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.