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

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
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.

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
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
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.