Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roast Duck - The Series (Roast Duck Hash)

I was scrolling through my photo stream and realized that I didn't do a post on the first meal I made the morning after my roast duck dinner.  The leftover bits of crispy duck skin, brussel sprouts and three types of roasted fingerling potatoes made a beautiful looking hash.

In case you missed Roast Duck - The Series (Crispy Skin Roast Duck with Brussel Sprouts and New Potatoes), I used a mix of fingerling potatoes  (baby yukon, red and purple peruvian).  I especially love the nutty flavor and vibrant color of the peruvian potatoes.

Roast Duck Hash
1/4 cup roast duck meat and skin, finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted potatoes, smashed and mashed
1/4 cup roasted brussel sprouts, chiffonade (finely cut into thin strips)
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp crispy fried shallots, crumbled
1/2 tbsp flour or cornstarch
1/2 tsp duck fat
salt and pepper, to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine duck, potatoes, brussel sprouts, onion and fried shallots.  Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle in flour/cornstarch and mix.  Make sure the flour/cornstarch is fully incorporated into the mixture.  The flour/cornstarch gives the hash that crispy finish.
In a cast-iron pan or a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat up the duck fat for 15 seconds.  Add the hash mixture.  Cook and stir for about 15 seconds.  Spread and press the hash mixture evenly down on the pan.  Cook over low-med heat until the bottom is crispy, about 10-15 minutes.  With a spatula, divide the hash mixture into quarters and flip each piece over, trying not to break it any further.   Press down and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the other side is brown and crispy.
Serve with eggs cooked however which way you like.  I personally prefer poached or over easy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice

The difference between Kwai Fei Gai (Empress Chicken) and Hainanese Chicken Rice is the rice.  Empress Chicken is served with plain steamed rice.  Hainanese Chicken Rice is served with steamed rice that is cooked with the chicken poaching liquid and fragrant garlic.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
2 cups Kwai Fei Gai poaching liquid
1 tsp chicken fat
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 cup jasmine or brown rice

In a medium pot, sautee the garlic in chicken fat for about 30 seconds.  Add rice.  Sautee for about 2 minutes, stirring.  Add poaching liquid from Kwai Fei Gai recipe.  Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until liquid is down to the level of the rice.  Do not stir.  Turn heat to low and cover for 10 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.  Turn off heat.  Fluff rice.  Serve with Kwai Fei Gai and Ginger scallion sauce.

Empress Chicken (Kwai Fei Gai)

My favorite chicken is Kwai Fei Gai.  Fried chicken is a close (very close) second.  
Kwai Fei was a royal concubine who became Empress and one of the most powerful rulers of China.  This was supposedly a favorite dish of hers conjured up by one of the royal chefs.  Imagine making that decision to serve cold chicken to a lady who had the power and authority to have you beheaded on a whim.  Good thing she liked it, huh?
I love this chicken because it is not just simply cold boiled chicken.  The skin is firm and "bouncy" when you bite into it.  The chicken is rubbed with shaoxing wine before cooking.  The meat is tender and succulent.  The ginger scallion sauce is so good that I save half of my rice so that I can mix it the pesto-like sauce into it at the end of the meal.
I know of 2 methods to make the chicken.  Steaming and poaching.  
Steaming is great because it is faster and less work.  
I love poaching because I can use the poaching liquid as broth afterwards.  Cook up some rice noodles and save some chicken.  You got chicken pho for your next meal.  Or use the broth to make steamed rice and you can turn this into Hainanese Chicken Rice.
This simple dish highlights the freshness and quality of the main ingredient.  Which is why the best kwai fei gai is made with whole, freshly slaughtered, free-range, "chinese yellow chicken".  I put that in quotation marks because I really don't know if there is actually a special breed or if that's just how chinese chefs refer to the free-range chickens that they prefer.  The skin on those chickens have a better (firmer) texture.
I do not have immediate access to such a chicken.  Although, my boss did recently tell me about a vendor at one of the farmers' market in San Diego who sells organic, free-range, never been frozen chickens that he raises on his chicken farm.  One day...
Since I wanted to make this on a non-farmers' market day, I had to settle for never frozen chicken leg quarters from Fresh & Easy.

Kwai Fei Gai (Steamed)
2 chicken leg quarters
2 tbsp  shaoxing wine
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
Ginger-scallion sauce

Rub the chicken all over with shaoxing wine.  Rub the chicken all over with vegetable oil.  Ok, that's enough rubbing.  Sprinkle chicken with salt.
Fill a large pot with 3 inches of water.  Set a steaming rack in the pot.  Bring water to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Place chicken on a plate with raised edges or a Pyrex dish that fits inside the large pot.  Place the plate/Pyrex dish on top of the steaming rack inside the pot.  Cover the pot.  Keep at a simmer for 15-20 minutes.
While the chicken is steaming, fill a mixing bowl halfway with ice.  Add 2 cups of water to the bowl of ice.  Once the chicken is cooked, immediately dunk the chicken into the bowl of ice water.  This makes the chicken skin seize up, giving it that firm and "bouncy" texture.
Serve with ginger-scallion sauce and steamed rice.  Either pour the ginger-scallion sauce all over the chicken or use it as a dipping sauce.

Kwai Fei Gai (Poached)
2 chicken leg quarters
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
3 tbsp shaoxing wine
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp salt
1 stalk green onion
1 knob ginger
Ginger-scallion sauce

Fill a stock pot a little more than halfway with water.  Add green onion, ginger, salt, vegetable oil and 3 tbsp shaoxing wine.  Bring poaching liquid to a boil.  Lower to a simmer.
While poaching liquid is boiling, rub chicken leg quarters with 2 tbsp shaoxing wine.
Fill 2 mixing bowls halfway with ice.  Add 2 cups of water to each bowl of ice.  Set aside the second bowl of ice water.
Add chicken to poaching liquid.  Poach chicken for 3 minutes.  Lift chicken out of poaching liquid with a pair of tongs and dunk chicken into the first bowl of ice water.  Return chicken to poaching liquid for 3 minutes.  Keep repeating this cycle of poaching and ice water dunking about 20 more times or until chicken is cooked through.  On the final icy water dunk, use the second bowl of ice water to avoid salmonella.
The ice water dunking makes the chicken skin seize up, giving it that firm and "bouncy" texture.

Rub chicken, once again, with 2 tbsp shaoxing wine and then with 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
Serve with ginger-scallion sauce and steamed rice.  Either pour the ginger-scallion sauce all over the chicken or use it as a dipping sauce.

Ginger Scallion Sauce

I love this ginger scallion sauce.  It's kind of like a chinese, unblended pesto sauce.  It is essential for Kwai Fei Gai (Empress Chicken).  Sometime I just pour it over steamed rice and eat just that.
This recipe makes 3-4 servings.  If refrigerated in a tightly covered jar, this can last for about a week.

Ginger Scallion Sauce
3 stalks green onion, finely minced
2 knobs ginger, grated
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine green onions, grated ginger, salt and ginger powder in a large ceramic heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes.  Carefully and SLOWLY, pour/drizzle the oil into the bowl.  I emphasize SLOWLY because if you pour too fast, the mixture will bubble over and boiling hot oil may overflow or splatter from the bowl.  To avoid the burn unit, do it SLOWLY.  
Stir.  Let cool for about 2 minutes and enjoy.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Back in college, my group of friends and I would combine all of our culinary knowledge (which consisted of "my mom does this...") and pocket change together to scrape up enough ingredients to make a meal.  The results were usually good.  Surprisingly good.  Especially when our group was a brazillian-filipino-chinese-persian-bosnian-newyorker-midwest-cali mix.  No, none of use were exchange students.  Some immigrants and first generation Americans though.

One meal that I store in my memory bank is when the first of our group got their first apartment.  After 9 months of dorm living, that was something worth celebrating.  

We started off the celebration with browned ground beef and caramelized onions with some steamed rice.  One guy in the group added a huge dollop of sour cream to his bowl and mixed it all together.
"This is what we ate in Europe all the time!" Or something like that.  It was years ago and we were drinking alot.

Another guy in our group puts sour cream on everything, so he did the same.

The rest of us were intrigued, so we followed in suit.

Only years later did I realize that it was beef stroganoff sans the mushrooms.  Most beef stroganoff recipes cook the creamy sauce right into the beef mixture, but then how do you reheat the leftovers without breaking the sauce?  I love mixing in the sour cream at serving so that I never have to worry about how to reheat my lunchtime leftovers at work the next day.  If the beef mixture is extra hot, then the cold sour cream will bring down the temperature of the food to just right.

Beef Stroganoff
1 lb ground beef
2 tsp oil
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
8 oz sour cream
chives or parsley for garnish (optional)
cooked egg noodles or steamed rice

Brown the mushrooms in a heavy frying pan.  Or even better, use a cast iron pan if you got one.  Once the mushrooms start to brown, add the onions.  Stir and cook until the onions are caramelized.  Add the ground beef.  Add garlic powder and worcestershire sauce.  Add salt and pepper.  Once the beef is completely cooked through, taste and add more salt, pepper or garlic powder if needed.  The sour cream will mute some of the flavors, so don't be afraid of strong flavors.

Fill bowls halfway with cooked egg noodles or steamed rice.  Fill the bowls almost the rest of the way with the beef mixture. 

Stir a large dollop of sour cream into each bowl.  Garnish with minced chives or parsley.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chinese Sausage Fried Rice with Salty Duck Egg

I had a sudden craving for fried rice the other day, but was fresh out of regular chicken eggs.  I was too lazy and cozy in my little apartment to even run out to the corner store.  Luckily, I had some salted duck eggs from when I made Three Yolk Steamed Eggs.  It coats the rice with a wonderfully rich, umami flavor.  I used thinly sliced chinese sausage as the protein, a little savory sweetness.
I chopped up a tomato and added it at the end.  The freshness of the tangy raw tomato was a nice contrast to the saltiness of the duck egg, not that it was overly salty to begin with.  The ratio of salty duck egg to rice was just perfect.  There was just enough flavor with out being overpowering.  I also think that my wok has finally reached that level of seasoning for my dishes to achieve "wok hay" or "essence of the wok".  I feel like I should celebrate that.  Throw my wok a party or something.

I have always loved the flavor of the yolk in a salty duck egg.  I even prefer the moon cakes that have the salty duck egg in the middle.

Chinese Sausage Fried Rice w/ Salty Duck Egg
Chinese Sausage Fried Rice w/ Salty Duck Egg
2 cups cold, cooked rice
2 links chinese sausage, sliced
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 tomato, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 salted duck egg
2 tsp oil

If the salted duck egg is raw, which is the type I used, separate the whites and the yolk.  Then dice up the yolk, which will be solid.  If the duck egg is cooked, then dice up the whites and the yolks.
Heat up the wok and then add the oil.  My mom always says not to add oil to a cold wok.  Swirl the oil around to wok.  Stir fry the onions and chinese sausage until caramelized.  Add the cold rice and peas.  Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Push the rice to the sides, creating a hollow in the middle of the wok.  Add the whites from the salty duck egg to the center of the wok.  If the egg was cooked, just add the whites with the yolks.  Scramble the rice into the egg whites, constantly scrapping at the bottom of the wok to prevent sticking.  Stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add the yolks.  Stir fry for a minute to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together.  Add the peas and stir fry until cooked, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat and serve.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Three Yolk Steamed Eggs (Sam Wong Dan)

Have you ever heard that the skills of truly great chefs are tested by the simplest dishes?  I'm not a great chef, but I get it.  Egg dishes always require precision and timing.  Poached eggs, soft boiled eggs, hollandaise sauce, shirred eggs, and my foe...the steamed egg.
My steamed eggs have always come out dry, with the liquid separated from the eggs.  After much trial and error (and many dozens of eggs), I have finally managed to achieve that silky, smooth consistency. The secret is a slow simmer.  You just can't rush this dish.
I am somewhat of a purist, so I don't add much seasoning to this dish.  Besides, the saltiness from the salted duck egg will be flavor enough.

Three Yolk Steamed Eggs (Three Emperor Steamed Eggs)
4 large chicken eggs
1 salted duck egg, raw
1 century egg

Separate the whites and yolk from salted duck egg.  Carefully crack open the chicken eggs so that you can save one of the half shells for measuring out the water needed.  Add the whites from salted duck egg with chicken egg.  Add 12 half shells of water.  Whisk until blended.  If you want, you can strain the whisked egg mixture through a fine sieve to reduce air bubbles for a smoother surface.  I didn't do that since the slow simmer eliminated most of the air bubbles.  Pour mixture into heat proof bowl that is smaller than the pot that you are using.
Dice up the yolk from the salted duck egg.  Dice up the century egg.  This is when an egg slicer comes in really handy.
Stir salted duck egg yolk and century egg into whisked egg mixture.  Fill a large pot of water with 2 inches of water.  Place a steam rack in the center of the pot.  Heat the water to boiling and then reduce to a slow simmer.  Carefully place the bowl of egg mixture on top of the steam rack.  Cover.  Maintain the slow simmer for 10-12 minutes.  Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fish Ball with Roe Filling

On one of my recent asian grocery shopping trips, I spent some extra time browsing through the frozen dumplings section.  I discovered these little gems.
I usually buy the regular fish balls, which are fish meatballs made from cod or haddock. They are great additions to asian noodle soups.  They are usually boiled in a spicy curry sauce and sold on skewers in Hong Kong.  In Sweden, they are called fiskbullar and usually sold in cans.
I keep a constant supply of homemade chicken stock in the freezer.  There are always  either egg or rice noodles in my cupboards for those lazy meal days.  Add some green onions, fried shallots, protein and veggies.  Voilà.  Instant meal. 

I cooked the fish ball with roe in the stock for my noodle soup.  The roe imparted a slight sweetness into the soup.  The fish ball had a mild flavor with a firm texture that is nice to bite into.  
I was back at the store the very next day to get more.  That's when I discovered these:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Roast Duck - The Series (Duck Shepherd's Pie)

Duck Shepherd's Pie
The rest of the meat from my roast duck went into this next meal.  I minced up the duck meat and used a cup of duck stock to make this super filling and comforting shepherd's pie.  It is a little twist on the traditional shepherd's pie made with lamb.  I mixed up the minced duck meat with ground lamb.  A shepherd and a duck farmer walked into a bar...

Duck Shepherd's Pie with Parmesan Potato Crust

1 1/2 lbs potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 shallots, minced
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 cups minced duck meat (or as much as you have left), leftover from Roast Duck recipe
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
2 cups Duck Stock
2 tbsp flour or cornstarch
3 tsp thyme
5 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 lbs potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 tsp sea salt

I like to leave the skin on my mashed potatoes.  Skin them if you prefer your taters naked.  Cut up the potatoes so that they cook faster.  Put cut up potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, uncover and bring down to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are nice and tender.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the meat filling.  In a large saute pan, saute the shallots in the vegetable oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add ground lamb, garlic powder, thyme, flour or cornstarch and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir until half the lamb is cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add duck meat and tomato paste.  Stir well to incorporate into lamb mixture.  Add duck stock.    Simmer over low heat for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once the lamb meat is completely cooked through, taste the filling mixture and add salt & pepper to taste.  Remember, the parmesan that will be added to the potato crust will also add saltiness to the dish.  Mix in the frozen peas.
Once the potatoes are cooked, turn off the heat and drain.  Add half & half, butter and about half of the grated parmesan to the potatoes and mash it all together.  Taste the mashed potatoes.  Add more salt if needed, but remember that the rest of the parmesan will be sprinkled on top of the crust, making the potatoes more salty.
Pour the meat filling into an 11x7 inch baking dish and spread evenly.  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the meat filling.  Sprinkle the rest of the grated parmesan over the top of the potatoes.  Place the dish on a baking sheet in the oven.  The baking sheet is for in case the gravy from your pie bubbles over while baking.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top starts turning golden brown.  Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Roast Duck - The Series (Duck Stock)

The neck, feet, wing tips and carcass left over from the roast duck made a wonderfully rich stock.  That one bird produced multiple meals.
Duck Stock
In a large stock pot, I sauteed the duck parts, 1 stalk of diced celery and 2 minced shallots in a bit of duck fat.   Once the duck parts started to brown, I filled the pot up with water and turned the heat up to high.  Once everything came to a boil, I turned the heat down to a low simmer.  Leaving the pot cover slightly propped up, I let the duck stock simmer away for at least 5 hours.  I always wait until the stock is done simmering to add salt.  You don't want too much of the liquids to simmer away and end up with salt water.  Sure, you can add more water, but in diluting the salt you would be diluting away all the other flavors as well.  Better to taste and salt at the end.
I enjoyed duck egg noodle soup the next day and froze the rest in 2 cup portions. I now have duck stock to flavor my risotto, mashed potatoes, duck shepherd's pie etc.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Roast Duck - The Series (Crispy Skin Roast Duck with New Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts)

I picked up a young duckling from the frozen meats section at 99 Ranch.  Yes, that's right.  Roast duck.  It's an entire series.  It's so much more than just roast duck.  I rendered and saved the duck fat.  Duck fat brussel sprouts and new potatoes.  Duck stock.  Duck spring rolls.  I got my money's worth out of that one bird.  The skin was crispy.  The meat was juicy and succulent.  I was glad I didn't over complicate the seasoning.  The flavor of the duck really stood on its own.
Crispy Skin Roast Duck w/ brussel sprouts and assorted new potatoes

First, let's start with the duck itself.  I bought a 19" roasting pan and was excited to use it.  Unfortunately, it was too big for my freakishly small oven.  So I positioned the roasting rack on top of a baking sheet instead.

Crispy Skin Roast Duck with new potatoes and brussel sprouts
1 1/2 lb whole duck 
*new potatoes
*brussel sprouts (about the diameter of a quarter or cut in half if larger)

After I tore off the plastic packing that the duck came in, I discovered that I literally had a whole duck.  
With the feet and head still attached.
For those who feel uncomfortable with the fact that the animals we eat once came with a head, I'll spare you the pictures of the dismemberment and beheading.
I clumsily cut off the wing tips, feet, neck and head.  I saved them for the duck stock, which I'll get to in another installment of "Roast Duck - The Series." I also set aside the liver, heart and kidneys that were inside the cavity of the duck.  I later sauteed the offal with some salt, pepper, shallots, duck fat and balsamic vinegar for a little snack while the duck was roasting.
I scrubbed the duck all over with salt and rinsed it all off.  I then thoroughly dried off the duck with paper towels.  I preheated the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Like I said, my oven is freakishly tiny.  So if you have a normal sized oven, preheat to 325 Fahrenheit.
Part 1 of the secret to getting crispy skin and juicy meat is to carefully make little slits all over the skin of the duck without piercing the flesh.
Since I was going to render the duck fat, I simply seasoned the duck by sprinkling salt and pepper inside the cavity of the duck.  With butcher's twine, I tied the legs together and the wings close to the body.
I popped the duck into my tiny, preheated oven.  Part 2 of the secret to crispy skin and juicy, succulent meat is to roast the bird in low temperatures for 3 1/2 hours, flipping the bird over every 20 minutes.
Like I said, I was rendering the duck fat and roasting the bird in a baking sheet.  Every time I took the bird out of the oven to flip it over, I also used a baster to remove the duck fat and strain into a ceramic bowl.
*With 1 hour of roasting time left, I threw some new potatoes into the baking sheet underneath the roasting rack and rolled them around to cover them with the drippings.  I rolled them around some more each time I flipped the duck over.
*With 40 minutes of roasting time left, I threw the brussel sprouts in with the potatoes.  I turned them over during the final duck flip.
Part 3 of the secret is to let the bird rest 15 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Savory Garden

I noticed that 168, the Taiwanese cafe in the space at the front of 99 Ranch had been replaced by Savory Garden a while ago.  I decided to give them some time to work out the kinks before trying them out.  I finally did last week.
One of my "aunts" is Taiwanese and I always enjoyed going to her house for dinner when I was growing up.  Either she or her grandmother would make delicious taiwanese dishes for dinner parties and get togethers.  I loved it so much that I (mostly) didn't mind that all the dishes were vegetarian.  
The restaurant health inspection rating at 168 kept me from braving the threshold.  Especially since it was always mostly empty.  It's one thing if the food is so good that everyone disregards the letter taped to the door.
The food at Savory Garden didn't knock my socks off, but it's decent enough that I would stop by whenever I need to stock up at 99 Ranch.
I first went in for a really early lunch by myself.  It wasn't even 11am yet, so the restaurant was pretty empty.  There was an older couple and a 20-something year old waitress who started to speak to me in Taiwanese until I responded back in English.  The older couple retreated behind the counter while the waitress seated me.  
The place had definitely been through a make over.  That and the "A" rating made me feel better.  I ordered the House Beef Noodle Soup and a hot milk tea.  There was only one other customer, so my food came out pretty quickly.

I expected a mug for my milk tea, but I got an entire tea pot and a chinese tea cup instead.  

Each cup was nice and hot.  

The House Beef Noodle Soup came with just 4 pieces small pieces beef, but they were flavorful,  tender and juicy.   Since the June gloom weather made me a little chilly, I dumped a big spoonful of chili paste on top.  The bok choy wasn't overcooked, but I still prefer my vegetables to be more on the al dente side.  The broth and noodles were ok, nothing to write home about.  When I tasted each component of this dish on its own, it was nothing special.  
Then I started to mix the tiny bits of finely chopped fresh chinese celery that were floating in the broth into each spoonful of swirled noodle and broth.  That tiny burst of celery flavor and crunch was really pleasant.  Mmmm.  What a great idea. 

When I paid for my bill, the older lady noticed that I still had some milk tea left in the tea pot.  She brought over a plastic cup with a lid and straw.  

A few days later, a friend and I were out and about.  I talked her into getting lunch at Savory Garden so that I could try out some other items on the menu.

We split an order of Green Bean kabobs (2), Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings (6), and Steamed Pork Bun Dumplings (10).  I got an order of Chicken Heart Kabobs (2) for myself as well.
The waitress set down a little shaker of paprika when she delivered our kabobs.  I didn't ask which dish it was for, so I just sprinkled it on both the green beans and chicken hearts.

Ever since I tried them on the streets of Bangkok, I have always liked grilled chicken hearts more than any other offal.  They have a nice firm texture and do not taste metallic or gamey like other organ meats such as liver.
My skewer of green beans still had a little crunch to them.  That satisfied my need for a vegetable to go with the rest of our meal.  Food grilled on a stick is always a good idea.  Always.

The Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings did not have a salt and pepper taste to it.  It was still nicely seasoned, big and juicy.  The cornstarch batter was light and crunchy, not overpowering the wings.  I really liked these, even though they should just be listed as plain "Chicken Wings" on the menu.

Eyeing the little container of rice vinegar on every table, I ordered the "Steamed Pork Bun Dumplings" hoping that it was code for Xiao Long Bao
and I was right! The huge steamer came out piping hot.  The waitress forgot to bring us spoons, but I scarfed them down before I even had a chance to flag her down again.  The wrappers were not too thick and there was a good amount of broth left in them.  Of course, the broth was mostly absorbed into the wrapper by the time I got down to my 4th dumpling.
That is just what happens with Xiao Long Bao.  It's one of those dishes that needs to be inhaled as soon as it is made.  There is no time for politely-waiting-for-someone-else-to-take-the-first-piece table manners.  They need to be scarfed down before the soup inside disappears into the wrapper.  The filling was nicely seasoned.  The gingery pork tasted just right with a bit of vinegar.  Ahhh.   Not the best I've ever had, but definitely decent and satisfied my craving.  I was not disappointed.

My friend was not too happy with our waitress for bringing her a regular Iced Thai Tea when she specifically asked for no milk, but I was pretty happy with my cold Milk Tea.  Can you get Thai Tea without the condensed milk or is there evaporated milk already in the mix?

I sure hope business picks up so this place stays open.  I want to try out the rest of their menu.

Savory Garden
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
($20 minimum for credit card purchases)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream - Malt & Nutella

I bought an ice cream maker last month with the intention of making some alcohol-laced ice cream to share with my friends.  I have made attempts on Kahlua ice cream and  Bailey's ice cream, but they both came out to be really yummy milkshakes.  I think it was the recipe that came with the ice cream machine.  It only contained milk, cream, sugar and of course, I added a shot of flavored liquor.  It doesn't help that alcohol doesn't freeze well.
On my third attempt, I was making ice cream for a work pot luck.  I decided to use a recipe from one of my cookbooks.  The recipe called for 2 eggs for a custard base.  It was a little more work, but with the eggs as a binding agent, the ice cream froze beautifully into soft serve in 20 minutes! After packing it into a plastic container, it turned into 'non soft serve' ice cream in the freezer the next day.
 I adapted the recipe slightly, reducing the sugar so that I can use Horlicks and Nutella as flavoring.  Here are the results:

Malted Nutella Ice Cream Recipe
1 cup whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 tbsp Horlicks (Ovaltine or any other brand of malt powder also works)
5 tbsp Nutella

Combine milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan.  Slowly bring to a boil over low-med heat, stirring occasionally.  In a medium bowl.  mix the Horlicks with a couple spoonfuls of hot milk mixture until you form a smooth paste.  Once a paste is formed, add enough hot milk mixture to make it liquidy.  Add the Horlicks mixture into the pot of hot milk mixture.  Repeat with the Nutella.
Beat the 2 eggs in a metal bowl.  One ladle at a time, very slowly add the hot milk mixture to the beaten eggs while whisking furiously.  Yes, furiously.  You want the hot milk mixture to gently temper the eggs without cooking them.
Once all the hot milk mixture is incorporated into the egg custard mixture, pour the custard mixture back into the pot and slowly bring to a gently simmer.  Do not let this boil.  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until custard is at 170ºF or coats the back of the spoon.  Take mixture off heat.  Stir occasionally, letting custard cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.  The colder the mixture, the better.
Follow instructions of ice cream maker to turn the custard into ice cream!  Makes 4 cups of ice cream.

The Malted Nutella ice cream was a big hit.  I think I'll make another attempt at Bailey's ice cream after all...