Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Roasted Buttermilk Chicken with Parmesan

I had already put the chicken into the buttermilk last night only to receive some startling news from Stella.  Apparently, she is not a fan of fried chicken!  I mean, I thought it was just fried chicken she had elsewhere, not MY fried chicken.  But wait, she loves it when I make mandarin fried chicken.  That is fried, though I suppose those are sauced too, thereby masking the fried part?  Hold on, she also loves a good chicken strip.  I need to inquire further, but after making her eat 'Mexican' last night, apparently also not a favorite meal, I quickly soldiered on and went forth with another plan.  I will be thanking her in the end... who needs a big deep fried meal anyway?  

1 Whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 Cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 Bay leaves

Combine buttermilk with salt, sugar, vanilla and bay leaves.  Stir to dissolve salt and sugar.  Place chicken and buttermilk into a zip lock bag, refrigerate overnight.
The next evening, take the chicken out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.
Heat oven to 425F
Remove chicken from the buttermilk, shaking off any excess from the chicken. Discard buttermilk.
Place chicken pieces onto a baking sheet or large skillet.  Sprinkle with just a little fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.
Roast chicken for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown on top.  We love chicken and the saltiness of the parmesan on top made it for me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tacos - Eater's Choice of Meat or Vegetables

A request for tacos was made.  This was going to be an opportunity to use up some small portions of meat I had in the refrigerator and freezer.  When I got to thinking about it, the marinade I was making could really be used on any meat, fish, shrimp or vegetable like mushrooms or eggplant should you want to grill something meatless. 

I had some lamb chops which seemed like a waste to cut up and use for tacos, but better than having to go and buy more meat I guess.  For the girls, I defrosted a couple of boneless chicken thighs.  I cut everything into small bite-sized pieces, skewered them, and put the skewers into the below marinade.

Handful of cilantro

2 Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup chopped red onion
1/3 Cup mango orange juice (or just orange juice)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
freshly ground pepper

Place everything into a blender and liquify.  Marinate the meat for 1-6 hours.  Grill over medium high heat, a few minutes per side.

It was a make your own taco affair.  Eater's choice of accompaniments:  sautéed bell peppers and onion, fresh guacamole, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, sour cream, cotija cheese, fresh lime and Tapatio hot sauce.
Truth be told, I skipped the tortilla and just went with a big salad.  Super tasty!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bacon and Cheese Focaccia

I decided to bring a little savory something for a bake sale today.  The idea spawned from the chinese sausage focaccia I made from the Milk Bar cookbook a couple weeks ago.  Considering the ingredients I was going to use for this version, it should be failsafe.  I've become completely infatuated with a yeasty dough.  I love the smell, the feel, and of course, the result.  This dough is pretty easy to make and easy to handle.  Love it.

3 1/2 Cups bread flour
1 Tbsp kosher Salt
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 3/4 Cups warm water, just slightly above room temp
grape seed oil

In the bowl of your stand mixer, stir the flour, salt and yeast together with a spatula or the hook of a stand mixer to mix well.  In a steady stream, add the water as you continue to stir until the water is incorporated, for about 1 minute.
Place the bowl onto the stand mixer and put the hook in place.  Mix the dough on the lowest speed for about 3 minutes.  Pull the dough down off the hook and then continue to knead the dough on low for another 4 minutes.  
Brush a large bowl with the grape seed oil and put the dough inside.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.  It should be slightly sticky to the touch and bounce back when you press on it.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
2 1/2 Cups grated cheese (I used half Beechers Flagship and half gruyere)
1/2 lb bacon, chopped and fried until crispy, reserve the fat from the bacon
4 oz Skillet bacon spread

Once the dough is ready, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Punch it down and pull and stretch it to be just slightly larger than a 9" x 12" baking sheet.  You will be folding the dough in thirds.  Spread half the bacon jam onto the middle section of the dough.  To make it easier to spread, take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before using.  Sprinkle half the bacon over top and then half of the cheese on top of the bacon.  
Fold one third of the dough over top and repeat the layers.  Finish with folding the last third over top and sealing the edges.  

Brush a 9" x 12" baking sheet with a bit of the reserved fat from the bacon.  Gently lift the dough onto the pan.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.
Heat oven o 375F.  Uncover the dough.  Drizzle a little more of the bacon fat around the edges of the dough, not on top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown.
Let the focaccia cool to room temp before cutting it to serve.  Yum...even better once sliced and reheated!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beef Bing

While I've got the bug, I thought I'd try another Boa, or Bing in this case.  What's the difference? Well Bao Tse and Hum Bao are the same thing, but a Bing is more like a flattened filled pancake which is fried and crispy.  I started out thinking I'd make beef boa tse, but then decided I'd try a bing instead.  I'm not sure if this dough will work for the bing, but I'm going to give it a try.  

For the filling:
1.75 lbs ground beef
One 8 oz can water chestnuts, finely chopped
5 Dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water until softened, finely chopped, liquid reserved
2 Tbsp finely minced ginger
2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
6 Scallions, finely sliced
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 Cup liquid from shiitake mushrooms
1/2 Cup beef stock
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 Tbsp corn starch

Combine all ingredients.  Mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so to let everything gel and meld together.

For the dough, I used the same recipe as the shiitake mushroom hum boa I posted last week, except I did not do the second dough rising using the baking powder.  
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/4 Cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grape seed oil
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the yeast and stir gently.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the top is frothy. In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Stir to combine, then with the mixer on low, add the water mixture in a steady stream along with the oil.  Knead the dough on low for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is well combined and smooth.  If the dough does not come together well, you may need to add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour.  It should be wet to the touch, but not too sticky.  
Take the dough out and knead with your hands until smooth.  It should only take a minute or two.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit to rise for about 3 hours.  

If you are not yet ready to use the dough, cover and refrigerate it, and take out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using.

Divide the dough into 12 to 24 rounds, depending on how big you want your bings.  I made 22.
Cover the dough with a towel while you are wrapping the bings as you will be doing these one at a time.

To make each bing, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand.  Use a small rolling pin make the dough into a round.  I roll the edges out while keeping the center thicker.  This way, you have enough girth in the center without having a thick ball at the top of the bun.  Place a round of the filling onto the center.  Bring up the sides and pinch together tightly, making sure the filling is completely incased.  Flatten the bing with the palm of your hand into a round disk, about 1" thick.
The first method I took for cooking these was the same as what I do for pot stickers, or kuo tien.  But the dough broke apart in one area, releasing the juices inside.  
Next time around, I filled my cast iron skillet with enough oil to just coat the bottom of the skillet.  Over medium high heat, I fried both sides of the bing, then placed about 3/4 cup of hot water into the skillet.  The water went about half way up the side of the bing.  Place the bings into the pan, being careful not to over crowd.  Allow enough room for the bing to expand and not touch each other.  
Cover and let cook until water has completely evaporated.  I usually gauge this by sound.  As the water evaporates, you hear sizzling of the oil.  When water has evaporated, remove lid, and flip the bing over once more to re-crisp the other side.
This cooking method worked out well.  Juices captured, crispy bun, and as Stella put it, "that's a drop of sunshine on my plate!"

Seared True Cod with Shiitake Mushroom Oyster Sauce

During my freshman year in college, after having used up all of the money on my food card, I had to start getting creative with dinner.  I was going through a period of no meat in my diet, just seafood and veggies.  Hard to believe, right?  It was shortly after my days of working in my parents’ restaurant and working with or watching my mom work with meat all the time.  I guess it turned me off for a while.  Anyhow, one day I decided to buy some dover sole and microwave it in my dorm room.  That must have been scary for my roommate, but I don’t remember it being particularly stinky.  Maybe that is why she sunk into a deep depression that last quarter of our freshman year, whereby every time I returned to the room, I found her sleeping with all of the curtains drawn.  This occurred at all times of the day.  That was the last quarter I spent in the dorms.  But I digress…
The fish.  Yes, I microwaved it with a little bit of oyster sauce and that was it.  It was a two minute meal and pretty darn good too.  I chose dover sole because it is a very thin fish, easy to quickly microwave, less chance of creating a really foul odor by overcooking.  Plus, there is always the critical mass, explosion factor in the microwave.  Not thrilled about cleaning up fish splatter... it does not go well with microwave popcorn.
Tonight’s fish is just a little fancier.  I used true cod and seared it in a little bit of oil.  For the sauce, I sautéed some sliced, fresh shiitake mushrooms, added a little oyster sauce, a splash of light soy sauce, some water and some white pepper.  Bring to a boil, and use a mixture of corn starch and water to thicken.  Serve with a shredded scallion garnish.  
The fish was super fresh.  A couple of quotes from the gals on this and the beef bing I made:
"I can't choose what to eat!  I want to stuff it all down at once!"
"Don't know why I saved that for last... I guess I was distracted by the fish!"
A good night at the Emerton table!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crispy Duck with Octo Vinaigrette

Happy Year of the Dragon!  Just a quiet dinner for us tonight.  Our celebration with my family will not be until next Saturday, but the official Chinese New Year begins on Monday.  Back when I was living in Taiwan, pretty much everything was shut for New Years except the corner 7-11.  Factories would be shut for weeks and people celebrated for days.  It is the biggest holiday there by far.  

We were living in the homeland of firecrackers.  Long strands were being set off in front of businesses, homes, everywhere.  We had gone down to the Chang Kai Shek Memorial after hearing about great fireworks and such.  I have never been more afraid in my life, for my life.  Bear in mind, twenty years ago, there were, as far as we knew, no regulations for the setting off of fireworks in this overly densely populated city.  It was a free for all.  We went down there, beers in hand (no regulations, as far as we knew, for drinking in the streets either), to see the show.  I don't recall seeing people lighting any bottle rockets, or other projectile objects, but they were everywhere.  I don't know how we managed to get into the firing range but found it impossible to escape.  It felt like hours of high pitched whistling and exploding by our heads.  Insanity.  I think I cried.  Good times.

Now safely in Seattle, no fireworks at our house, I am making a crispy duck for dinner and thinking about things I hope my kids will never do.  
For the duck:

1 Whole fresh duck
1/4 Cup kosher salt
1/4 Cup sugar
2 Cups water
Oil for frying

Cut duck into 4 sections, 2 breast halves and 2 hind quarters.  Combine salt, sugar, water and stir to dissolve.  Place duck into a large zip lock bag and add the brine.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  Remove from brine and steam the duck for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  I placed the duck in a deep dish and placed it in a large wok to steam.  
After steaming, remove the duck, let cool and refrigerate for an hour or so.  I like to keep the liquid in the dish from steaming the duck.  I remove the fat and keep the liquid for a future use like a hot pot, or cooking tofu, etc.
Fill a large pot or wok with oil, about 1/3 of the pot.  You want enough to deep fry the duck, but keep in mind the oil will bubble and expand when you fry and you don't want the oil to spill over, so do not overfill.  I use a large heavy iron pot that is deep and which I only use for frying.
Heat the oil to 375F.  Fry the duck in batches if necessary, until the skin is deep brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  
Once the duck is cool enough to handle, cut into smaller pieces and toss with the Octo Vinaigrette.  Finish with sliced scallions.

The Octo Vinaigrette is a David Chang recipe, and can be found here.  In his cookbook, it is served with fried chicken.  It it very similar tasting to the sauce I use for Mandarin Fried Chicken, and we love it!  It will make you want to hug each other for joy.  And so we did!

Szechuan Eggplant

This is maybe my favorite eggplant dish.  I really do love eggplant and one would normally use  long slender Chinese eggplant for this, but on Monday I had purchased two large eggplant, the ones you commonly find in your local supermarket.  It being Sunday now, and still having not used them, I decided a Szechuan eggplant dish would go just fine with my crispy duck.

2 Large eggplant, or 4-5 Chinese eggplant
2 Tbsp oil
kosher salt
Cut eggplant into small 3/4" x 3" pieces.  You can peel the eggplant if you like, but I like the skin.  Traditionally, the eggplant would be deep fried, but that seems excessive to me.  In the past, I've boiled it and today, I decided to roast it until it's soft.  Place the eggplant onto a large baking pan.  Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with a little kosher salt.  Roast at 400F for 10-15 minutes, or until eggplant is softened, but not overcooked.  Set aside until ready to use.  Cover if you are not using immediately so they do not dry out.
1/4 Cup ground pork
1-2 Tbsp chili sauce, I used a combination of the chili sauce I made the other day and purchased broad bean hot sauce to make about 1 tbsp.You should decide on how much chili sauce to use depending on how hot the chili sauce is.
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp Soy
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp corn starch mixed with 2 tsp water
1 Tbsp scallions, thinly sliced

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large wok.  Cook ground pork and chili sauce together until pork is almost fully cooked.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.  Then add the eggplant, stock, soy, and sugar.  Cook the eggplant for several minutes, with the sauce boiling, until the eggplant is fully cooked through.  Then add the sesame oil and vinegar and thicken with the corn starch mixture.  Serve with scallions sprinkled on top.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Pacino! - And Yes, I Am Around The Bend

Pacino is five today.  In the debate of whether or not to post about our dog Pacino's birthday dinner, my only concern is if I'd offend anyone.  Folks can think I'm crazy, but I just don't want any anger.  The reality is, I'm writing about what my family eats, and Pacino is a big part of our family.  He's always there to greet us with a gift when we arrive home.  He faithfully follows me wherever I go, always waiting for me to settle down so he can lay at my feet.  When the girls are angry or sad and they shut their bedroom door, he's the only one they open it for.  He'll be sent in or pulled in like a first aid kit rolled into a soft furry bundle of sweetness.  He'll never judge, he'll never lie, he'll never hate, he will only love.  Besides the occasional leg hug, for which he has provided no explanation or excuse, Pacino is pretty much perfect.  
Pacino eats a normal meal of ground turkey and peas.  For his birthday, he gets a special meal of steak tartare, no seasoning.  Somehow, as I prepare it, he knows it's for him.  He sits and watches me sear the steak and then chop it up.  I quick poach an egg yolk to put on top and surround the steak with petite peas.  He sits patiently for my photos and videos and then gobbles it down like every other meal.  Did he even taste that?  Oh well, doesn't matter.  Happy birthday Pacino!  We love you!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making Stock on a Snowy Wednesday and Ramen Dinner on an Icy Thursday

Preparing for the impending snow storm, I made a trip to the store Tuesday and purchased several packages of bones to make stock.  Planning ahead for my Chinese New Year dinner, I wanted to make a good chicken stock but I also decided to try something new, a pork stock for ramen.  I'm stuck at home, I might as well let the pots boil for the day.
Every time I make a large stock, I always say to myself, "buy a larger pot".  Don't know why that never happens.

5 Quarts Water
2 Pieces Konbu, approx 3" x 5"
5 Dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
2 Whole chicken bones (back and breast)
5 Pounds Meaty Pork Bones
1 Onion, peeled and quartered
5 Scallions
1 1/2 Cup chopped carrots
1/2 Pound smoky bacon (I used Nueskes)

I started the afternoon before by putting all of the bones in a small brine of water, equal parts sugar and kosher salt, a few pieces of smashed ginger, and some rice wine.  Since they were going into a stock, I wasn't too concerned about measuring, just make sure you don't go overboard on the salt and sugar, but you have some leeway.  Refrigerate overnight, drain before using.
With my small pot, I started with about 3 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil, add the konbu and let simmer for a few minutes.  I took one piece of konbu out to use for my chicken stock, then added the shiitake mushrooms.  Let that simmer for a few minutes and then add the chicken, cover and let simmer while you brown the pork bones.
Lay the bones out on a large baking sheet.  I set them under the broiler until browned.  Then add them to the pot along with the onion, scallions, carrots and bacon.  Bring to a simmer.
At this point, I split my stock into two pots and added about 1 more quart of water to each pot.  If you have a pot large enough, just do everything in one pot starting with the 5 quarts of water.
Cover and let simmer over very low heat for about 8 hours.  The third pot is my chicken stock.
Let cool a bit and remove and discard the bones and vegetables, etc.  Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer.  At this point, I incorporated both stocks into one pot.  Taste the stock and decide how much you want/need to reduce it to intensify the flavors.  I like to cook it down somewhat as I will be freezing a portion of it.  When I go back to use it, I can add water if it is too concentrated.  But it is less to store if it is cooked down to a concentrated stock.  Finish the stock with kosher salt, light soy sauce and mirin.  This is also up to your taste buds.  Mine did not need any more salt, but the soy and mirin gives it more depth of flavor.
Chill the stock overnight and skim off most of the excess fat once it's cold.  Do not remove all of it as a little bit is necessary for flavor.  I will freeze a portion and use a portion for ramen.

Come Thursday evening, I prepared the pork for the ramen.  I debated between braising, slow cooking or just roasting.  I had a few pieces of boneless country style pork ribs, or pork butt cut into the shape of country style ribs.  I put a mixture of equal parts salt and sugar on the pork, much like the way I would for a roast pork belly, and place it in the refrigerator for several hours.  Then I cooked the pork pretty much the same as a pork belly.  
Roast at 425F for 40 minutes, then at 250F for another hour.  Cover and let rest before slicing.
Then I braised some bamboo shoots in water, soy, sugar, rice wine, and a splash of grape seed oil and sesame oil.   Simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender.  

I wish I had some fishcake in the house, but forgot to buy that.  A little bit of corn, some pea vines, a piece of nori, and a soft boiled egg (okay, I over cooked them) round out the bowl.

Turnip Cake

Thursday, and still stuck at home, and still cooking.  This is another dish I thought would be good for Chinese New Year, as an appetizer, perhaps.  You see it served for dim sum and it is best served pan fried right before you are going to eat it.  Pass on those ones rolling on the cart on endless rounds around the dim sum restaurant.  I don't mind a cold turnip cake so much, but depending on how much oil they used to fry them, and how long they've been sitting on the cart, they may taste greasy and stale.  

2 lbs Chinese turnip or daikon
1 oz Small dried shrimp
1 1/2 Cups dried shiitake mushrooms
6 oz Chinese sausage
4 Scallions, thinly sliced
1 Small shallot, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp rice wine
2 Tbsp light soy
1/4 tsp Ground white pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 2/3 Cups rice flour
2 Cups of liquid reserved from turnip, shrimp and shiitakes
oil for pan frying

Grate the turnip using a coarse grater into a large bowl.  Cover the turnips with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes.  Drain using a sieve or colander, reserving the liquid.  When cool enough, squeeze out excess water. 

Rinse then soak the dried shrimp in boiling water until soft.  Drain, adding the liquid to the turnip liquid.  Chop the shrimp into very small pieces.

Rinse then soak the shiitake mushrooms in boiling water until softened.  Drain and add the liquid to the turnip liquid.  Squeeze out excess liquid from the mushrooms, remove stems and finely chop.

Steam the Chinese sausages for about 10 minutes and finely dice.
In a large wok, heat 1 tbsp of oil.  Fry the sausages for about a minute and then add the shrimp and mushrooms and fry for another couple of minutes.  Add the scallions, shallot, garlic, sugar, wine, soy and white pepper and stir fry for another couple od minutes.  Then add the turnip, cilantro and rice flour and toss to combine well.  Add the reserved liquid and mix well.  
Put the turnip mixture into a greased square pan, 10" x 10".  Or split up into two smaller pans depending on the size of your steamer or wok.  Steam for 75 to 90 minutes, adding water as needed to steamer.  
Let cool slightly, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Remove the cake from the pan and cut into small squares.  With our below freezing temps, I just put my pan outside for a few couple of hours and it was ready to go.
Pan fry the turnip cakes in a little bit of oil over medium heat until heated through and just slightly crispy on the outside.
Delicious!  Especially with my la jiao jiang from the other day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

La Jiao Jiang (Hot Chili Sauce)

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner and I've been thinking about what to make for our New Year's dinner.  This will not be on the menu, but may be a condiment on the side. I got a bug in me to make some of my own la jiao jiang, or hot chili sauce.  I've never done it before.  When my mom and I go out for lunch, we always taste the restaurant's own in house chili sauce.  I use it as one of my gauges for measuring the quality of the restaurant.  There are some good ones out there and when we've really liked the chili sauce, we've convinced them to sell us a little jar of it.  Here's my first shot at making my own.  I don't know why I decided to make so much.  It doesn't seem too smart given I don't have a tested recipe for it.  But, I figure the ingredients are cheap and if it turns out well, I'll wish I had made a bunch.

Let me prepare the setting first... Turn on all of your fans in your hood vent.  Tuck the children and pets safely away in another room.  Who knows what might happen.  Then assemble the ingredients.

10.5 oz Dried Whole Chilis, chopped up in a food processor
2 oz Red Pepper Flakes
2 Large Shallots, finely diced (about 1.25 cups)
1 1/4 Cup Dried Wild Anchovies
1/3 Cup finely minced garlic
2 1/2 Cups Canola oil
3/8 Cup sugar
3/8 Cup light soy sauce
3/8 Cup dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Cup water
1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 Tbsp water

In a large wok, heat oil over medium low heat, then fry:
Shallots  for 5 minutes on medium low until translucent
Then add anchovies for 2 minutes on medium to medium high
Then add garlic for 1 minutes on medium
Then add sugar, soy sauces, vinegar and water 
Bring to a light simmer, turn heat down to low and add the chili pepper
Stir well to incorporate.  Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Finish with the corn starch and water mixture to thicken slightly

It was a molten pot of hot lava.  I was afraid to taste it, and when I finally did, my fears were true.  I love hot sauce.  I mean, I love, love, spicy food.  The little bit I put on my tongue was a fiery, albeit tasty, blast.  I called my mom to tell her of the fire pit I had just created and she assured me it will become milder once it was cooled and I was eating it with something.  We shall see.
It will be at the very least good for cooking spicy dishes.  The flavor is quite good and I'll have to see if it's edible once it's cooled down.  I think I could have used more oil, as most chili sauces do have more oil.  Other than that, I look forward to burning a hole in my stomach when I go to enjoy my home made la jiao jiang.

On another  note, a strange occurrence in the hen house today.  We got five eggs from our four chickens.  After much investigation, egg inspection and video footage viewing, we came to the conclusion it was Allie who had laid two eggs today.  Strangely, all five eggs looked different.  Normally, we can tell who laid what egg just by the egg itself.  
Oh, also a little renovation was done over the weekend to the girls' coop.  Because the coop is so close to our house, the dirt the chickens kick up while scratching and digging, has been building up on the side of the house.  So, on Sunday, I put in solid walls on the side of the coop that were up against the house and took out the wire mesh that was there before.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shiitake Mushroom Hum Bao

We recently visited the Dahlia Lounge for a dinner and movie night.  It's a tried and true spot and probably one of the earliest restaurants I frequented often, starting way back in my just post college, real job, early twenties, footloose and first few extra dollars in my pocket days.  We'd go there for lunch and I'd have the fried rice with grilled shrimp.  It was my favorite, something I could likely eat every day, and it was unlike any other fried rice I had eaten before.  The other night, I had something I had also never eaten before... a shiitake mushroom humbao.  It was delightful.  Truth be told, I've been trying to stay off the carbs somewhat, but I was not going to let that hum bao go.  I offered Chris a bite and then he said hopefully, "you're not eating carbs right?"  I'm sure he was just looking out for me.

Sometimes, when I'm out and I eat something I really like, I often, in retrospect, wish I had put a little bit in a vacuum sealed bag to bring home so I could taste it again while I'm trying to recreate it.  But, the thought never crosses my mind at the time.  Instead, I just munch it down joyfully.  I should invent a handbag accessory for that purpose.
For the hum boa dough:
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/4 Cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the yeast and stir gently.  Let sit for about 10 minutes until the top is frothy. In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour and the salt.  Stir to combine, then with the mixer on low, add the water mixture in a steady stream along with the oil.  Knead the dough on low for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is well combined and smooth.  If the dough does not come together well, you may need to add a bit more water.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour.  It should be wet to the touch, but not too sticky.  
Take the dough out and knead with your hands until smooth.  It should only take a minute or two.  Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit to rise for about 3 hours.  I love the little wafts of yeasty dough in the air.
While waiting for the dough to rise, make the shiitake mushroom filling.
If you are not yet ready to use the dough, cover and refrigerate it.  When ready to use, remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Flatten and pound a small well into the center.  Sprinkle the baking powder in to the well, and then fold the sides over making sure you seal in the baking powder.  Knead the dough for a few minutes to incorporate the baking powder.

Divide the dough into 12 to 24 rounds, depending on how big you want your hum boas.  I made 18 plus a few just plain buns, like those you use for pork buns, just for fun. 
Cover with a towel while you are wrapping your hum boas as you will be doing these one at a time.
To make each hum boa, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand.  You can use a little rolling pin if you'd like or use your fingers to pull and flatten into a round.  Place a small round of the filling onto the center.  Bring up the side and pinch together tightly, making sure the filling is completely incased.  Don't worry, it'll get easier with each one you make.  Of course the thinner the dough, the less doughy your hum boa is.  I like it less doughy, but I am not a very adept hum boa maker.  
Arrange the buns in a steamer and steam for 15 minutes.  Make sure you allow enough space between them for them to expand a little during cooking.  Whenever you steam this type of food, make sure you put either some lettuce, napa cabbage, or cheesecloth, etc.  down to keep the buns from sticking to the bottom of the steamer.  
What am I going to do with so many? Well, it's difficult to just make a few, so after steaming them all, I put the ones we didn't eat onto a pan and froze them.  From there, you can take them out as needed and either steam or microwave until just warmed.

For the Filling:
3-4 Cups dried shiitake mushrooms, about 40 medium sized
1 Cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 Tbsp finely minced ginger
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Cup water (I used half water and half liquid from soaking the mushrooms)
Freshly grated black pepper and sprinkle of ground white pepper
Soak mushrooms in hot water until soft.  I always rinse the mushrooms first before soaking.  Many times, if I am making soup, or other things with sauce, I like to add some of the soaking liquid, so I like to make sure I remove any debris, etc. from the mushrooms.
Squeeze out the excess liquid and thinly slice the mushrooms.  
Heat a little oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add in the shiitake mushrooms and toss to combine.  Add the remaining ingredients and turn heat down to medium low, cover the wok and allow the mushrooms to cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are quite soft and liquid has been absorbed.  Let cool before making the hum boas.
The dough was wonderful!  I am going to make that for my pork buns in the future.  A little off on the filling.  I think the shiitakes needed to be sliced even thinner and cooked longer.  But other than that, it was pretty good.  The dough was the right thickness... not too doughy.  Stella snuck one off before dinner and in a skip, tip toey, jog, took a bite and said, "yay, party in my mouth".  That's got to be good, right?