Saturday, December 8, 2007

Minute Steaks

This is another dish from my childhood; my father used to make it often. Minute steaks, also known as cube steaks, aren't steak at all; they're tenderized cuts of top round beef. They're fabulously inexpensive (sometimes you can even find them less per pound than ground beef), which make them very attractive when you need a cheap red meat fix. However, you have to braise them for a good length of time to break down the connective tissue. Your patience will be rewarded with fork-tender meat and a tasty, savory gravy.

1 - 1.5 pounds cube steak
1 medium onion, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)

Warm up one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep sided pan. Add the onions and cook gently until they start to turn translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Throw in the garlic and cook until fragrant, another 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the onions and garlic into a small bowl.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and warm up over high heat. Season both sides of the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Spread the flour out in a plate, and sprinkle in about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss the seasonings through the flour, and dredge each piece of steak in it, shaking off the excess. Lay the steaks in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side to get a nice sear. Once both sides are browned, pour in the beef broth, water, and the onion/garlic mixture. Stir in the grill seasoning. Let the liquid come up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and clamp on a lid. Let the steaks simmer for an hour, flipping them over half way through.

When the hour is up, taste the cooking liquid for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Dissolve the cornstarch in two tablespoons of cold water and pour into the pan. Give it a minute to thicken, and if it's not thick enough for you, feel free to add another slurry, using only 1 tablespoon of cornstarch this time. Stir in the parsley if you have it.

Serve a piece of steak and plenty of gravy in a shallow bowl over rice, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.


Yep, I still don't have any flat leaf parsley on hand--I forgot about buying it at the store the other day. I'm sure the pretty flecks of green would have made this picture look less, well, poo like!

Rating: This is awesome

It ain't pretty, but it tastes really good on a cold night in December.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

(Dinner for one)

This might be my ultimate dish for solitary dining: it's fast, easy, somewhat decadent and full of garlic. Just what I want when I'm not trying to impress anybody! Of course, you can increase the amounts to feed as many people as you want; I'm a firm believer that heavy garlic consumption at dinner doesn't matter as long as both you and your date eat it.

10 medium (41-50 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces linguine
A spritz of lemon juice or a splash of white wine
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Get a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, and cook the pasta for about a minute less than it says on the package, since you'll be finishing its cooking with the shrimp.

In a large skillet, warm up the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion and gently saute until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Throw in the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook until pink on both sides.

Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss thoroughly and stir in the lemon juice or white wine. Let everything simmer together for 2 or 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the parmesan and some chopped flat leaf parsley if you have it (I did not). Take off the heat and serve. You might want to light a nicely-scented candle in your kitchen at this point since it will be reeking of shrimp and garlic!


Be careful not to add the shrimp too early; overcooked shrimp are the worst. If the onion and garlic have to cook a little bit longer on its own while the pasta finishes, that's fine.

Rating: This is awesome

Just lovely :-)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sesame Chicken

I have been wanting to make a good sesame chicken dish at home for a very long time, but it has eluded me so far. I tried one preparation several months ago that just tasted like flour. Blech! When I saw this recipe on Culinary in the Desert, I thought it would be worth a try. Instead of using a heavy flour coating on the chicken, it is dipped into a mixture of cornstarch and egg whites to give it a faux deep-fried crust. I changed a couple of things in his recipe, so here's mine!

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg whites
Peanut oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. If you didn't buy toasted sesame seeds, dry fry your seeds in a small skillet over medium high heat until they start to change color. Give them a flip every now and then to prevent them from burning.

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and egg whites until thoroughly combined. Dip the chicken pieces in the mixture to coat. Warm up a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium high flame.

Swirl the oil around the pan and add about half of the chicken pieces. DO NOT stir fry the chicken--just let them sit there and cook until golden on the underside, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and let cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. The pieces will be sticking together by this point because of the egg whites. Gently break them apart from each other with a wooden spoon and turn out onto a plate. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and repeat with the rest of the chicken.

Once the second batch of chicken is cooked, throw the rest of the chicken into the skillet. Pour over the sauce, and stir to coat. Let it come up to a bubble to thicken slightly.

I served my sesame chicken over white rice and steamed broccoli.


Rating: This is not awesome

It didn't blow me away. Back to the drawing board... :-(

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Spicy Orange Pork

This is a variation of a recipe I saw posted on the What's Cooking board this morning (sorry...I don't remember who posted it!). I really wanted to make something new and exciting tonight, since I haven't written in here in a while, but I had no idea what the lucky dish would be; all I knew was that I wanted to use the pork tenderloin and green beans that I had in the fridge. This recipe met my criteria and is a super fun retro nod to the chinese restaurant classic of my childhood memories. Score!

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of visible fat and silverskin
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, sliced into half moons
3/4 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt and pepper
White pepper (optional)

Get a pot of rice started first thing.

Slice the pork tenderloin into roughly 1/2-inch thick rounds against the grain, and cut each slice into 2 or 3 strips. Place in a medium sized bowl with the orange zest, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, chicken broth, orange juice, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes.

Heat one tablespoon of oil on high in a wok or large, deep sided skillet. Add the pork and stir-fry until cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate. Wipe down the inside of the wok with a paper towel, and add the final tablespoon of oil, warming over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Throw in the green beans and garlic and stir-fry until tender crisp, another 4 minutes. Pour in the OJ/broth mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes up to a boil and thickens, about 1 minute. Add the pork, along with any accumulated juices, back to the wok and stir around for another minute, coating the meat and green beans in the sauce. Sprinkle a bit of white pepper over everything. Serve over rice.

My apologies for the blurry picture!

Rating: This is awesome

I loved this stir-fry preparation; it was just the "something different" I was looking for! This could easily be made with a different protein if you're not a pork fan; it would be killer with flank steak! I would probably swap out the green beans for a different veggie if I make this again. It's pretty hard (for me at least) to cook green beans just right in the wok. Maybe some bell pepper strips instead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shrimp Frittata

I had neither eaten nor cooked a frittata, an Italian open-faced omelet, before tonight. I needed another dinner for one idea, so I gave the frittata a whirl. Now I can say that I am a huge fan!! It turned out so tasty, savory and filling, and it was quick and easy. The possibilities are endless, too; you can use any filler ingredients and herbs that you want. Here's mine--it looked so pretty when it came out of the oven:

7 large shrimp, peeled, devenied, and chopped
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/3 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon butter
3 eggs
1 ounce parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Milk or half & half

Preheat your broiler at its highest setting, and adjust an oven rack directly below it.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, green onion, and garlic to the pan. Season with a little salt and pepper and saute until the bell pepper is softer, about 5 minutes. Throw in the shrimp and cook until it turns pink. Whisk together the eggs, parmesan, a splash of milk or half & half, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Pour into the pan and scatter the basil over top.

Don't touch the pan and just let the eggs cook for a few minutes. When the eggs have set for the most part, but are still wet on top, take the pan off the heat and place it under the broiler. Leave it there for a couple of minutes until the edges are browning and the top sets completely. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn!

Take out from under the broiler and let the pan sit for 5 minutes. Flip the frittata out onto a plate, cut into quarters, and serve.

Rating: This is awesome

This is a great dinner for when you don't feel too creative and you need to use up random ingredients, especially some bits of expensive cheese you want to stretch, or a handful of herbs about to go bad. I just love finding new budget-minded dinner options :-) It warms my cheap heart!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Taco Casserole

Subtitle: In which I put together a bunch of stuff that Wei hates on a night he's not home

Wei has a job that's much cooler than mine, the perks of which include client dinners at Atlanta hot spots from time to time. I spend these nights eating a dinner that he would hate! Hah! Take that, cool job haver! Tonight, I decided to throw together a taco casserole, involving two of his least favorite foods: cheese and black beans. I don't pretend to claim that this is actual Mexican food, by the way; this is my version, based entirely on my tastes! Feel free to vary the spices however you want.

1/2 pound ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3 large flour tortillas
6 tablespoons prepared or homemade salsa
3/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used a Mexican blend)
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
Olive oil
Non-stick cooking spray

Warm up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Throw in the cumin, oregano, and chili powder and stir to coat the onion in the spices. Add the ground turkey and garlic to the skillet and season well with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up and cook until the meat until no longer pink. Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spritz the inside of an 8-inch square baking pan with the non-stick cooking spray. Lay one tortilla at the bottom of the pan and spread 2 tablespoons of salsa over it. Layer half of the turkey-onion mixture, half of the beans, and 1/4 cup of cheese on top the tortilla. Place another tortilla over the cheese and repeat the layering process with 2 tablespoons of salsa, the rest of the turkey and beans, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Place the last tortilla on top and spread the remaining salsa and cheese over it.

Bake for 20 minutes, until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted. Take out of the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut into big squares and serve. You could garnish with sour cream, salsa, guacamole, chopped cilantro, etc.


Rating: This is awesome

I ate this on the couch while watching Arrested Development - Season One--another thing Wei hates! Best night ever.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chicken and Tomato Soup with Rice

This is another recipe born from the desire to use up shit that we already had without having to go to the grocery store. It was a success! Wei was pretty dubious about using rice in a soup, and in fact, I came up with the idea based entirely on the song "Chicken Soup with Rice" from Really Rosie. But hey, you can't find out what works without taking risks!

1 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 celery heart, chopped finely
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 cups of leftover cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup of leftover cooked rice
The juice of half a lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

If using raw chicken, bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the chicken breasts to the boiling water and poach until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Warm up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and water and bring up to a boil. Toss in the tomatoes, stir in the rice and let everything simmer together for a few minutes.

Take the chicken out of its cooking water and sit to cool on a cutting board for a few minutes. Shred the chicken with two forks or your fingers and add it to the soup pot along with the lime juice. Taste the broth for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your taste. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Rating: This is awesome

I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup,
Eating chicken soup with rice!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce

The weather has finally got chilly here. I'm actually having to put on a coat when I take the dogs out in the morning. Woo! I thought the humid air would never leave. Now I can start making some of my cold weather favorites! I looooove winter cooking like nothing else. There's something so primally satisfying about creating a warm, filling meal when the cold wind is whipping at your front door.

This tomato sauce is a variation of Giada's from Everyday Italian. Hers was the first homemade sauce I had ever made, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven after the first bite. I just didn't know it could taste like that--it's so bright and flavorful! Last night was the first time I tried making it with ground turkey instead of beef. I loved it; I think its light flavor actually went better with the sauce than beef's meatier taste does.

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery heart, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound ground turkey (preferably a mixture of white and dark meat)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Warm up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Put the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in the pan and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the ground turkey, and season well with salt and pepper. Break up the turkey with a wooden spoon and saute until it is no longer pink.

Pour in the can of tomatoes and stir to combine. Sprinkle in the oregano and basil and add salt and pepper to your taste. Bring the heat down to low and let everything simmer and thicken for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over spaghetti (or whatever type of pasta you want) with a little bit of freshly grated parmesan on top.

Rating: This is awesome

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Thai Shrimp Soup with Lime and Cilantro

Another night, another soup! This one is a variation of a recipe I got from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook. I first ate this earlier this year, when I did SBD in an effort to lose weight for the wedding. It was dinner on my first night of the diet, and I remember that it tasted so good that I thought the whole dieting thing wouldn't be too bad. The original recipe calls for 3 cups of thinly sliced napa cabbage in place of the bean thread noodles I used here.

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5.25 ounces bean thread noodles
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

To start, reconsititute the noodles. Place them in a large bowl and cover with hot water straight from the tap. Let them sit for 15 minutes, then drain the noodles and set aside.

Warm up the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Throw in the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute. Add the chicken broth and water and bring up to a boil.

Stir in the bean thread noodles. Add the shrimp, fish sauce, lime juice, lime zest, and sugar and cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about one minute. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and scatter the cilantro into the soup. Serve hot.


Rating: This is awesome
The flavors are sharp and intense, but they all come together well. The noodles are tricky to catch, since they're so long. Try eating with a soup spoon in one hand and a pair of chopsticks in the other--grab some noodles with the chopsticks, transfer them to the spoon, scoop up some of the broth in the spoon, and slurp the whole spoonful down.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup

After a weekend of excess, I wanted something simple and true for dinner tonight. I also wanted something I could make without going to the grocery store. A quick inventory of the kitchen proved that a pot of rustic chicken noodle soup was the way to go!

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery hearts, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
6 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
8 ounces egg noodles
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high flame in a large soup pot and add the carrots and celery. Saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper and add to the pot, along with the garlic and ginger. Stir the chicken around until it is evenly browned.

Add the chicken broth and water to the pot and bring up to a boil. Throw in the egg noodles and simmer until they are cooked through. Taste the soup liquid for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the parsley and serve.


Rating: This is awesome
I sometimes use an onion in this soup too. Just chop and saute with the carrots and celery at the beginning. What are your favorite herbs for chicken noodle soup? I never know what to use, but I tend to go with just flat leaf parsley since I always have some around.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chicken Marsala

I got the preparation ideas for my chicken marsala from Thousandthdish on xanga. He hasn't posted new recipes in almost a year, which is a shame--I miss him! Oh well :-( So, here's my version, which borrows very heavily from his:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced into half moons
1/2 pound crimini (aka baby portobello) mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 oz Linguine pasta
Parmesan

Get a large pot of salted water on to boil for the linguine. You will want to drain the pasta when it's about 2 minutes away from being done, since you will be letting it cook in the sauce for a couple of minutes before serving.

Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and warm up over medium-high heat. Throw in the onions, mushrooms and garlic. When the mushrooms first start to release their juices, season the contents of the pan well with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes from the start. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Butterfly cut the chicken breasts open, and cut lengthwise down the middle, leaving you with 4 pieces total. Place the chicken pieces between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound to flatten. Liberally season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Spread the flour out on a plate and dredge each piece of chicken in it, shaking off the excess.

Add another tablespoon of butter and another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Once the butter is melted, lay the chicken pieces in the pan and don't touch them for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip them over, add a splash of Marsala to the pan, and don't touch them again for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to chicken to a plate.

Add the last 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and melt. Add a tablespoon of the flour that you used for dredging the chicken and stir into the butter, making a roux. Pour in the Marsala and chicken broth, and, working quickly, scrape up all of the burned bits from the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate them into the sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes, then toss in the rosemary and parsley.

Add the mushrooms and chicken back to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Add the Linguine, and toss to incorporate. I know it seems a bit daunting, but the pasta will all fit, just keep stirring and tossing. Leave the pan alone for a couple of minutes to let the pasta absorb some of the sauce. Garnish with a bit more parsley and some freshly grated parmesan. Plate and serve.

Rating: This is awesome
It was seriously tasty; September ends well.

Thai Style Pork

This dish is basically the same thing as the Thai Chicken with Basil that I made last month from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats, except with pork tenderloin in place of the chicken. I think I prefer it with the pork! It added a rounder flavor to the dish that you just can't get from chicken breast. I used one pork tenderloin, about 1 pound, and trimmed it of the visible fat and silverskin. I sliced it into thin rounds against the grain, and then cut each round into 2 or 3 strips. It cooked up tender and juicy, not overcooked in the slightest. I used a yellow bell pepper in place of the red, only because the yellow ones looked better than the red when I was at the grocery store!

Rating: This is awesome

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bacon & Waffles

Ah, breakfast for dinner. I remember my ninth grade English teacher telling us once about how his mother made breakfast for dinner once a week when he was growing up (he told a lot of random stories!). He said that, at the time, he assumed she did it because she knew how much he liked breakfast food. When he got older, he realized that it was to save money. Therein lies the main attractions of breakfast for dinner: it's delicious and cheap!

For the first time tonight, I tried cooking bacon by baking it, and I am a convert! It has so many advantages over frying: no grease everywhere, no watching while it cooks, and no guesswork about when it's done. This method made perfectly done bacon: slightly chewy, not crunchy, with enough fat rendered out that you don't feel too bad about eating it! Just preheat your oven to 400 degrees and set a cooling rack inside of a baking sheet. Lay 8 slices of bacon on the cooling rack and bake for 15 minutes. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towels and enjoy the deliciousness!


This is the recipe I use for waffles; I got it from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. One batch makes 5 or 6 waffles in my Belgian Waffle Maker.

2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Start by heating your waffle iron. Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a wire whisk until light and frothy. Beat in the remaining ingredients just until smooth. Spray the inside of the waffle iron with nonstick spray and cook the waffle batter according to the manufacturer's directions. Serve immediately with your favorite topping!

Rating: This is awesome
The waffles were crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and so tasty with maple syrup.

Chicken and Bean Thread Noodle Stir Fry

Wei threw a package of bean thread noodles into our cart the last time we went to the Asian market. After doing some research to find out what they were, I decided to try using them in a stir fry. On tasting the final product, he said that it reminded him a lot of a dish that his mom used to make. Woo! I guess I'm getting better at this cooking stuff after all.

Bean thread is reconstituted the same way as rice stick--put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot (not boiling) water. Let stand for 15 minutes and voila!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
5.25 ounces bean thread noodles (half of the package we bought)
1 yellow onion, cut into half-moons
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
1 head nappa cabbage, cut into strips
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Peanut oil
Soy sauce
Thai fish sauce
Rice wine
Cornstarch
Chicken broth
Salt and pepper
White pepper (optional)

Put the bean thread noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, drain the noodles and use a pair of kitchen shears to snip them randomly a few times to shorten the strands. Toss the chicken on the cutting board with about a teaspoon each of cornstarch, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Warm a couple of tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the wok, and add the onions. Toss around until they start to turn translucent and are softer, about 5 minutes. Throw in the shiitakes, garlic and ginger. Cook until the mushrooms are darker and have started to release their juices, about 5 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok. I know it looks like you have a massive amount of cabbage at this point, but trust me, it will cook down! Add about 1/4 cup of chicken broth to the wok--this will create a steamy environment for the cabbage. Toss the cabbage around with the other ingredients the best you can until it has wilted, about 6 or 7 minutes.

Add the bean thread noodles and chicken to the wok and toss to incorporate. Stir in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and a splash of rice wine. Taste for seasoning and add more of the sauces if necessary. Thicken with a slurry of 1 tablespoon each of cornstarch and chicken broth. Finish with a sprinkling of white pepper.

Rating: This is awesome
I loved the texture of the bean thread; it was very different from any noodle I had eaten before.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pork and Beef Ravioli

Ah, ravioli made with wonton skins. I've been wanting to make this since I first heard of it. It's perfect for me because I (a) am too lazy to make fresh pasta and (b) have a shitload of wonton skins in the freezer. So now that I have finished my first batch of them, I have to say, I don't think that dealing with the non-flavor of the skins is worth the convenience! Making the ravioli is still fairly time consuming, with the stuffing and the cooking, so why not just take some extra time to make the pasta by hand? Fresh pasta would taste much better. Of course, I say this having no clue how to make pasta and most definitely lacking the necessary kitchen hardware! So yeah, I'll probably keep making ravioli with wonton skins again anyway :-)

I made my ravioli by pressing two wonton skins together to make a big square ravioli with a lump of meat in the middle. I think that was a bad idea. My stomach is really annoyed with all the excess pasta that is in it right now. If I could do it again, I would form each one from a single wonton skin in a triangular shape like this guy did. So that's the method I recommend to you. If you still want to use the method with two skins, trim some of the excess pasta around the edges of your ravioli pieces at the very least--you don't need it, and it doesn't add any flavor.

I chose to serve mine with marinara sauce, but you could use any sauce you like, or even float them in a simple broth. For the meat filling, I used the 3 to 1 ratio of beef to pork because those are the amounts I had on hand. Feel free to vary the ratio however you want.

1 package square wonton wrappers
3/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
2 eggs
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Add the meats, bread crumbs, basil and parsley, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Lightly beat one of the eggs in a coffee mug (or similar vessel) and pour over the other ingredients. Mix everything together thoroughly.

Crack the other egg into a bowl and beat it with about 1/8 cup of water to make an egg wash. To assemble the ravioli, place one wonton skin, floury side down, on a cutting board. Place a scant tablespoon-sized lump of filling in the middle of the dough. Using a pastry brush, paint the edges of any two consecutive sides of the square wonton skin with the egg wash. Fold the skin diagonally in half over the filling and press to seal. Be sure to coax out any bubbles. Repeat until you run out of filling or wonton skins. If you run out of skins first, like I did, put your leftover filling in the freezer and save it for another time!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a fierce boil. Add the ravioli to the pot in batches of 6 or 8. Stir around for the first minute each batch is in the pot so they don't stick together. Leave the ravioli in the boiling water until the pasta and filling are both fully cooked, which took me about 5-7 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ravioli, one by one, to a baking sheet. If needed, top off the pot with fresh boiling water from a tea kettle or microwave between each batch.

At some point during this, make your serving sauce of choice. I sauteed a chopped yellow onion with some garlic in a large pan until it was soft, then added a jar of store bought marinara and a splash of dry sherry. It simmered away on the stove while I was cooking the ravioli.


Sorry for another blurry picture!

Rating: This is awesome
I loved the filling! But just...too...much...pasta. All...blood...in...stomach...not...brain.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian wedding soup doesn't actually get served at weddings in Italy. It's a mistranslation in English of the Italian name for the soup, which originally connoted that the flavors of the greens and meat go well, or marry well, together. I agree completely! This is one of Wei's favorite dinners, and I've grown pretty fond of it too over the past year as I've perfected my recipe. It's a great one pot meal, with lots of veggies, pasta, and tender meatballs.

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped into strips
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup orzo pasta
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ounce of parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Put a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil to a large soup pot and warm up over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot to the pot and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

For the meatballs, combine the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Form the mixture into bite sized meatballs and set aside.

Add the garlic to the pot and saute for about a minute, until fragrant. Pour in the chicken broth along with 4 cups of water and bring up to a boil. Add the orzo and meatballs and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 15 minutes; stir frequently to keep the orzo from sticking together. Throw in the spinach and let cook until wilted, 2 or 3 minutes. Taste the broth for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.


Rating: This is awesome
It was a perfect hearty soup for the first full day of autumn (even though it was still in the 90's here today)!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Menu Plan for the Week

Monday: Italian Wedding Soup
Tuesday: Pork and Beef Ravioli
Wednesday: Thai Style Pork
Thursday: Breakfast for dinner--Waffles, Bacon, and Eggs
Friday: Chicken Stirfry
Saturday: Pot roast
Sunday: Chicken Marsala

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fried Shrimp Cakes

I made a chicken-noodle stir fry last night, but it was so similar to the Chicken Lo Mein that I made earlier this month that it didn't seem worth writing about. I used rice wine this time, but I think I over did it; the final dish was a bit too acidic.

Another dinner for one tonight! I got this recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat; she states in turn that she got it from Leonie Palmer's Noosa Cook Book. How can I get a job where I write cook books using other people's recipes?! Oh well; I'm very glad that she included it, because these little fuckers are delicious and perfect for eating gluttonously by yourself.

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons dry sherry
Olive oil

Place all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a bowl. Mix together, adding enough water to make a thick batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Warm up 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Drip the batter in the hot pan, in drops of about one tablespoon each. Fry each cake for 4 or 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Nigella suggests eating them with a "fierce mayonnaise." Uhm, no thanks. I just squirted some lemon juice over them, although I would have used lime if I had any.

Sorry for the blurry picture; it was really hard to get a good one of these!

Rating: This is awesome
I ate mine with my bare hands, while enjoying a Bass Ale and Michael Palin's Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years. Ahh, solitary pleasures!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mozzarella in Carrozza

It was dinner for one tonight, as Wei had a work thing to attend. I decided to make this recipe from Nigella Bites; I remember watching her make it on her show a looooong time ago and thinking it looked fantastic. Sadly, it wasn't. The outside of the sandwich was crispy and delicious, but the inside of the bread was all soggy. The overly moist texture was enough to make me not want to eat it. I don't know if I did something wrong. Maybe this could be saved by toasting the bread before frying it? It was quite a letdown after years of anticipation :-(

4 slices of white bread, crusts removed
2 boccioni of fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices, then strips
1/4 cup milk
3 heaping tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with salt and pepper
Olive oil
Marinara sauce for dipping

Make sandwiches out of the bread and mozzarella, leaving a little margin around the edges unfilled with cheese, and press the edges together with your fingers to help seal. Pour the milk in one shallow bowl, the egg in another, and spread the flour on a plate. Warm a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dunk to sandwiches, one by one, very briefly in the milk (use a really light touch with the milk), then dredge in the flour and dip in the beaten egg. Fry in the oil on each side until crisp and golden and remove to a paper towel. Cut in half and serve with some warmed marinara sauce for dipping.



Rating: This is not awesome
I really, really wanted to love this too. I think I need to go eat something crunchy to get the memory of that soggy bread out of my mouth!

Sauteed Stuffed Chicken Breasts in a Mushroom Cream Sauce

I am notoriously picky about creamy sauces. When I was younger, I wouldn't even consider eating any sauce or condiment that was white. However, part of this whole blogging experience is to force myself to experience new things (except for mayo--I'll always hate that!), so I thought I would give this recipe from my Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition a try. What do you know? I loved the sauce for this dish! It was rich and flavorful, not dull and thick as I had feared.

This was my first time stuffing a chicken breast. It went well, except that there was the slightest dot of pink in the center of the thickest part of the breasts when we cut into them. Obviously, we cut that part out and didn't eat it! I think I either need to use thinner breast pieces next time, or devise a method of sauteing them to start, then finishing them off in the oven. The only major change I made to the recipe was to use mozzarella to stuff instead of gruyere. No real reason except I didn't feel like waiting at the deli counter for gruyere, and I love mozzarella!

2 chicken breasts
2 slices prosciutto
1 boccioni of fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
Marsala wine
2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
Rice or egg noodles

Cut a slit into the thicker side of each chicken breast--kind of like butterfly cutting them open, except you don't cut the whole way through. Stuff each with one slice of prosciutto and half of the mozzarella. Season each side of the breast well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Warm up the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, add the chicken breasts and cook through, about 8 to 10 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate and cover with tin foil to keep warm.

Add the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic to the skillet. Saute until the mushrooms have turned darker and started to release their juices, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, a splash of Marsala, and the chopped tomatoes. Bring up to a boil and let simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, and add any accumulated juices to the sauce. Turn the pieces in the sauce once or twice and let them warm through for a couple of minutes. Scatter the flat leaf parsley over everything. Serve over white rice or egg noodles.


Rating: This is awesome
I'm definitely going to try to perfect the stuffing technique and get it right next time!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pork Tenderloin in Prosciutto with Baked Couscous

This was a nice recipe to make after a few nights off, and it was a excellent bounce back from Wednesday's so-so chicken cutlets! I got this from Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, which is a great little cookbook. It comes with a helpful DVD of Ramsay making 5 of the trickier recipes in the book; I wonder how many of the celebrity chefs will do something similar in the next few years.

This recipe comes from the "Posh" chapter. While it is fairly posh tasting, it's much easier to make than you might assume from its wordy name! I had to scale back the amounts a bit since it was just Wei and I eating it (the original recipe says it serves 6). If I did it over again, I would probably make the whole thing so we could have had some tasty leftovers!

4 thin slices of prosciutto
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of silverskin and most of the fat
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
4 springs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
3/4 cup couscous
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh, flat leaf parsley
Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth

Lay the prosciutto slices on a cutting board in two rows of two each, overlapping them slightly, then lay the pork tenderloin across the middle. Wrap the prosciutto over the tenderloin and season with pepper. Lay out a sheet of tin foil that is large enough to accommodate the tenderloin, drizzle some olive oil down the middle and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Place the pork on top, bring the edges of the foil up, and fold together over the pork, then roll to enclose, twisting the ends to seal. Stick in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the couscous in a bowl, and pour over 3/4 cup of boiling water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the Parmesan and parsley and fork through. Season with salt and pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon each. Spray the inside of two large ramekins with a nonstick spray, and spoon the couscous evenly into each, pressing down with the back of the spoon as you go.

Place the pork package and the couscous-filled ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork and turn the oven off, leaving the couscous cakes inside.

Warm about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Carefully unwrap the pork from the tin foil, reserving any cooking juices in the foil. Place the tenderloin in the skillet and sear for 3 minutes on all sides until the prosciutto is browned and crisped. Remove to a plate and place back in the oven.

Add a splash of Marsala to the skillet along with the reserved pork juices, stirring to deglaze. Add the stock and boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Cut the pork into thick slices. Unmold a couscous cake into a shallow bowl and surround with pork slices. Spoon over the Marsala sauce.


I probably should have made a green veggie to go with this, but whatevs :-)

Rating: This is awesome
Yay for pork wrapped in pork!! You can't go wrong with it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Almond Encrusted Chicken Cutlets with Rice Pilaf

I was watching Food Network on one of the mornings last weekend. I saw Rachael Ray make these chicken cutlets, and I thought they looked pretty yummy. I gave them a try last night, making my own little changes to the recipe.

They did not turn out great. If you want to try making this, I suggest you use her method, because mine obviously didn't work. I can't say if hers will be good, although the picture on her website looks a LOT better than mine!

I will give the recipe for my rice pilaf, because that actually turned out well. I wasn't feeling the rice dish RR suggested, so I came up with my own.

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped (optional)
Olive oil

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and garlic, and keep stirring until each grain of rice is coated in the oily, oniony juices in the pan. Add the chicken broth and bring up to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and put a lid on top. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Check the rice after 15 minutes. If there's still liquid in the pan, give it a few more minutes simmering with the lid on. When all the liquid is gone, stir and fluff the rice and add the artichoke hearts if you're using them. Put the lid back on and let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes; 15-20 minutes is better if you can manage it.



Rating: This is Not Awesome for the chicken, This is Awesome for the rice!
I think I'm done with RR recipes for a little while. I declare that next week will be an RR-free zone!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beef with Peppers

I don't usually go for exact stir fry recipes; I think they're much better when the cook is adding a little of this, a little of that, with no set plan. However, I have a phobia about stir frying beef. It goes back to the first time I tried it a few years ago when I severely overcooked it. It was like eating a shoe leather stir fry. I saw this recipe in the Washington Post food section last week and thought I'd give it a try. Since it seemed very saucy I thought it would be forgiving of an accidental overcooking incident.

It turns out that I didn't have to worry. The beef cooked perfectly; the end product was tender and flavorful!



For the marinade and steak

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1.5 - 2 pound piece of flank steak, trimmed of excess fat

For the seasoning sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons sugar

For the stir fry
Peanut oil
1 inch length of fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, sliced into half moons
1 green onion, minced
2 bell peppers (any color, but I prefer red), seeded and thinly sliced
White pepper (optional)

Get a pot of rice started first thing.

Slice the beef against the grain into roughly 1/8-inch thick strips; then cut the strips in half lengthwise. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and add the beef strips. Stir to coat the beef and marinade for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the seasoning sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok or deep sided pan over high heat. Add the beef to the wok and season with a few dashes of white pepper. Stir fry until the outside is seared, but there is still a little pink inside, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the beef to a plate and set aside.

Wipe down the inside of the wok with a paper towel and add another tablespoon of oil. Throw the onions in and stir around until they are soft and becoming translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, green onion, peppers, and ginger to the wok and stir fry until the peppers are slightly charred and softer, 3 or 4 minutes. Put the beef and any accumulated juices back in the wok and toss thoroughly. Pour the seasoning sauce in the wok and stir fry for a minute or two, until everything is evenly coated in the sauce. Finish with a couple of sprinkles of white pepper and serve over the rice.

Rating: This is awesome
This was a very tasty (and easy!) stir fry. I think I'm going to have to start using rice wine all the time in my stir frys--I loved the little kick it gave in the background of the sauce.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pork Fried Rice

Wei cooked tonight! Yay for me having a night off!!


His method is pretty basic. He stir-fries together scrambled egg, onion, green onion, garlic, carrots, bean sprouts, roast pork, leftover rice, and lots of soy sauce. Using leftover rice is key for fried rice; freshly cooked rice will get mushy and clumpy. If you don't have a stash of old rice lurking in your fridge like we do (and who does?), just make a pot of rice the night before you want to make this and leave it in the fridge overnight.

You can buy chunks of roast pork at an Asian market or BBQ place. Obviously, you could also use another meat or shrimp or tofu, or choose to leave out a protein completely.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bay Scallops with Orecchiette

This is a bit of a MacGyver dish. I bought the scallops yesterday when we were at the Asian market with the intention of using them for a different recipe, but I never made it to the grocery store to pick up the other ingredients I needed. I didn't feel like going shopping this evening after spending all day cleaning the house. However, I was not going to mess around with letting the scallops sit in the fridge for too long after my turkey meatball incident! I came up with this tasty little pasta dish using ingredients that were already in the kitchen.

A note about the scallops: I specify bay scallops, but you could easily use the bigger sea scallops instead. You should be advised, though, that the bay scallops fit snugly inside the bend of the orecchiette, which makes for a very cute forkful!

3/4 to 1 pound bay scallops
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup chicken broth
Juice of half a lemon
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, deep-sided pan and warm over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and saute until it is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and garlic, and season with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes start to break down a bit, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, sugar, and lemon juice and bring up to a bubble. Let it simmer away until the liquid thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.

Warm up a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the scallops to the skillet and cook on each side for 2 minutes. If you bought frozen scallops, like I did, you won't get a good sear. The heat will just cause the liquid to cook out of the scallops, preventing them from browning. Fresh scallops are preferable for flavor, but ehhh, do what you've gotta do. Remove the scallops to a plate.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle in the basil and oregano and stir to combine. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Add the scallops to the pan and let everything simmer together for a minute or two. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan on top.



Rating: This is awesome
Not bad for a MacGyver meal!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Menu Plan for the Week

Monday: Pork fried rice
Tues: Beef and pepper stirfry
Wed: Almond-encrusted chicken cutlets
Thurs: Dinner out
Fri: Shrimp cakes
Sat: Prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin
Sun: Stuffed chicken breasts with a mushroom cream sauce

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Meatball Confidential

We're not going to talk about how I made a batch of turkey meatballs with bad meat tonight. We're not going to talk about how I should have trusted my nose, not the use-by date on the package. We're not going to talk about how I wasted a whole jar of tomato sauce. We're not going to talk about how Wei and I ordered Chinese food after dumping the pan of meatballs down the drain.

We're just not. Tomorrow is another day.

Five Spice Chicken Burgers

I was pretty disappointed with this recipe. I got it from good ol' 365: No Repeats, and it was very heavy on sodium. Part of the problem might have been my fault; I don't think I used the full 1 and 1/2 pounds of ground meat that the recipe called for, so the finished burgers might have tasted overly salty to me. Even so, when I look at the sodum content on the various items in the recipe, I'm a little shocked that Rachael Ray would include so much of them. I guess I learned my lesson: always read the labels before you start dumping shit in!

She suggested serving this with pineapple chunks and "exotic vegetable chips." We used unexotic potato chips that we had leftover from our football party instead.

1.5 pounds ground chicken or pork
2 teaspoons five spice powder
1 tablespoon grill seasoning, like McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
5 green onions, 2 finely chopped and 3 cut into thirds then thinly sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Olive oil
4 hamburger buns of your choice, split and toasted

Heat a nonstick skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. In a medium sized bowl, combine the meat with the five spice powder, grill seasoning, garlic, ginger, finely chopped green onions, soy sauce, and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix the meat thoroughly and form into four patties, roughly 1 inch thick. Cook the burgers for 6 minutes on each side.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add about a teaspoon of olive oil. Gently saute the sliced green onions until they are wilted, about 4 minutes. Serve each burger on a bun, topped with the warm green onions and any other toppings you want. RR said to saute some sliced shiitakes and cabbage with the green onions, and then toss the contents of the skillet with 3 tablspoons of hoisin sauce (more sodium!) to make a "Mu shu slaw topping." Since I didn't have any mushrooms or cabbage, I skipped that part.



Rating: This is not awesome
It tasted like a not-very-good chinese dumpling on a bun. I think it could be saved though; I would cut out the grill seasoning entirely. Its strong flavor doesn't go well with the other milder ingredients, and it contains a lot of sodium. With all of the soy sauce in the burger meat, it does not need more salt! Just add several good grindings of black pepper instead.

Side note: What is with RR and adding grill seasoning to everything? Does she own stock in McCormick's or what?!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Leftover Night

Imagine my shock this evening when Wei suggested having a leftover night. "But you hate leftovers!" I cried. "Yeah, but your leftovers taste good," he said.

Hmm. Far be it from me to argue with such an intelligent man. He had lo mein and a crabcake; I had a couple of slices of the pizza we ordered on football day.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Chicken Lo Mein

I make no claims that this is authentic lo mein; I don't even know what authentic lo mein would entail. I set out to make a stir fry that included noodles. However, my finished product actually tasted quite a bit like the flavor of the ubiquitous brown sauce that Chinese restaurants use for their lo mein, something I've never quite been able to replicate. Hence, it shall be known as chicken lo mein!

I used our wok to make this. I alternate between being scared of our wok and itching to use it. It's a huge carbon steel monster of a thing that we picked out of the piles and piles of woks in the back of our local 99 Ranch. Sometimes it can be too exhausting to even think about wrangling food in it, but tonight I loved it. Everything does cook quicker in it, and I get a much better flavor with searing than I do in our big, nonstick skillet. Maybe it was the holiday weekend that gave me strength to conquer the wok! If you want to give it a shot sometime, check out the selection of woks at your local Asian grocery store. You can usually buy them for less than $20. Remember to season it before using it to cook; do an internet search for "season a wok" and you'll find a bunch of different methods.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 onion, sliced into half moon shapes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets with the stem cut into coins
8 ounces spaghetti
Soy sauce
Thai fish sauce
Peanut or corn oil
Cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.

While the chicken is still on its cutting board, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of cornstarch on top and season with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken around on the board with a spoon to spread around the cornstarch. Warm a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large, deep sided skillet on high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it is cooked, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and throw in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft enough to be cut from the pressure of a wooden spoon, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli, red bell pepper, and mushroom and stir-fry for another 7 minutes, or until the broccoli florets are tender-crisp and the bell pepper is soft. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices back into the wok and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta and start adding it to the wok a little bit at a time, tossing to combine after each addition. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to the wok and stir around. Throw in a slurry of 1 tablespoon corn starch and 1 tablespoon water (chicken broth if you have some handy); stir until the sauce thickens up, about 30 seconds. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Rating: This is awesome
Fresher, cheaper, and less greasy than the stuff from our local Chinese delivery place!

8 Things About Me

Erika over at Bean's Bistro tagged me for the ever-popular "Say 8 random but interesting things about yourself" meme. Here goes!

1. I was born in the same hospital where my parents met. They both worked there in their teenage years.

2. I went to 6 different schools before I hit college: two elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. They were the consequences of both moving and new school districts being formed.

3. I've spent an afternoon inside a west London prison. I did an semester internship with a prison reform charity when I did study abroad there in 2000, and they held a fundraiser lunch inside Wormwood Scrubs. I went along to help out with making name tags and serving tea and cookies to the donors beforehand, and then we all got to eat lunch with the prisoners and tour the facilities. I ate a veggie burger patty with instant-tasting mashed potatoes and a cup of tea. Dear god, I do remember the shitty tea. I felt bad for the prisoners; it was all they had to drink!

4. I didn't know how to cook 3 years ago. I couldn't even chop an onion.

5. I attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. I was there with the fundraising firm I worked for at the time. Even though us staffers didn't officially have tickets, we managed to score passes inside every night. The after parties were the best part, though. I did so much dancing and drinking that week :-) Also, the whole experience made me fall in love with Boston a little. If it wasn't for the brutal winters, I would want to live there.

6. Wei and I adopted our first puppy the week my dad passed away in 2006. It was unrelated; we already had plans in motion to adopt when I got the bad news. The weeks immediately afterwards taught me a lot about how much a dog's love can help a person (i.e., me) in emotional need.

7. I took Latin for 4 years in high school. I still have a snobbish love of using Latin phrases and abbreviations (see above).

8. My ideal eating day would be breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, and dinner in Chicago.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lion's Head Stew

I didn't cook last night. We had some friends over to watch college football in the afternoon, which is always a vicious cycle for me. I like football okay, but I don't love it. I mostly just enjoy the novelty of it being socially acceptable to drink in the middle of the day (on my couch no less!), and I think it's cute to watch my husband and male friends get all excited about the games. After a while I get bored, which leads to more drinking. Then it's dinner time, and I'm too drunk to trust myself with a knife in the kitchen. We ordered pizza instead!

Even though this is a Chinese dish, Wei didn't teach it to me. Rachael Ray did. Yup, 365: No Repeats strikes again!

Does this look familiar?


Maybe a little like salisbury steak? Yeah, I'm not sure why I picked two balls-of-ground-meat recipes in a row. In actuality, they are very different. These oversized pork meatballs are braised with cabbage in a light broth and served with rice. Don't buy lean ground pork for this--the meatballs need a little fat to stay moist.

Peanut, corn or vegetable oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds ground pork
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cornstarch
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 medium head of napa cabbage, chopped into thin strips

Get a pot of rice started first.

Drizzle about a teaspoon of oil in a small skillet and warm over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 4 minutes. Season with some salt, and remove to a large bowl.

Add the pork, soy sauce, egg, a teaspoon of cornstarch, and a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to the bowl with the mushrooms and garlic. Stir to combine. Put a large, deep sided skillet or wok on high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Form the pork mixture into 8 or 10 meatballs, and add to the skillet when the oil is hot. Brown for 2 minutes on each side, then drain on a plate covered in paper towels.

In a deep soup pot, heat the chicken broth to a boil. Add half of the cabbage to the bottom of the pot, then add the meatballs. Finish with a layer of the remaining cabbage. The pot should be filled to the top at this point. Clamp a lid on top and let simmer for 10 minutes, when the cabbage will be wilted into the liquid. Remove a ladleful of the broth into a small bowl or coffee mug and dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in it, then stir it into the pot. Simmer with the lid off for a minute or two to thicken the broth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve over the rice.

Rating: This is awesome
I'm a big fan of using cabbage; it's a vegetable that people seem to forget about a lot. It's so cheap, tasty, and packed with vitamins. It's perfect in this dish, paired with the flavorful pork.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Salisbury Steak

One night back in college, I was having dinner in the caf with my friends Ty and Garron. Ty and I both got salisbury steak. Garron sniffed at us and said something like "I can't believe you're going to eat those botulism patties." I rolled my eyes. Ty said "Look, at least we know what we're eating. Salisbury steak is fuckin burgers in gravy. That's it. Do you know what that shit is that you're eating?" Oh Snap. Hippie got owned.


Yup, Ty was right: just burgers in gravy. But how is it so delicious?!

This is basically a fancied up version of my mom's recipe.* I have eaten her salisbury steak more times than I can count. We all have predominent tastes from our childhoods; this is one of mine. I have to say that I liked my version a little bit better, but only because of the inclusion of mushrooms in the gravy. My mom is a mushroom phobe, so they never show up in hers.

You will need a cup of already cooked rice for the patties. I used some that we had leftover from Chinese takeout. Seriously, we have ten of those cartons full of white rice stashed in our fridge, because God forbid my husband waste a single grain of precious, precious rice. It's so expensive and hard to find, right? To reconsitute leftover rice that's been sitting in the fridge for a while, put it in a bowl and add a splash of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cook in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Magically your old, dried out rice will be moist, fluffy, and ready to use in the beef patties (this trick never ceases to amaze me)!

1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 egg, beaten
1 onion, 3/4 finely chopped, 1/4 grated
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 ounces crimini (a.k.a. baby portobello) or white button mushroom, sliced
2 cups beef broth or stock
Flour or cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet and warm over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until the onions are soft and the mushrooms are darker and slippery, about 15 minutes.

While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, start making the beef patties. Combine the beef, egg, 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper, and the rice in a large bowl. Take the 1/4 piece of the onion and grate it directly into the bowl. Mix everything together, and form into 4 or 5 patties.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the onion mixture into a medium sized saucepan. Mix in the Lipton onion soup mix, beef broth, and 2 cups of water. Bring up to a boil and let simmer. In either a large skillet or the vessel in which you will bake the patties, add a tablespoon of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add the patties and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. In the pot with the gravy, stir in a cornstarch or flour slurry to thicken. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Transfer the patties into a deep baking dish or dutch oven if they're not there already. Pour the gravy mixture over the patties and cover. If your baking dish doesn't have its own cover, use tinfoil to tent the dish instead. Bake for one hour, checking halfway through to spoon some gravy over the tops of the patties. While the salisbury steak is baking away, make some rice, egg noodles, or mashed potatoes to serve with it.


Some people might want some sort of vegetable to go with this, but I say it's cool without. There's mushrooms and onions in the sauce after all!

Rating: This is awesome
Obviously I'm going to love it, but I do think that it's a classic.

*Edit: After talking to my mom yesterday, I found out that this is actually my paternal grandmother's recipe. She passed away before I was born, so let's consider this tasty dish and the fact that I'm still making it as a memorial to her.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Crab Cakes

Wei and I are both sort of Maryland natives. We were born elsewhere, but we grew up there. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary that I made a batch of crab cakes before the summer was over!

A note about purchasing the crab: if you're more hard core than me, you could buy your own Chesapeake blue crabs, steam them, and pick them until you have one pound of meat. It's probably cheaper that way too. Instead I chose to buy just the meat. I got 8 ounces of jumbo lump meat (the most expensive) and 8 ounces of claw meat (the least expensive). I think it was a good compromise; the lump gave the cakes enough heft, and the claw meat filled them out well.

I found this recipe on a Chowhound message board; it was attributed to Blanche, the late grandmother of the poster's best friend, and a "true Maryland lady."

6 saltine crackers, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 pound crab meat, picked through for pieces of shell

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Form the mixture into 6 or 8 patties and set on a baking sheet. Chill the cakes in the refridgerator for at least 45 minutes--this will help them firm up and keep them from falling apart when you're trying to cook them.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Carefully add the cakes to the pan when the butter is melted and do not touch them for 6 minutes. Flip them over and let cook on the other side for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and pat them down with paper towels to absorb some of the oil.

I toasted up some French bread rolls to make crab cake sandwiches, but these are also just lovely on their own, with a little lemon juice squeezed over the top.

Rating: This is awesome
Many thanks to Blanche for the perfect no-filler crab cakes!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Not long after Wei and I started dating, he made shrimp one night when I was hanging out at his place. We stood at his kitchen sink, peeling and eating. I matched him shrimp for shrimp. After a little while he said "Damn, I've never dated anyone who likes shrimp as much as me." I smiled and licked the Old Bay and shrimp juices off my fingers. So as you can see, when we got married last month, it was truly a marriage of soul mates :-) I share this story as a way of explaining why there's so many shrimp dishes in here. We love the crustaceans. Also, they cook really quickly, which make them perfect for weeknight cooking.

I took this recipe from Everyday Italian. I decided to use shrimp shell stock instead of recipe-stipulated white wine in the sauce, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I used the easy Mark Bittman method: throw all the shells in a pot, cover with water, and let it boil away. After only ten minutes of boiling, the stock was intensely flavored and fragrant. I would definitely make it again to use in any shrimp dish! I chose to serve this with fettuccine; you could also omit the pasta and eat it with slices of rustic bread to dip in the juices at the bottom of the bowl.

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved for stock
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use 1/2 teaspoon or omit entirely if you don't want it spicy)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shrimp shell stock
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
6 ounces fettuccine or linguine

Start a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, if you're using it. Put the shrimp shells in a small pot and cover with water. Bring it up to a boil, and let it simmer until you need it.

In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes. In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink, 2 or 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside. Add the onion to the same skillet and cook until soft and translucent, 6 or 7 minutes.

Drain the shells out of the shrimp stock and reserve a cup of the liquid. Add the tomatoes with their juices, 1 cup of shrimp stock, garlic, and oregano to the pan, and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the shrimp and accumulated juices to the tomato mixture and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. If using pasta, add the drained strands to the pan and toss thoroughly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley and basil.


Rating: This is awesome
I love how this dish is elegant, but still very easy and delicious.

Menu Plan for the Week

Wednesday: Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Thursday: Crab Cakes
Friday: Salisbury Steak
Saturday: Lion's Head Stew
Sunday: Chicken and Vegetable Stirfry
Monday: Five-Spice Burgers
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

This being a holiday weekend, I have a hunch that one of these dinners will get cut in favor of eating out!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kung Pao Chicken with Tomato and Egg

Tonight was a use-everything-up kind of night. Even though I've already made all the dishes I had in my last meal plan, I wanted to challenge myself to throw something together out of what I had on hand, specifically hoping to get rid of the green onions and tomatoes I had sitting in the fridge. I was triumphant! This was a damn tasty little dinner.

I took all of my inspiration for this from my husband. He has made a version of kung pao before; I came up with my method by remembering how his tasted and taking some tips on preparation from other recipes I found online. The tomato and egg are all him, though--it's a traditional Chinese dish, the sort of thing that everyone makes in their homes but don't sell in restaurants. It's beautiful in its simplicity and flavor. Even if you don't have the energy for anything else in your life, you can make a comforting batch of tomato and egg.

I decided to use 5 spice powder in the marinade for the chicken. I thought it added a nice sweet-smoky note to the final sauce, but don't kill yourself trying to find it if it's not easily available at your grocery store. You can omit it without worries. The only reason I even wanted to use it is that I bought a big pouch of it at the Asian grocery store a couple of months ago, and I feel like it's staring me down every time I open my spice cabinet--I don't think it's traditional for this dish.

Kung Pao Chicken
Soy Sauce
Rice wine or dry sherry
Cornstarch
1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 chili pepper, chopped (feel free to use as much as you like if you want it spicier!)
3 green onions, cut into two-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into thin shreds
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 celery hearts or 1 full celery stalk, chopped finely
1/8 cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 inch length fresh ginger, grated
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Peanut or Corn oil

Tomato and Egg
3 small/medium tomatoes (I used tomatoes on the vine), cut into 6 pieces each
3 eggs, beaten with a little salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Soy sauce (optional--only use if you like a little saltiness)
Peanut or Corn oil

First things first, get a pot of rice started.

In a bowl large enough to accomodate your chicken pieces, whisk together 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, the 5 spice powder, and the sesame oil. Add the chicken and stir until all of the pieces are coated in the marinade. Leave the chicken to sit while you work on your prep. As a side note, if you're making both of the dishes, you might as well get all your chopping done at this point so you can cook straight through without having to take a prep break.

Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add the green onions, red pepper flakes or chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and celery and cook by itself until the celery is getting soft and the green onions are wilted, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pan, along with the peanuts. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry, and the brown sugar, stirring to combine. Let it sizzle away until the sugar is melted, 30 seconds to a minute, and stir in a small cornstarch slurry if you want a thicker sauce (you know I did!). Taste for seasoning. Pour everything out of the pan into a bowl and cover to keep warm while you make the T&E.

Wipe down the inside of the pan with a paper towel, add 2 tablespoons of oil and warm over high heat. Add the beaten eggs to the pan and don't touch them until they are almost fully set, about 2 minutes. Drag a wooden spoon or chopsticks through the egg to break it up into smaller pieces. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and two tablespoons of soy sauce to the pan and stir fry until the tomatoes are softer and their skins are starting to pull away, about 4 or 5 minutes. And you're done! Serve over the rice.


You don't have to eat both out of the same bowl like I did--as my buddy Tony would say, it's a little "Mother and Child Reunion" creepy to eat eggs and chicken at the same time--but it was a nice break for my tongue to alternate bites of the spicy kung pao with the salty T&E.

Rating: This is awesome
I'm really proud of how both dishes turned out!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Honey-Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

I got this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Culinary in the Desert. His recipes are always interesting, and he makes the most uhh-may-zing holiday treats every year. Check out his December archives if you want to drool!

I followed the recipe exactly, so I'm not going to re-write it. Check it out here! When you use a pork tenderloin, it's important to take the time to trim off all of the fat and silverskin. If you don't, the final product with be chewy and tough on the outside.

I served this with plain white rice and broccoli. For the broccoli, I cut up one head into florets and sliced the stem into coins. I stir-fried it with some garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and a teaspoon of brown sugar for about ten minutes, until the florets were tender-crisp. It was perfect with the pork!

Rating: This is awesome
The pork was so juicy and tender, and the flavors in the marinade came together nicely. Also, I loved that it was a perfectly sized meal for 2 people. No leftovers!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Turkey Meatloaf with Mashed Cauliflower

Sorry I missed last night! I ended up going out and didn't cook dinner. I'm going to make the originally planned honey-hoisin pork tenderloin tomorrow night instead.

I devised this dinner as a lighter version of that classic family meal, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I got the recipes from Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition. It turned out really well! The meatloaf was moist and flavorful, and despite acting like I was trying to poison him when he heard what I was making, even Wei enjoyed the cauliflower. Full disclosure: it definitely wasn't as good as mashed potatoes though.

Meatloaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey, preferably a mix of white and dark meat
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Ketchup or barbecue sauce

Mashed Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Start with the meatloaf first. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the onion and garlic into a large bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients except the ketchup/barbecue sauce. Mix well with your hands or a long-handled wooden spoon. Lightly oil a loaf pan or spray with nonstick spray. Add the meatloaf mix to the pan evenly, and give the top of the loaf a retro squiggle of ketchup or barbecue sauce (this wasn't in the original recipe, but I couldn't resist!). Bake until the center feels firm when pressed, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.

While the meatloaf is cooking, place the cauliflower, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and chicken broth in a large pot and bring up to a simmer. Leave it to simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the milk and butter to the pot and mash, or puree in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the parsley.



Rating: This is awesome
It was a nice, low maintenance Sunday dinner that was still filling and yummy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beef Stroganoff

I didn't voluntarily eat beef stroganoff until I was 20 years old. I was really grossed out by creamy sauces throughout my childhood, and truthfully, they still send a shiver up my spine. However, this is one of Wei's favorite dishes, so I figured that I should experiment until I find a recipe that we can both like.

I got this one from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat. I wanted to try it, because she uses creme fraiche in the sauce instead of sour cream, which I hate. It took a bit of work to find the creme fraiche though. They didn't have it at Whole Foods, so I had to go to Star Provisions, a fabulous gourmet store in West Midtown, to pick it up. It was worth it for me, but it probably wouldn't be for everybody. You can definitely sub in sour cream if you want. This made a ton of sauce, which is probably why Nigella suggests serving it over white rice. I used egg noodles instead, at Wei's request.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
A few drops of olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
Whole nutmeg
Paprika
Salt and pepper
2 pounds beef fillet, trimmed of fat (just the gobs of fat on the outside--not the inner marbling) and silverskin if any, cut into thin strips
Scant 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 8-ounce container of creme fraiche
Dry sherry (Nigella didn't include this, but I think it's key to cut through the creaminess of the sauce)
Cornstarch (optional)
White rice or egg noodles

Put 2 tablespoons of butter and a drop of oil in a large skillet, and warm over medium to medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, throw in the onions and saute gently, stirring frequently, until soft. Add 2 more tablespoons of the butter and add the mushrooms when it's melted. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Grate some whole nutmeg over the pan (it's hard to measure, but I think I added about 1/2 teaspoon's worth) and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and remove to a plate.

Add the remaining butter to the pan with a couple of drops of oil and turn the heat up to high. Season the beef with salt and pepper while it's still on the cutting board. Stir-fry the fillet strips for a couple of minutes until it's seared on the inside but still pink on the inside. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan; stir well. Add a splash of dry sherry. Grate over some more nutmeg and stir in the Dijon mustard and creme fraiche. Sprinkle in a pinch of paprika, add more salt to your taste. Thicken with a cornstarch slurry if the sauce isn't thick enough for you--it wasn't for us!

Take off the heat, and serve over white rice or egg noodles. If you're using egg noodles, put a pot of salted water on to boil when you start cooking the onions and they should be ready by the time you're done cooking. If you're using rice, start the pot before you do your prep. Sprinkle a bit more paprika over the individual servings.

I realize now that I should have snapped a shot of Wei's bowl, because I used as little sauce as possible on mine! Don't be fooled by the picture; this recipe produced a lot of sauce, and Wei informed me that it was fantastic. If you like your beef stroganoff swimming, it won't be a problem.

Rating: This is awesome
This was really tasty. It has a lot of simple flavors, but when they come together, yum! Next time, I might sear the beef first, take it out of the pan, and not put it back in until the onions and mushrooms are fully done. I might have overcooked the beef a tiny bit, because I wasn't working fast enough at the end. Hopefully cooking it first would prevent that. Also, I think I'll add a scattering of flat leaf parsley before serving, just for visual interest :-)