Archive for the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Summer in the Panic Kitchen

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

It’s been a super-busy summer at Panic, so we’ve made sure to fuel our software-development efforts with a steady regimen of freshly prepared office meals. We hope to do one of these every month, and we’d love to inspire your own office cooking adventures. Any questions? Ask away!  And now, our tasty tetraptych:


No one doesn’t like ramen, right? Propelled by a mild case of bummed-outness at Portland’s general lack of awesome ramen houses* and the publication of the first, ramen-centric issue of David Chang’s Lucky Peach magazine, we figured we’d take matters into our own hands and cook up a big batch for the office.

We stuck to the Momofuku recipe from Lucky Peach as much as possible, skipping the noodle-making itself. (Yeah, we know it’s kind of important, but we wanted to have a bit of breathing room. And, Uwajimaya sells totally nice fresh noodles.) Armed with a big bag of chicken necks and backs, we gathered around the office stove for a whole day as the ramen broth reduced, all five gallons of it. Les made shredded pork on Sunday while I slow-poached eggs in their shells; this is a super-handy method for when you need fifteen poached eggs at the same time.

This was an extremely porky dish, so we served up vegan and pescatarian alternatives for Garrett & Mike: cold sesame noodles with black radish, and the same topped with an egg and dried anchovies (my favorite).

Nobody didn’t like it! A very fun – if exhausting – kitchen adventure.

* Since then, the brand-new Southeast joint Wafu has blown our noodle-socks off. On the West side, Shigezo is pretty good.

Miso Corn.

Continuing our Momofuku run, we noticed how darn sweet and tasty the corn was this August. I had previously postulated that the Roasted Sweet Summer Corn from the Momofuku cookbook was their most bang-to-bucky recipe. Simple: cut a bunch of fresh corn, roast it in bacon fat, add miso and butter, then top in a South-meets-East fashion.

Les handled the corn, pre-grilling it briefly to add some char. We then split it between our two largest dutch ovens. (Did we mention it’s tricky to cook for fifteen?) For toppings, we went with the shrimp from Momofuku’s Shrimp’n’Grits, more poached eggs, a bit of green onion, and a few slices of my dad’s homemade, home-smoked sausage. That stuff is my own personal bacon.

Garrett and Mike enjoyed a butter-free, tempeh-topped version. Everyone went nom nom nom. The best part? We ended up with an enormous quantity of corn husk and silk. You do not want to throw this stuff away; instead, make a stock of it. It’ll taste of sweet, sweet summer. To make ours portable, we reduced it for three days until five gallons turned to one dark, rich, syrupy quart. This can be diluted to use as stock or you can add use it to make corn ice cream, America’s best-kept ice cream secret.


Momofuku, take three: pork buns. We were looking for things that could be assembled and served fairly quickly once we’re at the office Monday morning (the usual setting for Panic Kitchen events). The buns themselves took a bit of work, but as predicted, our Monday prep was fairly mellow.

Dave joined Les and yours truly for a marathon Saturday of kneading, waiting, and rolling – lots of it, hoo boy. We ended up with exactly one hundred buns, covering every flat surfaces in our office kitchen. If you go bun-making yourself, clean out every table, desk, counter, and shelf you’ve got – you’ll need them all. Les was on pork duty once again, bringing in a simple pork-belly roast, and a version glazed in Cherry Coke. The former was served with hoisin sauce, Dave’s garden-grown cucumbers, and green onions; the latter, with pickled mustard greens, ground peanuts, and cilantro. Beer went well with both.

The buns contain milk, and it’s pretty much impossible to make fewer than thirty. Thus, the vegan option this time was coconut-rice cakes with Chinese-spiced roasted eggplant and shiitakes, and a papaya salad.

Would we do this again? Probably, and probably only on this scale.

Bánh Mì.

We’re big fans of Portland’s beat and cheapest Vietnamese-French-sandwich spot, Best Baguette. For this lunch, we wanted to see if we could best them at what they do best.

Les is still probably bummed that we didn’t attempt our own baguettes; my feeling was that we could never match – let alone beat – a professional bakery at this. We capitulated and bought our bread from Best Baguette, at approximately $0 or so per person. Our starting point for the recipes needed here was Viet World Kitchen. I took the weekend to pickle the daikon and carrots – more than twice the amount we ended up using, it turned out – and make the mayo. Les porked it up again, steaming a big batch of Vietnamese meatballs. Think about how crazy bánh mì really is – French bread topped with french mayonnaise, jazzed-up, chopped-up Italian meatballs, and Asian pickles. Did we mention it’s all served with iced coffee? We got a few cans of Vietnam’s favorite brand, Trung Nguyen, and Vietnamese-Nestlé sweetened condensed milk.

Pescatarian option: the classic sardine bánh mì (my favorite). Vegan: lemongrass tofu, miso mayo.

In the end, Greg declared Les’ meatballs better than Best Baguette’s. Sweet, sweet victory!


Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Panic recently enjoyed a working visit from our German friends, TheCodingMonkeys. We certainly never expected them to treat us to a home-cooked meal, but treat us they did. Danke, coole Typen! —Neven

Hi, my name is Toby, I work for TheCodingMonkeys, and I love cooking. I live in Bavaria.

So, when we were visiting Panic in Portland, we took the opportunity to bring some Old Europe culture to those American barbarians and cook some traditional Bavarian food. Pork roast is a classic Sunday dish. Fifty years ago, the mother of a family would go to church in the Saturday evening, so she could prepare this meal for the family the next morning and have it ready when they returned from Sunday mass. It takes some time to cook, but it’s not all that complicated.

Cooking for Panic was very enjoyable, not least of all because they have an entire kitchen in their office. What passes for an office kitchen in Europe is usually a tiny room with a coffee cooker and a fridge. Not a four-burner kitchen range with an oven and a sink you could take a bath in. In a word, it was awesome. Add to that Les, our native guide to the jungle of Portland grocery shopping (who was absolutely indispensable), and the rest of the office crew, and you can guess we had a great time.

Thanks again to Panic for having us!


Traditional Bavarian Pork Roast (for 4 persons)

Pork Roast (“Schweinsbraten”)

  • 750g (1 1/2 lb) pork shoulder / loin / ham roast, skin-on1
  • 2 onions


  • Carrots
  • Root parsley ( 3
  • Leeks
  • Celery root
  • Caraway
  • Garlic
  • Beer

1. This should preferrably be boneless (makes carving easier). You will probably need to specially order this from your butcher beforehand to make sure they leave the skin on the meat.

2. All of the veg are optional and you can use as much or as little of each as you want. Don’t use *too* many carrots though, or their taste’ll come through too strongly. Basically any roots and tubers will do. Even potatoes, in a pinch.

3. You may not be able to get this. We substituted turnip or rutabaga. See 2.

Bread Dumplings (“Semmelknödel”)

  • 4 bread rolls4, dried, sliced thinly
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 eggs
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • parsley
  • 1/4 l (1 cup) milk

4. Those are German white bread rolls. The bread is similar to a soft French baguette (which is, in fact, a good substitute). We used hamburger buns, which made the dumplings a little sweeter than I’d have liked. Bread dumplings are a food made with leftovers, so make sure the bread is really dry. If you don’t have any old bread lying around, cut fresh bread into slices (1cm [1/2″] thickness), and leave it to dry for a day.

Cabbage Salad (“Kraut”)

  • Cabbage5
  • Vinegar
  • Caraway

5. This particular kind of cabbage, called Weißkraut (“white cabbage”), has pretty tough leaves and looks like this:


This meal has three components: The roast itself, bread dumplings, and a side dish made by marinating chopped cabbage leaves in salt. Let’s call it a cabbage salad for want of a better name.

Also, as with all roasts, the larger the better. The puny 3 lb piece of meat in the recipe will serve four people, but the trouble with very small roasts is that they are done so fast the skin has almost no chance to become crisp. For our American friends, we roasted a magnificent piece of meat weighing more than 3kg, which had the crispest and best crust I’ve ever seen on a pork roast.

The Cabbage Salad, for Lack of a Better Name

I’ll start with this, because you can prepare it way beforehand. Chop the cabbage into very thin strips, put them into a bowl in layers, adding salt (generously) to each layer, and crush the layer with a wooden potato masher or something of the sort. Then, let it rest until 30 minutes before serving.

Half an hour before serving, add vinegar and caraway. Just before serving, add some oil, and (if you feel like it) a finely chopped onion and some pan-roasted bits of bacon.

The Roast

Heat the oven to 200°C (428°F).

Wash the meat, beat it thoroughly with a meat tenderizer, then cut the skin. First, make a series of parallel cuts spaced about 1/2″. Then make a second series of cuts diagonal to the first. Use a sharp knife, a pig’s skin is pretty tough. Be sure to cut all through the skin into the fat layer. Rub the caraway, crushed garlic, salt and pepper all over the meat, the skin, and into the cuts.

Place the meat skin side down into a roasting pan or dutch oven, add a little boiling water, and cover the entire thing with a lid or tinfoil. Put into the oven for 15 minutes. Uncover the meat, turn it skin side up, and add the vegetables.

Roasting time is about 1 hour for every kilo (2 lb) of meat. A meat thermometer is invaluable here, because it lets you make sure the meat is done but not bone dry.

When the skin starts to brown, you can occasionally pour some beer over the meat. It’ll make the skin crisper, and the sauce taste better.

The Sauce

When the you’re nearing the release date, er, serving time – say, about 15 minutes before serving – take out all the vegetables, and mash them through a mesh strainer. Use a ladle to add most of the liquid that’s in the roasting pan, and mix together to make the sauce. At least that’s the traditional way. It gives the sauce a nice grainy texture. Alternatively, you can use a blender, in which case you should blend the veg together with the liquid from the roasting pan.

Season to taste and put the pot with the sauce on the stove so you can warm it back up before serving.

Some people (like me) like the taste of the vegetables that have been cooked for hours in the beer and meat juices. For those people, leave one or two carrots in the roasting pan when you take out the rest to make the sauce.

The Dumplings

You’ll have plenty of time to prepare the dumplings while the roast is roasting. The important part here is getting the consistency of the dough right. Don’t use all the milk at first. Until you mix everything, it’s hard to tell how the dough is going to turn out. After you have added all ingredients, use milk if the dough is too dry. In case disaster strikes (as it did when we were making the dumplings) and the dough gets so liquid you can’t form dumplings out of it, add breadcrumbs.

Pour some of the boiling milk over the dried bread, and let it soak. Add the other ingredients. Yes, all of them. Just toss them in. Go ahead, we do not have all day. Knead everything until homogenous, form dumplings about 3/4 the size of a fist.

About 15 minutes before serving, let the dumplings slide gently into boiling, lightly salted water. (By the way, water takes an incredibly long time to come to a boil, so make sure you put the water on early enough to have it boiling at T minus 15 minutes). Use enough water so the dumplings can float without touching the bottom of the pot. Cook at a soft boil for about 12 minutes.


Fish Wings

Friday, January 7th, 2011

One of the best foods in the US can be ordered and enjoyed some nine blocks from my house. At Pok Pok, a restaurant where you can discover a new favorite each time you go back, it’s best to start out with chef Andy Ricker’s amazing fish-sauce wings. And if you find yourself away from Portland, or the understandably long wait at the restaurant gets you down, make them yourself. It’s as easy as any other chicken-wing recipe!

This is based on the Ike’s fish-sauce wings recipe as printed in Food & Wine magazine. To feed 6, you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced
  • 3 pounds chicken wings, split at the drumettes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 1-2 cups cornstarch
  • bird’s eye chilis to taste, seeded and minced

A few words about the ingredients:

Once you’ve tried these wings, the words fish sauce will fill you not with terror, but with a primal sort of craving. Like soy sauce, it’s marvelous at adding savory, meaty saltiness to foods. And like soy sauce, it loves being combined with sugar. Head on over to your local Asian market and buy an extravagant amount of Southeast Asia’s favorite condiment for under $2 – the best brands are Tiparos, Squid, and Three Crabs. Stay away from domestic imitations as they’ll be weak and overpriced.

You can use regular sugar, but superfine sugar will dissolve in the fish sauce much easier. It’s basically finely ground sugar. This is different from confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, which also contains cornstarch.

To start, grab the largest bowl you have. (No, not that one. Larger. Larger still. There, that one.) Whisk together the sugar and the fish sauce, and mix in the crushed garlic. Pat the wings dry and add them to the bowl; cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, tossing a few times to coat evenly.

In a small pan, fry the minced garlic until fragrant and golden, but not brown; drain on paper towels.

Time to fry the chicken: in a large and heavy pot (preferably a dutch oven) heat 2 inches of oil to 350 F. Use a candy thermometer if you have one; if not, drop in a piece of bread. When it makes a satisfying sizzling sound on entry, you’re good; when the oil bubbles violently, you’ve gone too far. This would also be a good time to preheat your oven to 200 F and make room for a large pan with a rack set in it; you’ll dry your wings here and keep them warm at the same time.

Pat the wings dry, reserving the marinade in the bowl. Transfer the marinade to a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until syrupy.

Pour the cornstarch into a shallow, wide pan or bowl. Dip the wings in it one by one and toss to coat; shake them off until there’s a dusting of cornstarch on the meat, but no clumps. Do this right before you drop the wings in the fryer; resist the temptation to coat them and let them sit in the bowl, as this would result in a less-than-crispy surface. Fry the wings in batches, making sure not to crowd the pot. They should turn golden-brown with specs of black; it should take 10 minutes or so per batch.

When the wings are done, drip them over the pot and place them on the rack in the pan, then return the whole thing to the oven. It’s always a good idea to air-dry your fried goods instead of plopping them onto paper towels where they’ll sit in their own grease.

Grab another large bowl and move all the wings to it. Pour the now-syrupy marinade through a strainer over the wings and toss to coat. Add the fried garlic and the chilies (if using, according to your heat preference) to finish. Serve on large lettuce leaves, sprinkling with chopped cilantro and mint if you’re into that sort of thing.

We made these at the office recently and they were a big success. Les made some awesome sides, and had this to say about the experience:

My contribution to the meal certainly could have gone more smoothly, but I survived.

For the green papaya salad, I once again referred to a recipe from the great She Simmers. I used a large granite mortar and pestle — strictly forbidden of course — but I was gentle and over-pulverizing generally wasn’t a problem. Multiplying the recipe to feed a dozen people was tricky, but after an hour of tasting and adjusting, the result was close enough.

An additional challenge was in creating a vegan som tam for Mike and Garrett. I substituted the fish sauce with a mixture of seaweed-infused water, a bit of soy sauce, and pickled garlic.

I was also tasked with making sticky rice but I’m just going to say it wasn’t my proudest culinary moment and leave it at that.

Very humble, that Les. Our newest employee, James, made bún salad. These crisp dishes were much-needed islands of refreshment in the sea of savory-sweet wingness.

In conclusion: Check out Pok Pok, don’t fear the fish sauce, snap out of the Pad Thai rut and explore Southeast Asia’s delicious cuisine. Enjoy!

Vegan Co-op Luncheon

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

As attentive readers of our blog know, the Panic kitchen occasionally turns into a battleground as yours truly and our one and only Les Pozdena compete in a format similar to TV’s Iron Chef™. Our co-workers judge us – not very harshly, I must admit – on presentation, taste, and use of the sort-of-secret ingredient.

The last such event took place two weeks ago and it was both heartwarming and a little sad – you see, the battle format was put aside as we joined forces to tackle a challenge neither of us had any advantage in:

Vegan cooking.

The newest addition to our team, Mr. Garrett Moon, is vegan. It would have been downright unfriendly of us to do anything except stretch our cooking muscles and come up with an interesting thing or five to welcome him with. My offerings, prepared while wearing the Salt & Fat cook’s jacket my pal Jim gifted me, are described below.

Ginger-scallion noodles

I based this on David Chang’s recipe, which was itself based on a Noodletown dish. There’s no sense in reinventing it, but it’s always helpful to hear how recipes work in the real world.

First note: fresh ramen noodles make a big difference. If you can’t find them, go with fresh yakisoba. I’m sure there’s an Asian market near you that makes or carries one or the other noodle. (For this lunch we had to use yakisoba since ramen noodles contain egg; I made this with ramen later and it was noticeably better.)

I topped the noodles with fried cauliflower, tossed in a sauce very similar to the fish-sauce vinaigrette Chang describes. I substituted soy sauce for fish sauce and upped the garlic for extra pungency. Either version of this is really great.

My presentation was simple – noodles, cauliflower, and pickled carrots. I also skipped the puffed rice and the mint. This was still a wicked flavorful dish, savory and full of kick.

Khao Man Tofu

The definitive recipe for this delicious Thai street food has already been written by Leela at She Simmers. I have only two things to add to it:

  1. I add some roasted peanuts to the sauce before chopping,
  2. Since boiled chicken skin isn’t very appetizing, I remove it (in giant strips) after cooking and fry it. It makes an awesomely crunchy, salty topping for the rice.

Khao man gai (“rice fat chicken”) is easily made vegetarian or vegan; most of the flavor is in the sauce. For my version, I replaced the boiled chicken with a mix of sautéed tofu cutlets and seitan. In the future, I’ll try this with mushrooms, as the tofu was a bit boring.

It didn’t matter so much – everything else was delicious. I cooked the rice in veggie stock (with added vegetable oil). My recommendation regarding stock is unchanged: make your own if possible, and if not, use Better Than Bouillon bases. They taste better than Pacific, Imagine, or any other canned or boxed brand, and they’re infinitely more convenient. How often have you opened a big box of stock only to use half and throw the rest out a week later? This way, you make what you need at whatever strength will work best for the recipe.

The key to the sauce is yellow soybean paste. Please note that this is NOT interchangeable with miso, and it’s also not yellow. (It’s made from yellow soybeans.) Look for something like this at your local Asian grocery store. You might have to ask for it; the bottle I got didn’t have a label in English. Once you do find it, I’m sure you’ll like its über-savory taste and ridiculuous price tag ($1.18 at Uwajimaya).

About that fried chicken skin… I replaced it with fried shallots. They changed the flavor profile a little bit, but me, I’ll take fried shallots on top of anything.

Few US Thai places I’ve visited serve khao man gai. That’s a shame – it’s a very friendly and distinctive dish. When in Portland, don’t miss Nong’s Khao Man Gai cart downtown.

Black garlic sorbet

More precisely, what I served was apricot sorbet with fried bananas and black garlic sauce. Black garlic is a recent addition to US kitchens, a sweet and caramel-y thing completely unlike the pungent bulb we know. Common garlic is fermented until the cloves turn soft and black; the result is, to my tongue, like a combination of balsamic vinegar and Marmite. If you can’t find it (check Whole Foods or this website) make the balsamic sauce without it; don’t substitute ordinary garlic.

  • 1 qt apricot nectar (I like the Looza brand)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • a bit of lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp port wine

This recipe requires an ice-cream maker. I’m very happy with Cuisinart’s model. There’s nothing special you need to know about it except that the bowl should be chilled for at least 24 hours; we just store ours in the freezer so it’s always ready to go.

Pour the nectar into a large bowl and stir in the sugar until it dissolves fully. Add a few squirts of lemon juice and the port; stir and chill in the fridge. It’s crucial that everything (except the electric part of the ice cream maker, of course) be as cold as possible – the faster your desert chills, the smoother the texture.

Once the bowl and the juice are sufficiently cold, pour the juice into the maker as directed and take for a 20-25 minute spin. Ice cream and sorbet will always look a bit soft at this point; they need to go in an airtight container and in the freezer for another hour or two.

During that time, make the sauce:

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (Lucini is always a good bet)
  • 1 tbsp port wine
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3-4 cloves black garlic

Stir and heat all of these in a saucepan over low heat until the vinegar reduces by half. Strain and set aside at room temperature.

Next, fry up some sliced baby bananas in a tiny bit of oil. I slice mine the long way so they’re easier to handle. Fried bananas are great warm, but since sorbet doesn’t melt as creamy as ice cream does, I let the bananas cool off a bit.

Top the sorbet with bananas and drizzle the syrup over it. Taste the syrup to gauge how much you’d like to use; it’s potent stuff, and also delicious over anything else you might accompany with a sweet sauce.

Les, my partner in this co-op-mode fight, presented the following menu:

  • Mushroom-walnut paté with cornichons
  • Cream of asparagus soup
  • Squale (sautéed butternut squash and kale)

It’s hard to believe we were working with any limitations at all!

Portland Eats

Monday, April 19th, 2010

We sometimes get asked to recommend places to eat in Portland. It’s a very food-oriented city, so you’re probably in good hands wherever you go. Here’s a list of specific dishes I love and you should seek out:

Neven’s Can’t-Miss Foods

  • Fish sauce wings at Pok Pok or Whiskey Soda Lounge
    They were named one of the top ten dishes in the US by Food & Wine magazine for a reason. And that reason is that they are delicious. The fish sauces stretches the very definition of “savory”; these are impossible to put down, but please do so for a moment, to sip on some drinking vinegar. I know, right – fish sauce and vinegar? You may be surprised how comforting and familiar it all tastes. (You can get the wings at either restaurant; they’re run by the same crew, and located across the street from each other.)
  • Pizza Tartufo Bianco at Apizza Scholls
    Scholls makes perhaps the greatest pizza yours truly, a native of the Mediterranean, has ever tasted. All the house pies are great, but this truffle-rich white pizza stands out. Come hungry and come early; they’re always busy, and understandably so.
  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai
    This street food popular in Thailand may sound simple – chicken and rice in soy sauce – but its taste is a four-movement symphony. Some say the secret is yellow soybean paste; others point to rice cooked in fresh chicken broth. Whatever it is, this downtown cart does it right.
  • Gnocchi at Nostrana
    It’s hard to pick one favorite from Nostrana, a multiple-award-winning restaurant that’s high on authenticity and originality, and low on pretension. How about the best gnocchi you’re likely to have anywhere? They’re only available Thursday nights; a sign of the effort that goes into making these perfect pillows of fluffy dough.
  • Schnitzelwich The name of the Czech cart is actually Tabor, but everyone identifies it with their signature dish – the schnitzelwich sandwich. A tender, juicy chunk of pork (or chicken) with caramelized onion, on ciabatta bread with horseradish and ajvar (red-pepper sauce).
  • Sardine sandwich at Best Baguette
    Everyone ought to eat more sardines, and Best Baguette – a McDonalds-looking building in an unremarkable location – is a great place to start. Their bánh mì (Vitneamese sandwiches on French-style baguette) are fresh, quick, and shockingly cheap – about $2.75 for the footlong sardine yuminess.

Neven’s Safe Bets

The following restaurants either have seasonal, rotating menus, or they’re just great overall. We won’t single out any one thing on the menu – go nuts and order what looks good!

  • Beast
    A six-course, prix-fixe restaurant perfect for a hip date.
  • Le Pigeon
    Fancy dinner from one of Portland’s top chefs
  • Grüner
    Alpine food with a modern twist; classy and satisfying
  • Clyde Common
    Hip and reliably tasty; open for lunch
  • Piazza Italia
    Portland’s most authentic Italian food, down to the soccer jerseys on the walls
  • Lucky Strike
    Hellishly spicy and awesome Szechuan on the far East side. They close at random times, so good luck to ya if you decide to go.
  • Leroy’s Familiar Vittles
    Fabulous BBQ and Southern fare from a Southeast cart

We could go on with these lists for a very long time. Hopefully this is enough to get you started on your next visit to PDX. Or if you’re a local – what are you doing not hitting these places already?

Here’s a handy-dandy map of all these places.
Now you have literally no excuse not to go!
Photos from Flickr users scaredy_katMookieLuv, and AlannaRise. Thanks, Flickrinos!