August 20, 2017

Hainanese Chicken Rice


One of the quintessential dishes of Singaporean cuisine, Hainanese Chicken Rice is a bone-deep satisfying meal dished up everywhere from Hawker’s Markets to fancy restaurants. It is an excellent example of how ingredient repetition need not render a meal boring or feel repetitive - the ginger, sesame oil, and garlic are powerful flavours, but come across differently in each item on the finished plate.

This recipe serves 2-4 people (or more, if you double the rice), but in our house it is the start of a multi-meal whose leftovers evolve into two more dishes over the following days (see Multi-meal, at the bottom of this post).

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 1.5 kg)
Fresh cool water to cover the chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus extra for exfoliation (as described below)
5 cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 stalks green onions, cut into two-inch lengths
Basin of ice water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (for after the chicken is cooked)

Rice
15 mL (1 tablespoon) chicken fat or canola oil
1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
15 mL (1 tablespoon) minced fresh ginger
200 grams (1 cup) raw basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear
310 mL (1 1/4 cups) reserved chicken poaching broth
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 pinch kosher salt

Chile Sauce
15 mL (1 tablespoon) fresh lime juice
30 mL (2 tablespoons) reserved chicken poaching broth
10 mL (2 teaspoons) sugar
60 mL (4 tablespoons) Sriracha sauce
4 cloves garlic
30 mL (2 tablespoons) minced fresh ginger
a pinch of salt, to taste

To serve
Dark soy sauce (in a dish, or just the bottle)
Green onion, finely sliced on the bias
Cucumber, thinly sliced

First, you must exfoliate the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out and place on a clean plate. Use a small handful of kosher or pickling salt to gently massage the chicken all over, being careful not to tear the skin if possible. Rinse the salt away and stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and green onion pieces. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and add fresh cold water to cover (it’s okay if it doesn’t quite cover - the breast will still cook if it sticks up above the water level). Add salt. Cover and bring the pot just barely to a boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low to keep a bare simmer, checking from time to time. Simmer for about 40 minutes (less for smaller chickens).

While the chicken simmers, get your mise en place in order for the chile sauce and the rice. That means, mince the ginger for both the rice and the sauce, peel the garlic and set aside, and wash, wash, wash the rice in cool water until it runs clear. Set the rice aside in a strainer to drain. You can put the sauce ingredients all (except for the broth) into a blender cup now, if you like.

Once the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Carefully lift the chicken from the broth (I lift it by inserting a wooden spoon into the centre and tilting it up so that the juices run out of the cavity) and into a basin of ice water to cool. You will need the broth for the rice, sauce, and side bowl of soup. I like to have my basin in the sink, so that I can and add more fresh cold water over the chicken to help the skin achieve the firm, springy texture associated with this dish, and I like to change the cold water once as it rests. Let the chicken rest in the cold water while you start cooking the rice. Remove any aromatics (ginger, green onion) from the broth, and return the pot of broth to the stove to stay warm over low heat.

Rice: You rice should by now have been rinsed and drained and is resting nearby in a sieve. Heat the chicken fat or canola oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the ginger and the garlic and pinch of salt, and stir fry until fragrant but not coloured. Add the sesame oil and then drained rice and stir to coat each grain with the fat and seasonings.

If you’re cooking the rice on the stovetop, add the 310 mL of hot poaching broth to the rice and stir it through. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Set the timer for 15 minutes, and when it rings remove the rice pot from the hot burner and, without lifting the lid, set it aside to rest somewhere for another 15 minutes. Fluff, and it's ready to serve.

If you’re cooking the rice in a rice cooker, use a spatula to scrape the rice/fat/seasoning mixture into the rice cooker, add the poaching broth, and then turn it on according to your rice cooker’s instructions.

While the rice is cooking, remove the chicken from its ice bath and pat dry with paper towels. Using your impeccably clean fingers, rub the outside of the chicken with the sesame oil, and let it stand until needed. Just before the rice is finished resting, carve the chicken for serving and arrange on plates, and then add the rice once it's ready. For a nice tidy dome of rice, pack it lightly into a measuring cup and overturn onto the plate. I find a 3/4-cup measure works perfectly, yielding 4 portions of rice from 200 grams (1 cup) of raw rice.

Chile Sauce: combine all chile sauce ingredients in a blender cup and process until smooth. Stick blenders work very well for this. The first time I made this, I didn’t have access to any mechanical means to puree it, so I simply finely chopped everything by hand. That also worked very nicely, but it was of course not a smooth sauce.

Soup: You should have several cups of the chicken-poaching broth available. Ladle into small bowls and garnish with some finely sliced green onion.

Serve the chicken and rice with cucumber slices, and a bowl of the soup on the side. Place the chile sauce and some dark soy sauce on the table for individuals to use at will.



Multi-meal

I mentioned at the start of this post that this is a multi-meal dish for our household of two (your mileage may vary, depending on your family size - for bigger families, you would want to have doubled the rice recipe above). This is what I do:

Finally, after you’ve eaten and had a little rest, strip the remaining chicken meat from the bones, and put in a container in the fridge. As for the bones, you can either discard them, or add them back into the soup pot and simmer them for another hour or so for a much stronger broth. Cool and strain the broth, and transfer to fridge/freezer friendly containers. Cool and refrigerate any leftover rice.

The next day, leftover rice and about half of the leftover chicken meat are converted into fried rice (this is an especially good use for any leftover skin!) with the addition of a little extra onion, ginger, garlic, beaten egg, low-sodium soy sauce, any any other vegetables you’ve got kicking around. (For fried rice technique, please see my post on fried rice, and adapt as necessary.) Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

The following day, the leftover broth (or some of it) is used to make congee, by adding some water, washed raw rice, and the remaining chicken meat (added at the very end). Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

Alternatively, you could stash all of the broth in the freezer and use that instead of water for the next time you want to make Hainanese Chicken Rice. Because, there will be a next time. If you have lots of broth, you can split the difference.

Three delicious meals from one master-meal.

August 12, 2017

Cherry Clafoutis


Clafoutis defies a truly comprehensive description. It's part custardy flan, part pancake, part coffee cake, and a distant relation to the soufflé -- while not really being any of these things. What it actually is, is an iteration of the amazingly versatile eggs/milk/flour matrix that comprise the batter for crêpes, Yorkshire puddings, and Dutch babies (and more), neatly proportioned to create a simple French country dessert.

Just like the eternal cakey vs fudgy brownies debate, there are different styles for clafoutis. This one is decidedly more like a set custard than a cake, with a glossy interior revealed when sliced up to serve. A bit more flour would make it cakier, but might therefore also benefit from a bit of leavening agent.

The quality of the cherries counts, here. If your cherries are bland, the clafoutis will not be as good.

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Adapted from Everyday French Chef

400 grams fresh, sweet cherries
70 grams (1/3 cup) flour
80 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
175 mL (3/4 cup) whole milk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Butter, for greasing the casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to gas 180°C (350°F), with a rack in the middle.

Wash and gently dry the cherries, remove any stems, and remove the pits (I use an olive pitter).

Lightly butter a small (1 litre / 4 cup) casserole or baking dish. Add as many of the cherries as you need to form a single layer (not too tightly packed - there needs to be a little room for the batter).

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly until they are perfectly integrated and foamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and stir through. Next, add the milk, cream, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly over the cherries. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the clafoutis is golden and still a little wobbly in the middle. Sift the icing sugar over the clafoutis and return it to the oven until it is firm in the middle, about 5 minutes more. Check for doneness with a toothpick or sharp, clean knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. If not, bake it for a few minutes more.

Serve warm. If you are preparing the clafoutis in advance, reheat it gently before serving. Serves 4.

August 06, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Buffalo wings have run deliciously amok. What started out as a simple bar snack, has since become everything from pasta to dip to casserole to pizza, and gone through some interesting ingredient iterations: some folks swap out the blue cheese dressing for ranch, and some even switch the chicken with cauliflower. The configurations seem endless, and that's good news for those of us who love our hot sauce oriented food.

This particular pizza is a pretty stripped down version of the classic combination of Frank's Red Hot sauce, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. Because it's pizza, I've added a final layer of shredded mozzarella, just to tie it all together. I've dispensed with the traditional carrot and celery sticks, although you could either serve them alongside (which would be appropriate) or dice them finely and use them as a topping - but I think they would be a bit of a distraction there. So.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 Standard pizza

! batch pizza crust dough (see below)
125 mL (1/2 cup) creamy blue cheese dressing (or more to taste)
350 grams cooked, shredded chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Frank's Red Hot sauce (original)
1 tablespoon butter
200 grams shredded mozzarella

Dough

3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1-2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon if you have the time to let it rise)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes. The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour as you need it, if the dough seems sticky or wet.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you prepare your toppings. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C / 450°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it, or lightly oiling.

Toppings

In a small skillet, heat the butter and hot sauce together and stir well to integrate (a whisk might help). Add the shredded chicken and toss/stir to thoroughly coat.

Press the dough out evenly on your pan. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread the blue cheese (or ranch, if you must) dressing evenly over it, leaving a little uncovered around the edge. Use a big spoon or your fingers to distribute the sauced up chicken over the dressing, and then add your mozzarella.



Slide the pan into your preheated oven and bake for at least 12 - 15 minutes (depending on your oven, maybe a little more), or until the crust is golden and delicious.

Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Put the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot on the table...and try not to burn your mouth from devouring everything too quickly.

Note about foil: If you have cleverly put down a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from drips, know that this is going to have a negative impact on the cooking time and browning of your pizza - especially the bottoms thereof. Put a baking sheet down there if you must, but foil really screws with the heat flow in an oven, and things take much longer to cook (and don't brown evenly). It might not affect other recipes, but it's terrible for pizza and pie crusts.



I added an extra perimeter of cheese and popped mine back in the oven for a couple of minutes, because it seemed like a good idea. It was. If you have some nice, mild, crumbly Danish blue cheese, that would go perfectly here.

July 29, 2017

Loco Moco


Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is such a hometown favourite that it appears everywhere from takeaway windows, to diners, to fine dining restaurants.

Four essential ingredients comprise the classic Loco Moco: white rice, ground meat patty, fried egg, and brown gravy. The number of patties and eggs is variable, but even the petite offering shown here, of a single patty and a single egg, makes for quite a substantial meal.

There are other variations, of course. Fried rice instead of rice, being one. The meat patty could be replace with fried spam, and there may or may not be mushrooms in the gravy. Some places ask if you want sautéed onions or not, but in this version they're already right in the gravy. Loco Moco often appears as an option on Hawaii's famous Plate Lunch, which pretty much guarantees a scoop of macaroni salad on the side. In Japan, where Loco Moco has migrated quite happily, it is often served with Tonkatsu sauce instead of brown gravy, which gives it an altogether different effect.



Serving the egg as the topmost layer is picture pretty, but most places drench the egg with extra gravy - sometimes so much so that the takeaway container threatens to overflow. It is big food. Generous food. Comfort food.

So here's how you make it:

Loco Moco

Serves 2-4

3-4 cups hot cooked long grain white rice
4 hamburger patties in brown gravy (or Salisbury Steaks with a little soy sauce spiking the gravy)
4 fried eggs

Divide the rice between the dishes (pasta bowls work really well for this). Top the rice with one or two hamburger patties and a big spoonful of gravy. Top the patties with the fried eggs, and ladle extra gravy over it all. Serve with soy sauce and/or hot sauce on the side.

This is also a great way to use up extra Salisbury steaks, if you have some in the fridge, but if you want to make the patties up from scratch, it can still be done up pretty quickly:

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, sliced pole-to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
3 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon) - preferably low sodium
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 125 mL (1/2 cup) cold water to make a slurry)

Put the rice on to cook first. While it cooks:

Mix together the meat and seasonings with a fork or your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been nicely browned, remove them to a plate while you make the gravy. To the emptied pan, add the onions and garlic, and stir them through, scraping up the fond on the bottom of the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce, and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and start to get tender. If the pan is too dry, lower the heat a bit and add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through, being sure to scrape up the flavourful bits on the bottom of the pan. Make a slurry of the flour with the cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet, stirring. Stir it all through until it is thoroughly integrated with the onions and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes of cooking for the flour to cook through and lose its paste-like raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Return the patties to the sauce, lower the heat to it's lowest setting, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary. If it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it to your preferred gravy consistency.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy might be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). It's on point for the dish flavour-wise, and it's a near miraculous gravy-browner.

When the rice is cooked and the patties and gravy are ready, fire up another skillet and fry up some eggs. Sunny side up is traditional, but over easy (or over hard) is fine if that's how you roll.

Layer the ingredients quickly and dive in.

July 22, 2017

Turkish Breakfast, Wrapped


Full disclosure, you're probably not going to get this anywhere in Turkey. If you want an actual Turkish breakfast wrap, I'd suggest gözleme, but that's not what I've made here. This is more of an homage to the wonderful breakfasts of Turkey, but wrapped up in a flatbread. You could vary the flatbread based on what you have at hand: Dürüm would be a good (and very Turkish) choice, but I had Arabic-style thin pita bread, so that's what I used.

There's so many things that I could have used in this. Ajvar could be swapped in for the hummus, for example, and I didn't manage to sneak any peppers in, due to lack of room. Next time, it will probably be different - just because of what I have on hand in the kitchen. And there WILL be a next time, oh yes. Because this was delicious.

Turkish Breakfast, Wrapped

Serves 2

2 large flatbreads, (ideally, warmed enough to be pliable)
2 heaping tablespoons hummus
166 grams sucuk sausage (I like the spicy garlic one), peeled and sliced
1 medium pickled cucumber, julienned
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
30 grams feta
1 large roma tomato, deseeded & chopped
6 cm long english cucumber, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 thick slice of red onion, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch kosher salt
pinch Isot (aka Urfa) chile flakes or Sumac (optional)*
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2-3 tablespoons tahini dressing
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used green zhug)

First things first: I already had the tahini dressing and the hummus leftover from the day before, but if you need to make them, do that first. Next, I made the chopped vegetable salad by combining the tomato, cucumber, parsley, red onion, lemon juice, 1/2 the olive oil, and chile flakes. Stir well. Set aside.

Julienne the pickle.

Peel and slice the sucuk, and fry gently in a skillet until they darken and get a little bit crispy of each side.

Lay the flatbreads on plates, and smear the hummus over half of each flatbread. Lay the fried sucuk on top of the hummus, and top that with the pickles.


In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and add the beaten eggs. Stir briefly, and crumble the feta into the pan. Stir again until soft curds form, and then divide the egg mixture between the flatbreads.

Add a big spoonful of the chopped salad to each bread, and then drizzle the tahini over the egg mixture. Finish with a smear (or a more generous amount) of the hot sauce, and then prepare to eat.

By prepare to eat, I mean, take it to the table, have napkins on hand, and the beverage of your choice standing by. Once you roll this bad boy up and start eating, you're probably not going to want to put it down before you're finished. It will probably be a bit messy.

Once you're ready, roll up the flatbread into a bulky wrap shape, pinching one end closed with one hand while you raise it up to take your first bite. Some juggling may be required, depending on how friable your flatbread is, but it will soon be in your mouth, and you probably just won't care about a bit of escaped juices - which, of course, you can lick off of your fingers.

Enjoy.

* Isot (or Urfa) pepper is a dark, not-too-spicy condiment that often takes the form of oiled pepper flakes. You could substitute ancho powder for this - the flavour is different, but in the same "spicy raisin" family.

** Sumac is an earthy, lemony, mild seasoning.

July 14, 2017

Smoked Duck & Artichoke Lasagna Bianca with King Oyster Mushrooms


This recipe was partly inspired by the fact that I had a can of artichoke bottoms to use up, and partly inspired by the fantastic smoked duck & artichoke étouffée that my husband makes. It's such a great combination, and I figured it would translate well to lasagna. And boy, did it ever! I decided against a tomato base for this lasagna because I thought bechamel would better offset the smokiness of the duck between the layers of pasta.

We served this with Prosecco (highly recommended), and chased it with a bright-tasting, lightly dressed, veggie-packed salad.

Smoked Duck & Artichoke Lasagna Bianca

Serves 6

one 20 x 30cm baking dish

Ragú Layers

1 smoked duck breast (about 300 grams), finely chopped
75 grams pancetta, finely chopped
1 400 gram can artichoke bottoms (220 grams drained weight), chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large King Oyster Mushrooms, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons duck fat
1/2 cup duck broth/fond
2 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch coarse salt
2-3 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
water, as needed

Ricotta layer

250 grams ricotta
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Bechamel layers

3 cups whole milk
60 grams all-purpose or blending flour
65 grams butter
1 bayleaf
pinch white pepper
small pinch nutmeg

Noodles

Enough fresh or no-boil lasagna noodles to cover the bottom of your pan three times.

Extra

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, for finishing

Process is rather important here, so make sure you have a very clean space to work in - it's about to get messy.

Prepare the ragú layers first: Heat the duck fat in a large skillet, and sauté the onion and the pancetta. Add the mushrooms, and continue to sauté while you chop up the duck and the artichokes. Add the thyme, and the pinch of salt, and stir through. Deglaze the pan with a tablespoon or so of vermouth or dry white wine, as needed. Add the duck and artichokes to the pan, and stir well. Add the minced garlic, and stir through again. Sauté until the ingredients start to catch, and the mixture has become dry. Add a bit more vermouth, and stir again. If the mixture is still quite dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, and stir it in. Allow the mixture to simmer very gently on the lowest heat, covered, while you prepare the other elements. Stir occasionally, and if it looks like it's drying out, add a little more water.

Grate the parmesan cheese and chop the parsley, including the amounts that you need for the ricotta layer.

Combine the ingredients for the ricotta layer in a bowl, and set aside.

For the bechamel layer: you can make this using the roux method, but given the long cook-time in the oven, it's not strictly necessary. Combine the cold milk and flour in a saucepan, and add the butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the butter melts and the sauce begins to thicken. Stir carefully, scraping the bottom, to ensure nothing burns. Add the bayleaf, the white pepper, and the nutmeg. Be very discreet about the nutmeg, you just want a whisper. Continue to stir and cook until it is nicely thickened, and then stir in a pinch of salt, and remove from the heat. It is time to start layering.

First, preheat your oven to 350°F/ 180°C, with a rack in the lower-middle position.

Prepare your baking dish: either spritz it with a bit of canola oil, or a thin layer of butter, as you wish. Place a small amount of bechamel in the bottom of the dish, and spread it around thoroughly. This helps keep the first layer of noodles from adhering to the dish.

Add a layer of noodles, and then half of the duck mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated parmesan, and dollop the ricotta mixture (all of it) over the parmesan. Spread the ricotta so that it makes a more-or-less even layer. Drizzle with a third of the remaining bechamel. Add the second layer of noodles, and repeat the duck mixture and parmesan layers. Top those with half the remaining bechamel (you have already used all the ricotta in the layer below), and add the third layer of noodles. Pour the remaining bechamel over the third layer of noodles, and spread it around so that it perfectly covers everything. No noodle bits should be bare, no duck bits should be peeking out of the sides. Cover the Bechamel with the last of the parmesan, and sprinkle with parsley.


Place the dish, uncovered, in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. If the top is not nicely spotted with golden flecks, crank up the broiler and give it another couple of minutes (watch closely!) until the surface is attractively browned, and then remove from the oven and place on a hot pad. Allow the lasagna to stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes once it comes out of the oven, to make for easy, mess-free slicing. Use a serrated knife to cut into six portions (and loosen the lasagna from the edges of the dish, and use a lifting spatula/flipper to ease each piece up and onto a plate.



Once again, Prosecco is the perfect drink with this.





July 08, 2017

Thai-inspired Peanut Chicken Salad Bowl



Every summer, I make some version of this salad. Sometimes it has rice noodles, sometimes it has rice instead of noodles, and sometimes it has dried ramen (not the instant ones) or mie noodles. But you can vary that bit to your heart's content. The important thing to remember, if you're using noodles of any kind, is to quick-chill them in an ice water bath as soon as they're cooked (otherwise they soak up all the sauce, leaving your chicken and veggies high and dry).

Like many great recipe notions, this is infinitely customizable. The varieties of vegetables are completely up to you - what have you got in your kitchen today? I particularly like zucchini bâtonnets in this salad, although I didn't have any zucchini on hand when I made this particular one. And even the chicken - poach some freshly to shred for the salad, or use last night's roast chicken leftovers. Roasted peanuts give a satisfying toasty crunch that is entirely different from the fresh crunch of the cabbage.

So what's in this one bowl?

Thai-inspired Peanut Chicken Salad Bowl

1 nest of non-instant mie or dry ramen noodles, cooked
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
1/3 cup purple cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 red bell pepper, finely sliced
1/2 green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 medium carrot, shredded on a box grater (large holes)
3 tablespoons roasted salted peanuts
cilantro
lime wedge
1/2 recipe Peanut Dressing (see below)

If you are starting with raw chicken breast, place it in a shallow pan half-filled with cold water (or chicken stock), and bring to a simmer. If you have some fresh ginger, you might want to throw a couple of slices into the cooking liquid. As soon as it simmers, turn the chicken over, cover tightly with a lid, and turn off the heat (you can leave it on the same burner, though). Set the timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the chicken from the liquid, and shred using two forks or your fingers (it will be a bit hot). This can be done ahead, if you like, and stored tightly covered in the fridge.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water, and when they are done, drain them and plunge them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. The noodles can stay in the cold water while you prepare the vegetables, but then you want to drain them really well in a colander before assembling the salad. It's okay if they're still damp, but you don't want them dripping liquid.

Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces (I shred the purple cabbage as though making coleslaw).

To assemble the salad, I like to put a small spoonful of dressing in the bottom of the bowl, and then add the drained noodles. Arrange the chopped vegetables and shredded chicken however you please, adding the peanuts last. Drizzle with remaining dressing, and serve - each person can mix up their own bowl as they see fit.

Here's my foundation recipe for the dressing - it too mutates from time to time, but this is my gold standard.

Peanut Dressing for Salads & Salad Rolls

Makes enough for 2 salad bowls or six summer rolls - a bit more than half a cup.

60 mL (1/4 cup) unsalted smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 medium lime, juice only, about a tablespoon
1 tablespoon brown or raw sugar
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha
60 mL (1/4 cup) water

Place all the sauce ingredients in a blender cup and process until smooth (I use my stick blender for this, but a mini-prep or small-cup blender would be fine). Drizzle over composed salad for individual diners to mix as desired, or serve in small bowls for dipping summer rolls.

As you can probably imagine, this salad travels well for work lunches or picnics. It keeps well in the fridge overnight if you're a meal prepper, too - just hold off, ideally, on the dressing until ready to eat.

July 01, 2017

Tahini-Swirl Brownies


It seems like everyone's making tahini-swirl brownies these days, and there's a darn good reason for it - they're simply fantastic. The nutty note of the tahini plays beautifully in a slightly dense (fudgy) darkly chocolate square that delivers flavour beyond all expectations.

Better still, these are cocoa brownies - no melting of chocolate required, but all of the rich chocolate taste you could want in a brownie. You only need one egg. Seriously. No fancy mixer required.

And finally, the pièce de résistance: this is a small batch brownie that you can make in a loaf pan. Seriously. So even if you live alone and are scared to be in the same house as a whole pan of deliciousness, you can make these without fear - there's just enough for a bit of immediate indulgence, and a few treats for upcoming lunches (or desserts). I cut mine fairly small, so for me this makes 8 small brownies, or 4 big ones. Use your best brownie judgment.

It is correct that there is no leavening in these brownies - the small amount of lift is from a brief but vigorous attention with a wooden spoon.

Tahini-Swirl Brownies

Lightly adapted from Dessert for Two

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter (salted, or unsalted)
1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar
1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 mL) cake/pastry flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure tahini (well stirred)

Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F), with the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to hold so that you can lift the brownie-block right out of the pan after baking.

In a small bowl on the stovetop, melt the butter without browning it. Add the sugar and cocoa powder on top of the melted butter, and stir well. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Stir for a couple of minutes to cool the mixture, and then scrape it into a regular mixing bowl.

Crack the egg directly into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, then grab your wooden spoon and stir the heck out of it. Stir until the egg disappears completely into the batter, about 20 strokes. This is also aerating the batter, so don't be afraid to be thorough.

Next, add the flour to the batter, and then beat well again - 40 strokes or so. Again, this is adding air, so be vigorous about it.

Scrape the batter into the parchment-lined pan, and smooth the mixture out evenly. Dollop the tahini in two places o the battter (one on the left side, one on the right) and then use the back of your spoon to gently swirl it through the top layer of the batter.

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it. If your oven is a bit slow, it might need as much as 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then remove the brownies from the pan to cool completely. You can just pull up on the parchment paper to lift and transfer the brownies to a cooling rack.



Slice into however many pieces you like. Or, you know, break out the ice cream and get yourself a spoon.

If you don't have tahini, this works really well with natural peanut butter, too.

June 24, 2017

Hobak Bokkeum: Korean Stir-fried Zucchini (Zucchini Banchan)


Those of you who saw last week's post of Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs are (hopefully) already looking forward to this recipe, which was the highlight banchan (반찬, side dish) of the meal, and quickly earned itself a repeat performance and a permanent spot on The List. It's very quick to prepare and delicious both hot and cold, so even if you don't have time or space to do it right before serving, you can happily make it in advance. I...may have eaten some straight from the refrigerator at some point during the night. Yeah. So.

Hobak Bokkeum (호박 볶음, Korean Stir-fried Zucchini)

Adapted from Herbivoracious

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 small zucchini (about 300 grams), diced small
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon chipotle gochujang (or regular gochujang)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or very finely minced
1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add everything but the black sesame seeds. Stir fry until tender-crisp with lightly browned bits, which only takes a minute or two. Scrape into a small bowl and sprinkle liberally with black sesame seeds (you could, of course, substitute well-toasted white sesame seeds). Serve warm or chilled.

The second time I made this dish it was for our follow-up dinner with the braised short rib meat. Still playing with the Korean-Mexican fusion theme, we had tacos.



Verdict? Delicious!

Freshly made corn tortillas (I can't buy them ready-made in this town), shredded short rib meat (mixed with the thinly sliced braised mushrooms), zucchini banchan, sliced fresh jalapeños, and freshly made Yucatecan-style quick pickled red onions. And, of course, a little extra chipotle gochujang to top each taco.



For an all-veggie version of these tacos, you could swap out the braised short rib for braised tofu, or maybe all shiitake (braised without meat stock, of course) and/or Mexican (or Cuban) thick seasoned black beans.

June 17, 2017

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs (and Bibimbap)



My first experience of Korean-Mexican fusion was a Korean Taco Truck in Vancouver a few years back. Almost immediately, curiosity overwhelmed confusion and I decided that this was something I really needed to try. So, I bellied up to the window and got myself an order of mixed tacos - Galbi (short rib) and Bulgogi (shredded beef). On the plate, it's easy to see why these two amazing cuisines can come together so deliciously, despite the huge geographical distance and cultural differences.

Since that first unexpected demonstration of fusion that really works, the combination of Korean and Mexican has shown up again and again, and it seems to get tastier each time. And then I received a package from some friends in Australia, which included a bottle of Chipotle Gochujang sauce from their local restaurant, Hispanic Mechanic.

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in Korean cuisine; a spicy, fermented chilli paste that is used either on its own and as a base for other sauces. The spiciness of this condiment predates New World peppers, with the heat in those earlier versions being likely provided by sancho (Zanthoxylum piperitum) and black pepper, although chillies have been used since at least the early 1600s. This particular fusion iteration relied on chipotle, a smoked, dried jalapeño pepper, and is more the texture of a thick Mexican-style hot sauce.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, the first date the sauce had in our house was with some pork neck steaks in a presentation that skewed neither east nor west (but was delicious), but after gawking at the Hispanic Mechanic menu, I was determined to hunt down some beef spare ribs. I wasn't able to find the thin, flanken cut that would be closer to what is used in a traditional Korean Galbi recipe, so I opted for braising rather than grilling - Galbijjim (갈비찜, Galbi Jjim, or Kalbi Jjim), more or less, rather than grilled Galbi. I'm looking forward to trying this sauce with pulled chicken, too.

Korean-Mexican Braised Short Ribs

1 kg Short ribs, browned in 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
5 fresh large shiitake, sliced in half (stems removed)
1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 Tablespoons chipotle gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
3 scallions
4 cloves garlic
2 cups beef or veal broth
1 inch ginger, chopped
3 red chiles, deseeded

Braise 3 hours in an oven preheated to 170°C (340°F), remove the meat from bone, shred, mix with some braising liquid. There may be some fatty bits, and you don't want to wholly discard those. Chop up some of it and mix it in with the meat and braising liquid. If you have a lot of fat, you won't want to use it all or it will be too rich. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and set aside as a separate item.

And what did we do with this marvellous, meltingly tender and unctuous short rib meat? We made Bibimbap, of course.



Bibimbap (비빔밥) is Korean for "mixed rice" and is generally made by adding various toppings to a base of one of a number of different rice varieties. It is often served in a (very hot) heated stone bowl, but not always. There is a tremendous variation from one bibimbap to the next, as it is infinitely customizable depending on what toppings are available and/or selected, from all vegetarian, to a mixture of meat and vegetables, to raw egg (or egg yolk) added at the last minute (usually in the hot stone bowl versions). There is a wonderful array of different flavours and textures to enjoy.

For our Bibimbap, I went with plain, white, medium-grain rice, the shredded short rib meat and braised shiitake mushrooms, ginger-soy braised cabbage, sesame carrot, and an absolutely fantastic zucchini bokkeum (볶음, stir fry) that is good hot or cold and makes a terrific banchan (반찬, side dish). It will get its own post very soon (I note that banchan are normally served in the middle of the table, for diners to help themselves, but I couldn't resist putting it right in the bowl for the picture). Final garnish was shredded green onion, although if I'd had them at the time, I would have added Mexican pickled red onion. In fact, we made tacos from the remaining short rib meat a couple of days later, for which I whipped up a batch of the pickled onions expressly.

While there are an assortment of different sauces used as the finishing touch on a bowl of bibimbap (including, for example ssamjang, sesame sauce, citrus-soy, and a variety of spicy options, often based on gochujang) we went with more of the chipotle gochujang, which amplified the flavours used in the braising liquid.