Monday, February 28, 2011

Wok Fried Rice Cake (Chao Nian Gao)

One of my worst habits is buying food items I have no plans for.  Many times this pays off in the end, but others I shamefully never get around to using them.  I was trying to think of a noodle item for the girls for dinner tonight and remembered this package of rice cakes I had bought.  Noodle item found, and a chance to try something new.

24 oz package of sliced rice cake
1/3 lb beef, thinly sliced (I used a small piece of tenderloin I had in the freezer)
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned sugar snap peas
4 scallions sliced
1/4 onion sliced
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water, then thinly sliced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup water
Soak the sliced rice cake in water for a couple of hours in water.  Marinate beef in just a drizzle of soy sauce for about 15 minutes before cooking.
Heat wok over high heat and add about 2-3 tbsp of oil.  Add vegetables and garlic and fry until slightly softened.  Push to side and add in the beef and fry until it starts to change color, then add in the noodles and toss for 1-2 minutes.  Add in the oyster sauce, soy, sugar, sesame oil and water and continue to fry until well combined and noodles are tender.  
It is hilarious when I serve something new to the kids.  Stella always gives it a lick just to test to see if it's something so vile, she will immediately have to spit it out.  I am happy to report, I did, once again, pass the mustard.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Steak Friday and an Onion Ring Treat

It is becoming ever more true that my kids' activities, school, sports, social and otherwise, outnumber mine.  Though my kids are old enough to be left at home without a babysitter, now comes the challenge of getting them everywhere they need to be.  Sometimes, our activities get put on the back burner.  Oh yes, I do remember when first pregnant with Maggie, I did utter the words, the baby will not change our social lives.  But that first outing proved that statement to be quite untrue.  I have to admit, it is indeed my own choosing for my sweets to change most parts of my life.  That is a blessing and a challenge.  So, sometimes we make plans and then things inevitably arise and my natural homebody self heads straight for the comfy sweats and starts thinking about what excellent homebody dinner to make. 

Steak of course!  And what do I find in my freezer but a couple of prime New York strips.  A simple preparation here.  Defrost, then bring steaks out and let come close to room temp before grilling.  Salt and pepper generously both sides of the steaks.  Grill to your desired temp.  Top with a pad of butter and some crumbled blue cheese.  I love Maytag Blue.  Now here's the extra treat.

Sweet onion rings:
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup beer
2 tablespoons vodka
Canola or peanut oil (for deep-frying)
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin, about 1/8 - 1/4"

Sift together flour, salt, chipotle, cayenne and baking powder into a large bowl.  Whisk in beer and vodka.  Heat oil in a large heavy pot to 350f.  In batches, depending on how large your bowl and pot are, put onion slices into the batter, shake off excess and then dip each individually into the oil.  Let fry for a few minutes until golden.   Don't crowd the pot.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  Repeat.  
As a side note, our friend Dan recently changed my mind completely  about bourbon.  To get through the frying process for the onion rings, mix one excellent Manhattan.
Stir, do not shake.  Orange peel garnish, instead of maraschino cherry.  Use a single barrel Kentucky bourbon.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where's the Snow, Seared Sea Bass with Chili Sauce

There's a winter storm warning in effect and we are awaiting our blast of snow here in the heart of Seattle.  Waiting.... but I assume by the time this is posted, we will have had our snow.... maybe.  Tucked in our house, it was a good opportunity to dig through some recipes.  This is a simple preparation, but good and tasty.
1 lb Chilean Sea Bass, cut into a few portions

2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced cilantro roots
2 tsp minced fresh Thai chilies, or substitute with 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes (as I did since I did not have the Thai chilies, but it is best with the chilies)
5 tbsp minced onion

2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 1/2 tbsp tamarind juice
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp chicken stock or water

Rinse the sea bass, dry on paper towels, then season lightly with salt.   Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Wait until pan is smoking hot and put just a bit of grape seed oil in. Sear the sea bass top and bottom, flipping only once.  Press on the bass to make sure the full surface of the fish is touching the pan.  

Meanwhile, heat a couple tbsp oil in a wok and fry the garlic, cilantro, chilies and onion until fragrant.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Drizzle over the cooked sea bass and serve with lime wedges.  

Excellent flavor.  Crunchy outer, tender succulent inner on the sea bass.  No snow yet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crabby Tuesday

There may be no better shellfish than live dungeness crab freshly steamed.  To savor the sweetness, we like to eat it plain or with a light dipping sauce made with simply finely minced ginger, a dash of sugar, and equal parts white and rice wine vinegars.  Strap on a bib or napkin and go to town.  At first  thought, it would seem strange to dip dungeness crab in vinegar, but it is quite fabulous.  Growing up I remember many a late evening meal/snack of crab eaten this way.  Because my parents owned a small restaurant, we would often arrive home late and we would stay up late, hence the midnight snack, or shao yeh.  Our shao yeh was often the best meal of the day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

3 Cup Chicken - Or A Variation Thereof

Braising meats in soy sauce and variations thereof is a go-to method in my Chinese home cooking.  The first time I had really good 3 Cup Chicken was years ago at Shanghai Garden in Issaquah.  My dad was friends with the chef there and after having the dish, I spoke to him later on the phone about how it was made.  He advised toasting ginger and garlic in sesame oil and then frying the chicken until slightly browned.  Add one cup each sugar, rice wine and soy sauce and braise.  Finish with fresh basil leaves.  Easy enough and oh so delicious.
Other sources say to use one cup each soy, wine and lard or sesame oil.  One cup sesame oil seems unbearably over the top as does the lard.  So, you know experimental me will have to do a little altering of the recipe each time I make it.  
A couple notes here...I should mention that I normally prefer to make this with bone in chicken, and the best would be to use a Cornish game hen cut into bite sized pieces.  But for ease of eating and my kids new braces, it's boneless tonight.  And, the 3 cups does not, in my case, mean 3 traditional measuring cups, but rather equal parts.

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into large bite sized pieces

1 tbsp lard
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2" piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices

1/3 cup dark soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
1/3 cup sugar or rock sugar (I used rock)
1/3 cup water (I'm adding this only because my gals like a little sauce to put on their rice)
20 or more (I like more) fresh basil leaves

Melt lard in a medium braising pot over medium heat.  If you must, use regular vegetable oil.  The lard, though verbally unappealing, gives the chicken a nice glazed look and the sauce a richer flavor.  Add sesame oil to lard and toss in garlic and ginger.  Fry until fragrant but not browned.  Turn heat up to medium high and add in chicken.  Fry the chicken until just cooked on the outside.  Add in soy, wine, sugar and water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat down to medium low, cover and let braise for 15 minutes.  Uncover, turn heat up to achieve a rapid boil for another 3 minutes.  Stir in basil leaves and serve with a nice bowl of rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ants Climbing Trees

Not what you expected to see on Valentine's Day, right?  Perhaps you were thinking there would be some lavish meal made for sweethearts, something made with love...decadent and sweet.  But alas, no.  Most of my meals are made with love, so that would be no different on Valentine's Day.  Although..., there is the occasional cursing going through my head, not at a person, but rather the process or my own grandiose ideas.  Chris' Valentine's gift to me is that he is not here.  That came out wrong.  I mean, we have never been big celebrators of this particular holiday.  So, the fact that he is on a romantic golf trip with 3 other guys, only makes my cooking life a lot easier.  No pressure to come up with that 'special' meal.  Just another day in the kitchen.

I thought I'd try something new today. Ants Climbing Trees is supposed to be a spicy Szechuan dish named such for its resemblance to ants (the ground pork) climbing on trees (the bean thread noodles).  However, with my kids' sensitivity to spicy foods, mine will not be as spicy as I would like.  Know that the recipe below is how spicy I'd like the dish to be and that I only actually added a fraction of the chili.

6 oz ground pork
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice wine
3/4 tsp sesame oil
6 oz bean thread noodles
1.5 tbsp oil
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1.5 tsp chili bean paste
2 scallions finely chopped for garnish

Combine for cooking sauce:
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1.5 cups chicken stock

Soak bean thread in hot water for 10 minutes until soft.  Drain and cut into long pieces.
Combine pork, soy, wine and sesame oil.

Heat wok over high heat, add oil and stir fry the ground pork, separating it as it cooks until it browns.  Push pork to the side of the wok and add scallions, ginger, garlic and chili paste and fry for a few seconds until fragrant.  Return the pork to the center of the pan and add the sauce mixture and toss to combine.  Add noodles and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium high and cook until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Serve sprinkled with chopped scallions.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

McCabe's Chicken, Don't Forget the McCabe

Once again a two pack of organic chickens made it home with me from Costco.  Dear sweet... what other chicken variation can I do?  One hurdle I encounter often with a lot of my ideas is spice and my kids.  I LOVE spicy foods and the kids, do not, quite understandably so, share that love.  I find myself secretly adding a little spice here and there, unbeknownst to them, as a way of slowly acclimating them to hot foods.  They will ask, "did you add spice to this?", to which I always have a moment of inner conflict.  Do I say yes, which will prompt them to opt out?  Or do I lie?  They've caught on to my standard response of try and see.  In Chinese meals, when we have several dishes, I can get my fix with one of the dishes being tongue tingling hot.  But in the daily meal, it's kind of an all or nothing deal.  Adding hot sauce or chili flakes on the side just isn't the same flavor.  
This brings me to McCabe's Chicken, a recipe I must first have gotten from Saveur magazine.  I had to Google it to figure out where the recipe came from.  But it has been a standard grilled chicken in our house for years and I can't believe I've not blogged about it yet.  Simple, flavorful and spicy!    Because of the girls' schedules, we are eating separately tonight... good chance to break out the red pepper flakes.
So, as I left to transport Stella, the last words out of my mouth to Chris was, don't forget to brush  the red wine vinegar, butter, red pepper flake sauce onto the chicken.  Fast forward and I have to admit, the chicken was beautiful.  My grill master did come through once again in a perfectly grilled chicken, except....  there's something missing.  Hmmm, where's the twang and the spice?  McCabe's chicken was missing the McCabe.  No red wine vinegar, no butter and no red pepper flakes.  Chicken was still tasty but as Chris put it, I got the groceries, but left the baby on the roof of the car.  Poor baby!  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bulgogi Pork, Fried Egg, Brown Rice and Baby Bok Choy

If you haven't yet guessed, pork ranks high in the Emerton household.  My first thought was to make spicy pork tacos, but after last night, I opted for something else.  I love a good marinade.  It is the gold medal winner for imparting robust flavor to any meat.  And I cannot be but happy for the do ahead step of the marinade.  Any day, with dinner looming, there is solace in the knowledge that something is marinating in my refrigerator that I need only to bring out and grill, broil, or fry at the last minute.  Makes dinner preparation so much less ominous.

1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp ssam sauce (mixture of kochujang and ssamjang)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, if you kids, like mine, don't like spice, skip this)

Thinly slice the pork shoulder.  It will help to have it partially frozen for this.  You can put the pork  in your freezer for 30 minutes or up to an hour.  Or, just wing it with a sharp knife and you should be able to slice it thin enough.  Marinate the pork in the rest of the ingredients overnight or up to 2 days.

Drain pork of marinade, keeping the onions.  If you have a small grill, that would be optimal to grill the pork ala the Korean barbecue.  Or, you can cook under the broiler for about 5-7 minutes.  Lay out all the pork and onions in a single layer on a large baking pan covered with foil wrap.  Good for clean up.

I served my pork with brown rice, a fried egg, wok fry bok choy, pickled carrots and fennel, fresh cilantro and scallions, and ssam sauce on the side.   Delish.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Turbot, A New Fish To Try

At the store today, I came across a fish variety I had not seen before, Turbot.  It was described to me as being similar to halibut, but a little more silky and rich.  Of course I had to try it.  Given the described texture of the fish, and day dreaming about sunny days, I remembered my old friend, the fish taco.  So many happy thoughts go with fish tacos.  Sand under your feet, sunshine on your face, salt rimmed margarita in hand, and crashing waves in the background.  Let's all take a moment sigh over that vision.  

Okay, then, on with the turbot.
1 1/2 lbs Turbot, or other firm white fish
2 tbsp grape seed oil
juice of 1 small orange
1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
1 tsp grated ginger
1 small shallot, finely minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and dry the turbot.  Cut into approximately 1" x 3" pieces.  Mix remaining ingredients together and marinate the fish for about 30 minutes.  I chose to broil the fish, but you could also grill it on a stove top grill.  With the fish being only about 1/4" thick, there was no need to try and flip the fish while broiling and it only took a few minutes to cook.

Serve on flour or corn tortillas with fresh cilantro, cabbage, pickled fennel and carrots and chili lime crema.

For the crema, mix together:
1/4 cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp hot sauce (I use Tapatio) 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gruyere Stuffed Rib Veal Chops with Panko Crust

Happy day, it's Friday.  Unfortunately, we still have sore mouths from new braces in the house.  My babies, poor babies.  I did a little carbonara hoping it would fit the recovery bill.  But for me and Chris, full steam ahead.   Found a couple of really nice, all natural, veal rib chops at Metropolitan Market  here in Seattle.  So, trying a little somethin' somethin' tonight.

2 Rib Veal Chops
4 slices Gruyere Cheese
Truffle Salt
Flour for dusting
2 Eggs, beaten
1.5 cups Panko

Make a small slit in the middle of each veal chop and cut a little pocket into the middle.  Place the gruyere slices in the pocket and seal with a toothpick.  Sprinkle chops generously with truffle salt.  Dust with flour.  Dip in egg, then coat with panko.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat a tbsp of butter along with a tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Slowly brown the veal, about 12-15 minutes per side, taking care not to burn the panko.  If you find you have browned the panko and your veal is not cooked to your temperature liking, place it in a 400f oven for a few minutes to finish.  
Nothing wrong with a little veal, gruyere and crispy panko.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Risotto with Duck Confit, Porcini Mushroom, Red Pear and Arugula

Both my girls just got braces yesterday and we have some sore mouths and teeth in the house.  So, we are in need of soft foods.  Fortunately, risotto ranks high on our list of go to meals.  And it is high on my list of 'good opportunity to use up stuff in the freezer' foods.  This made a large batch, enough for four and leftovers for lunch.

2 Duck Confit Legs (I had in my freezer a pkg from Grimaud Farms) 
1/2 cup Dried Porcini mushrooms, soaked in a jar of hot water
1 Red Anjou Pear
2 Cups baby arugula

2 cups Carnaroli rice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup white wine
7 cups (approx) chicken stock combined with liquid from soaking the porcini mushrooms and I used a porcini mushroom bouillon
3 tbsp Mascarpone cheese
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Gently fry the duck confit legs in a cast iron skillet, just until heated through.  Cut duck into small pieces or shred with your hands.  Discard skin.
Chop porcini mushrooms
Peel and dice pear

Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Add shallots, garlic and porcini and saute until softened.  Add in rice, and stir until rice sounds like it is whistling.  Deglaze pan with white wine.  When wine is almost fully evaporated, start the broth addition ladling enough to cover the rice completely.  Stir, let simmer until almost dry and repeat.  Continue doing this stirring the rice only once each time you add in more broth.  When risotto is about half way done, stir in the duck confit, and continue cooking until risotto is al dente.  Then stir in mascarpone, then pear, then parmesan and then finally the arugula.  Serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze or in my case balsamic and fig condiment.  Stellar!