Wok This Way: Getting Seasoned

My lovely wife got me a wok for Christmas. She knows I’m excited about trying to cook new foods and thought this would be a great way to get into a new arena. She also got me a cookbook that her research told her was the best around. But, as some of you may know, you’ve got to season a wok before you use it, much like a cast iron pan. You’ve also got to boil it a certain way to get rid of a film that’s put on there in the plants.

As you can see from these photos, I tried a few different ways just to set up the wok on my stove. We’ve got gas and some pretty high grates, so I thought it might make sense to remove the grate and get the wok as close to the heat as possible. But, I soon discovered that that didn’t work out because the wok was actually smothering the fire and only gas was pouring out. Whoops. So, I followed the directions (twice actually, just to make sure) and got rid of the film.

Up next I wast tasked with seasoning. This was another long process, but only because I tried the wrong method. The one I tried first involved charring some onion-like vegetables (I went with green onions and the tops of some leeks, because that’s what I had on hand) in peanut oil, but that didn’t get the brown/black coloring I was going for. So, I tried the next method which involved setting the oven, wiping peanut oil all over the wok and then putting it in the oven for a while. This worked great. I’ve even taken it for a test drive that I’ll get to later this week.

On another note, I have to say, it was difficult deciding on the name for this recurring post. A Wok On The Wild Side, Wok-a Wok-a, A Wok To Remember and more all flooded into my head, but I just had to go with Wok This Way. I’m a big Aerosmith fan and a Run-DMC fan, so it just makes sense.

Bonus Food Pic: Gordo’s Chorizo Quesadilla

I’ve bestowed the virtues of Gordo’s in New Hampshire already. Well, on our last visit to The Hampsh we went to Gordo’s and I tried something I’ve never had before, a chorizo quesadilla. It was the first time I’d had anything but a burrito there and the first time I’d ever had chorizo (Mexican sausage). While the meal was great as always, it probably wasn’t the best way to experience chorizo for the first time because the flavor worked itself in with all the cheese and salsa and whatnot. Man, that place is so good it makes me want to franchise them down the street just so I can have a good, cheap, easy Mexican place to hit up.

Bonus Food Pics: Teriyaki Wings From Frank’s

179 Temple Hill Road
New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 565-4600

A few year’s ago a wonderful wing place called Tim’s Wings And Things opened up in a strip mall not too far from us. Like a lot of strip mall restaurants, it didn’t look like much, but they had some really amazing flavors in there including a chili lime sauce that I still think about to this day. Unfortunately, about a year ago (or maybe two at this point) they shut down. I think there might be another one somewhere, but I almost don’t want to know because I think it’s pretty far away. There’s a Planet Wings around, but it’s still kind of far away and not in the greatest area.

But, not being near wings doesn’t mean you don’t want to eat them. We like wings quite a bit. One day a few weeks back we were jonesing for some wings when I remembered that a pizza place right down the street from us (our addresses are around 100 numbers apart) called Frank’s had wings. Bam. My wife got either mild or medium (I have no idea what the difference is) Buffalo and I got some teriyaki because I love anything in teriyaki. While they don’t have the greatest variety of flavors, I’ve got to say that the ones we’ve tried (we’ve gotten wings from there twice now) were great. There are a few other flavors I’m looking to try which is fun. So, if you’re in the area and don’t want to go to far, hit up Frank’s for wings. They also have some pretty good pizza and a variety of calzones that I’m getting hungry just thinking about.

Cooking Turkey Chili

I love chili, but I haven’t quite landed on a recipe I love so much that I want to make it over and over again. The last one I tried was a Bobby Flay recipe that wound up being a bit too spicy. For Christmas, my mom got me a cookbook called (deep breath) Best Of The Best Recipe Hall Of Fame Fresh From The Farmer’s Market Cookbook. I figured it would be a good place to get a chili recipe from and decided on a pretty simple one for Turkey Chili (page 66).

I made a few deviations from the recipe including not being able to find a can of Rotel tomatoes (though I saw them on my next trip to the grocery store, of course), I also used up the taco seasoning I made that didn’t quite taste right and skipped the mushrooms. Aside from those things though, you basically brown a few pounds of ground turkey and put it in a pot with two diced onions, eight diced tomatoes, an 8-oz can of tomato sauce, two cups of canned kidney beans, a few cloves of minced garlic, splashes of tobasco sauce (green in our case) and Worcestershire sauce, the taco seasoning, one bell pepper, 16 oz of beer (they say “a 16 oz can” but I don’t think that exists) and a few tablespoons of chili powder and cook  for two hours on low and stirring every 20 minutes or so.

It was an alright recipe that tasted pretty good, but didn’t really wow either my wife or I. I think my chili quest is the kind of thing where I don’t really know what I want, but I’ll know it when I make it. Do you guys have any favorite chili recipes I should try out?


Bonus Food Pic: Bacon Cheeseburger From Five Guys

Five Guys have been popping up like crazy for the past few years. My wife was really excited because she LOVES burgers. I was less so because–and I only realized this in the past year or so–while I like burgers, I don’t usually crave them. They’re usually an easy food that I can run out and pick up when I don’t feel like cooking or something that winds up appealing to me once I’m in a place. Occasionally I feel like making my own burgers but even that is usually just an easy dinner to put together or seasonally appropriate (burgers in the summer just feel right, you know?).

Anyway, a few weekends back, we were out running some errands and decided to hit up the nearby Five Guys. We’ve had some problems there before with them getting my wife’s burger wrong, but decided to give it another shot. And you know what? It was great. I might not crave burgers, but I can appreciate a good, sloppy, cheeseburger covered in bacon, ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomato and the rest. At the end of the meal, I looked like I had stalked and killed a burger instead of simply eaten it, but that’s a sign of a good burger–especially because I’m not a big fan getting messy. Looking at this picture is actually making me crave a burger, maybe I just needed a good visual to think about!

Baking Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I don’t do a lot of baking. For one thing, my wife is a killer baker, so I don’t feel the need, but I’m also not that big on sweets. Never have been. But, we had a trio of rotting bananas sitting in our fruit bowl and I figured I’d give banana bread whirl. I don’t believe I’d ever cooked it before, but I know it’s a pretty basic baking thing, so I said I’d try. My wife suggested using a recipe she had for peanut butter banana bread. I have no idea where this recipe came from, it’s just printed out in her cooking binder, but it was pretty simple and I got to work.

First I greased the loaf pan with Crisco, set the oven to 325, got my 1/2 cup of butter softening and started measuring things. I got a cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of peanut butter, 1 3/4 cup of all purpose and 1 teaspoon of baking soda (combining those last two in one bowl). After smashing up the bananas, I broke out the mixer and mixed the butter and sugar–which is apparently called “creaming”–then added a pair of eggs, beat that, then mixed in the peanut butter, bananas, flour and baking soda until it was all mixed together.

That went into the greased loaf pan which went into the oven for 70 minutes and we had some tasty bread. I was worried that it hadn’t cooked long enough because the center was kind of mushy, but it turns out that I like banana bread with some mushiness in the middle. Overall, this was really simple and I like how baking is more of a science with exact measurements and the like. You don’t have to think as much when making simple things like this, which was perfect at the time.

Pizza Party: Pizza Mia’s

Pizza Mia
176 Windsor Hwy #600
New Windsor, NY 12553-6975
(845) 563-9100

I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember which pizza this is from the wonderful Pizza Mia (yet another fantastic pizza place within ten minutes of our place). I think it’s the Margarita Pizza because it had the basil and fresh mozzarella on it, but I snapped this picture a week or two back, so the details are fuzzy. The point is that the missus and I were looking for a fresh, light pizza and this was the perfect pie. Pizza Mia is a place that we usually hit up when we want slices, but this pie with their awesome sauce (it’s kind of sweet and always tastes like it was just made right before you got in), fresh basil and mozzarella was perfect for us. If you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and try them out. Between the pizza, the jalapeno poppers and salad we ordered, this was a great meal. Maybe not as light as we originally thought with the poppers, but still awesome. The great thing about this pie is that it tastes just as good if not better the second day. Awesome stuff.

Cooking Mushroom Soup

I love mushrooms, but my wife isn’t such a big fan. I’ve been slowly introducing them into some of the dishes we eat and I think she’s turning the corner a bit, but I try not to push the subject too much. I had bought a bunch of mushrooms for some recipe that fell through the cracks and was therefore left with a package of baby portabellas and a mixed pack that included more baby portabellas, shitake and another kind I can’t quite remember. I didn’t want to waste them, so I flipped through the Ultimate Soup Bible and came across a Mushroom Soup recipe n page 182. I had all the ingredients and some time one day, so I made it for myself for lunch and it turned out pretty great.

Basically, you put some butter and oil in your soup pot and cook one chopped onion and four chopped potatoes in oil and butter and let them sweat for 5-10 minutes until browned. Then you toss in 12 ounces of chopped mushrooms along with one or two garlic cloves and either apple cider or white wine (I went with a mixture of white wine vinegar and water that gave it a tangy taste). After that cooked for 15 minutes, I ladled the soup into our larger food processor and wound up with some smooth mushroom soup. The recipe called for the addition of sour cream, which I tried later and was quite good, but at first I added half and half because that’s what I had in the house.

The half and half didn’t quite add the right flavor that the sour cream did, so I would recommend sticking to that part of the recipe. I wound up eating this soup throughout the day because I was so taken with the flavors. It is VERY mushr0omy, so I didn’t bother trying to have my wife try it, but a pretty simple recipe wound up giving me lunch for the next few days. I was happy with the results.

Bonus Food Pic: Avocado’s Carnitas Burrito

Avocado Mexican Restaurant
2576 Route 9W,
Cornwall NY 12518
(845) 534-3350

If you like Mexican food and live in the Orange County area, do yourself a favor and head over to Avocado. My wife and I have been fans of the place since it opened a year or two back and recently went there to celebrate a special occasion. As usual, we were not disappointed with the results and both walked away full and happy.

I’ll be honest, I tend to have a bad memory when it comes to exactly what combination of tortilla, meat, cheese and rice I’m ordering at any given Mexican restaurant is, but I love a good burrito and thankfully, they have awesome ones. This time, I tried the Carnitas version which is described on the menu as “Michoacan style pork carnitas, refired beans, rice, pico de gallo, cheese and chipotle sauce.” I wasn’t really sure what any of that meant ahead of time, but what I wound up with was a burrito packed with porky goodness and covered with a sweet sauce that I wish I had in my refrigerator at all times. I had eaten kind of a late lunch that day, so I took some of the burrito home and ate the leftovers the next day for lunch and it was just as good. So, there you have it. Eat burritos at Avocado and you’ll be happy.

Cooking Rigatoni With Beef & Green Olives

A few months back I started getting a mysterious subscription to Good Housekeeping. I asked my mom if she knew anything about it and she said no, so the best I can guess is that my information got crossed when I meant to re-subscribe to Wired through my wife’s cousin’s magazine drive for school. My wife said I should call and get it fixed, but I don’t really care. I would have spent the money to help the kid out anyway and now I can flip through GH to see if there’s any interesting recipes, which has already paid off. A recent issue had a series of quick meals you can make from things found in your pantry and Rigatoni With Beef & Green Olives stood out to me because I am a fan of all those things and had most of them in my pantry (how did they know?!).

So, the gist of the recipe is to chop up a jar of olives, a small jar of roasted red peppers, an onion and three cloves of garlic and use that at various stages to make a tasty beef pasta. As always, I got the chopping out of the way first and also got my pot of water on the stove to boil. From there it was game time. The meat went into a skillet with olive oil and cooked until brown. Then I removed that and threw in first the onions, then the garlic and finally the olives and peppers along with some dried parsley and oregano (I didn’t have fresh and didn’t feel like buying a whole bunch just for this one supposedly simple recipe). Once that cooked for a few minutes and the pasta was done and drained with some pasta water reserved and added to the combination, dinner was ready to be served. I picked up a loaf of bread and we had a petty tasty dinner. I like quick and easy recipes like this that you don’t have to think too much about but that are also pretty diverse. I think I might try some different herb and spice combinations to make it even tastier. You could also even use different ground meats and see how things go.