In which I make Boeuf Bourguignon just like Julia Child….more or less.

IMG_5755

If you’ve never made Julia Child’s Beef Burgundy, I want to convince you to add it to your repertoire this very minute.  It is absolutely the perfect make ahead dinner party recipe.

The only way you can possibly screw up it is if you place it on the stove to reheat while you run upstairs to change and get ready for your guests and take too long deciding what to wear and scorch the pan so badly that the whole dish tastes horribly burnt through and through and you actually have to throw away not only the stew but also the pan because it is ruined beyond repair and then you have to go get take out for twelve people from the Italian place down the street.

But believe me….that will only happen once and the zillions of times that you prepare this dish, from that day forward, will all be smashing successes!

IMG_5726

 

Here is what you need:
a large, deep oven proof casserole (I use enameled cast iron Le Creuset)
a slotted spoon
4 slices thick cut bacon
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch pieces (I use a rump roast)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine (Chianti, Cabernet… just make sure it is good enough to drink)
2-3 cups canned beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
24 small white onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
IMG_5735
Here’s what you do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Saute the bacon over medium heat until light brown and starting to crisp.  Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.  Set casserole aside while you pat the pieces of beef dry with a paper towel.  Then reheat the casserole with the bacon grease until hot and brown the beef, a few pieces at  a time, until nicely browned on all sides, as shown above.  Set the beef aside with the bacon.
IMG_5738
Now brown the sliced vegetables then pour out any remaining bacon grease and return the beef and the bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper.
IMG_5739
Sprinkle the beef and vegetables with the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.  Set the casserole, uncovered  in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Then toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. ( This browns the flour and covers the beef with a light crust as shown in the photo above)  Remove casserole from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Stir in the wine and enough beef broth so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
IMG_5742
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Saute the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter until they start to release their juices and are lightly brown.  Set aside.
IMG_5743
Saute the onions in a tablespoon of butter until they start to brown then add a cup of chicken broth and simmer gently until they are tender.  Drain and set aside.
IMG_5746
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.  So you’ll have the sauce in a medium saucepan, the meat and veggies in the sieve and now you can wash out the casserole to clear away any burnt bits and then return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat. (pictured below)
IMG_5747
Put the saucepan of sauce over low heat and simmer gently, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.  You want to have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If your sauce it too thin, boil it down rapidly.  If it is too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of beef broth. Taste carefully for seasonings.  Pour the now reduced and thick and wonderful sauce back over the meat and vegetables in the casserole.  *Recipe may be completed in advance up to this point.
IMG_5752
For immediate serving:  Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.  Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.
For later serving:  When cooled, cover and refrigerate.  About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly (see introductory paragraph) for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
IMG_5760

In the mood for a Champion’s Dinner…celebrating Masters week 2011

I recently learned that on Tuesday night of Masters week, the reining champion hosts a dinner for all previous tournament champions, an elite group indeed.  Not only does he get to choose the menu but he also is responsible for the check.  And, adding to the pressure (in my opinion) if the guests don’t fancy the menu that the host offers they are allowed to order something else off the regular clubhouse menu.  I can only imagine how busy the clubhouse kitchen was in 1989 when Sandy Lyle served Haggis and mashed turnips to his fellow golfers.

Tiger served cheeseburgers, french fries and milkshakes following his first Masters trophy in 1997 (perfect for the youngest Master Champion at 22) and since then he has served porterhouse steaks twice and then a Mexican style fajita dinner in 2006.  Understandably, players like to tout their own local cuisines…..  wiener schnitzel for Bernherd Langer, fish and chips for Nick Faldo and paella and tapas for Jose Maria Olazabal.  Check out VJ Singh’s menu:  seafood tom kah, chicken panang curry, baked sea scallops with garlic sauce, rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce, baked filet, Chilean sea bass with three flavor chili sauce, lychee sorbet.  YUM!

And so this week, Phil Michelson hosted his third Champions dinner.  After his first win in 2004, Phil served lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce, caesar salad and garlic bread and then moved on to more casual fare (barbecue ribs, chicken, sausage and pulled pork with cole slaw) for his second go round.   I understand that this week he hosted a spanish feast to honor his friend and Spain’s greatest golfer, Seve Ballesteros, who is unfortunately quite ill and could not attend.

What follows is my interpretation of this years menu from the Champions Dinner at Augusta National.

 

IMG_4465

Seafood Paella

 
Now I admit, this is not “authentic” paella.  But you should really make note of this brilliant recipe from Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  In it’s original form, it is Tequila Shrimp with Saffron Rice from their book,Cook What You Love.  I’ve made it many times and will give it to you verbatim so you can too.  For my spanish feast, I’ve substituted fresh clams for the black beans to give it a real paella look and taste.  If you choose to do that as well, add the clams when you stir in the rice as they take longer to cook than the shrimp.
1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound chorizo, thinly sliced (I tend to use about half that amount and I like the spicy chorizo)
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped (use one can chopped tomatoes if out of season)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large pinch saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large, shallow ovenproof casserole, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally,  Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and beans and sir well.  Increase the heat to high and add the tequila, chicken broth, rice, salt, saffron and turmeric and stir well again.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp, mix well, and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp is cooked and the rice has absorbed the liquid.  Serve right away.  Serves 6
IMG_4453
IMG_4526

Arugula with Gazpacho Vinaigrette

During my quick research into the Champion’s Dinner menu for this year I found descriptions of two different salads. One a simple mesclun with sherry vinaigrette and olives and one a mixed salad with a gazpacho dressing.  I think that the latter sounds more interesting so here is my version.  I used spicy arugula, which really holds it own with the bold flavor of this vinaigrette.  You could make this in a blender to get a smooth dressing but I kind of like the colors and textures that hand chopping delivers.  This dressing comes from a recipe for a lovely new potato salad in a little book called Vegetable Sides, published by Rylan, Peters and Small.
Gazpacho Dressing
 
2 large ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced
2 ounces roasted red peppers (from a jar) diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
a bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over fresh arugula.
IMG_4523

Filet of Beef with Smoked Paprika and Garlic

Phil’s menu calls for prime beef tenderloin with manchego cheese and smoked paprika demiglace.  This reminded me of an excellent yet very simple recipe for a whole tenderloin that I cut out of Gourmet Magazine (July 2008) and have adapted here to create a quick and east way to impart warm, wonderful spanish flavors to the tender beef filets.
2 large garlic cloves, minced finely
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 beef tenderloin filets
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Mix garlic, paprika, cumin and olive oil together and rub this mixture into the filets.  Cover and let marinate several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.  Stir together the mayonnaise and the paprika and cumin and set aside.  Grill steaks until desired doneness and serve with the spiced mayo and lime wedges.
IMG_4506
IMG_4552

Apple Empanadas with Vanilla Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 
The Champion’s menu called for an ice-cream topped apple empanada.  I’ve chosen to top the ice cream with dulce de leche and serve the pastries on the side.  Adapted from a recipe for Sweet Apple Cinnamon Empanadas by Marian Blazes in an article on South American Food (About.com), these melt in your mouth pastries can be dessert one night and breakfast the next morning.
 
For the pastry:
 
1 cup butter, chilled
8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
 
For the filling:
 
4-5 Granny Smith Apples
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
 
1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
coarse sugar for sprinkling
 
1.  For the pastry, put flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly.  Add the butter and the cream cheese and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together.   Add the vanilla and pulse twice more.  The mixture will look crumbly.  Turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and bring the dough together and pat it into a disk.  Wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hour, or overnight.
 
2.  For the filling, place the apple cubes in a saucepan with the butter, sugars, cinnamon and salt.  Stir over medium heat until the apples are tender then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool then chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
 
3. To shape empanadas:  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch.  Cut out 4 inch circles, gathering scraps and re-rolling as necessary.  Wet the edge of a dough circle slightly, all around the perimeter.  Place one scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of the dough.  Fold the circle in half, enclosing the filling and press the edges together firmly, flattening and extending them slightly as you pinch them.  Fold and crimp the flattened edge over itself to seal.  Repeat with the remaining empanadas.
 
4.  Chill empanadas for about and hour for best results (or 15 minutes in the freezer).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix egg yolk with a little bit of water and brush over empanadas.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
 
5.  Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche, or your favorite caramel sauce. (pastries may be reheated in a low oven if you like)
IMG_4562

In which I make Lasagna…for the first time in 25 years!

     Once upon a time, there was a cute young co-ed who fell madly in love with a handsome and dashing quarterback and after a long courtship, which involved far too many cafeteria meals, they were more than excited to set up their own little apartment and create a home together.  Now, since this young co-ed had become a preschool teacher and got off work at 3:30, it fell upon her to make plans for the evening meals and this was a responsibility that she actually quite enjoyed, much to the relief of her quarterback (at this point an entry level marketing manager, but let’s stick with quarterback).  Each day after work, she would make a quick call to his office to discuss what they might have for dinner that evening.
     One evening, they decided that they were in the mood for lasagna and so the preschool teacher set about to accomplish this.  She happily toiled away in her tiny kitchen with no dishwasher, a mini fridge, two burners and a stacked washer/dryer set that took up way too much space.  Later that evening, after a mediocre meal, and spotting a sink piled high with dirty pots and pans, the young quarterback said, “I just don’t think that it is worth it to make lasagna from scratch since you really can’t beat the one made by Stouffer’s”. Now the young preschool teacher, being quite practical and not terribly thin-skinned despite her tender age, took this to heart and never made lasagna again.
     The years passed. Children were born (4). The preschool teacher became a full time mom. She long ago gave up asking anyone what they wanted for dinner (except birthdays and special occasions, of course) and cooked what (and when) she was in the mood to cook.  And the children grew up without lasagna.  To them, it was just that frozen dinner in the red box that dad sometimes ate when mom didn’t feel like cooking.
     Then one day (yesterday, actually) this hopefully still somewhat cute yet decidedly middle-aged mom, decided that she was in the mood to master lasagna.  Surely now, after 25 years of more successes than failures in the kitchen, she would be able to best that giant of frozen entrees, Stouffer’s. She turned toCooks Illustrated (September 2004) which she considers to be the master of well thought out and meticulously tested recipes and what follows is documentation of…


“Damn, that was good lasagna!” -the quarterback


…and they lived happily ever after. 

 

IMG_4206

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Meat Sauce
  • 1medium carrot , peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1medium rib celery , roughly chopped
  • 1/2small onion , roughly chopped
  • (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8ounces ground beef , preferably 90 percent lean
  • 8ounces ground pork
  • 8ounces ground veal
  • 1 1/2cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2cups dry white wine
  • 2tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Béchamel
  • 4tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4cups whole milk
  • 3/4teaspoon table salt
  • Noodles and Cheese
  • 15sheets no-boil lasagna noodles (9 ounces)
  • 4ounces Parmesan cheese , grated (2 cups)

 

IMG_4135

 

IMG_4137

For the meat sauce: Process carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary; transfer mixture to small bowl. Wipe out food processor work bowl; process tomatoes and juice until finely chopped, six to eight 1-second pulses.

 

IMG_4146

 

Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until foaming; add carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.

 

IMG_4155

 

Add ground meats and cook, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, about 1 minute.  Add milk and stir, breaking meat into 1/2-inch bits; bring to simmer and cook, stirring to break meat into small pieces, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. Using potato masher or wooden spoon, break up any remaining clumps of meat (no large pieces should remain). Add wine and bring to simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes.

 

IMG_4165

 

Stir in tomato paste until combined, about 1 minute; add chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. (You should have about 6 cups meat sauce.) Transfer meat sauce to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

2. For the béchamel: While meat sauce simmers, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming; add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 1 1/2 minutes; mixture should not brown. Gradually whisk in milk; increase heat to medium-high and bring to full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and corners of saucepan. (You should have about 3 1/3 cups.) Transfer béchamel to bowl and cool until just warm to touch, about 30 minutes.

 

IMG_4176

 

3. To assemble and bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Place noodles in 13- by 9-inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water, place in single layer on kitchen towel, and pat dry. Wipe out baking dish and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Stir béchamel to recombine; mix 3/4 cup warm béchamel into warm meat sauce until thoroughly combined.

 

IMG_4182

 

IMG_4186

 

4. Distribute 1 cup béchamel-enriched meat sauce in baking dish. Place three noodles in single layer on top of sauce, arranging them close together, but not touching, at center of pan. Spread 1 1/4 cups béchamel-enriched meat sauce evenly over noodles, spreading sauce to edge of noodles but not to edge of dish (see illustration 1). Drizzle 1/3 cup béchamel evenly over meat sauce (illustration 2). Sprinkle 1/3 cup Parmesan evenly over béchamel. Repeat layering of noodles, béchamel-enriched meat sauce, bechamel, and cheese 3 more times. Place final 3 noodles on top and cover completely with remaining béchamel, spreading béchamel with rubber spatula and allowing it to spill over noodles (illustration 3). Sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmesan.

5. Spray large sheet foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, increase heat to 450 degrees, and continue to bake until surface is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.

IMG_4212

In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!
The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.
IMG_1500_2

Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)
IMG_9830

Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

IMG_9829
IMG_1596_2

Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
IMG_1592

In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!

The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.

IMG_1500_2

Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)

IMG_9830

Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

 

IMG_9829

IMG_1596_2

Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
IMG_1592

In the mood for Thai!

I didn’t grow up eating Asian food….unless you count the brief period when, as teenagers, my friends and I liked to get won ton soup and fried rice from a local inexpensive “Chinese” restaurant.  Come to think of it, I stopped eating there when I heard a rumor that each won ton in their soup was filled with a tiny little chicken brain.  How embarrassing to think that I believed that they were taking the time to extricate a chicken brain for each and every won ton wrapper!

 
Flash forward a few years and, living in Paris, I discovered the amazing variety of Asian cuisine…. Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, not to mention the many unique provinces of China.  When I first started making these dishes at home, after returning to the States, some of the ingredients were hard to find.  That has really changed in recent years and most big grocery stores have decent Asian sections.  But don’t let that stop you from popping into one of the small Asian markets that may be around town.  The prices are better and you will be inspired by the variety of ingredients!
IMG_8411

Beef with Thai Sweet Basil Leaves

Thai basil has small leaves and a subtle licorice/mint flavor.  It is definitely worth a trip to an Asian market which may offer it in the produce section in the summer months.  For the last couple of years, it has been available here in nurseries so I have been growing it in my herb garden.  If it isn’t to be found near you, another basil variety can be used,  but you may need to tear the leaves if they are large.
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 tablespoons chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 small red chilies, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-10 ounces beef fillet steak, thinly sliced
1 handful Thai sweet basil leaves
Mix the fish sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sugar in a small bowl.  Place a wok or heavy skillet over high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of the oil.  When very hot, add the onion and chilies and stir fry until just wilted and starting to brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside while you cook the beef.  Add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the wok and then add about half of the beef and half of the chopped garlic.  Scatter the beef slices so that they can cook in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed on one side 1-2 minutes until starting to brown nicely.  Then toss the beef a couple of times quickly and remove it to the plate holding the onion mixture.  Repeat with remaining beef and garlic, adding a bit more oil to the wok only if necessary.  Return everything to the wok and stir in the sauce mixture.  Stir for 30 seconds to let the sauce heat through and to coat the beef. Add the Thai basil leaves and remove from heat.  Serve over Jasmine rice.
IMG_8417
IMG_8517

Peanut Shrimp with Rice Noodles

 This recipe is based on one that was published in the New York Times in August of ’09.   This is a wonderful dish because the sauce stays light and fresh while still delivering an amazing amount of flavor.  I like butterflying the shrimp because they curl up quickly into perfect bite sized morsels, but if your shrimp are very small you might want to leave them whole.
1 lime
1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
12 ounces flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound raw medium to large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise
1 bunch green onions, sliced, white and light green parts only
1 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 minced jalapeno chili
coarse ground black pepper
salt
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, fish sauce, the zest and juice from 1 lime, and just enough water to make a smooth sauce.  (about 1/3 cup)
Cook rice noodles in boiling, salted water until just tender, being careful not to overcook or they will become mushy.  Drain.
Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add oil and quickly stir fry the shrimp until they curl and begin to turn pink.  This should only take a minute or two.  Add scallions, carrots, garlic and jalapeno and toss around until the vegetables soften a bit and the shrimp is just cooked through.  Remove from the heat.
Toss the rice noodles, shrimp and peanut sauce together and season well with the black pepper (and salt if necessary)  Serve hot or room temperature. (Serves 4)
IMG_8529
IMG_8512

Cashew Salad

 
In Savoring Southeast Asia, Joyce Jue writes that cashews are grown in abundance the south of Thailand and that this “culinary gem” is a perfect snack to serve with iced limeade or beer.  Be sure and have all of the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you fry the cashews.  And be mindful of the fact that nuts burn very quickly so watch them carefully.  As I did not have any fresh lemongrass, I substituted a bit of fresh lemon zest.  Not the same thing at all but OK in a pinch for this particular recipe.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 pound raw, large, whole cashews
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
1 lemongrass stalk, tender midsection only, finely minced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped celery leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Place the still hot cashews in a bowl and immediately add the shallots, green onion, lemongrass, celery leaves. mint, and chili.  Toss to mix well.
To make the dressing, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar in a small bowl.. Stir until the sugar dissolves,  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well,  Turn out onto a serving plate and garnish with the cilantro leaves.