced accompaniment to any meal!