When I was contacted by a representative of Suji's Korean Cuisine to review their new line of prepared Korean meals, I was curious but hesitant. Living in Houston has afforded me the opportunity to eat a lot of very good Korean food and I knew anything pre-made and mass-produced could never approach the quality of fresh fare made in small batches.
But it sure came admirably close, and therefore receives my blessing as a terrific option when 1) You don't have time to go to Bon Ga (my favorite Korean restaurant in Houston) 2) Your Korean chef-in-residence (husband) is away on business and 3) HEB (which vends Suji's products) is more convenient.
I received four samples gratis and in Part I, I will share my thoughts on the Chicken Over Rice and Udon Noodles With Chicken.
Preparing both meals is a cinch: rip off (I mean, delicately remove the label) and microwave for 2 minutes. The portion sizes are modest and more suited to lunch rather than dinner (unless you're all fancy/European and eat your biggest meal of the day at noon).
The Chicken Over Rice boasted large, discernible chunks of carrots and green peppers as well as tender, near translucent slivers of yellow onion. I adored the almost risotto-like consistency, though technically most Korean rice dishes should have a less soupy, more glutinous texture. This dish gets major points for its strong notes of sesame and pepper imbued in the grains as well as bits of moist chicken.
Again, strangely, I was drawn to the very component of the Udon Noodles with Chicken that made them "inauthentic," the presence of udon noodles, which find their origins Japanese cuisine. This is not to say udon noodles are not commonly used in Korean cooking as naturally (or rather, unnaturally, in the case of the Japanese occupation Korea in World War II) styles tend to blend over the years through enhanced travel, trade, and communication. Ultimately, I preferred this dish over the Chicken Over Rice, not just because of the thick, chewy hearty noodles but also the wonderfully robust garlic flavor that contrasted well with a touch of sweetness from the soy sauce.
Look for Part II next week in which I review the Kimchi Rice and Spicy Chicken with Potatoes.
Earlier this week I posted about deploying some Hampton Creek "Awesomesauce" for Crab and Salmon Bruschetta, which I plan to serve on Memorial Day. Yesterday I was again inspired by a food show on the Travel Channel (specifically, Burgerland), and decided to make burgers for supper. Those that know me well know I am a creature of habit (actually, the understatement of the year), so while I was tempted to drown my patty in just more Awesomesauce, I resisted the urge to succumb to another albeit delicious consumption pattern in favor of trying something new. Specifically, Just Mayo's "Just Thousand (Island)" dressing. And because for me 1000 Island dressing is synonymous with Reuben sandwiches, I gave my burger a little deli inflection.
When I have a burger, I have a burger--you what I'm sayin'? That means no less than a half pound of ground chuck. I then season my little beef baby with salt, pepper, and (my favorite) minced garlic.
Since Bridey is a rare bird, she naturally likes her meat very rare; however, if pink flesh makes you squeamish by all means cook your burger longer. (If that means until it's a hockey puck, well, God forgive you.) After a good sear on both sides, I added some sliced corned beef.
Next, I added an ample amount of sauerkraut for tang and textural contrast.
Then comes swiss cheese, which should be melted by placing a cover briefly over the pan. . (Btw, see that puddle of beef and oil? It looks gross but tastes delicious.)
I removed my burger from the pan to bread it (if we can use "plate" as a verb, then I damn well am going to use "bread" in the same fashion) and add Just Thousand Island. However, I recommend returning your Reuben Burger back to the still hot pan and using a sandwich press to smoosh the finished sammie such that the bread absorbs the juices.
This past December I first tried Hampton Creek's Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise, which among other things, worked remarkably well as a base for tuna and egg salad (irony noted). The ever-enterprising chefs at Hampton Creek have continued on their creative streak and added three (relatively new) varieties to the line-up: "Awesomesauce," "Just Russian" dressing, and "Just Sweet Mustard." With Memorial Day fast-approaching, I was more than happy to engage in some experimentation with these condiments to refine my own personal contribution to our apartment complex's group cookout. That crazy cat lady from #10 has another thing coming if she thinks her potato salad gets all the props this year....HAH!
Now, Hampton Creek has quite an elaborate YouTube recipe channel, which leads you step by step through the preparation of diverse sweet and savory dishes featuring their products as ingredients. But after watching Andrew Zimmern eat his way through Baltimore during my early morning workout, I developed a hankering for some crab meat. So, I created my riff on bruschetta using this crustacean.
After toasting small slices of a French baguette, I added about a teaspoon of Just Mayo "Awesomesauce," which is basically an (eggless) mayonnaise infused with garlic and onions. It's tangy, just a little sweet, and perhaps not exactly what you should eat before a major smooch session, but A-okay if your inamorato is away for the evening. Because you can never have enough garlic, I added more minced garlic on top of the Awesomesauce.
Finally, I topped with jumbo lump crab meat and a small sprig of dill. Then, I repeated the process approximately 15 times and ate all the slices while watching The Real Housewives of New York.
If crab is not your thing, the above recipe can easily be modified with smoked salmon.
Lamb was something I ate regularly in my childhood. We always had it for special occasions and holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, when, according to Slovak-Catholic tradition, it was accompanied by an incredibly cute small lamb made out of butter with a peppercorn for an eye. I also have very fond memories of feasting on lamb chops adorned with gobs of mint jelly at my best friend Ashley Balaban's house.
While living in Massachusetts and Texas, my sheep consumption declined in favor seafood in the former state and beef in the latter. Thus when a representative of Aussie Beef & Lamb of Meat and Livestock Australia reached out with an invitation to review some of their offerings, I felt very nostalgic and very hungry. Samples (shoulder cut, chops, ground) arrived, I salivated, and then my significantly more gastronomically talented significant other took over.
After a simple dusting of sea salt and pepper, the lamb chops were grilled briefly, then pan-seared, and finished in the oven. The Chef didn't trim off the fat, thank God, and for this reason, the end product was an incredibly unctuous, juicy ovine lolly of sorts. Civilized people might have eaten it with a knife and fork but this gal tackled with abandon by hand in order to strip every last bit of delicious flesh from the ossified stick.
For the shoulder, we opted for a lengthier, "low and slow" preparation in the crock pot, and keeping in the spirit of British colonialism, we paired our Aussie lamb with Irish potatoes and a sauce made with Indian spices (cardamon, turmeric, chili, cumin).
Although I loved my lamb lollies for their fatty juiciness, the shoulder meat is probably my preferred cut for its more tender texture and its propensity for acting as terrific sponge for surrounding juices. Such a sheep supper requires multiple napkins and temporarily secluding pet cats looking to poach a bite.
Stay tuned for Part II, in which Bridey declines (perhaps foolishly) help from her kindly live-in Chef and utilizes the ground lamb in a Syrian dish.
Looking to try your hand at some lamb recipes? Aussie Lamb can be purchased at HEB, Whole Foods, and Costco.