Monthly Archives: February 2006

how to keep warm, and sane

our #2son woke up with a hunger: let’s go to pho today! are we glad he came up with the idea.

what to do when it’s 18 degrees Fahrenheit outside?

a) dive under the duvet/thermal/flannel sheet layers and sleep all day.

b) dress up in layers and sweaters and bulky down coats as for an expedition to Lapland and go out for pho.

we chose b.

yes we were very brave, for the wind chill factor made it feel like several degrees below zero. our favorite pho place is this really high-ceilinged, mirrored, plastic-tropical-flower-filled soup haven in the heart of Dorchester where husband is expert at navigating….

we dove into the food and casual atmosphere. we love casual. we love to eat out with our kids.

i highly recommend any of the pho, brought to your table steaming hot and with the requisite table salad platter of mint and basil leaves, culantro (jagged sturdy long stalks that smell just like cilantro), bean sprouts, lime wedges and little bird chilies.

me, i dig into the great big bowl of bun, rice noodle salad with vegetables, chopped herbs and grilled pork and shrimp, dressed with nuoc cham (sweet fish sauce, lime, garlic, and chili).the cha gio (tiny little pork-and-shrimp-and-sweet-potato-and-bean-thread-noodle spring rolls) is light and crispy and well seasoned, and they sure know their way around the grill. the shrimp was sweet and tender and large!

daughter’s rice plate of cha gio and grilled chicken…her favorite. though we forgot to order it with broken rice which somehow tastes even more jasmine-y than regular…Pho So #1, Adams Street, Dorchester (Fields Corner). there’s another one in Randolph, Ma.

did i mention casual?

dimsum delight

if anyone asks me how long i have been in the USA, i am never able to answer instantly and must think back first. sometimes i answer, in Boston? (18.) total? (22.) on and off? (went back and forth “home” a couple of times, between college and work stints.)

i only remembered it after the day was over, but yesterday was the 18th year anniversary of my arrival in Boston. so i’m doubly happy that we were able to persuade our #1son to join us for a new dim sum discovery.

steamed oysters with black bean sauce and scallions, the piece de resistance, which ended our meal with a flourish.

we were there just at the start of a minor “snow event”…yes, people around here are getting blase about the snow and storms, so much so that when the mercury hits 45F they go out in shorts and t shirts. but a snow storm was predicted, the crowd was absent, and only three tables were occupied on the second floor of the Imperial Seafood Restaurant. the food deserves attention. much more attention.
the restaurant has been there for many years, and we have tried the Cantonese fixe prix banquets several times with family and friends, but somewhere along the way we got into a routine; husband’s family favored China Pearl Restaurant on Tyler Street. and for very good reasons.

husband heard from the Chinese Restaurant Grapevine that there has been a sea change. we were seeking relief from the noise and bustle of the other famous place, and we got it. the second floor is enveloped in picture windows with a view of the Chinese American Friendship gate and it was pretty with the swirling snowflakes outside, keeping warm and cozy inside with pots of tea and delectable little pickings.

the selections are few from the carts (probably so as not to waste the food) but they gave us a menu to order the usual stuff: har gow (shrimp dumplings), chow foon (rice noodle wraps with beef or shrimp), and the siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) were hearty and tasty. everything we sampled was well-cooked and hot and fresh.

an unusual little puff pastry, stuffed with sweet red bean filling, carved like a little hedgehoglet. but the server called it a bunny so the #2son refused to eat it. daughter said it was delicious.

we are going back to sample more. we decided this is the ideal place to bring new visitors to the area for dimsum. while i would like to keep it as a little hidden treasure, i sure would like to help keep them in business as well….Imperial Seafood Restaurant, Beach Street (edge of Hudson), Boston Chinatown.

bo luc lac “shaking beef”

i read about it from reid of ono kine grindz whose description made me go aaaah. then i checked out the recipe from bay area bites. charles phan’s shaking beef from the famous slanted door restaurant in San Francisco: i am not likely to taste the real deal any time soon but the generosity of the chef and the foodies who want to share the experience…ja! priceless. Charles Phan is featured in the Food and Wine issue “everybody loves Asian”.
the original calls for cubes of filet mignon but the sliced beef tenderloin worked out very well for us. the stir fry sauce makes enough for a repeat performance, which i guarantee you’ll want to do, ASAP.

first you must make scallion oil:

heat 3/4 cup canola oil in a heavy sauce pan to almost smoking hot, then add 6 slices of thinly sliced scallions and let fry for 2 minutes. remove from heat and scoop out the scallions. save in a glass jar.

for the bo luc lac:

marinate 1 lb. of filet mignon cubes or thinly sliced beef tenderloin, as i did, in 1 & 1/2 tsps. salt, 2 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tsp. scallion oil in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

mix the sauce ingredients: 3/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup light soy, 1/2 cup mirin wine, 1 tbsp. black soy sauce, 2 tsps. fish sauce preferably “made in Vietnam”, and 1 tbsp. sugar.

make the dipping sauce, so it’ll be right there when you’re ready to chow down and eat this over hot rice:

mix until well blended 1 tbsp. sea salt, 4 tbsps. lime juice, 1 tsp. finely ground black pepper.

heat wok to near smoking, add 2 tbsps. scallion oil, then half of the beef. press down to sear, then flip over with a spatula. add 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions, 1 tsp. minced garlic, and half a stalk of sliced scallions, and stir fry 30 seconds. add 3 tbsps. of sauce and stir fry to mix well, shaking continuously. add 1 tsp. butter and shake until butter melts. be careful not to overcook your lovely beef.

repeat this for the other half of beef: the point is not to overcrowd the beef so it browns properly instead of sauteeing.

children asked: “what is it?”

mom: “Vietnamese bistek!” end of questioning…

“damier”

it’s supposed to be chessboard or chequerboard cake. a fancy grown up version of a marbleized cake?

little sonny is not feeling well…i tried to cheer him up with this. lately he has been enjoying chess and other board games with us.

two batters (a creamy vanilla and a dark chocolate), two piping bags, two tall jars to park the bags in, and 3 8-inch cake pans. (same kind if you possibly can…i had 3 odd ones so they rose to different heights.)

cake of the rings? heehee.aha! there’s a missing ring… obviously i need much more practice with my piping prowess.

level the cakes after cooling with a long serrated knife so they’ll stack up nicely.

recipe follows…

recipe for “damier”

damier or checquerboard cake, from Green & Black’s chocolate recipes

(note that recipes use weight measures mostly–my dear in the UK sent me this book!–so i used my little EKS scale for this, down to the last half ounce)

sugar syrup: 9 ozs. sugar and 1/2 pint (300 ml) water. stir together until sugar is dissolved then bring up to boil in a heavy saucepan without stirring until it thickens. remove from heat and add 1 tbsp. rum. set aside to cool completely.


1/4 cup peach or apricot jam

preheat the oven to 375F. prepare three 8-inch round pans by greasing lightly with butter, cutting out parchment paper rounds to fit the bottoms, and greasing the paper rounds.

vanilla batter:

sift 9ozs. all purpose flour and 1/2 oz. (a scant tbsp) baking powder together, set aside.
cream 8 ozs. unsalted butter and 8 ozs. granulated white sugar thoroughly. one at a time, add 4 eggs, stirring well after each addition. scrape the bowl and beaters. add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.

add flour and baking powder mixture to the creamed batter, stirring only till homogenized (the batter will be heavy and stiff).
chocolate batter:

sift together 7 & 1/2 ozs. plain flour, 2 ozs. of cocoa powder, and 1/2 oz. of baking powder. set aside.
cream 8 ozs. butter with 8 ozs. granulated white sugar, add 4 eggs one by one, and mix well the same way as for the vanilla batter.

stir in the flour mixture into the batter and stir thoroughly.

making the cakes:

fit the nozzles over the piping bags (use the large plain round tip or large fluted nozzle; i just snipped off a little tip from the bag). put all the vanilla batter in one bag and the chocolate in the other. line up the prepared baking pans in a row.

starting with the vanilla batter, pipe a ring of vanilla batter inside the outer rim of one of the cake pans, then pipe a ring of chocolate batter inside the vanilla ring. continue to pipe alternating rings of vanilla and chcolate batter. there should be 6 rings of alternating batter, the center one being chocolate. fill the second cake pan the same way.

fill the third cake pan with a chocolate ring first and end with a vanilla ring.

tap the base of each of the cake pans gently to knock out any large bubbles before placing in the oven.

bake for 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out somewhat dry but with some crumbs. let cool for 5 minutes then turn out to racks, remove paper liners and leave to cool completely.

level the cakes if necessary.
brush on sugar syrup.

chocolate ganache:

melt 5 0zs. of dark chocolate (min. 60% cocoa solids), broken into pieces, in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. set aside.

whip 1/4 pint whipping cream until beater marks form, then pour the melted chocolate over it in a steady scream, continuing to whip until the chocolate is just blended.

assembly:

place one of the cakes with a vanilla outer ring on a serving platter, spread apricot or peach jam over the cake and then place the cake that has the chocolate outer ring on top of it. spread jam over it, then place the third cake on the top. using a palette knife, spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake to cover it completely.

mu shu pork

been craving these rolls for so long! husband says it is authentic Chinese food, not a Western invention or adaptation, typical of Northern Chinese cuisine where wheat and meat are plentiful.

marinate 8 ozs. of thinly sliced pork(some fat):

1 tbsp. soy, 1 tbsp. rice wine,1 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

meanwhile prepare the vegetables.

6 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water at least 30 minutes, rinsed and drained (reserve strained liquid if you want to use it for the sauce)

1/4 cup cloud ears (fungus labeled “auricularia”), soaked in cold water until soft and pliable

1 cup shredded bamboo shoots (fresh or frozen)

1 medium carrot, julienned

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1 cup shredded cabbage

2 eggs, beaten, scrambled in a little oil, then shredded

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 tbsps. sliced ginger

1 &1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsps. rice wine

1 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup reserved mushroom liquid, if using or water
peanut oil for stir frying

combine the sauce ingredients: rice wine, soy, cornstarch, sugar,mushroom liquid or water, and black pepper.

preheat oil in a wok, to medium hot, then stir fry the pork until browned and cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

stir fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant, add the mushrooms and cloud ears, and stir fry to combine. add the leeks, carrots and bamboo shoots; stir fry until somewhat soft then add the cabbage and the cooked pork stir to mix well then add the soy, rice wine, cornstarch and black pepper mixture. bring the pot to a slow boil taking care not to overcook the vegetables.

serve with Mandarin pancakes and hoisin sauce. (you can loosen up the hoisin sauce by adding water and a bit more sugar if you like).

(recipe from “the food of China,” Deh-ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds.)

*make it vegetarian by substituting sliced fried tofu for the scrambled eggs and fresh portobella mushrooms for the pork. you can also use chicken, beef or duck in place of the pork.

the blizzard

this was right in the thick of it. all day Sunday: white out conditions…17 & 1/2 inches recorded at Logan Intl. Airport. finally they gave us a snow day on Monday…

(glee personified–my sous chef celebrates.)

so we had plenty of time to make cookies.

the VD cookies.

yes i did it again, i volunteered to bring cookies to #2son’s Valentine’s Day class party. i doubled the recipe so i could keep some home for my dear little Valentines.

i thought they’d be quite tired of chocolates by now! “not at all,” said #1son as he walked away with a sample. they think it’s the best cookie ever.

these are only as good as the butter and chocolate that you use. also note that Mrs. Fields specifies salted butter.

orange chocolate chunk cookies, from Mrs. Fields’ Cookie Book

2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup salted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. orange extract or vanilla

1 tsp. grated orange zest

8 ozs. dark chocolate chips or chunks from a bar

preheat oven to 300F. whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
in the mixer bowl, at medium speed, combine sugars together and cream with butter, scraping the sides occasionally. add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides, and add the orange extract and the zest. beat at medium speed until well mixed.

add the flour mixture and chopped chocolate, blending at very low speed just until combined. stop the mixer if it’s too stiff for the machine and finish by hand, as it is important not to overbeat.

drop by rounded tablespoonfuls into ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart, 18 – 22 minutes apart or until edges are slightly golden brown along the edges. cool for 1 minute then transfer to cool surface with a spatula.

this morning i hopped on over to the nearby Big Blue and Yellow Store to try and win a 1-carat diamond ring. no such luck today, a couple (who look like they’ve been smug-married’s a long time) took it home. but i got a big heart and a polyester apron…when i got home i found two packages waiting at our front door. thank you sha and thank you atinna! *heart swells up*. happy sweet Valentine’s day everybody…

domo arigato tita e!!

so don’t change a hair for me

not if you care for me

stay, little valentine, stay

each day is valentine’s day…

sweet delights for the sweet, from Greece….

my sous chef

every year we get a deluge of oranges from my in-laws. it is a part of the family’s Chinese New Year celebration to give each other a bag of oranges with a hung bao envelope–usually just a dollar inside–and a box of chocolates. all symbolic of wishes for a sweet and prosperous new year.

i try to make this sweet and sour dish, gulao rou, from Ken Hom’s a Taste of China. it is nothing like any sweet and sour pork dish you’ll order from a take-out joint here, for this one is made with freshly squeezed orange juice.

yes i remember that i have posted this dish last year. this year is memorable because of this:

#2son sauntered into the kitchen, saw the shallots lined up on the counter and volunteered to peel them.

i said, sure!, thinking he’d only do a couple and tire of it quickly…but he finished it all, painstakingly peeling with his fingers and being careful not to bruise the flesh so he wouldn’t “cry.”

he even helped me with squeezing the oranges! i’m thinking–early admission to the Culinary Institute of America? le Cordon Bleu? Johnson and Wales University?
gladly accepting scholarship offers now….

even more chocolate!?

marquise au chocolat (from Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes)

has anyone ever found the chocolate loving gene?

i’m pretty sure that it’s a dominant gene, based on the way my offspring turned out: 3 budding chocoholics, from a chocoholic momma and a papa who’s choco-indifferent. these three did swiftly devour the previous molten chocolate puddings/cakes, and clamoured for more. and bigger.

so i said, yes of course, more chocolate, yes, bigger, but different! they all love chocolate mousse, and we already have a loyalty to this recipe but when i received this cookbook from a dear friend…i was truly compelled to try.

MARQUISE Au Chocolat

cake base:

melted butter for the 9″ springform pan

1 tbsp. ground almonds plus extra for dusting the pan

7 ozs. of dark chocolate (min. 60% cocoa solids), plus
3 & 1/2 ozs. of Maya Gold Green and Black’s, or good quality dark orange chocolate, chocs. broken in to pieces (or 10 & 1/2 all dark chocolate)

10 ozs. granulated sugar

5 & 1/2 ozs. unsalted butter

pinch of sea salt

5 large eggs

preheat the oven to 350F. brush the pan with butter and dust with the ground almonds, shaking off excess.

melt the chocolate, granulated sugar, butter and salt in a large heatproof bowl suspended over a sauce of barely simmering water.

whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and fold into the chocolate mixture off the heat. continue to fold until the mixture thickens. pour into the cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. leave to cool in the pan for about 2 hours before starting the mousse.

mousse:

9 ozs. dark chocolate, (min. 60% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

3 & 1/2 ozs. of powdered sugar

6 ozs. unsalted butter

5 large eggs, separated

150 ml whipping cream

cocoa powder for dusting

melt the chocolate in the same way as for the cake base. remove from the heat and add half the powdered sugar, stir, then whisk in the butter. whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. set aside.

whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks start to form. add the remaining icing sugar and continue to whisk until glossy. whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

add one-third of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and carefully mix to blend. gently fold in the cream. do not overmix, but ensure that the mixture is well blended. pour the mousse over the cooled cake base in the cake tin and refrigerate overnight.

remove the tin from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. dip a long thin sharp knife into hot water, wipe dry, then slide it around the sides of the cake to loosen it from the pan, then remove the ring. re-heat the knife in boiling water, wipe dry and gently smooth the sides of the moose.

place the cake still on the base, on to a large round serving plate. dust generously with cocoa powder just before serving.

serve with creme fraiche, whipped cream or custard sauce. or as is.

molten chocolate cakes (puddings)

i’ve been eyeing this recipe forever but not taking any action as it seemed too trendy and gimmicky. silly me. it’s actually quite easy. i wanted a recipe where i didn’t have to make the truffle that you have to put in the center, but a “self-truffling” one that depended on temperature and timing and receptivity of the audience. this made my children go googly eyed on me…imagine if you were a singleton, trying to snag a willingly captive heart…and you use this as bait.

out of the oven: quite solid, stodgy looking.

unmolded. cracked. oozes, seethes. hot!

over time…cooling off. still cracked. dark, strong, deep.

7 oz. dark chocolate, broken up
14 tbsp. butter, unsalted

2 tbsps. brandy (i used Amaretto)

4 large egg yolks

4 large eggs

1/2 cup + 2 tbsps. granulated sugar

1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. flour

–recipe from Delia Smith’s How to Cook

generously butter 6 large ramekins (3/4 cup or 6 oz. capacity). preheat oven to 400F.

melt the butterand chocolate in a heat proof bowl over hot, barely simmering water ( without letting bowl touch the water) and stir in the brandy. blend well and cool.

using a hand held electric mixer beat the eggs and egg yolks with sugar and vanilla until light and lemony colored and doubled in volume (batter should form ribbons when beaters are lifted up).

gently fold in melted chocolate mixture, and sift the flour over the mixture, cutting in and folding with a metal spoon.

divide the mixture into the prepared ramekins; set into a large cookie sheet. (they can be refrigerated or even frozen at this point). bake for 12 minutes(14 for chilled, 15 minutes for frozen) and let stand for 1 minute before sliding a sharp thin tip of a knive all around the edge; unmold.

serve immediately with a splash of heavy cream or a dollop of whipped cream. this is an ideal dramatic dessert to a dinner party if you preheat the oven first then pop in, timed to the end of the meal.

the longer you let it stand and cool the firmer the cake gets–still moist and delicious but not as gooey.