Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spatchcock Roasted Cornish Hen

Spatchcocked Roasted Cornish Game Hen

I love making roast chicken.  But when cooking for one, a whole chicken is just too much sometimes.  Cornish game hens are the perfect size.  They take less time to cook, are elegant and have a great flavor.  Half the bird is the perfect serving size, I can save the other half for lunch the next day and I don't end up eating chicken for the next 3 days!  I also feel like a giant when I am eating my little chicken.
Even though cornish game hens cook faster, I still like the slow and low approach to keep the meat tender and skin crispy.  Spatchcocking the chicken reduces cooking time and promotes even cooking.  Dinner is ready in under an hour.
I like to vary the seasonings.  Sometimes it's with paprika, salt and pepper for a little (literally) paprikash chicken.  The paprika gives the skin a nice color and delicious drippings for the paprikash gravy.
My aunt gave me a box of Knorr Chicken Seasoning once.  It is sodium ladened, so I only had to use a few tablespoons from one package.
This time, I went for a simple thyme and sage rub with some fresh marjoram sprigs from my garden.

Spatchcocked Roasted Cornish Hen
1 cornish game hen
1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tbsp dried sage
5 sprigs fresh marjoram sprigs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp avocado oil

Preheat oven to 325 fahrenheit.  Using a pair of good kitchen shears, take the cornish game hen and cut alongside the backbone (from tail to neck).  In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, sage, salt and pepper.  Rub the avocado oil all over the hen (I used my beloved Misto).  Rub the herb mixture all over the hen.  Scatter the marjoram sprigs all over the bottom of a baking dish.  Place the seasoned hen, skin up, on top of the marjoram sprigs.  Wrap foil around the wingtips.  Roast for about 45 minutes or until the leg bone feels loose when you wiggle/tug on it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bone Marrow Endive Scoops and Roasted King Oyster Mushrooms

Bone Marrow Endive Scoops
This is a meal from a few months ago.  I picked up some nice looking Belgian endives from North Park Produce when I stopped to get fresh parsely for my decadent roasted bone marrow dinner.  They must not stock this often because the check out girl didn't know what they were.  She said that they looked different from the regulary endives that they usually sell.  Perhaps she was referring to curly endives?
I decided that this special item would make the perfect vessel for bone marrow.  The slight bitterness of these endives countered the rich bone marrow nicely.  At the last minute, I also opted for arugala that added a peppery bite.

Bone Marrow Endive Scoops
1 lbs beef bone marrow, roasted
1 Belgian endive
1 clove garlic, roasted
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup cooked rice
salt & pepper to taste

Separate, wash and pat dry endive leaves.  Arrange the leaves on a platter.Slice the clove of roasted garlic. Layer a small portion of the following ingredients onto each leaf: rice, marrow, and a few small leaves of arugula. Squeeze lemon juice all over. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

I also roasted some king oyster mushrooms alongside the bone marrow for the last 5-8 minutes. The mushrooms soaked up the drippings and since they were so meaty, the outside carmelized beautifully without drying up.

Roasted King Oyster Mushrooms

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Candied Bacon & Bailey's Ice Cream

Finally!  Success! Eureka!  I have figured out how to make Bailey's ice cream that will actually freeze into ice cream!  In my prior attempts, I have only managed to make Bailey's milkshake.  I was successful with my Malt & Nutella ice cream, which was non-alcoholic.  But since alcohol does not freeze well, I previous attempts at an alcoholic ice cream was thwarted by the laws of science.  Well, I don't give up that easily.  No matter how many batches of alcoholic milkshake I'd have to endure (which really isn't so bad).
See, my mistake was adding the alcohol component too early in the process. And now that I've figured out the secret, VICTORY IS MINE!
While I was at it, why not add some candied bacon as well?  The little piggy on my shot glass certainly approved.

Candied Bacon

thick cut bacon
raw cane sugar
Preheat oven to broil.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Trust me, this will make the clean up so much easier.  
Place a rack over a foil lined baking sheet.  Coat each slice of bacon with raw cane sugar on both sides.  Shake off excess.  
Place each slice of sugared bacon flat on the rack, not touching each other.  

Broil in oven for about 5 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Watch carefully because the sugar could burn very easily.
While the bacon is broiling, line another baking sheet with foil that is slightly crumpled.  

Once the bacon is ready to be removed from the oven, transfer the slices of bacon over to the other foil lined baking sheet to cool.  If you leave them on the rack, they will get stuck and be hard to remove.  The crumpling in the foil will help drain away excess grease as well.

Bailey's Ice Cream Recipe
1 cup whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
candied bacon for garnish
Combine milk, cream, sugar and vanilla in a large saucepan.  Slowly bring to a boil over low-med heat, stirring occasionally.  

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!  Once the custard starts looking more like ice cream, slowly drizzle in the Bailey's.  Scoop the ice cream into a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 1 hour.
Either tear up the candied bacon to sprinkle on top of the ice cream or garnish each serving with a half slice (maybe even a whole slice) of candied bacon.  If you have enough candied bacon leftover from the "taste tests", do both.
Makes 4 cups of ice cream.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rosemary Pork Loin with Crispy Sort-Of-Cracklings

Rosemary Pork Loin
I say "sort-of-cracklings" because my pork loin didn't come with the skin on.  It only had the standard layer of fat that I would usually trim away, leaving only a thin layer to keep the meat moist.  This time, I decided to keep the fat and do a slow roast to render away most of the fat, leaving a crisp, crackling-like (or crack-like) layer on top.  I had to restrain myself from eating all of the sort-of-crackling by itself.
The long and slow roast at a lower temperature combined with what started out as a thick layer of fat resulted in the most tender pork loin that I have ever roasted.

Rosemary Pork Loin with Sort-of-Cracklings
1 1/2 lb pork loin w/ fat layer intact
4 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
*Optional: potatoes, carrots or other root vegetables

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Rub pork loin with rosemary, salt and pepper.  Place in baking dish or roasting pan, fat side up.  Roast for 80-90 min.  *Optional: After 40 minutes, arrange root vegetables in the baking dish/roasting pan around the pork loin.  Toss the root vegetables around after 15 minutes.  The fat layer should have mostly rendered away, leaving only a thin, crispy layer.
Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  Do not skip this step, resting allows the juices to redistribute and keeps the meat moist.  Slicing without resting your meat will dry it out, as all the meat juices will leak out.  Center should be the slightest blush of pink or meat thermometer should read 145 degrees F.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos

Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos
I scored some nice marrow bones at NorthGate Market for $1.79.  According to the label, they were sold for soup making, but were the perfect size for roasting.  They were nice and wide, perfect for scooping out every delectable morsel.
I was pretty excited about lunch and then I realized that I forgot to pick up a baguette to make the crostini that would be the vehicle for my meat butter.
I found some tortillas that I had frozen (because Pancho Villa packaged waaaay too many fresh made tortillas in one bundle).  That's when inspiration hit.  Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos!
Meat butter tastes  just as fantastic on a tortilla as it does on toast or crostini.  In fact, it does a much better job of holding everything together.

Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos
flour or corn tortillas
marrow bones cut into 2 1/2 to 3" sections or split lengthwise
cold salted water
sea salt
grapeseed oil or olive oil (not the good stuff)
shallot, thinly sliced
Soak marrow bones in cold salted water for about 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pat marrow bones dry. Rub with oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.  Arrange on baking dish so that the widest end of the marrow bones are facing down.  If the bones are split lengthwise, the marrow part should face up.  Roast for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bone.  When done, the marrow should form a golden brown crust on top and be cooked through but not melt.  If the marrow is melting, then it is overcooked.
While the bones are roasting, use kitchen shears to cut the parsley leaves into a bowl. Toss with the shallots and juice from the lemon.  Warm up the tortillas.
Scoop the marrow onto the tortillas and top with a bit of parsley salad.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hectic Days - Kimchi Noodle Soup

It has been so crazy at work lately that I have barely had time to eat away from my desk.  By the time I drag my shell of a body home, I am in no mood to spend much time cooking.  Good thing I have always had a generously stocked kitchen to come up with crazy combinations of lazy meals.  Here is one of them.
Fish Nuggets
Chili Garlic Sauce
Kimchi Noodle Soup

Kimchi Noodle Soup
1 serving of egg noodles (can substitute w/ any type of noodles)
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup napa cabbage kimchi
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
*Optional: egg, fish nuggets w/ roe, any vegetable, leftover meat, Spam, tofu, cooked dumplings, etc.

Cook noodles according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.  Bring water, salt, kimchi and chili garlic sauce to a boil.  If adding any of the optional add-ons that need to be cooked, add to the soup and boil until cooked.  If adding dumplings, cook the dumplings separately or with the noodles to prevent the soup from becoming starchy.  Ladle everything into a large bowl and enjoy.

I love cooking the fish nuggets in my soup.  It imparts a sweetness that makes me slurp up every last drop.  This particular brand does not have the roe filling center like this one.  This variation is shaped like a nugget and has the roe mixed in.  There is a nice little "pop" every time I bite down on the nugget.
P.S. The yolk from my poached eggs created a nice addition to the broth, making it rich and glorious.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Whole Roasted Quail

Whole Roasted Quail
Quail is tasty tasty meat.  Gamey like duck, but with a more delicate flavor.  If cooked correctly, the meat is still pink inside.  Like duck, quail is a red meat bird that is best medium to medium rare.   Some of the small bones get so crispy-crunchy that I love munching on them.  
There is no elegant way to eat quail.  Like eating crab or whole lobster, this is finger food.  Finger-lickin' good finger food.  
I have always had fried quail seasoned with 5-spice.  No batter, just fried like deep-fried turkey.  That is the best way to get a crispy skin and crunchy bones without overcooking the meat.  However, deep-frying is a lot of clean up work.
I decided to try roasting the little birds using a simple seasoning of salt & pepper to let the true flavor of the quail speak for itself.  I did a quick sear to get the skin brown before putting the pan in the oven for the high heat roasting.  Since the size of these birds makes it really easy to overcook, high heat and timing is everything.  I got out my trusty cast iron frying pan and got it really hot.  I pre-heated the oven to 500 degrees F.  I was aiming for medium rare, but ended up with medium.  Next time, I think I'll butterfly the quail so that I can get a more even sear in a shorter amount of time.
2 quails equals 1 entree serving or 2 starter servings.

Whole Roasted Quail
2 quails
grapeseed oil (or any high smoke point oil)
1/2 tsp butter
lemon wedges (optional)

Let quails come to room temperature to ensure even cooking.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Rub quail all over with oil.  Lightly sprinkle quail with salt and pepper, inside and out.  You can always add more salt later, but you can't take it away.  
Heat cast iron frying pan over high heat.  Pour enough oil into the pan to just cover the surface.  Melt butter in pan.  Quickly sear the quail on all sides, about 10 seconds or less on each side, starting with the back.  Once you get to the breast side, turn off the heat and immediately place the pan in the preheated oven.  Roast for 8-10 minutes.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the quail (optional).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Juicy Italian Meatballs and Umami Spring Angel Hair Pasta

I had a lot of ground beef and ground pork in the freezer.  I decided to use half for italian meatballs and use half for swedish meatballs.  I'll get to the swedish meatballs in another post.  For now, I'll just share my recipe for italian meatballs.  The milk soaked breadcrumbs really kept the meatballs moist and helped hold their shape.

Italian Meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp oregano
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp pepper

Soak the breadcrumbs in milk.   Saute onions until soft and translucent.  Set aside to cool.
Mix together ground beef, pork, soaked breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, egg, oregano, salt and pepper.  Once onions are cool to the touch, combine onions with meat mixture.
2 heaping tablespoons at a time, form the meatballs by lightly patting with the palms of your hands.
Heat a large frying pan w/ enough oil to just cover the surface.  Pan-fry the meatballs over med-low heat until brown on all sides, carefully turning once on each side, about 1 1/2 min each side.

I didn't feel like a saucy pasta dish, so decided to do a light spring angel hair pasta dish and topped it with a few meatballs.  The umami flavor of the pasta was sensational.

Umami Spring Angel Hair Pasta
16 oz. dried angel hair pasta
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups parsley leaves
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp garlic, minced
Any other vegetables you have around, julienned
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (see package instructions).  Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and set aside.  In a large saute pan (I used the meatball pan with all the pan drippings), saute the anchovy fillets and onions over med-low heat.  Cook until fillets are melted and onions are translucent.
Add garlic to onion mixture.  Stir for 30 seconds.
Add parsley, spinach, tomatoes and other vegetables.  Cook until spinach and parsley are just wilted.
Take pan off heat and toss in pasta.  Stir in reserved pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time to make a light sauce.  Be careful not to add too much, the sauce should not be too watery.
Mix in parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.  I strongly advise tasting before adding the cheese.  The anchovy fillets make up half the salt element in this dish.
Serve with meatballs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers
There were some really nice looking bell peppers on sale at the market, so that night's dinner was inspired by them.  I have always casted bell peppers as the supporting actor, but never the star.  This time, since I bought so many, I wanted the bell peppers to be the focus of my main dish.
Stuffed bell peppers freeze beautifully and make a great presentation when served with the tops on.  They can be stuffed with any type of grain (quinoa, rice, couscous, etc) and protein (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, sausages, etc).   Other ingredients like pine nuts, curry powder, diced tomatoes, herbs, feta cheese, and/or sun-dried tomatoes can bring endless variations to this one dish.  It is also a great way to transform and disguise leftovers.  The starch to meat ratio can be adjusted depending on what your budget is like and/or what you happen to have on hand.  The bell peppers really infuses the stuffing with flavor while baking.  Edible food containers are so cool.  Choose bell peppers that have even bottoms.  Or you can also cut them in half, length-wise (keeping the stems) to make side dish portions. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers
10-12 bell peppers
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp fresh marjoram
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp pine nuts
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp oil

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and set aside.  Remove and discard the seeds and white parts.  Par-boil the bell peppers for about 20 seconds and arrange standing upright on a baking dish.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Heat oil in saute pan.  Add onions and stir.  Cook until translucent.  Add ground turkey and garlic powder.  Stir until cooked through.  Mix in rice, tomatoes and marjoram.  Turn off heat.  Mix in feta and pine nuts.  Season the mixture with salt & pepper to taste.
Carefully spoon the stuffing mixture into each bell pepper.  Pack it in as much as possible without tearing the bell peppers.  Place the bell pepper tops over the filling, as covers.  Fill the bottom 1 1/2 inches of the baking dish with water.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Roasted Marrow

Roasted Beef Marrow

I love bone-on/in wings, fried chicken, steaks, roasts, ribs, etc.  Boneless versions of any of the above are a joke to me.
I love love love roasted bone marrow.  Succulently rich morsels of meat butter.  A glutton's treat.  Anyone who has problems with eating fat should turn around now.  Marrow is mostly fat inside the bones, but it is also full of fat soluble vitamins.  Plus it tastes good.
For pennies per pound, this is a gourmet meal on the cheap.  I spread the roasted marrow on some toasted potato bread and topped it with a little bit of parsley and thinly sliced shallots tossed in lemon juice.  The lightly toasted bread had a nice crisp crunch.  The roasted marrow is so lusciously creamy that it almost melts into the toast.  The acidity from the parsley salad counterbalances the richness from the marrow.

Roasted Marrow
Beef marrow bones (ask butcher to cut into 3 inch pieces)
salted water
sea salt
Soak marrow bones in cold salted water for about 1 hour to get rid of the excess blood.  Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Arrange bones in a baking dish so that they are standing up on the widest end.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes or when the marrow in the center starts bubbling.  Scoop onto lightly toasted bread or crostini.  Top with a little bit of parsley salad.

Parsley Salad
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
sea salt
Toss parsley leaves, shallot, and lemon juice together.  Salt to taste.

After I got as much of the marrow out as I possibly could, I deglazed the baking dish with a little cognac to use the pan drippings and bones for stock.  Those bones just keep on giving deliciousness.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No Boil Sun-dried Tomato & Chicken Pasta Bake

I was craving sun-dried tomato alfredo pasta the other day, but didn't have any cream or read-made alfredo sauce from a jar on hand.  I was also too cozy in my little apartment to make a trip to the grocery store.  I also didn't want to stand over the stove or wash a pot.  
I rummaged through my kitchen to see if I had anything else and decided that I had nothing good to eat.  How was that possible when I just went to Costco and at least 2 groceries stores in the last 2 weeks???
I felt like I just agreed to a spur of the moment girls' night out and had nothing in my closet to wear to go dancing.  I have nothing to eat like I have nothing to wear!
I munched on a pickle to regroup and then tried again.
Tomato basil bisque in a can, frozen chicken thighs, american cheese, sundried tomatoes, bread crumbs (from the Potato Bread that I made), parmesan cheese and roma tomatoes = No Boil Sun-dried Tomato & Chicken Pasta Bake.  Tada!
The first batch was burnt on the surface because turned the oven onto BROIL.  I scraped off the burnt top layer.  The rest of it was okay.  At least I got the flavors right.
I tried again a few days later.
Round 2 was a success, I adjusted the oven temperature and made it a point to set the timer on my microwave. 

No Boil Sun-dried Tomato & Chicken Pasta Bake
8 oz dried pasta (any shape)
1 can tomato basil bisque
1/2 can water
2 slices american cheese
3 tbsp sundried tomatoes, finely diced
1 roma tomato, diced
2 skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 roma tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a baking dish (or a pie dish), combine dried pasta, diced tomato, sundried tomatoes, tomato basil bisque and water together.  Tear the american cheese up into little pieces.  Mix in the pieces of american cheese.  Place the chicken thighs on top of the pasta mixture.  Bake for about 30 minutes.
Take the pasta and chicken out of the oven.  Take the chicken and cut up into bite-sized pieces (I used kitchen shears which made it easier).  Mix the chicken into the pasta mixture.  Arrange the tomato slices on top.
Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta & chicken mixture.  Sprinkle more parmesan cheese on top.
Bake for another 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
No Bake Sundried Tomato & Chicken Pasta Bake
I actually heard it bubbling as when I pulled the dish out of the oven.  It was literally bubbling!

Friday, January 18, 2013

EAT Toast

EAT Toast
E = Egg
A = Avocado
T = Tomato

This is as a quick breakfast on the go, brunch item, snack or last minute appetizer.  Add slices of bacon and you have BEAT or BETA (which on sounds better?).  Mmmm...bacon.  It would be like the good fat and the bad fat coming together in harmony.
I love this on toasted potato bread.

EAT Toast
2 slices of toast
1 medium-boiled egg, sliced
1 avocado, mashed
1 roma tomato, sliced
sea salt, to taste

Spread the mashed avocado generously on each slice of toast.  Sprinkle sea salt on avocado.  Layer slices of tomato with egg on top of mashed avocado.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Potato Bread

Potato Bread
I love the smell of freshly baked bread in my kitchen.  There is something very warm and comforting about that smell.  
It may be easier and less time consuming to use a bread maker.  But I love the feel of the dough in my hands when I am kneading it.  I like experiencing the process of making the dough by hand.  It feels therapeutic.  Plus, my counter and kitchen storage space is limited.
Yeast loves the starch in potatoes.  Potatoes make for a softer, more flavorful bread.  I like to use fresh potatoes.  But instant mashed potatoes work well as a substitute as well.  A smoother consistency will be achieved with instant mashed potatoes, but you don't get the benefits of being able to use the potato water.  I also like the tiny little specks of potato in the crust.
I keep a jar of yeast in the freezer and buy bread flour in bulk just for this.
Over the years, I have tweaked and perfected my recipe and technique.  This also just happens to be vegan (egg- and dairy-free) as well.  The loaf keeps for about 1 week in the bread box on my counter.

Potato Bread (single loaf)
3/4 cup peeled and diced potatoes
water for boiling potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 cups bread flour
flour for kneading
vegetable oil for greasing

Bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Cook until potatoes are soft and mashable.  Measure out 1/2 cup of the potato water.  Dissolve the sugar in the 1/2 cup reserve potato water and set aside.  Measure out another 1/4 cup of potato water and set aside.
*If using instant mashed potatoes, prepare mashed potatoes according to package instructions yielding 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes and use regular hot water instead of potato water.  Same if using leftover mashed potatoes.
Drain potatoes.  Using a handheld blender (or a food processor), blend together salt, potatoes and 1/4 cup of reserve potato water together until smooth.
Once the 1/2 cup of reserve potato water is cooled to 110 degrees F (warm but not hot), sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface of the water.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, the mixture should be foamy at the surface.  That means the yeast is active.  If the mixture is not foamy, it means the yeast is dead and of no use.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yeast water, vegetable oil and mashed potatoes.  With a rubber spatula, mix in 2 cups of bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, by hand.  Dough should feel slightly stiff.  Mix in more flour if needed.
Turn dough onto clean, lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 6 minutes, sprinkling on more flour to keep dough from sticking to the surface.  Dough should be smooth and elastic.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Lightly pat the ball of dough all over with a few drops of vegetable oil.
Lightly oil a large pot with a lid.  Place the ball of dough in pot.  Cover with lid.  Place covered pot in the oven to let dough rise for about 1 hour or until double in size.  The pilot light keeps the oven at the perfect warm temperature for letting the dough rise.
*To let the dough rise over night, place covered pot in the refrigerator for about 8 hours or until dough is double in size.
Lightly oil your hands with vegetable oil.  Punch down the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for 2 minutes.
**See instructions below for dinner rolls.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an oblong shape.  Starting with the short end, roll the dough into a log.  Pinch the ends together and tuck under.  Lightly pat the surface of the dough log with a few drops of vegetable oil.
Lightly oil and flour a loaf pan.  Place the dough in the loaf pan.  Run the point of a knife lengthwise along the top of the dough to let steam escape when baking.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until dough fills out the loaf pan.
Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until top is light brown.  Take bread out of the oven.  Lightly tap the top of the bread.  It should feel/sound kind of hollow.
Let bread cool on a wire rack, the crust will soften a bit while the bread cools.  Once bread is cooled, slice and enjoy!

**Separate dough into pieces that are roughly the size of an egg.  Line baking sheet lined with a lightly greased and floured silicone baking sheet.  Rub a few drops of oil in your hands.  Shape the pieces of dough into round balls.  Place the dough balls on the lined baking sheet 1 inch apart.  Let rise for about 10 minutes or until touching each other.  Bake in preheated 350 degree F for about 20 minutes or until rolls are a light golden brown.  Keep warm in a bowl or basket, wrapped in a clean dish towel.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

H Mart - Spicy Beef Stew

Spicy Beef Stew
A friend and I were driving down Mira Mesa Blvd when she pointed out H Mart to me.  "I didn't know they had one of these here!"
She informed me that H Mart has locations in the LA area.  I was intrigued when I heard that they had a food court.  About a week or so later, I decided to check out H Mart during my lunch hour.
There was a wide selection of pre-made food displayed next to the food court area.  I picked up some wakame seaweed salad and got in line at the food court.  The line seemed to be very slow moving, even though the guy at the cash register seemed to be pretty efficient.  There were 4-5 people in front of me and it took about 15 minutes for me to get to the front.  Perhaps it is because the cashier counter is pretty small and the food is picked up in the same area.  The cashier had to pause every time an order was called out.  Not the most efficient set up.
It was one of those days that I felt the chill in my bones, so the Spicy Beef Stew ($6.99) was my pick.  It was about another 10-15 minutes before my number was called out, so this might not be the place to go to for your lunch hour.  However, I was very happy when my order was ready.  The Spicy Beef Stew came in an extra large bowl.  Like the size of an extra large pho bowl.  The spice level was nice, enough to warm me up to the core, but it was not a lingering spicy that stays in my mouth.  There were tender pieces of beef brisket mixed in with vegetables and glass noodle.  My favorite is the beaten egg that was cooked in the broth.  Not like egg drop soup where it gets broken up.  No, because the egg would have been lost in the other components if it had been.  More like the pillowy "omelete" in bun rieu that blankets the stew.
There was also a sizable panchan of kimchi on the side, as well as a bowl of steamed brown rice.
It was more hearty and filling than I could finish.  I ended up asking for a large to-go container, which got filled to the brim.  I then reheated this into two more satisfying meals, with a soft boiled egg added each time.
I shall be back, but will time it so that I would miss the lunch rush.

H Mart
9440 Mira Mesa Blvd
(between Black Mountain Rd & Westview Pky) San DiegoCA 92126

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stuffed Bitter Melon - Two Ways

Steamed Bitter Melon Stuffed w/ Pork
Pan-Fried Bitter Melon Stuffed w/ Pork
Bitter melon (or bitter gourd) is an acquired taste.  I used to hate them when I was a kid. My mom did manage to change my mind about them with countless experimental recipes.  Still not my favorite vegetable, but sometimes I do feel nostalgic for my mom's pork stuffed bitter melons.
Bitter is a flavor that pairs well with fatty meats, as it cuts through the greasiness.  Par-boiling the bitter melon in salt water tapers the bitterness a bit.
My mom sometimes mixes in minced shrimp with the ground pork mixture.  The steamed version allows for the juices from the pork to permeate the bitter melon.  However, the pan-fried version has that nice sear and is more fragrant.

Stuffed Bitter Melon
1 bitter melon
1/2 lb ground pork
5 large shrimps, minced (optional)
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup salt

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together corn starch, shaoxing rice wine and soy sauce.  Add ground pork (and shrimp).  Mix well.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator while preparing the bitter melon.
In a large pot, bring 3 inches of water and salt to boil.  Slice the bitter melon into 1/2 inch rings.  With a spoon or knife, scoop or cut out the white pith and seeds.  Par-boil the bitter melon rings for 2-3 minutes.  Remove the rings and shock in ice water.  Keep the pot of salt water at a simmer.
Stuff the pork mixture in each ring.
Steamed method - Place stuffed rings in a single layer on a dish with raised edges that is small enough to fit in the pot with the cover on.  Place steaming rack in pot.  Place dish on top of steaming rack.  Steam for 15 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Pan-fried method - Use a frying or saute pan with a lid.  Heat up 1 tbsp of oil over medium-low heat.  Place stuffed rings in a single layer in the pan.  Pan-fry for about 3 minutes or until first side is browned.  Flip over once.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bun Rieu Tom with Fried Tofu

Growing up, my mom always had a big pot of jook (rice congee or porridge), bun (round rice noodles) or chicken pho (flat rice noodles) simmering on the stove on the weekends.  The components were always made ready to be on hand for the perfect steaming bowl of breakfast and/or even lunch.  She'd wake up before everyone else to start the broth. 
I always buy whole shell on shrimp so that I can save the heads and shells for shrimp stock.  Once I saved up enough for a nice shrimp stock, I decided to make Bun Rieu Tom with Fried Tofu.
There are many variations of Bun Rieu.  The traditional Bun Rieu Cua is made with blue crab.  Bun Rieu Tom is made with shrimp.  Bun Rieu Cua Tom Oc is made with crab, shrimp and snail meat.
The fried tofu soaks up the savory, tangy flavors of the broth.  The delicious egg mixture has a light, pillowy texture.

Broth for Bun Rieu Tom
5 cups shrimp heads & shells, packed
1 lb pork bones
10 cups water
1 tsp oil
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fermented shrimp paste
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 onion, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the onion halves, pork bones, shrimp heads and shells on a baking sheet.  Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Transfer the pork bones, shrimp heads and shells in a stock pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Place lid on pot, slightly propped up.  Reduce heat to a low simmer.  Simmer for 3-4 hours or overnight.  Remove pork bones, shrimp heads and shells.  Skim broth.
Heat a small frying pan with oil.  Sautee chopped tomatoes for 30 seconds.
Add onion, sauteed tomatoes, tomato paste, shrimp paste and fish sauce to broth.  Stir well and simmer for at 2 hours.  Makes about 9-10 cups broth.
Bun Rieu Tom (per serving)
2 cups broth for Bun Rieu Tom
1 tbsp crab paste
1 egg, slightly beaten
6 pieces fried tofu
4 shrimp
1 cup cooked bun noodles
wedge of lime
2-3 sprigs mint (garnish)
1/4 cup finely shredded cabbage (garnish)

Bring broth to a simmer.  Add fried tofu and shrimp.  Mix crab paste and egg together.  Slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the simmering broth.  Ladle on top of bun noodles in serving bowl.  Add juice from a wedge of lime.  Add more shrimp paste and/or fish sauce to taste.  Mix in mint leaves and shredded cabbage.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Spaghetti Carbonara with Crispy Mushrooms

I love pasta carbonara.  It is actually a really simple dish to make.  The original recipe contains no cream, and that is the version that I prefer.  I think the addition of cream takes away from the egginess of the dish, which is what I love most about carbonara.
I still basterdized the dish with mushrooms though.  Cause I love crispy browned mushrooms and the earthiness goes nicely with this rustic pasta dish.
Fresh eggs are essential for this recipe.  I dish up the pasta and then mix in the egg yolk with each serving.  The hot pasta and pasta water semi-cooks the egg yolk.
I sanitize each egg by washing the uncracked eggs with dish detergent and make sure that I get the freshest eggs possible.  Organic, cage-free eggs have the best tasting yolks.

Mushroom Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb dried spaghetti
4 oz guanciale (or pancetta or bacon), chopped
black pepper
pecorino Romano, freshly grated
1 egg yolk for each serving

Cook spaghetti according to directions on package.  Reserve 2 cups pasta water and keep hot.  
While the spaghetti is cooking, prepare the sautéed mushrooms and set aside.  In the same pan, add guanciale and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring.  Add the mushrooms back into the pan. Toss in hot spaghetti.  Add black pepper to taste.  I like lots and lots of pepper.  Mound the pasta into warmed serving bowls.  Mix in freshly grated pecorino Romano and 1 egg yolk to each bowl of hot pasta.  Mix in 1 tbsp of hot pasta water to each bowl.  Add more cheese and black pepper.  Serve.  Makes about 6 servings.
  • Leftover pasta can be reheated and then add the eggs, cheese and black pepper at serving.
  • Egg whites can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in a container in the freezer for next time you make omelets, meringues, scrambles, etc.