Friday, April 30, 2010

Heaven in Punta Mita

This long weekend was going to be a cooking/blog hiatus but I can't stay away from the food.  And the food is fantastic.  Our house chef is dishing out authentic Mexican cuisine that is delicate yet blow your socks off flavorful.   
Last night's dinner was sauteed jumbo shrimp with a tomato, chili, onion, garlic sauce.  The shrimp were plump and juicy.  We are surrounded by a beautiful beach and ocean, but I can't help but duck into the kitchen to talk about the food.  Saute finely minced garlic and onions until softened, add in sliced chilies and fry a bit longer.  Add sweet tomato sauce and finely diced, very ripe tomatoes.  In a separate pan, saute the the shrimp in a little olive oil until they begin to turn red.  Then add to the tomato sauce to finish.  I had seconds.  Absolutely delightful.

This morning, I woke to two sauces being made for huevos.  A red salsa and a green salsa.  Both began with charring tomatoes (for the red sauce) and tomatillos (for the green sauce) with sauteed chilies.  Puree in a blender.  Return to the pan and add a little water and powdered chicken stock.  Boil for a bit.  Let cool and add finely diced onions and cilantro.  

A let the ingredients shine on their own.  A talent of restraint and knowing how to showcase each ingredient to show their true colors.

Lunch was grilled chicken breast marinated for 30 minutes to an hour in olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and garlic, served with some green salsa.  The chicken was pounded thin and super tender, cooked to perfection.  I am giddy in foody heaven.  Not cooking, but enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor, and quizzing the chef in the kitchen.  

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pie - An Eye Opening Dough Experience

Today was a second bid for foods eaten during our trip to New York.  Co. was that heavenly Pie joint in the Chelsea neighborhood.  A search on the trusty internet found this dough recipe by Jim Lahey, of Co.  So easy, so basic, yet so very brilliant.  

I made two types of pies.
The first was the Flambe, which was our favorite at Co.  Bechamel, parmesan, mozzarella, caramelized onions, lardons.
Bechamel - Approximately 1 cup
2 Tbsp Butter
2 1/2 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Whole Milk
2 Tbsp Grated Fontina 
Tiny Pinch of Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Salt and White Pepper
Melt Butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until smooth.  Stirring constantly, add milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth.  Simmer until the sauce is thick and paste like.  I'd say a little thicker than normal bechamel.  Remove from heat and stir in fontina, nutmeg, salt and white pepper to taste.  If you do this ahead of time, like I did, it will harden when it cools down.  Just reheat slightly before using.  Spread on the dough with a knife or rubber spatula.

Caramelized Onions
1 Medium Onion, sliced
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tsp Sugar
Melt butter over medium heat, toss in onions, a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir constantly until softened.  Add in sugar and continue to cook, stirring frequently until golden brown.

When we were at Co., I asked and was told Nueske's bacon was used on the Flambe pizza.    You can order the bacon online, but by coincidence, I found some at Uwajimaya.  The bacon on the Flambe was nice and thick.  The package I purchased was already sliced, but worked out fine.  The bacon is applewood smoked, nice and smoky, just a hint of sweetness, perfectly salty, not too fatty, perfect.  Cut the bacon into 1/2" wide pieces, fry until crispy.  It is a bacon to keep in your vault.  A bacon to barter with.  A get out of jail free bacon.  Yes, it's that good.

To assemble the pie, I followed the directions for preparing the dough, except, my timing did not match exactly as directed.  The last part is leaving the dough under a floured towel for 2 hours.  I left mine like that for the 2 hours, but then laid saran wrap over the towel to lest rest until cooking time so it wouldn't dry out.  It sat like that for several more hours.  The raw dough was light, airy, delicate and a challenge to handle because of its loose and sticky texture.  No kneading or rolling of the dough.  Just stretching and shaping into a kind of round.   I could barely pick it up without it stretching to a state of tracing paper thinness.  So, it worked best to stretch and press it out on a cutting board.
With only one pizza stone, I decided to slightly par bake the dough, except one of them to test out the difference.  I was afraid once the dough was loaded up with the fixin's, I would not be able to unstick them to the surface where I had prepared it, to slide onto the stone.

Spread some bechamel over the dough, followed by the caramelized onions, lardons, roughly grated parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
Bake on a hot pizza stone at 475f until bechamel and cheese are bubbling and browning on top.  

The second pie is an Emerton house favorite.  Prosciutto, caramelized onions, gruyere, and pecorino. 
To assemble, brush the dough with olive oil.  Lay a few pieces of prosciutto on top, followed by caramelized onions, grated guyere and grated pecorino.  And sure enough, an egg went on top on one side of the pie. 

The par baking of the dough was the right way to go.  With the home oven, and its limitations in heat as compared to the wood burning oven, the par baking helped the dough to get a better crisp on it.  About 3 minutes at 475f will do.  That dough was ethereal and cloud like.  Love at first bite.

I am alone in the love for beets in my house.  I made a little beet salad with grapefruit, spiced pecans, blue cheese, and a champagne vinaigrette dressing.  Why am I alone in this? 

The Flambe pie rocked our world.  A new favorite has taken its place in the house.  Stella said, once again, "a party in my mouth!"  Maggie added, "no, it's a DANCE party in my mouth!"  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yakitori Tuesday

As I promised myself after eating at Yakotori Toto, there would be a yakitori night.  Tonight's the night.  We were commenting on how much we like yakitori... way better than shish kebabs.  Why is that?  Because they are little bites of perfection.   Not mixing the meat and vegetables results in each being cooked and seasoned to perfection.  The meats are cut into smaller bite-sized pieces... a full coating of sauce and seasoning around each bite. 
Tonight, we had chicken thighs, pork country ribs, shiitake mushrooms, and eggplant.

I prepared two sauces to brush on the meats and vegetables.  
Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Sake
1/4 Cup Mirin
4 Tbsp Sugar
Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Set aside until ready to cook.

Miso Soy Ginger Sauce:
3 Tbsp Miso
3 Tbsp Mirin
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp finely minced Ginger
2 Tsp Vegetable Oil
Mix all together.  Set aside until ready to cook.

Soak bamboo skewers in water so they won't burn when grilling.  Cut chicken, pork, eggplant into bite sized pieces and skewer.  Heat the grill on high.  Place skewers on grill and immediately brush with the sauces.  I used the Teriyaki sauce on the chicken and shiitake mushroom and the Miso on the pork and eggplant.  Serve with white rice and for the kids, they loved a little teriyaki sauce on the side.  
A must have condiment was the ginger scallion sauce from Momofuku.  I have already expressed my love for it.  But can I just say again... keep a continual supply.  I was saying I could have white rice, ginger scallion sauce, saam sauce and salted duck egg.  Happy.  Really!
But if I must, a few yakitori items would be the jelly to my jelly roll.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Banh Mi

This was the best use of our rib leftovers from last night.  I picked up a soft, light French baguette from the store this morning.  Pickled vegetables are the key ingredient, I think.  There was no daikon radish, so I got some regular little red radishes and sliced them thinly and julienned some carrots as well.  To pickle, mix 1 cup hot water with 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 6 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp kosher salt.   Place the radishes and carrots in separate glass jars, pour the liquid over them and seal with the lids.  Ideally, they would be best left in the refrigerator for a few days before using, but  they were just fine after a half hour or so.  
For the spread, I mixed mayonnaise with a combination of sriracha hot sauce and my own version of saam sauce.  I warmed the pork up in a cast iron pan over medium heat.  To assemble, slice the baguette into portions and then slice open length wise without cutting all the way through.  Spread some of the mayo mixture on the top portion of the bread.  Lay several pieces of pork, then some pickled carrots and radish, a few thin slices of jalapeno if you like it spicy, and several sprigs of cilantro.  
I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches, but banh mi is a winner.  The pickled veggies are a must.  I think any left over bits of meat would work well.  Make sure you get a light and airy french bread.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Can't Get Enough of You Baby - Barbecue Ribs

I cannot express enough how much our family loves ribs.... or maybe I am doing just that by writing about them so often.  We are always looking for rib perfection.  It's Saturday, a beautiful sunny afternoon.  Time to take a little time and slow cook a rack of spare ribs.  My ribs of choice are usually baby back, but at the store today, a discussion ensued about the difference between the two.  My first response was that I thought spare ribs are more meaty and fatty.  Sold!
The charcoal Weber saw some action for the first time in a while.  A true sign spring is in the air.  During the spring and summer we keep both our gas and charcoal grills on the patio below.  But during the cold and raining months, we move the gas grill onto the deck for year round grilling.  
I coated the ribs with my spice rub made up of garlic salt, kosher salt, garlic powder, chili powder, brown sugar and ground black pepper.  I soaked some hickory wood chips in water.  Prepare the charcoal and place the briquettes on one side of the grill for indirect heat.  
In an aluminum pan, I put a can of cherry coke, half a bottle of beer, sliced onions, oranges and chunks of lemon I had left over.  Place the pan on the bottom of the grill and set the ribs on the rack above it, but away from the direct heat of the coals.  Maintain a heat of 275f in the grill for at least 2 hours.  You will need to adjust the top and bottom vents to achieve this.  Depending on how warm it is outside, the wind, etc., it might be closed vents on the bottom and half open on top or all open, or half open each end, etc.  To achieve the smoky flavor, toss the wood chips on top of the charcoal early on.  Once a hard crust forms on the ribs, the smoky flavor will not permeate as much.  
Another point up for discussion was length of cooking.  I like my ribs with a little snap to them.  Fall off the bone if quite fabulous too.  But my favorite is, of course, juicy and tender, with some body to it.  We smoked them for about 2 hours, but honestly, could have stayed on for another hour.
Next, what kind of sauce?  Regular bbq or red wine vinegar, butter and red pepper flakes?  We have got to get our girls used to eating spicy foods.  But for now, red pepper flakes are not an option.  

1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/8 Cup Honey
1/8 Cup Molasses
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Saute the onion and garlic in a little bit of oil until soft and golden.  In a blender, puree the onions and garlic with the rest of the ingredients.  Return to the sauce pan and bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.  We started brushing the sauce on about half an hour before taking the ribs off the grill. 
They were smoky, meaty and sweet.  There was talk of banh mi (sandwiches) made with the leftovers.  Bonus!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Steak Friday with Truffled Potatoes

Happy day, it's Friday!  Friday, another week gone by.  Friday, the kids will be home, no work ahead, run around crazily all weekend, or do nothing at all.  I love Fridays.  A chance to recover from the week, enjoy the weekend, and celebrate the week ahead.. another opportunity to get it all right.  
Fridays pose a different challenge on the dinner front.  Depending how the week or day went, it's pull out all the stops and go big, or give yourself a break, I've exhausted my ingenuity for the week.  I was struggling today.  What to do with steak, asparagus and potatoes that's new and appealing.  Really?!  
Let's start with the easiest.  Put all the pressure on the grill guy.. Chris.  Drizzle asparagus with olive oil.  Grill.  Take two good beef tenderloins, salt and pepper, grill to perfection.  
Sauce.  Sauce fixes everything, even when it doesn't need fixing.  I sauteed minced shallots and sliced mushrooms in a little butter.  To that I added mustard powder, thyme and ground black pepper.  Deglaze with red wine and reduce.  Add beef stock and puree in a blender.  Return to pan and boil to reduce.  At this point, we had a serious debate over the addition of cream.  It went on for several minutes... guess who won.  Cream of course.  
Part of my aversion to cream was that I had planned on using mascarpone in the whipped potatoes.  I used a combination of yukon gold and sweet potatoes.  Cut into 2" pieces and boil in chicken stock until break apart soft.  The potatoes should be somewhat dry, but there should be a little bit of liquid left.  Add in mascarpone cheese and a little drizzle of white truffle oil and whip with a hand held mixer.  
The reason I chose sweet and yukon gold potatoes was because they looked so lovely in the store.  They were knee buckling good and took center stage over the tenderloin.  Sweet, potato-y, creamy bites of bliss.
Friday, sweet Friday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


We were first introduced to Raclette years ago by our friends who had spent several years living in Switzerland.  First time out, we were hooked.  Any meal that gathers you around a table and makes you linger to enjoy each other's company, or share the occurrences of your day, becomes a favorite in our house.  Over the years, I admit we've strayed from the traditional meal.
Raclette is a type of cheese and also a meal most commonly featuring cheese.  While we LOVE cheese, our raclette meal is centered more around the meats and vegetables grilled on top of the raclette grill.  When the kids were younger, I was so afraid they would burn themselves.  But they loved it... their first introduction to "cooking".  There is always a cheer when raclette is announced at our house.

The meats we cook vary, but we always have chicken marinated in a teriyaki sauce.  Not Swiss, I know, but it's a kid favorite.  And then it's usually whatever I have on hand left over in the refrigerator or freezer.  A great way to use up a little this, a little that.  Same thing goes for veggies, but mushrooms and sweet onions are usually in attendance.  As for the cheese, any smooth melting cheese works, though, of course, raclette cheese is most logical.  To switch it up even more, I decided to use some Naan, instead of potatoes.  
From a food standpoint, I love raclette because of the variety it affords you.  Eat what you want and cook it how you like it. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunshine on My Mind Fish Tacos and Citrus and Mango Salad

It's difficult to keep embracing the promise of "April showers bring May flowers" when the rain is spitting in your face as you try to go about your run-around day.  And in these days of increasing concerns about future water shortages I am thankful for our rain as much as I do wish for sunshine.  When it's grey outside, my inclination turns to comfort food.  A hearty stew, a roasted chicken, a braised osso bucco.  But when it's April, these foods don't seem so comforting, they seem... weighty.  
Fish tacos make me think of Sayulita and cervezas.

I had True Cod on hand having made an initial slight lean towards fish and chips.  I made a salad dressing and the marinade for the fish at the same time, using similar ingredients. For the dressing, I combined olive oil, fresh squeezed orange juice, champagne vinegar, honey and freshly ground pepper.  For the marinade, I combined olive oil, fresh squeezed orange juice, lime juice, honey, chopped cilantro, chopped garlic, freshly ground pepper and chili powder.
Cut fish into 3-4" strips and place in marinade 15-20 minutes before cooking.  With the cod being a light, flaky fish, I was afraid of grilling it on the outdoor grill.  So, I brought up my cast iron grill that lays on top of the stove burners.  I heated the grill to smoking hot and seared the fish on each side for 1-2 minutes.

Our favorite sauce for this is just a chili crema made of sour cream and Tapatio hot sauce.
I prefer flour tortillas to corn.  Heat the tortillas in a pan or griddle.  Place the fish along with some shredded cabbage, cilantro sprigs, chopped scallions, diced bell peppers and the chili crema.

For the salad, I used a spring mix, to which I added mangos, slices of Cara Cara orange, pieces of grapefruit and some toasted pistachios.  Toss with dressing.

As I was thinking of how to prepare this meal, the sun made an appearance.  The fish was delicate, the flavors bright and clean.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Salted Duck Eggs

So I had purchased a dozen duck eggs last week for a noodle dish.. what to do with the rest?  I poached two of them on Sunday night and served them over grilled rib eye steak.  They were rich and buttery, now with eight left, I decided to make salted duck eggs.  The procedure is simple.  Dissolve enough salt to fully saturate the water.  I used 6 cups water with 2 cups salt.  Place eggs in a large glass jar with a lid.. I'm using a plastic container, hopefully, that will work too.  Cover with salt water and leave in a cool place for about 2 weeks.   To fully submerge the eggs, I used a small plastic container with a lid and filled it with water and placed it on top of the eggs.  After 2 weeks, I'll pull one out, hard boil it, and test it for readiness.  

Well, what does one do with salted eggs?  They will be pretty salty.  If the eggs are good quality and I've brined them correctly, the yolks will be rich, not dry.  My mom always said the best ones were where the yolk is a little oily.  It's not something you eat by itself.  It's a great side item if you are having just simple white rice, fried rice or sticky rice because it is so salty.  Growing up, we often ate them with congee (or rice porridge).  Congee is another one of my favorite breakfast items.  You can make it with just plain rice, or add sliced beef, or other ingredients.  When my eggs are ready, I will make some congee to enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Need a Fresh Idea Veal, Mushroom and Saffron Risotto

One of my biggest challenges of cooking every night is coming up with new ideas for what to make.  My levels of inspiration and ingenuity cycle as an ebb and flow.  But as I've said before, I can count on Chris for the constant supply of ideas.  I may not always go for them, but they do spur the decision making process.  I texted him late this afternoon, "need dinner idea", to which he responded "risotto".  
We happened to be in the vicinity of Bert's Red Apple, a gem of a neighborhood grocery store where you would not expect to find fine cuts of meat and seafood.  Trying to come up with a risotto I have not made, I thought of veal and guessed Bert's would have it.  Sure enough.. I purchased two veal chops and about 1/3 lb crimini mushrooms.
Risotto is one of those wonderful dishes that you can cook the same way, but transform by switching up the other ingredients, just like fried rice.

I deboned the veal chops and seared the bones in a little butter, then covered with water to make a little stock.  To it I added chicken stock to make enough to cook the risotto.  I cut the veal into small 3/4" nuggets and sliced the mushrooms.  I had some thinly sliced pancetta in my refrigerator, so I chopped that up too.  
I started with frying the pancetta until the fat was rendered.  I removed the pancetta and set it aside.  
To the fat, I added the veal and fried until browned, and removed and set aside.  Depending on the fattiness of the pancetta, you may need to add a little bit of oil to sear the veal.
 I added a little more oil to the same pan and sauteed 2 minced shallots and 1 minced garlic clove until softened.  Toss in the mushrooms.  Once the mushrooms have softened a bit, add in the risotto and a pinch of saffron (maybe 1/4 tsp), then stir to toast the rice until you almost hear a whistling sound coming from the pan.  Add 3/4 cup white wine and boil until the wine is almost fully evaporated. Then start the broth addition. I put enough broth to cover the rice, wait until almost dry, and then add more and stir. Do this until the rice is to the consistency you like it. 
I gave up trying to measure the exact amount of broth to rice. I just try to eyeball it.  It always seems to work out.
Before the risotto is fully cooked, add in the pancetta and veal.  Finish by stirring in a dollop of mascarpone cheese and freshly grated parmesan.  The risotto turns out a lovely brown color because of the frying of the pancetta and veal to start.

Wow, it was good... one of the best risottos we've ever had.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Going Goo Goo for Pacino - A Guest Blog

Every dog has its day, so the saying goes.  Every day is a Pacino day in our house.  Today, Stella made homemade biscuits for Pacino.  She has a whole collection of dog treat recipes, and this one was called Meat and Garlic Biscuits.  She used the left over ground pork from last night's Dan Dan Mein and some duck scraps along with whole wheat flour, soy flour, garlic powder, chicken stock and eggs.  Sounds pretty good to me.  As a cook, and knowing what ingredients went into this, I was trying to convince Stella to try a bite to see how it turned out.  If Pacino could talk, I'm sure he'd say they are delicious.  Just the smell that filled the air while they were baking kept him pacing back and forth around the kitchen.  
Bon Appetit Pacino!

Saturday Night Dinner Party - Making Chinese

That first bit of consciousness on a Saturday morning is usually met with a sense of joy knowing I can turn it off and sleep for a little longer or linger in that bit of euphoria of not having to get out of bed.  This morning, I woke, tried not to open my eyes but all I could think was "must start prepping".  I immediately started to take inventory of what needed to be done for each dish.  At this point, I might as well get up and get started.  
It's 10:30 am and I've pretty much done everything I can do for now.  Everything's washed, trimmed, sliced, chopped, and cleaned.  For easier clean up, all the ingredients have been separately bagged or wrapped in cellophane with a tinge of guilt for using so much plastic.  Sauces have been mixed and placed in separate containers.  Serving dishes have been selected for each course.  There is still much to be done, but cannot be until later today.  Time to take a little break and type out the blog. 

Dan Dan Mein
I loosely followed this recipe which I found online a year or so ago.  Instead of splitting up the two sets of ingredients, I mix everything together into one sauce except for the green onions.  I also like to add a little white vinegar and water to dilute the sauce a bit.  It is otherwise a very strong and thick sauce.  I also wok fried some ground pork with a little bit of the sauce.  To serve, place cooked noodles in a bowl, top with a little bit of the sauce, a bit of ground pork, a few sliced green onions, some julienned cucumber and chopped cilantro.

Roast Duck Buns
A trip down to my favorite roast duck joint, King's Barbecue, made this course a breeze.  I got a whole roasted duck which I deboned and sliced into thick pieces.  Before serving, I heated the sliced duck in a pan for a couple of minutes.  Steam the buns, put a little hoisin sauce in each bun, a slice of duck, sliced cucumber and julienned scallions.  

Honey Walnut Shrimp - minus the walnut
Make life easier on yourself and use peeled and deveined shrimp.  These usually come with the tail shell still on.  You will have to remove that part of the shell.  With a sharp knife, slit the back of the shrimp a little further, but be careful not to completely split the shrimp in half.  Making this slit will cause the shrimp to curl and open up when cooked, creating a ball shape which makes for a prettier presentation.  
Beat two egg whites and add in enough corn starch to make a batter.  Toss in the shrimp to coat.  Heat peanut or vegetable oil to 360f and fry the shrimp for 2 or 3 minutes until golden.  Remove from oil and let sit for a minute. Then toss with the honey sauce.
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Condensed Milk
1 Tbsp Honey
2 tsp Lemon Juice
Small pinch of salt
If you like it a little sweeter, add a little more honey.  

Pan Seared Sea Bass, Shiitake Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce Broth
Sea Bass might be my favorite fish.  I love the texture, the richness, and it always seems to cook well for me.  I purchased one larger fillet and sliced it into 3/4" to 1" pieces.  Sprinkle salt and ground white pepper on both sides of the sea bass.  In a large flat saute pan over high heat, place enough vegetable oil to coat bottom of pan.  When the oil begins to smoke, place the fish into the pan and do not crowd or else it won't brown properly.  Turn heat down to medium high and let sear for about a minute.  Then put 4 tablespoons of butter into the pan.  Once it's melted, tilt the pan and continuously ladle the butter over the top of the fish for another 2 minutes or so.  Press the fish with your finger to check for doneness.  It will continue to cook for a little bit after you remove it from the pan.  Drain the fish on paper towels with the top side down and the seared side up.

For the broth, I used the bacon dashi I had made earlier in the week.  I saved it in a jar and froze and defrosted it.  With about a cup or so of dashi, I added 2 tsp of oyster sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, and a few turns of the black pepper mill.  Heat to a boil and it's ready to use.

Slice 8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms into 1/4" thick pieces.  Saute in vegetable oil and salt.  
Set aside until ready to use.

Take the green parts of a scallion and julienne into very thin pieces.  Soak in cold water.  This kind of takes the strong edge off the green onions and makes them curl up for a nice presentation.  Drain on paper towels. 

Now that I've typed all this out, I realize it is in reverse order.  Cook the sea bass last and prep everything else first.  It requires quick assembly, so make sure you have everything ready to go once your fish is cooked.

Three Cup Chicken
1 1/2 to 2 lbs chicken thighs
5 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
3-4 pieces of ginger in 1/4" thickness
3 scallions cut in half cross wise
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup cooking wine
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Thickening agent of corn starch and water
20 or so Thai basil leaves
This is a household favorite.  It is called Three Cup Chicken because traditionally it is equal parts soy, wine and sugar.  I do not like it as sweet, so I cut the sugar down and add water so I can have extra sauce that is not too salty to have with rice.  My kids will pour it on top like hot fudge on ice cream.  
I usually make this with cut pieces of chicken drumsticks.  But for this dinner, I used boneless chicken thighs for easier eating.  Cut the chicken into 2" pieces.  Blanche in boiling water to remove impurities, blood, etc.  Drain and rinse the chicken.  Heat the sesame oil in a large sauce pan over medium high.  Add in garlic, ginger, scallions and let fry until fragrant.  Then add the chicken, soy, wine, water and sugar.  Bring to a rapid boil, cover and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes.  At this point, you can remove the pan from the heat and set aside until ready to serve, which is what I did.  When ready to serve, bring back to a boil for another 5 minutes.  Add enough thickening agent to make a nice thick sauce that coats the chicken.  Add the basil, stir in until it is just wilted.  Serve with white short grain rice.

Wok Fried Pea Shoots and Pan Fried Shiitake Mushroom
I've written several times about my love for pea shoots.  When you trim them, make sure you use only the tender parts.  I've purchased ones where you can use the whole stalk, and then times where I wind up tossing out two thirds of it.  You can tell by pinching off the leaves.  If it's difficult to pinch the stem off, it's too tough to eat.  Saute in plenty of oil.  I heat the oil over medium high heat, sprinkle salt into the oil before tossing in the pea shoots.  Toss and cook only until the shoots are wilted.  Do not over cook.

Ginger and Scallion Oyster Sauce Beef
1 lb Beef Flap Meat or Flank Steak
6 Scallions, sliced diagonally
1 Tbsp Ginger, julienned
1 1/2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Cooking Wine
Thickening agent of corn starch and water

Slice the beef across the grain.  At Uwajimaya, where I purchased the beef, they sell a cut they called flap meat.  I have not seen it in other markets, but I love it for this type of use.  If you don't find it, flank steak is a good substitute.  They look very similar, but I find flap meat a little more tender for wok frying.  
Heat your wok to smoking hot.  Add about 1 Tbsp of veg oil and toss in the beef.  Fry until almost fully cooked.  Add in the oyster sauce, soy and cooking wine and toss to combine.  Then add in scallions and ginger and fry until scallions are wilted.  Use the corn starch and water mixture to thicken the sauce.  This is a wonderful way to intensify your flavors by thickening the sauce and adhering it to whatever you are cooking.  

The best part of the meal?  The friends of course.  The food is just a fringe benefit.  

Oh, and I have to say thank you, to my friends, for indulging me in my blog and helping me remember to photograph everything.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crack Pie

My kids have been asking for Crack Pie ever since they took their first bites last week in New York.  Our last night there, we walked into Momofuku's newest establishment, Ma Peche, which also has a Milk Bar at the same location, just one block from our hotel.  It was their first day of operation, but by the time we had gotten there, they were already closed.  We took a look around, but they were no longer serving.  Darn, no crack pie.  Every day since we've been back, they've asked me, are you going to make crack pie?  Well, today's the day.
I found a recipe on the LA Times website and followed it to the the letter, except, I used two tart pans instead of pie pans.  I don't bake much as I am generally not a diligent measurer.  In fact, I rarely measure.  But much of baking is a science, so I'm guessing measuring is important unless you are a savant at it?  I also prefer savory to sweet, but crack pie is crack pie for a reason.
The ingredients are simple.  But if you are watching your waistline, this is not the pie for you.  Sugar, sugar, butter, cream, eggs, some more butter and sugar and butter and sugar.  It was sweet, super rich, and had a look over your shoulder decadence.  
It was so very good, but not as good as the original, I must say.  Tastes were accurate, but mine was a bit too wet.  Perhaps I had to bake it longer?  It was pretty gooey, but very devourable.  The original had a little more body to it.  You could pick it up and eat it like a soft cookie.  Mine, you can not.  Oh well, will just have to keep researching and making crack pies.  It's a labor I am happy to undertake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wok Fried Noodles with Mushroom, Green Onions and Duck Egg

This is a dish a friend asked me to try to replicate.  My intention was to go to the restaurant and try it first as I have no idea what it is supposed to taste like.  Looks like I couldn't wait that long and needing an idea for dinner tonight, decided to go ahead and make some noodles with the main ingredients described to me: round rice noodles, mushrooms, green onions and duck egg.
10 oz Dried Rice Noodles
1 pkg, 3.5 oz Maitake Mushrooms, bottom of stems removed and mushrooms separated
3 Scallions, thinly sliced
2 Duck Eggs, beaten
A handful of Spinach Leaves
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Tbsp Lard
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tsp Sweet Soy Sauce
2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tsp hoisin Sauce
1/4 Cup Water
Boil the noodles in a large pot of water for about 6-7 minutes, stirring periodically.  These were pretty thick round noodles, like a thick spaghetti.  Since the noodles were all linked together and in quite a large rectangle, I broke them in half to fit them into the pot.  This package contained 21 oz, I used half of it.  Drain, run cold water over them and drizzle some vegetable oil and give them a stir so they don't stick together.
Combine the oyster, sweet soy, dark soy and hoisin sauce with the water and mix well.  I added a portion at a time and tested for seasoning since I had not made this before.
First scramble the eggs in a little oil over medium heat.  Remove and set aside.  I got my duck eggs from University Seafood and Poultry.  The shells of the eggs were very thin and porcelain like.  The yoke is huge compared to the white.  
Reheat your wok over high heat, add in the vegetable oil until smoking hot.  Toss in the scallions, mushrooms, spinach and garlic and fry for a minute.  Turn the heat down to medium high and toss in the lard, noodles, duck eggs and the sauces and water.  I'm using lard as it was an ingredient suggestion on the back of the noodle package.  I figured that's probably what makes the noodles taste so good! It gave a nice sheen to the noodles.  Stir fry a few minutes more until the noodles are fully cooked.  
As a side note on fire temperatures, I should say I am using a dedicated wok burner that fires higher btu's than your normal burner.  So, for this type of cooking, you probably need your flame on high the whole time, unless you have a wok burner.
We liked the texture of the noodles.  Firm and a little chewy.  I have no idea if the flavor was correct, but we liked it.  As a post note, I would not add in the egg until the very end as the stirring with the noodles broke them up and caused them to coat the noodles a bit.

On Choy, or Kong Hsing Tsai, meaning empty center vegetable in Mandarin, is another favorite green in our house.  We ate this all through Taiwan last December and it looks like it's finally back in season here.  I've seen it called swamp cabbage in Asian markets or On Choy in Cantonese.  The vegetable is long and slender with small narrow leaves.  I failed to photograph it before I cut it up.  Wok fry with a good helping of vegetable oil, a couple cloves of garlic and some salt.  My dad used to eat it dipped in white vinegar and that's how I like to eat it as well.   Another fabulously clean and crispy veggie.  Gotta love those leafy greens!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chili Beef with Sesame Pancake

This chili beef is my altered version of a dish from one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in town, Chiang's Gourmet.  They serve it with thin wraps, like those used for mu shu pork.  My mom suggested using a sesame pancake, or shao bing, instead.  You can purchase frozen, pre-cooked, shao bing in an Asian market.  Then just toast in the oven or in a toaster.  We like the chili beef super spicy and I like to add some celery and scallions.
3/4 lb Flank Steak finely shredded
3 Jalapeno peppers, julienned
4 bird's eye, julienned (I did not have bird's eye today, so used red peppers)
4 Stalks of celery, julienned
3 green onions, julienned
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp ginger, julienned
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp sugar

Marinate the flank steak in 2 tsp dark soy and 1 tsp corn starch for 15 minutes.  In a hot wok, fry the flank steak quickly in 1 Tbsp oil.  Remove from wok and set aside.  Rinse the wok out and reheat over high heat.  Fry the peppers, celery, scallions, garlic and ginger in 1-2 Tbsp oil until fragrant, and celery has softened a bit.  Strain any liquid that has come out of the flank steak, then toss flank steak into the wok along with the oyster sauce, soy, wine and sugar.  Flip a few times to combine, let sear a bit and then toss once more.
The crispy sesame pancake is the perfect vehicle for the chili beef. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Roasted Beef Marrow with Oxtail Marmalade AND Roasted Scallops & Sea Bass, Kohlrabi Puree & Iwa Nori

One of the most decadent dishes I've had is bone marrow spread on toast with oxtail marmalade.  I'd thought about making it several times in the past, but just never found my way to it.  With the making of the Pho broth the other day, I already had the oxtail cooked.  So, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to put this together.  I already had the marrow bones in my fridge.  I had actually picked up a package at the store as a treat for Pacino.  I'm thinking I should feel strange about eating something I had initially intended for my dog.  Hmmm.  
For the marrow bones, soak in salted water for at least 24 hours, changing the water once.  This will draw out the blood from the marrow.
Sprinkle with kosher salt and roast at 450f for 20 minutes.  You want the marrow to come away from the bone a bit, soft in texture, but not melt away.

For the oxtail marmalade:
1 1/2 lb braised oxtail, meat removed from the bones and shredded, about 1 1/4 cup
1 lg shallot minced
1 sm carrot finely diced
pinch of thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup red wine
1/8 cup port
1/4 cup veal stock
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute shallot in 1 Tbsp butter until softened.  Add in carrot and saute for another 5 minutes or so over medium low heat.  Pour in red wine and port and add the thyme and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and cover and simmer for approx 7 minutes.  Add veal stock, brown sugar and red wine vinegar and bring back to boil.  Toss in oxtail, cover and simmer for 15 minutes more.  Remove the bay leaf.  Melt the tablespoon of butter and add in the flour to make a paste.  Add to the marmalade a little at a time to thicken.  You may not need all of it.
Normally, if you don't happen to have cooked oxtail hanging around, I would braise them in red wine and beef stock for a few hours.  This is probably what's kept me from making this in the past as it's really a condiment and a lot to go through unless I was going to make a large batch.
I served this with toasted slices of Grand Central's Rustic Baguette.  Spread a little marrow, top with a little oxtail marmalade.  Super rich and hardy.  Two slices was my limit.  

On the slightly lighter side of things, I decided to try yet another Momofuku recipe.  It must be obvious by now that I am hooked.  Sorry, at this point, you will have to just go out and buy the cookbook as I will continue to navigate my way through it until I've tried everything.  His recipe calls for diver scallops, but my kids are not fans of scallops, so I bought some sea bass as well.  
The star factor in this dish are the brilliant components.
Bacon dashi - smoky, salty, with a scent of the sea
Kohlrabi puree - Sweet, mild, kind of turnipy
Pickled fennel - his recipe called for chanterelles, but also said to substitute fennel if needed.  
Iwa or unpressed nori - something crispy is always nice
Thinly sliced scallion
In lieu of the chanterelles, I decided to just saute some Eryngii (king oyster) mushrooms in a little olive oil and salt.
Delicate and ingenius blending of flavors.  My only change?  Go with all sea bass.  It out shined the scallops.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pho - Part of a Saturday Re-entry

As part of my Saturday re-entry from vacation mode, I decided to do a little food exploration.
Vietnamese Pho has become a standard in our weekend lunch outings.  I've never made pho before, but being bound to our house yesterday, it felt like a good day to give it a try.  
I went to the trusty internet to search for recipes.  After reading several, I decided to combine the shared knowledge into one recipe below.

For the broth:
6 lbs beef leg or marrow bones
1 1/2 lbs oxtail
1 lb beef shank meat, or other inexpensive meat in one whole piece
2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
2 - 2" pieces ginger, peeled and smashed
4 star anise
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 Tbsp Kosher salt - more if needed
3 Tbsp sugar
7 quarts water
You will need a large stewing or soup pot.

Blanche bones, oxtail and shank in a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes.  Drain everything and discard the water.  While bones, etc. are blanching, place onions and ginger in a shallow baking pan, drizzle with a little oil, and broil in the oven for about 8-10 minutes flipping everything once until charred.  Add in the star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and coriander and broil for 1 minute more.  
Return bones, etc. to pot, add in the broiled onions, etc. and cover with 7 quarts of water.  Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.  Add in fish sauce, salt and sugar and turn heat down to a simmer.  Simmer broth covered for 3 hours.  
For easier handling, let broth cool a bit and then remove all the bones, oxtail, meat.  You can either discard everything or use the large piece of beef, slice it and add it to your noodle bowl.  I deboned my oxtail and am going to make an oxtail marmalade.  Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve.  Return the broth to the pot and with heat on high, bring back to a boil.  I reduced the broth slightly in order to concentrate the flavors.  Set heat to achieve a rolling boil, with the pot uncovered, for about 20 minutes.  Then remove from heat and let cool completely.  Store in the refrigerator overnight.  Or, if you are making this for the same day, no need to chill, just keep it at a light simmer until you are ready to serve.  I like the make a day ahead method as it allows you to easily remove the fat that solidifies on top and I think chilling and reheating intensifies the flavors.  

For the noodles you will need:
Very thinly sliced beef (we used beef short rib) but you can buy any type of thinly sliced beef at your local Asian market
Dried rice sticks / noodles - choose the width of noodle you like
Thinly sliced green onions
Chopped cilantro
Thai basil
Bean Sprouts
Lime wedges
Sriracha hot sauce - optional
Hoison sauce - optional

For the noodles, soak in cold water for 30 minutes, then in individual portions, place into a sieve and dip in boiling water for 15-20 seconds stirring the noodles so they don't stick together.  Place in bowl and ladle broth over top.  Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro.  If you choose a lean, thinly sliced meat, place the raw meet on top of the noodles before you ladle the broth on top.  With the boiling broth, it will instantly cook the beef.  For our short ribs, I dipped them for a few seconds into the same boiling water as the noodles before placing them into the bowl.
Serve with a dish of basil, bean sprouts and lime wedges and some slices of jalapeno if you like.  I like to add sriracha hot sauce.
Chris said "I think I may have a new favorite pho place."  I have to say, it was so very good!