Monday, April 19, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate & Molinillo

Spring is here, but that doesn't mean you have to stop drinking hot chocolate. Davneet and I both come from cultures that appreciate spicy food, so of course we love Mexican hot chocolate. I usually add my own cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne to hot cocoa. But I recently decided to try Mexican hot chocolate as opposed to hot cocoa.

Hot chocolate or drinking chocolate is made from actual chocolate, which contains cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter, among other ingredients. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which does not contain cocoa butter and is therefore less fattening but also less creamy and delicious.

Anyway, I purchased two brands of Mexican hot chocolate: Abuelita and Ibarra. Both are prepared by dissolving 1 disc of chocolate in 4 cups of milk, over medium heat. As implied, the chocolate discs include sugar and cinnamon, so no additional ingredients are needed.


Traditionally, a molinillo (that crazy wooden stick pictured above) is used to mix the hot chocolate and make it frothy. If you don't have a molinillo, a regular whisk works just as well.

I found a molinillo online at Dean & Deluca for $14. But I decided to check out our favorite Mexican grocery store, Reyna Foods, in the Strip district first. Theirs was only $4.50, so of course I bought it.

Before we had a chance to open either of the hot chocolate packages, Davneet decided he preferred Ibarra over Abuelita. Abuelita lists "Artificial Flavor" under its ingredients, whereas Ibarra's list contains the word "Cinnamon". He also didn't like the fact that Abuelita is manufactured by Nestle. When you think of traditional Mexican cuisine, you don't think Nestle.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

To make sure he was objectively judging the two brands, I gave Davneet a blind taste test, placing two unmarked cups of hot chocolate in front of him. After a few sips from each cup, he of course chose the Ibarra. He thought the Abuelita was more chocolatey but tasted more watery at the same time. He thought the Ibarra was both creamier and spicier.

I agreed that the Ibarra was better overall. I've been putting a disc of chocolate in my coffee pot and brewing half a pot of coffee. When the coffee's done, the chocolate isn't completely dissolved yet, so I whisk inside the coffee pot until it's uniform. Then I drink it with equal parts milk. It's delicious.

Puffy Breads


In middle school, one of the recipes we made in Home Economics was kind of a sweet Yorkshire Pudding. I remember really liking it and although I love traditional, savory Yorkshire Pudding, I have quite the sweet tooth. So I decided to try making popovers, since I thought that would be more similar to what I made so many years ago.

For my first attempt, I used this recipe by Alton Brown, food scientist extraordinaire. I did, however, make some modifications. I halved the salt because all the reviews said 1 1/2 teaspoons was way too much. I also used a muffin pan, since we don't own a popover pan. As a result, I ended up with 12 popovers that only needed to bake for about 25 minutes, instead of the prescribed yield of 6 popovers that need to bake for 40 minutes.

My take on Alton Brown's popovers, seen above, were good. They were pancake-esque in flavor, while looking like hollow biscuits thanks to the shallow muffin pan. The dish from middle school however, was a lot more buttery and sweeter. So I decided to give popovers another try.

Sweet Yorkshire Pudding

I settled on these two recipes after extensive googling. The Pepperidge Farm Sweet Yorkshire Pudding pictured above, was closer to what I had in middle school. It was very buttery, but a bit on the salty side since I used salted butter. It also only needed half the baking time -- 13 minutes -- instead of 25. But I find that my baking times are always less than called for in recipes. Sprinkled with some confectioner's sugar, this was a really nice treat and exactly what I was looking for.

Puffy Dutch Pancake

The puffy Dutch pancake was the worst of the bunch. With twice the eggs and half the flour of the Pepperidge Farm recipe, it was way too eggy, tasting like a hybrid omelet. We won't be making this one again, but Alton Brown's and Pepperidge Farm's creations have been saved in the recipe binder.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oxtail Soup

oxtail soup

Oxtail soup is my chicken soup. It always makes me think of being a little kid, probably because I ate it more when I was younger than in recent years. Living on my own has made me miss Korean food more and more each year, so I decided it was time to make this childhood staple.

We adapted a pretty simple recipe from Chowhound -- basically the oxtail is boiled in water for several hours to create a broth and make the meat really tender. I didn't trim enough fat from the oxtail prior to cooking, so you can see a nice sheen on the soup's surface in the picture above. Next time, I'll have to refrigerate the soup overnight to aid in removing the fat. Even so, the soup was delicious and just like I remembered it.

Oxtail Soup Recipe
Makes 4 Servings

4 lbs oxtail
8 cups water
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 inch of ginger, sliced thinly
1 onion, cut in half
1/4 daikon radish, sliced thinly
scallions, chopped

Place oxtails in a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Add garlic, ginger, and onion. Let simmer for 3 or 4 hours, skimming oil as needed. Add radish and let it cook for ten minutes more. Pour soup into bowl and garnish with scallions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010



I was in college when one of my friends took me to this tiny place in the East Village of New York called Otafuku. It’s really small, so you can’t eat inside, and it has a limited menu. But when it comes to food, I always pick quality over quantity. We went to this place for one thing: okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake.

I fell in love with okonomiyaki with my first bite. The pancake itself is very flavorful and filling, but I think what makes the dish so amazing is the sauces. It’s topped with Japanese mayo and Okonomi Sauce, which is kind of like a sweeter Worcestershire sauce. I would never think to combine those too condiments together, but it’s really magical.

We always avoided making our own okonomiyaki because we thought it would be complicated, but after finally giving it a try, we realized it’s pretty easy to make. We consulted two different recipes, which were basically the same except for the number of eggs. One recipe called for only one egg while another used four. I preferred the version with four eggs because I thought it imparted more flavor, but Davneet thought it became too omelet-esque. We’ll have to experiment and find the ideal number of eggs.

We also have to try fillings other than pork, such as shrimp, squid, and octopus. Davneet's excited about the octopus, since that was his favorite when I took him to Otafuku.

Okonomiyaki Recipe
Makes 4 pancakes

1 cup flour
1-4 eggs depending on your preference
¼ tsp of dashi powder in ¾ cup of hot water
¼ cabbage, finely chopped
2 tbsp scallion, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
6 slices of thinly sliced fatty pork, chopped
Okonomi Sauce
Kewpie Mayo
bonito flakes

Combine flour, egg(s), and dashi in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir in cabbage and scallions. Heat sesame oil in nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a quarter of the pork and cook for a few seconds. (It’s thinly sliced so it cooks very quickly.) Pour a quarter of the batter over the pork to form a 6” pancake. Let it cook for 5 minutes. Then flip it, and let it cook for another five minutes. Remove from pan. Cover pancake with Okonomi Sauce in a zig-zagging pattern. Rotate the pancake 90-degrees, and repeat the zig-zag with Kewpie mayo. Finally, top with bonito flakes. Repeat entire process 3 times. Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caesar Salad Burger

Caesar Salad Burger

We've been eating a lot of Caesar Salads lately because the combination of anchovies and Parmigiano Reggiano is delicious. So when we saw this recipe for a Caesar Salad Burger, we had to give it a try.

For the most part, it's a basic burger: seasoned beef and romaine lettuce on a wheat bun. But the Caesar mayonnaise adds a real highlight -- it's creamy, sweet, and tangy, and complements the beef well, as does the heavy sprinkling of parmesan cheese.