Monday, November 26, 2012

My Passionate Crème Brûlée (makes 16 ramekins)


Crème Brûlée is extremely simple to make and it always seems to be a crowd pleaser even for those who are not so fond of sweets such as my father, brothers and me.  This recipe may seem to have a lot of sugar but my passion fruit syrup was a bit tart.  If you make your own fruit syrup then you can control the amount of sugar that goes into it. Some fruit will have more natural sugar than others. When I make my own fruit syrup I tend not to add sugar.  When I use it for cooking then I can add sugar to taste.

My Passionate Crème Brûlée (makes 16 ramekins)

4 C heavy cream
12 Tbsp passion fruit syrup (please see Lilikoi Syrup post)**
10 Tbsp white sugar**
16 large egg yolks
Raw sugar (according to your taste)

Method:

1) In a large bowl, gently whisk egg yolks, white sugar and passion fruit or lilikoi syrup until blended, set aside.  Preheat the oven at 325 F.
2) In a medium size pot add cream and turn heat to medium.  Once the cream is just boiling turn heat down to a low simmer, stir frequently for 3-5 minutes.
3) Temper the cooked cream into the egg-sugar-passion syrup bowl, one ladle at a time until the cooked cream is gone.
4) Boil a large kettle of water, place the ramekins in heat proof casserole dishes/pans, pour the hot water up to about 2/3 up to the ramekins (take care not to burn yourself).
5) Pour the tempered mixture in the ramekins.
6) Bake for 35-40 minutes.
7) Remove the casserole dishes/pans with the ramekins from the oven and let cool completely.
8) Cover each ramekin in plastic and chill the creme in a refrigerator at least 4-6 hours or overnight.
9) Once chilled, sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 t (or according to your taste) of raw sugar on the top of each ramekin, blow torch the top to melt and caramelize the sugar.
10) Serve the crème brûlée immediately once the burned sugar has cooled.

**10/24/14, addendum:  12 Tbsp passion fruit syrup = approximately 3/4 cups.  The white sugar is between 3/4 cup to 1 cup depending on the tartness of your passion fruit syrup.  You can add some rum to step #1 if you are interested.  

*Typically my ratio for making crème brûlée consists of 1 cup heavy cream to 4-5 large yolks.  This ratio makes 4 ramekins.  I prefer to use fresh eggs if there are any available, these are tastier and the yolks are more intense in color.
*When I make a large batch I use the oven to bake the ramekins for convenience.  If I am just making 3-4 ramekins then I prefer to steam on the stove top.  Please see Lilikoi Crème Brûlée post on how to steam the creme brulee.
*If you have a friend who lives near you who only eat egg whites then you can trade.  He/She can give you all of his/her yolks and you can give him/her your egg whites!  It's too bad my friend Thúy lives an hour away.  Another option is to make egg white omelets.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My 4-Hour Goat Stew--Vietnamese Style (makes about 3 quarts)


I made a Vietnamese goat stew to serve my family for a get together this afternoon for our Thanksgiving sans turkey.  It is normally made with beef, hence the name Bò Kho (Beef Stew). Here is my Dê Kho (Goat Stew)!  This is a great dish to make in advance.  As with any stew it usually tastes a lot better the next day!  Make sure to scoop or suck out the bone marrow if you are lucky to get a good bone on your plate!!  This stew may appear to have complex flavors but all the herbs blend together well. The broth has a beautiful yellow-orange color that comes from the annatto seeds.  If you can plant and harvest your own seeds then you can ensure freshness. The annatto tree is grown in the tropics.

My 4-Hour Goat Stew--Vietnamese Style (makes about 3 quarts)

Ingredients:

4 1/2 lb goat leg or shoulder*, have the butcher cut the meat and bone into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
4 T canola oil
1 T annatto seeds
5 shallots, peeled and diced
5 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
3 lemongrass, minced or ground for the soft part, bruised and tied for the rest into a knot
2 T curry powder
1/4 t ground cloves
5 whole star anise (ground 1 star anise to a powder)
1 t Chinese 5-spice powder
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
2 T fish sauce
1 t sugar
2 t Better Than Bouillon (beef base)
32-oz beef stock (all natural and low sodium)
2 C water
6 carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths

Method:

1) Heat the annatto seeds and oil in a pot (use at least a 5-quart pot) over medium heat.  Stir for 1 minute. Turn heat off and let the seeds steep for 10-15 minutes.  Discard the seeds.
2) Heat the pot back up over medium heat.  Sear the goat meat in the annatto oil about 1-2 minutes on each side, set the seared meat aside.
3) In the same pot, add shallots, garlic, lemongrass, curry powder, cloves, star anise, and Chinese 5-spice. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
4) Return the seared goat meat back into the pot, add cinnamon stick, fish sauce, sugar, beef base, beef stock, and water.  Turn heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 3 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.
5) Add carrots and cook for 20-30 minutes or until carrot is tender.
6) Serve with rice, noodles or toasted baguette.

annatto seeds
(either buy them in the store or harvest your own)
rendering the annatto seeds in oil
for a beautiful yellow-orange color
goat meat cut into the preferred size
(best to ask your butcher for assistance!)

*Let the pot cool completely and then refrigerate.  The next day scoop out some of the fat that has floated to the top and discard.  I find that the goat meat has much less fat than beef.
*Optional:  Just before serving you can make a sauce and stir it in the pot to enhance a yellow-orange color of the stew.  Heat 3 T olive oil in a small pot over medium high heat.  Add 2 t annatto seeds and 1 t curry powder and stir for about 1 minute.  Turn off heat and let the contents steep for about 10-15 minutes. Remove and discard the annatto seeds and pour the colored oil into the pot. Stir the pot a few times to mix the oil thoroughly.  This will give the pot a nice yellow-orange color to your dish. 
*After you cut the soft parts of the lemongrass into thin rings you can mince it finely with a heavy knife.  What I find to be helpful is to use a coffee grinder to grind it.  It's quick and works great.  I have a coffee grinder that I keep in my kitchen cabinet strictly for grinding herbs.
*I bought a goat leg at my favorite goat meat store in Haymarket.  Scott is the owner of Puritan Beef Company, which was first opened by his grandfather in 1911!!  The service is excellent and the meat is clean and fresh.  If you ever want to buy part or a whole goat this is the place to go!  Puritan Beef Company is located at 90 Blackstone Street, Boston, MA.  It is near the Orange Line (MBTA) and it is open Monday to Saturday.  Their phone number is 617-523-1419.
*Make sure you ask your butcher to cut the goat leg or shoulder to the size you prefer.  It is impossible to cut it at home without the proper equipment. 

My 4-Hour Curried Goat (serves 4-6)



This is a great dish to make if you are planning on having guests over or making it for a pot luck. You can make it 1-2 days in advance and it will taste even better when you are ready to serve!

My 4-Hour Curried Goat (serves 4-6)


Ingredients:

3 lbs goat leg or shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
4 T canola oil
2 lemongrass, minced or ground for the soft part, bruised and tied for the rest into a knot
1/2 large onion or about 1/2 C chopped
4 scallion stalks, chopped
1 T chopped garlic
1/2 t turmeric powder
2 T curry powder
1/2 t cumin powder
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
6 lightly crushed cardamom pods
1 three-inch cinnamon stick
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 T fish sauce
1 t sugar
32-oz beef stock (all natural and low sodium)
14-oz or 400 mL of coconut milk (sodium and sugar free)

Method:

1) Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Once the pot is hot, add enough goat meat to the layer the pot and sear the meat about 1-2 minutes on each side.  Remove and reserve the meat on a plate.  Repeat the process until all the goat meat is seared.
2) Use the same pot and add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, scallions, and garlic.  Stir and sauté for about 1 minute or until onion is translucent.
3) Add lemongrass, turmeric, curry, cumin, salt, pepper, and cardamom pods to the pot.  Stir and cook for about 1 minute to release the flavor.
4) Return the meat to the pot, add cinnamon stick, bay leaves, fish sauce, sugar and beef stock.  Once the broth starts to boil, turn heat down to low and let it simmer with the lid on for 3 1/2  hours or until the meat is tender.
5) Add coconut milk and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
6) Serve with rice, rice noodles or toasted baguette.

Boston, MA (2010)
*I did not add chili pepper to this since there are some people in my family and young children who do not eat spicy food. You can add chili pepper on the side for anyone who wants some heat.  If you cook with the chili pepper you can remove the seeds and chop what you desire and add to step 2. Just don't get too close to the pot while the chili is cooking or you may be crying!
*Let the pot cool completely and then refrigerate.  Depending on the meat, scoop out the fat that has floated up to the top the next day.  This process will help save your arteries!  The goat meat I purchased from Puritan Beef Company had very little fat.
*I bought a goat leg at my favorite goat meat store in Haymarket.  Scott is the owner of Puritan Beef Company, which was first opened by his grandfather in 1911!!  The service is excellent and the meat is clean and fresh.  Puritan Beef Company is located at 90 Blackstone Street, Boston, MA.  It is near the Orange Line (MBTA) Haymarket Station and it is open Monday to Saturday. Their phone number is 617-523-1419.
*Make sure to ask your butcher to cut the goat leg or shoulder to the size you prefer.  It is impossible to cut your meat with the bone in at home without the proper equipment.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicken and Elbow Pasta Soup


When I was a child living in Vietnam I did not know about pasta.  It was not something we eat on a regular basis.  Once my mother made elbow pasta soup for our family.  My memory of food is very strong even at a young age.  I must have been about 5 or 6 years old and I vividly remember when I ate my first pasta.  I thought it had a strange texture but it was very tasty.  I think we called the elbow pasta "grubs" since it looked like grubs!  Maybe I should have called this Chicken and Grub Soup!!

When you make your own soup it will taste a lot better and you can control the amount of sodium that goes into it.  When you buy a prepared soup, even one that has low sodium, it can still contain a lot of salt.  

Chicken and Elbow Pasta Soup

Ingredients:


1 recipe of Chicken Stock
1 T fish sauce
1/2 C- 3/4 C small elbow pasta
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 C any dried sea vegetable, washed, soaked for 30 minutes, drained (optional)
1 chopped scallion

Method:

1) Dice and chop all the vegetables (1 onion, 2 celery sticks, 4 carrots, 2 russet potatoes, 2 scallions, and 1 bunch of cilantro stem) and add to the pot prior to making the stock.
2) Cook the stock according to the Chicken Stock post.
3) Remove the chicken and shred or dice the chicken meat and return it to the pot.
3) For the last 12-15 minutes of cooking add pasta, chopped cilantro leaves, sea vegetable and fish sauce.
4) Serve the soup in a bowl and sprinkle with a little chopped scallion.

girl in pink I
girl in pink II
girl in pink III
*If interested you can add 1/4 cup of dried sea vegetable to the pot or just add a little to each serving portion. You can add 1 tablespoon of dried sea vegetable to 3 cups of the soup. Make sure to wash and soak the sea vegetable for about 30 minutes, drain then add to the soup.  
*Girl in pink I, II, and III were a set of photos that I took when I was sitting in the living room talking to my grandmother one day. I was fascinated by this child playing in the warm rain and then I realized the reason. As a child I also played in the rain. Sometimes I played by myself, sometimes with my little friends.  As kids we loved the warm tropical rain. We would play all day outside until our parents or an adult relative made us go inside. As I watched this little girl in pink it brought back some very good memories of my own childhood on that very spot (on Highway 1)!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stir-Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms with Black Bean Garlic Sauce (serves 1-2)


Sometimes after I eat a lot of meat, I like to eat a vegetarian dish.  Stir-fry is a quick way to cook delicious and healthy meals if you are short on time or are hungry and need to be fed ASAP! 

Stir-Fried Asparagus and Mushrooms with Black Bean Garlic Sauce (serves 1-2)

Ingredients:


1 bunch (about 12 1/2 oz asparagus), snap off woody parts and cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch lengths
12-oz button mushrooms, sliced
3 1/2-oz enoki mushrooms
3/4-oz (or thumb size) ginger, julienne
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 C chicken stock or water
3 tsps black bean garlic sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

Method:

1) Heat a large pan or wok with oil over high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, turn heat down to medium and add oil, garlic, shallot and ginger, sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3) Add asparagus, mushrooms, and broth, turn heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes.
4) Add bean sauce and sugar, cook for 1 minute.
5) May serve with rice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pomegranate & Mixed Greens Salad (serves 2-4 as part of a meal)


This is a simple, colorful and tasty salad that I served with my grilled chicken.  

Pomegranate & Mixed Greens Salad (serves 2-4 as part of a meal)

Ingredients:


5 oz mixed greens, washed and drained
1 C pomegranate seeds
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds (roasted and unsalted)
2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 C olive oil

Method:

1) Arrange the mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds and cheese in a bowl or plate.
2) Mix the balsamic vinegar and oil in a small bottle.
3) When ready to eat, scoop the salad on a plate and drizzle with balsamic and oil vinaigrette.

brilliant
(it's November here in NH
and some leaves are still very colorful, 2012)
*If you are using seeds or nuts in your cooking it is best to use unsalted ones.  Your food will taste much better!
*A salad spinner is a great tool to dry the leafy vegetables and herbs quickly.

Huli Huli Chicken--my way (makes 15 chicken thighs)


This recipe is inspired by the huli huli chicken from Hawaii.  The term "huli huli" means turn, turn. This recipe may seem to contain a lot of ingredients but it's worth the trouble.  If you prefer to spice this chicken up then you may add finely minced hot chili peppers such as jalapeno, Thai bird, habanero or even Scotch bonnet!!  This will surely make you sweat and cool you down!

Huli Huli Chicken--my way (makes 15 chicken thighs)

Ingredients:

15 pieces of chicken thighs (almost 8 lbs)
1/3 C finely minced lemongrass (or from 1 large stalk)
1/2 C chopped scallions (or 3 scallions)
Zest of 1 lime
2 minced shallots
5 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp grated ginger
3 Tbsp mirin  
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or according to your taste)
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice

Method:

1) Wash the chicken thoroughly with cold water, drain, and trim off excess fat.
2) Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium size bowl.
3) Either use a large zip lock bag or a large dish and add the mixture to the chicken.
4) Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
5) Grill at 325-350 F for 25-30 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

marinade for at least 1 hour
(overnight is better)
grill the chicken pieces
*I like to trim off some excess fat from the chicken pieces.  However, I like to keep a little on.  The fat will burn off on the grill and it will add flavor to your chicken.  I like to grill my chicken with the skin on to prevent the meat from drying out.  
*If you can buy chicken that is all natural without preservatives it is healthier and tastes better.
*I grilled half of the marinaded chicken and pan fried the other half.  Both cooking methods kept the meat moist.  If you grill in cold weather the grill temperature may not be so consistent if you keep opening up the lid and turning your meat.  Also the drippings can cause fire in the grill so you may need to watch your grill more carefully. For pan frying you can heat 1 Tbsp of canola oil over high heat, sear each side for about 1 1/2 minutes, turn heat down to medium low, turn every 2-3 minutes, cook for about 15 minutes.  Make sure to keep a splatter guard on the pan at all time or you will be cleaning the floor after!
*Instead of mirin you can use Chinese rice wine, sherry or bourbon.
*I have a coffee grinder that I use strictly for grinding herbs.  Slice and roughly chop the lemongrass and grind it in a coffee grinder until it is finely ground.  You can buy already ground lemongrass in the frozen section of some Asian grocery stores.  However, it is not as flavorful as the freshly ground one.

Making More Garnishes





Making such garnishes is very simple.  All you need is a sharp knife and your imagination.  I used orange peels, a kaffir lime and a few bougainvillea bracts and flowers.



Materials:

A sharp knife
2 strips of orange peels (about 2 1/2-inch x 1-inch)
1 kaffir lime, cut in half
6 bougainvillea bracts (color leaf-like) and 3 tiny tubular white flowers
1 toothpick

Procedure:

1) Take a knife and trim the orange peels into a rectangle.
2) Slice the peel 3/4 of the way diagonally, about 1/8th spacing.
3) Roll the peel tightly into a circle.
4) Take a toothpick and skewer through the middle of the rolled peel.
5) Skewer bougainvillea bracts on each side and place the tiny white flowers into the rolled orange.
6) Secure the ends with the kaffir lime halves.

cut 2 strips of orange peel
(if you have a green orange then you can have
one piece that is green and one orange
to make this more interesting)
trim edges to make a rectangle
cut the peel 3/4 of the way diagonally,
about 1/8th of an inch spacing between each cut
once done it should look like this
start to roll one end of the cut strip into a tight circle
take a toothpick and skewer through the middle
of the rolled peel,
skewer the bougainvillea bracts on each side and
place the tiny white flowers into the rolled orange
secure the ends with the half kaffir lime halves
*If you do not have kaffir lime you can use whole grapes or even cherry tomatoes to secure the ends.  You can use any non-poisonous flowers/flowers that have not been sprayed by pesticide.

Spicy Tofu Scallops and Sauteed Vegetables (serves 1)


spicy tofu scallops and sauteed vegetables
I like the taste of soft tofu.  However, it is a bit of a challenge to cook with it since it can fall apart before it gets to your plate!  If you don't have access to the soft tofu tubes then you can use another tofu.  Most of the tofu containers come in a square or rectangular shape.  You can just cube your tofu for this dish, then you can even call this spicy tofu squares and sautéed vegetables!  You can use other land or sea vegetables if you prefer.  

Spicy Tofu Scallops and Sauteed Vegetables (serves 1)

Ingredients:

1 soft tofu tube, cut into 5 pieces (about 1 1/2 inch in height)
1 handful of pea shoots, washed and cut into 4 inch lengths
1 oz enoki mushrooms
1/3 C chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Chili pepper to taste (optional)
Toasted sesame seeds, garnish (optional)

Method:

1) Heat canola oil in a medium size pan over high heat.
2) Add tofu pieces and fry 2-3 minutes on each side.
3) Remove tofu and add onion, garlic and ginger, sauté for 1 minute.
4) Add mushrooms, pea shoots and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5) Add fish sauce and sesame oil and cook for 1 more minute.
6) Arrange tofu on a plate, spread the sautéed vegetable mixture on the plate, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and add dollops of chili pepper on top to taste.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Maui Inspired Poke (appetizer serves 2-3)



Poke is a popular way to eat fresh fish in Hawaii. The term poke means to slice or cut.  When you go to a grocery store in Hawaii you can find a huge selection of prepared poke.  In the past a mixture of the kukui nut or candle nut and salt called inamona was often added to this dish. Nowadays it is rare to see a poke made with this mixture. This evening I have recreated this dish using the kukui nuts that I had roasted myself when I was on Maui and brought back to New Hampshire. I kept the nuts in a zip lock bag in a freezer.

Maui Inspired Poke (appetizer serves 2-3)


Ingredients:

12 oz of cubed or bite size sushi-grade fish*
1/4 C hydrated sea vegetable*
1/4 C chopped sweet onion
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp crushed Hawaiian sea salt or any sea salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp mirin
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 roasted kukui nut, chopped (please see How to Roast Kukui Nuts post)

Method:

Mix all ingredients gently until well blended and chill. Serves cold over rice, crackers or crostini.

jade plant & birdhouse
birdhouse
*You can use any type of sushi-grade fish. Be careful when buying fresh fish to eat raw. Some grocery stores may claim that the fish is "sushi-grade" but they handle it poorly and you can get very ill from eating it. Get to know your fish monger and local fishermen.
*You can use any type of sea vegetable that you have available for the poke. In Hawaii some poke contains a type of sea vegetable called ogo.  
*I often eat my poke with rice. Sometimes I like to add diced avocado to it and it's delicious. Tonight I eat it with crackers. I did not make this recipe too salty so it can actually be eaten as is.
*If you do not have access to kukui nuts you can use other unsalted nuts or seeds such as macadamia nuts, pine nuts, or sesame seeds.

Five-Minute Stir-Fried Shrimp & Pea Shoots (serves 1-2)


This is a quick and simple stir fry that is also tasty.  I actually prefer to cook and eat pea shoots instead of the peas.  The shoots are very tender and delicious.  Once you have eaten it you will enjoy it too. 

Five-Minute Stir-Fried Shrimp & Pea Shoots (serves 1-2)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb large shrimp (21-25 count*), cleaned, shells removed and butterflied
1 lb pea shoots, washed well and cut into 4-inch lengths
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 t grated ginger
1 T fish sauce
1 T canola oil

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat.
2) Add garlic and ginger, saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3) Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, frequently turning to cook thoroughly  remove and reserve in a dish or bowl.
4) Add pea shoots in the pan or wok.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.
5) Return the shrimp back into the pan or wok, add fish sauce, stir and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
6) Remove and serve with rice.

*When you buy shrimp it comes with a size number that represents the count per pound.  For example, "21-25" means that there are about 21 to 25 shrimp in a pound.  In general the lower the number the higher the price.  Big shrimp are expensive!
*The pea shoots may be called/labeled as bean leaves.  These are sold in some Asian markets.