Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pork Soup Dumpling (Xiao Long Bau)

A soup dumpling is an item that is often found in a Chinese restaurant. It is usually filled with pork and soup broth. The first time I ever tried it, I was simply amazed. I wondered how in the world they slipped the delicious broth inside that silky wrapper and sealed it up. I remember finding it on the appetizer menu at Mr. Chens, a place back home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Another food blogger in town who also loved dumplings had featured a picture of them on social media, and I was amazed I had never heard of them before.
So I researched it, and learned about aspic, the key to making the soup dumpling. It's made by preparing a bone broth, the latest terminology used in the mainstream which has always been known as stock or broth in the professional culinary world. Paleo lifestyle proponents have been really advocating the benefits of bone broth lately. When bones with plenty of cartilage are simmered in water for hours, then cooled, then refrigerated, the result is the aspic, which can then be placed inside the dumpling wrapper. Once the dumpling is steamed, the aspic is heated, melted, and you get the broth in your soup dumpling.

The remaining aspic or broth can be used for the basis of future soups or sauces. Latest trends around the country have people ordering a hot cup of bone broth to sip on and enjoy the nutrients. For more information about that, I like this article.
I've been reading a lot of cookbooks and blogs about making dumplings lately. Of all the wrappers I've tried, I've found the round Gyoza wrappers to be my favorite. Wax paper is okay, but sometimes the dumplings would stick to them, releasing some of the broth from inside. I'm going back to using banana leaves that I can find at the Asian market in the freezer section.
Be careful when you bite into a soup dumpling. The broth inside can be really hot!!
If you take a small bite, release some of the broth onto a soup spoon, then you can let it cool a little before you slurp it up. The soup dumpling recipe that I liked best came from The Woks of Life. But of course I improvised to make my own version. Instead of making my own wrappers, I used the Gyoza wrapper that you can find in the freezer section in Asian markets or at regular grocery stores near the tofu section. I also doubled the aspic ingredients to store the broth for future use.

Going through this cooking process, along with all the research, has really inspired me to start making my own broth and stock! When I have the time, I will roast the bones at 450 degrees for 20 minutes to enhance future stocks.

Aspic Ingredients:
  •  1 pound of pork skin, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 pounds of pork neck bones (you want neck bones that still have meat on them!)
  • water
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 2 scallions, cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
Directions:

In a medium pot, add the pork skin and pork bones and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, and immediately drain and rinse off the bones and the skin. This gets rid of any impurities. Rinse out the pot and put everything back in. Add enough water to cover by an inch, ginger, scallion and wine. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Next, strain the liquid. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. To make the dumplings, scoop out a heaping cup of the aspic, cut into smaller sections, then mix into your filling mixture.

Filling:
  • 1 lb ground pork (70% lean 30% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • A pinch of ground white-pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 heaping cup of your aspic, diced into ½-inch pieces
Steaming:

Mix the filling ingredients, use about a teaspoon full per wrapper, then steam over medium high or high heat for 8 minutes.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chicken Chimichurri Tacos

My sweet husband recently posted a pic of these tacos I made him on Facebook to brag on his awesome wife that cooks for him every single night.....

It's not easy. Is there even a way to get out of it? Cooking EVERY SINGLE NIGHT??? I mean, I have this food blog, and I love to cook, but.....sometimes it's a little exhausting. BUT....and he says "There's ALWAYS a but....." I do get flowers every single Valentines, birthday, anniversary, Mothers Day, and great gifts for Christmas. He's a great husband. I don't mind that he quit his job in Portland to take the one back in Alaska. I may take a break from cooking every single night.

This is actually one of the quick weeknight dishes I threw together pretty quickly though.

Chimichurri:
  • 1 Half cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 Cloves of chopped garlic
  • Chopped cilantro, about a cup
  • 1 Fresno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced or chopped
Directions:
  1. Blend or mix chimichurri ingredients by hand, whisking well.
  2. Cook 3 leg quarters at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. When cool, shred meat.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Cook a sliced bell pepper and a sliced onion until wilted to the consistency you like.
  4. Heat a tortilla about 10 seconds in the microwave or over a gas stove burner.
  5. Prepare 4 - 5 of these by filling the tortillas with meat, vegetables, and chimichurri. Place them on a plate for your loved one and present with a beer. Tell him to enjoy the game. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Not My Mama's Pho

I recently started buying some specialty broth from our Safeway here in Oregon. I was using it to make some soups and stir fries....my daughter would come home from school and ask why it smelled like pho in the kitchen. 
I rarely ever make pho, but Gianna knows the aromatic essence well from years of eating at my mom's place. But the more I thought about the roasted onion infused in the broth.... it reminded of my brother standing at his stove searing onion and ginger over the fire. 
Then I decided it was time to make some. I knew as long as I had some fresh herbs such as cilantro, green onions, some lime, and some hoisin and red chili garlic sauce, it would be good enough for me.
I've been to some pho restaurants that serve noodles skinnier than seen above. Noooooooo bueno........
We normally used inexpensive oxtail to make pho when I was growing up in Arkansas. But here on the West coast in the Asian mecca of the United States, oxtail is pretty expensive!! There are at least 10 restaurants close by with the name Pho in it, and they're scooping plenty of oxtail or brisket into their bowls. So I found some cross cut beef shanks at the store, and I remembered that Charles Phan used them in his beef stock recipe. 

The other hassle of making pho is slicing paper thin cuts of eye of round. So I just made my usual flat iron steak and cut it against the grain. I think it turned out pretty good. Try my shortcut cheater pho! It's just about as good as what most of the places around here are serving up.

Ingredients:
  • About 1 lb. of beef shanks
  • 4 cups of garlic & roasted onion infused beef broth
  • 1 flat iron steak, marinated with fish sauce, tamari, turbinado sugar, and garlic
  • Wide pho noodles  

Garnishes:
  • Cilantro 
  • Green onions
  • Lime
  • Thai Basil
Condiments:
  • Chili Garlic Sauce
  • Hoisin
  • Fish Sauce
Directions:
  1. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Heat a small Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add a thin layer of oil, and brown the shanks on each side.
  2. Add the broth, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower heat, cover, and simmer about an hour.
  4. Cook the pho noodles per package instructions, then drain and rinse to prevent sticking.
  5. Broil the flat iron steak about 8 minutes per side. Let rest, then slice against the grain.
  6. Shred the shank meat. Add the noodles into a bowl, add some broth, and the two meats.
  7. Top with garnishes and condiments.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Beef Meatball Stromboli

I know, that picture is HUGE!! That's what I'm looking forward to in 2015. A HUGE year for me and my family. Today is the last day of 2014, and I've been reflecting quite a bit about this year's accomplishments. Moving to the Portland, Oregon area has yielded some of the greatest experiences of my life already in the three months that we've been here. 

I grew up attending games at Texas Stadium, cheering on the Cowboys. My kids will be watching the Trailblazers at the Moda. I spent summer weekends at Lake Greeson, Ouachita, and Hamilton. My kids will spend their summers on the Oregon coast. It's great to have so much to do with such little travel time!

Snow weather in Arkansas involved makeshift sleds sliding down the neighbors' hill when schools were closed. But snow weather in Oregon means a quick trip to Mount Hood's Ski Bowl to rent sleds, zip line, and bungee jump! It's been such an exciting time of exploration for us, and the food scene is pretty outstanding all around us!

Papa Murphy's is a big chain in the area. Sometimes I get exhausted from all the cooking and cleaning, and dirty dishes, I have to take a chain break! For three dollars, a readily made uncooked pizza crust is available on a pan, and they are just down the street from my new home. I love the convenience.
I cut off a little of the pizza dough to make my daughter her own mini stromboli without onions. Then I shaped mine into a long rectangular shape on parchment paper.
After I finished topping the dough with my fillings, I brushed the edges with egg wash, then folded the edges over. The parchment paper really helped with that activity!
Once I got the stromboli folded and sealed, I rolled it over to place the seam side down. I made the egg wash with an egg and a tablespoon of water, then brushed the top generously with it. Then I cut some slits in the top, and I sprinkled it with some parmesan.
Baked ten minutes in the oven at 500 degrees, and it's done! Gianna's mini stromboli turned out pretty tasty too! Happy New Year everybody!! Here's to a big year for everyone in 2015!

Ingredients:
  • Large pizza crust
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • 1 Pound of ground beef
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • One half large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Green onions, sliced thinly
  • Granulated garlic
  • Black pepper
Directions:
  1. Make the meatballs by combining the beef, one of the eggs, garlic, and pepper. Roll them up and cook in the oven fifteen minutes at 400 degrees. When done, let cool, then cut each in half.
  2. Saute the white and green onions in a tablespoon of butter until soft.
  3. Spread the crust into a rectangular shape. (I cut off a little of the side to make the mini.)
  4. Spread some spaghetti sauce on top, leaving room around the edges.
  5. Top with meatballs, onions, and cheese.
  6. Brush the edges with the egg wash made with one egg and 1 tbsp of water, whisked.
  7. Fold it up beginning with the edges, then flip over to place the seam side down.
  8. Brush top with egg wash, cut slits as shown above, and sprinkle with some parmesan.
  9. Bake 10 minutes at 500 degrees.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pesto Mac and Veal

One of our weeknight go - to meals is pasta with pesto and protein. We've been experimenting with different nuts such as walnuts and almonds in our pesto recipes. We've found that almonds give the pesto a really nice texture that we enjoy. Our pesto always has really good cheese such as asiago and a lot of garlic. You can find our spinach walnut pesto recipe here, and you can substitute kale or basil or whatever. Make enough to store in the refrigerator for a few meals. Then enjoy it with any kind of pasta and protein for an easy weeknight meal!

Ingredients:
  • Pasta, enough for 4
  • 1 pound of ground veal 
  • Pesto
  • Shredded asiago cheese
Directions:
  1. Prepare pasta per package instructions.
  2. Brown the ground veal in a large pan until done.
  3. In a bowl, combine the pasta with ground veal and pesto.
  4. Garnish with shredded cheese.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Braised Duck Legs

I recently discovered duck legs at a store that I frequent in Portland. The leg and thigh are attached, and they're sold two per package at a really reasonable price. Back when I had a high paying job in the pharmaceutical industry, I would buy a four - pack of Maple Leaf Farms duck breasts without blinking an eye, paying a pretty hefty price tag. Let's just say that hasn't happened in the last few months since I've been not working! Especially after moving from Arkansas to Oregon!! But....in January when I start working again....I plan to satisfy my duck cravings, legs AND breast!

I found this great cooking method for duck legs from Mark Bittman in The New York Times. The marinade is something that I think complements succulent duck meat really well. The recipe is for 2 - 4 duck legs.

Duck Marinade:
  • 3 tbsp tamari, liquid aminos, or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp turbinado sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice cooking wine
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
Directions:
  1. Marinate your duck in a large sealable bag for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Remove duck legs from bag, then pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Place legs skin side down in a large pan, then turn heat up to medium or medium high to brown and render the fat. Then turn and brown the other side a minute or two.
  5. Remove duck legs, add some veggies that you like to the pan, then add 2 cups of stock. I used garlic infused stock that I've come to love from Safeway.
  6. Bring up to a boil, add the duck legs back with the skin side up.
  7. Place pan in the oven for 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350 degrees, then it should be finished in another 30 minutes. 
I can't wait to make this again!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Portuguese Soup

My mother in law is of Portuguese descent, a Govia. She often made what she called Portuguese soup, and we loved it. Hers was pretty much made with smoked sausage and cabbage and ketchup.

I looked up some other Portuguese soup recipes online and saw several that included squid. This was exciting to me because calamari is one of my favorite things to eat. Many of the recipes I found used kale or collard greens. I wanted to stick with my mother in law's cabbage for my husband's nostalgic sake. I knew that adding the squid to mom in law's was a little risky, however popular it was in the other online recipes. But of course I loved it!

Nothing authentic about my recipe.....I like to mix everything up. If you want traditional, Google on....

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound of Linguica or smoked sausage sliced in rounds
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart of garlic - infused chicken broth
  • 1 can of clams with juice
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, shredded.
  • 1/2 cup of diced green onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound of calamari
  • 1/4 cup of tomato paste, or more, to taste
Directions:
  1. Brown the sausage in olive oil over medium heat. Add green onions and bay leaves.
  2. Add broth. Bring up to a boil.
  3. Add clams with juice, then shredded cabbage.
  4. Add tomato paste and calamari. Reduce heat to low.  Simmer until ready.
  5. Add more water and salt, to taste, if desired.