12/13/2018

Jump Down The Alley Way for Lemon Crunch Cake and Oxtail Soup

There is a little restaurant, in a bowling alley in Aiea, on Oahu, called The Alley.  This place is what you might call a hole in the wall, or a hidden gem.  Most local people do know about the place, but it took Marg the Intrepid, in Australia to clue me in.  She wanted to come to Hawaii to see the Arizona Memorial and partly for the Alley's Lemon Crunch Cake.  Now we don't hop over to Oahu all that often, and when we do go, it is not to Aiea.  However, Bob had his Kaiser eye surgery not too far away.  And we were taking advantage of Uber, so no worries about finding it. Our driver was an older Filipino gentleman who asked us how we knew about The Alley:)


I wanted their famous Oxtail Soup, but just mentioned the cake to Bob.  That was enough (especially after his fasting pre-op).  We took our cake back to the hotel for later, and it was quite good, though Marg's version actually sounded better (isn't home made always?). However, the Oxtail soup was TO DIE FOR.  Thus today's post, wherein I attempt to duplicate their soup.  Luckily, Chef Glen was interviewed on a local program, and shared his secrets (handed down from his mother).  Nothing written out, but he demonstrated pretty clearly, and there were a few versions online that purported to be authentic.  I am transcribing as best I can what he, and I did here. I felt good about the beef, which was from a local rancher, hard hit by the recent volcanic eruption.


OXTAIL SOUP – THE ALLEY RESTAURANT

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 lbs oxtails
  • 1 strip dried lemon peel (zest, not the pith)
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dates
  • ¼ lb. dry shitake mushrooms (fresh are ok)
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced (?) he didn’t add it in the video
  • Salt, at least a tablespoon, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup of shelled, skinned, raw peanuts (can sub roasted unsalted peanuts)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • A handful of fresh mustard greens, baby bok choy or watercress, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups, loosely packed) I used both bok choy and watercress.
 Garnishes
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Green onions, white and green parts, sliced on diagonal
  • Freshly grated ginger

METHOD
1  In a large pot, add the oxtails and cover with cold water. Bring to slow boil. Parboil for 30 minutes. Drain the pot. Rinse the oxtails in water, and trim off any excess fat.

2  Return the oxtails to the pot. Cover with water by an inch. Add the shitake mushrooms, lemon peel, star anise, ginger, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for one hour.

3  Add the peanuts and simmer for 2-3 more hours, until the oxtail meat is tender and falling off the bone.

4  At this point, you can either skim the fat off the soup and proceed to the next step, or let the soup cool, and chill it overnight in the refrigerator. The next day the fat will have solidified and will be easy to pull up from the top of the soup. The flavors will also have had more of a chance to blend and be absorbed by the oxtails if you let the soup sit overnight.




5  Bring soup to a simmer. Add the chili pepper flakes and greens of choice. Cook for 5 more minutes, or until the greens are tender.

6  Serve with garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, green onions, and freshly grated ginger.

If you want, you can strip the meat off the bones before serving. If served bone-in, you will want to provide a bowl for the bones. Serve with ponzu sauce and rice.  I however, served it with some of my fresh baked, sourdough bread.

Ponzu Sauce  (Supposed to be his mother's secret recipe from years and years and years ago.)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 teas. Sesame oil
  • 1 teas. Sugar
  • 1 teas. grated ginger
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Mix ingredients together and chill. An excellent adjunct.

 However the soup didn't have that robust flavor I was expecting, as at The Alley, so I added some "Better than Bouillon" au jus concentrate and a bit of bone broth to amp it up (2 tablespoons each). That did it nicely.


I'll send this over to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays link-up. Check out both for lots of good food and cooking ideas.

11/27/2018

Collard Greens and Ribs for The Cooking Gene

Our latest Cook the Books Club selection, The Cooking Gene, by Michael W. Twitty, was quite a ride, "A journey through African Culinary History in the Old South," as the sub-title states. Though it is much more than that, being also personal history, a memoir of the author and his family, from the time of their arrival as slaves to the present day.  From the Publishers:

"A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom....
From the tobacco and rice farms of colonial times to plantation kitchens and backbreaking cotton fields, Twitty tells his family story through the foods that enabled his ancestors’ survival across three centuries. He sifts through stories, recipes, genetic tests, and historical documents, and travels from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to Black-owned organic farms in Georgia."

11/22/2018

Thanksgiving Drink to Cure the Shudders

This debut novel by Ellen Byron, Plantation Shudders, refers to the sense of deja vu or impending doom, either one or the other, which may attack a person of sensitive spirits.  Apparently this is common in the South (and in Celtic countries). I can't speak from experience.  Several characters were getting those shudders at the beginning of the book, so we had a definite feeling that something gruesome would be occurring shortly.  Well, it's a "Cajun Country Mystery", so what you would expect. Murder and mayhem. More from the Publishers:

"Check in for some Southern hospitality in Plantation Shudders, the Cajun Country series debut from Ellen Byron.
It's the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival--elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other--one from very unnatural causes-- Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.

11/08/2018

Pear, Pistachio and Rose Cake At My Table

Some one of you out there mentioned this cookbook, At My Table, by Nigella Lawson.  Who can be blamed??  I checked it out of the library, then was forced to buy my own copy.  Me, who had earlier determined that there was a surfeit of cookbooks around here. It was just kismet I suppose.  The too lovely photographs and too delicious sounding meals.  Wonderful concoctions I needed to try for myself.  One of which was this Pear, Pistachio and Rose cake.  And another, her Indian-Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake.  Both turned out so scrumptious.

Now I have all the rest of Nigella's book to have fun experimenting with.  Because, of course, as must be admitted, and along with many of you, I actually get inspiration more than anything else from a good cookbook; it's a take-off point.

10/19/2018

The Algerian Couscous Connection

Don't you love finding terrific new authors?  Often I'll read the review for a brand new book, not even out yet, (which can be frustrating), but will go find what other books that author has written, read those reviews and perhaps check  one out.  Here's an enjoyable read by Juliet Blackwell, The Paris Key. first of a new series.   I noticed she had other books in series that didn't appeal (witches, ghosts and paranormal fiction), but this one definitely did, and I've already reserved her follow up to it.

A young American woman, Genevieve, with family ties to France, and even to Algeria, returns to Paris after the breakup of her marriage.  The city was where she spent some happy time as a troubled adolescent, with her loving aunt and uncle.  When he dies, she returns to find solace there once more, wearing around her neck an unusual key she inherited from her mother.  I loved all the connections, between family lost and found, secrets kept and finally revealed, past and present.  From the publishers:

"As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

10/10/2018

Panellets de Pinyons for Dia de los Muertos


For this month's round of our Eat the World Recipe Challenge we are visiting Spain.  At least I am.  Actually, the theme is meant to be Halloween in a country of our choice.  And I picked Spain, partly due to a nephew recently moved there and another, his brother, visiting at the moment.  Instead of the American traditional  Halloween, Spain celebrates with a three day holiday honoring deceased relatives.  It is a time when family members come home to pay their respects to the dead, decorate tombstones with flowers, prepare meals together and attend church.  The festivities kick off on October 31st with Dia de las Brujas (Day of the Witches), continues with Dia de Todas los Santos (All Saints Day) on November 1st, and finishes off with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Nov. 2nd.  To discover what all is happening for the holiday in Spain, go to Halloween in Spain for a ton of celebrations and attractions.

9/27/2018

My Own Spicy Soup for Sourdough

Our latest Cook the Books Club read has been Sourdough by Robin Sloan.  And what a fun, often wacky, and very entertaining one it has been!  I loved this book, even reading it the second time, picked up stuff missed on the earlier go round.

Basically, Lois, a young computer nerd, software programmer, recently graduated, is working at a moderately interesting job, until being recruited at a much higher salary.  Lois moves from her home in the Midwest, to a new job in San Francisco.  She becomes absorbed into the Silicone Valley culture at a large robotics corporation, is soon feeling dysfunctional, over worked and unhealthy, with a permanently clenched stomach.

Then Lois encounters a pair of strange foreign, "fast food" marketers, near her apartment, who feature 2 items on their delivery menu.  The Spicy Soup and a Spicy Sandwich, or the Combo (the Double Spicy). Near magical items, as it turns out, which restore her body and mind.

9/10/2018

Argentinean Tamales for Eat the World

This month at Eat the World we are featuring Argentina. Just the name makes me want to sing along with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina".  Madonna did a fantastic job as Eva Peron in Evita.  I loved that movie.  Though I meant to review a book connected with the country to go along with my post, it didn't happen, so the film trailer link will have to do.

 I found the perfect recipe for Argentina, with some history, posted a few years back by Rebecca at From Argentina with LoveHumitas en Chala.

9/04/2018

Spicy Chicken from The Dollhouse

I just finished The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, a fine tale, blending the old with the new.  A present day reporter begins researching the lives of women who had lived at a New York City women's hotel, the Barbizon, after hearing the poignant story of an older woman, still living there, while she is herself in residence. I loved this book - a terrific story with mystery, romance, history and some food as well.

From the Publishers:
"Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.
 
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
 
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed."