Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jan 31: Chinese BBQ Pork

Here's my recent interpretation of Chinese bbq pork - Char Siu.
The pork really isn't barbecued in the sense of low and slow. Instead, the meat is roasted.

When walking through SF Chinatown, you'll see this item hanging in the deli windows next to the roasted ducks, chicken, roast pig. It's the strips of glazed red colored pork.

The meat is slightly sweet from the glaze with a hint of 5 spice powder.

For my version, I opted out of using food coloring to dye the meat red.

Char Sui - Chinese BBQ Pork
2 or 3 lb of Pork, cut into strips. I used pork shoulder, but pork loin or pork tenderloin is a nice alternative.
1 Green Onion, minced
1 Clove Garlic, mashed
1 tsp Ginger, grated
2 T Soy Sauce
2 T Hoisin Sauce
1 T Honey
1/2 tsp Five Spice powder
1/4 tsp Toasted Sesame Seed oil

Mix all the ingredients and let marinade overnight.
I improvised a rack for the meat to cook on. Sprayed with Pam to simply cleanup.
The roasting pan was lined with foil too.

Ready for the oven...

Bake 425F
Rotate the pan and meat every 10 minutes.
Total baking time 40 - 45 minutes...
I did try coating with ketchup and honey the last 10 minutes to achieve a thick glaze... That didn't really do it... so the glaze part I need to rethink. The glaze is mainly for appearance.

Nice toasty edges adds a little crunch to the meat.

The flavor turned out very nice. The sweetness and taste of five spice is what I imagined. The garlic, ginger and green onions aren't overt, but I'm sure adds to the layers of flavor.

There are many ways to serve the meat... usually as a side dish or on an appetizer platter. The local restaurants have hot mustard and sesame seeds as dippers for the meat.

I can see why the delis give the meat a red hue... without it, the pork looks like cooked meat... which can be grayish.

I guess it's like having Red Velvet cake without the red dye. It just becomes a regular cake.

Usually at the end of the year, when I have two weeks off and my body decompresses from a year of work, I end up with a cold. This year, I didn't have my end of the year cold and thought that's great!

Well... looks like it just slid to the right (manufacturing schedule speak... lol) a month . I'm dealing with congestion and fighting off more. Although, I must admit it's not that bad. However, for dinner I wanted something light.

I have the chicken stock from the poached chicken, which I also enriched with the pork bone from the pork shoulder... so a veggie soup was what I made.

Nappa Cabbage
Bok Choi
Pea Pod
Baby Corn
Bamboo Shoots
Deep Fried Tofu
Garnished with a few slices of bbq pork.

The soup hit the spot and was warm and filling without being heavy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jan 29: Daring Bakers - Tuiles

Thank goodness this months challenge is simple and full of possibilities.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named. The Dutch angle: traditionally this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on 31st December, representing the year unfold. On New Years day however, the same batter was used but this day they were presented to well-wishers shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that's about to roll on. And of course the batter is sometimes called tulip-paste.

For this challenge:
- use one of the batters given,
- shape it either prior (using a stencil) or right after baking and
- pair it with something light; fruit, sorbet, a mousse, or maybe even a fruit soup, think glazes or dips…..

Bend it, shape it, anyway you want it!

Thanks to the hostesses of the challenge:
Karen (aka Baking Soda) at Bake My Day! and Zorra (aka Kochtopf) at 1x umrühren bitte

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Tuile Tuile is French for tile. Phonetically, pronounced "twheel"
Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time: batter 10 minutes
Waiting time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites.

Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

While I was waiting for the dough to chill, the gave me time to work on my stencils. After seeing the example for this project... I was became fascinated with making tuile butterflies and other large insects...

Like the dragonfly. :-) Since I didn't have stencils, I used paper to cut a template, which was then traced over Styrofoam plates which was used for the final stencil.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly.

[In the plastic bag with the orange stuff, that's pumpkin (1T) mixed with about 2 T of tuile batter.]

Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter.

Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.

Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

The Results of my butterfly fixation.

They turned out nice. I kind of went wild on the coloring. :-)

A cocoa and pumpkin used for decoration this butterfly. :-)

The dragonfly

Served with non-fat yogurt, sweetened with Golden Syrup (but you can use honey or any syrup you prefer.) Also, blueberries for a little extra.

Overall, the tuiles have a mild almond flavor... from the cocoa or canned pumpkin?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jan 28: CNY Something Sweet Experiment

A coworker asked about Chinese dim sum custard tartlets. In phonetic Cantonese, "On Tot" which is "egg tart". His problems was the custard baked up bubbly, instead of smooth and silky.

Researching my cookbooks, I came across a recipe that used eggs and water. What no milk or cream? Now, I have to be open-minded and give it a try. However, I wanted go to the other end of the spectrum and use all cream.

I wanted to focus on the custard so I used a prepared pie crust for the shell.

Chinese Egg Tartlets
Water Based Filling

1/2C + 2T Hot Water
1/4C Sugar
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 t Vanilla
1/2 t Vinegar... Vinegar!

Cream Based Filling
1/2C + 2T Cream
1/4C Sugar
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 t Vanilla

1. Dissolve sugar in the liquid. Add the vanilla and vinegar. When cool, add the beaten egg and whisk lightly. Set aside.

Before the egg was added, water mixture on the left and the cream mixture on the right.

Since I used a premade pie crust, I had to cut out round for the muffin pan.
Using a 4 inch diameter cutter... was a little to large with only a yield of 4 round per crust.

Being frugal, I switched to a 3" diameter can... many more rounds per crust. I'm happy. :)

However, I had to roll out to 4" Diameter to match the muffin paper.

The shells ready for filling....

Left side - six filled with the water based egg mixture and the right six filled with the cream based egg mixture.

Bake 375F for 20 minutes.

Much my surprise... the water based custard (on the left) actually has a smoother appearance.

Also, silkier interior.

Not what I expected... The water based custard looked very similar to the tartlets found in dim sum restaurants. Both were much too sweet and too much vanilla. The cream based custard was rich, but also had a stronger eggy flavor.

Besides the cream... the only difference between the two fillings was vinegar. Hmmm... I wonder if that had anything to do with the appearance? Now, I'm gonna have to think about it some more... and try again in the future.

A few things I would change is use less sugar (cut in half the amount used) and same goes for the vanilla. I would also add just a touch of salt. A little salt always seems to help dessert dishes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jan 27: CNY Poached Chicken

This past week has been very foggy with no sun in sight for at least 3 days in a row where visibility hovered around 50 ft to 1/4 mile. I thought I was in a Stephen King movie! On top of that, we received an Artic blast with freezing temperatures plus the fog.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at my Wisteria. The fog and cold air created mini-icicle thorns!

Chinese New Years is approximately a 2 week celebration filled with symbolic foods and family gatherings.

One such foods is chicken, which represents joy. I'd be joyful too with a bucket of fried chicken! However, no fried chicken tonight, in fact the opposite. The chicken is poached.

We called it "dem gai" which means "soaked chicken". I hope that's the meaning. My Cantonese comprehension is probably at the first grade level. Actually, I think it's below the first grade level. lol. Another name is "white cut chicken".

The resulting chicken should be very velvety, juicy and tender. This is a result of the long soaking.

Here's the recipe I used for tonight. Due to my time constraints, I ended up poaching the chicken.

White Cut Chicken
1 Chicken, 5 lbs
6 quarts Water
2 Green Onions,, coarsely cut
1 Clove Garlic, smashed
3 slices Ginger, about the size of a quarter
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger to the water and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. [Traditionally, my parents would just use salt since the broth would be added to other dishes where the garlic and ginger would clash with the flavors.]
2. Wash and dry the chicken. Rub the salt on the skin and sprinkle into the cavity.
3. Add the chicken to the water... Breast side up. My reasoning is the breast will cook faster than the dark meat. [I don't know if my parents really had this as a rule, but it makes sense to me.]
4. The chicken is added to that pot and the heat is increased until the water barely simmers. [I added the thermometer just to see the temp... About 185F to 190F]

5. Poach for about 45 minutes with the water at 185F. [The traditional recipe is to actually bring back to a boil, lower the heat to simmer for 15 minutes... with the final step of turning off the heat and allow the chicken to soak in the hot liquid for about 1 hour.]


1/ Oyster sauce is used as a dipping sauce.

2/ I remember during the New Year banquets there was a little dish of seasoned salt... which I think was ground Sichuan peppercorns mixed with salt.
Sichuan Peppercorn Salt
1 t Sichuan Peppercorns, roasted in a pan until fragrant.
1 T Salt

Blend in a coffee grinder.

Sichuan Peppercorns. The actual flavor comes from the outer coating of the berry.

If you have the patience, pick out the black seeds from the peppercorn.

3/ Another condiment is a garlic-ginger-scallion mixture that's mashed with salt and hot oil. This is similar to a gremolata.

Garlic-Ginger-Scallion Condiment

1 tsp Ginger, coarsely chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 Green Onions, finely cut
1/2 tsp Salt, kosher
1T Oil... I used canola.

The garlic, ginger, green onion and salt mixture.

No mortar and pestle... Use the end of the cleaver!

Heat the oil until it ripples... Pour the hot oil into the mash mixture. I added the mixture to the pan to slightly cook, in order to tone down the raw flavors in the mixture.

The finished chicken!
Since the chicken was poached, there was no browning... Hence the name, "White cut chicken."

Legs, thigh and wings are removed to allow the breast to be cut into smaller portions.

The chicken is now ready to eat. The condiments from left to right... Oyster sauce, Sichuan Peppercorn dipping salt and the garlic-scallion-ginger mixture.

I could tell the by the chicken breast that I could have pulled the chicken out a little earlier or turn off the heat at 30 minutes and just let the ambient heat finish the cooking.

Overall, the chicken was moist, but not as velvety as I had hoped... still good though. :-)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jan 26: Happy CNY 2009!

Happy Chinese New Year!
Many wishes of happiness, prosperity and good health for the new year!

Starting off the year with Jai which is a vegetarian dish, also known as, Buddha Delight.

This year I made the dish a little different than last year,

Mainly, due to difficulty finding ingredients and forgetting that Chinese New Year was today! :)

Same as last year...
Lily buds (Golden needles - wealth) - soak to rehydrate
Cloud Ears (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Dried Mushrooms - soak to rehydrate
Bamboo Shoots
Carrots - cut into disk
Fried Tofu Puffs
Mung Bean Vermicelli (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Soy Bean Sprouts
Snow Peas
Nappa Cabbage

Added this year...
Green Onion
Baby Corn (also known as Tom Hank's Corn)
Brown Sugar

1. Saute onion and garlic with lily buds, mushrooms, cloud ears, bamboo shoots.
2. Add about 1/2 cup water cover, soy sauce and brown sugar and steam for 15 minutes.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to steam about 5 to 10 minutes... adjust seasoning to your taste.

The finished dish: Served with lettuce and rice.

Items I didn't have:
Arrowhead (Market sold out)
Vegetable Broth (Forgot it on my list)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jan 25: More Fun with Plantains

I'm currently fascinated with cooking plantains so I was looking-up recipes when I found Mofongo. Mo who what? Mo-fong-go. Actually more like Mo-fung-go. The interesting name caught my eye. Looking at Mark Bittman's Mofongo Recipe, the recipe seems straight forward and had few ingredients.

That's another thing I've been into lately - simple recipes with few ingredients.
The only downside is the deep frying. I try to avoid deep frying because of the mess and calories, but it's cold today so I can use the extra calories... lol!

As I've done previously, I've made a small batch to test out the recipe.

1 Green Plantain, cut into 1" thick rounds
1 clove of garlic
1 slice of bacon, cooked
1 T bacon drippings (This is my addition to boost the bacon flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Oil for deep frying

The ingredients: bacon, garlic and the plantain which is just starting to yellow.

1. Peel* and cut the plantain. The recipe calls for soaking in salted water. I skipped this step reasoning the soak is used to prevent oxidation browning... since I was going straight to the frying I didn't have to worry about browning.

*Note: My first time peeling a green plantain. It doesn't peel like a sweet Cavendish banana. With the plantain, you cut off the ends and use a knife to cut off the skin. The skin is very crisp like celery.

2. Deep fry (350F**) until golden. The oil I used was mainly bacon drippings. Canola oil was added to raise the oil level to 1". Fry 5 minutes, flip and fry another 5 minutes.
**Note: I didn't not measure the oil temp, I just started when the oil seemed hot enough.

3. While the plantain is frying, pulse together the bacon, garlic, a dash of salt and pepper.

4. Add the hot, fried plantain to the food processor.
The plantain had a crispy outer shell while soft on the inside.

Pulse until mashed.... Interesting result here. The crispy outer aren't breaking down to a mash. The texture is remains a little coarse.

5. Form into balls and garnish with cilantro to eat as is...

or serve in a soup.
Pictured is a simple chicken broth enriched with garlic, red pepper, green onion and tomatoes.

I was expecting my mofongo to have a soft mashed banana texture, but the results were more like brown rice balls. The flavor was nice. A hint of bacony goodness and the residual heat from the fried plantain cooked out the rawness out of the garlic.

Next time... I'll add a little more bacon and try soaking it see if the texture is softer (or not fry as long).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jan 22: Egg Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

After poaching the chicken for the mole and the rest of the bones, I made a chicken stock. Also, with a half lemon from last night, I wanted to try making an Egg Lemon Soup, which is a classic Greek soup, Avgolemono.

Another plus is the few ingredients needed to make the soup.

For today, I made a small batch to try it out.

Egg Lemon Soup
2 C Chicken Broth
1 egg white, whipped to stiff peaks
1 egg yolk
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1/2 C Rice, I had cooked brown rice

1. Bring the stock to a boil... turn off the heat.

2. Beat the egg yolk and combine with the egg white.

3. When the stock is ready, mix the lemon juice into the egg mixture.

4. Temper the egg mixture, by slowly adding about 1 Cup of hot stock while mixing the egg mixture.

Tempering the egg.

Pour the egg into the hot stock, turn heat to medium. Generally, the instructions are to heat the soup without boiling or simmering, to prevent curdling, until thick.
NOTE: Being a geek, I placed a thermometer into the soup and cooked to 170F. Why 170F? Supposedly, temperatures above 160F will destroy any bad bacteria lurking in the egg. The extra 10 F is to account for any inaccuracies in the thermometer.

The finished soup garnished with a little green onion.

A nice chicken soup with a tart lemon finish. The soup wasn't as thick as I hoped, but still had a nice velvety consistency.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jan 21: Chicken Piccata (Attempt)

All the vinegar tasting this past week must have triggered my craving for Chicken Piccata.
Here's my attempt to make Chicken piccata. Another bonus is the minimal amount of ingredients.

Chicken Piccata
1/2 Chicken Breast, butterflied
1 C Chicken Broth
1/2 Lemon, Juiced
1 T Capers
2T Butter
Dash of Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder

1) Butterfly chicken breast - I butterflied into thirds.

2. Pound the chicken breast. I didn't have a mallet so I tried a can which sort of worked....

But I realized that the flat of the cleaver would do a better job, plus it made a lot of noise.

The ingredients for the sauce - flour for dredging the chicken, homemade chicken stock, half a lemon, capers and butter.

3. Dredge and panfry the chicken fillets about 3 minutes per side... until brown.

4. Set the chicken aside.

5. Add the broth to deglaze the pan and allow to reduce 50%. I also added 1/2 the capers.

6. Ooops... I reduced the broth by 2/3 instead of 1/2.... Added the rest of the capers, lemon juice and butter.

7. Pour sauce onto chicken.

Keeping in the theme of green (round) and cream colors... The piccata was served with green peas and spaghetti. :-)

Wow! The sauce is very lemony. I like it. The capers add a dijon-ness to the chicken. The dish reminded me of a lemon dijon chicken. I would have liked more sauce (more broth next time), but the lemony chicken piccata hit the spot!