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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pork Dumplings

So there's not much to these. I'm throwing this in because it's a great way to use extra Banh Mi meat. All you need are some wonton wrappers - square or round. And an egg.

1. Beat your egg and set aside.

2. Spoon a teaspoon of the meat mixture into the wonton wrapper. Use your beaten egg to wet two of the edges or one half of a round wonton wrapper. Fold over and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

You can cook these several ways:
- If you have a steamer, these are great and light steamed.
- Fry 'em.
- Make them into potstickers by heating a couple TBs of canola oil in a pan that has a lid that fits tightly. Fry the dumplings in the oil until they're brown and crispy on each side and then add 2-3 TBs of water to the pan, put the lid on and let them steam until the water has evaporated. They'll be nice and chewy when they're done.
- Use them in wonton soup. Heat a TB of oil in a pot, add some garlic and ginger, chopped green onions and a dash of soy sauce. Add enough chicken broth for your soup and bring to a boil. Add the uncooked dumplings and cook until the pork is done, a couple of minutes. Throw in some bok choy, basil, and or cilantro and/or a squeeze of lime when you serve.

FREEZE them! Layer them in a large tupperware container with parchment in between each layer. Pull out as many as you want whenever you're in the mood for any of the above meals. Soooo good to have these on hand!!
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Banh Mi (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwiches)

YUUUUUM. One of the best things about traveling is street food. While a lot of the places I go for work aren't exactly culinary paradises, from time to time I hit the jackpot. And southeast Asia has the best street food and some of the best food in the world...haven't you noticed a bit of a pattern in the recipes post on this blog? Banh mi is a delicious marriage of Vietnam and France. They're a wonderful use of ground pork (cheap eats), they're flavorful, addictive and if you can find yourself a really good loaf of crusty French bread (not the supermarket stuff) then this becomes one of the best meals on earth...

Not only are these meatballs great in a sandwich, but they're really good with some chicken broth, ginger and some noodles in a soup. I like to make a double batch, freeze extras and use the rest for dumplings.

Meatballs:
1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions finely chopped
1 TB fish sauce
1 TB sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
salt and pepper
Dark sesame oil

Fixins:
2/3 cup mayo
1 TB chili garlic sauce or another hot sauce
1/3 cucumber, thinly sliced in long strips
Bunch of cilantro
1 large carrot, peeled in ribbons
2 TB sugar
2 TB rice vinegar
Lettuce

1. Start with the fixins, the pickled veggies to go on top. I cheat here and make my own version to soak as I make the meatballs. Combine the sugar and rice vinegar until dissolved. Add a TB of water. Throw in the carrots and mix well. Mix every few minutes as you work on the meatballs.

2. Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well with your hands.

3. Form them into balls - not too big, slightly smaller than a golf ball. They'll be a bit gooey. Put them on a foil lined baking sheet as you go.

4. Heat about 2 TB of sesame oil in a large frying pan. Once it's nice and hot, put your meatballs in and fry away. Turn them every 30 seconds or so to get them nice and brown and caramelized.

5. Do them in batches if you need to. Put them on a plate with paper towels as you go to get rid of the excess oil.

6. Slice your baguette in half. Combine the mayo and chili sauce and put a good coat on both sides of the sandwich.

7. Lay a piece of lettuce. Then a bunch of the pickled carrots. Then some cucumber. Add a few sprigs of cilantro. Then put one layer of meatballs - usually about 3 fit on a good sized sandwich (depending on how hungry you are!!)

You'll never know how you lived without these!!!



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Arepas with Cabbage Slaw

Not sure why, but I've only recently discovered arepas. And boy are they good. Crispy corn pancakes with lots of cheese and shredded meat inside. I alternate between pork and chicken for these, depending on what I have in the fridge. But lots of cheese is key.

2 cups masa harina
1 3/4 plus 2 TB warm water
1 cup shredded pork or chicken
1 cup shredded cheese - preferably a cheddar/jack combo

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage (you can use bagged slaw mix but the red is nice)
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 TB red wine vinegar
Cilantro, sliced jalapenos, sour cream and any other toppings you like

1. Mix the masa and water together in a medium bowl to form a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. In another bowl, toss the cabbage, vinegar and onion together...this gets better the longer it soaks.

3. Mix your shredded meat and shredded cheese in a bowl and set aside.

4. Form the dough into 4 balls and cover with plastic. Working with one ball at a time, flatten the ball on a sheet of plastic wrap to a 7-in round. It should be fairly thin, about 1/4 inch. Spoon some meet and cheese into the center and then bring the dough up around the sides to form a ball with the filling in the middle. Move the dough around or patch up any holes or areas where the meat or cheese are exposed - they'll burn.

5. Then flatten your ball into a 4 inch patty. Repeat with the other three.

6. In a cast iron pan, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable or canola oil on med-high heat until shimmering. Fry up each arepa, one at a time, until they are golden brown and flipping only once. About 5 minutes.

7. Drain on paper towels and then on a wire rack. Top with the slaw, sour cream, salsa, whatever you like!

*These are good hot off the pan but you can also cool them and bake them at 375 in the oven later. Or, freeze them individually in foil and bake at 375 for about 30-45 minutes until crispy again.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Macarons

We just threw my sister a baby shower...yay! I'm going to be an auntie in a month and I can't wait to meet little bebe. I wanted to make something edible for the party favors but wanted it to be special. Since French macarons are making a US invasion these days, overtaking the cupcake phenomenon with fury, I thought I'd try my hand. This was the most appealing recipe I found - because I love chocolate and coffee. And because this comes from a food blog called "effing dericious." With an "r." Enough said.

Anyway, be forewarned - these are NOT easy. A lot can go wrong here but don't be discouraged if you end up with dense cookies on your first go. Mine are still a work in progress. But the flavor of these is so wonderful that it almost doesn't matter if they don't have their perfect 'feet.'  But you do hope for a light, fluffy, chewy, pillow of sweetness....here it goes...

*You do need a digital scale for these. Don't cut corners. You won't win.
You also need silpat baking sheet liners, or parchment.

Macaron Shells:
110g blanched almonds (or almond powder - can be found in specialty aisle of some grocery stores)
200g powdered sugar
28g granulated sugar
90g aged egg whites - separate them and let them sit overnight on the counter. Yes, you heard me.
2 tsp espresso powder (you could use instant coffee to cheat a little here)

Chocolate Espresso Ganache Filling:
250g heavy cream
4 tsp light corn syrup
240g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or in chips
30g butter, cut into small pieces
3 tsp espresso powder

Make the ganache first:
1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to bubble at the edges, remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let sit for a minute or two and then stir in espresso powder. Mix well.

2. Add the butter until the pieces have melted away and the chocolate is silky.

3. Cool the ganache in the fridge while making the macarons. (If making ahead of time, take out several hours in advance. You want it to be smooth and able to squeeze out of a pastry bag. You don't want it so thick and hard that it breaks your macaron shells!!)

Now for the macarons, are you ready?
1. Preheat the oven to 270F. Measure out your ingredients. If using blanched almonds, grind in a food processor until so fine that you can sift it like flour (hard to achieve but it is possible).

2. Sift the almond powder, espresso powder and powdered sugar into a medium bowl.

3. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they foam up a bit. Keep beating while you gradually add the granulated sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Aim for shaving cream consistency but don't over beat. You want it to be glossy.

4. Carefully fold in half of the dry ingredients with a spatula and mix with as few strokes as possible. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix and incorporate. It's tough to know when to stop mixing, but you want the batter to be like lava. The batter should fall back in a thick ribbon off the spatula.

5. Using a pastry bag or a ziplock with the corner cut off, pipe 1-inch blobs on silpat lined baking sheets. Make sure to evenly space them 1 inch apart, they will spread a bit. Don't draw circles, pipe directly onto the baking sheet to form the blob.

6. Once the batter is finished, let them sit on the counter for about 30-40 minutes until the batter has spread a bit and a little skin forms on the top of each. Don't touch them!!!

7. Put them int he oven for 18 minutes. Set the timer. Seriously. And hope for the best.

8. Once they're out of the oven, let them cool before removing them.

9. Fill your pastry bag/ziplock with the ganache filling and pipe enough to fill about 3/4 of the shell. Top with another shell to form a sandwich.

10. These save for several days in the fridge and get better with age.
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Homemade Vanilla Extract

I hope you'll be as surprised as I was to find out that you can make your own vanilla extract...with two ingredients!! All you need is a few vanilla beans and some vodka.

I use small 4oz glass bottles with corks that you can find at the container store. You can find vanilla beans at whole foods, Penzy's etc. For a 4 oz bottle, I usually use 3 beans.

Slice the beans open on one side, scrape out the insides with your knife and put in the bottle. You don't have to get it all but it's good to open up the beans and get some of the goodness out. Put the beans in the bottle too. Fill the rest with vodka and let sit for a week or two. Give the bottle a good shake every couple of days to help the process. It'll eventually turn dark brown and will be yummy and a lot cheaper than the store bought stuff.

**Or, you can put the whole (uncut) beans in a larger bottle, fill with vodka and let sit for a week or so. Vanilla vodka is great for cocktails!
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Mocha Double Layer Cake

I don't think that I have to explain how much I love chocolate. And cake. And coffee. So when you combine them all into a really moist chocolate cake? Perfection. I grew up in a house that made double layer cakes almost exclusively. There's something so pretty about a big, round, well-frosted cake. And as I always say - more layers = more frosting. So please don't try to make a sheet cake out of this...thank you.

Cake:
1 cup cocoa powder (plus more for dusting)
3/4 cup strong coffee, boiling
1 cup milk, room temp
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp (plus more for pans)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 TB vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temp (put them in a bowl of hot water for 10-15 mins)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter two 8' round cake pans and dust with cocoa, tapping out excess.

2. In a medium bowl, sift the cocoa and whisk in the coffee and milk. Set aside to let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour, baking soda and salt.

4. In a large bowl and using a rubber spatula, mix the butter until fluffy and gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each.

5. Pour in the cooled cocoa mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined.

6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then take the cakes out and cool completely on the wire rack.

Frosting:

3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 sticks butter at room temp
1/4 cup milk, room temp
1/4 cup coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Sift the sugar and cocoa together in a large bowl.

2. Add the butter, milk, coffee and vanilla and mix with a spoon or spatula until mostly wet/incorporated.

3. Using an electric mixer, mix on medium speed until well incorporated and smooth.



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Deep Dish Pizza - the BEST yet?

My oh my oh my. You all know that I get excited about good eats. Mom's crab dip. Andy's fried wontons. Dali's goat cheese dip...there are a few special items that I hold close to my heart. Pizza in general is a favorite. I think if my sister Holly and I could inject it, we would. So I make a lot of pizza at home, and it's delicious. I have a stone, have finally found the right cheese combo to make it close to perfect. But, there's something about the crust. I just can't get it crispy enough.

Enter cast iron pizza making. I saw this in a Bon Appetit and then looked it up again tonight. I've never been one for a deep dish pizza, I prefer thin and crispy - cracker-like. But this...this is something else. You start with the cast iron pan, then embark on some interesting oven techniques. And what will really throw you off - the always backward Chicago style toppings. Cheese first, sauce last. Turns my world upside down. The result is the crispiest pizza ever with zero clean-up. I mean, none. Pan goes straight back in the cupboard. You must try this...

Here's what you need:

1 store bought pizza dough (that's right - buy it). Leave it out all day at room temp so that it rises and gets to room temp.
Cheeses - I used packaged deli-sliced fontina and provolone and a layer of grated romano. perfect.
Crushed canned tomato - drain for 10 mins or so in a strainer
Meat - I used precooked, ground Italian sausage (I don't recommend veggies for this style of pizza)

*Ingredients depend on how much pizza you're making and how big your pan is. 1 store-bought pizza dough fits a standard, large cast iron pan well.

1. Oil your cast-iron pan with olive oil so that there a good layer on the bottom and the sides of the pan.

2. Gently roll out your dough just bigger than the circumference of the pan. Lay in the pan and push the extra up around the edges of the pan. This is important to hold all of the next layers in like a pie.

3. Place a layer of each cheese on the dough.

4. Lay your meats. Sausage pepperoni, etc. should come now.

5. The crushed tomatoes comes last. A good layer will do, depending on preference.

6. Put the pizza/pan in a cold oven, middle rack, and turn oven on to 500F.

7. Once the oven finishes preheating and reaches 500, turn the oven down to 400 and bake for another 30 minutes.

8. Take the pizza out and let sit for a minute or two. Use a spatula and pull the pizza out of the pan - there should be no sticking at all. Slice it up and ENJOY!!
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