The Essential, Arcane, Hidden and Newly Discovered Culinary Canon of

ONKEN FAMILY COOKING

Codex No. 1 -- The Forbidden Knowledge

Translated from the Original Norwegian Manuscripts by O. Robert Onken and L Ellen Onken.

Copyright 1994 - Orrin R. Onken


SOUPS, SALADS AND STEWS

Soups and salads in the Onken household are not side dishes. They are rich and hearty meals in themselves, usually served with a good crusty bread. They are usually prepared in quantity so that they will provide one main meal and a couple of leftover lunches.


Black Bean Soup

The Onken black bean soup is a very rich dish that, despite the propaganda of Jewish mothers, has much more curative power than anything made with chicken. Black bean soup cures colds, the flu, the blues, the blahs, and most mental illnesses.



          1 lb dried black beans

          4 large yellow onions

          4 large stalks of celery (including leaves)

          1 head garlic

          1 tsp cumin

          3 cups chicken broth

          2 smoked ham hocks

          1 bunch chopped cilantro

          sour cream

          habenero sauce or very hot green chili sauce

     

Prepare the black dried beans any way you like. Either soak them overnight, as some folks advise, toss them in boiling water for ten minutes and let sit for an hour, as other folks do, or just throw them dry into the soup and let them cook. It seems to make very little difference except in cooking time.


Saute the onions, celery and garlic in a small amount of olive oil over low heat until the onion is limp and transparent. This will take twenty to forty minutes on low heat. Add the cumin during the saute.


Once the vegies are somewhat mushy add the broth and the beans. The broth should cover the beans by an inch or so. Add the ham hocks and simmer for a couple of hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is sufficient liquid. Once the beans are done, remove about half of them and puree them in your blender. Return the puree to the bean mixture. This thickens the soup with its own ingredients. Remove the hocks and take the meat from the bone. Chop the meat and return it to the bean mixture. Discard the fat and bone.


Serve the soup in a bowl topped with a glop of sour cream, some sprigs of cilantro and a dripping of hot sauce.


A NOTE ABOUT CHICKEN BROTH. You should attempt to always have a sufficient supply of home made chicken broth. The commercial substitutes always taste vaguely like something from the Campbells Company. The Campbells Company makes wonderful models for Andy Warhol paintings but does not do well with food. To make chicken broth simply toss your chicken carcass (the bones and fat left after you ate the chicken) in a pot of water with an onion and a bay leaf. Simmer this for a long time, strain it through cheese cloth, and when cool, refrigerate. Once cold, remove the chicken fat with a spatula and discard the fat. What remains is a wonderful jiggly chicken jello perfect for you next cooking adventure.


Hoi Sin Noodle Soup

This is a delightful asian soup. When you first make it, you ought to put the cooked noodles in your bowl and pour the broth over the noodles. Garnish and eat. When done eating, put the rest of the noodles into the broth and refrigerate. The leftovers are less elegant, but equally tasty.



          3 Tbs hoi sin 

          2 Tbs soy sauce

          1 Tbs sesame oil

          3 Cups chicken broth

          1 Tbs minced ginger

          1 lb minced (chopped) pork

          1 Tbs rice wine (or dry sherry)

          2 Tbs corn starch in 1/4 cup broth

          vermicelli noodles or other very thin noodle

 	   cooked according to package directions

          chili oil

     

Mix the hoi sin, soy sauce and chicken broth. Heat your wok to high and stir fry the garlic and ginger in a bit of oil until aromatic. Do not let the garlic burn. Add the pork and stir fry until nearly done. Add the wine, the broth mixture and bring to a boil. Once boiling add the corn starch mixture and chili oil to taste.


Keep the broth hot and prepare the noodles. Once cooked and drained, toss the noodles in the sesame oil. Put a bunch of noodles in a bowl and pour some of the hot broth on top. Garnish with bean sprouts and thinly sliced peeled cucumbers.


A NOTE ABOUT BEAN SPROUTS. Cold raw bean sprouts make an excellent garnish on a variety of spicy asian dishes. They can either be served on the dish or on a side dish with a slice of lime. The lime juice accents crisp bean sprouts nicely. Some people dislike the sight and taste of the stringy end and limp bulb on bean sprouts. These two parts of the sprout do have a slightly bitter taste. To be truly elegant, take the time to clean the spouts by removing the ends and discarding any sprouts that are not crisp. This is a bit of work, but is a truly impressive accent to any dish using sprouts.


A NOTE ABOUT WOKS. The above recipe and many others in the Onken cuisine are prepared in a wok. The wok is an essential element of the Onken kitchen. The wok, although not cast iron, needs to be treated with the same care. Buy a good one from an outlet for asian cookery. Do not get gimmicks. Stainless steel is useless in a wok. Flat bottoms and nonstick coatings are ridiculous. Worst of all is the electric wok. As a general rule if your wok has anything on it that smacks of yankee ingenuity or modern improvement the wok is a piece of crap.


After you purchase a wok, season it like you would cast iron. The metal used in woks will rust and they are nonstick only because of the coating you give them in the seasoning process. As with cast iron, avoid washing your wok. Simply wipe it out and return it to the shelf. If you must wash it, dry it immediately and coat it with a small amount of vegetable oil before returning it to storage.


Whether you have a gas or electric range the wok should sit directly on the burner. Woks were meant to get hot, and that is the way to cook with them. When the wok is on the burner the burner should be on high. In order to stir fry in a wok you will need oil. Use peanut oil. Peanut oil withstands the hot temperatures of the wok without burning. Add the cold oil to the hot wok and swirl it around so that the oil coats the sides of the wok. Always have your ingredients cut and prepared before heating the wok so that you can cook quickly. Once the stir fry has started a cook has no time for preparing ingredients.


Once you get food into the hot wok, keep the food moving with a metal spatula. The bottom of the wok is very hot. Once the food is done, you can push it up the sides of the pan to a cooler area while you add more ingredients. Wok cooking is essential to Onken cuisine. Most Onken cooks own more than one wok. Get familiar with it. A well used and preserved wok will be completely black from use. When it reaches that color you have the perfect nonstick pan for all kinds of meals. Cherish it and protect it.


Chili

Chili con carne has gotten somewhat of a bad name from all the canned varieties and those conglomerations of ground mystery meat and kidneys beans that get poured over hamburgers. Chile can be a delightful and hearty dish on its own if the ingredients are good and the preparation respectful. This chili should make even the most battle scarred chili eater smile.



          3 Tbs oil

          2 large onions

          2 green peppers

          1 small head of garlic

          2 lbs beef stew meat cut into 1" cubes

          2 lbs boneless pork (butt or boneless country 

             ribs cut into 1" cubes)

          1/3 cup chili powder

          11/2 Tbs cumin

          1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes (chopped with juice)

          3 jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped

          1 or 2 16 oz cans of black beans

          1/2 cup dry white wine

          grated cheese

          chopped cilantro

          chopped red onion

In a Dutch oven saute the garlic, onions and green peppers until the onions and peppers are soft. Remove the vegetables and set aside. Braise the meat (best done in two batches). Combine meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven. Add tomatoes with liquid, chili powder, cumin and jalapeno. Place the dutch oven in the oven and bake at about 325 degrees until the meat is almost done (about an hour.) Add the beans and wine. If you need more liquid add a bit of tomato sauce. Allow to bake in the oven for another 30-40 minutes or until chili thickens. If refuses to thicken, use a dab of tomato paste.


Serve this topped with grated cheese, chopped red onion and chopped cilantro.


NOTES ON THE DUTCH OVEN. The Dutch oven is one of the most important parts of the Onken cast iron collection. An Onken can cook most of the meals he or she makes in a set of Farberware, but the cast iron dutch oven has no stainless steal or aluminum counterpart. Placed in the electric oven, the Dutch oven permits stews and the like to cook very gently. The heat reaches the stew evenly though the cast iron walls of the pan and juices are contained by the heavy iron cover. Onken cooks use this pan for nearly all of their foods that need slow damp heat to cook meat and meld flavors.


NOTES ON BRAISING MEAT IN THE DUTCH OVEN. The key to tender chunks of beef or pork in stews and other slow cooked dishes is in the proper braising of the meat before the liquid is added. Unless braised properly, meats being slow cooked will lose their juices, fall apart and become dry and stringy.


To braise, heat the Dutch oven on the burner until the bottom and sides are very hot. Add about 1/4 cup oil and swish it around so it covers the sides. The oil may start to smoke immediately so don't dawdle. Pour in the meat in quantities that fit the oven. The oil will spit and sputter and the meat should begin to brown immediately. Turn it quickly as it browns so that it browns evenly on all sides. Once browned remove it from the pan and do another batch. If the meat secretes its juices and begins to boil to a gray color, the pan was not hot enough or the batch of meat was too large. Don't worry too much. Just carry on with the recipe, but try to do it better next time. If the meat blackens and sticks to the pan the Dutch oven was too hot. It takes some practice, but the results are worth it.


Pesto Pasta Salad

This hearty salad is good hot, good at room temperature and good cold the next day. It is fine as a side dish, but filling enough to feed a hungry man as well.


     

          1 cup packed fresh basil

          3 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

          1/3 cup olive oil

          1/4 cup pine nuts

          8 oz uncooked raditore or other pasta, hot, cooked and drained

          1 cup pitted ripe olive halves

          1 cup chopped tomatoes

      

Put basil, 1/2 cup cheese, oil, pine nuts and garlic in blender (or food processor, god forbid) and blend until smooth. Toss the basil mixture together with the pasta, olives, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.


Thai Cucumber Salad

This is a true side dish. It is also an amazing little salad; simple yet different and delicious. Serve it with any hot spicy main dish.



          2 cucumbers

          1 red onion thinly sliced

          1/2 tsp dried chili (the red pizza parlor stuff)

          4 tsp sugar

          1/2 cup water

          5 Tbs white wine vinegar

     

Peel the cucumbers. Seed them by cutting them in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds with a spoon to make little cucumber canoes. Slice the canoes into bite size slices. Add the sugar to the water and boil briefly so that the sugar dissolves. Add the vinegar. Combine the cucumber and sliced onion and pour the dressing over it all. Sprinkle with the chili flakes and refrigerate.


A NOTE ABOUT VINEGAR. Onken cooks cut costs whenever possible, but they do not skimp on the quality of the vinegar they cook with. Don't use the same vinegar for cooking that you use for cleaning windows or you food will taste like it is laced with window cleaner. Spend the extra money.


And That's All Folks


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