gettin' domestic

Friday, October 24, 2008

If you know me very well, you know that I'm a very sarcastic person. The name of this blog is pretty tongue-in-cheek. Not that I'm not a happily married, happy mother, but I don't know that I live in a state of bliss (especially if ignorance must accompany it). And I'm not really all that domestic. I like to knit, cook and bake, and there ends my domestic skill. My mother and husband will both tell you that I'm horrible at cleaning. I don't "use enough elbow grease," according to them. Whatever. Martha does not scrub her own pans.

With that disclaimer, I've been wanting to add a touch of domesticity to this blog. My friends here keep asking me for recipes, since Matthew and I definitely prepare food more than the average waygook. My loyal readers outside Korea (Hi, Sumi, Sara & Sue ; ) will hopefully be entertained by the lengths to which I must go just to recreate some of my favorite foods.

This is my stove. There are three gas burners on top, and a small gas oven on the bottom.

By small, I mean that the opening measures 12x6". Due to all the weird shelves, the largest baking dish that fits measures 6x8" at the bottom. It's a Pyrex dish that's wider at the top. I can make recipes that are supposed to fit in a 8 or 9" square pan. However, if I fill the pan too full and the contents rise to the rim, some of it will inevitably stick to the top element.

These are the controls. (Oven control is on the bottom right.) No temperature, just handy little pictures (featuring fish & bread) that vaguely indicate which elements are in operation. We've gone through a lot of trial and error to figure out which settings work for different recipes. The first time I made pineapple upside-down cake, it took forever to bake because I had the oven on too low. The second time, it was Cajun-style. (Sorry, no photo documentation on that.)

I should mention that I'm "lucky" because most Koreans (and foreign teachers in Korea) do not have ovens of any kind. Some of our friends here have toaster ovens. Others of the more permanently-settled type (i.e. married to a Korean) have normal-sized ovens. Traditional Korean cooking does not include baking and most Koreans prefer to buy baked goods from the store.

Here is baking lesson #1: meatballs

I don't actually use a recipe, but here's basically what I put in the batch I made today:
3 slices of bread
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
half of a medium-sized white onion, chopped
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil }
2 teaspoons dried oregano } All herb amounts are guestimations;
2 teaspoons dried thyme } I just dumped them in.
salt and pepper to taste
400 grams ground beef
400 grams ground pork

Soak the bread in the milk until it's soggy, then squish all the excess milk out and crumble the bread into a mixing bowl. (This is a great alternative since I don't have a blender and haven't found prepared bread crumbs here.) Add the eggs and all the seasoning. Mix well with a fork. Dump in the meat and mix it all together with your hands. Yummy ; )

Shape the mixture into balls about 1 1/2 inches wide and place on some type of broiler or grill sheet.

Bake with the upper element partially on and the bottom element fully on. (This would be known as broiling in a normal oven.) Keep a close eye on them, because burnt meatballs suck and stink up your whole apartment. You'll need to cook them 5-10 minutes on the first side and 2-5 on the second side. Maybe. If the back of your oven is hotter, like mine is, you'll probably need to rotate the pan one during the first side's baking time.

When the meatballs are done (NOT pink in the middle), move them to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool. Once they're cool, you can store them in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to add them to spaghetti, sweet-n-sour sauce, etc. The batch I made today yielded about 5 dozen meatballs.

Follow that with cooking lesson #1: creamy carrot soup

1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups sliced carrots (1/4 inch thick)
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth*
1 tsp ground ginger**
2 cups heavy cream (make sure you get the unsweetened kind!)
1 tsp crushed dried rosemary***
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pot, saute onion in butter until tender. Add carrots, potato, broth, and ginger. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until vegetable are tender. Cool for 15 minutes.
Puree in small batches in a blender or food processor (thank you, Kelsey, for letting me borrow yours) until smooth. Return to the pot, add cream, rosemary, salt & pepper. Cook over low heat until heated through.
Makes 6-8 servings.

*Broth: You can also use vegetable broth. We make our own. To make vegetable broth, chop up some vegetables (onions, carrots, leeks, zucchini, garlic, etc. -- whatever you want to use) and add some herbs (fresh or dried) and a lot of water. Bring to a boil and then leave it to simmer for several hours. Strain everything chunky out and (voila!) you have vegetable broth. Chicken broth is basically the same, but with chicken. Matthew has discovered that he can get a chicken carcass at the local grocery store for W500 (usually about 50 cents, but currently closer to 35 cents with the horrible exchange rate) if he just asks for it.
**Ginger: We brought dried ginger with us, because we packed the entire contents of our spice shelf. Fresh ginger is actually easier to find here and would probably work great. You would probably want to use more than the recipe calls for, since dried herbs are more intense. Grate it as finely as you can.
***Rosemary: I used fresh rosemary when I made this recipe here. Rosemary plants are very easy to find in Korea, although it's not commonly used for cooking. Koreans just like the aroma. I probably used between 2 tsp and 1 tbsp of fresh, chopped rosemary. (I broke off 2 or 3 sprigs, rinsed it, pulled off the leaves and chopped those up.)


3 Responses to “gettin' domestic”
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hiii Catherine!
you crack me up!!!!!
and that your oven fo reals? I could never never live without a full size oven, not that I would use it...but it just wouldn't seem like a kitchen!!! =P
and how did you find herbs in Korea?!?! they must have been shipped to you!
dude...I give you props! I shudder to think of one day visiting Korea some day and having to use my aunt's sooo not updated/modernized bathroom...
one day I'll day! I don't listen to my mom anymore when she says she's moving back to Korea...cause she's been saying that shiz for the past 4 yrs now...haha

I am verklempt!!
That oven is much smaller than in my vintage, tiny 5th wheel!
And I am in awe of your resourcefulness. How on earth you stay alive is beyond me! Well, kidding a little bit.......
Should I ship you something substantial? What ARE you doing to that poor child - you must feed him nothing but oatmeal! And, to think, another on the way - my, oh, my!! And to think I complain because my oven temp is a little off.........
My hat is off to you, my friend!!
On another subject entirely - I was thinking of Matthew the other night when I fixed LA and I Cosmos!!! Thanks, M!!!

Yes, that is really our oven. Yes, we really bake stuff in it. We've made all kinds of stuff: casseroles, desserts, bread, etc.
Liam gets plenty to eat, Sue. He's growing like a weed ; ) And we brought all our spices from home, but we can restock most of them at the local foreign food shops. It's okay, guys, we're not that deprived ; )

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