Gochujang Chicken Wings

Gochujang is a a Korean fermented chili paste, which gives these chicken wings a uniquely spicy flavor that I can’t get enough of. It forms the backbone of the sauce, which is pretty simple to put together. Gochuchang (not to be confused with gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes) is both pungent and hot, sweet and salty all at the same time. It’s delicious. I’ve been experimenting with Korean flavors at home, and these spicy-sweet and sticky chicken wings have become one of my favorites.

Korean-style chicken wings

Ingredients:

6 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup gochujang (Korean chile paste)
2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the wings with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the wings, skin side up, to the prepared baking sheets and roast them for about 45 minutes, until they are cooked through and crisp.

2. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, whisk all of the remaining ingredients except the garnish with a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

3. Add the crispy wings to the chile sauce, toss to coat and garnish with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve hot.

Cafe Clem

I used to hate scrambled eggs. They’re gummy, flavorless, and bland. Or so I thought.

The first time I sampled Cafe Clem’s scrambled eggs, I immediately saw the light. They’re fluffy! They’re creamy! And they’re steamed-scrambled, and while that sounds like an arduous process, the results make for my favorite local brunch in downtown Berkeley.

Cafe Clem

Cafe Clem is a daytime casual French joint with a small menu and a cute outdoor patio to boot. My favorite dish there has become their les oeufs Lucas: steamed-scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, goat cheese, basil, roasted tomatoes, and levain toast. I can’t think of much else I’d rather do on a lazy weekend morning than enjoy that underneath the sun.

Thanks, Cafe Clem. Scrambled eggs are no longer the food nightmare of my youth, but rather, a weekend treat.

Sushi rolls

I’ve just returned from a trip to Tokyo and jet lag aside, it was everything my sushi-laden dreams are made of. I’m no early riser, but I even had sushi for breakfast one morning at Tsukiji fish market. The sushi was as good as I remembered it from my last trip a few years ago, and I’ve been craving it at home since I returned.

Thankfully, good sushi is within reach at home. For me, the toughest part is making the vinegared rice. I haven’t mastered it yet but I’ll keep trying until I get it right. It’s a great excuse to eat more sushi.

Homemade sushi

Homemade sushi

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 2/3 cups water
1 4-inch piece of kombu seaweed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 to 15 toasted nori seaweed sheets
any assortment of the following filling ingredients: sliced sashimi-grade tuna, sliced sashimi-grade salmon, salmon roe, sea urchin, crab, barbecued eel, egg omelet, shiso leaves, takuan pickled daikon radish, sesame seeds, sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, green onions, soy-simmered shiitake mushrooms, umeboshi plums, soy-simmered kampyo gourd strips, cooked spinach

1. Make the vinegared rice: soak the kombu seaweed in the water for about one hour to make the stock. Wash the rice 30 minutes prior to cooking and drain on a sieve. Put the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot and heat slightly until dissolved. This completes the vinegar dressing. Place the rice and stock into a rice cooker and cook according to cooker instructions. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar dressing. Using a flat wooden spoon, toss the rice with horizontal cutting strokes while cooling the rice with a hand-fan. When tossing is completed, cover the rice with a clean cloth moistened with water.

2. Place a nori seaweed sheet on a maki-su bamboo mat. Put the vinegared rice lightly on the nori sheet and spread over the sheet, leaving 3/4-inch at the top and bottom uncovered.

3. Place filling ingredients of your choice horizontally on top of the rice.

4. Lift the edges of both the bamboo mat and nori sheet nearest you and bring over to meet the far edge of the sheet.

5. Gently but firmly press the bamboo mat around the roll to shape it. Push both ends of the rolls towards the center firmly a few times using a cloth or plastic wrap.

6. Cut in sixths or eighths crosswise. Clean the knife with water between cuttings. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.

Grilled Manchego and Jamon Sandwich

It’s been just over a month since I came back from a vacation in Spain, and I thought I was all jamon’d out. I thought wrong.

There’s not much to this sandwich but the cornucopia of Spanish flavors here would have you thinking otherwise. Creamy manchego cheese, salty jamon, and a touch of sweet membrillo paste transform a few simple ingredients into something spectacular. Try this and see: your grilled cheese game just got one-upped.

Grilled manchego sandwich with quince paste

Ingredients:

2/3 cup grated Manchego cheese
4 thick slices of country bread
4 very thin slices of serrano ham or prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
2 ounces membrillo (quince paste), thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1. Spread half of the cheese evenly over two slices of the bread. Top with the serrano, membrillo, and the remaining cheese. Top with the other two bread slices.

2. Heat one tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the sandwiches and cook slowly until deep golden on one side, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and flip the sandwiches over. Continue to cook until the other side is also golden and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes longer.

3. Let the sandwiches rest for a minute before slicing and serve immediately.

Spicy Beef Chili

Tomorrow marks the first day of fall, and while every cafe and restaurant has you convinced that pumpkin spice-flavored everything is the answer to all our problems, I’m leaning in a different direction. No disrespect to squash-flavored caffeine, but I’d rather go for a warm, comforting bowl of chili to herald the changing season.

This spicy beef chili is time consuming but oh so worth it. Bonus: the heated leftovers taste even better.

Spicy beef chili

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds chuck steak, cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt and pepper
1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed and meat broken into small pieces
1 small white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and sour cream, for serving

1. In a large pot, heat the oil. Season the chuck with salt and pepper. Add half of the chuck and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chuck. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking it up with a spoon, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage to the diced chuck.

2. Add the chopped onion to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin and the chuck, sausage and any accumulated juices. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the water. Cover and sim-mer over moderately low heat for 1 hour.

3. Stir in the beans and simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt. Serve the chili in deep bowls, passing the cheese, scallions, and sour cream on the side.