Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tapas: Tomates Asados con Ajos y Tomillo (Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Thyme) and Patatas Aïoli (Baby Potatoes with Aïoli)

The first time I had tapas was in a restaurant in Addison.  You sat at a small table, crunched next to everyone else, and listened to flamenco guitar as you ate.  The night was almost magical, but unfortunately my body decided it didn't like something I ate, so I never went back.  The restaurant has since closed (coincidence??).  Needless to say, I've been a little hesitant to try tapas again.

Tapas are basically the ultimate appetizers.  You order a bunch of little dishes and pick through the selection as you sip your sangria.  It makes for great chatting food, and you can tell that it was made for slow eating.  Normally the tapas are pretty balanced: not too many fried dishes, not too much meat, not too much salt.  But since you pick your poison, you can go whole hog however you would like.

For my re-entry into the world of tapas, I decided to go easy and make a couple of vegetarian dishes.  Roasted tomatoes sounded fabulous, and since I'm a potato girl, I went with potatoes in a garlic mayonnaise.  Not too much work, and both of the dishes boasted flavor that was way above what I expected from such simple preparations.  Maybe next time I'll get more adventurous with some squid in its own ink or blood sausage?

Tomates Asados con Ajos y Tomillo (Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Thyme)
From Tapas: Traditional and Contemporary Tapas Dishes

8 deep red plum tomatoes
3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus extra to garnish
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Generous ¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange, cut side up, in a single layer in a large, ovenproof dish.  Tuck the thyme sprigs and garlic cloves between them.

Drizzle the olive oil all over the tomatoes and season to taste with pepper.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened and beginning to char slightly around the edges.

Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.  Season the tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with the extra thyme sprigs and serve hot or warm.  Squeeze the pulp from the garlic over the tomatoes at the table.

Serves 6

Patatas Aïoli (Baby Potatoes with Aïoli)

1 pound baby new potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
5 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons corn oil
Salt and pepper

To make the Aïoli, place the egg yolk, vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and blend together.  With the motor still running, very slowly add the olive oil, then the corn oil, drop by drop at first, then, when it begins to thicken, in a slow, steady stream until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Alternatively, use a bowl and whisk to make the Aïoli.  For this recipe the Aïoli should be quite thin to coat the potatoes.  To ensure this, blend in 1 tablespoon of water to form the consistency of sauce.

To prepare the potatoes, cut them in half or fourths to make bite-size pieces.  If they are very small you can leave them whole.  Place the potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 7 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl.

While the potatoes are still warm, pour over the Aïoli sauce and gently toss the potatoes in it.  Adding the sauce to the potatoes while they are still warm will help them to absorb the garlic flavor.  Let stand for 20 minutes so that the potatoes marinate in the sauce.

Transfer the potatoes with Aïoli to a warmed serving dish.  Sprinkle over the parsley and salt to taste and serve warm.  Alternatively, the dish can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator, but return it to room temperature before serving.

Serves 6-8

Sunday, December 24, 2006 Sushi Rice

My favorite food ever?  Easy, it's sushi.  I love everything about this food.  Its delicious flavors, soft slightly-sweet rice, fresh fish, crunchy toppings...  I wish I had three stomachs to fill with sushi.  Not sure my bank account could keep up, but still.  And now I've learned how to make sushi, which makes life so much easier.  And delicious.

Philadelphia Roll: smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber strips
Eel Roll: broiled freshwater eel (unagi), avocado, cucumber strips, eel sauce on top
Spicy Tuna Roll: raw sushi-grade tuna, cucumber, sriracha sauce on top

Sushi Rice

Pre-prepare a vinegar-water solution called tezu. Mix together 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

2 cups raw sushi rice (short or medium grain)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the rice several times until the water is clear. Move to a colander and drain for an hour. Transfer the rice to a heavy pot or electric rice cooker and add the measured water. Make sure there is a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat allowing the rice to steam for 15 minutes more with the cover on at all times. Now remove from the heat, remove the lid momentarily to stretch a clean tea towel over the pot and replace the cover. Let it remain covered and without heat to finish steaming for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt together in a small saucepan. While stirring, heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Set aside the mixture to cool to room temperature. After the rice has steamed properly, take a wooden spatula or spoon and cut and fold the rice. Do not use beating or stirring motions as you want to avoid smashing the grains.

Dampen a cloth using the pre-prepared tezu and rub the insides of a bowl. The traditional bowl to use is the flat-bottomed wooden sushi oke or hangiri. The wood absorbs excess moisture and the large surface allows the rice to cool more quickly and evenly. Put the hot rice into the bowl and quickly add the seasoned rice vinegar solution. Mix with the same cutting and folding motion. After mixing, fan the hot rice mixture in order to remove moisture as well as to cool it. This should take about 10 minutes. The rice grains will have a nice sheen. The result will be ideal sushi rice with a slightly chewy consistency and just a touch of stickiness.

The rice is not to be refrigerated and should be used within an hour after preparation. Keep the rice covered with a clean cloth and at room temperature until you are ready to make your rolls.

Enough rice for 4 sushi rolls

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sara Moulton: Tarte au Pommes (French Apple Tart)

I know it's probably a bit late to be blogging about Thanksgiving festivities, but this time of year I always feel like I have too much to do, and no time to do it in. For this year's Thanksgiving, my family had a pretty normal spread, but I did bring a newcomer to the table. For dessert I contributed a French Apple Tart that I saw Sara Moulton cook, but it's in Gourmet magazine, and much harder to make than she lets on. Everything was delicious, and we all ate until our stomachs were ready to split open, so I feel the cooking was successful in every way!

Tarte au Pommes (French Apple Tart)
From Sara Moulton

1 recipe Pastry Dough
6 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, halved and sliced -inch thick
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold butter, sliced thin
½ cup apricot jam, heated and strained
Vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream, as an accompaniment

Preheat oven to 375°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 13-inch round and fit it into a 10-inch tart tin with a removable fluted rim, trimming the excess.  Arrange the apples decoratively on the pastry shell, overlapping them.  Sprinkle the sugar on top of the apples, top with butter slices, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is cooked through and the apples are golden.  Brush with the heated apricot jam while the tart is still hot.  Serve each portion with a small scoop of ice cream or a small spoonful of whipped cream.

Pastry Dough

1 stick cold unsalted butter
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

To blend by hand: Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal (roughly pea-size lumps).  Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water evenly over and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.

To blend in a food processor: Pulse together flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal (roughly pea-size lumps).  Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse 2 to 3 times, or just until incorporated.

Test mixture:  Gently squeeze a small handful: it should hold together without crumbling apart.  If it doesn't, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring or pulsing 2 to 3 times after each addition until incorporated (keep testing).  If you overwork the mixture or add too much water, the pastry dough will be tough.

Form dough:  Turn out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions.  With heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute the fat.  Gather the dough together and form it, rotating it on the work surface, into a disk.  Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Emeril Lagasse: Southern Cooked Greens

While I am certainly a southerner, I wasn't raised to eat that way, unfortunately (fortunately for my waist?).  My mom was taught to cook by her mother, who in turn was taught to cook by her mother-in-law, and all of those dishes were German and Irish.  Nothing southern there.  Just lots of meat and potatoes.  And more potatoes.  So when I moved to Texas, I was introduced to a whole new world of delicious soul food.  The kind that makes you feel all warm and happy down in the pit of your being.  A half a pound of bacon does the body good.

Southern Cooked Greens
From Emeril Lagasse

½ pound raw bacon, chopped
3 cups onions, julienned
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 (12-ounce) bottle Dixie beer
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
6 pounds greens, such as mustard, collard, or turnip

In a large pot, render the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes or until the onions are wilted.  Season the mixture with salt, pepper, and cayenne.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the beer, vinegar, and molasses.  Stir in the greens, a third at a time, pressing the greens down as they start to wilt.  Cook the greens, uncovered, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Steak Frites: Porc aux Champignons et Pommes de Terre au Reblochon (Pork with Mushrooms and Twice Baked Potatoes with Reblochon Cheese)

Okay, so I didn't make steak frites, but a cookbook about French bistro cooking, particularly steak frites, had me drooling all afternoon, so I decided I probably shouldn't continue to resist the call of la cuisine française.  While a beautiful steak coated in freshly cracked black pepper with a side of fries sounds heavenly, said steak isn't really part of the budget this paycheck.  I had to take a step down the meat aisle and settle for some pork, although it certainly didn't feel like settling once this luscious dish hit my taste buds.

Such a fantastic pork dish needs something equally fabulous on the side, so I decided to try some twice-baked potatoes, French style.  The original recipe called for Reblochon cheese, but since brie was an acceptable substitute, and I didn't want to spend my afternoon in the grocery store, I grabbed a wedge of creamy brie.

Everything turned out beautifully (except for my pictures, ack!), and I moped up every bit of the pork's sauce with my creamy potato.  A little spinach on the side, and this was a bistro-worth dinner for sure.

Porc aux Champignons (Pork with Mushrooms)
From Steak Frites by Pierre-Yves Chupin

2 pork tenderloins, each weighing 14 ounces
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound, 2 ounces button mushrooms
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
3 shallots
8 baby onions
1 small sprig thyme
1 cup light cream

Cut the pork tenderloins into large pieces.  Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and brown the meat on all sides.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wipe the mushrooms, slice them thinly, and add to the skillet with the bay leaf and cloves.  Peel the shallots and baby onions.  Slice the shallots and add them to the skillet with the whole onions and the sprig of thyme.  Cover and cook for 1 hour over a gentle heat.  Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the sauce thickens.  Season to taste.

Makes 4 servings

Pommes de Terre au Reblochon (Twice Baked Potatoes with Reblochon Cheese)
From Steak Frites by Pierre-Yves Chupin

½ Reblochon cheese, or 4 ounces brie or Monterey Jack
4 thin slices bacon
4 large baking potatoes
Olive oil for brushing
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter

Cut the cheese, with its rind, into pieces.  Chop the bacon and fry in a little oil or broil.  Scrub clean and dry the potatoes.  Brush them with a little olive oil and cook them in the oven for 1 hour at 425°F, being sure to turn them halfway through.  Remove the baked potatoes from the oven and cut in half lengthwise.  Carefully scoop out three quarters of each potato from its skin.  Preheat the oven broiler.  Place a large piece of butter in each half potato, then place them under the broiler for 10 minutes until they are golden brown.  Remove from the broiler and stuff each half potato with a little cheese, followed by some chopped bacon and scooped out potato flesh.  Put back under the broiler for a few minutes, then serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

It's finally that time of year when the cold fronts move through Texas and cool us off a little. But when those fronts move through and the air gets a little crisp in the mornings, it makes me want to eat something very special that my mother only makes once in a blue moon. She has withheld the recipe for this particular treat for all of my 28 years until I have finally figured out how to make it. And what is this delectable treat that makes my mouth water at its name? Chicken and Dumplings. Yes, something so simple makes my stomach growl in anticipation hours prior to the meal. And now I finally have a recipe.

When making the dumplings, you have several options. Option 1: Cut the dough into strips 1x4". Option 2: Use a 1½" biscuit cutter to make little rounds of dough. Option 3 (the one I used): Use a fancy Japanese cutter to make little flowers. All of these will yield the same delicious results. My mom uses option 1 since it's the easiest.

Chicken Stew with Sage Dumplings

1 5-pound chicken
1 stalk celery (including leaves), cut in thirds
1 small onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into thirds
15 leaves fresh sage
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
8 large leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Remove any internal organs from chicken and place in a large pot. Stuff cavity with 10 sage leaves. Add celery, onion, carrot, and 5 remaining sage leaves to the pot. Add water to cover chicken. Heat to boiling over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for an hour and a half, or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken from broth and let cool. When chicken is cool to the touch, remove skin and discard. Pull meat from the bone in finger-size chunks and set aside. Discard bones (or use them to make chicken broth for other dishes). Cool chicken broth and refrigerate until fat collects on the top. Strain the fat from the top and then return the broth to the heat. Add chicken back to the broth.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sage in a medium bowl. Heat butter and milk over medium heat until milk is hot and butter is melted. Pour over dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until moistened. Turn out onto a floured surface and, using a floured rolling pin, roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut into strips, rounds, or other shape. Bring broth to a boil. Drop dumplings in one at a time in different areas of the pot so that the dumplings do not stick while cooking. When all of the dumplings have been added, let the broth boil for another five minutes, then turn down the heat to medium.

In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with broth from the pot to form a thin paste. Add back to the pot and stir until the whole mixture thickens moderately. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Two Bentos from Bento Boxes: Teriyaki Scallops/Soy Turnip/Gobo in Vinegar and Glazed Meatballs/Quick Mushrooms/Simmered Pumpkin

What could be more fun than a bento for lunch?  The answer, in case you're wondering, is nothing.  I actually look forward to my lunch if there's a little box full of goodies waiting for me.  These are two bentos that I made based on recipes from Bento Boxes by Naomi Kijima.  Give them a try and see how much more fun your lunch can be.

Teriyaki Scallops

5 scallops
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sake
1 tablespoon water

Trim the scallops. Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil. Add the scallops and cook 3 to 4 minutes until well-glazed.

Soy Turnip

1 turnip with leaves
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Remove the turnip leaves, leaving ½-inch of stem. Peel the turnip and cut into wedges. Toss with the soy sauce.

Gobo in Vinegar

1 (4¾-inch) piece gobo (burdock root), peeled
⅓ cup dashi stock
1½ tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Roasted sesame seeds

Cut the gobo crosswise into 3 pieces.  Slice lengthwise and blanch.  Stir in the dashi, vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Glazed Meatballs
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

¼ onion, minced
½ teaspoon cooking oil
3 ounces ground beef
2 teaspoons beaten egg
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Oil for deep frying
2 teaspoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon each granulated sugar, mirin, and sake
3 tablespoons water
4 quail eggs, hard-boiled

Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent. Let cool. Combine the ground beef, cooked onion, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Knead well.  Form into small balls. Deep fry at 340°F for 2 to 3 minutes until well browned. Place meatballs in a pan with all remaining ingredients except the quail eggs. Boil 4 to 5 minutes. Place the meatballs on short skewers, alternating with quail eggs.

Quick Mushrooms
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

½ tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
3 tablespoons water
¾ ounce shimeji mushrooms, with stalks

Bring liquid ingredients to a boil and add the shimeji.  Cook briefly, then drain.

Simmered Pumpkin
From Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go by Naomi Kijima

3 ounces pumpkin (kabocha squash)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Dice pumpkin in ¾-inch cubes.  Shave off the sharp edges. Boil in a small amount of water for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and continue cooking. When tender, drizzle with soy sauce.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Dallas Morning News: Fresh Broccoli Salad with Craisins and Pecans

Despite the fact that I have a deep and abiding love for broccoli, when my mother first pulled this recipe out of the paper, I was less than enthusiastic.  I mean, raw broccoli is just so...bitter.  And how could you possibly cover that up?  Well, it's possible.  This may now be my favorite salad.  I whip this bad boy up whenever I need to bring something green to a potluck.  And I get to watch peoples' faces as they realize how delicious it is.  And of course, BACON.

Fresh Broccoli Salad with Craisins and Pecans
Adapted from The Dallas Morning News, 7 June 2006

¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sugar
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 (12-ounce) bags broccoli florets (about 8 cups)
1 cup Craisins
1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, drained
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
½ cup sliced green onion
12 pieces bacon, cooked crisp and diced

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar.  Chill.

Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil.  Put the broccoli florets in a colander and pour the water slowly over them to blanch.  When cool, break apart larger florets so they are all a similar size.

Combine florets with Craisins and oranges, if using, and enough dressing to lightly coat.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, fold in pecans, green onion, and bacon.

Makes 10 servings

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Food Network: Joe's Screaming Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers

It's that time of year again. Time for the obsessive watching of your favorite college teams pummeling each other on the gridiron. And what would a college football game be without some serious tailgate food? I've never actually been to a real live tailgate party in the parking lot, but we had a contest at work to see which team could make the best replica. I must say that my team won the contest, and I think it was partly due to the amazing stuffed jalapeños that I presented. I've also never eaten stuffed jalapeños before, but I was assured these are scrumptious. I thought they had just the right level of spice, and I must admit the bacon really made them melt in my mouth. If you want a much spicier pepper, you can leave the seeds and membranes intact. Enjoy!

Joe's Screaming Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers
From Food Network

20 whole jalapeños
2 packages cream cheese, softened
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 pound thinly sliced bacon

Cut a slit down each jalapeño pepper and gently remove seeds and membrane without breaking pepper open. Set peppers aside.

Beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Fold in garlic, tomatoes, basil, and salt to taste. Using a small spoon or pastry bag, stuff each pepper with cheese mixture until full, but not overflowing. Cut bacon slices in half and wrap half a piece around each pepper, placing seam under the pepper. If you really like bacon, you could use a whole slice for each pepper, but you would need more bacon than indicated above. Place wrapped peppers on a foil lined baking sheet. Set oven to broil, and place peppers under the heat for about seven minutes or until bacon is cooked and peppers gently blister. Serve with lots of water!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Classic Japanese Cooking Course: Japanese Miso-Mayonnaise Salmon

I'd had this really good salmon dish at some Asian buffets, but I could never figure out the recipe. I knew it had miso paste in the topping, but beyond that I was clueless. Well, it turns out the topping is a mixture of mayonnaise and white miso paste. The sauce is spread on top of the salmon, and then shredded cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top along with a little bit of Japanese seven spice powder. The whole thing is cooked in an aluminum foil packet to keep in the moisture.  While it sounds a bit icky to have mayo on your fish, it keeps the salmon moist and creamy.  Also, the trick is to use Japanese mayonnaise which has a different texture and flavor than the American stuff.  Try Kewpie brand.

Note: I had an extra leek hanging around, so I sautéed thin slices in some butter and put it under the salmon before cooking.  Delicious.

Japanese Miso-Mayonnaise Salmon
Adapted from Classic Japanese Cooking Course by Masaki Ko

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on, bones removed
½ cup Japanese mayonnaise (such as Kewpie)
3 tablespoons white miso paste
1 ounce sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Seven spice powder (shichimi)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Mix the mayonnaise and miso paste until well combined.  Cut four pieces of foil large enough to enclose each fillet completely.  Place one salmon fillet on each piece of foil.  Spread the sauce evenly over the tops of the fillets.  Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese and seven spice powder.  Fold the foil tightly to enclose the fish fillets completely and prevent leakage.  Place the packets on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Open the foil and bake another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Beverly's Restaurant: Fingerling Potato Salad with Stilton Cheese

So last weekend was my dad's birthday, and we decided to cook him a meal instead of dragging him to a restaurant. He's not a big fan of strange new tastes or odd smells and colors, so I had to go easy on him. We decided to be very traditional and have rotisserie chicken, deviled eggs, and potato salad. But not just any potato salad. A potato salad made with multi-colored fingerling potatoes and Stilton blue cheese. Because why make a regular potato salad when you can totally go over the top?

The recipe comes from this great little restaurant halfway between Athens, TX and Palestine, TX. It's called Beverly's Restaurant, and it's inside of BK Ranch's main building. I loved it at first bite. Luckily the recipe was online for me to plunder.

Fingerling Potato Salad with Stilton Cheese
From Beverly's Restaurant, Athens, TX

1 pound fingerling potatoes of various colors
2 ounces Stilton blue cheese, crumbled
3 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons parsley, chopped fine
2 teaspoons chives, chopped fine
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and white pepper

Place potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water; season well with salt. Cook potatoes over high heat until almost cooked in the center. Pierce potato with a toothpick to test for doneness. Remove the potatoes from the pot and spread on a baking sheet; place in refrigerator to cool. Once potatoes are cool, slice them and place in a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss salad to mix. Season with salt and white pepper.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Suraya Karjeker: Chicken Shahi Korma

I've always been a bit fascinated by Indian food.  The spices, the thick yogurt, produce I've never seen before.  But it's one of those things that seems easier to just get in your local restaurant than try to attempt at home.  Fortunately, I was able to take a cooking class on Indian food, so I have a small repertoire now that can be made on my stovetop.

Probably my favorite Indian dish is something called shahi korma.  It's basically a meat cooked in a spiced nutty creamy sauce.  There is something to satisfying about it.  It takes a while to cook, but it is well worth it. The shahi korma can also be made with lamb or beef stew meat, but if using beef, it needs twice as long to simmer.

Chicken Shahi Korma
From Suraya Karjeker, cooking class at Central Market

4 cloves garlic
1 inch cubed fresh ginger, peeled
1 ounce blanched, slivered almonds
3 tablespoons water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
5 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 small onion, sliced into rings
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 fluid ounces whipping cream
¼ tsp garam masala
1 teaspoon saffron threads

Put the garlic, ginger, almonds, and water into a small food processor and blend until the ingredients form a paste. Set aside.

Add some oil to a large skillet and when hot, add chicken cubes. Cooking in batches, brown on all sides and then place in a bowl to rest. Add cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon to remaining oil in pan and stir for about 10 seconds. Then add onions and brown. Turn the heat to medium and add the paste from the food processor. Add the ground coriander, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and cook the mixture for three minutes; add the cooked chicken along with any accumulated juices. Add about a cup of water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour, checking mixture, stirring, and adding water as necessary. When the hour is almost up, don't add any more water and allow mixture to thicken slightly. Pick out the cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon stick; discard. Add the salt, cream, garam masala, and saffron. Mix well.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fiery-Foods: Hatch Green Chile Sauce and Calabacitas (Creamy Corn and Zucchini)

Every year there's a shipment of green chiles that come from Hatch, New Mexico. They get roasted in giant roasters and sold in bulk. And then everyone makes delicious recipes in celebration. I wanted to participate at home this year since Tex-Mex cooking has become so close to my heart, so I made a green chile dinner in honor of the yearly chile festival.

First I decided on some green chile chicken enchiladas. The mild chiles are perfectly matched with the delicate chicken, and these enchiladas were a hit. To go with them I served a mixture of zucchini and corn called calabacitas that is popular in New Mexico.

Hatch Green Chile Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup roasted Hatch chiles, peeled and chopped
4 small tomatillos, husk removed, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Black pepper

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add the oil when hot. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until soft, about five minutes. Stir in the flour and blend well. Simmer for a couple of minutes to cook the flour, but make sure that it doesn't brown. Slowly add the broth, while stirring, until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about fifteen minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

3 cups rotisserie chicken, pulled into bit-size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 roasted Hatch green chiles, peeled and chopped
12 yellow corn tortillas
Vegetable oil
Green chile sauce
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (pepper jack or queso blanco cheese is also okay)

Spray a 13x9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix chicken, cream of mushroom soup, and chiles. Set aside. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add tortillas, one at a time, and cook briefly on both sides (about five to ten seconds) until soft. Immediately remove the tortilla to the prepared dish. Spoon chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla and fold both sides over to form a tube. Make sure the seam is on the bottom before moving to the next tortilla. Repeat steps of cooking and stuffing tortillas until all tortillas are in the large dish.

Pour green chile sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Place in hot oven and cook for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Calabacitas (Creamy Corn and Zucchini)

3 zucchini squash, sliced into half-moon shapes
½ cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup roasted Hatch chiles, peeled and chopped
2 cups cooked whole kernel corn
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Sauté the zucchini and onion in the butter until the zucchini is tender. Add the chile, corn, and cream. Simmer the mixture for fifteen to twenty minutes to thicken the sauce. Add the cheese and heat it melts.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

World Cuisine Recipes: Pollo Guisado and Freddie's Online Puerto Rican Cookbook: Arroz Coqui Coqui

Since it's super hot outside, and also super hot inside my apartment, I decided that I needed a vacation. Preferably a cruise to the Caribbean. But since I don't have any money, I decided to just cook a meal that made me feel like I was in the Caribbean. I decided to go with Puerto Rican cuisine since I haven't had much exposure to it.

After looking at a lot of recipes on the internet for various Puerto Rican specialties, I decided to avoid the traditional arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and pork recipes. What I came up with was a chicken stew with green rice. The green rice really fascinates me. Its Spanish name is Arroz Coqui Coqui, and it appears it was named after a little green frog native to Puerto Rico called the Coqui. So cute! I didn't add as much cilantro as the recipe calls for since my dad tends to be a little suspicious of food that's a color other than what he expects, but I'm sure it's delicious either way.

The chicken dish requires a special ingredient called sofrito. Sofrito is a mixture of green pepper, onion, cilantro, garlic, and an herb called recao. I had quite a time trying to locate some recao since it's also called culantro, long coriander, ngo-gai, Mexican coriander, and saw tooth. In the end I finally found it at a Thai grocery (after the produce guys at Fiesta looked at me like I was crazy). I'm not sure if sofrito is available pre-made, but I made my own batch since it can easily be frozen.

From Freddie's Online Puerto Rican Cookbook

8 stems of cilantro
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small onion, chopped coarsely
6 leaves of recao, stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Drop all ingredients but olive oil into a food processor and puree. While processing, add olive oil in a stream.

Pollo Guisado (Chicken Stew)
From World Cuisine Recipes

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 2 breasts and 4 thighs
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 medium potatoes, skinned and cubed
3 tablespoons sofrito
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
12 small pimento-stuffed green olives
2 bay leaves
1 ounce green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups water

Put the chicken in a pot with enough water to cover by at least ½ inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Cook the chicken for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and discard the water. Cool the chicken for 15 minutes, then cut it into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.

In the pot the chicken was boiled in, add the sofrito, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, crushed tomatoes, olives, bay leaves, green pepper, olive oil, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken to the tomato mixture. Continue to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Arroz Coqui Coqui (Coqui Coqui Rice)
From Freddie's Online Puerto Rican Cookbook

3 cups short or medium grain rice
1 stick butter
2 cans chicken broth
4 sticks celery, chopped finely
1½ cups cilantro, chopped finely
½ cup slivered almonds
1 cup water

Wash the rice to remove the excess starch and drain until dry. In a large pot over medium high heat, melt butter. Add rice and stir often until the rice starts to turn golden brown. Add the rest of the ingredients; turn the heat down to medium. Cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scandinaviancooking: Swedish Meatballs and Gretchencooks: Creamed Cabbage and Red Onion

Well, this past weekend I went to IKEA for probably the first time ever (unless my mom snuck me there as a kid when we lived in Virginia). I've never seen such a huge warehouse of stuff that all seems so incredibly important to possess. Everything was so functional and fun! And more! But the best part was waiting by the exit - the small Swedish food section. A whole little area full of fascinating things like jars of pickled herring and lingonberry jam.

When I got home, I was still in the mood for all things Swedish, so I decided on Swedish meatballs (yes, it's cliche, but delicious), Hasselback potatoes, and creamed cabbage and red onion for dinner.

Swedish Meatballs

½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground veal
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg
½ cup half-and-half
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 medium mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 can beef broth

Combine the pork, veal, breadcrumbs, egg, half and half, mustard, and nutmeg until well mixed. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. When it's hot, drop the meatball mixture in small rounds into the hot oil (I use a melon baller to get the right size - they should be small!). Cook for approximately five minutes or until done throughout. Drain on a paper towel. You may have to cook in batches depending on the size of your pan. When all the meatballs are cooked, add the sliced mushrooms to the fat remaining in the pan. Saute until soft, probably about five minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms to absorb the oil. Add the beef broth slowly, stirring well. The broth will begin to thicken as it simmers. When the broth has started to thicken, add the meatballs back into the pan. Heat through and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Creamed Cabbage and Red Onion

1 large head cabbage, cored and chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1½ cups half-and-half
Juice of one lemon
White pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

Place chopped cabbage, onion, and half and half in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until cabbage is soft. Add seasonings. You may need to adjust to your individual taste.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Around the World in 450 Recipes: Daigaku Imo (Caramelized Sweet Potatoes)

Do you know how hard it is to find recipes for Asian desserts?  Ridiculous.  They obviously haven't gotten the word that sugar is awesome.  They obviously are also missing out on diabetes and high blood pressure, but let's not get too technical.  This is about the only thing I could find for a Japanese sweet that didn't involve mochi or red bean paste.  And they're actually not too bad.  Good job, Japan.

Daigaku Imo (Caramelized Sweet Potatoes)
From Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley

1¼ pounds sweet potatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon mizuame (Japanese potato syrup), Lyle's golden syrup, or honey
Black sesame seeds (for garnish)

Peel the sweet potato and slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into half-moons, about ½-inch thick.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potato and fry until the potato begins to soften. Drain the sweet potato slices on a piece of paper towel and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. The water will come to a simmer and the sugar will melt. Continue to cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns a nutty brown color. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the mizuame. Return the syrup to the heat and toss the sweet potatoes in the syrup. When warm, pour the potatoes into a serving dish and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, July 29, 2006

CDKitchen: Onigiri and Around the World in 450 Recipes: Tsukune

Okay, eventually I was going to make Japanese food. It was a given, considering the mountain of books on Japanese culture currently littering the floor of my bedroom. But unfortunately for me, and many other Americans, good Japanese cookbooks are few and far between. And really thin. And I am convinced that the Japanese have to eat more than the same twenty dishes.

I made the rice for the onigiri in my handy Zojirushi rice maker that sings to me. (On a side note, why do Japanese appliances sing to you? Even the toilets sing.) I can easily see why these are so popular for lunches and picnics.  They're like sandwiches, except better.  I am now officially jealous of all the people that get to eat like this on a daily basis. Which is probably the whole nation of Japan.

My only irritation came when I purchased the ground chicken. I really wanted a combination of dark and white meat, but here in the US, if you eat ground chicken, people think you MUST be a health nut, and therefore, you only want ground chicken breast.  The butcher already looked harassed enough, so I let it go.

Onigiri (Rice Balls)
From CDKitchen

4 ounces salmon fillet
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 cups medium grain rice
1 envelope bonito shavings
5 seasoned plums (umeboshi)
2 sheets nori (seaweed wrappers)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the salmon on a rack over a cookie sheet or small dish and bake for an hour to dry it out.

Cook the rice according to package directions (i.e. without adding fat) so that it's sticky.

Prepare three bowls. When the salmon is done, ground the fillet up into small pieces with a fork or mortar and pestle and place in the first bowl.  Mash the seasoned plums with a fork and place in the second bowl.  Empty the contents of one small bonito shavings envelope into the third bowl.  Divide the cooked rice into three portions, and add one portion to each bowl.   Mix lightly to combine with seasoning ingredients.

Wet hands slightly.  Dip one fingertip into leftover salt and smear the salt across your palms so that sticks on both hands.  Take ¼ of rice mixture from the first bowl.  Form into a ball.  Make it compact, but not so much that the grains of rice become mush.  Form into a triangle, square, or cylinder.  Repeat for the remaining rice.  Each seasoning bowl should yield four rice balls, for a total of twelve.  Place each one on a piece of parchment paper to keep them from sticking.

Cut each sheet of nori into three strips lengthwise, then cut each strip in half.  Wrap one small strip of nori around the bottom of each rice ball to form an envelope to hold it with.  Serve immediately.

If you won't be serving immediately, wait to wrap the rice in the nori, as it will absorb water from the rice and lose its crunch.  Instead, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Let the rice balls come to room temperature before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Tsukune (Chicken Cakes with Teriyaki Sauce)
From Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley

1 pound ground chicken
1 large egg
¼ cup grated onion
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
Cornstarch, for coating
½ bunch scallion, finely shredded, to garnish
1 tablespoon oil
Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake or dry white wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Mix the ground chicken with the egg, grated onion, sugar and soy sauce until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and well bound. This process takes about 3 minutes, until the mixture is quite sticky, which makes for good texture. Shape the mixture into 12 small, flat, round cakes and dust them lightly all over with cornstarch.

Soak the scallions in cold water for 5 minutes and drain well.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Place the chicken cakes in a single layer, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn the cakes and cook for 3 minutes longer.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce and pour it into the pan. Turn the chicken cakes occasionally until they are evenly glazed. Move or gently shake the pan constantly to prevent the sauce from burning.

Arrange the chicken cakes on a plate and top with the scallions. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 tsukune

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch: Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings) and Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)

I'm not sure what I did with myself before I discovered dim sum.  The first time I had it was when I was living in Austin.  A Chinese friend of mine invited me to come to brunch one weekend, and we ended up at a restaurant called Tien Hong near my apartment, complete with carts full of dumplings making their way around.  It was a life-altering experience.  As chicken feet tend to be.

I've been trying to replicate some of those fabulous dumplings ever since, but every recipe I've come across was just not cutting it.  In a final act of desperation, I got one last dim sum book.  And just like that, the clouds cleared and all was good in the land of dumplings.  These are the real deal.

Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

8 ounces pork shoulder, coarsely ground or chopped
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ½-inch chunks
4 water chestnuts, finely diced
1 scallion, (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
¼ teaspoon sugar
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
24 packaged siu mai wrappers

In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Oil several 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.  Put about a tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the packaged wrapper; then gather up the edges all around to form a cup shape.  Tap the bottom lightly on a flat surface to flatten the bottom slightly.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.  Arrange finished dumplings ½ inch apart in the oiled pans.

Set up a steamer and bring the water to a boil.  Steam the dumplings for 12 minutes over high heat, replenishing the pot with boiling water as necessary between batches.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate.  Serve hot.

Makes 24 dumplings

Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

1½ teaspoons salt
½ pound Chinese chives, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in ½-inch lengths
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ¼-inch dice (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Wheat Starch Dough, substituting 1 tablespoon glutinous rice flour for 1 tablespoon of the tapioca flour
Peanut or vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the chives and blanch for 1 minute over high heat.  Drain the chives in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Squeeze the chives dry and transfer them to a medium bowl.  (You should have about 1¼ cups.)

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Combine the chives with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the shrimp, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  Set aside.

Cut each cylinder of the wheat starch dough crosswise into 6 pieces.  Put on piece of dough, cut side up, between two 6-inch squares of baking parchment; then position the flat side of a cleaver blade or a flat bottom of a pan over it and press straight down to form a 3½-inch circle.  Peel off the parchment.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the filling onto the center of a circle of dough.  Make 8 to 10 pleats all around the edge, bringing up the sides evenly, and then pinch closed.  Turn the dumpling pinched side down, and pat it gently to flatten it into a 2-inch disk.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.  Lightly dust a board with wheat starch; then place the finished dumplings on it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and then add 1 tablespoon oil.  When it is almost smoking, arrange one layer of dumplings in the skillet, leaving enough room so they are not touching one another.  Cook the dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, pressing them gently with a spatula, until they turn crisp and just begin to brown.  Carefully add ½ cup water (it will spatter), cover the skillet tightly, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the dough becomes somewhat translucent around the sides.  Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until the water has evaporated; turn the dumplings to cook until both sides become slightly crisp and light brown.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate, cover them lightly with foil, and keep them warm in the oven while you make the next batches.  Serve hot.

Makes about 18 dumplings

Wheat Starch Dough
1¼ cups wheat starch plus ¼ cup tapioca flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine the wheat starch, tapioca flour, and salt.  Add the boiling water and the oil and stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon.  While the dough is still very hot, turn it out onto a board dusted with 1 tablespoon of wheat starch.  Knead until smooth, adding a little more wheat starch if necessary.  The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Divide the dough into thirds.  Use your palms to roll each portion into an 8-inch cylinder.  Cover loosely with a slightly damp paper towel to keep the dough from drying out.  The dough is now ready to cut and press or roll out as needed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Popia Thot (Thai Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce)

I absolutely love eggrolls/spring rolls.  I may like them more than the actual Chinese/Thai food.  Okay, I DO like them more than the actual Chinese/Thai food.  They're a wonderful little package: crispy shell, warm and flavorful meat and veggie interior.  And with the right dipping sauce, they near perfection.  And no, I do not mean the neon duck sauce that comes in plastic pouches.  Didn't your mama tell you that you shouldn't eat things that glow in the dark?

Popia Thot (Thai Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce)

1 package Spring Home spring roll wrappers
1 (1.3-ounce) bundle mung bean noodles
⅓ pound ground pork
10 shrimp, uncooked, shelled and deveined
2 large eggs
½ cup cabbage, finely shredded
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Oil for frying

Soak the mung bean noodles in water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain the noodles and snip into short lengths with a pair of scissors.

Mix together the pork, shrimp, one egg, and next 11 ingredients. Add the noodles and mix well.

Let the spring roll wrappers sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before stuffing. Spread a wrapper on a flat surface. Spoon filling in the center. Fold one corner over the filling, fold in the sides, and roll up to the remaining corner. Beat remaining egg and use to seal the roll. Repeat until all the filling is used.

Heat oil in a fryer to 365°F. Fry the rolls for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. The rolls will float when they are done.

If not frying the rolls immediately, dust them with cornstarch and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

Makes about 20 rolls

Dipping Sauce
¾ cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
⅓ cup seasoned rice vinegar
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Dim Sum Book: Nor Mai Gai (Chinese Mixed Rice in a Lotus Leaf)

I'm all about fried rice, so imagine my surprise when I came across this little bundle of joy.  Seasoned sticky rice mixed with a bunch of fun fillings, steamed a perfect serving packet.  That's about as good as it gets in the dim sum world.

Of course finding a recipe would be much harder.  I pulled this one from a newsgroup or something and it took me nearly forever to figure out where it come from.  Gosh, I just aged myself.  Anyway, I think the ingredient list seems pretty authentic, and I like the results.  Just be prepared to take some time to pull this together.

Nor Mai Gai (Chinese Mixed Rice in a Lotus Leaf)
Adapted from The Dim Sum Book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

3½ tablespoons oyster sauce
3½ teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup chicken broth
9 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, chopped

2½ cups water
1 piece star anise
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 inch piece of ginger, mashed
1 scallion, washed, ends discarded, cut in half
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1x2-inch pieces
¼ pound pork butt or 1 double pork chop, cut in ¼x2-inch pieces
¼ pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, dried, and cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon white wine

2 cups glutinous rice (sweet rice)
2 cups medium-grain rice
2 to 3 Chinese sausages (lapcheong)
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces barbecue roast pork, cut into 16 slices
3½ tablespoons oyster sauce
3¼ teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Pinch of white pepper
1½ teaspoons salt
4 large lotus leaves, cut in 4 triangle sections each

Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.

Bring the water, star anise, baking soda, ginger, and green onion to a boil in a large wok.  Add pork and bring again to a boil.  Add chicken and bring again to a boil.  Add shrimp.  When the shrimp turns pink and curls, remove all ingredients and let them drain in a strainer.  Remove the green onion, star anise, and ginger, and discard.

Wash wok and dry thoroughly.  Heat for 30 seconds over high heat.  Add peanut oil and spread around.  Add blanched meats.  Stir around for about 1 minute.  Add white wine.  Mix thoroughly.  Make a well in the center of the ingredients.  Stir sauce and add to meat.  Mix well and quickly, until the sauce thickens and turns a dark brown.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Allow to come to room temperature.  Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Soak lotus leaves in hot water for 1 to 2 hours until soft.

Wash rice 3 to 4 times in cold water and drain.  Place in rice cooker.  Wash sausages and place on top of rice.  Steam.  This will make a lot of rice.  After steaming is complete, cut sausages into 16 slices and set aside.

Fry beaten egg in a little peanut oil into a thin sheet.  Slice into ribbons and set aside.

Place cooked rice in a large mixing bowl; add the oyster sauce, sugar, soy sauces, sesame oil, white pepper, and salt.  Mix well.  Divide filling into 8 equal portions.

Take 2 leaves and overlap one another.  Place 3½ ounces of rice in the center.  Pat it down lightly.  Add 1 portion of filling, 2 slices of barbecue pork, 2 slices of sausage, and a few egg ribbons.  Cover with another 3½ ounces of rice.  Wrap mixture and steam for half an hour.

Bundles cannot be frozen.  Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.  Steam for half an hour to reheat.

Makes 8 bundles

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Bon Appétit Cookbook: Paprikás Csirke (Hungarian Paprika Chicken) and Spätzle (German Egg Noodles)

I loved Hungary. Absolutely loved it. It's charming and modern and ancient and romantic. I only spent two days there, but it was enough. I hope to go back again. But until I can, I have pictures and memories.

One of the nights in Budapest, I went with several friends to an amazing restaurant called Sorforras. The food and the atmosphere were equally amazing. I remember that the dish I ordered was an amazing take on the traditional chicken paprikas, but I believe they had named it Empress Chicken after Empress Sissy.

I have always hoped to find some sort of recipe for the dish I had that night, but my memory is getting a little difficult to resurrect, so it's now or never.

Paprikás Csirke (Hungarian Paprika Chicken)
Loosely adapted from The Bon Appétit Cookbook

1 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini or chanterelle
2 cups warm water
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1½ ounces rendered duck fat or unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, chopped fine
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 cup sour cream

In a medium bowl, add warm water to dried mushrooms, and allow to sit for at least twenty minutes.
Cut each chicken breast width-wise into angled slices. Heat half of rendered fat in a large frying pan and add chicken. Brown on both sides until light golden. Remove to separate platter. Chicken may need to be browned in two batches. Add remaining fat, shallots, and all mushrooms. When onions and mushrooms are slightly limp and browning, add chicken back in, along with paprika and chicken broth. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until sauce is reduced by at least half. Add sour cream and heat through. Serve over egg dumplings, spätzle, or pasta.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Spätzle (German Egg Noodles)

1 cup flour
2 large eggs
½ cup of cold water
Dash of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients.  Push the dough through a spätzle maker into boiling salted water. The spätzle are ready when they pop to the surface.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bon Appétit: Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken

What to do for dinner on a Thursday night in July with the hot Texas sun still beating down? Good question. And I can guarantee you that the answer does not include "turn the oven on".  After working all day and then slogging home to an empty refrigerator, the last thing I want to do is think too much, so I need something simple and delicious. And something that will use up the pile of lemons sitting in my fridge.  This recipe certainly fits the bill.  Tender, juicy, fabulous.

Parmesan-Crusted Lemon Chicken
From Bon Appétit magazine, December 1991

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
1¼ cups dry breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
Lemon wedges

Pound each chicken piece to thickness of ½-inch between sheets of waxed paper.  Place chicken in baking dish.  Pour 4 tablespoons lemon juice over chicken and turn to coat.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Beat eggs with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice in medium bowl.  Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and lemon peel in a shallow dish.  Dip 1 chicken breast into egg mixture.  Dip into breadcrumbs to coat; gently shake off excess.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with remaining chicken, egg mixture, and breadcrumbs.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a third of chicken to skillet and sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a platter and keep warm.  Repeat with remaining chicken in 2 more batches, adding 1 tablespoon of butter with each batch.  Garnish platter with lemon wedges and serve.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gourmed: Kaymakli Kayisi (Turkish Cream Filled Apricots)

I'm always interested in desserts from other countries.  Occasionally I get tired of chocolate for a brief, brief period of time.  BRIEF.  But during these intervals, I get to explore other sugary options.  I was actually pretty impressed with how these turned out.  Candied apricots stuffed with cream and nuts?  Winner.

Kaymakli Kayisi (Turkish Cream Filled Apricots)
From Gourmed

1 pound dried apricots
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
½ lemon
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Pistachios (optional)

Soak apricots in warm water for 2 hours to soften.  Drain.

Combine sugar, water and lemon half.  Boil until syrupy, 225°F to 230°F on a candy thermometer.  Add the apricots and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whip cream until stiff.  Fold 1 cup almonds into cream.  Pull apricots apart into halves and arrange apricot halves in single layer, inner side up.  Dollop cream mixture onto half of the apricot halves.  Cover with the other halves, like a sandwich.  Sprinkle the remaining almonds and pistachios over the top.

Makes about 75, if small apricots are used

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mediterranean Cooking: Farareej Mashwi (Lebanese Lemon Chicken) and Glutton Cat: Warm Lentil Salad

I would say Middle Eastern food is a bit of a stretch for most people. In fact, most people probably didn't even know where the Middle East was until the Gulf War in 1990 (and most probably still don't). Well, shame on those people, because they sure know how to cook a fabulous grilled chicken in Lebanon.  And forget the fussiness of French lentils.  Lemon makes all the difference.

Farareej Mashwi (Lebanese Lemon Chicken)
From Mediterranean Cooking by Paula Wolfert

1 small chicken, quartered, skin on
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley in a shallow dish. Roll chicken quarters in the mixture to coat, and then allow them to marinate in the dish for at least an hour.

Make sure the top oven rack is about seven inches from the coil in the top of the oven. Preheat the broiler. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and set a flat rack on top to keep the dripping fat away from the chicken. Spray the whole thing lightly with cooking spray like Pam. Drain the chicken, but reserve the marinade. Place the quarters skin side down on the rack, and broil for ten minutes. You must baste the chicken with the reserved marinade every 3-4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and broil for ten minutes longer, again, basting as you go. When the skin is nice and golden and crispy, it's done!

Makes 4 servings

Warm Lentil Salad
From Glutton Cat blog

1 cup dried lentils
4 cups cool water
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Soak the lentils in the four cups of water with the cinnamon stick and the bay leaf in a small pot for an hour. When the time's up, add the salt and turn on the burner. Bring the water to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer the lentils for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain any remaining water and dump the lentils into a serving bowl. Add the onion, parsley, lemon juice, turmeric, and ground cumin.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and then add the cumin seeds. Toast them in the oil for a minute or two, and then pour both the oil and seeds over the lentils. Stir to combine. Add the feta right before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Noobie Blogger Takes on Gastronomy

Like most good white Anglo-Saxon children, I was raised on traditional American dinners. My mother is a wonderful cook, and I remember fondly her meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The food wasn't terribly adventurous, but it was warm and comforting. Since my mother was a homemaker for most of my early childhood, I could always look forward to one of her dinners each night, and we always sat together around the table.

Unlike most WASP daughters in today's America, however, my mother actually taught me to cook. She believed that even if you didn't end up as a homemaker, you would also need to be able to feed yourself. Most of my friends growing up didn't get the same education, so I'm grateful for the lessons. I remember making cookies at Christmas, with my mom doing the stirring at the end when the dough was too sticky for my little hands. I also remember going through my mother's cookbooks, in awe of the crystal clear gelatin molds and ornate crown roasts that filled the 1950's-era books, wishing I could make something that stunning.

Now that I'm older, and the US has undergone a kind of cooking revolution, I have many more options when it comes to dinner each night. As each new immigrant group has entered the US, they have brought their amazing food with them, and I am more than happy to try it all. This means plenty of new cookbooks, ingredients, and sometimes even cooking classes. And I'm loving it all. This blog is my attempt to capture my growth as a cook, as well as the growing repertoire of foods and dishes that are available to the everyday American. I hope you enjoy it!