Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Morning Croque Monsieur

I am not a big breakfast eater in general, but this rich and savory sandwich is no regular breakfast item.  It is a large piece of contentment.  I followed Ina Garten's recipe which finishes the sandwich by topping it with a bechamel sauce and more gruyere and broiling it.  I made mine with prosciutto as that was the type of ham product I had on hand.  Stella and Chris opted for a poached egg as well.  Couch time would seem eminent, but instead, there will be no rest for us gourmands.  After all, we have to work up our appetites for dinner!

Land and Sea Friday

The one thing I get a little greedy about is food.  When this happens, I tend to go Asian because usually, it's traditional to have several dishes.  Or, I visit both the land and the sea.  Double bonus tonight.

Fresh Oysters on the half shell with champagne vinegar mignonette sauce
I purchased a variety of oysters as recommended were freshest by my guy at Uwajimaya
Penn Cove
Serve with Ina Garten's Mignonette Sauce
The Kumamotos were the best.

Ginger and Soy Chilean Sea Bass
My original plan was to marinate this in miso, but alas, no miso was to be found in my fridge and having just returned from the store, I was just going to have to improvise instead.
2 pounds Chilean Sea Bass cut into smaller filets
4 tbsp light soy
3 tbsp Mirin
2 tbsp sugar
2" piece of ginger, thickly sliced, smashed, and chopped
3 scallions, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
Place everything in a plastic zip lock bag and marinate for several hours.  We grilled the fish on the on bbq outside.  Once again, sea bass is king.

Kobe Style Tri Tip Steak with Thai Marinade
This little marinade is one of my "throw everything you got at it and it can't turn out bad marinades".  Uwajimaya carries Kobe style beef which is domestically raised, however not in the same tradition as the Japanese version.  But it is well marbled and very tasty.  
2 lbs Kobe Style tri tip
1 garlic clove, chopped
1" piece of ginger, smashed and chopped
1 lemongrass, smashed, and chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 chopped cilantro
about 20 Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Veri Yeri Teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp canola oil
1 tbsp sugar
Mix the marinade well, place everything into a large zip lock bag, and massage marinade into the meat and let rest in the fridge for several hours.  Grill over high heat on the bbq.  You will have to cook this cut a little longer with all the marbling so that the fat melts into the meat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday Chicken Pot Pie

For the last week, Maggie has asked me what's for dinner?  Turkey pot pie?  I have to admit, the last thing on my mind at the end of July is pot pie of any sort.  But Maggie is referring to the turkey pot pie I made back in March from leftovers after roasting a turkey.  And so, today was the day to give my baby what she wanted.... almost.  I told her I could not roast a whole turkey again, to which she replied, oh, then use chicken!  The method is not so different from the original turkey version, but a few changes were made.
I started by roasting a whole organic chicken this afternoon.  Knowing it was eventually getting cut up and combined with other ingredients, I simply salted it inside and out and placed it in a 425f oven for 50 minutes.  It was not a very large chicken.. smallish by today's big bird standards.  And it didn't matter if it was totally cooked because it would get cooked further later.  As a matter of fact, a little on the rare side is even better.  Once the chicken was out of the oven, I removed it from the pan to cool and started on part one of the gravy / sauce.  Set the pan over medium heat on the stove and to the drippings add enough flour to make a roux.  Then deglaze the pan with about a cup of chicken stock.  The gravy should be extra thick as you will be adding stock made from the chicken bones in later.  Pour off into a sauce pan and set aside.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all the meat and chop it up into 3/4" squares.  As much as it hurts, toss the crispy skin away.  Of course it's expected to sneak in a few nibbles here and there.  Put the bones in a large sauce pan, cover with water and simmer for about 20 minutes.  This made about 1 to 1.5 cups of stock.  Add to the gravy and mix well using a whisk.

In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add 1 chopped onion and saute until softened.  Then add 3 chopped carrots and 6 oz chopped shiitake mushrooms.  I would have normally  used celery, but didn't have any but did find the shiitake mushrooms in my fridge.  Saute the vegetable for 5-7 minutes, then add about 1.5 cups of the sauce, 1/2 cup of cream, cover and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Add in the chicken and stir to incorporate.  If there is not enough sauce, add some more.  Let the whole pot sit on the stove covered with heat off for about half hour so it can all just get comfy together.  
Ladle the chicken mixture into large ramekins or small casserole dishes.  Cover with a piece of puff pastry.  Brush with melted butter and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400f.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.  It was delicious, but the sauce became too thin after baking.  I'll have to think about what happened there.  Maggie said she "thought it was soup, but oh well, it's still really good".  As she said, "can't have everything perfect every time".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yellow Beet and Pea Vines, A Little Salad

I am the lone beet lover in my house.  As such, I don't make them often, but when I do, I always think to myself I should.  It must be beet season as they are out in force at the markets and I managed to sneak a few into my bag.  They were just too beautiful to pass up.

Yellow Beet and Pea Vine Salad
3 medium yellow beets
2 cups pea vines
crumpled goat cheese
mixed nuts
champagne vinegar dressing comprising of equal parts 1/3 champagne vinegar to 2/3 grape seed oil, a pinch of salt, pinch of sugar and freshly ground black pepper

Trim greens off beets leaving about 1/2" at the top.  Rinse beets and wrap in heavy aluminum foil.  Roast at 400f for about 1 hour and ten minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool still wrapped in the foil.  When cool enough to handle, peel skin off beets and slice into small bite sized pieces.  Set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
In a saute pan with just a big of oil, saute pea vines with a little pinch of salt until just wilted.
For the plate, place a bit of pea vines on the bottom.  Toss beets with nuts and dressing.  Place beets on top, sprinkle with crumpled goat cheese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Spaghetti with Sun Dried Tomato and Sweet Walla Walla Onions

What, still not grilling?  It feels a bit of a sin not to be outdoor cooking in this beautiful weather.  I plan on getting back on track tomorrow.  Today, however, should be meatless, but I'm going to slide a little somethin' somethin' into the sauce just for flavor.  Still working my baby steps on Meatless Mondays.  Not together impossible, but I am entertaining the idea of tiny meat Mondays instead.

I couldn't rally myself into fresh homemade pasta today, but went with a beautiful packaged pasta instead.
3 Thin slices of prosciutto torn into approx 1" pieces
3/4 Medium Walla Walla Sweet Onion, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Tomato Paste
7 Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped - I used Mezzetta brand
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
20 or so fresh Basil leaves
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3/4 cup reserved water from boiling the pasta

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water with a little salt and oil added to the water.
Saute the sliced onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until softened.  Add in prosciutto and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Add chopped sun dried tomatoes and about 1/4 cup of water from pasta.  Add in cooked pasta, then the pine nuts, parmigiano and additional water if needed.  Gently stir to combine well.  I added a little bit of cream as I did not reserve enough water and the pasta was a little too dry.  Tear up the basil leaves and toss in to combine at the last minute.  Another tomato sauce pasta favorite for the Emerton girls.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roasted Poussin, Morel Mushrooms, Tawny Port, Roasted Potatoes and Sauteed Pea Vines

From Rainshadow Meats at the Melrose Market, I purchased three Poussin, or spring chickens from Mad Hatcher Farms.  A Cornish game hen is comparable, but whereas the game hen is bred to be a smaller bird, poussin are young chickens which are a particular age and weight.  Think of it as what lamb is versus sheep and veal is versus beef.  I've been thinking about how to prepare these beautiful birds.  It's a gorgeous summer day out, and I really should be grilling, but I felt as though I really should roast them for optimal flavor.  
I started by sprinkling the cavity of each poussin with salt and pepper and stuffing each with fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary and wedges of lemon.  Then I rubbed each one with softened butter both between the skin and meat and on top of the skin.  Truss each one with kitchen string.  Place the poussin back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so that the butter can harden on the skin.  Preheat your oven to 450f.  In a heavy cast iron pan, I seared the poussin, on the back side only (breast side up), for a few minutes.  Place the poussin, in the cast iron pan, into the oven and roast for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown.  To test for doneness, pierce leg and if juices run clear, you're good to go.  Remove poussin from pan onto a separate plate and keep warm while you make the sauce. 
Drain most of the fat from the pan, toss in morels and saute until just softened.  Add in about 1/2 cup of tawny port and reduce by about half.  My plan was to use madeira, but as it turned out, I did not have any.  I then added 1/4 cup of beef stock and 1 cup of heavy cream and boiled until thickened.  Serve poussin with roasted potatoes, sauteed pea vines and drizzled sauce.  The poussin was so PHENOMENAL!  Tender, juicy, flavorful, unlike game hens which can be dry and well, dry.  We marveled at its fabulousness.  And roasting was definitely the way to go!  Even the girls were over the moon.
My potato garden has been a gift that keeps giving.  I am continually harvesting potatoes as we need them.  They've been great mashed, fried, and roasted.  I am hooked! 
My pea vines have seen the end of their cycle, but I was able to buy several large bunches of pea vines at the farmers market along with the fresh morels.  I bought the pea vines knowing that about 70% of them would be tossed out.  They were inexpensive, but only the very tops of them were tender enough to eat.  They need to be trimmed by hand as nipping the tips will tell you if it's tender or tough.  Tender shoots should be easily snapped off.  Any resistance means it will be tough.  
 This large bunch yielded the small bunch below

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crispy Fragrant Duck

My mom makes a crispy skinned duck that I have never seen served at any restaurant in town.  When we have a festive family meal, I often ask her to make it because really, you can't get it anywhere else.  I decided it was time to try a version of it.  After all, it is Friday night, my favorite night of the week.

Start a day ahead by marinating the duck in the following:
6 Scallions, smashed then sliced into 1" pieces
1" Piece of ginger, thickly sliced, smashed, and then roughly julienned
3 tbsp cooking wine
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 star anise, smashed
Combine the marinade and rub all over inside and outside of duck.  You can put the duck into a dish, cover and refrigerate overnight, or seal it in a large zip lock bag, like I did.

The next day (today), I took the duck out, and steamed it for 1 1/2 hours.  I used a wok, and a cake stand actually.  Fill the wok with some water, set cake stand inside and duck on top.  Check water periodically to make sure it does not all boil away.  Add more as needed.  Do this earlier in the day as you will need to let the duck rest before proceeding.  After steaming, discard any liquids/marinade and let the duck cool.  Brush the duck with light soy sauce and then dredge with cornstarch, pressing it in so it will stick to the skin.  Place the duck back into the fridge for several hours until it is very dry.  The duck is white when first covered with the cornstarch, but then the soy sauce and the liquids from the duck will wet the cornstarch into a dry paste, but not powdery any more.  

Fill a wok with 2 inches of oil.  Heat the oil to 375f and carefully place the duck into the oil.  If you have dried the duck well, you should not get a lot of oil splatter / popping.  Ladle the hot oil over the duck and fry until golden and crispy.  Drain the duck on paper towels and let rest for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.  Chop into small pieces and serve.  You will need a good heavy cleaver for this.  My mom is a surgeon when it comes to cutting up bone in duck.  It is truly amazing.  I have not fine tuned that talent yet.  The steaming allows the marinade to penetrate the duck.  The frying gives you the crispiness.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ma Po Tofu

Ma Po Tofu is a quintessential Szechuan dish.  Chris, normally not a big tofu fan, loves this dish.  The tofu is a soft silky vehicle for the spicy, garlicky, salty, flavors of the sauce.  For those who do not like tofu, but love spicy food, this could be the one tofu dish you will come to love.  Have it with a large bowl of rice and an ice cold beer.  Nothing else needed!

1 package of fresh tofu (bean curd) - I buy the soft tofu, less tofu flavor, soft silky texture
1/4 cup ground pork
1 tbsp hot chili paste
1 tbsp minced scallion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
 - combine the above ingredients in a small bowl, except the tofu

1 cup water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp sugar
cornstarch and water thickening agent

Cut tofu into 1/2" cubes, set aside.  In your wok with a little bit of oil, add the ground pork mixture and fry until fragrant.  Add in the water, soy, cooking wine and sugar and mix well.  Then gently add in the tofu and flip a few times to combine.  Bring to a boil and let simmer over low heat for a few minutes.  Thicken with the cornstarch mixture and serve with some fresh sliced scallions sprinkled on top.  Skip the pork if you want to go veg.  It will not make a huge difference, though it does add nice flavor to the sauce.  Do not, however, skip the tofu.  It will surprise you.

On another note.. to our fellow piggy lovers, check out this article in the NY Times.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Ba!

It was my dad's birthday yesterday.  We shared a nice dim sum lunch and talked like adults.  When did I become an adult in my dad's eyes I wonder.  No matter how old I am, I always feel like my parents' child.  Yes, I am departing from the Buffet a little, but it will all come around.  I was going about my evening just now, when I started to think about something my dad said to me yesterday.  I thought I was past needing approval or validation from my parents.  But then I realized no matter how old you are, it's always a good thing.  My dad told me the best thing he sees all day is my blog.  

I was thinking about that statement as I washed the day (and fried fish) away.  Food has always been the force that drew our family together.  They came to the States, opened our small restaurant, and reached for the American Dream.  My sister and I grew up in our small restaurant, appreciating food, loving food, grateful for food, yet maybe resenting food just a little bit.  Cooking can be a great chore, but it can also be a haven and a practice in art.  

I may have been cooking and writing for myself, but now I have an even greater reason to do it.  Happy birthday Ba!      

Crispy Saba with Garlic Ginger Sauce

Saba is a fish I've been curious about for some time, but never ventured to cook before.  I was never sure what I would do with it.  It looks meaty, but its striped silvery skin threw me off.  Was it herring like?  Thick skinned?  Too fishy?  Would the flesh be dry and mushy or moist and flakey?  Today, as I perused the fish counter looking for a whole fish to fry, I was pointed towards Saba, also known as Mackerel.  Good for frying and flakey too.  We should have a winner here.

They had cleaned and filleted the fish for me, so I only had to make a few shallow slanted cuts on the skin side of the fish.  Then I  marinated the fish in a little rice wine, ginger and salt for about 30 minutes.  I then drained the fish and coated it with tempura flour.  In a shallow but curved pan, put about 2 cups of canola or peanut oil.  Heat to 350f and fry the fish, skin side down.  While frying use a large spoon to ladle the hot oil over the top of the fish if it is not fully submerged in the oil.  Fry until golden and crispy.  Remove from oil, drain, and place into a shallow dish.

For the sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
3 scallions, sliced
sprinkle of ground white pepper
freshly ground black pepper
corn starch and water mixture to use as a thickening agent - I don't take measurement on this, just mix enough corn starch with a bit of water to make it into a white opaque liquid, but not paste.  When using, drizzle a little at a time until you achieve the thickness in the sauce you want.  In a Chinese kitchen or restaurant, you will find a large mixture of this to use whenever needed.  The corn starch settles to the bottom, so mixing before use is needed.

Heat a little bit of oil in your wok and add in garlic and ginger until fragrant.  Add in the remainder of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for a few minutes and then thicken sauce slightly with the corn starch mixture.  Ladle the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

The fish was firm, held together well in the frying, but I would not call it flakey.  It was delicious, but definitely not the texture I had in mind.   It was more dense and compact than what I wanted.  I would keep the sauce, switch out the fish.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Saffron Cream Sauce

It's leftover Monday.  In my freezer was sweet potato ravioli and in my fridge was saffron cream sauce from last night's chicken dinner.  I thought I had previously blogged on both, but I couldn't find the sweet potato ravioli recipe.  But the saffron cream sauce recipe is here.  I know that the ravioli was made with fresh homemade pasta, sweet potatoes which were roasted and pureed, and perhaps some parmesan cheese and nutmeg.  Oh, this is the reason for the blog.  What happened?  Did I fall asleep on the job?  Well, a good reason to make it again sometime.  

My freezer and I are at a constant love-hate relationship.  So many items get stuffed in there and never find their way out.  Yet, then there are those gems which lay in waiting until you need them on a day like today where shopping and cooking was not going to happen.  Ravioli, like kuo tien, wontons, egg rolls and bao tse are the perfect keeper items.  No defrosting needed.  Pull them out, cook quickly and they are just as fabulous as the day you made them.  I love a good inventory!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Little Piggy Fest

It was time to throw a little summer back yard party and pay homage to our favorite beast, the pig.  It was a beautiful day, good friends to share, and who knew pork could be so good? We did!

On the menu:

Sliced Cured Meats 
- A selection of San Danielle Prosciutto, Speck, Italian Porchetta, and Salumi Salame served with fresh baguette slices, cracker assortment and red eye mayonnaise (Failed to photo!)

Chilled Corn Soup, Scallion Oil and Bacon Bits
- Roasted yellow and white corn, Nueskes Bacon, and emulsified scallion oil

Dan Dan Mein
- Ramen noodles, wok fried ginger and garlic ground pork, julienned cucumbers, sesame chili sauce

Bo Ssam, Bibb Lettuce, Ginger Scallion Sauce, Ssam Sauce
- Kurobuta Berkshire Whole Pork Butt, slow roasted finished with brown sugar glaze.  Served with Boston bibb lettuce, steamed buns a selection of sauces

Pulled Pork, Potato Buns, Cabbage and Corn Slaw with Cilantro and Orange Dressing
- Kurobuta Berkshire Whole Pork Butt, Mary's spice rub, slow smoked and barbecued, finished with red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes and butter.   (Missed my photo op with this one)

Pork Consumed:
28 Pounds of Berkshire Pork
3 Pounds Cured Meats
2 Pounds Ground Pork
6 Ounces Nueskes Bacon

For the most part, these items have all made the buffet before, so I will give myself a break and not post the recipes further.  If you want them, search the blog, or email me.  But I will share some additional photos of the preparations for the party.  After all, a picture speaks a thousand words.  Yet, in the end... I wish I would have taken more photos!

Islands of Lettuce and Cilantro Drying

Corn Soup

Bo Ssam with the sugar and kosher salt  rub on the night before the party

Pulled Pork with the Mary spice rub on the night before

Air Popped Popcorn with Wasabi Seaweed Furikake

The Bar

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brined Sockeye Salmon with Orzo and Roasted Baby Carrots

I wasn't going to post tonight, but had to share just this photo of this beautiful salmon.  I put the salmon in a simple brine yesterday made of water, brown sugar, kosher salt and black pepper.  I was expecting to slow smoke it today, but our day got away from me, and so a quick meeting with the barbecue was all that was accomplished.  The special something here is brushing it with honey while (normally smoking) grilling.  The sweetness of the honey and the nice glaze it creates offsets the saltiness of the brine.  The consistency of the salmon is changed to a firmer and yet tender fish.   And as an added tasty bite, Chris left the skin of the salmon on the grill to make a crispy chip.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Soy Sauce Chicken, Rice with Scallions, Ginger and Sweet Egg and Roasted Broccoli

Do you ever sit there and stare at your chicken and toil over what to do with it?  I love chicken, but chicken again?  My dinner choice was sealed when I started defrosting the chicken yesterday.  It was the second of yet another two pack of organic birds I had purchased from Costco.  I admit, it is summer, and my mind and self are otherwise distracted, so plans for dinner go on the back burner.  What else to do with chicken?

I thought of marinating and then steaming the chicken.  I thought about soy sauce chicken I have had so many times from my favorite Chinese bbq shop.  And so like many times before, I started on my course before referencing the few Chinese cookbooks I have, where I found a recipe for soy chicken.   The recipe is not too unlike red cooked chicken legs I've done in the past, but different enough to try it.   Unfortunately, I had already assembled and mixed my marinade, so I just followed the cooking instructions per the recipe.

Marinate the whole chicken in:
2" piece of ginger, julienned
5 Scallions, sliced into 1" pieces
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
4 tbsp rice wine

Because of time restraints, I was only able to marinate the chicken for a couple of hours.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and dry the chicken on paper towels.  Heat 3 tbsp oil in large wok or deep pan.  Brown the chicken on both sides and then add the marinade and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 30-35 minutes, turning the chicken a few times so that it cooks evenly on all sides.  Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the sauce for about 30 minutes.  Then remove the chicken and chop into smaller, bite sized pieces. 

For the rice, I used my rice cooker, added chicken broth, sliced scallions, and minced ginger.  Top the rice with scrambled eggs that have a little sugar added to them.  The broccoli was roasted under the broiler in the oven with just a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of kosher salt.  

The chicken was salty, flavorful and tender.  The sweet egg on top of the rice was perfect.  Maggie commented, I didn't know egg on rice could taste so good.  All simple, all tasty. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Heavenly Burger

Wow, is it July 13 and the classic summer burger has not made an appearance at the buffet yet?  So many great things to be done with a burger.  Mix in seasonings, seal a slice of cheese in the middle, mix in some sausage for flavor, grill, fry on the griddle, top with blue cheese, add some bacon on top, it's endless.  Of all the foods in America, Chris' uncle Peter, from Scotland chooses the classic hamburger because of all the fixin's and condiment options available.  And why not?  The idea of build your own to your heart's desire is an American dream.  So, here's to you Uncle Peter, classic burger it is!

I started by grinding my own burger with the handy grinder attachment to my Kitchenaid standing mixer.  Here, there was some debate on cuts of meat to use.  I've always used short rib and top sirloin.  Today, I chose to go with standard chuck steak after consulting with the butcher.  He advised it would be the most flavorful and give the proper fat content (16%) for the tastiest burger.  No need to mix cuts, he advised.  I salted the chunks of chuck steak so that I wouldn't have to mix in the salt later.  My grinder does a medium grind, which was perfect for the burgers.

When forming your burger, make sure you are only lightly packing your ground meat.  You want it loosely formed, not tightly densely packed.  This will result in less shrinkage when cooking and a lighter less, hockey puck like, burger.  We grilled our burgers outside on the gas grill.  There was some debate over frying them in the cast iron skillet... frying in their own fat, crispy outside crust on the burger... but it is summer, and frying a burger inside on a skillet seemed a bit of a sin.

Now let's talk bun.  I am a fan of less is more here.  I go with the small, thin, cheap bun.  Never do I want my bun to devour my burger.  The bun is merely the vehicle.  As long as it's strong enough to hold my burger, it's all it should be.  

And finally, who is burger's best friend?  The crispy fry of course.  We happened to be down at the Pike Place Market watching Beecher's make their cheese today.  What is that floating on top, my gals asked.  And so, we have again tonight, poutine.  

What was my burger creation?  Swiss cheese, heirloom tomato, chopped romaine lettuce, caramelized vidalia onions, sweet hot mustard, horseradish, and ketchup.

Oh burger, heavenly burger!  The poutine did not hurt.  My garden potatoes shined, despite my concerns they were not the proper type of potato for french fries.  Stella said, "I want this for my birthday dinner!"  Chris grilled the burgers to perfection, with a crisp outside shell.  As I've coined a few times before, "I'm sorry, but this is so very good!"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Garlic and Butter Clams with Leeks and New Potatoes

I've been thinking about clams since Wednesday when I bought my live dungeness crabs.  So, today I returned to purchase live clams making a stop at the Broadway farmers market along the way where I found some beautiful leeks.  I've been debating in my mind between clams with black bean sauce, grilled clams with garlic butter, or clams in a brothy sauce with a large hunk of good bread.  And really up until cooking time, I was still wishing I could have all three.  But I compromised and decided to combine the ingredients of the last two choices and the black bean sauce will have to be another time.  

Once again, I went digging in the garden for a few new potatoes.  I diced them into cubes and blanched them until just tender.
I thinly sliced the leeks and chopped up some fresh garlic I had been aging from a previous market purchase.
Rinse the clams in cold running water.  Do not soak them.

When I've made clams in the past, I always try to skimp on the butter.  The guilt gets to me and I convince my self that with all the broth that comes out, a lot of butter is not needed.  Silly me!  Of course it's the butter that makes it taste the best.  

Melt 1 stick (1/4 cup) butter and saute leeks and garlic until softened.  Toss in the potatoes to combine and then the clams.  I sprinkled in a few red pepper flakes and a few turns of the pepper mill and added a half cup of white wine.  Bring to a boil and cover, stirring occasionally until all the clams have opened.  Toss away any unopened shells.  All it takes is one bad clam!  Delicious they were, but dare I say, I am still craving grilled clams with just garlic and butter?  That concentrated flavor is the best.  Just another good reason to have clams again!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Snow Peas and Crimini Mushrooms

Another hot day and having something cool and light seemed very appealing.  This noodle salad is simple, yet flavorful.  I cooked the buckwheat noodles and ran cold water over them.  Snow peas from my garden were blanched and sliced lengthwise.  Crimini mushrooms were sliced and quick sauteed in a little olive oil.  I made a ginger scallion sauce and tossed it with the noodles, snow peas, mushrooms and some black and white sesame seeds.  That's it.  Light, yummy, and cooling.  Great as a main dish, or as a side.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Veal Chops with Morel Mushroom and Mustard Sauce

It's a heat wave.  I pondered what kind of dinner I can 'not cook', but came up empty.  I had in my fridge veal rib chops which had to be used or frozen, and fresh morel mushrooms.  So, my poor food planning for the heat would still benefit us in the end, but with a little sweat equity to be paid.  

The thought of turning on a hot grill, was well, hot, but I made Chris do it anyway.  Salt and pepper the veal and grill to medium rare.  For the sauce, I sauteed the morel mushrooms in a little olive oil until softened.  To it, I added sweet hot mustard, fresh rosemary and sage.  Then deglazed with brandy and beef stock.  Boil to reduce a bit and then, yes, what Emerton sauce would be complete without a little cream?  

As we sat in our cool house hiding from the heat, it seemed a little silly to be eating a veal chop with cream sauce.  Sushi or fresh shucked oysters would seem to be a smarter choice.  But what can I say, we devoured our chops and were happier for it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ginger and Scallion Dungeness Crab, Fresh Spot Prawns, and Wok Fried Noodles

For live dungeness crab, I visited my favorite spot, Wong Tung Seafood, Inc. in the International District.  As previously mentioned with my crab cakes posting, this is the place to go for the best deal on live, meaty dungeness crabs.  Price fluctuates, but I find, no matter what, theirs is always the freshest and liveliest at the best price.  Today they were $5/lb.  They also carry various other items, like live lobster at $8/lb, and now in season, live spot prawns at $10/lb.  Of course, I did not leave the store without a pound of spot prawns for an appetizer.  Get them while they are live and in season!  

I am always torn between eating dungeness crab simply steamed, dipped in butter, or my favorite, ginger and sweetened vinegar or cooking the crab in a sauce of some sort.  It's been years since I've wok fried any crab.  The former always wins when it comes right down to it.  But today, I forced myself to go the wok route.  

I started by steaming the crab until par cooked, about 7 minutes.  I find that cleaning the crab while it is alive results in the meat clinging/sticking to the shell of the crab.  So, par steaming it keeps this from happening.  Then I cleaned them and separated them into pieces and cracked the shells of the legs.  I then marinated the crab in rice wine and corn starch for about 20 minutes.

With a little oil in the wok, fry sliced scallions, ginger, and garlic until fragrant.  To this I added:
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Toss in the crab pieces and wok fry for a few minutes, stirring to mix well.  Serve with plenty of napkins.  It's a messy one!

The spot prawns were simply boiled and served with a soy, rice vinegar and ginger dipping sauce.  My favorite is to fry the heads until they are crispy like chips.  They will do this for you if you order the sashimi prawn at a sushi restaurant.  I was not up for deep frying today, boiled will have to do.

The wok fried noodles were the same recipe as a previous post, only substituting in crimini mushrooms and snap peas.
The crab was delicious and yes, messy.  Get a bib and finger bowl ready.  The spot prawns were oh so sweet and delicate, and the noodles were the favorite with the girls.