Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mushroom Ravioli with Peas

Mushroom ravioli in cream sauce is delicious. But it isn't so pretty on the plate.

So if you don't like what you see, don't let your eyes deceive you. The ravioli is great. And it's easy-peasy.

Quick-and-easy dishes are a requirement this month, since I've been so busy. Non-meat dishes also are of high priority since I've gone the way of Mark Bittman and am trying to eat vegetarian two of my three meals a day.

That said, the mushroom ravioli fit the bill. I bought the fresh ravioli at Trader Joe's, a big favorite of mine as their food is high-quality, natural, and economical. The ingredient lists on their products actually read like the ingredients you'd use at home.

The ravioli just takes a few minutes to cook in gently boiling water. When I dropped the ravioli in the water, I put a smashed garlic and a little olive oil and butter in a hot saute pan, sauteed the garlic, and added a little half and half, parmesan cheese, frozen peas, and salt and pepper. The half and half bubbles a bit and the cheese melts into a garlic-scented sauce.

When the ravioli was tender, I took them out of the water added them to the saute pan and folded the ravioli in the sauce. Take the garlic piece out and serve.

Very satisfying.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rewind: Filipino Chicken Adobo

Since adobo is this month's pick of the Kulinarya Cooking Club, a club dedicated to Filipino food, I am bringing back my unique version of adobo where I unveil my secret technique. It's unconventional, but boy, is it good!

Click on Trissa's blog to find out more about this awesome cooking club.

Adobo is the Philippines' national dish, and I'm sure there are as many variations of adobo as there are cooks. What adobo recipes share in common is the use of soy sauce and vinegar to create the characteristic salty and tangy flavor that melds so well with steamed white rice.

I like my chicken a little crispy, so after the chicken has stewed, I pan fry it on both sides and I don't fully immerse it in the liquid afterwards. I also add a little ketchup or hoisin sauce as a glaze on the chicken before I pan fry it, so that the sugar in the ketchup or hoisin sauce caramelizes and adds another layer of flavor. It's unconventional and I'm the only one I know who does this. It's been my secret ingredient -- until now, of course.

I also use chicken with the skin on, because there's nothing like crispy skin. But you can certainly cook adobo with skinless chicken and still get the benefits of browning during the pan-frying stage.

For me, chicken thighs are the cut of choice for chicken adobo as the thighs stay moist during the stewing process. When I make chicken and pork adobo, I prefer to use country style pork ribs for the same reason. I like to cook with the bone in, as the natural collagen in the bones add body to the sauce. If I decide to cut up the chicken in bite size pieces in advance, I still will add the bones to the stock and then will remove them after the meat has stewed. If you have leftovers and put them in the refrigerator, the sauce will gelatinize the next day. That's good. When you heat it up, it will melt again -- heaven over rice.

I will note that this recipe is probably not a recipe as much as a starting point for a dish that will be instantly recognizable to adobo lovers around the world but is infinitely changeable, depending on the cook. Even my adobo is never exactly the same from day to day, because while I loosely follow the general proportions and procedures below, my adobo can be tangy or less tangy, have a brothier or thicker sauce, contain chicken or pork, or chicken and pork, etc. The point is there's no right way -- just what you like.

4-8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on (or you can cook it without the skin)
1/2 cup soy sauce *
1/2 cup rice or white vinegar*
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
12 peppercorns (I will put them in a tea ball; you can use ground pepper instead if you like)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 1 can coconut milk and 1/2 cup chicken broth)

Splatter guard to cover the skillet when pan-frying (optional)

*If you're not sure how tangy or salty this dish should be to suit your palate, decrease these amounts to 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 rice vinegar. You can always add more later. Or go ahead with the recipe, and if you find it's too salty or vinegary later on, add more chicken broth and thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch mixed with water.

Marinate meat in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns for 30 minutes or overnight. If you don't have time to marinate, that's fine. Proceed with the recipe.

Put meat and marinade in pressure cooker or dutch oven/pot. Add chicken broth to cover meat, adding more than in the recipe if needed to cover the meat (you can use water instead if you don't have more chicken broth). Cook covered for 15 minutes in the pressure cooker, 30-40 minutes in dutch oven/pot (it can cook longer without any downside, and the chicken is probably cooked through in 20 minutes if you're in a rush; I always cook it longer, because I never remember to marinate the chicken in advance, so this gives the chicken a little longer to stew in the marinade). The chicken should cook at a low-medium simmer, similar to when you cook a stew. You don't really want it to be at a rolling boil, although if it happens, the world won't end. This recipe is very forgiving because of the use of chicken thighs.

Take out meat and put on a platter covered with paper towels.

Strain sauce of garlic and peppercorns and defat (I use a gravy separator, but you can also skim off the fat with a spoon as the fat floats on top of the broth). Boil and reduce by half. As the sauce reduces, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. For example, if it's getting too tangy for your taste, don't reduce it as much. Or if it needs more salt, add more soy sauce or salt.

While sauce is reducing, pat chicken thighs dry on top and on bottom (the paper towels on the platter should have absorbed most of the liquid on the bottom). Brush both sides with a little ketchup.

Heat non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add a couple tbs. of oil when it's hot. Place ketchup-glazed chicken skin-side down in the pan; put as many chicken thighs that you can fit in the skillet but not so many that they're touching each other, as they need air flow to fry (if you have more chicken than can fit in the skillet, cook the chicken in batches). If you have a splatter guard, cover the skillet after you've added the chicken. The chicken will spit a little (or a lot if you didn't pat it dry). Leave if for a couple minutes, using your tongs to check it to see if it's browning and getting crispy. Adjust heat as necessary if the chicken is either browning too quickly or not browning at all. When it's brown on one side, turn the chicken over, so it can brown on the other side, following the same procedure. If you want to brown the sides of the chicken on the skin side, you can do that too, by balancing the chicken on its side against other chicken, the side of the pan, or by holding the chicken on its side with your tongs.

Place browned chicken in bowl or casserole dish when done.

Pour reduced sauce over chicken and serve with white rice.

Clockwise: Chicken in vinegar-chicken broth mixture before it is stewed; brushing cooked chicken with ketchup, my secret ingredient; browning the chicken skin-side down; browning the other side of the chicken thighs.

Browned chicken in its stewing sauce, which has been reduced by half.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Easy Chicken Yakiniku

I'm all for shortcuts as long as they are shortcuts that don't cut short on quality.

The Japanese have a whole battalion of high quality sauces and dressings that I have no reservations using whatsoever.

One of these is Ebara Yakiniku no Tare, or yakiniku sauce. You can find it in Japanese grocery stores or can buy it online.

Its ingredients are soy sauce, sugar, apple, onion, fermented seasoning, pepper oil, spiced soybean paste, salt, sesame oil,sesame seed, apple vinegar, honey, spice, caramel coloring. I have no problem with any of those ingredients, even the fermented seasoning. Lots of fermented seasonings exist in Asian cooking, including soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, etc., and they all contribute umami to dishes.

While yakiniku means grilled (yaki) meat (niku), the yakiniku sauce is great on meat, tofu, and vegetables. It can be used as a marinade and/or tableside dipping sauce. And you don't have to skewer the meat. You can marinate whole pieces (chicken, steak, pork, etc.) and you can marinate small pieces and stir fry them. It's very versatile.

Of course you can make yakiniku sauce from scratch. I include a recipe below that Inada-san, the wife of my husband's former boss, taught me when I was in my mid-20s.

But tonight I reached for the bottled sauce and chicken thighs. Two ingredients and I had a lovely meal for my daughter and me, along with chicken satay.

Easy Chicken Yakiniku
(cooked under the broiler)

Ebara Yakiniku no Tare bottled sauce (homemade sauce recipe included below)
Chicken thighs, cut into strips
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes

Put chicken thigh strips into a Ziploc bag. Add enough sauce to marinate the meat.

Put the Ziploc bag in the fridge for 2 hours. Put bamboo skewers in water to soak.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and put a cookie rack on top of it (if it's oven safe of course and just made of metal).

Put the oven rack on the top shelf and turn the broiler on high (if you have a choice between low and high.

Thread the chicken on skewers and put on the cookie rack. You can either discard the marinade or reserve it to brush on the skewers once you turn them over.

Before putting the chicken in the oven, tear off a strip of aluminum foil and place under the exposed wooden ends of the skewers and on top of the cookie sheet, as many as the strip will cover (4 or 5 skewers). Fold 1/2 of the strip over the top of the skewer ends up to the edge of the meat. This doesn't have to e perfect -- the main use of the foil is to keep the wood from being overly exposed to the heat source.

Put the chicken under the broiler. Let cook for 8 minutes or until the edges of the meat look charred. Take the chicken out of the oven and turn them over, brushing with marinade if desired. Cook 7 minutes or until the other side is charred and the chicken is cooked through.

Inada's Yakiniku Sauce from Scratch

2 tbs. garlic, minced
1 cup scallion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
2 tbs. minced ginger
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup oil
1 apple, grated
1 tbs. red pepper

Mix ingredients together.

Daring Kitchen January 2010 Challenge: Satay

The January 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by cuppy of cuppylicious. She chose satay.

Some of the challenges have been quite, well, challenging, so I was so happy that this recipe did not require lots of exotic ingredients or multiple steps.

I made the chicken satay variation, and I learned that the broiler works quite well to cook the skewers inside the house. I was a skeptic, but now I have to change my tune. The skewers were as crispy and moist as if they were cooked on the grill. Mmmm.

My tips for skewers;

1) Use boneless chicken thighs instead of chicken breast. You'll have a noticeable improvement in your skewers, because the thighs stay juicy.

2) Put a strip of foil between the ends of the skewers and the grill, so the ends don't burn off. With the broiler, I folded the foil loosely over the ends of the skewers. It worked great.

For the satay recipe and peanut sauce recipe on the Daring Kitchen website, click here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Of all the things I ate in Australia, two stuck with me.

One was flat white coffee.

The other was crumpets.

I had heard of them before. You know, like "tea and crumpets."

But I had no idea what they were. And I had never seen them until we were in the bread section of Woolworths, an Australian grocery store chain.

When I got back to our rental home, I opened up the pack, popped one in the toaster oven, and when it was toasted, added a little butter.

One bite and I was hooked.

A cross between an English muffin and a pancake, crumpets are a little moist, a little dense, and a little springy. They have a nice crunch from the toasted edges and some of the toothiness you expect from an English muffin. Because they are sprinkled with holes that tunnel all the way to the bottom of the crumpet, butter, jam, or anything else you slather them with travel down the crevices and infuse their flavor throughout the crumpet.

In other words, crumpets are completely satisfying.

I found a crumpet recipe on the King Arthur flour blog. This is a great reference with lots of instructional pictures.

In my first try, they looked like crumpets, with nice bubbly holes and light browned, but they were a little a gummy inside. I thought maybe I didn't cook them long enough, but after doubling the time, they were still gummy.

Ah. I forgot to put the baking powder in.

Darn distracting Bridezilla marathon.

I tried again, this time with the baking powder, and I got good results. I should warn you that it takes a few tries to make sure the crumpets cook through the whole way. A medium to medium-low heat and cooking the crumpets for 10 minutes on one side and then a few minutes on the other side should do the trick.

Now I know I can always get my crumpet fix.

be sure to go to the recipe on the King Arthur Flour blog to see all the tutorial pics

This batter comes together in a snap. Put the following in the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl:

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Beat at high speed for 2 minutes.

The mixture will be a thick batter, perhaps a bit thicker than pancake batter, but certainly not anything you could knead or shape.

Cover the bowl, and let the batter rise till it’s expanded and bubbly, about 1 hour.

Towards the end of the rising time, heat a lightly greased griddle or frying pan to about 325°F, cooler than you’d cook pancakes. Get out your English muffin rings, grease them well, and place them in the pan or on the griddle.

Can you make these without rings? Sure. You can collect used, washed tuna cans, from which you’ve cut both top and bottom lids. Or, if you love English muffins and crumpets, you can bite the bullet and invest in real English muffin rings, which certainly make your job easier.

Speaking of making your job easier… A level muffin scoop holds 1/4 cup. You want to scoop out a scant 1/4 cup – about 1 3/4 ounces, or 50g.

Pour the batter into the greased rings. It’s always a good idea, when making English muffins or crumpets, to do a couple of test ones first, to see if the griddle temperature is right.

After about 4 or 5 minutes, lift the rings off the muffins. They’ll be set enough to hold their shape. If necessary, wipe the rings clean, and re-grease.

Don't turn the muffin over until it's dry on the edges and virtually dry on top with lots of bubbles. This may take another 4-5 or minutes, or 10 minutes total from the time you put them on the griddle.

Turn and cook for another few minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Langostini al Diablo

I can tell you the new year of the new decade has started off with a bang.

While I've watched all my favorite blogs feature multiple dishes these last two weeks, I've barely put up three posts. Work, getting over jet lag from our trip to Australia, and a number of other obligations have kept me hopping.

I'm still as "back-blogged" as ever.

Since I've been so busy, my recent interest has been fast cooking using convenience products that are also healthy and natural. For this reason, Trader Joe's is one of my favorite grocery stores because everything they sell fits the bill AND they do not gouge you like some other organic groceries (you know which one I mean).

Since I had a bag of Trader Joe's langostino tails in the freezer, I used half of it tonight to make a quick al diablo with a can of Rotel Tomatoes (bought on sale - 10 for $10!), some asparagus, minced garlic, white wine, and red pepper flakes.

The meal took 10 minutes from prep to plate. How can you beat that?

I ate this with a leftover slice of Trader Joe's pesto pizza, but this can be served with pasta, bread, or the carbohydrate of your choice.

Langostini al Diablo
Serves 2

1/2 a bag (6 oz.) of Trader Joe's langostino tails, defrosted and rinsed
1 can Rotel tomatoes, 1/2 the can pureed in a mini food-processor (blending optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 spears asparagus (part of a bunch), rinsed and cut in 4-5 pieces each
A glug of dry white wine
Red pepper flakes
Olive oil

Heat skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add a tbs. or two of olive oil. Add minced garlic, give them a stir, and add asparagus right away so the garlic doesn't burn.

Saute the asparagus for a minute and then a glug of white wine. Cook another minute and then add langostino tails. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

Add tomatoes and cook another minute or until the asparagus is crisp-tender.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Australia: Cafes, Caffes, Sausage Rolls, and Baked Goods

Ah, flat whites, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...

Flat whites are swoon-inducing cups of espresso mixed with steamed milk. They're not cappuccinos or lattes, but something in between. They are velvety, full of coffee flavor, and completely addicting. I had one practically every day.

They originated in Australia and New Zealand, but everyone would be in a better place if flat whites become a world-wide phenomenon.

When I got home, I even went into the attic and pulled out the espresso/cappuccino machine I got for my wedding 16 years ago. You can guarantee I'm going to fire that baby up. After I dust it off, of course.

To learn how to make a flat white, click here or here (video link).

To go with all these coffees (and teas) are the cafes and all the attendant goodies. Cafes and bakeries are everywhere. I wish the US had somewhere besides Starbucks or a diner where one could go and relax, have a coffee and a bite to eat. It's very civilized. The cafe culture in Australia is emblematic to me of the Aussies' ability to value work-life balance and a life that's not going at 100 miles per hour. I don't know if this is true, but that was my perception.

Bread is excellent in Australia as it's easy to find a bakery and buy fresh bread. Here's Christina in front of, you guessed it, bread:

In the US, bread has been commodified and homogenized like so many products here, and I think most Americans buy their bread in the grocery store. Commodification = mass production = no flavor, texture, or character. While sad for us in the US, it's nice to see great bread so widely available in other countries.

As one could guess, British influence is strong in Australia. And we saw it, particularly in the bakeries, with their meat-filled pastries. When I first arrived in the Sydney airport, I saw my first sausage roll and then tried it at three different places. Sausage rolls are ubiquitous in Australia.

This sausage roll is from the Beechwood Bakery in Healesville, Victoria, outside of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley region. We ate there for lunch after going to the Healesville Sanctuary, a small, naturalistic zoo focused on Australian wildlife where we petted kangaroos.

Healesville Sanctuary has kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, Tasmanian devils, and many other animals native to Australia.

What struck me about the sausage roll was the flavor and texture of the sausage. Unlike American sausage, this sausage was very mild, and most noticeably, softer in texture. It was almost surprising to eat sausage with no resistance or toothiness. It makes me wonder if the sausage has milk or cream mixed in to soften it.

The other pastry we saw all the time in various venues was the meat pie. There were different kinds, but we saw mostly variations of beef meat pies: beef, beef and cheese, beef, bacon, and onion, etc. This one below was just beef, which was very juicy. My daughter Christina was the one who ordered it, and today -- 6 days after we came back from Australia -- said, "I want a meat pie." I have a feeling we'll be cooking this very soon, since you just don't find meat pies to buy where we live.

Of course, there were lots of desserts, including this little meringue critter, whose name I've forgotten in my jet lag fog.

And this giant eclair.

Man, I could use a white coffee right now.

A group of restaurants right near each other in Healesville: Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps winery and bistro, Beechworth Bakery, and White Rabbit Brewery. Funny green sign in the Innocent Bystander.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Australia: City Centre and Dim Sum at Palace Chinese, Sydney

This picture is from Here Comes the Food.

Thank goodness for friends.

Especially food blogger friends.

Before we left for Australia, my daughter asked me, "What are you most excited about in going to Australia?"

I replied, "The food."

I tried lots of things in Australia (translation: more posts on Australia coming up), but the best food I had by far in Australia was on the recommendation of Trissa from Trissaliscious.

I had the pleasure of meeting her and Ellie from Almost Bourdain over some great Japanese food at Masuya Japanese Seafood Restaurant, which I wrote about here.

Trissa pointed us in the direction of Palace Chinese for a dim sum lunch, so we went there before we headed for the airport to go back to Melbourne.

It was very close to the Westin Sydney where we stayed in City Centre.  In addition to being a business center, City Centre a shopping mecca with the most malls I've ever seen in a radius of a few blocks, including the famous Queen Victoria Building, the Strand, David Jones with its to-die-for foodhall, and the Sydney Central Plaza mall, where we ate three times in its food court.

City Centre is also only a 20-minute walk to the Sydney Opera House, which was *stunning*. In fact, it seemed like most of the city's attractions were walking distance and that the parts of Sydney that guidebooks focus on is fairly compact. In City Centre is also the Sydney Tower, where we enjoyed city views before we went to dim sum.

Palace Chinese is in a mall (yes, another mall), on the second floor off the food court. It was voted the best Yum Cha in Sydney in 2008, and I totally understand why. We went a little before 12 pm, and that was a great idea because by 12:30 pm, the waiting line was quite deep.

Like many dim sum places, Palace Chinese was a large space, with lots of tables and lots of carts passing by with yummy things to eat. Here's my husband picking our first choices.

We chose pork shumai, prawn dumplings, and chive dumplings. Australia is known for the freshness of its seafood for good reason. We live on the coast of the United States and have better access to fresh fish than the U.S.' interior, but we could taste the difference in the quality of the seafood.

My daughter Lizzy loves duck, so we couldn't let this go by ... Oh my, this was good, juicy and flavorful. I think the Chinese make the best duck in the world.

We also got some beef wrapped in a rice noodle, but that got devoured before I could take a picture. After that, we decided to go for dessert. I'm not sure the name of this, but it was like a cold mango soup with tapioca balls and fresh fruit. If anyone knows what this is, please comment and let me know. So refreshing!

And then, we had these luscious, warm mochi balls, filled with black sesame paste and rolled in sesame seeds, nuts, and something else. I dream about these now. If anyone can tell me how to make these, I'd be so appreciative.

Click here to see the restaurant's picture gallery of some of their offerings. Go get a napkin before you do, because you'll start drooling!

Truly, this is the one place I will regret not having the chance to go again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

FIlipino Pancit Canton

Happy New Year, Everyone!

It's Filipino tradition to eat long noodles on birthdays and at New Year's for long life. We always ate Filipino pancit canton when I was a kid, so it's the go-to noodle dish for me on occasions like this.

In the version below, I've used a number of vegetables and meats, but you can use just one meat (e.g., chicken) or a couple vegetables like carrots and celery or carrots and cabbage if that's what you have in your fridge.

If you don't want to poach a chicken breast, you can always use rotisserie chicken.

Filipino Pancit Canton

1 pack Filipino pancit canton noodles (break up into 6-8 inch pieces or in flat sections so it's easier to cook, but on special occasions, try to keep them long :))
1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
2 tbs. soy sauce or to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1 1/2 cups, shredded carrot
3 celery sticks, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 cups shredded cabbage
~12 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into small matchsticks (optional)
1 chicken breast, bone in
1/2 lb. pork chops, cut into small pieces
2 Chinese sausages or longanisa, sliced on the diagonal
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
lemon wedges

Heat chicken broth in saucepan. Add chicken breast and turn to low simmer. Poach chicken until it's done, about 15-20 minutes. Remove, let cool, and shred chicken. Set chicken broth aside.

In large skillet with high sides, a paella pan, or a dutch oven, heat pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple tbs. of oil and add onion, some of the scallions, and some of the carrots and celery. Turn down heat to medium and saute until onions are translucent, 5-10 minutes. Add dry noodles and one cup of broth, stirring to soften (note: you may have to do this in batches depending on how big your pan is). Taste. If still hard, add another 1/2 cup of broth. If after stirring for a few minutes, add more broth but add it slowly now as you don't want the noodles to get soggy. Mix in 2 tbs. of soy sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper. Put aside on a platter.

In skillet, add a little more oil and add scallions, garlic, veggies, pork, and sausage, seasoning as desired with a little wine, soy sauce, salt, lemon, etc. Add chicken breast at the end of cooking and mix everything together.

Add meat and vegetable mixture to the pancit, mixing to incorporate. Garnish the pancit with sliced boiled egg around the edges of the platter, lemon wedges.