crispy salmon with balsamic reduction

11:06 AM sians 1 Comments

i don't typically get a whole fillet of salmon just because i don't really know what is the best way to cook it - but when i came across fresh, wild salmon fillet for a reasonable price, i had to get it and made it a personal challenge to find my favorite way of cooking this fish with distinct flavor of its own. 

the story behind the discovery of this dish was one of my friends attempted gordon ramsay's beef wellington (which is my future project at some point) and i was just studying the recipe when i came across chef gordon ramsay's crispy salmon recipe with a side of new potato crab salad to make a complete meal. well, if i had fresh lump crab meat i would have probably attempted the whole recipe but instead i paired it with a delicious balsamic reduction and side of sauteed string beans. 

this is an incredibly easy recipe which literally takes less than 30 minutes to get it down. the crispy salmon takes next to no time to prepare ~ i'd say about 7 minutes which makes it such an anytime meal.
i still have a lot of work in improving my skills at scoring the fish..that and get a sharper knife. it was falling apart when it was cooking from scoring the fish too deep. but, thank goodness it still reached the crispy perfection i was looking for. :)

balsamic vinegar is quite the classic pairing with salmon (at least that's what i've noticed) and i found a honey balsamic reduction recipe that i absolutely love and will remain in my recipe box arsenal forever! lol. the secret ingredient is the addition of grainy mustard for that surprise bite. since the last time i prepared this dish, i've tweaked the balsamic reduction recipe to make it my own which, i believe will still compliment the crispy salmon beautifully. there are a couple of extra steps for my personal take on the balsamic reduction but i think it's really worth it. i'd recommend start cooking this before eeverthign else since it takes the longest to complete.

on the other hand, the simple string beans side dish can also be done in minutes. the string beans is essentially blanched in boiling salted water (to impart some flavor into the string beans itself) for about 2 minutes before submerged in ice cold water to stop the cooking to retain its crispness. it is then sauteed with some olive oil and minced garlic and seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper.

verdict | the crispy skin on the salmon is so yummy that i couldn't get enough of it. since salmon is quite the rich and fatty fish, the sweet and tart reduction, with a bit of bite in the back of the throat from the mustard, this is then lighten up with a side of crunchy string beans tossed in garlic-olive oil. a fast, simple and elegant dish. of course, you can also make new potato crab salad which adds to the heartiness of the meal - so take your pick whichever sides you'd like to serve with the meal. 

interested? check out the recipes below ::

crispy salmon
by chef gordon ramsay (watch his video on this dish on youtube:: here!)

ingredients |
  • salmon filet
  • salt 
  • olive oil
  • herbs (optional. chef ramsay recommends thyme, rosemary or basil)

instructions |
  • take the filet of salmon and roll it up, skin side facing up
  • place the rolled up salmon filet on a cutting board, and score the skin crosswise about one half inch deep. keep your cuts close together to get extra crispy salmon skin, and score the entire length of the salmon filet. (this also prevents it from curling while cooking - ensuring nice and even cooking)
  • open each score and sprinkle salt into the cut. be sparse but make sure the fish is seasoned well
  • chef ramsay suggests that your choice of herb (optional and if you'd like the extra flavor) be added at this point of the preparation
  • glaze the top of the salmon filet with olive oil
  • heat a heavy skillet over medium heat
  • add olive oil when the pan is hot. add the salmon, skin side down, as soon as the oil begins to smoke lightly
  • keep your fingers on top of the salmon filet for a bit to keep it nice and flat
  • season the top side up of the fish with salt and refrain from touching the filet
  • watch the salmon on the sides, and flip it over when 2/3rds way up of the filet has colored
  • tilt the pan, allowing all of the remaining olive oil coat the bottom of the salmon for a nice evenly cooked salmon filet
  • cook for another minute or so, watching the color
  • remove the pan from heat, flip the salmon back to skin side and let it rest a minute before serving

smokey honey balsamic reduction
inspired by the original recipe found at the cucina chronicles with a personal twist

ingredients |
  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbs honey (or substitute with brown sugar)
  • 2 tbs grainy mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 strips of thick cut, applewood smoked bacon (cut into lardons)
  • half a medium onion, thinly sliced 
  • salt&pepper to taste
 instructions |
  • slice the bacon strips into small pieces and place it in a saucepan over medium heat
  • render the fat from the bacon and fry the bacon bits till crisp (should take about 5-7 minutes)
  • remove the crispy bacon while leaving the fat in the saucepan. drain the bacon on a paper towel
  • add the sliced onions and chopped garlic and saute until the onion turns slightly translucent
  • add the balsamic vinegar, honey and grainy mustard. stir often over medium-low heat until it reduces and thickens (~10-15 minutes). this also allows the flavors to meld together. 
  • add salt and pepper to taste and if you prefer extra sweetness, you can add more brown sugar or honey depending on personal preference. 
  • add the bacon bits into the sauce and it's ready to serve
p.s. the great thing about this honey balsamic reduction is the versatility as a dressing. i've paired it with grilled/oven roasted asparagus and it was absolutely delicious.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

p.p.s. blog entries will resume after my trip to korea next week :) be sure to check for hopefully a ton of awesome pictures of korea and its delectable food that i am hoping to taste! <3 freaking excited and extra nervous. i'll let you in after i return why the sudden trip to korea! ^^



12:36 PM sians 0 Comments

gaztro-wagon was one of pioneers of food trucks established in chicago - serving delicious fine dining food on the go. but with the burst of food trucks in the chicago area, matt maroni (the founder of gaztro-wagon) has decided to go on hiatus till april. 

on the flip side, there is still some good news for those who craves for his creations - the upscale sit down restaurant he opened late last year, morso where he just recently decided to transition to a consulting role at the restaurant. i've always missed my chance at trying gaztro-wagon food which i've heard praises from a few of my co-workers. so when i read that chef matt opened a restaurant, it was quickly added to my wishlist.

the dining area is located on the first floor where as the second floor is the lounge. the dining area was really narrow and i would probably have appreciated a little bit more space. decor was minimalist and although i have no problem with that (in fact, i like minimalist), i thought it could have used a bit more of something.

i was having a difficult moment deciding between two dishes - lobster or wild boar belly while xy had his mind made up even before he set food into the restaurant. lol

they started us out with what i would consider one of the highlights of our meal : complimentary bread basket (more like jar) with honey truffle butter.

slightly sweet from the honey and some flakes of salt flavors the butter beautifully with very mild earthiness of the truffle (i wouldn't mind a stronger truffle presence). the different types of bread offered different textural experiences from crunchy to crumbly which paired very well with the butter. yum!

shellfish :: lobster | gnocchi . leeks. fennel . chilli oil ($24)

i guess you could say i am in the search for delicious gnocchi - and these were pretty good. it was almost like a crunchy leek & fennel salad with cloud-like gnocchi then topped off with perfectly cooked lobster that imparted natural sweetness to the whole dish. then ever so slightly, you get the heat from the chilli oil on the back of the tongue - which was great because it didn't mask the delicate flavors of the other ingredients in the dish.

game :: roasted antelope | anaheim chile . cumin squash puree . red wine ($24)

xy wanted to try this antelope no matter what since he's never had it before. it's rather risky with something like antelope which is very lean piece of meat. even though it was probably cooked to rare it was still quite chewy and tough. was it the fault of execution? honestly, i don't know - probably not though. xy commented that it was too tough for his liking which i concurred. (oh, i thought it was gamey too but not in a bad way)

morso has unexpected and delicious combination of flavors - i personally would not have ever combined chilli oil with delicate lobster. one thing though, i am still confused in which direction of flavors morso is trying to achieve. regardless, if the rest of the dishes were anything like the bread and lobster (the antelope not so much) , i would like to return and try more of their creations.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.
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golden bulgogi parcels

10:00 AM sians 0 Comments

note | i submitted this recipe in the 'discover korea's delicious secret'. i think this was recipe #5 >.< i am thrilled when i found a competition that combined both my loves together :: food and super junior :)
there are a few reasons why i love making extra bulgogi. i could whip up a quick delicious dinner or i could be adventurous and creative to create different dishes with it. i spent few hours of thinking and another few hours of researching to find inspirations for different recipes but still keeping to the classic flavors.

these golden bulgogi parcels are delicious savory and sweet bite-size snack where bulgogi is stuffed into puff pastry - my take on east meets west cuisine. they are perfect little appetizer, one i think everyone would really enjoy.

when i came across the idea of stuffing bulgogi into a dough, i was torn between filling it in puff pastry or those flaky biscuit dough. i finally decided on puff pastry since it was milder in flavor that would allow the flavors of bulgogi to shine. plus the flaky, airy, buttery and crispy textures of puff pastry would compliment the filling.

i was kinda nervous when using puff pastry cos i've never used it before and it seems so delicate. umm...i kinda cheated by buying frozen puff pastry sheets for two reasons - well, it is readily available in the grocery store and more importantly, making puff pastry dough from scratch intimidates me.

the other concern i had was that the filling would be dry and overcooked since it has to be precooked before i bake it in the oven. i think i found a quick fix to the problem which you will figure out when you refer to the recipe.

instagram-ed :: pre-cooking the filling

i used the bulgogi recipe that i wrote in a past entry with just a minor change. i thickened the sauce with some cornstarch when it was almost done so the filling isn't watery when placed onto the dough to be baked. i also refrigerated the filling to keep it cold so that when it would only heat the filling and hopefully not overcook the meat which can make it dry.

instagram-ed :: prepping of puff pastry dough

follow the instructions on the back of the box on how to thaw the puff pastry before use. definitely make sure that it's thawed and defrosted before use or not it would fall apart. i made them into bite size pieces so i divided the dough into 12 rectangles. (you can also choose to cut it into 9 pieces persheet)

instagram-ed :: the making of the bulgogi parcels

there were more than a couple which the parcel burst open to reveal its bulgogi filling after it was baked to golden brown perfection. in fact, i personally think that it  gives character to each lil golden parcel hehe :)

verdict | these were a huge hit. i made some and brought it with me to louisiana and ryan's family finished all of it rather quickly - it is pretty addictive with the buttery goodness with the flakiness and almost doughy puff pastry with the sweet bulgogi it hides inside. :) yeah, they requested that i make more next time lol. definitely a great way to introduce newbies to korean cuisine.

if you are interested to give this recipe a shot, here it goes::

golden bulgogi parcel
self inspired recipe (i've also included the bulgogi recipe here, just in case)

ingredients |
  • 1 pack of puff pastry, sheets (there should be 2 sheets of puff pastry)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch
  • hard boiled egg, sliced (optional)
  • 0.5 lb sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 6 button mushroom, sliced
  • 1/4 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 stalk of green onion, cut 1" lengthwise
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs water
  • 2/3 tbs sugar
  • 2/3 tbs honey
  • 2/3 tbs rice wine
  • 2/3 tbs garlic, minced
  • 2/3 tbs sesame oil
  • 2/3 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbs grated fuji apple (which can be substituted with korean pear or apple juice)
  • a dash of pepper
special equipment : pastry brush

instructions |
  • firstly, marinade the thinly sliced sirloin. mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. bring together the sirloin, onion, green onions, mushroom and marinade; mix thoroughly and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to tenderize the meat and bring the flavors together (i prefer to marinade overnight)
  • add the marinated meat onto a preheated skillet on high heat (which a spoonfuls of the marinade) and fry on medium high for about 5 minutes. since it will be a bit watery, add the cornstarch to thicken the sauce so it'll not make the pastry soggy when we bake it later
  • once the meat is cooked, remove from pan and let cool for a few minutes. 
  • transfer to a cutting board to mince the bulgogi into smaller pieces. move it to a bowl and let cool in the refrigerator as we start working on the puff pastry. (you could pre-cook the bulgogi the day before which works out fine too)
  • thaw the frozen puff pastry according to instructions on the back of the box. ensure that the puff pastry is fully thawed and defrosted before working with it
  • preheat the oven to 375 F
  • sprinkle some flour on your work space and your hands so that the puff pastry will not stick to the surface
  • gently unfold the puff pastry sheet. divide and cut the sheet into 9 squares or 12 rectangles with a sharp knife.
  • add about almost 1-2 teaspoonful of the chilled minced bulgogi into the middle of the square/rectangle. you can also add a slice of hard boiled egg if you'd like but that is optional. remember to NOT overfill your pastry
  • take the two opposite points of the pastry square and bring them together in the middle. 
  • then repeat it with the the other to points and then press down in the middle gently
  • squeeze the open edges together to seal the filling in the pastry
  • place the parcel on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. continue until you finish making all the mini parcels
  • take the beaten egg and pastry brush to brush the egg wash over the top of the pastry parcels
  • bake them in the preheated 375 F oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown on top
  • remove from oven and serve

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.