Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled Honey and Mustard Chicken

Arriving back home after a weekend away, I always crave Chinese food.  But it's Memorial Day and the sun has come out, so the urge to grill overtook Chinese tonight.  To the freezer I went for options.  Another rack of baby back ribs or chicken?  And as I am typing this, I just realized it's Monday.  I made it one week on my meatless Monday journey, and I've already forgotten it's Monday.  Because of the long weekend, I thought it was Sunday.  Hmmm, what to do?  Maybe it will have to be a meatless Tuesday.

I marinated my chicken thighs and drumsticks in the following:
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp each of sweet hot mustard and dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp soy sauce

Grill the chicken over medium heat, brushing with the marinade from time to time.  Simple, quick and easy.  Although not a hit it out of the park chicken, it was just fine.  Nothing fancy, nothing too memorable, but nothing to complain about either. 

Loving Others' Cooking - Lemon and Thyme Veal Chop, Copper River King Salmon

This past weekend, we enjoyed some fabulous food made by friends of ours.  The first was a lovely and generous pan seared and roasted veal chop that had been marinated in olive oil, thyme and lemon juice.  Perfectly cooked, thick, juicy, lemony and tender.   Excellent!  

The second was Alder-Planked Copper River King Salmon with a honey soy marinade.  The recipe was from Cooking Light, a magazine which I should probably investigate further.  As you can tell from my postings, it probably wouldn't hurt to go in that direction a little.  The salmon was beautiful and sweet with a wonderful smokey flavor.  It reminded us of a Bourbon Glazed salmon from the Seattle Junior League cookbook, an Emerton house favorite.  

Thank you friends, for the wonderful food, the lovely setting, the fabulous wine, and the friendship and good company.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Childhood Favorite, Mandarin Fried Chicken

I went searching in my previous posts and was surprised that I had not blogged on my childhood favorite, mandarin fried chicken.  Back when I was a toothpick, I ate various fried items from my parents' restaurant with reckless abandon.  I was quite adept at manning the deep fryer, and this was one of the dishes I was most eager to learn how to make.  

Deep frying at home is a challenge.  Maintaining consistent heat of the oil produces the best outcome.  Unless you have a commercial fryer in your home, the only way to achieve frying perfection, is to work in small batches.  I am usually too impatient for this, and many times it is not practical when trying to serve your meal to more than one person at a time.  

For my mandarin fried chicken, I par fry the chicken in smaller batches.  I then finish by reheating the oil to temp and frying all the chicken until crisp.  This is still not the optimal method since the copious amount of mandarin chicken we go through pushes my pot of oil to over capacity.  But it's the best method I've come up with so far.  There was just no room for an in counter, commercial fryer in our kitchen.

Now, let's talk about the batter.   Lately, I've been using Hime Tempura Powder, a recommendation from my mom.  I usually do just an ice cold water, flour mixture of my own.  But my mom said Hime is what she's been using.  Good enough for me!  She also says to stir the batter in only one direction, so I use that method as well.  

Cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Put them in your batter, mix and par fry in small batches.  I fry with the oil at 350f in a large iron pot.  I also have a basket fryer, but because of the batter, I use the pot.  When you drop the chicken pieces in the oil, they will tend to stick to each other.  You have to stir and toss them to break them apart before they become one large grouping of chicken.  Fry to light golden yellow.  When you are done with the batches, make sure the oil is back to 350f and fry the chicken until golden and crispy.  Drain on paper towels before tossing into the sauce.

In my wok over medium high heat, I fried chopped garlic, a little minced ginger, sugar, soy, rice wine vinegar, a bit of sesame oil, a little water and some ground white pepper.  Bring to a boil and thicken a little with a mixture of corn starch and water.  Add the chicken and some sliced scallions and toss just a couple of times to coat with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

I don't know if it's as good as my childhood, but we all pop them in our mouths like chicken bonbons.

It's been almost three years since I first wrote this post, and thought I should include a more detailed listing of the recipe, lest my kids curse me in future years.
Ice cold water and all purpose flour works just fine.  Make a batter that has the consistency of melted ice cream, or just a bit thicker.  
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of finely minced ginger
combine these:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
ground white pepper to taste

To be added at the end:
2 scallions finely sliced
thickening agent of corn starch and water, made to the consistency of heavy cream

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant.  Add the combined ingredients and let simmer for a minute or two.  
Use the corn starch and water mixture to thicken the sauce slightly.  Add a little at a time to gauge how thick the sauce becomes.  The sauce should also be the consistency of melted ice cream.
Toss in the chicken and then the scallions.  Toss the chicken in the sauce quickly and serve immediately.

Still one of my all time favorites!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chicken with Saffron Mushroom Cream Sauce, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Favorite Orzo

It's been a sheet of rain all morning and this kind of day makes me want to hunker down and cook.  Always on a hunt for new chicken ideas, I debated this morning between marinating and grilling or pan/oven cooking and saucing.  I threw out the two options to Chris and guess which way it went... I had him at cream sauce.   I've set course for a 'cozy' meal.

I was discussing with a friend yesterday how much better tasting organic free range chicken is than regular mass produced chicken.  It's more tender, juicy, and well, more chicken like.  When I look at regular whole chickens in the store, I'm afraid to think how they got so large.  They are sometimes bordering on small turkeys.  Bigger is not always better.  I admit, I am not a die hard, never stray from organic, chicken buyer.  But I do go organic whenever possible.

Chicken with Saffron and Mushroom Cream Sauce
1 Whole Organic Chicken
1/4 lb Crimini Mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

Take your whole chicken and debone it.  You have a few options here.  Have your butcher do it, buy boneless chicken, or use bone-in chicken.   Because of the pan size I was using, I cut the chicken in half.  With the bones combined with 1 celery rib, 1 carrot and half a yellow onion, I made a little stock.  Or use carton/canned stock.

I soaked the chicken in a cold water and salt bath for about 20 minutes - about 1tbsp kosher salt in 2 cups of cold water.  Then remove and pat dry.

Sear the chicken over medium high heat in 1 tsp oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan, skin side down first.  The skin will release its fat, so you won't need that much oil.  Once browned, turn the chicken over to sear the other side.  Transfer to a baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven at 400f for about 15-20 minutes.  If you are using bone-in chicken, it will take a little longer, maybe 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, discard excess oil from the pan, but for about 2 tsp.  Saute the mushrooms over medium high until softened.  Deglaze with the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add in the saffron and then the cream and bring to a low boil until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed, sliced in half
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil and kosher salt.  Roast in a 400f oven for 25-30 minutes, turning and stirring them a few times to make sure they roast evenly.  Remove from oven and salt a little more if needed.  
I love brussel sprouts, Chris has warmed to them, I'm still working on the kids... 

Maggie's Favorite Orzo
I started making this orzo years ago from the Junior League's Simply Classic cookbook.  Since then, it has morphed into many versions.  Suffice it to say, it is a simple classic.  As such, it lends itself well to varying versions depending on what kind of cheese or onion family item you have.  And it is very forgiving on what proportions you use, allowing for no exact measurement needed.  This was tonight's version.
2 Cups dried Orzo
2 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
4 tbsp butter
1 Shallot, minced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Cup grated Gruyere & White Cheddar cheese (I've used parmesan, a mixture of both, asiago, romano, etc., but this is what I had grated in the fridge.)  Gruyere is the favorite.

Melt butter in a medium pan, add in the shallots and saute for a couple of minutes, then add in garlic and saute until softened.  Mix in the orzo and then add the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.  Turn the stove back on to low just to heat the orzo a bit and stir in the cheese until melted.  The original recipe calls for chopped chives.  It makes a beautiful presentation, but I usually don't have any in the kitchen, so I leave that off.  For the garnish on this, I thinly sliced the green part of a scallion.  

As it turned out, it was just the girls and I for dinner.  We felt bad for Chris.  Leftovers anyone?  Guess what the girls will have for lunch tomorrow!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wok Fried Wheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach and Egg and Szechuan String Beans

I woke up this morning thinking about Meatless Monday.  As you may have noticed, we consume a lot of meat in our house.  It seems the moment we decide to deprive ourselves of something, it's easy to become obsessed with it.  Why am I going meatless on Monday?  It's not for dietary purposes, or health reasons, though it seems it should be.  It is more for lessening our dependency on meat and improving the health of our planet.  True, it is not much to give up.. meat, one day a week.  Baby steps.  What can I say, I love meat.  So, I am going to forget about the fact I am trying to commit to meatless Monday and not say anything to Chris and see if he notices there is no meat in tonight's meal.  
For the Wok Fried Noodles
12 oz Dried Noodles, I used Inaka Udon which was what I had in my cupboard
1 1/2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cups spinach
1 cup bean sprouts
3-4 scallions, sliced diagonally
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
2-3 eggs, beaten
Make a sauce containing:
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used Lee Kum Kee Bouillon with water)
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil
a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
Boil the noodles for 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Then drizzle a little vegetable oil and toss to combine.  I cooked the noodles ahead of time and this method keeps the noodles from sticking together.  
In a separate pan, cook your eggs like scrambled eggs.  Set aside.
Heat your wok over high heat and add in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Fry the garlic, ginger and scallions until fragrant.  Add in the mushrooms and spinach and fry for another minute.  Then add in the sauce and bring to a boil.  Toss in the noodles, eggs and bean sprouts and fry for a few more minutes, tossing only a couple of times to incorporate everything.

This Szechuan Green Beans recipe is slightly different from my previous post. I left out the dried shrimp and added another Tbsp of preserved vegetable, increased the garlic and added red pepper flakes.

1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp minced preserved vegetable (available at Asian markets)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/8 cup water
2 green onions, chopped
Blanche the green beans in boiling water for 3-4 minutes depending on thickness of your beans.  You don't want them too soft.  Strain and run under cold water.  Combine the soy, sugar, vinegar, corn starch, water and sesame oil to make a sauce.  Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in your wok, and fry the preserved veg, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant.  Add in the beans and the sauce and fry until well combined.  Serve with green onions sprinkled on top.

I have to say, we did not miss the meat at all.  Substituted by bold flavors and a fair amount of starch, we were all fully satisfied.  I said to Chris, well, we have enough noodles for lunches tomorrow for the kids.  He responded... you shouldn't say that yet.  And he was right.  All was devoured.  And did he notice no meat... well, the gig was up before dinner was had.  Will he be dreaming about pork tonight?  Perhaps, but when is he not?  

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, Let's Have Pie

There may never be a time again when I can make pizza pie in our house without making the Co. Flambe pie.  I went back to the recipe from an earlier blog for the crust and Flambe pie.  The only difference was for one of the Flambe pies, I used a mixture of gruyere and sharp white cheddar which I already had grated in my fridge and the other, I used the mozzarella and parmesan as per the original.  And, this time, I turned the oven to 500f, instead of 475f.  3 minutes for the dough, 5 minutes once you put the toppings on.  Both were fabulous, and we were split on preference between the two cheese mixtures.  And the bacon... oh, the bacon...  Nueskes smoked bacon.  Must try, must have, and if you live in Seattle, the only place I've seen it is at, strangely, Uwajimaya.  
Always feeling like I should try something new, I also made a Salumi Salami pie with a tomato sauce, quattro formaggio, and fresh basil to finish.  The tomato sauce was one I already had frozen in my freezer from a previous meal of pasta, I'm sure.  You can use just regular pizza sauce.  On top of that I placed a blend of mozzarella, asiago, fontina and provolone, then slices of Salumi Salami, and baked at 500f for 5 minutes.  Once out of the oven, I finished with fresh basil leaves on top.  

Again, the dough was the star.  Difficult to manage, like many things that prove to be extraordinary, it was worth the work.  Strong enough to hold its toppings, yet, soft and light on the inside, I cannot say enough about how marvelous the dough was.  I'm a thin crust gal, mostly because I do not like thick, chewy dough.  This is a thin to light medium crust, but still has enough body to feel like pizza crust and not be soggy.  I could go on and on, but suffice it  to say, my kids were secretly  compiling a stash of pie slices even though I kept saying, there's more pie in the oven.  The best way to do this is par cook all your dough first, then make up the pies, and bake them one by one, 5 minutes each.  Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmm.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kinki Channel Rockfish with Pea Shoots, English Peas and Vanilla Saffron Sauce

We wanted fish tonight and searching for inspiration I headed to Uwajimaya and was once again drawn to the Kinki Channel Rockfish.  The whole fish they had were all too large for what I was looking for.  But luckily, I was directed to the ready packed case where there were smaller fish which were already cleaned, head removed.  Now, what to do with it?
I turned to my  French Laundry Cookbook for ideas.  In it was a recipe for Black Sea Bass with  Saffron-Vanilla Sauce.  I adjusted his recipe slightly.
1/2 Vannila bean, split
1 Cup shrimp stock (I had also gotten live Spot Prawns for an appetizer, so I used the water from boiling the prawns to make a stock)  After boiling the shrimp, I added 1 clove of garlic, 1 shallot, bay leaf, sprig of thyme and 3/4 cup white wine to the water.  Bring to a simmer for about 8 minutes and strain reserving liquid.  Keller's recipe calls for Mussel stock.
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp heavy cream
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a pan adding the stock, vanilla pod, and saffron.  Let simmer until reduced to a glaze, about 2 tablespoons.  Add in the cream and bring to a simmer.  Then slowly whisk in the butter a piece at a time.  Be careful with the heat so not to boil the sauce again, or the butter/fat will separate from the sauce.  Temper a blender container first by filling it with hot water and then drying it out.   This will help keep the sauce warm.  Then remove the vanilla pod from the sauce and emulsify it in the blender.  Keep sauce in a warm spot until ready to serve.  In retrospect, you can skip this step.  It wasn't a huge difference, and you can save yourself some time and cleanup.
For the fish, I filleted each one, removing any scales and bones from the fish.  Each whole fish was about 5 oz.  Keller explains in order to ensure proper crisping of the skin, the skin must be as dry as possible.  To get as much moisture out as possible, you kind of "squeegee" the skin by dragging a knife blade back and forth across the skin.  Season the fish with salt and white pepper.  Heat 1/8" oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the fish skin side down, pressing down on the fish to make sure the skin is fully flat on the surface of the skillet.  For these thin fillets, I only cooked them on the skin side for about 2 minutes.  Then flip over to just quickly sear the flesh side of the fish, about 20 seconds.  Drain on paper towels.

Today was the first harvest of my home-grown pea shoots.  I am growing snow peas for the sole purpose of eating the tender tops, "shoots", of the vines.  Any snow peas will be a side benefit.  The shoots should regenerate themselves once I've pinched off the tops... I hope!
A super fast saute in a little oil and salt, just until the shoots are wilted, is all that's needed.  With that I blanched some fresh english peas and tossed in a little melted butter.
To serve, plate a few pea shoots and peas in the center, lay the fish on top, skin side up, and ladle a little sauce around the plate.  The fish was firm and tender.  The sauce was to die for.  I mean the genius of it.  The vanilla, what a brilliant addition.  The pea shoots were sweet and could not be fresher.  The peas in butter, coupled so well with the shoots.

A rule of thumb, never go to the market when you're hungry.  I always purchase more than I need or want... later, that is.  I went to Uwajimaya on a full stomach, and still could not resist temptation.  A beautiful piece of Hamachi found its way into the cart along with a pound of live spot prawns.  Good appetizers, I thought.  The kids will love the spot prawns and the hamachi will be devoured by all.  
For the hamachi, I mixed a little wasabi oil with lemon juice and a few drops of soy sauce.  The wasabi oil was from a bottle someone had given me.  Slice the hamachi into thick slices and drizzle a little of the oil mixture over top.  Garnish with a little fried nori.  The fried nori can be found in Asian markets, in the same area they sell nori for sushi.  The fish was fresh, sweet, and smooth and as such, the delicate oil mixture was perfect.
For the spot prawns, I just boiled in a little water for about 3-4 minutes.  I served a dipping sauce made of soy, the ginger scallion sauce, and a touch of rice wine vinegar.  The girls ate the tails, and I ate insides of the heads.  They asked me why my parents and I like to eat the heads and I answered, because we were taught right.  It's the sweetest part.

Leftovers Bread Pudding

A quick follow up post to last night's ribs... what to do with the leftovers?  I am generally not a breakfast person.  I'm on again off again with eggs, not a big toast, pancakes, scones, bagels, breakfast baked goods fan.  Although, I have, of course, been known to happily scarf down whatever is put in front of me, I would take a leftover cold slice of pizza over these items.  I'm a savory gal.
Last night, as I sat looking at the leftovers of our meal, I decided I would get up and make a bread pudding / casserole in the morning.  
I cut up several pieces of parmesan baguette into 3/4" squares and cut the corn off of 1/2 cob.  We had one rib left over, so I cut the meat off into small chunks.  I also had a partially used red bell pepper in the fridge, so chopped up a little bit of that as well and mixed everything together in a shallow dish.  I beat 3 eggs together with a little milk and a pinch of salt and poured it over the mixture.  Then grated parmesan on top and baked at 425f for 18 minutes.  Good stuff.  The happiest part is using up the leftovers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ribs - AGAIN!

Ribs again, realllly? you say.  But of course.  Always on the hunt for a mind-blowing rib experience, it might be one of the most cooked items in my repertoire.  Last night I coated the ribs in an equal parts kosher salt and white sugar mixture, about 3 tbsp each, and placed them uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.  It worked for the pork belly, and it worked for the bo ssam, so why not for baby back ribs?  
I took the ribs out of the fridge, removed any liquid that had accumulated and brushed off any excess salt and sugar.  
Roast the ribs in the oven on 425f for 20 minutes and then turned the heat down to 275f for 1 1/2 hours.  
Then, turn the oven up to 325f and started brushing them with David Chang's Octo Vinaigrette sauce a few times for the next 20 minutes.  
After that, remove the ribs from the oven, turn the oven up to 475f and roast the ribs with a few tbsp of brown sugar for about 8-10 minutes until sugar is caramelized.  When you put the brown sugar on, make sure there is enough moisture on the sugar so it makes a wet coating, otherwise, you will not get caramelized sugar, but rather dried brown sugar.  If you need to, brush the brown sugar with a little bit of the drippings from the ribs.
Allow to rest a bit before slicing.

Serve with buttered corn on the cob, parmesan baguette, and Caesar salad.  For the baguette, I took an inexpensive, Safeway's own, artisan baguette, sliced it in half length wise, brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled generously with freshly grated parmesan.  I baked the bread in the oven after I removed the ribs while the oven was going up in temp.  Even my parents love this bread and they don't even eat cheese, or butter for that matter.  
The ribs, well, let's just say we might be dreaming about ribs tonight!  Mind blowing in the way they will occupy our minds until we see each other again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Manila Clams in Red Curry Coconut

We debated over what to do with the clams... garlic butter or red curry.  Guess what, the cook curry it is.  I had 2 lbs of clams which I rinsed well in cold water.  In a little bit of oil, I sauteed about 3/4 tbsp red curry paste with a few tablespoons of coconut milk until fragrant.  Then added another cup of coconut milk, a squeeze of lime, 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, and 1/2 tbsp palm sugar.  I still have not found any Kaffir lime leaves, so I substituted lime.  Not the same, but better than nothing.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  You can make this ahead of time and then reheat to boil before adding the clams.  Otherwise, add the clams to the sauce and stir until well combined.  Cover and let simmer until all the clams have opened.  Toss out any clams that do not open, as they were dead before you cooked them, and therefore, not fresh.  At the very end, toss in about 20 basil leaves and give it a stir to incorporate.  Serve with a bowl of white rice and some sauteed baby bok choy.   I love clams, I love rice, I love baby bok choy.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Homemade Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Octopus Salad

As requested by my family, today was a return to the tomato sauce from last week with plain ole pasta.  With the help of my gals, we made both fettucini and spaghetti noodles.  Fettucini for tonight, spaghetti to dry and save for another meal.  Garnished with fresh basil, and freshly shaved parmesan, it was simplicity at its best.  Chris & my greedy hopes of the girls not finishing their plates were quickly dashed. 

But I couldn't let the day pass without trying something new.   I decided to try a recipe from Mario Batali's new cookbook, Molto Gusto, called simply Octopus and Celery.  A little hitch in the works was that I bought already steamed octopus, instead of, I assume required, raw octopus.  His recipe calls for simmering the octopus in wine, onions, carrots, celery, herbs and a wine cork.  I'm sure this imparts a wonderfully delicate flavor to the octopus.  Oops on my part.  After that, the only other ingredients to add are sliced celery heart, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt.  Trying to spruce up my octopus a bit, I added chopped parsley, finely minced scallion (green part only), and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  It was tasty nonetheless.  The crisp and crunch of the celery was a perfect partner to the sturdy and salty octopus.  I can only imagine, had the octopus been cooked in the wine and herbs, how much better it might have been.  

On a side note, reading the New York Times today, I came across this article... Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture.  All this time, little did I know, culinary genius can be attained through the use of a weed.  Just think...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grilled Hanger Steak, Smashed Grilled Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus

So, back to grilling... Hanger steak, or onglet, is one of my favorite cuts of beef.  It is relatively inexpensive, flavorful, lean and can be tender when cooked right.  Reminds me of a good date.  The only unfortunate matter is that it is difficult to find.  Luckily, I have found that the Whole Foods here in Seattle at Roosevelt Square usually carries it.  If you don't see it in the counter, ask for it, and they may have some in back.  There is only one onglet per cow, which hangs from the diaphragm between the last rib and the loin.  I have most often seen it separated into two strips, removing the tough center membrane.  If you happen to purchase one whole onglet, I would suggest removing that center membrane as well.  I marinated the steak overnight in the following:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I only had 1 tbsp of brown left, so used 1 tbsp white)
1/2 Tbsp Sunchang Ssamjan (seasoned bean paste)
1/2 Tbsp Korean Hot Pepper Paste
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
3 Scallions, finely sliced crosswise
1/4 Cup chopped cilantro
Grill over high heat until rare to medium rare.  With this cut, I think medium rare is as much as you want to cook it.  Let rest before slicing.  The marinade on the steak was delicious.  A little je ne sais quoi spice... in other words, I hid the fact I added the ssamjan and hot pepper paste from my kids.  They loved the steak and commented on the fact it felt like there was a little spice, but devoured it nonetheless.  

I used the Desiree potatoes I had gotten from Olsen Farms for the smashed grilled potatoes.  Peel and cut the potatoes into 2" sections.  Boil until softened, toss with a little olive oil and place on hot grill to sear.  Place potatoes in a large bowl and mash with a little butter, milk and chicken stock.  Stir in a bit of ginger scallion sauce.  I left the potato with some larger chunks, not making it a finely mashed potato, but a more rustic smashed potato.  Thumbs up from the two mashed potato lovers... Stella and I.

The asparagus was the 2nd half of the bunch from last night.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, grill over high heat until just cooked.

I am hooked on the idea of wrapping food in lettuce.  It makes everything taste fresh and healthy, even when I wrap it around a piece of fried spring roll.  So accompaniments, once again, included lettuce, pickled cucumbers, ginger scallion sauce, and ssam sauce.   What did I do before ginger scallion and ssam sauce?  I see no reason why everyone should not have a large jar of each in their refrigerator.  David Chang, you are my hero.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Market Feast Roasted Lamb Loin with Cherry Balsamic Sauce, Glazed Baby White Turnips and Asparagus with King Oyster Mushrooms

I have been anxiously awaiting my first bite of the lamb loin roast I had purchased from Sea Breeze Farms.    Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  It had the perfect balance of lamb flavor without being too gamey.  In my mom's kitchen growing up, I remember her stewing lamb for my dad.  The smell of it was too much for me, as a child, to take.  However, the lamb of my adulthood has proven to be bred to a state of, well, un-lambness.   Lamb should taste different from beef, which in many instances these days, is not the case.  If you want beef, stick with beef.  If you want lamb, that has its own distinct sweet flavor, not overpowering, but stands up for itself, search out lamb like that of Sea Breeze Farms.  

Roasted Lamb Loin with Cherry Balsamic Sauce
1.75 lb Lamb Loin Roast
1 Cup pitted cherries - I used frozen organic
1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Shallot, minced
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1/2 Cup Beef Stock
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper

This morning, I took my roast out of the paper wrap and placed it back, uncovered, in the refrigerator to let it dry out a bit.  Take the lamb out of the refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking.  When ready to cook, sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat oven to 425f.   Macerate the cherries by combining with the sugar in a small bowl.  Sear the roast over medium high heat in a heavy cast iron skillet with 1 tbsp oil until brown on all sides.  Remove and place on a roasting pan in the oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on what temperature you like your lamb.  Mine is medium rare.  While the lamb is roasting, prepare the sauce.  In the same skillet, saute the shallots over medium low heat until softened and slightly browned, not burnt.  Add wine and beef stock to deglaze the pan.  Puree the stock and shallots in a blender and return to same skillet.  Add the cherries and balsamic and bring to a boil.  Stir in the butter until melted and remove from heat.
After the roast is finished, let rest for 7-10 minutes before carving.  The lamb was tender, the sauce sweet and tangy.
Glazed Baby Turnips
1 Small Bunch Baby White Turnips
1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Water

Wash and trim the turnips.  Peel them if you'd like.  I left mine as is, they were so beautiful.  Almost too pristine to eat.  In a medium pan, melt the butter and add the turnips and saute a bit.  Then add the sugar and water and bring to a boil, just slightly higher than a simmer.  Cover for 5 minutes, then uncover and allow the water to evaporate away and then slowly brown / glaze the turnips.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Sweet, tender, little bites of candy from Full Circle Farms.

Asparagus with King Oyster Mushrooms
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Drained Capers, chopped
1 Tsp minced fresh tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together to make a dressing.  Clean and trim the asparagus and mushrooms.  Slice the mushrooms into 1/8" slices.  Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil and salt.  Let cool to room temp.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long thin strips.  Toss the asparagus and mushrooms together with the dressing to taste.  Shave a few pieces of parmesan on top.  The 'peak of the season' asparagus from Alvarez Farms, was tender, crisp, and a refreshing compliment to the lamb.  The king oyster mushrooms were meaty yet delicate.  This is a keeper salad.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farmers Market Weekend

A beautiful weekend had me making the rounds to a couple of farmers markets around town.  On Saturday, we visited the University Farmers Market where I purchased a beautiful lamb loin roast from Sea Breeze Farm.
They raise their grass fed stock on a farm on Vashon Island.  Their beautiful cuts of meat, along with whole chickens, eggs and milk were difficult to just pass by.  The next stop was Olsen Farms where I picked up some Desiree potatoes, red skinned, yellow fleshed, excellent for mashing.

On Sunday, we stopped in at the Broadway Sunday Farmers Market before heading to Pho Cyclo for lunch.  These markets are my candy store.  Being there and taking in all the magnificent foods that local farmers have brought to market makes me a little giddy inside.  Makes me want to cook!  I purchased organic asparagus from Alvarez Organic Farms, baby white turnips from Full Circle Farms, heirloom tomatoes from Kittitas Valley Greenhouse , baby carrots and Chao Garden's gigantic tulips.  When I think about the patience and care in growing splendid produce like these, I think there must also be magic in it.  How else could each thing be so perfect within itself?

Come back tomorrow for the market bounty supper.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tuna Poke, Seaweed Salad, Fried Wonton Strips

Whenever I find an easy to make, beautifully presented, tasty appetizer, I put it in the vault.  This 5 minute app is always a crowd pleaser.  We first had this at least a decade ago, and I can't even remember which restaurant it was.  But I remember the flavors, the textures and the beautiful presentation.  Lately, I've found myself turning away from yellowfin tuna, in favor of other, less likely sashimi.  But for this poke, it is the best choice.  Toss cubed tuna in a bit of lite soy, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, finely sliced scallion and black and white sesame seeds.  I purchased a seaweed salad from Uwayjimaya, our local Japanese/Asian market.  It is called Hiyashi Wakame Chuka Salad.  To assemble your plate, use a cylindrical ring on top of a dish and press the seaweed salad into the bottom.  Then top with the tuna.  Put the filled cylinder back into the fridge for a bit to set so it will hold its shape when you remove the cylinder, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry up some wonton strips.  To serve, remove the cylinder and top with the fried wontons.  Fresh, flavorful and simple. 

An update to the original post adding a few measurements to to the recipe.  For approximately one pound of tuna, mix with:
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
freshly ground black pepper
Adjust seasonings to your liking before mixing with tuna. Mix the tuna in and let sit in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so.
When filling the ring, scoop the tuna out leaving any extra sauce behind.  If you add all the sauce, it will leak out onto your plate from the ring.   

I served these recently with fried gyoza wrappers.  Won ton wrappers work as well.  Use a cylinder cutter, about 2 1/2" in diameter, to cut the shells into rounds.  Fry them, a few at a time, in 350f canola oil.  

For the wonton strips, cut them into 1/2" strips.  Fry until crispy in same manner as the wrappers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Working for the Weekend Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese has long been on my list of things I must make.  It marries two of my favorite items, lobster and cheese.  For those of you who've seen me devour a lobster, you know I am serious about it.  Cheese, well, is one of those things I cannot pass up when face to face with the cheese counter.  I find I often have delicious cheeses in my fridge that we never got around to eating.  So sad!  That is why I now purposefully avoid that counter unless there is, in fact, a cheese I need.  
I followed a recipe from the Food Network and made a few adjustments.  I used 3/4 pounds of dried rigatoni and about 2/3 pounds or 3 cups of cheese, instead of the 2 pounds the recipe called for.  Gluttony can be used to describe our love for rich foods, but even I am not that overboard.  I felt my arteries tighten just thinking about that amount of cheese.  I also added some freshly ground white pepper and paprika to the cheese sauce.  And to my and Chris' portions, I sprinkled a little cayenne pepper on top as well. 
A little caprese salad was a welcome lightness to the richness of the mac.  And oh was it rich.  
Ultra indulgent, a guilty pleasure, thank goodness for the red wine!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So Starts the Grilling Season, Cowboy Steak, Corn on the Cobb and Onion Rings

So, I jumped the gun and launched fully into grill season.  Are we still on the mantra that Memorial Day triggers the beginning of the outdoor barbecue?  The gas Weber has been moved down to the patio allowing the table and chairs to take their rightful center stage spot on the deck.  Corn was 50 cents each and rib eye steaks were on sale, giving me the signal that it's time the oven gets a well deserved holiday and the grill is back in full swing.
I seasoned the ribeye with olive oil, worcestershire, paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  The corn was par-boiled and then grilled after rubbing a little butter all over it.  The onion rings were sprinkled with milk, then Johnny's Seasoning Salt, then flour and fried at 350f until golden.  I don't like a batter on my onions rings, but rather a light coating of seasonings and crispiness.  
I bought both white and yellow corn, white being my normal favorite.  But the yellow corn was sweeter and more flavorful this time.  The fried onions were fabulous... the perfect side kick for the steak.  And, as usual, Chris grilled the steak to perfection.  Summer back yard season, we are ready and waiting!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Monday Veal and Mushroom Ravioli

Sometimes when I don't know what to cook, I find myself taking on a big project.  Today, I decided to break out the pasta roller and make some ravioli.  I found some 'veal for stew' at the market and decided to grind that along with some pancetta.  I love my Kitchen Aid Standing Mixer for many reasons... mostly for the excellent attachments it allows so you can transform it into more than just a mixer.  The meat grinder attachment has seen many purposes in our house.  I've made duck burgers, beef burgers, meatballs, and now ravioli filling with it.    
I made the pasta per Marcella Hazan's recipe (see earlier blog).  
For the filling, I browned the ground veal and pancetta and removed it from the pan.  Then, add a little olive oil and saute 2 minced garlic cloves until softened.  Add in chopped mushrooms.  Whatever you have will work fine.  I used a mixture of shiitake and crimini mushrooms.  Once the mushrooms are softened add the veal and pancetta back in and saute adding chopped sage, a splash of marsala and a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Remove from pan and let cool slightly.  Then add in grated parmesan and pecorino romano, ricotta and mascarpone cheese.  Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.  
I filled the sheets of pasta with dollops of filling and used a rolling cutter to form into ravioli squares.

For the sauce, I had 3 roma tomatoes which I skinned and seeded and chopped finely.  To skin the tomatoes, make an 'x" at the bottom of the tomato and blanche in boiling water for about a minute.  The skin of the tomato will then peel off easily.  In a saucepan, I heated olive oil and minced garlic and tossed in the tomatoes.  Let simmer for a few minutes, and then puree in a blender.  Return to the pan and bring to a simmer adding a dollop of cream.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Boil the ravioli for about 3 minutes.  Ladle a bit of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a dish.  Top with with ravioli, some grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.  Truly delicious.  The sauce.... oh, the sauce...  so simple, yet so, well, perfect.  There was some tummy rubbing and some hopes there was more sauce.  My favorite was the texture of the pasta.. the elasticity, the bite, the give.  A gift.