I like Thanksgiving but it was my mom’s favorite holiday. In her honor, I made the pecan pie. She was not much of a baker but this was one thing she loved to bake and eat. In July she had shelled about 10 cups of pecans to give me at Thanksgiving. I took them home after the funeral and have kept them in the freezer until today. Some things I think only moms can do such as mend anything and it not look like someone with a hook for a hand and/or missing a thumb did it (like my mending jobs) or shell pecans so they come out in complete halves. I looked at the bag of pecans this morning in amazement as usual that over half the bag is in perfect halves. I knew my mom would have been so proud of that fact too so I thought I would showcase the halves in my pie.
Pecan pies are best made a day or two ahead of time and freeze really really well so no harm in making it 4 days before showtime. I have a caramel apple cake in the oven too so the house pretty much smells ok.
We have been on a crazy Korean kick lately, which of course I love. We’ve been venturing out to new spots on BuHi as well as grabbing takeout from the shiny new Super H mart on P’tree Industrial. You can read my yelp reviews of various joints if so inclined. I already knew it was healthy stuff but as I debated what to cook for dinner tonight (should I try to attempt to make dumplings like Cracker Barrel’s? or Chicken fried steak???) I realized that Korean is way healthier than anything I would cook for Sunday dinner.
We flipped through one of the Korean cookbooks for inspiration. One of the pages caught my eye and I declared we should make Ssam bap tonight. Bap in korean is rice and ssam means to wrap or something. It’s basically big leafs of lettuce, a little hot chili paste/soy paste (ssamjang), rice and whatever else you want to throw on it. You unhinge your jaw, open wide and shove this fist size ball of goodness into your pie-hole, try to chew and give the thumbs up to your friends.
Ssam is pretty common at the Korean dinner table. bossam is not. In fact, there’s a fancy pants restaurant in New York called Ssam bar that only serves this large meal
So, to get pumped up to make this dinner, we checked out Maangchi’s video here and then got even more excited. Because I can’t get enough Kalbi, I decided to make that as our meet. We made the green onion salad, I whipped up a kimchi pancake, pan fried some kalbi, wrapped our bap (rice) in lettuce and dipped into the pre made assortment of banchan we picked up at Super H. There was bean sprouts, cucumber and radish kimchi, potato stems, and spinach. Omnomnomnomnomnomnom. Probably a bit better for us than the country fried steak I originally set out to make…
I am writing this and crying. Lindsey looks at me with her sweet sympathetic frowny face. I tell her I think it’s theraputic for me to write. She says nothing, comes to my side and lets me bury my face in her side and cry. She says crying is also theraputic. I agree.
Lindsey and I drove by the Super H mart last Sunday to pick up some kimchee and other Korean staples. I grabbed some frozen meat to cook later “Not tonight” I say. “I just can’t.” Today I announced I defrosted that meat to make Kalbi (Korean short ribs) and blueberry cobbler.
I like to cook. Or maybe I just love to eat and no one can make it just the way I want it so I end up having to do it myself. I’m not sure which it is, the lines have become blurred over the years. My mom was the best cook I’ve ever known. There are folks who tell me their mom is a terrible cook, or their mom just wasn’t that into it. Everything that went into my mom’s cast iron red pot came out the best I ever had. I watched her marinate meats in this pot, cook chap chae (Korean noodles), simmer spaghetti sauce all day, slow cook chili, deep fry chicken fingers, and others that I can’t quite remember. But when I close my eyes and sometimes when they’re open, I can hear her chopping and dicing, still smell the garlic cooking in oil and ginger being freshly minced. One of my favorite parts of my day in high school was opening the front door after school to smell what was going to be for dinner. I can cook all of the comfort foods that she made as we were growing up but I have not really ever dabbled in Korean food. My mom never used recipes for Korean cooking and certainly never measured anything so I can only attempt to imitate. When asked for a recipe she would shrug and then go back to cooking.
I am all baker and she was all chef. I love to dip tablespoons of flour into a measuring cup and sweep the flat edge across the top to create a precise measurement. To get my scale out and pour sugar to precise measurements makes me giddy. Watching my mom cook was a counter action to my action. She would grab jars and bottles of unlabled spices that she filled from bulk bins and just start shaking into the big red pot. I watched her stir a little, watch, taste it and would wait to see the reaction. Sometimes it was favorable, there was no big action taken then. She would simply rest the plastic spoon in its holder and walk away. If unfavorable, she would scrunch her face up, shake her head, and reach back in the cabinet for something else.
While I love to bake, I don’t like to follow recipes for cooking because they usually call for some ingredient I don’t have or some technique I don’t feel like looking up. So, I improvise. A lot. My mom did the same but somehow a billion times better as mom’s are known to do. I never asked her if she loved cooking. I think it would be like asking me if I loved to bake. Some things just present themselves and no further conversation is necessary.
My mom had a major stroke August 4th around 7:30pm. We all gathered and prayed and cried and prayed. I had hope for some level of recoevery until August 6th at 6:30am when the third of the three doctors watching over my mom, the only one who had any hope at all for recovery, pulled me aside (my brother and dad had gone home to shower and get a little rest so it was just me) to tell me that things had gone from bad to worse, there was no glimmer of hope left and now we were just waiting for the end. I collapsed. He held me and said “I wish my mom had been as good as your mom. I can always tell when a mom was loved so much as yours is”. My mom passed away August 6th, 2010 at 9:15pm. My father, brother, her youngest sister and I held her hand as she left this world to see her mom again.
I walked into the kitchen of my parents house and my eyes wandered from counter to counter, looking at all the things she had cooked with, on and around. I held myself up at the counter and stared at her rice cooker. The one I got her for Christmas and the one she wanted me to replace this Christmas (with a new shiny steel one like her friends have). I opened the fridge and found rice that she probably planned to eat Thursday for lunch. I went to my room and cried.
My mother had been very clear to me over the years about the things that were important to her that I keep for the next generations. Different things that might not appear valuable to most people but meant everything to her. She would say “let me show you what is important for when I die. Don’t forget!” and I would say “i don’t want to talk about that” but if you ever met my mom, you know there’s no getting around what she wanted. She would admonish me and tell me to follow her again to watch her go through the whole house and point out her favorite things. I gathered these cherished things and collected them into a safe place as I had been asked to do. I then went to the kitchen for things that I knew my dad would never use, as cooking eggs is reaching the limit of his culinary ability. I prepared the red cast iron pot, her favorite plastic spoon that I used to stir kool aid with when I was a child, and the rice cooker for a trip back to Atlanta.
My mom had called me the day she and my dad went to pick the blueberries at my grandmother’s house. I had found a note on the side of the fridge that said “Maxine-soap, pecans, blueberries, sugar” My mom had cracked over a gallon of pecans for me because she knew I used them so often in baking and had frozen well over 12 quarts of blueberries for my brother and me. She could deftly crack pecans so they came out as whole halves. I crack them – they turn to crumbles. This is something that I suppose I won’t be able to do until we have children. My mom had recently gone to Mexico on a Church mission trip and had brought back some Mexican cane sugar for me to bake with as well as some soap because it looked just like something my mom would buy.
I don’t know how to make kimchee. I can’t make her eggrolls or whip up some side sauce for dipping different foods in. I can’t read Korean and speak very little of it. I have always wished I had known these things but it didn’t really seem necessary as my mom would be there to do it for me. She did try a few times to let me cook some Korean food but would cut me off the first mistake I made and just say “Move. Let mommy do it” and I would not put up a fight as I had very little confidence in my cooking. Last week, Lindsey and I gathered my Korean cookbooks and started picking out recipes to try to make. I would scan each one and say “No, this is not right. My mom would never use that ingredent.” I had to scan several Kalbi recipes until I saw the one that felt right. It will have to be trial and error but I am committed to getting these recipes at least as close as I can.
Rice is steaming in the pot right now, the big green egg is heating up for kalbi and blueberry cobbler is finishing up in the oven right now. I am using the same blueberry cobbler recipe that she used for the last 25 years. And whether any of it will be as good as what my my mom made? I already know the answer before I ever take a bite.
I miss you every day, mom. And I will until I can see you again.
I finished up lesson 2 today. Time seemed to fly so we didn’t even get to decorate our cakes in class. I chose the rainbow cake to decorate. I’m the only one, everyone else chose the flowers. I think it turned out pretty nice. Not sure at all how it tastes and still trying to figure out what to do with all this cake I keep making. Anybody want this rainbow cake?
The picture in the book showed the cake with the writng “Shawn 5” on it. I don’t know a Shawn, especially not 5 of them so I decided to write something else. I call it my ‘i’m coming out’ cake
So the future in-laws (or as I was told “we’re outlaws”) came over Saturday night for an Europe planning session and since we were hosting I figured what better opportunity to get the deep fryer out and fry some chicken. And make some rice and gravy. Creamed corn too. And some homemade yeast rolls. And some bacon balsamic deviled eggs. Oh man, I’m drooling thinking about it and I already had it plus leftovers.
Fried chicken recipe was just a collection from other sources. That was a bad idea. It was ok, I’ve made better.
Creamed corn recipe (Adapted from AllRecipes)
- 2 (20 ounce) packages frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- white or cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Place corn kernels, whipping cream, milk, salt, sugar, and white or cayenne pepper in a large stockpot. Bring to a slow, low boil beginning on medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
- Melt butter in the microwave, or in a small saucepan on low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Stir into the corn until well blended. Enjoy!
I did try to make potatoes. Somehow, I didn’t get this gene. I can make good rice, not potatoes. I tried, they were terrible, I threw them out. Yeast gravy from The Grit recipe saved that day for sure. Omnomnomnom.
J and C brought collards (omnomnom), and C and L’s mom brought the Strawberry Shortcake (Oh. My. Paula Deen’s recipe. Made with angel food cake so it’s fat free!)
Oh yeah. I made some honey yeast rolls. I’m not that good of a bread baker but I’m getting better. I really wanted these rolls and I really really really want to know how to make them. And I did. Big billowy soft honey yeasty rolls omnomnomnomnom. I wish I could remember where i got th recipe. If I do, I’ll post
L signed me up for the first Wilton Cake Decorating class (Level 1) as Christmas present. (Along with getting me a super duty awesome cake turntable yes.)
I took my first class this past weekend. I was the youngest person, or at least tied with the other Asian (You can never tell how old we are) by about 30-40 years. Oh, actually, no, there were two friends probably younger than us. But then the age gap was staggeringly awesome. We didn’t get to actually ice or decorate or stick our face in the bowl of icing (although she passed around three bowls and it was VERY difficult to not give it a try.)
We have some homework for next weekend and luckily I already own 90% of the junk they want you to buy so I don’t have a big investment here. Because I just can’t wait I baked a cake yesterday to go ahead and start practicing. It’s going to work with C. tomorrow. Not bad looking, especially for my first real try. The icing was a little too thin so I’m glad I practiced. I think most everyone is going to make and decorate some cake with flowers on it but I opted for this beauty instead. The picture in the book says “5 shawn” but I’m thinking of what I want mine to say…
So, here’s my first try! It’s white on white. Very chic…
Since I get up at 6:30 just naturally now (now being since I turned 28 or so) I did the last Insanity workout for the week and told L that I’d be taking it easy today, I think. Just going to do the laundry, go to the farmer’s market to figure out how to make our own homemade white cheese queso dip,finish cleaning the house and that’s it! Unless I get motivated to clean the bonus room…
We’re having a meeting tonight to work out our post wedding “we got married in Sweden sorry you couldn’t be there but come help us celebrate” reception. Our very sweet friends volunteered to throw this party together for us and we couldn’t be more thrilled. So, for the meeting I threw together a veggie chili into the crockpot to cruise all day. I found a recipe on BigCityCooking’s blog last night which I adapted slightly:
Adapted from Big City Cooking
1Yellow Onion, diced
1 Green and 1 red bell pepper, diced
A healthy bunch of garlic (mine comes out a bag in the freezer but I’d guess about 2-3 cloves worth)
2 cans (14oz each) crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, rinsed well
3/4 cup black beans, soaked over night (the night before. I subbed this for a can of black beans)
1 cup corn
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
Throw in pot, let cook all day. Test later to see if it’s a disaster
Here’s what it looks like going in:
I’ve been on hiatus. Since October I was baking like crazy with not a one photo to show for it. And then Insanity started…so I’m not baking anything for the next, oh, 50 days or so. :( boo on that.
I thought I’d post a Happy National Penguin Awareness day to everyone though..
Also, let me share a few tips should you or your partner ever put dishwashing liquid (like Dawn or in our case hippie Seventh Gen) into the dishwasher instead of the non-hippie Cascade that I like
Drain that water
Scoop all the bubbles out
Pour vinegar into the dishwasher. like a cup
run the dishwasher
rinse and repeat over and over again as the bubbles keep coming. they just won’t stop….
I have found the recipe that will forever be my brownie recipe. It’s adapted from the Brownie Recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking but I tweaked some things to make it my own. I’ve tried recipe after recipe after recipe and have decided that I don’t need to do that anymore. Next time I might add walnuts, but for now, their simplicity is what makes them so good. A little whisper of espresso, super fudgy, deep cocoa flavor. And it tastes at least 432 times as good as it looks.