Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Planning

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year at my place for 9 people and 2 kids. I decided that for the first year ever I am going to fry the turkey. Since we have 5 gallons of peanut oil I thought it would be a good idea to fry twinkies, oreos and candy bars for dessert. Since I was on a roll I decided to put wings and tempura on the menu too, as the appetizers. We are in it to win it. Or die of a heart attack trying...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Catered Bentos

I've had the good fortune of being in charge of catering for an office event. I get really excited at choosing food and it really didn't feel like work as I looked at menus. When it hit me. I have to feed 20 people, I have to feed 20 people and make sure that they a.) like what they were eating and b.) full. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself but I wanted to show everyone my foodie abilities.

It was a 1 hour lunch and I had a tight budget. Normally I had a few go to places I would pick up from but time was short, they had to deliver. I surfed the web and stumbled onto Nippon Bento. I wanted to test the place first but I didn't have enough time to go on my own. Looking at the menu everything sounded good, the prices were right and they delivered. I ordered to my budgeted limit and held my breath.

No need to panic. This place rocked my socks and I will be filing them away for future usage. Portions were huge, food was of medium high quality and reasonably priced. My only worry was that they were very meat and carb oriented, which for some people it's heaven on a plate. For veggies lovers I would recommend ordering the $6 vegetarian plate and getting a side order of protein.

Take a look:

Kalbi, Mochiko Chicken and Butterfish in this photo. Also had the shrimp tempura, bbq chicken and bugogi as other main courses. Sides included some pickled veg, 2 pc. california roll, inari, stir-fried veggies and fried mandoo. Every plate came with white rice. I thought it was just me enjoying this but all the men in the group polished it off, 2 women shared 1 bento and even after I was full there was enough leftovers for my dinner. Everything tasted fresh and delicious, even the tempura was good although soft from being in the container for 30 minutes. I normally hate soggy tempura but this one I ate.

The only thing I had a problem with was bbq chicken. It was a whole bone-in thigh, I had to break out a knife. Don't recommend it if you are eating beachside, in your car or on the run.

Nippon Bento, catering-wise, you killed it. You remembered to bring napkins, chopsticks and plasticware. I was impressed that you still included a 1 oz container of tempura dipping sauce while most places are cutting back on things like that. Main dishes were perfectly sauced and each bento was thoughtfully held together with 2 rubberbands, while most places would only do 1. If I had to go out for lunch (or have it catered) you would be a 'yes, let's go there.'

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker

In general, there's just certain things I expect to be expensive, like Grey Goose bottle service at the club, prime rib at a Morton's Steakhouse, 20 year old Pride Cabernet Savignon. There's certain things I expect to be cheap. Like pork- pork is normally cheap. Especially when we get into cuts like pork shoulder or pork butt. Look at the name, it doesn't even sound nice, it totally sounds cheap.

I will warn the non-locals. Here in Hawaii cheap is relative. Overhead, labor and insurance is twice the amount you'd expect, so prices are twice what you would see on the mainland. Then slap on an extra $1 for a gas surcharge. It's really tough to pinch those pennies and still be sociable. So when I am invited to a potluck or tailgating or any event that I want to cook for a crowd I go for a tub o' cheap food, like turkey chili or pulled pork. I got the supermarket circulars and I was in luck, pork butt was on sale this week at Foodland for $.99/lb. I will block out the fact that it is probably $.59/lb on sale at my parents' local grocery store on the Mainland. $.99/ lb is reasonable in Hawaii. I can feed about 10 people for $5 +few other ingredients. I get in my car and go to the store. I find out that they are out of pork... And there is no butcher today... And there is no substitutions... *SIGH* I go to see if there is another porky product I can use, there is.... at $2.49/lb. I start to get irritated. Then it is Friday night and the lines are long because I was smart enough to go to the store closest to the college campus. Everyone in line had a case of beer and a bag of ice. Except me, the old lady trying to ask about pork butt and ketchp. Finally, after quizzing the service staff for 10 minutes, I gave up. I got in my car and drove to Safeway, which was totally worth it. They had pork shoulder for $1.49/lb. I bought a 5 lb hunk of meat and saved myself $5. Freakin' Foodland, $2.49/ lb for PORK? What are those pigs eating? Shrimp Cocktail? I'm going to Safeway strictly on principle now.

I love you Safeway Kaupulehu. I really don't know why I go anywhere else, you are in the game with very competitive prices and above average stocked store and friendly service. You always have what I need and a pretty awesome meat clearance bin. Which reminds me, I have to start eating more steak, but not today. Today we do pork.

I play this recipe really fast and loose. I go into my fridge and pantry and start pulling out anything related to BBQ. No oregano, bay leaf or liquid smoke? Have that ginormous jar of streak seasoning you bought from Costco for 4th of July? No problem, rub it on. Only have BBQ sauce in the door of your fridge. Awesome. Throw it on. This is what I had, but when you try this recipe just go with what you got.

Pull Pork in a Slow Cooker

- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- Salt and Pepper

- Big hunk of pork cut in half, shoulder or butt is best, 3-5 lbs depending on the size of the crowd

Put all the first 8 ingredients in the slow cooker, mix. Taste. Add more stuff. Taste again.
When you are happy, get the pork out of the package, cut in half, trim off excess fat if you want (I didn't, it was late and I was tired).
Cook long and slow, I did this at night, so I went to bed.

Get up in the morning, unplug the slow cooker, pull out meat and put in bowl.
Stop, do some morning ablutions or situps or something.
For a while.

That meat is hot, and its easier if you give it a minute to cool down.
When a little cooler, shred with 2 forks.
Pour sauce into a glass or defatter. Strain off the fat. (Unless you like it, I don't.)

Recipe says: mix in 1/4 cup of ketchup into sauce and add back into the shredded pork.
This is what I did instead: Put in small saucepan boil down until thick, mix into pork.

Put in tupperware container and bring to the party.
Be the center of attention when everyone tries it.
Still have leftovers even after everyone is stuffed.

*Cue spotlight and grandoise music*

**I will revise when I get a photo- my camera won't focus anymore for some reason. Probably because it is over 10 years old. I bought it in China, I guess I should be happy it didn't give me lead posioning.**

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Cheesecake Factory Bar

I normally would avoid a review of a chain restaurant. But I'm making an exception, mainly because there's only 1 Cheesecake Factory on all of Oahu. And this:

Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives. I know the photo isn't great, but believe me they are there. And blue cheese stuffed olives are hard to find. It shows a level of care where every other bar just pulls the thing out of the jar and plunks it in the glass.

Ok, it's not just the stuffed olives, though that's a lot of it, there is also the 10oz glasses. How many times have you gone out for a cocktail and get one of those wimpy 6oz martini glasses? And they charge you $10+ for it and it's gone in 3 small sips. Hell, for me it's gone in 1 normal sip. Look at this. This is a drink. 10oz of delicious, frosty, dirty Grey Goose martini. I have to give props to the bartender too, good ingredients are one thing but their talents took it over the top:
-they shook to the perfect icy temperature,
-enough olive juice to make it dirty but not filthy
-they were light handed with the vermouth (or skipped it all together, in which case I will not complain)
-lastly, they were prompt in an increasingly crowded bar. 

Cheesecake Factory, you had me before hello. You had me at the pre-dinner drink.

 Hello lover!