Archive for ‘Tips and Technique’

August 16, 2014

Paprika Lime Chicken + Grilled Tomatos and Quinoa

Who says weeknight chicken dinners have to be boring? 

chicken tomato2

MARINADE: 

  • 4 chicken thighs or breasts 
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/8 tsp or 1 pinch of cayenne pepper 
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced 
  • ~1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs oil

Combine in a ziplock bag and marinate overnight. Skin off is healthier, but skin on is yummmier. I am partial to skin off chicken thighs. So much more flavor than blah breast meat. Really not that much more unhealthy, especially sans skin. I keep several packs of it in my freezer at all times. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 large bell pepper, diced (1 cup) 
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups quinoa 
  • 3 tbs tomato paste 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp paprika 
  • salt
  • 2 cans 15 oz chicken broth*
  • water
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or fresh cilantro, minced 
  • fresh tomatoes on the vine, rinsed and patted dry 

Ratio for quinoa:water is 1:2. Add less at first because you can always add more. Difficult to remove liquid from a soupy mess. 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. QUINOA: In a dutch oven or 3qt pot, heat over medium high heat, ~5 min. Add 1 tbs cooking oil and heat until shimmering, 1 min. Add onions and bell pepper. Sauté until just soft and translucent: 3 minutes. Salt generously. 
  2. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 min. (You never want to burn garlic. So I add it later on. Burnt garlic is bitter.) 
  3. Add quinoa, tomato paste, bay leaf, and parsley/cilantro. Slowly add chicken broth and stir to incorporate tomato paste evenly. Add the rest of the broth and <1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until quinoa is soft and fluffy. Add more water and stir if it appears to be drying out. Cover and set aside. 
  4. TOMATOES: Over an aluminum foil lined hot grill (of course I use my handy dandy cast iron stovetop grill), drizzle plenty of cooking oil. Rub oil over tomatoes. Place tomatoes directly on the grill. Flip tomatoes after 10 minutes or so if they’re super big, and let it grill another 5 minutes. If they are small vine tomatoes, keep them on the vine! No need to flip or rotate. Just let them sit on the grill for 10 minutes, vine and all. 
  5. CHICKEN: With tongs, lay chicken out evenly over the unused portion of the grill, don’t crowd. (if you have skin, cook skin side down first.) Grill 3 minutes or until the opaque/cooked line rises about half way up the thickness of the meat. Rotate 45 degrees and cook another minute or two. Flip and repeat. Juices from the center should not be pink. Meat thermometer should read 185F when done. **timing all depends on the thickness of the meat! Watch it carefully. You know what cooked chicken looks like. 
  6. Remove and rest meat. 
  7. Slice on the diagonal, against the grain of the meat. 

Voila! Plate quinoa, tomato, and lay chicken on top. Sprinkle with some parsley or cilantro.

I actually ate the grilled tomato with some leftover mozzarella in the fridge. Didn’t add it to the recipe ’cause I don’t think it really goes togehter, but I just wanted some cheese. Can you blame me? 

chicken tomato

Notes on CARNE: 

  • When grilling/cooking other meats, I usually let it sit at room temperature so that I do not over cook the outside and undercook the inside. But chicken is thin. And covered in salmonella. So skip that step and leave it in the fridge ’til you need it. I DO, however, let meat rest AFTER I remove it from the grill/pan. Internal heat is still redistributing and so are the juices. It’s still cookin’! Let it rest. 5 minutes. I’m sure there’s plenty to clean up while you wait. 
  • I use the “line of opaque cooked meat” for fish too. Flip fish when the line is 2/3 up the thickness of the meat. Why 2/3rds? ‘Cause with the other side, you simply let it “kiss” the pan. Aka: You do not spend the same amount of time cooking the other side. 
  • Presentation side down first. Always. That means skin if it’s got it. 
  • As with fish, flipping too early results in tearing/sticking of the meat. Be patient. Watch that opaque line! 
  • Meat thermometer is your friend. Especially when just learning to cook and it’s too difficult to eyeball when the meat is done.
    • Pork end point: 135F, chicken: 185F
  • Brining and marinating is your friend. I never spontaneously cook pork or chicken. It always takes some prep the day before. That being said, prepping a brine or marinade only takes 5-10 minutes. And I also always keep the ziplock bag of meat juice in a deep bowl or dish. Too many experiences with leaky meat bags getting all over my fridge and contaminating everything. 
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December 3, 2013

Monkish à la Meunière + Celery Root Mash + Roasted Baby Carrots

monkfish1

I have recently discovered monkfish. White, tender flesh. Almost lobster-like. Versatile and mild flavor. It is a very ugly fish, but damn, it tastes good. 

PAN SEARED FISH à la Meunière

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 6 oz monkish fillets
  • lemon
  • flour
  • clarified butter*
  • unsalted butter (always buy unsalted)
  • salt
  • parsley

*over low heat, melt butter (cut in 1 inch blocks) until fully melted. Stir. Continue heating until it begins to bubble and foam. Once it stops foaming, turn off heat and strain over cheesecloth. Do this in bulk. Keep left overs in fridge for several months!

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Trim off any grey/ugly membranes from fish. Slice filets into even size pieces to allow for even cooking. 5×3, and about 2 inches thick is good.
  2. Optional: soak fish in milk ~ 30 min. Helps the browning process.
  3. Pat fish dry. Salt generously. Dredge fish in thin coat of flour.
  4. Heat frying pan over medium high heat, add a few tablespoons of clarified butter. Pan fry fish until brown on one side (white/cooked portion will creep up to past halfway the thickness). DO NOT push/nudge/peek under fish until it’s half way cooked! Once ready, it WILL release from the pan.
  5. Flip and brown other side for a few minutes until cooked through. Remember: cooked fish flakes. If it’s transparent and chewy, it’s still raw. (which is OK in some cases, like for salmon it is ok to have a slightly pink center.)
  6. IF YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY THICK CUT: after the first side is done (white/cooked portion creeped up past half way the thickness of the fish), place in a 400F oven until no longer transparent. THEN pull the pan back out and flip the fish over to let it “kiss” the other side. once that browns, serve. MAKE SURE you have an OVEN PROOF pan before trying this.
  7. Set fish aside. Add another pat of regular unsalted butter (mmmm butter) and some fresh herbs of your choice, then a squeeze of lemon. Once melted, pour over fish.

CELERY ROOT MASH

  • 1 part celery root, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 parts russet potatoes (for a creamier mash) cut in 1 inch pieces
  • butter
  • milk
  • salt
  • herbs: chive, or parsley, or rosemary, what have you.

Put celery root pieces in a large pot. Bring to a boil, let it boil for about 5 minutes. Add potatoes. Boil another 20 minutes or until fork tender. Turn off heat. Strain. Put potatoes back in pot and turn heat back on medium. Let the liquid dry up. Mash. Add butter and milk to taste/consistency of preference.  Salt and season. You will always need more salt than you think… Potatoes always take a lot of salting.

ROASTED BABY CARROTS

Preheat oven to 420 F. Shave off skin of carrots, if you have little baby carrots, roast them whole. If you have larger ones, cut them in long diagonals. Toss in olive oil, salt, black pepper. Optional: a bit of curry powder, or a pinch of brown sugar, whatever you’d like to mix it up. Spread out on lined and greased baking pan. Roast for 20 minutes or until just charring at the ends.

monkfish 2

October 20, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

I received my KitchenAid stand mixer as a birthday present last year around this time.

After much fear and trepidation, I am just now beginning to tackle this cake baking business. My original hesitations were due to all the rules and precision that comes with baking that you just don’t have to worry about with other types of cooking. As anyone in my life who knows me but at ALL will tell you, I do not follow rules well. I distrust what others tell me and no matter how much the instructions make sense, I just have to do it on my own and learn it the hard way. My fear of baking also stems from the fact that I SUCKED in chemistry lab. Like, 5% yield sucked. But hey, if I can learn, so can you.

I find that the best way to approach learning to bake is this: Follow the $#%@ing instructions. To the T. After a few successful attempts, you gain the confidence to fiddle with the recipe. But before you go making big changes, RESEARCH. What does “Creaming the butter” mean? Is sugar considered a dry or a wet ingredient? What’s the difference between baking powder and baking soda? What is the purpose of each and every ingredient used in baking? Tedious? Maybe. But if you’re a nerd like me, you relish in knowing and understanding every step in the process. If you are NOT like me, go follow a recipe. Here’s one to start you off:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs, medium size
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt (HEAPING cup)
  • 3 tbs Meyer lemon zest (worth it.)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs poppy seeds

EQUIPMENT:

  • stand mixer with paddle attachment
  • large mixing bowl
  • zester
  • 1 loaf pan
  • silicone spatula for batter
  • whisk
  • measuring cups/spoons

TIP: when juicing the lemon, juice it over the zester to strain out lemon seeds. no extra tools to wash, and no bitter seeds to bite into when you eat the cake later…

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in center of the oven (if it’s too low, it’ll bake too quickly)
  2. Line loaf pan with parchment paper (cut to fit, it’ll hang over the two long sides) and butter generously. You can clip down the sides with binder clips.
  3. Zest lemon. Mix zest and juice with yogurt and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk to combine.
  5. Cream Butter: Cut butter up into small chunks ~ 1 inch cubes. Put in stand mixer bowl and beat on high, with paddle attachment, until soft and creamy. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar slowly and continue beating until well incorporated. Should look fluffy, like airy sand. Mix in vanilla.
  6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
  7. Still on medium speed, slowly add in part of the dry mixture, then some yogurt mixture, then some dry mixture, etc, until fully incorporated. Add poppy seeds. Increase speed to high for a few seconds to fluff up batter.
  8. Pour batter into loaf pan and spread evenly. Place in center of oven and bake ~ 1 hour. At the 40 min mark, open oven door and QUICKLY cut a line down the center of the loaf and cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent burning. No need to crimp, just cover. The cut down the middle is what creates that pretty split in the crust.
  9. Set loaf aside and let cool, 10 min.
  10. Optional Glaze: In stand mixer with whisk attachment, mix 2 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 cup+ powdered sugar on high speed until it reaches the consistency you like. Opaque and not too runny. Glaze cake after cooling for 20 min or so.

THINGS I’M LEARNING ABOUT BAKING:

  1. Always level the ingredients after measuring: Scoop the ingredient into the measuring utensil, then with the flat edge of a knife, smooth off the top. Spooning it in slowly will give you less than the recipe calls for, unless the recipe specifically says to.
  2. Butter doesn’t have to be room temperature and softened. Wastes time. Just cut it up and beat it on high in your stand mixture. This softens it. Technology is wonderful. Use it. Same goes with eggs. Use them fresh out of the fridge. No one needs salmonella.
  3. If you’re messing with a recipe:
    1. Eggs are emulsifiers and binders. They hold the cake together.
    2. Baking soda is a base and needs an acid to neutralize it or you’ll get a bitter yucky taste. Brown sugar is considered a neutralizing agent for baking soda. Do not substitute brown sugar for white in a recipe that has baking soda. Unless you swap BS out for BP (Baking powder). And even then it’s not an exact substitute…still figuring this one out.
    3. AP flour =/= cake flour =/= self rising crap. Use what the recipe calls for, or use this substitution: 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup AP flour minus 2 tablespoons. some people say replace those two tablespoons with equal amounts of corn starch. I’ve yet to try this.
    4. Sugar is a wet ingredient. Don’t mix it in with the flour at the beginning. Typical progression of cake baking goes like this: soften butter, cream butter with sugar, beat in eggs, add extracts and flavors, add dry ingredients then add ons (nuts, chocolate chips, what have you).
    5. Last but not least, read lots and lots of recipes. Look at the ratios. What ingredients where different? How do you think that affected texture, density, crumb, flavor, etc? Then create your own combination and WRITE IT OUT. Follow your new recipe exactly so you can compare the results to what you did. If you’re making adjustments as you go, you’ll never know how to recreate it exactly. It’s just bad science.
    6. Find friends who’ll be your guinea pigs. (: Good luck!

This cake turned out REALLY well. Dense, moist, not too sweet. I was afraid that cake flour would make it too cake-y and not compact enough like I like my pound cakes, and the AP flour I used here worked out superbly well. VERY happy.

August 29, 2012

Pork Chops w/ Mustard Cream Sauce and Baked Peaches

This turned out VERY well. I especially like the sweet buttery peaches. The recipe was inspired by a pork chop special at Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas. Serve over kale and some creamy farro or barley risotto. Or a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my photos. But you know what pork chops look like (:

Edit 4/13/2014: made this dish again. Still awesome. Here’s a pic!

pork chop

INGREDIENTS: (for 2)

  • 2 ~1lb bone in center cut pork chops (2 inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • high smoking point oil (ie: avocado oil)
  • 1 large shallot, sliced (1/4 medium onion will do in a pinch)
  • 1/3 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • ~1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (less than half a lemon)*
  • 1/4 cup half&half
  • 1 ripe peach, sliced and skinned
  • butter
  • brown sugar

*can substitute with 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or other light vinegar

Tools of the Trade:

  • TONGS. makes your life easier. only so much a spatula can do.
  • Cooking thermometer probe. A must for cooking meat, esp for those that aren’t experienced enough to just eyeball it. (like me)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Brine chops:

  1. On the morning of (or 12 hrs prior), heat ~2 cups of water in a medium pot with 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 brown sugar, 1 clove of garlic halved. Heat and stir until salt/sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add 5 cups ice cubes.
  2. In a gallon/large ziplock bag, add chops and enough of the salt water to submerge. Place in shallow pan (in case bag leaks) and into the fridge for 12 hours (do not over brine!! it’ll be too salty to eat. Better to under-brine…If your’e going to do this the night before, I would halve the amount of salt to brine 24 hours.)

Brown chops:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F-350F and line a baking pan w/ aluminum foil.
  2. Pat chops very dry. This will give you that nice crust. Wet chops=steamy & soggy.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet (NO non-stick pans) over med-high heat. Add avocado/peanut oil (not olive oil or pure butter as that will burn the meat and the pan) and heat until shimmery hot.
  4. Add meat and space chops out so they don’t touch. <– important to avoid steaming the meat instead of browning it.
  5. Brown each side ~ 4 min, NOT flipping until meat slides easily off the pan with a gentle push. You should have a nice brown crust on each side. If you’re anal retentive like me, sear the sides of the meat too.
  6. Remove and bake in oven for 15+ min or until internal temp reaches 135F 

The Sauce:

  1. While chops are in the oven, drain off any excess fat and add shallots. Saute until soft.
  2. Deglaze pan: Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, scrapping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in mustard and lemon juice (or vinegar). Reduce heat to medium and let liquid reduce by half.
  4. Add cream. Bring to a boil and let sauce thicken ~3 min. Remove from heat and set aside. Spoon over chops when chops are done.
  5. Optional: if you’re cooking for friends and don’t care about their waist lines, melt a pat of butter in the sauce at the end to thicken and finish the sauce. Butter tastes good in everything.

Baked Peaches:

  1. Line a baking pan w/ aluminum foil. Rub a thin layer of butter on to prevent sticking.
  2. Place peach wedges on the pan, evenly spaced out. (NOTE: if using fresh peaches, place peach in a deep bowl and pour 2-3 cups of boiling water over it. let is sit for 1 minute, then drain and rinse. The skin will peel right off.)
  3. Top each wedge with a small sliver of butter then lightly sprinkle on brown sugar.
  4. Broil on high until peaches are soft. Time will vary depending on oven.
    Just take a piece out and taste test it. Warning: you may end up eating all the peaches while waiting for your chops. Just make extra…

Plate chops, spoon over sauce, and top with peaches. ENJOY.

August 24, 2012

Kung Pao Chicken w/ Cashews

Here is my easy/no fuss version of Kung Pao Chicken. I always though Kung Pao Chicken was just another one of those fake Chinese food dishes you get at those ubiquitous Asian fast food joints with the fat and fluffy ursine mascot. I believed this for most of my life, until the day I actually ORdered this dish from [insert panda themed restaurant name] and was like, “wait. my mom makes this.”

So yea. I’ll eat my own words. I guess this stuff is authentic after all.

Anyway, I believe stir fry purists would say you should 1) marinate for 30 min then cook the chicken until mostly done, remove. 2) heat oil back up again, add garlic, fresh ginger, and chilies to release the full flavors, then 3) add the chicken back in, the sauce, then the green onions, and lastly the nuts (my mother uses peanuts).

But MAN that sounds way too complicated. And after a long freaking day at work, I do NOT want to have to think about “what do I do next again?” Solution? Add everything into the marinade. Sure my mom still makes it better. But mine is FASTER. and with WHITE meat. JUICY white meat, I might add… because I marinate overnight instead of on the counter for 30 min (I chalk that tradition up to the fact that my ancestors did not have refrigerators and to let your chicken sit overnight is to kill your whole family w/ salmonella.)

So here goes. Kung Pao Chicken, simplified:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • ~1/2+ cup soy sauce or enough to cover chicken
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • ~5 dried chili peppers, sliced diagonally
  • 1 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbs Chinese rice wine
  • optional: Chinese black vinegar (I had none. Didn’t miss it)
  • 2 talks green onion, chopped in 2 inch sections
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • oil for stir frying (NOT olive oil. something with a high smoke point like peanut oil is better)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut chicken into small pieces, about 1 inch cube.
  2. In a deep container (I like to use glass tupperware) mix soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, chili peppers, and corn starch until thickened. Adjust to taste. Add chicken, cover, and marinate overnight (if using dark meat, 15-30 minutes is plenty. Overnight is if you want to make healthy crappy white meat juicier.).
  3. Heat a wok or large frying pan on high. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and marinade. Stir until chicken is cooked through. Add green onions and cashews. Toss until green onions become fragrant (1 min or so). Remove from heat and serve.

Stir Fry Tips:

  1. Use a hot Guo1, or pot/wok. I mean HOT. Like smoking red hot. Then add oil and let it heat until shimmery. Always. Hot pot and hot oil = less crap sticking to your pan.
  2. Always add green onion last. You still want to stir fry it a bit to let the flavors release (you’ll be able to smell it when it does), but cook it any longer than absolutely necessary and you’ll get limp ugly green onion. Green onion should act as a garnish as well as an aromatic. It should be bright, green, and pretty.

Thank you, Mama Chen for teaching me well.

August 5, 2012

Manila Clams with Basil + Notes on BUTTER

Didn’t really expect this to turn out as well as it did, seeing as I totally winged it and just threw in stuff from my fridge. But I’m DEFINITELY making this again. Probably one of my most successful creations.

Image

Love these Bunashimeji mushrooms, btw. A bouncier, more complimenting texture to the clams than enoki, which is what I usually keep at home for soups and hot pots. Here’s my Japanese mushroom pictionary reference source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2340.html

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb live manila clams
  • 1 tbs peanut oil/cooking oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of small basil leaves
  • 1 batch Bunashimeji mushrooms (see pic)
  • 1 spoonful of white Shiro Miso
  • ~1/4 cup soy sauce (add to taste)
  • 1 -2 tbs Mirin
  • 1/4 cup Moscato or other sweet white wine (or regular white wine + 1 tsp sugar)
  • 1 tbs good, unsalted butter
  • red chili pepper flakes, for color mostly…little sliced chili peppers will do, too

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare clams: Scrub the suckers clean. Then submerge clams in a deep bowl with salt water. (Like..ocean-water-salty. Makes sense, no?) Add a few ice cubes to keep it cold. Do this well in advance, at least a few hours before cooking. Drain and rinse clean. This gives the clams time to spit out sand and crud.
  2. In a medium sized saute pan (with a lid), heat a bit of oil over medium high until shimmery and hot. Saute garlic until just fragrant (careful not to burn), then add soy sauce and mushrooms. Stir fry 1-2 min to soften.
  3. Stir in miso until dissolved. Add mirin and white wine (if you’re using a regular, non sweet white wine, dissolve in a tsp of sugar). Bring to a boil.
  4. Add clams and cover immediately. In about 3 min, clams should slowly start to open up. Wait for it. Some are slower than others to respond (like humans). Uncover and add basil and butter. Stir until butter melts into the sauce. Remove and plate. Toss out unopened clams (they were dead before they hit the pan. No good.) Sprinkle on red pepper flakes and serve.

NOTES ON BUTTER:

  1. Adding butter at the end instead of sauteing with it in the beginning lets the flavor of butter stand out more. It’s also used to thicken the final sauce. Something I read somewhere. So don’t waste good butter on early steps of a recipe. And DON’T buy cheap butter you don’t mind wasting.
  2. When in doubt, get unsalted. You can use it for cooking aND baking.
  3. Don’t bake with salted butter. It messes up the ingredients ratio.
  4. Learn to make Ghee. THIS you can saute with. In fact, use it instead of oil from here on out. It doesn’t burn. It doesn’t smoke. It doesn’t spoil. And it tastes like HEAVEN.
  5. Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter is rich and creamy. Kind of cheesy. Which can be good or bad, depending on your preference. Smells divine. Good for finishing sauces.
  6. For batch baking, or making ghee in large quantities (which is the ONLY way to make ghee), Land O Lakes is surprisingly amazing. Very rich butter flavor, doesn’t taste like artificial popcorn flavoring like other cheaper brands, and it has this awesome FLAVOR protecting wrapper.

Oh, and I’ve taken to keeping a 4 pack of Sutter Home Moscato in my fridge at all times. Use what you need and drink the rest. Perfect one time servings for those that don’t drink enough to buy a whole bottle for one recipe.

November 25, 2011

Trial and Error: Macarons!


So maybe it was a bit overzealous to try macarons after just learning how to bake cookies last week, but what’s Thanksgiving without a bit of a challenge, no? I must say though, it was quite a humbling experience. The results of Take 1 are laughable:

Check out the monster on the left. (And that would be take 3 on the right…) Oh, and never underestimate the power of food coloring! Same filling in both cookies. No joke.

This recipe is the result of intense research and recipe combining! Props to my little researcher/photographer, Angeline. (:

Feel free to do your own research and come up with your own recipe. Trial and error is the best way to learn what works for you and your oven. There are a plethora of blog posts out there on troubleshooting and tips. Also, feel free to use those creative juices to come up with flavors combos. Things I want to try in the future: cardamom with orange white chocolate filling, macha green tea and red bean filling, classic pistachio with buttercream filling, coffee and chocolate, mint and chocolate, the list goes on…

MACARON SHELLS (makes ~20 sandwiches)

  • 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar (aka confectioner’s, icing, etc)
  • 1/4 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 eggs)
  •  baking sheets and a pencil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 315F (too low heat = cracks, too high heat = bottoms will burn)
  2. On the paper side of the baking sheet, trace out 1 inch diameter circles, 2 inches apart. Flip over in a baking pan, waxy side up.
  3. Sift and measure out almond flour and powdered sugar into a separate bowl.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Increase to high, and beat in granulated sugar slowly. Keep whipping until the mixture turns white, thickens, and forms stiff shiny peaks. Add food coloring while you whip.
  5. Remove bowl from stand mixer and SLOWLY fold in flour mixture into meringue. Sift in some flour mixture, and fold, sift in more flour, then fold, etc. Do NOT overmix. Should be about 50 folds total. Resulting mixture will be shiny, magma-like, and drop off spatula in a slow, viscous manner. Over beating will create a thinner consistency. Under beating will be too thick and paste-y. To be honest, I actually didn’t use all the flour. I simply added most of it until it reached the consistency I liked.
  6. Spoon into a plastic bag and cut off the tip, ~1/2 inch diameter. When piping, the mixture should flow out on its own without pressure.
  7. Bake for 11 minutes, rotating after 5 min, and occasionally propping the oven door open just a crack to let out any steam. Err on the side of a tad overcooked instead of undercooked. A crisp macaron shell will soften the next day as it melds with the filling.
  8. Set aside to cool, then fill. Now LEAVE THEM ALONE! Eat it the next day. I promise. It’s 10x better. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. Preferably somewhere out of sight. (:

MACARON FILLINGS:
(Berry + White Chocolate Ganache) 

  • 4 oz white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp jam (strawberry, mixed berry, raspberry, what have you.)

Place chocolate piece in a small glass or metal and place over a small sauce pan of water. Heat water slowly up to a simmer and melt chocolate. Add cream slowly as it melts and mix in jam. Optional: add 1 drop of red food coloring for aesthetic effect. Set aside until shells are ready to be filled.

(Salted Caramel) 

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt

You will need two small sauce pans. In one pan, heat milk over medium low heat, just before it boils. In another pan, add sugar and melt over medium high heat. Let sugar caramelize into a deep brown color tehn remove from heat. Slowly pour in hot milk while mixing continuously. Let it cool a bit, then add butter in pieces while still mixing. Place in fridge and let it cool a bit. Remove from fridge then beat until mixture is smooth and creamy. Set aside until macaron shells are ready to be filled. Don’t re-refrigerate fillings. They get too cold and hard to use…


Props to Angeline the researcher/photographer, Gloria the architect, and Rich the dish-washer (and stand mixer contributor?)

November 12, 2011

Fudgy Toffee Brownies w/ a Pretzel Crumble Crust

I’ve never even made brownies from a box before. But this recipe is so detailed and fail proof, that all those new friends you’ll get when they get a whiff of this won’t even know it. “Oh yea, I’ve been baking for YEARS…”

And if you’re type A like me and need some more research, this article has GREAT tips and troubleshooting ideas: http://www.dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.Brownies/Brownies.cfm

Conquering my fear of baking, take 1: 

Adapted from this amazing recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 bags heath toffee bits
Pretzel Crust
  • ~3-4 cups salted pretzels
  • 3/4 – 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Line the inside of an 9×13 pan with foil. Lightly butter the bottom of the pan.

3. Melt butter in a large metal or glass mixing bowl, placed over a saucepan of water on low heat. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in add-ins (toffee bits, toasted nuts, etc).

5. Crust: Melt butter. In a food processor, pulse pretzels until it becomes a coarse sandy texture. Add pretzel crumbs and sugar to melted butter. Mix until it forms a crumbly texture. Pack pretzel mixture into the bottom of the pan.

6. Scrape the brownie batter (it will be thick and difficult to spread) over the pretzel crumble and set in fridge for an hour or two. This supposedly helps create a crisp crust on top and a soft gooey center when baked. I like this combo in a brownie. feel free to skip the fridge step if you like.

7. Bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Toothpick should NOT come out clean from the center.

7. Let the brownie cool COMPLETELY in the pan. Lift the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. (The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month.). Tastes better the next day! If you’re making this at night, tightly seal pan with aluminum foil and leave it on the counter over night and cut in the morning.

October 15, 2011

Sweet Potato Yellow Curry

The only tricky part of this recipe is knowing when to add your vegetables. Depending on what you use, you have to consider which ingredient to add in which order. It’s not complicated, and it doesn’t have to be exact. Just use your common sense!

Some general guidelines: On a high boil (which you would never do for soups and stews), potatoes cook in about 15-20 minutes. On a simmer, 30-40 minutes. Generally potatoes and starches are added at the beginning. Broccoli takes ~3 min so alway add right before you serve. Any earlier and it will get limp and yellow. Onions and other aromatics (carrots, celery, bell pepper, etc) I always add first because no one wants crunchy onions in a stew/soup/curry, and the longer it simmers the more flavor it imparts to the dish.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 package of tempeh*
  • ~1-2 cups of veggies (I only had broccoli in the fridge…green beans would be nice!)
  • 1 can coconut milk (Chaokoh brand = best)
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • ~3 tbs thai yellow curry paste (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 15oz can of chicken stock/vegetable stock
  • vegetable oil
  • salt

*WestSoy Tempeh Review: Texture is like soft, cooked peanuts. No real flavor (which is good, because it’ll take on whatever flavor you want it to), but it does not stay together very well. Even when raw, it crumbles under slight pressure. meh. I’m still on the search for the best vegetarian protein.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat vegetable oil in 3.5qt dutch oven/pot.
  2. Add onions (cut to same size as sweet potato. large squares.) and saute until soft and translucent ~5 min.
  3. Add a tsp or so more oil and mix in curry paste with oil. Stir to coat onions.
  4. Stir in coconut milk, adding soup stock to thin it out if necessary.
  5. Stir in fish sauce, sugar, more curry paste if necessary, and salt to taste.
  6. Stir in sweet potatoes and tempeh and reduce heat to medium.
  7. In ~30min, check to see if potatoes are almost done. It should give under pressure from a fork into a slight crumble. If it breaks in half or breaks into large crumbles, it is too hard and still raw. If your fork sinks into a mealy mush, you waited too long (if this happens, simply take your curry off the stove uncovered, steam/blanch your veggies in a separate pot and add back into the curry.)
  8. Once potatoes are ALMOST done, add broccoli and do NOT mix. Just leave it sitting on top of everything else. Cover pot and steam ~3min.
  9. Mix and serve over rice.
September 28, 2011

Stir Fry How To + Easiest stir fry dish ever

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large potato, sliced
  • 1 green onion, sliced diagonally
  • vegetable oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Wash and drain potato slices to remove excess starch.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok.
  3. Add potato, salt generously, and stir fry until just soft.
  4. Push potato aside and make a hole in the center of the pan.
  5. Add a dribble more of oil in the hole, and flash fry the green onions.
  6. Stir and mix with potato.  Serve.

See? Easy. A good side to compliment a heavier dish.

I typically have one or two vegetable dishes, a meat dish, and something extra (tofu? eggs?) It may seem like a pain to make so many dishes when cooking Chinese at home, but stir frying is so fast and simple it really doesn’t take any longer than cooking a western meal with just one entree and one side.
Here’s your basic stir fry run down:

  1. Chop. Cut everything into similar shapes and sizes. Not only does it make it easier to eat, it cooks more evenly and is more aesthetically pleasing. Ex: if your meat is cubed, dont cut long and skinny vegetables. I typically prefer long strips of meat and veggies. It is easier to pick up several different components of the dish with one swipe of the chopstick.
  2. If you have meat, marinate it. This can be done ahead of time, or just before you cut the veggies so it’ll have time to sit. You do not need long. maybe 30 minutes. Dissolve a bit of corn starch in soy sauce. Maybe a drop or two of sesame oil. Then toss meat to coat evenly.
  3. Heat wok. Or a large frying pan. My crappy electric stove and Calphalon frying pan works fine. Heat until the pan is smoking. Add oil and let it heat until shimmering.
  4. a) Stir fry meat and remove. Once meat is browned all over, scoop it into a bowl and set aside. If using beef or shrimp or other meats that get tough when overcooked, don’t cook all the way through.
  5. b) Reheat pan and add veggies/tofu. Stir fry and season/salt to taste.
  6. Reintroduce meat into pan. Stir briefly to mix.
  7. c) Optional: Add tertiary ingredients if necessary: green onions, hot sauce, and things that dont need a lot of cooking and are just for extra flavor. In fact, always add green onion last or it’ll get brown and ugly.
  8. Remove from pan immediately and serve.

Stir fry combos I eat regularly at home: (Everything is split into 3 ingredients, corresponding with steps 4, 5, and 7)

  • a) slices of pork tenderloin + b) dried tofu (dou fu gan) + c) spicy preserved vegetable (see pic)
  • a) shrimp + b) eggs, scrambled + c) green onions…
  • a) chive flower + b) pork tenderloin slices + c) thousand year old egg (my favorite! place eggs in cold water and bring to a boil. remove and cut into chunks. this prevents the yolk from being too sticky)

Maybe I’ll write up recipes for these some other day. It’s all very simple! I’m sure you can figure it out.

One last tip: Seasoning is done with salt if the dish is light colored (shrimp and egg scramble). And soy sauce if dark (most meat dishes)