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On Cooking at Home.

07 Mar

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Miso butter is one of my favorite things to put on chicken before roasting. I like using either a whole chicken cut up into pieces or all legs and thighs. I usually make a big batch of miso butter so there will be enough leftover to freeze for another time.

The loose recipe is 1/2 lb softened butter, 1/4 cup white miso (I like using up to 1/2 cup, but really it’s up to you), 1 head of roasted garlic, and 1 tablespoon or so of mirin. Smash the garlic cloves and blend, blend, blend all the ingredients until well incorporated. Make sure to taste it and adjust the amount of miso and mirin to your liking! You don’t necessarily have to add a whole head of roasted garlic, but I highly recommend it. Slater the miso butter underneath the chicken skin and all over the chicken and sprinkling just a touch of salt and pepper on top before roasting. When it’s done, the miso butter becomes almost cheese-like in flavor, but better. Try it and see. Most people end up getting hooked and making it often. You can use the miso butter on seafood, beef, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, in cookies, or even on toasted bread. Just get creative with it!

We’re currently living in Sierra Vista, Arizona and this little town doesn’t have a robust food scene. There are a few good family owned places that we love going to (Korean and sometimes a Mexican taqueria), but overall Sierra Vista mostly has fast food and chain restaurants. There’s a surprisingly good Italian restaurant in Hereford, which is about 10 minutes away from our home, and it’s probably the only Slow Food restaurant in the area (I could be wrong). The artist community of Bisbee, an old mining town, also boasts a few places that we enjoy. We’ll be here temporarily until we move again, but I’m trying to soak up as much of high desert life because I don’t think we’ll be coming back.

What Sierra Vista lacks in good restaurants, they make up for in having a wonderful food co-op and weekly farmers’ market and also a couple of okay ethnic markets (Korean and Mexican). Eight years ago when we were newlyweds and lived here for 6 months, the farmers’ market and co-op were non-existent. We had to drive to Tucson on an almost weekly basis to shop at the Wild Oats (now Whole Foods) because the selection at the regular grocery stores were dismal. Like I said, we were newlyweds and those weekly drives nearly killed our small budget. Looking back, those were crazy times overall.

Anyway, we still enjoy driving to Tucson because it’s slowly but surely growing, in a good way, towards a better food scene. Don’t get me wrong, we really like going out to eat when we can. Mostly I enjoy cooking at home, though, more than ever.

I can’t really knock Sierra Vista, it’s small and is one of the more pleasant military towns I’ve been to. Everyone we’ve met have been very kind to us. Especially at the farmers’ market, food co-op, our favorite restaurants, and the feed store where we special order our cat’s food. We tend to keep to ourselves anyway, so things really could be a lot worse. I’m not even complaining.

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Two friends of mine, Jen and Ellen, made miso butter roast chicken recently and I have been craving it badly. I had some chicken wings in the freezer that I bought at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago, so I decided to add a bit of a twist to the usual miso butter mixture. Instead of using white miso, I opted for the more robust red miso. So basically it was softened butter, gochujang, red miso, mirin, mesquite honey, fresh squeezed orange juice, sesame seeds, lots of grated raw garlic and ginger. I kept tasting the paste before I covered the wings in it, just to make sure I had the right balance of salty-sweet-sour-spicy-slightly bitter. Oh, and I also separated the wings – drummettes, main wing part, and cut off the tips (which I saved for stock). This makes for better eating and a prettier presentation.

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I also made a quick pickled salad of cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and grapefruit along with wilted mizuna with thinly sliced sweet onion and sesame oil. Oh and steamed rice, of course! The husband and I were quiet during most of dinner, which usually means that our tastebuds were extremely happy. When this miso butter bakes and caramelizes, it becomes a rich and flavorful barbecue type sauce with a hint of spiciness. We were scraping every last bit of the miso butter from the serving platter and licking our fingers. Yup, I think I’ll make this again.

I love being creative with food and cooking, drawing upon the flavors that I grew up with and what other people are eating. I get inspired by recipes or by dishes that I crave and can’t easily get. I like saying “cooking with your gut” a lot because to me that’s what it’s all about – playing with flavor combinations and figuring out which ingredients go well together. Being able to control what goes into meals as much as possible is also important to me, that’s why I’m really glad to have the farmers’ market and food co-op here.

After moving out of NYC years ago, it felt like my food world would end. Yes it does sound a bit dramatic, but really in NYC you can get whatever the hell you’re craving and most of the time it’s freaking delicious. Even where we lived in Colorado Springs, there weren’t that many great places to eat in a city of that size. Driving an hour or more north for better options was fun, but got a little exhausting and expensive.

I’ve learned over the years (mostly reluctantly at first) to rely on my skills in the kitchen and to continuously hone them and my palate. I don’t really care for the popularity of things or “the next best thing”. In my mind, somebody has already done what you think you created first. You can just put a twist on it, to make it more of your own. It’s okay to mess something up and try again. It feels good when you “perfect” a recipe and it becomes your favorite. Each cook has their strengths in the kitchen. That’s what’s great about cooking, you can find what you do love doing most and go crazy with it.

It’s important for me to sit down with my husband for dinner and catch up with what we did during the day. Sometimes when the food is just really good, we sit and eat and silence for a little while and that’s okay. We’ll have the luxury of actually being able to have dinner together nearly every night for the next couple of years or so, which has been rare in our eight going on nine years of marriage. What matters most is that we’re together, without any distractions, at our dining table at dinner. That’s my favorite part about cooking at home.

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Posted by on Thursday 7 March 2013 in @home, a day in the life

 

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