Monthly Archives: January 2010

hot and spicy chicken with lemongrass

hot and spicy chicken with lemongrass
the dish arrives with a caveat:
if you do not have a passion for fish sauce, what i call, patis love, look away now, “X” it now, come back another day.
still here?
the reward is a dish worth a pot full of rice both because the sauce deserves to be licked clean and because the spicy punch will need the soothing mouthfuls of starch to cool your mouth down.
patis caramel with shallots
the first step is to make this caramel with fish sauce. you must be brave.
red hot chili
you must also add at least one red hot chili pepper.
based on recipes from three cookbooks (authors Nicole Routhier, Corinne Trang, and Mai Pham) and my desire to eat something spicy and saucy, since i had a stuffed up nose with matching dead tastebuds. i had to consult with my favorite testers to check if the flavors (lemongrass, garlic, chili, chili paste, caramel, fish sauce, shallots) were all right :stirthepot .

recipe coming soon follows… Continue reading

chocolate layer cake

chocolate layer cake
i decided to shine the spotlight on the chocolate cake i mentioned in the previous post–it got overwhelmed by my being so chef-starstruck, and it really does deserve its own post.

this is currently The One, yes i have it on good authority: the cake we will bake for when we are chocolate-deprived.
plus, it’s got that Good Housekeeping seal of approval :thumbsup: (latest issue on newsstands).
cake layers:
2 c. all purpose flour
1c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp.baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter (1 & 1/2 sticks), softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/3 c. boiling water
1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1. prepare cake layers: preheat oven to 350ºF, grease three8-inch round cake pans. line bottoms with waxed paper; grease paper. dust pans with flour.

2. on another sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. in large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter and brown and granulated sugars until blended. increase speed to high; beat 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy. occasionally scraping bowl with spatula. reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. beat in vanilla until blended. add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. beat just until batter is smooth, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

3. spoon batter evenly among prepared pans. if necessary, stagger pans on 2 oven racks, placing 2 on upper rack and 1 on lower rack, so that top pans are not directly above bottom one. bake 22 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. with small knife loosen layers from sides of pans; invert onto wire racks. carefully remove and discard waxed paper; cool completely about 45 minutes.

prepare frosting:
in small bowl combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until smooth. in large bowl with mixer at medium-high speed, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar 5 minutes or until fluffy. reduce speed to medium-low. add melted chocolate then cocoa mixture, beating until smooth and occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. if frosting is too runny, refrigerate until just stiff enough to spread.

assemble cake:
place 1 cake layer bottom side up on cake plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. top with second layer, bottom side up; spread with another third cup of frosting. place remaining layer bottom side up on top. spread remaining frosting over sides and top of cake. (you may have to trim the tops off of the cake to make them even..i used a serrated knife.)

cravings: Jasper White’s lobsters and chocolate cake

sometimes the path from “A” to “B” takes some convoluted twists and turns. the craving was for lobsters…as in $2.99 per pound medium size lobsters–i kid you not! the price was too low as to be worrisome…we haven’t seen prices like these since we were teenagers, and we’re talking Maine, straight-from-the-dock prices! good-luck-to-the-lobstermen kind of prices…–
but to get to that, first i had to have chocolate cake.
of the three-layer-punch-in-the-face variety.
i take my job really seriously you know, the job of checking out chocolate cake or brownie recipes that tout themselves to be the best.
now, i’ve proclaimed that i won’t buy any more new cookbooks or food magazines at all. but i forgot that i did subscribe to two family oriented magazines last year, to support my kid’s public school.
when the first issue arrived, the first thing i noticed was the purported “best chocolate cake recipe ever!” which i dutifully decided had to be put to the test.
hand mixer + chocolate frosting
tempting chocolate cake
i was tempted to stop icing the cake right then, and eat the rest of the frosting straight up with a soup spoon….
3 layer chocolate cake
but i had good self-control. for a change.

then i had to hie off to the newly opened fish mongers at the 4th edition of summer shack. it is a New England institution by now, Jasper White’s humble down home chain of restaurants that evoke hearty New England chowders and lobster bakes. we went to the original location in Cambridge years ago for a mothers’ day dinner–it is so memorable to me because it was the weekend before i’d have to find out if a lump on my leg was something to worry about or not (NOT, as it turned out)…so i was determined to have a great good time.
the food was divine, and i remember sharing a broiled lobster platter with my then 2-year old youngest child, and the fish lumpia (spring rolls) that were so terrific we had to order more.
this 4th franchise has a fish store, and our first peek last weekend the fish monger whispered that there’d be a sale on lobsters, this weekend.
there i was, buying, incredulously at $2.99 a pound…”give me FOUR!” wheee….i was almost in a diabetic shock state from hunger, having just swum 30 lengths at the pool, having just popped a cracker dipped in fish pate from the sample counter, having just walked out to try and get a nice takeaway lunch from the supermarket round the corner…when i literally walked into the towering gent, the what, 6 foot 4 inch tall– the one and only Jasper White himself, seeing some dining customers out the door.
i tried to swallow the mouthful of cracker.
“how nice to see you! i’m a fan!” i know, so lame….
he graciously, gallantly shook my hand, laughing,” happy new year!”
Jasper White was right there

i swear, he was right there!

ask me about the chocolate cake recipe, which was fabulous! i’m still too stunned right now….

sticky clementine and ginger puddings

i have resolved (and i must stress i’m not one to make, much less proclaim out loud, publicly, New Year’s Resolutions)…to stop buying cookbooks and food magazines.
so it was excruciating to accompany the kids to the Big Bookstore to cash in their gift cards. i had to really restrain myself. sigh. you know what i did? i lingered at the magazine aisle and committed to my failing memory the dishes that i would google at home. success! nyahaha-haha. here’s The One That I Remembered.
puddings in their bath
it took me an awfully long time to make this. at first i couldn’t understand why i seemed to be so hesitant to get going, then i figured it out…this is so hard to translate! i had to convert the measurements first…if you have a food scale at home i recommend you use it, but if not, i’ve noted the volume measures as best as i can. NO guarantee though, sorry!
unmolded clementine pudding
splashed with cream
it was a very lovely end to our “Peking Duck” dinner, and i would definitely make it again especially since clementines are busting out all over. i’m thinking of exchanging the fresh chopped ginger for candied ones though, just to mute the flavor a tiny bit.
and your problem is ??? me, get off the placemat? moi?
the recipe? Continue reading

hot pot, at home!

hehe, very predictable yeah?
hot pot at home fixings
hot pot at home
a light and flavorful broth, and any or all fixings you could possibly think of: fish cake, crab legs, thinly sliced meats (beef, lamb, chicken) and fresh vegetables.

it was so much fun, there was only one hitch: we ran out of table space. there was also necessary vigilance, for the large fondue pot had an electric cord which thankfully had a safety feature of being magnetically attached to the electric probes (?) so the danger of accidentally tripping on it would not cause the pot to up-end… also became a bit of a problem when it easily got nudged out of position. no worries, we had a great meal.

cook’s notes: serve with bowls of short-grain (Tamaki Gold) rice; thick udon noodles; sa cha and XO sauces, alongside finely minced garlic, chilis, and scallions. ooh i’m making myself hungry… :melodramatic:

Yorkshire puddings, with rib roast dinner

it might have something to do with my latest obsession, watching old episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. i just always snubbed this show, being that it dealt with a Vicar. how funny can it be, i thought, dealing with the Church and the bible.
but i saw the Christmas special finale, the one where Geraldine finally found her someone, and it was so irreverently hilariously outrageously funny that i thought i’d track down all the old episodes (it was put down after 10 years on air, circa 1994.)

it might also have something to do with my Anglophilia, according to husband.
he brought home a rib roast for our dinner tonight. i had almost two hours to roast it so i had a moment of Domestic Goddessness and dug out her “Feast” cookbook to make these lovely little gems.
Yorkshire puddings, the traditional accompaniment to the Christmas roast beast, always look so enticing with their puffed up gloriousness that i’ve always been wanting to try.
how much should Yorkshire puds rise?
now, i’ve had quite a bit of a struggle with her recipes, and this one is no exception: i thought it lacking in instruction but since i’d seen an episode with another self-proclaimed Diva (Tita Martha) with A Real Diva, Anne Willan, i was able to make some passable enough for my family to enjoy.
i think it’s got a lot to do with the pan used (i used a jumbo-muffin pan, but it’s said that a twelve-cup one will work, just as well as an 8-inch round cake pan), and will be on the lookout for a popover pan, the kind where the cups are deeper and divided by thin wires. or maybe the oven temperature wasn’t quite hot enough… my kids said it tasted like rich thick crepes. which they like.

substitute melted butter if you haven’t had the time to get drippings from the rib roast.
roast beef drippings to line the muffin pan

4 eggs
1 & 1/3 cups 2% milk (i used half 1 % milk and half heavy cream, because that’s all i had)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 2/3 cups flour

preheat oven to 425ºF.
whisk together eggs, milk and salt until combined then let stand at least 15 minutes. whisk in flour then let stand until ready to bake.

pour about a tablespoon or so of roast beef drippings or melted butter into each muffin/popover pan cup. heat in the oven before pouring in the batter.
pudding batter
bake for 15 – 20 minutes until puffed up and browned.
Yorkshire puddings
Yorkshire puddings with peas and gravy
it was certainly a welcome and delicious change from just mashed potatoes and gravy. the puddings when smothered in peas and gravy went very well with the juicy rib roast.

and no, there was no special occasion, unless you count making it to Friday, a special occasion. :drunk:

how ’bout hot pot?

digging out for Harry P.
so we dug ourselves out of the snow…and into town for a glimpse into the movie magic of
The Great Hall

don't take Umbrage
the diabolically pink professor’s room
i just had to be very sneaky and feel like a secret agent with my hidden camera (under my folded up down coat). they were heavily guarding the Cedric Diggory robes too well, i’d have thought that would be the most popular attraction given the Twilight craze, but there wasn’t a thick enough crowd for the Secret Agent to hide behind! the exhibit, which has been in Boston since September, is phenomenally crowded, this second day of the year, and rightly so: such finely crafted and minutely detailed props and costumes. they didn’t cut corners on the special effects. you’ll also be able to quickly guess that the actors and actresses aren’t that tall. they just seem larger than life, thanks to movie magic.
Yule Ball outfits from Viktor, Hermione and Ron
ball gown and dress robes, left to right: Viktor Krum, Hermione, and Ron

the only disappointment i felt was the absence of anything pertaining to Luna Lovegood.
so you know what i’m talking about now, yes? if not, then you must think i’m crazy (which i assure you i am), but you also must have just wandered out of the Sahara? or tundra?….

after an afternoon at the museum we were treated to a hot pot dinner, which just hit the spot. the freezing spot! cooking our dinner over the kim chee broth (alongside a mild version)–reminiscent of our New Year’s eve fondue feast, but this time we felt quite self-righteously healthy.
for dunking, you choose from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, seafood…among many others; they also give you a platter of vegetables alongside: tofu, Napa cabbage, watercress, corn, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, and bean curd skin.
hot pot dips
for the dipping sauce sister-in-law recommended a little bit of everything (XO sauce, raw garlic, scallions, chilis, kim chee bits) in the Japanese soy sauce. i say, Amen, sista!
thinly sliced beef tongue
and if there’s an exotic ingredient on the menu i’m so going for it….beef tongue please!

Brighton Avenue, Boston
reasonably priced, and great fun especially with kids tall enough to reach over the pot…

The Harry Potter exhibition runs until February, hurry up and go!
Museum of Science

cheddar cheese fondue; brown butter pound cake

something sweet and something spicy to welcome to the new year.
every new year’s eve it seems now i’ve served fondue to the kids whether they like it or not. i don’t know why i love it so, maybe it’s the crackling little flame under the fondue pot? the interactivity and suspense of keeping your dipper in your fondue fork? but i got another electric one so we can have both cheese and chocolate fondue…i think the three had had enough rich food over Christmas dinners that they sort of groaned when i announced the fondue plans. i said, don’t worry, children, it will be a little bit different.
bread dippers
i chose a cheddar cheese mix with red bell peppers and jalapeno, for dipping with bread & ham cubes, tortilla chips,
fresh and cooked vegetables.
cheddar cheese fondue
i also made spiced beef so that the #1son could opt for tacos–he who seemed reluctant to partake of melted cheese.
as midnight approached i melted the chocolate and chopped up bananas, rinsed the strawberries and cubed the brown butter pound cake.
brown butter pound cake

ahhh! i suddenly remembered my ma’s “bruun cake(?)” that she used to prepare whenever she got a hold of this special canned butter, from Denmark maybe? the method of melting the butter until the milk solids turn dark brown, then freezing to congeal, then mixing with eggs and sugar, and flour, made the butter flavor so deep and profound and caramelly, just perfect with the dripping semisweet/bittersweet chocolates, and for eating for breakfast, this New Year’s Day.
fruit and sweets platter for chocolate fondue

i hope you had a loud and raucous Eve! did you remember to jump at the stroke of midnight?!
a very rosy New Year