Romancing the Bird: The Season Finale

DSC_7519

I managed to catch a photo of the turkey this year. I also thought I’d throw in one more tip from Alton Brown that I tried this year, and intend to keep doing since I was happy with the result: slice the breasts across the grain for more tender cuts. For the rest of the juicy details, see my earlier post, “romancing the bird.

DSC_7534.jpg

Cookbook: Simply Ming One-Pot Meals

Here are some things to keep in mind that you might not easily glean from the title:

  • “Simply” applies to “Ming”, not “Meals”. While these are generally not multi-day preparations, they’re also not 20-muinite meals.
  • It’s amazing how creatively you can stretch the definition of “one pot”. Many of the dishes in this cookbook require re-using said pot multiple times in a single preparation.
  • Although each recipe only uses one pot, there are many different vessels that are called for. Casserole dishes. Woks. Skillets. Saucepans. Roasting Pans (those are pots?!)
  • Strainers, bowls, and other such accoutrements are not pots. Therefore any number may be called for without exceeding the one pot limit.

Once you come to terms with those rules, this is a great “everday” cookbook with reliable, achievable results. The ingredients aren’t exotic, but most recipes will require thinking ahead. They tend to require at least one item that you’re not likely to just have in the cupboard. Prep time varies quite a bit and may require a little planning ahead, but none of the recipes required a culinary degree to follow.

We’ve worked through quite a few recipes in the book. We’ve adjusted seasonings here and there, and like many of our favorite cookbooks, its starting to get nicely marked up with notes. The fundamental construction of every recipe that we’ve tried has held up well, though.

Among others, we’ve tried mom’s famous vinegared shrimp, a chow mien and a kung pow chicken. While the book is largely Asian-inspired, it ventures across quite a few cuisines, and shines most on some of the more creative dishes. Black bean scallops and zucchini was an unexpected combination that worked very well.

One dish that we were pleasantly surprised with was the gingered pork with leeks. I’m not a fan of leeks, but much like a good curry powder covers up the gaminess of lamb, the serrano chilies and Worcestershire sauce compliment the leeks in a way that makes them … I’m almost embarrassed to say… pleasant.

Speaking of lamb, I’m still looking forward to trying the Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder, as well as a few of the other roasts. It’s the right season for that sort of dish.

As a physical item, the book works well. Print is large enough to read from the far side of a mixing bowl, but barely. The photographs of every dish are clean and pretty, but don’t demonstrate great creativity in their treatment of the various dishes. The margins are a bit small for notes, but most pages have some whitespace below the instructions that works well enough.

Romancing the Bird

The title isn’t mine. This is an Alton Brown Good Eats classic episode that I trot out every time it’s my turn to cook the bird. It’s been a steady, reliable favorite. When it’s someone else’s turn, well, my friends all use the same recipe too.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe.html

Pro tip: Don’t forget to take the giblets out before roasting. Just saying.

Of course, all good food blog posts should come with pictures. But after years of making this, I’ve never been able to catch a picture of the cooked bird before it disappears. I managed to get this one after the carving, before the feasting, Maybe this year I can actually catch the bird…  🙂

thanksgiving spread

Ben

I want oatmeal too!

Iris decided to make another batch of her oatmeal tonight. It’s a great, healthy snack. That got me thinking about oatmeal too, but, well, the not so healthy version.

I’ve been itching for some chocolate no-bakes for a while. I have an old recipe that I’ve made many times. My step-brother and I used to make this after school before anyone else got home, and we would play a board game and chow through a whole batch in one sitting, then clean-up very carefully so no one knew we just pigged out.

WP_20151116_21_06_08_Pro_LI.jpg

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Chocolate No Bakes

1 1/2 c sugar

5 Tbls. Cocoa (we like equal exchange)

1/2 c whole milk

1/2 c margarine or butter

4 Tbls. of peanut butter (or a bit more, just b/c)

3 c oatmeal

Combine sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter. Slowly bring to a boil stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Stir at a boil for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, then add peanut butter and oatmeal. Mix thoroughly, then quickly pour into a 9×13 pan, or make cookie drops. Let cool, or enjoy gooey and warm.

Yum.

Oh, did you want the granola too?

Cinnamaalicious Granola

Ingredients:

¼ Cup   Packed Brown Sugar

¼ Cup    Honey

1 Tbsp    Vegetable Oil

¼ tsp   Salt

¼ tsp   Cinnamon

2½ Cups Oat Meal

½ Cup   shelled pistachio

½ Cup   Dried Cranberries

¼ Cup   Chopped Candied Ginger

1 tsp. Powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 300°F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the brown sugar, honey, vegetable oil, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl, the stir in oat meal and pistachios. Spread the mixture on the parchment. There’ll be some clusters. Don’t sweat it, those are good bits. Bake until the oats are toasted and the granola is dry about 25 minutes. Stir about halfway through. Let cool.

Mix about a teaspoon of powdered sugar with the dried cranberries and chopped candied ginger, then stir into the granola mix. Store in an airtight container.

 

Hong Kong Bistro: A review

I have been to Hong Kong Bistro at the Seattle Chinatown many, many times and have never thought about writing a review about. But today, I decided to flex my typing muscles and “write” my first review!

I grew up in Hong Kong and I do miss my comfort food from time to time. My craving has been getting stronger these days! Hong Kong Bistro has been the restaurant of choice when I want comfort food, especially so after a hard day at work. After finishing my work weekend, Ben took me to Hong Kong Bistro as my reward! 🙂

On top of all the selections in the menu, there are also dishes posted on the wall, which can be overwhelming. We always seem to order the same dishes over and over again, which include Singapore fried noodles, beef chow fun, and steam beef ball. (that’s right! they have it all-day! :D) But this time around, we decided to mix it up a little, ordering some of our usual and some that we had never ordered before.

Singapore Fried Noodles
WP_20150906_003It was a classic Hong Kong style Singapore Fried Noodles, meaning curry was used in cooking them. (I actually didn’t know until my friend, Charlene, told me about it. She is a big-time foodie! I am really no comparison to her. Check her blog out! The web address is http://doofniks.com).

Besides rice noodles, there were also onion, bell pepper, bean sprouts, eggs, shrimps, and Chinese BBQ pork. The dish has the right “humidity” to it: not too wet and not too dry. Rice noodles were not brittle. It also has a little spiciness to it, but not too overwhelming.

This dish is complicated enough to try to make it at home for me so I will pay the price to get a good one in a restaurant. And this one from Hong Kong Bistro just hit the spot! Overall, it has always been very consistent with the quality every time I had it here. I love it!

Grilled Mixed Steak (Beef, Pork, and Chicken) with Pan Fried Egg
WP_20150906_004It served with three types of meats, a hotdog sausage, and a small portion of veggies on a hot sizzling pan with your choice of sauce, which I went with black pepper sauce. It was topped with an easy over egg.

Ben pointed out that this dish is “western” style but it’s definitely a Hong-Kong-invented dish as he has never seen something like this elsewhere. I guess it is a Specialty in Hong-Kong-run western style restaurants! 🙂

Pork Chop and chicken filet (dark meat) were very good but the beef steak was on the tough side. The sauce was just a little on the salty side for me. (but Ben has been telling me it’s because of my reduced salt intake but it was okay with him)

I love eggs and this one did not disappoint!

I like this dish but not as much as Singapore Fried Noodles. But overall, it was not too bad! If I order this again, I will stick with the chicken filet and pork chop.

Pan Fried Chives and Shrimp Dumplings
WP_20150906_005It is always the best when it’s fresh! Since we were ordering for dinner, it was made to order!

It was crunchy on top. Contents inside the dumpling tasted great: a good mixture of chives and shrimps with the right saltiness. If I really have to pick something that it could improve, the wrapping was a little thick. (Jade Garden wins here :)) It is another great dish!

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
WP_20150906_002I have tried to make this at home many, many times and have never been able to get it close to what I have in Hong Kong! With a little research, I learned that it is some what of a trade secret. All businesses get their tea supply from the supplier(s) that have a specific blend of tea from Sri Lanka, which are called Ceylon Tea (When Sri Lanka was a British Colony, it was named Ceylon). Besides tea, the proportion of evaporated milk (or milk, or mixture of both) is an art.

Anyway, this cup had satisfied my craving! 🙂

If I am successful in making it at home, I will certainly share with you! 🙂

Alright, that’s my first review of a restaurant. Until next time, keep on eating!

Iris’ First Blog: Introduction + First Trial in Making Chinese Steam Bun (饅頭)

Ben has been nudging me for the longest time to write a blog. After we had started this site about a year ago, I finally get the courage (and time!) to write a post! (For those of you who don’t want to read the intro, feel free to scroll down to the Chinese Steam Bun. I promise I won’t get upset about it 🙂 )

Anyway, I enjoy eating a lot. Most people will think I am addicted to food. But I think most of us from Hong Kong are a little obsessed with food so I am the norm! 🙂

I enjoy cooking to a lesser degree because I am usually consumed by work. Being exhausted after work most days, the last thing I want to do is to spend 1+ hour to cook a meal, which only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to consume and another 30+ minutes to clean up! By the time everything is done, it’s time for me to go to bed! I didn’t want to spend my whole day just for work and cooking, so I mostly do the cooking on my days off. And even then, I don’t cook all the time when I have my days off…

All I can say is that I enjoy the end results of cooking so much (i.e. eating) that I will cook so I can enjoy it! 😀

Chinese Steam Bun (饅頭)

This is my first trial in making the Chinese Steam Bun. Those are very close to the breading for BBQ pork bun. Ben really likes it. Since I have recipe for it in one of my cook book and it was relatively easy, I went ahead and give it a try yesterday.

WP_20150806_001

Ingredients: 8oz of all purpose flour, 1TBSP of sugar, 1TBSP of lard, 1/2 tsp of dry yeast, 1/2 tsp of baking powder, and 1/2 cup of warm water.

Total prep, idle, and cooking time: 1.75 hour

The actual prep time is quite manageable. It took me about 15 to 20 minutes (the book estimate was 10 minutes. Well, with me, the time is usually doubled. I think estimate in all the cook books are for chef or somebody who cook a lot but not for a slow poke like me :p).

It requires about an hour to wait for the dough to rise. It was my first time working with dry yeast. With the mild temperature we had yesterday, my best solution was to put the dough with a couple of bowls of hot water in the oven, which I don’t think was sufficient but it did rise a little (as far as I can tell). Please note the picture above was before it rose.

After an hour, I rolled them into 2 long sausage-like shape, cut them into about 10 pieces. I was supposed to let it rise for another 10 minutes before steaming but I didn’t because I didn’t finish the recipe! I had to steam them in 2 batches so I did that with the second batch. I did put each of them on parchment paper. I probably didn’t need to leave too much extra space on the paper since the buns wouldn’t rise in the steaming process. I steamed each batch for about 15 minutes.

WP_20150806_002

The final products tasted great with the 2nd batch being a little better. They were not too sweet, just right! As you can see though, their surface didn’t look as smooth as the ones in restaurants. They were also a little dry. And I think they needed some more rising. There is certainly room for improvement. Maybe I need a little more water and lard? (the dough was looking a little dry) I will try to adjust next time.

The best thing is getting Ben’s approval! Or as my Dad’s saying: “as long as the food tastes good, it doesn’t have to look good!” I myself treasure the taste in my mouth much more than the look itself. But if both can be achieved, that would be better. 🙂

Nice to meet you all! Hope we will see you back again soon! (And I will try my best to write more often!)

Until next time, keep on eating!

Cookbook: Weeknight Fresh and Fast

Cookbooks are tricky to try to write about. You need to work through a few recipes before you can really get a feel for whether it’s a good one, and that takes time. There are other factors too… does the cookbook teach the essential techniques or assume you’re a chef? Does it stick to it’s goal or theme? Is it authentic or convenient? I’ll try to answer all that.

I picked up the Williams Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast (Amazon*) cookbook to use as specified: easy after-work meals.

This is a cookbook of recipes that are, presumably, quick and easy to prepare. The book has about 100 recipes arranged by season, mostly themed around the available produce in each season, though summer definitely favors more grilling. Most recipes use ingredients that are easy enough to find year-round that you don’t need to stick to the recommendations, but who wants to make a roast or a heavy stew on a 100-degree summer day? It’s a medium-sized book with beautiful pictures of every recipe, and plenty of room in the margins to write in. I love this format.

I’ve worked through about a half-dozen of the recipes in the book so far, and some of them multiple times. For the most part, the recipes are things you can do after work, but aren’t 20-minute wonder dishes. They take a little chopping and prepping. Add in cook times, and I’ve found I typically need an hour to put together a full meal. Most recipes are meant to by a one-dish wonder, though we add a separate veggie dish most of the time. They just need a starch like rice or bread to accompany them. The recipes tend to be a bit strong in use of some flavors, especially citrus. I usually had to cut back on fresh lemon or lime juices or the citrus was overpowering the other flavors. So far I think our favorite was the broiled leg of lamb, just be judicious with the orange zest. We paired it with a red kale sautéed in ginger, garlic and olive oil, and it made a great compliment. The wine below is a Chateau Ste. Michelle sweet Riesling. It’s not a great pairing, but it is one of my favorite wines. Light, sweet and refreshing.

WP_20150727_002

As for technique, most of what you need to know to use this cookbook should be pretty basic. The book doesn’t have much in the way of explanations of technique or food handling, but the recipes don’t call for anything too fancy either. If you can sauté, grill, and use a kitchen thermometer, you’re in good shape.

Bottom line: this is one of my favorite weeknight go-to cookbooks now, though like any well-used cookbook, you’ll want to write plenty of notes in the margins as you find the perfect mix of flavors to match your own tastes.

* Purchasing through Amazon helps support our site.