Saturday, May 30, 2009

Asparagus and Mushroom Stirfry

I think of asparagus as being a "meaty" veggie, so to make a quick, easy, and healthy stirfry, I decided to pair it with mushrooms, which I also think of as being "meaty". While I think a king oyster mushroom would have been better, I always have dried shitake mushrooms in my pantry, so that's what I used. That's one of the best things about stir fries, you can just toss in whatever you have on hand! Though, next time I'll try to plan ahead and get some fresh king oyster mushrooms and try this again.

- One bunch of asparagus
- 5 dried shitake mushrooms or king oyster mushrooms if you have them
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons (to taste) of oyster sauce (soy sauce is fine if you don't have oyster sauce)

- Wash and trim the asparagus by cutting off the tough end.
- Cut the asparagus on the bias into thin slices.
- Soak the shitake mushroom in water until they're soft. If you want to rush the process, put the mushrooms and water in the microwave for a minute.
- Slice the mushrooms into thin slices.
- Mince the garlic.
- Heat some a bit of oil in a pan or wok.
- Add the garlic and saute for just a few seconds.
- Add the asparagus, mushrooms, and the liquid the mushrooms were soaking in (minus the bit at the bottom with the dirty mushroom remnants).
- Add the oyster or soy sauce.
- Saute everything together until the asparagus is cooked through, but still has a nice crunch to it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oysters on the Half Shell

While we're on this seafood kick, I thought I'd share a quick and easy post about oysters too.

I'm not going to into how to shuck an oyster because I'm no expert and am sure google would be a much better resource, but I am going to tell you how easy it is to enjoy these delicacies at home!

- Oysters
- Shallots
- Lime juice
- Rice wine vinegar
- Sugar

- Finely dice the shallot.
- Add the lime juice and rice wine vinegar to the shallots. If it's a bit tart, add some sugar.
- Wash and shuck the oysters.
- Spoon a bit of the lime, vinegar, shallot dressing onto the oyster and slurp it down!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Clams in a Wine and Butter Sauce

The hubz and I love ordering clams as an appetizer and sopping up the sauce with lots of nice crusty bread. Unfortunately, every time we order it, we end up being too full to finish our actual dinner, so we decided to make it at home as an entree instead of just as an appetizer.

This dish is so quick and easy!

- Clams (we used manila)
- Shallots
- Butter
- White wine

- Soak and then the scrub the clams.
- Finely dice the shallot.
- Melt some butter in a pan and add the shallots. Saute the shallots until they're translucent.
- Add the wine and bring to a simmer.
- Add the clams and put the lid on the pan. Let the clams steam until they've opened up. It will only take a few minutes.
- Discard any clams that don't open on their own.
- Garnish with a bit of fresh parsley and serve with nice crusty bread.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why oh why must I be cursed with an inability to bake? I have really got to be one of the worst bakers ever! Everytime I attempt some sort of baked goodie, I make a mess of it. I swear I follow the directions as precisely as I am capable of. I try, try, and try again. But I fail, fail, and fail again. Arrrrgh! But, I'm going to keep trying and hopefully one day I'll learn.

Remember that episode of Friends where Monica makes a million batches of cookies in an attempt to make the best chocolate chip cookies without any success? That's how I feel. No matter what recipe I've tried (yes including the Phoebe's mom's famous Nesele Toulouse recipe), no matter whose oven I'm using, no matter what the weather is like outside, no matter how full the moon is, or how the planets are aligned, they ALWAYS come out cakey. See those below? That's not what a cookie should look like...

The ONE time they turned out right was the time the hubz was helping me and screwed up the recipe because he didn't bother to read it carefully! They were chewy and delicious and definitely not my doing. I tried to make them again the right way the following week without his help, and guess what? CAKEY! Next time I'm going to try his messed up version, but I bet those will turn out cakey too.

Seriously, what's wrong with me?

Ok, enough wallowing in self-pity. Here's the recipe for Alton Brown's "The Chewy", aka "The Cakey" when I get my hands on it. The accidental changes that my husband made in his version, which tasted fantastic by the way, are in blue.

(my hubz changes are in blue)
- 2 sticks of butter
- 2 1/4 cups of bread flour
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 cup of sugar (1 c of sugar)
- 1 1/4 cup of brown sugar (1/2 c of brown sugar)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons of milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 2 cups of chocolate chips

- Melt the butter (I used a microwave).
- Add the sugar and brown sugar into the butter and cream them together.
- Add the egg, egg yolk, milk, vanilla extract and mix.
- Slowly mix in the flour, salt and baking soda until well incorporated.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Chill the dough.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 14 minutes.
- Enjoy the fact that you can make cookies that have the texture of cookies and I can't.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Niu Rou Mien (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup)

Now that you have amazing handmade noodles, you need something equally amazing to eat those noodles with, right? Enter one of my all time favorites - Niu Rou Mien aka Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. I love this stuff. One of my coworkers makes us go to the same exact place EVERY week and orders this dish so that he can get his weekly fix, and I more than happily oblige.

Usually, this dish is served with a nice thick layer of spicy red oil on top of the broth, but alas, when I'm cooking at home, I can't bring myself to knowingly eat it that way, so I refrigerate the broth overnight and skim off the solidified fat. It's still yummy, but if you chose not to skim off the fat, it'll only make it better.

Additionally, making a batch of Niu Rou Mien is the perfect opportunity to impart some of these great flavors into a few other otherwise ingredients. Personally, I really like the flavor of carrots that have been stewed in the broth, so I always toss a few of those in. I adore soy sauce eggs and this broth is perfect for making them, so I always make sure to cook up a batch of those too whenever I'm making this dish. Other things typical items that you can toss in there are dou gan (bean curd - kinda like a super firm tofu) and seaweed.

I'm submitting this post to Pasta Presto Nights. Patsy of Family Friends & Food is hosting this week, so check out her blog on May 15th to see everyone else's pasta creations!

Now onto the second most important part - how to make this dish. (The most important part is actually eating it)

- Handmade noodles (recipe here)
- Beef (traditionally beef shank, but any stew meat will do. I used chuck this time)

- Beef Tendon (totally optional. some people like it, some don't)
- Water or Beef or Chicken or Vegetable Stock

- Soy sauce (to taste)
- Brown sugar (to taste)

- 1-2 sprigs of Green onions

- 3-4 cloves of Garlic

- 3-5 slices of Ginger

- 3-5 Star anise

- Dried chili peppers (to taste)

- Sichuan peppercorns (to taste)

Optional additions that I used:

- Carrots

- Peeled hard-boiled eggs

- Put the meat, tendon and carrots if you're using them, ginger, garlic, scallions, spices, etc (basically everything but the eggs) in a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed pot. If you're not using a pressure cooker, go ahead and stick the eggs too. If you are, I don't imagine pressure cooked eggs to be a pretty sight (though I've never tried it), so leave those out for now.
- Fill the pot with the liquid of your choice until the meat is barely covered.
- Add soy sauce and brown sugar to taste. You can always water down the broth later if you add too much, or add more if it's too bland.
- Bring everything to a boil. If you're using a pressure cooker, let it cook at maximum pressure for about 20-30 minutes and let the pressure come down naturally, or until the meat is fall apart tender. If you're using a pot, either simmer it on the stovetop or put it into a 350 degree oven for a few hours until the meat is fall apart tender.
- Take out everything but the spices, ginger, scallion and garlic and set it aside.
- Strain the broth. If you used a pressure cooker and want to make soy sauce eggs, put the eggs in and let it simmer for at least an hour (the longer the better though) so that the color and flavor penetrates the egg.
- If you want, refrigerate the broth overnight to remove the layer of fat on top.
- Now it's time to serve! In a bowl, put some noodles, a bit of the broth (and some water if it's too salty), and a few slices of the beef. Garnish it with some bok choy, carrots, soy sauce egg, pickled cabbage, green onions, parsley, etc.
- Slurp and enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homemade Noodles

I love nice thick chewy noodles and the texture that can only come from fresh noodles, not dried. Since it's sometimes hard to find them at stores, I decided to make them myself. The only problem is that even though it's easy, it makes a big mess, so if I'm going to the trouble of making them, I like to make extra and freeze them. I floured them heavily and froze them in individually sized portions. Unfortunately, they stuck together even though I dusted them with a ton of flour. If you have a suggestion on on how store/freeze them, please let me know!

- 2 parts Flour

- 1 part Ice Water
- lots of extra Flour to keep things from sticking

- Mix the water and flour together and knead until it forms a nice smooth dough, adding more flour as needed for dusting the work surface and your hands.

- Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes.

- Roll the dough out into sheets about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you're having trouble rolling it out, let it rest longer.

- Flour the sheet heavily and roll it loosely.

- Cut the rolls into strips of your desired thickness. Personally, I like them about half an inch wide.

- Carefully unroll the cut strips and lay them out, heavily floured so that they don't stick.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

- Put the noodles into the water for just a few minutes until the noodles are cooked through.

- Drain the noodles and put them into the broth of your choice or toss them with olive oil or sesame oil for use at a later time.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Simple Artichokes

So work has been kicking my butt lately, which leaves little time for blogging among other things. Hopefully it'll lighten up soon, but for now, here's something quick and simple.

- Artichokes
- Water
- Salt
- Lemon juice
- Garlic
- Mayo

- Use a vegetable peeler to get rid of the tough skin on the stem, cut in half, scoop out the furry insides.
- Sprinkle on a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon and toss them in a steam tray in your pressure cooker and for a about 15 minutes or until they're soft. If you don't have a pressure cooker, boiling, steaming, grilling and even microwaving are all acceptable cooking methods. They just might take a bit longer.
- In a separate bowl, mix mayo, minced garlic, lemon juice and salt to taste.
- Peel each leaf of the artichoke off one by one and dip the ends in the sauce.
- Fight over the stems and heart of the artichoke :)

Told ya it was quick and simple!