Monday, March 26, 2007

Sticky Rice Siu Mai

There’s a potluck party at work tomorrow and I wasn’t sure what to bring. I remembered I had some siu mai wrappers tucked away in the freezer somewhere so I decided to make some sticky rice siu mai. Cantonese style siu mai (shu mai or shao mai) is filled with ground meat, like pork and shrimp, and is commonly served at dim sum. Another kind is the Shanghai style siu mai which is made with sticky rice.

Stick Rice Siu Mai
1 C glutinous rice (also called sweet rice)
1 C water
2 Chinese sausages
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbsp dried shrimp
1 green onion
1 clove of garlic
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/8 tsp white pepper
30 siu mai wrappers (siu mai wrappers are round like potsticker/gyoza wrappers only thinner)

Rehydrated dried shrimp and dried mushrooms in some hot water for 5 minutes.

Rinse and drain glutinous rice, add water and steam for 30 twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, finely dice Chinese sausages, mushrooms, shrimp, green onion and mince the garlic.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet or wok and stir fry the sausage, mushroom, shrimp and green onion for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is fragrant and some pieces are lightly browned. Add garlic, oyster sauce, white pepper and stir fry another few seconds. Remove from heat and stir in steamed rice and 2 tbsp water to help loosen the mixture. Let the filling cool until it is warm or room temp before making the siu mai.

To make the siu mai, form a C shape with your fingers and thumb much like if you were to hold a cup. Place the wrapper on top of your index finger and thumb. Add less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Cup the siu mai with your index and thumb forming a collar around the top of the siu mai and squeeze lightly. While holding the siu mai, use the back of a spoon to push the filling in and flatten the bottom with the bottom of your palm.

Steam for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately

Yields 30 siu mai.

I hope my coworkers like them. :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bok Choy

Sometimes when I cook vegetables, I like to keep it simple, just a quick stir fry with a bit of salt. Nothing else, no garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, etc. etc. Just oil and salt. This way it keeps the flavors clean and refreshing. There are so many varieties of bok choy it's sometimes hard to keep them straight. The kind of bok choy I most often use is baby bok choy, the variety with light green instead of white stalks. When it comes to most Chinese vegetables, bigger isn’t always better, the smaller ones are sweeter and more tender. Even in the same plant, I find that the inner leaves are much sweeter and tastier than the outer ones.

There are also many ways to cut bok choy. Some prefer to chop the leaves and separate the greens from the stalks since the leaves cook faster. Others like to cut the entire bok choy in half lengthwise or in quarters and cook it in large segments. What I like to do is take each leaf and slice down lengthwise to get about 1/2 in strips, leaf intact. I think it’s prettier this way and it’s more manageable to eat than a huge quarter segment.

Stir fried Bok Choy
Bok choy (1 head per person)
1 tsp vegetable oil per 2 bunches bok choy

Wash each leaf to get rid of the dirt, especially in the spoon-like area in the bottom. Slice 2 or 3 times lengthwise down the leaf for strips.

Heat oil in a wok or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the bok choy and salt; cook stirring frequently. Cook until all the leaves are wilted then for another 1 minute and serve.

Check out Elise's Baby Bok Choy with Sherry and Prosciutto recipe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Jambalaya is one of Steven's favorite foods since he really loves hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dishes. It's a one pot meal that has pretty much everything: starch, various meats and seafood, and a trio of veggies (plus or minus tomato). There are so many variations to jambalaya it's almost dizzying; it can be made with chicken, shrimp, ham, duck, even alligator, tomatoes (Creole style) or without (Cajun style).

I still don’t understand the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine but one thing common to both is the “holy trinity”: onion, bell pepper, and celery. These three aromatic vegetables make up the backbone of many dishes in the Bayou. Other notable trinities include the French mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf), the Italian soffritto (olive oil, onion, and garlic) and a trinity of tomato, basil, and garlic, and many more.

Chorizo or linguica can be substituted for andouille but since they're less spicy so you may need to increase the amount of cayenne and maybe add some paprika. I've heard great things about smoked paprika. I'm not sure how much salt I added because I rarely measure it (maybe around 1/2 tsp), I just taste and work my way up.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, and trimmed of excess fat
8 oz andouille, cut into 1/4 in coins
8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium onion
1 medium bell pepper
1 rib of celery
1 1/2 C long grain rice, rinsed well (I used short grain since it was all I had)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
Additional paprika or smoked paprika (optional)
14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained but reserve juice
2 C chicken stock
1/2 C reserved tomato juice
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil
Parsley or green onion tops for garnish

Finely chop onion, bell pepper, and celery to a 1/4 in dice or pulse in a food processor (do not puree).

Heat 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken skin side down and brown for 5 minutes; turn and continue browning for 3 more minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add sausage; brown, stirring occassionally, for 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Drain excess fat from the pan, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan (Don’t pour this down the drain or it will clog the pipes). Add the vegetables and cook while stirring and scraping up the browned bits until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the rice, cayenne, paprika if using, and toast for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato juice, browned sausage, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Remove the chicken skin (try to remove in one piece to make chicken crisps but this is optional) and nestle the chicken thighs skinned side down in the pan.

Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. This is when I peel and devein my shrimp. Stir once keeping the thighs on top, cover and simmer again until the chicken is fully cooked, about 10 more minutes (juices run clear). Remove the chicken thighs and bay leaves and scatter the shrimp over the top of the rice (cooking the shrimp at the end helps keep them from becoming rubbery). Cover and simmer another 5 minutes (4 -5 minutes for small shrimp, longer time for larger shrimp).

Meanwhile shred the chicken with 2 forks. After the shrimp turns pink, remove from heat and add the shredded chicken. Stir to incorporate everything.

Garnish with fresh parsley or green onion tops and serve with Tabasco.

Serves 6

Optional: Chicken Skin Crisps
Leaving the skin on the thighs and cooking them in the jambalaya turns beautifully browned skins to a flabby mess that adds more grease to the dish. Both Steven and I like chicken skin but I realize not everyone is a fan of it, so this is completely optional.

After removing the chicken skins from the thighs, instead of tossing them, I sprinkled some salt and pepper on top and baked them in the toaster oven at 300º F for about 5 - 10 minutes, flipping them over halfway. This renders most of the grease out of the skin and leaves them super crispy. Drain them on paper towel and serve with the jambalaya on the side or crumbled on top.

Jambalaya at Simply Recipes

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Truffled Scrambled Eggs

This is the first dish in which I used my new white truffle oil. As much as I love pure and unadulterated scrambled eggs (Steven not so much), adding a few drops of truffle oil transforms a simple and homey to a complex and luxurious dish. Steven couldn't stop raving about these eggs, when normally he doesn't care for scrambled eggs.

Truffle Scrambled Eggs
3 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
salt and pepper (about 1/8 tsp salt and 1 grind of pepper)
2 tsp butter
a few drops of white truffle oil (about 1/4 tsp)

Beat eggs with milk, salt, and pepper. Do not overbeat; stop when all the yolk is incorporated.

Heat butter in a 8 in nonstick skillet over medium high heat. It is key to use an appropriately sized pan for the number of eggs you're cooking. Pour in eggs before foaming has subsided.

Push and fold the eggs from the outer rim into a mound in the center. Do not swirl or break up the egg as it cooks. Keep the eggs constantly moving. Cook until eggs are no longer runny but still wet and shiny (almost underdone), only about 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from heat, add truffle oil, fold a few more times to incorporate into the egg. Eggs will continue to cook off heat so serve immediately.

Serves 2.

The recipe can be doubled to serve four. The eggs will need to be cooked in a larger skillet 10 in or 12 in and for a longer amount of time about 1 - 1 1/2 min.
Be careful not to overbeat or overcook scrambled eggs, otherwise they will be tough.

Check out these gorgeous scrambled eggs by Bea of La Tartine Gourmande

I'm submitting this for Weekend Breakfast Blogging #9. Thanks to Sig for hosting and letting me know about the event!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Trader Joe's White Truffle Oil

Steven and I have always wondered what truffle tastes like. Does it have a unique taste or can it be compared to something else; is it absolutely spectacular? Why is it so prized and sought after? Will we like it? Recently I discovered that Trader Joe's sells both white and black truffle oil and at $9 a bottle this is a steal! It is a seasonal item so I was very happy to find that my local Trader Joe's had it in stock. I debated if I should buy both bottles or just one, if one bottle then which kind? I did not know much about truffles but I settled on a bottle of white truffle oil because I thought it was milder and would have more diverse applications (I later found out this is not necessarily the case).

Truffle oil is a good quality olive oil infused with the aroma of truffles. Truffles are a type of fungus that live in harmony with oak trees, and other deciduous trees, buried underneath the soil. They can sell for up to $2000 per pound! Apparently, truffles emit a scent very similar to the male pig sex hormone, which explains why female pigs were used to find these prized morsels (nowadays they use dogs because pigs often ate the truffle). Truffles and truffle oil are very pungent and pack quite the punch so a little goes a long way (a dish can be easily ruined by using too much truffle); it can be used on pasta, salad, risotto, foie gras, poultry, eggs, potatoes, etc.

Truffle oil should be stored in a dark cool place and used within 3 to 4 months. I can't see myself using the entire bottle in such a short amount of time so after opening, I closed it tightly, wrapped some plastic wrap around the top, and placed it in the fridge. It might turn cloudy after a while but that will dissipate when it warms up to room temp (in a dark place).

The truffle flavor is very hard to describe; to me it is unlike anything I have ever tasted and has a taste of its own. It didn't remind me of walnuts or mushrooms, like others have suggested. Honestly it was a bit... strange at first but the flavor grew on me. It imparts so much depth and body to whatever food it mingles with but it's not something I would use regularly.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

California Rolls - How to Make Sushi Rolls

Sushi is my absolute favorite food but I did not always love it. In my teenage years I was appalled by the thought of eating something raw so I only ate "cooked" sushi, such as the California roll. The California roll represents my stepping stone into the world of sushi and it's something that I am still very fond of.

Maki (sushi roll) is fun and easy to make at home. The only equipment required is a bamboo rolling mat. I purchased mine at an Asian market for a little over $1. Nori (toasted seaweed layer) can be also be purchased at Asian markets. You can experiment with many different ingredients to fill your sushi rolls.

California Roll
4 C cooked sushi rice
6 sheets nori
8 oz imitation crab meat
1 large ripe hass avocado, 1/2 in sticks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into sticks

bamboo mat
bowl of water
rice paddle/spatula

toasted white sesame seeds

Prepare sushi rice.

Cut the avocado and cucumber into strips. I peel the cucumber then cut it in half lengthwise and deseed with a small spoon, then each half into quarters, and finally each quarter in half again for 8 strips of cucumber.

You can use imitation crab chunks or sticks. Sticks are a bit easier to manage but for you can cut each chunk and half and line them up. Although imitation crab meat is usually ready to eat, I like to blanch it in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to bring it up to a warmer temperature.

Optional step: toasting nori sheets
Hold a sheet of nori with tongs and pass it over a medium heat burner a few seconds each side. Nori burns very easily so be careful when doing this. This will help the nori stay crisp after adding the rice.

Place a sheet of nori shiny side down on a bamboo mat. If there are any lines on the nori they should be horizontal (the longer side of the nori sheet should be horizontal). Spread 2/3 C of sushi rice on 3/4 of the nori; it is easiest to use a paddle or spatula but you can use your hands (wet your hands with water before spreading the rice otherwise it'll stick everywhere). The rice should be spread to the bottom, left, and right edges but not all the way up to the top. Room is left on top for sealing the roll later.

Place filling (cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab strips) on the rice about 3 in from the bottom of the sheet.

Using the bamboo mat, roll the bottom of the sheet tightly over the filling. Continue to roll keeping the mat as tight as possible, pulling back the mat as you go, until you reach the top of the nori sheet where there is no rice. Use some water and dab along the top to wet the nori sheet then finish your roll. The water will help seal the roll.

Using a sharp knife, cut the roll down the middle. Then cut rolls about 1 1/2 wide from the middle to the edges. Usually the edges are uneven, with bits of filling sticking out, so I eat those myself before I serve the sushi (a little snack for the cook) or you can push the filling back in and serve those rolls with the end face down to hide the imperfection.

Yields: 6 maki logs, around 40 rolls
Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger

Other sushi rolls that I like to make at home are the Philidelphia/Seattle roll (salmon, cream cheese, avocado or cucumber) and the Unagi/roasted eel roll (unagi, egg, cucumber). Feel free to mix and match with whatever you like.

A different rolling guide and instructional video for making sushi rolls from Food Network.

Another maki sushi link from Coconut & Lime.

How to Make Sushi Rice

To make sushi you must start by making sushi rice. You must use sushi or short grain rice, preferably Japanese rice; long grain rice cannot be used. The most consistent and convenient way to cook rice is to use a rice cooker, but not everyone has one so rice can also be cooked in a saucepan on the stove top. A rice paddle is efficeint for stirring the rice but a spatula can be used also.

Sushi Rice
2 C short grain rice
2 C water
1/4 C rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Rinse rice 3 to 5 times and drain in a sieve. Some recipes say to rinse until the water runs clear but I find this excessive and unneccessary.

Add rice and water to rice cooker or saucepan. Saucepan cooking instructions: Bring the rice to a boil over high heat. Then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes (do not open). Remove from heat and let it rest covered (do not open, the rice is still cooking) for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir sugar and salt with the rice vinegar to dissolve; you can microwave the solution for 20 - 30 seconds to help it dissolve faster.

After the rice has rested, pour the rice vinegar solution over cooked rice. Use a paddle or spatula to fold the rice and evenly coat the grains with the vinegar. Be careful to not smush the grains.

Let the rice cool to body temperature. Sushi rice is easiest to work with when it is still warm. To speed up the cooling process, you can fan the rice as you fold.

Now you can use the rice to make maki rolls or nigiri.

Yields 4 cups of cooked rice. I find that this is enough for 6 maki rolls, using about 2/3 C of rice per sheet.

Sushi rice at Coconut & Lime

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Baked Potato Soup

Imagine a baked potato with all your favorite toppings but in soup form. March brings so much temperamental weather to Seattle, sunny one minute then overcast and raining the next. This soup is perfect for a cold and wet afternoon that happens all too often these days.

I think the best part of the soup is the fried potato skins; they're reminiscent of the crisp skin of a baked potato. I use milk in this recipe because it's something that's always in my fridge, but half and half can be substituted for a creamier soup. Alternatively, you can increase the amount of stock and use a cup of cream instead of milk for an even richer soup.

Baked Potato Soup (inspired by Cook's Country)
5 Russet potatoes, scrubbed (I'm a terrible estimator of weight, I'd say around 2 lbs?)
1 medium onion, chopped
6 oz bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 1/2 C milk (at least 2% milk fat)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Cheese: shredded cheddar, Gruyere, etc.
Sour cream
Chives or green onions

In a Dutch oven or stockpot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and fat has rendered. While the bacon is cooking, peel the potatoes in wide strips and save the peels without skin damage or buds. Chop potatoes into 1/2 in cubes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate.

Add the potato skins to the fat in the pot and cook for about 4 minutes. At this point you can continue crisping in the bacon fat another 4 minutes or bake the skins in the oven. I find it more convenient to finish crisping in a toaster oven and continue cooking the rest of the soup. I spread them in a layer on a piece of foil and bake for another few minutes at 300ºF, checking every few minutes so they don't burn. Bake until skins are golden brown, then transfer to the paper towel lined plate with the bacon.

After cooking the potato skins, drain the excess fat. Add the onions and cook for 6 minutes over medium heat until golden brown and soft.

Add minced garlic and flour and cook for another minute.

Add chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. I usually also add half the bacon then reserve the rest for garnish later but you can reserve the bacon entirely for garnish later.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for about 7 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Then add milk, bring to a bare simmer, and remove from heat.

Remove the bay leaf and puree about half the soup. You can blend in a batches with a blender, or use an immersion blender (I usually just use a whisk and mash the potatoes by hand). This will give the soup a smoother consistency and also make it thicker. If you prefer a smoother consistency just puree the entire thing but I like my soup a bit chunky.

Serve the soup with crispy potato skins, bacon, and whatever toppings you desire.

Serves 4 to 6.

Elise makes a wonderful Ham, Potato and Leek Soup
Peabody concocts a Potato Cheese Soup

Friday, March 9, 2007

Chinese Daikon Cake (Luo Buo Gao)

Daikon is a type of Asian radish that looks like a large white carrot. Commonly used in many Asian cuisines, it is the main ingredient of daikon cakes. Daikon cake is a popular dim sum dish but traditionally, it is served during Chinese New Year. The cakes are first steamed, keeping the cake very tender, then pan fried giving each slice a crispy exterior.

Chinese Daikon Cake (Luo Buo Gao)
2 1/2 to 3 C coarsely shredded daikon (around 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
1 Chinese sausage, finely diced
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
2 Tbsp small dried shrimp, finely diced
1 - 2 green onion stalks, thinly sliced
2 C rice flour (do not use glutinous rice flour)
1 3/4 C water
salt and white pepper

Soak dried mushrooms and dried shrimp in hot water. You can do this in the same bowl or seperate bowls.

Peel and shred daikon. Lightly pack into measuring cups for the most accurate measurement.

Mix rice flour with remaining cup of water.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet or wok and stir fry chinese sausage, rehydrated shiitakes, shrimp, and green onion for 2 to 3 minutes. Add daikon, 3/4 C water, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp white pepper. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Meanwhile, grease a square cake pan or loaf pan and start the steamer.

Stir in the rice flour water mixture then spread into the greased pan. Steam for 50 minutes.

Cool or chill overnight. After cooling, cut the cake into 1/4 in slices and pan fry until both sides are golden brown.

Serve with soy sauce or soy sauce paste (thicker version of soy sauce).

Other recipes:
Turnip cakes at mmm-yoso!!!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Roast Red Pepper and Sundried Tomato Tart

I love roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and puff pastry individually but combining them in a tart seemed like a delicious idea. This is another good hors d'oeuvre or appetizer. If I were to make this again I would layer the roasted red pepper on top of the sundried tomatoes, rather than scattering the tomatoes on top, so they don't burn. You can also add some fresh herbs, bacon pieces, and or goat cheese but I decided to keep the flavors simple.

I use the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets because making puff pastry from scratch takes hours and is a hassle. Each box contains 2 square sheets and each sheet yields 9, around 3 x 3 in tarts. When I first made these, I put the peppers and sun-dried tomatoes on unbaked pieces of puff pastry. Then I ran into the problem of sun-dried tomatoes burning and the puff pastry not puffing. So this can be remedied by first prebaking each piece of puff pastry until they're puffed but not entirely golden brown, around 10 minutes (the baking instructions for the puff pastry states 15 minutes at 400ºF is sufficient so I baked for 10 minutes). The toppings are added to the pastry and the tart is finished baking at a lower temperature.

Roasted Red Pepper and Sundried Tomato Tart
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 3 x 3 in squares
2 roasted red bell peppers, sliced into strips
2 - 3 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes (Trader Joes jar is excellent), minced

Fresh herbs
Goat cheese

Keep the puff pastry squares chilled until ready to bake.

Roast the bell peppers. You can do this on a gas stove top or roast under the broiler.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake the puff pastry for 10 minutes, until each piece is golden. Remove the pastry and lower the oven temperature to 350ºF.

Spead 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of sundried tomatoes on each piece of puff pastry. Then layer strips of red pepper on top of the tomatoes.

Bake at 350ºF for 5 - 10 minutes, until the tart edges are golden brown.

Serve warm.

Yields 9 tarts


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