Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


The Faux Gourmet

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    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Quick Tip: Dried Fruit

    Quick Tip: One of my favorite days of the month is the day when my new issue of Gourmet magazine appears in my mailbox. This happy event took place just the other day, and I promptly swooned over the enormous up-close image of rack of lamb swathed in peppercorns on the cover.


    I dog-earred a few pages and skipped on out to get the ingredients for things like braised lamb shoulder chops with apples and figs in a brandy sauce, a breakfast couscous with dried fruit, or a fig peppercorn spread.

    All of these dishes are actually pretty easy to throw together even without a trip to the grocery store, however, since they all rely on dried fruit, which keeps forever. I still have memories of fruit leather made summers earlier and forced upon us children by my well-meaning mother, who refused to buy us fruit roll-ups. I hated her for it at the age of six, but now the unspoken "you'll thank me later" prophecy came true and then some.

    Because they keep so long, I buy vast quantities of dried fruit--apricots, figs, prunes, cranberries, candied ginger, golden & purple raisins, cherries. Then on an uninspired evening, when I have little in the fridge to work with, I can toss them in the tamest of dishes to add a beautiful splash of color and a heady sweet flavor. Suddenly 'nothing to eat' becomes a gorgeous dish I find myself craving even when I do have more options. Pick up a couple yourself next time you're at the store & see what culinary visions may come of it.

    Liquids to have on hand for making dried fruit sauces include olive oil, butter, orange juice, broth, white wine, sherry or brandy, balsamic vinegar, & apple cider vinegar. These keep for ages as well, orange juice excepted.

    For example, last night I browned 2 lamb shoulder chops ($4.00 for the pair) over olive oil briefly, then added 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tbsp butter, and 1 chopped & peeled apple and let the apple brown before adding a chopped green onion. To this I added 1/2 cup sherry (alas, I had no brandy but substituted in true Faux Gourmet style), 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp bay leaves, and about 10 dried prunes, cut and smashed to release the juices. I poured this over the lamb, and served with a pasta topped with a hastily assembled lemon juice-butter-garlic sauce that melded beautifully with the lamb, making a silky layered sauce, a pretty reward for, at most, 30 minutes of effort.

    Sadly I have no photos of this feast, but I can say while I was eating it in the commons room at school I felt a little like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

    NB: This recipe is from Gourmet Magazine; neither it nor the other aforementioned recipes appear on Gourmet website as far as I can tell, but there are a whole lot of other beautiful images & ideas. I do have a few other bits & photos to post to further proclaim my love of dried fruit (and hopefully convert you as well) which I'll get to eventually.

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Quick Tip: Sweet Potato Pizza

    Quick Tip: While we're on the subject of Korean delicacies, how about sweet potato pizza? Apparently it is a pretty standard variation in Korea; I've had it both as grocery store deli take-out and at a popular pizza chain, Mr. Pizza Factory, in the form of the classic "Potato Gold" pizza, pictured above.

    Mr. Pizza Factory (not to be confused with the Mississippi institution) is actually a Korean chain, one of many chains in Korea selling pizza. Apparently it offers good approximations of American pizza, more so than American pizza chains (the irony of pizza's authenticity tested by its American-ness not lost on you, I'm sure), or any local chain I've tried in Thailand. As Jonathan Gold, food critic for LA Weekly notes in his review:
    "Yet there is something about the hand-thrown pizzas here that is more than a bit off, as if the guy who came up with the recipes hadn't actually bothered to visit Italy or New York — like a Dante verse that's been Google-translated from Italian to Korean to Chinese to English and ends up sounding like something issuing from the mouth of either Borat or Skeletor."
    You'll want to click the link through to the article
    just for the awful/amazing pun title in the article . . . jealous I didn't get to use it first. Mr. Pizza Factory is, famously, the pizza chain "made for women," though I can't say I found anything particularly feminine (or feminist) about its LA outpost.

    The sweet potato is not, as you might expect, a topping. Rather, sweet potato puree forms a mushy sweet filling inside the thick bready crust. Of this, I am a fan. Crispy outside/mushy inside is almost always a good combination. (See, e.g., Spicy Butternut Squash Doughnuts) Less of a fan of the meats of indeterminable origin or the creamy sauce drizzled atop it all, but this is just my personal bias. I can see an average meat-loving person eating it up, literally.

    Just in case you are not convinced, you should know Mr. Pizza Factory puts in an ingredient that is rare & hard to find . . . their hearts.

    Mr. Pizza Factory is located at 3881 Wilshire Blvd., Koreantown, LA.

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    "Salmonella Stew"

    A Korean delight rediscovered in the US.

    Taste & See Part I: It started off as a simple meal in Korea, meeting up with old friends for lunch. Nothing complicated. Little did I know I was about to fall in love with "Dak Galbi," a Korean grilled chicken dish (christened "Salmonella Stew" by a friend because of the do-it-yourself cooking technique, see below). Back in the US I found myself craving Dak Galbi, but alas . . . where to find this mystical dish?

    I was originally told it couldn't be found; Dtak Galbi was available only in Korea itself. Supposedly, chicken is viewed as an inferior meat and not worth bothering with here in the US, where everyone just wants to eat Bulgogi, beef barbecue
    But I'm not the only one who's been looking. The folks who "live to eat," that is, the foodies who post their tips for inquiring minds at Chowhound, have also been on the hunt. Through the remarkable sleuthing of fellow foodie/Faux Gourmet JK, Chowhound revealed Dak Galbi's home in Los Angeles, at a Korean restaurant with a Korean sign full of Koreans, in Koreatown, with what I'm told is a perfect replica of the decor of a regular eatery in Korea (that is to say, without decor at all)--in other words, the best kind of place to get Korean food. Foodie, meet Mapo Galbi:

    Mapo Galbi might serve something other than Dak Galbi but you'd never know by looking. Inside are dozens of Koreans crammed in around open flame-bbqs fit right into the table with cast iron skillets atop full of Dak Galbi in various states of readiness (and eatenness!). No non-Koreans or menus to speak of; you essentially order by saying how many portions you want and the waitresses take care of the rest. Delightfully, the food was just as I remembered it, good enough to compensate for the surprisingly high price for a dish made of "inferior" meat. The servings are also larger than necessary; even with two guys in the party, a 3-person serving had enough leftovers for 2 more meals.

    Mapo Galbi is located at 3090 W. Olympic Blvd., LA.

    Taste & See Part II: I found Faux Dak Galbi again recently in New York City at Korean "fast food" fried chicken chain KyoChon a mile past the end of the 7 line in Flushings. D
    o NOT mistake this for KFC-quality; that would be a terrible mistake; see here for a more thorough review. Quite a hike out there, but worth it, if not for the Faux Dtak Galbi (pre-made, and the waiter said it was not the beloved Dtak Galbi but it looked and tasted more or less the same):

    Then for the delicious fried chicken:

    And cheap ($13!) immense pitcher of Blue Moon with orange slices:

    (Photos courtesy the telephone of B. Carlisle)

    This entry isn't going to tell you how to make Dak Galbi. I have made it, but only once, and I don't want to subject you to my muddled interpretation of a recipe I don't really know. Chances are, given the difficulty of finding the dish in the US at all, you've never heard of it, much less tasted it. So let's start at square one. I'll introduce you to some seriously good food, step by step, and hopefully when it comes time to do-it-yourself, you'll be as enthused as me & the Chowhound foodies.

    First, a big iron pan over an open flame is filled with raw chicken pieces, sweet potato & rice cakes ("dok").

    A healthy dose of spicy sauce is added.

    The lot is cooked for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Sesame seed leaf ("caet nip"), mushrooms, and cabbage are added for a nice pop.

    Everything is stirred together.

    Once cooked, very happy eaters can snatch up bites straight from the pot with chopsticks. Delish!

    The best part about Dak Galbi is that the chicken is just phase one. The bottom starts to form a nice thick sauce, and rice and seaweed are added and stirred in.

    The rice/seaweed mix is pressed down in a thin layer and the bottom gets a nice crispy crust, a treat worth fighting fellow diners over.

    Good luck finding Dak Galbi at a K-town near you . . . and if you do, please do let the Faux Gourmet in on your find!

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Please forgive the absence of entries lately. The Faux Gourmet lacks reliable Internet access these days so I'm muddling by as best I can. Hope to have more posts up soon.