Friday, February 19, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding

Bread pudding might be one of the most rewarding desserts.  It is beautiful looking, delicious and quite easy to make.  Bread pudding can be made in numerous flavors.  The essential thing is to pick a flavor that will soak nicely into toasted challah or brioche and will bake into a pudding like dessert.  My bread puddings have become almost famous among family and friends who I have served them for.  I frequently get requests to make the following bread pudding from family and friends who come for dinner, and it certainly has become a favorite of my husband's as well.  I love the way the coconut-cream mixture soaks into the bread, and the chocolate ganache topping is perfect, but not overpowering.

Sasha's Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding (use an 8-9 inch casserole dish to bake)
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 large challah rolls
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can lite coconut milk
4 T melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
grated coconut (no sugar added)

-- Derived from Bobby Flay's similar Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding Recipe

First, tear five large challah or brioche rolls into small pieces.  The rolls should not be fresh - a couple days old is perfect for this recipe.  Belt the butter, top the bread and toast at 350 F degrees in the oven until browned and crispy.

To prepare the pudding component, combine 2/3 of a cup of the heavy cream with the sugar and simmer for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about five minutes, and beat in the egg yolks and coconut extract.  Then, soak the bread in this mixture fully, for about 4-5 minutes.

Place the soaked bread in a casserole dish sprayed with PAM.  In the meantime, melt the chocolate on your stovetop in the remaining 2/3 cup of coconut milk until smooth and combined.  Pour on top of the bread pudding and smooth with a spatula.  Top liberally with the grated coconut.  Bake at 325 F until the pudding has a pudding-like consistency and can be sliced, for about 25 to 30 minutes.  You can use a toothpick or fork to test when it is done.

This is one of my favorite desserts and  I am so glad to share it with our readers!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Margie’s Kitchen in Boston: Rum – Part I

Photo by Lena
After doing research for my last blog, walking and eating on the Freedom Trail, I became very interested in food and the Colonial Period. I found out some interesting facts about Rum:
“But of all of the drinks that warmed the eighteenth-century American interior, rum was the most important. It is estimated that just before the War of Independence the colonists were downing twenty four pints of it per head per year, women, and children included.” (Food in History by Reay Tannahill, page 254) In fact some historians, according to Tannahill, believe the Revolutionary War may have actually been triggered by the tax on molasses (1733) more than the tax on tea (1773). Rum is made from the “syrupy liquid left after the juice of the sugar cane" that is "boiled, once, twice or three times to produce sugar crystals” (256).
In honor of the drink that played a part in American history, I am propose you make yourself a cup of Grog:
1 cup hot tea
1 jigger dark rum
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 twist of lemon peel.

To a mug (or heat resistant glass), add tea, rum, honey, and lemon juice. Stir. Garnish with lemon twist.
Source: Famous New England Recipes (Colourpicture Publishers, Boston), page 32.

Check out other beverages on this blog!  Click here for Sasha's Limoncello; Click here for Sasha's AmarettoClick Here for my Irish Coffee and Click Here for Sasha's Brooklyn Egg Cream


Sasha's Kitchen: Scallops With Papaya, Blood Orange Vinaigrette and Caramelized Shallots

Pan seared scallops are one of my favorite subjects for an appetizer.  I love the flavor of any pan seared scallop, whether it is prepared in butter, or in a healthier olive oil / canola oil.  In my opinion, scallops present nicely as an appetizer.  A couple days ago, I wrote about another scallop appetizer that I developed for pan seared scallops with organic mushrooms in a lemongrass-thyme coconut broth with pomegranate.  That recipe would also make an excellent scallop entree if it were scaled up a bit.

Last night, I created an easy citrus, sweet scallop appetizer that was just as satisfying to the palette using papaya and blood orange juice to accompany the scallops.  This recipe was very simple to prepare, and makes lovely eye candy as an appetizer for upcoming dinner parties.  The melange of flavors was perfect - it has a lovely sweetness to it, but not an overpowering or cloying sweetness.  I was really happy with the outcome.  Papaya and blood oranges are two of my favorite fruits, and I think both combined nicely with the pan seared scallop.  I even used blood orange olive oil, from Round Pond Estate in Napa Valley, to pan sear the scallops.  Feel free to double or triple the recipe, as this is perfect for parties and other gatherings.

Sasha's Pan Seared Scallops With Papaya, Caramelized Shallots and Blood Orange Vinaigrette
4-6 scallops
1 1/2 cups of blood orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil (plain)
several tablespoons of Round Pond's Blood Orange Olive Oil
pepper to taste
1/2 cup diced papaya
2 diced shallots
A couple teaspoons of pomegranate seeds

First, I prepared the blood orange vinaigrette by reducing the orange juice.  Add the blood orange juice to the stove and boil for about 25 minutes until reduced to about 1/2 a cup.  Mix the blood orange juice with about 1/3 a cup of canola oil or olive oil an season with pepper.  Put in a salad shaker and shake the dressing well.

To prepare the shallots, caramelize by sautéing two diced shallots in 1 tablespoon of Round Pond's Blood Orange Olive Oil and one teaspoon of sugar.  Dice the papaya and set aside.

Pan sear the scallops in about one to two tablespoons of Round Pond's Blood Orange Olive Oil.  Season the scallops on both sides with pepper first, and cook on medium heat until lightly browned.  Serve with the diced papaya, caramelized shallots and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle a tablespoon of the blood orange vinaigrette on top of each serving.

Other Scallop Recipes On A Kitchen In Brooklyn:

My Scallops With Organic Mushrooms, Lemongrass-Thyme Coconut Broth and Pomegranate
Eric's Fettuccine With Scallops and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Stay tuned to a A Kitchen In Brooklyn for exciting upcoming giveaways in March!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Pizza With Yellow Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Asparagus, Zucchini and Red Onions

I finally purchased a pizza stone with the intent of improving the crust quality on my pizzas.  My initial plan was to follow Alton Brown of Good Eats' advice and purchase quarry tile from my local hardware store to make my own pizza stone.  This is an economical option (probably less than $10), and would have been a fabulous idea if either of my local hardware stores carried tile in the first place; they did not.  Thus, rather than carry a heavy slab of quarry from a more distant hardware store, I simply elected to purchase a $17 pizza stone from Tarzian West, my local cooking supply store.

A pizza stone is, as Brown's advice highlights, a flat piece of stone that is used for baking pizza that facilitates the even distribution of heat throughout the entire pizza crust during the baking process.   It mimics the effects of cooking pizza the traditional way, in a masonry oven.  Quarry or stone has increased thermal mass compared with metal or glass, while the porous nature of the stone helps absorb moisture, resulting in a crisper crust.

I have experimented with a couple different crust recipes, including whole wheat pizza crusts.  The recipe below is a basic crust recipe that I like.  However, this doesn't meant that I won't experiment with some different crust variations in future pizza posts.  This recipe makes two medium sized pizzas, baked separately on the pizza stone.  In my experience this is enough pizza to serve four adults, or in our case, allows for leftovers.

Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
2 packages dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Sasha's Pizza With Yellow Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Asparagus, Zucchini and Caramelized Red Onions
1 1/2 pints of yellow cherry tomatoes
2/3 of a zucchini, sliced into pieces and cut in half
3 asparagus, cut into pieces
2 small red onions
2 tsp sugar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 containers of crumpled goat cheese

Pizza during the prep stage

To prepare the dough, combine the warm water, dry active yeast and sugar in a bowl.  Allow to sit for about ten minutes until the yeast mixture is bubbly and frothy.  This indicates that the yeast has activated.  Combine in bowl, or in your stand mixer (I used my mixer for this) with the olive oil, flour and salt, until it forms a dough.  Place in an oiled bowl (sprayed with PAM, for example) and cover with a damp cloth.  Allow to rise for about 2 hours.

Form into two medium sized pizza crusts (similar size to your pizza stone).  The dough should have risen and increased in size, and should be stretchy to the touch.  Stretch and contort it to form pizza crusts in the desired shape and thickness.  In the meantime,  place the stone (without any pizza on it) in your oven at 400 degrees to hear the stone to an even temperature.  Make sure to sprinkle the stone with cornmeal first.

In my opinion, the trickiest part of making pizza using a stone is getting the pizza from your cutting board or counter top, while you prepare it, onto the hot stone in the oven.  It definitely takes some skill (I'm working on it), but I managed to transition the pizzas alright.  This process is much easier if you have a pizza peel board, but it can be completed without one, as I did not use one.

To prepare my pizza recipe, cut the yellow tomatoes in half and mix with two tablespoons of olive oil.  Cover the pizzas with the tomatoes.  Add the asparagus and zucchini.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.  To prepare the caramelized onions, cut the red onions into circles and saute for a few minutes in two teaspoons of sugar and a bit of canola oil, until softened (no need to fully brown).  Place the onions on top of the pizza.

Carefully transfer the pizza from the cutting board where you prepared it onto your stone, as best you can.  Even if you lose a few ingredients, you can fix the pizza arrangement once you have it from the counter to the stone.  You also could quickly add the ingredients to the top of the transferred pizza pie once you have the dough on the stone, if that makes things easier.  Bake on the stone at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the pizza is lightly browned.

I was very pleased with the crispy quality of the crust on the pizza, and I liked the selection of ingredients that I chose for this pizza - they complemented each other nicely.  The yellow tomatoes are less acidic than red tomatoes, which is easier on the stomach.  They also have a lovely color combination, of green, yellow and purple.

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Fettuccine with Scallops and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Here's another seafood recipe from Eric's kitchen. It's actually from a cookbook I took from my Mom a long time ago called Mystic Seaport's Seafood Secrets Cookbook. It's the first version from 1970. Why mess with a good thing? I was recently flipping through it this past weekend trying to compile a list of recipes I wanted to make when I saw this dish and thought, sounds unhealthy and decadent, and it features a few of Jenn's favorite ingredients, scallops, mushrooms and cream sauce. I should try it! Oddly Sasha had been following a similar line of thinking across the rivers in Brooklyn when she made her Scallops with mushrooms in a spicy lemongrass thyme coconut broth.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 lb. fettuccine
1 lb. Scallops
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
6 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cp. white wine
8 tbsp. water
2 cps. evaporated milk
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbsp white pepper
6 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp. cornstarch

Since I look at almost any recipe as a suggestion more than a rule,
I added, 1 tbsp (give or take) white truffle oil
1 tsp. chef Prudhomme's blackened redfish magic
1/2 package organic baby spinach
1/2 red pepper, diced

The recipe said you could use half spinach fettuccine and half regular and use frozen Spinach. I however, never see any point in using frozen veggies when you have access to fresh ones.

First, you saute your mushrooms and peppers in olive oil and a small amount of truffle oil. Once the mushrooms and peppers are tender, add the spinach, and stir until wilted, but not too long so that it doesn't get mushy. Remove these from the pan and set aside. Rinse the Scallops and pat them dry with paper towels to ensure they brown properly. Using the oil left in the pan, sear the Scallops on medium to medium high heat. The pan may have some burned spots but this is good. Measure out your white wine and pour a little in at a time as the pan starts to look too dry and continue until they are done cooking. This de-glazes all the rendered fat from the seafood and oil and also helps the scallops brown and creates a nice sauce to cook them in. Anytime you want to brown something in a pan, also leave some room between them pieces and don't touch them for a bit. Fussing too much with them can keep them from properly browning. Once the Scallops are seared on both sides, remove them and place them with the veggies and cover them to keep them hot. I've heard many people complain about not being able to properly sear scallops in a non-stick pan, but I think it did just fine tonight.

Next is the sauce! This is mostly the cookbook's recipe as I probably wouldn't normally use evaporated milk or cornstarch but I'd never really tried this before and didn't want to re-invent the wheel. So you heat 4 tbsp of olive oil, and 6 tbsp of water in a saucepan with the garlic and white pepper. Slowly pour in the evaporated milk almost until the mixture boils. Drain and remove the scallops and veggies and pour in the liquid to your sauce. Stir in the cheese until melted. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tbsp of water and add to the sauce, stirring until it thickens. At this point I tasted the sauce and was a little unimpressed with how bland it was. Jenn and I are a big fan of how one of the local bars, Iron Monkey, serves popcorn with truffle oil and cajun spices which gave me the idea to add some truffle oil and cajun spices! This did the trick. It was a little spicy and more flavorful. I stirred all the ingredients together in a dish with the fettuccine and served it with some white wine and some more Parmesan cheese. It was very decadent and delicious! I wish I had plated it with everything mixed in except the scallops and then placed them on top to show off their nice sear but it certainly didn't detract from the taste.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Nobu's Spicy Shrimp Tempura

I am about to introduce the most unhealthy thing I have made since starting this blog.  All those sticks of butter in my cupcake frosting don't hold a candle to this one.  I really usually try to cook on the healthy side, so deep fried food is a rarity in my kitchen.  However, I couldn't resist trying out Nobu's recipe for spicy shrimp tempura, and I was not disappointed.  Like most things that are incredibly unhealthy, the deep fried shrimp, coated in a spicy mayonnaise, dipped in ponzu sauce, was mouth wateringly delicious.  In fact, I, the normally somewhat health conscious (or at least fat conscious) chef who cooks using only organic vegetables, am almost ashamed to be writing this one up.  I probably wouldn't share this recipe at all, because of the guilt factor, if it wasn't so good . . .

Nobu, the flagship restaurant of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in New York for its non-sushi dishes.  The black cod with miso is another favorite of mine (much healthier, too I might add).  The recipe below is from Nobu's cookbook, Nobu Now.   When preparing this dish, I made a couple of slight modifications from Nobu's recipe, while I scaled back the recipe so I would not have extra.    The dish was amazing, but given the cardio-scare from this dish, it is probably not something I will make again.  Then again, it's nice to treat yourself every now and then.  In addition, it is worth adding that I discovered that another blogger has done a very similar adaption from the original Nobu recipe.

Tempura Batter (adapted from Nobu Now recipe)
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup ice water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp lemon juice

Spicy Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tsp sambal
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

3/4 lb shrimp
ponzu sauce
lemon juice

To prepare this recipe, I first made the batter and set aside.  To make the spicy mayonnaise, I bet all the ingredients except the canola oil in a bowl, and then I emulsified by adding the canola oil slowly and beating with a whisk the entire time.  I added both sambal and red pepper flakes to get the desired heat.  You could certainly make it spicier if you like.

One of the things I dislike most about seafood is shelling and deveining shrimp.  However, the deveining process (which I detest) is absolutely necessary.  For that reason, I purchased fresh shrimp that were already shelled and deveined at my local fish market in Park Slope.  To prepare the shrimp, I dipped or dredged each shrimp in the batter and then deep fried it in our electric hot pot, with the heat setting for the oil at about 355 F.  My husband, Brad, actually did the deep frying - he used about 3 inches of canola oil for the small to medium sized shrimp that I had purchased.  Each one took about three minutes.

When the shrimp were done, I coated them in the spicy mayonnaise and served with chives, lemon juice and ponzu sauce.  My husband actually preferred simply dipping the shrimp in the mayonnaise because it stayed a little crispier that way.

This was delicious, but like I said, I prefer to eat to healthy to make this one again!  This was only our second venture at deep frying.  The first was out New Orleans Beignets (doughnuts).

This was a fun Japanese recipe.  I really enjoy all of the ethnic fusion cooking I have been experimenting with in many of my recipes lately.  I am really itching to do some international travel and taste testing on foot.  It's been almost a year since my last trip to Europe and I am feeling some wanderlust right now.  There's such a long list of places in the world I want to see and eat my way through, yet never enough time and money to do it all.

Shrimp on FoodistaShrimp

Christina's Kitchen in Budapest: Jokai Bableves

One of my favorite places to visit in Hungary is the town of Eger, which has a lovely basilica, a big ruined castle and terrific wines, which you can sample by the glass by going cellar-to-cellar in the part of town known as the Valley of the Beautiful Women (Szépasszonyvöl in Hungarian). Eger also has some terrific restaurants, including a pancake (palacsinta) restaurant called simply Palacsintavar and the charming, friendly HBH Bavarian Beer House. On my most recent visit, HBH had taken goulash off the menu and replaced it with a soup just as addictive: jokai bableves. (I should note that true Hungarian goulash is not the beef-stew type dish we're used to in the States; it's more of a beef and vegetable soup.)
Jokai bablevesh (pronounced "YO-ky BOB-le-vesh), or Bean Soup a la Jokai, was named after the 19th century novelist and politician Mor Jokai. I'm still not sure why, exactly, but I'm sure if he ate the version at HBH, he'd love it. It has beans, root veggies, ham and sausage in a spicy, onion-flour-vinegar broth, and I've recently tried to make it at home.
I've been using a cookbook called Culinaria Hungary that was a going-away gift from my co-workers when I left for Budapest. It's a wonderful primer on Hungarian cooking, and while some of its recipes, like for chicken paprikas, are spot-on, the one for this soup was confusing, so I found an adaptation of it online that I, in turn, fiddled with to get that HBH flavor.
The soup gets its thickening by adding a roux of butter, flour and onion towards the end, which reminds me of Cajun cooking. If you're concerned about adding even more fat to the ham-and-sausage-and-stock dish, you can use margarine instead.
I used ham that I bought at the market, which wound up being super-salty (and with lots of fat, and on the bone, to boot!). I should have soaked the ham for at least a few hours to reduce the salinity; as it was, I didn't need to add any salt to the recipe.
Another salty ingredient was the sausage I used. It's a smoky, spicy, dried link sausage from the wine town of Szekszárd. Next time I will try using Csabai kolbász, which is from the town of Békéscsaba. Whatever the sausage, this recipe's an easy way to get my Jokai bableves fix between visits to Eger.

Jokai Bableves
(serves 4)
1 15-ounce can of kidney beans
8 to 10 ounced of cooked ham, cubed
2 bay leaves
1 large carrot, chopped
1 medium parsley root, chopped
1 medium celeriac, chopped
6 to 8 ounces sausage, chopped
4 teaspoons butter
4 tablespoons Flour
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 to 3 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water

1. Put beans, ham, bay leaves, carrots, parsley root, sausage and celeriac in a pot with the stock and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. In a separate pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and onion and stir to mix the roux. Saute until the flour turns golden brown. Add garlic and paprika, and saute for 1 minute.
3. Add this to the stock pot along with vinegar. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
4. Stir in sour cream and parsley. Serve with crusty bread, and maybe some hot paprika on the side.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Purim Hamantaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim begins in about a week, on February 28th.  I made hamantaschen (which can also be spelled hamentaschen), the traditional Purim cookie over the weekend.  Purim is one of the most festive and joyous Jewish holidays, celebrating an occasion when Jews living in Persia were saved from certain death by Haman, the Purim villain who wanted to destroy the Jewish community.  The holiday is traditionally celebrated by the reading of the Megillah, dressing in elaborate, carnival-like costumes, drinking and eating hamantaschen.  Basically, Purim is the Jewish Mardi Gras.  I usually enjoy this holiday simply by eating hamantaschen, but this year decided to make my own.

Hamantaschen are tri-corned cookies that are usually filled with a flavorful fruit jelly or jam.  The name "hamantaschen" is a reference to the villian of the Purim story, Haman, while the cookies are triangular shaped to look like his hat.  The shape is achieved by folding a piece of dough into a triangular shape by placing a filling in the center.  You can fill hamentaschen with almost any flavor of filling.  The most traditional are poppyseed, prune and apricot.  My favorite fillings are apricot, raspberry, peach and blueberry.  This year I made the latter two.  I loved eating hamentaschen growing up, and some things never change.  This recipe is a family recipe, that has been passed along amongst my in-laws for generations.

Hamantaschen Dough
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Hamantaschen Filling (or substitute store-bought filling of your choice)
1/2 cup pureed fruit (blueberries, papaya, apricot, peaches and raspberries are my favorites)
1/4 cup sugar

To prepare the dough, beat the butter and sugar in the basin of a stand mixer, then add the egg and the vanilla.  Finally, beat in the dry ingredients.  Refrigerate the dough for at least ten hours, or overnight, so the dough is firm and not as sticky.

Roll out the dough, and cut into cookies using either a circular shaped cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. For the filling, you can use either pureed store-bought pie filling, or you can puree half a cup of fruit with a quarter cup of sugar and heat, stirring, over medium heat, until the filling has a jam-like consistency.

To prepare the hamantaschen, place a teaspoon of filling into each circle and fold each of the three sides inward to form a triangle.

Bake the cookies at 400 F for about 6-8 minutes.  Once they start browning, the bottoms will be burnt, so be sure not to let them back for too long.  Delicious!  The recipe made about 30 hamantaschen, all of which disappeared very quickly!

I'm excited to report that I now have an inexpensive (but suitable) pizza stone and will be experimenting with some different pizzas over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned.


Molly D's Kitchen in Seattle: Pork Hash

When I was a kid, after school we used to take our pocket change to the manapua man who parked his truck outside the school. I love a good manapua, but for me the real draw was the pork hash, because they cost only a quarter each. They were an especially large version of the juicy, open-ended pork dumplings, and one or two made a cheap and filling snack much more satisfying than anything from the convenience store down the street.

Pork hash is available all around the islands, and like many local dishes, it’s a bigger, heavier, and more strongly flavored version of a daintier Asian dish. In this case it’s a lot like a Chinese siu mai, and while it might be argued that siu mai are just as flavorful, pork hash are generally bigger and a solid mass of pork rather than pork combined with lighter shrimp. They’re also pretty easy to make, involving few specialty ingredients and no real dumpling-wrapping skills. The following recipe results in a mild savory flavor, and at the very end I include ideas for additional ingredients to mix in or condiments to serve alongside the pork hash.

This recipe (based on one from is easy and very forgiving, but it uses two techniques, dumpling wrapping and steaming, that some readers may not have tried before. For those who have not, after the instructions there is a longer description of how to wrap the pork hash and set up the steamer. This is a good recipe for novices because neither the wrapping nor the steaming needs to be precise: There’s no expert crimping or sealing to do and even if they don’t look pretty they’ll taste good, and they won’t suffer terribly if you leave them in a little long. (Just make sure the raw meat is cooked through!)

Pork Hash

1 lb. ground pork
2 eggs, beaten
3 stalks green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can water chestnuts, drained and minced
3 T oyster sauce
1 package won ton/dumpling wrappers*
oil to coat wrappers

*Mine are round dumpling wrappers maybe 4 inches in diameter, but square is fine and you can’t really go wrong as long as they’re mostly wheat flour and water. I find them in the frozen section of an Asian supermarket.
  1. Combine all ingredients except wrappers and oil.
  2. Add about 2 tsp of meat mixture into dumpling wrappers (give or take, depending on size of wrappers) and bring sides up to surround.
  3. Coat wraps lightly with oil to prevent sticking.
  4. Place in steamer and steam for 15-30 minutes depending on size of pork hash. (Not sure when it’s done? Take one out and cut it open.)
  • This particular batch I made with half ground chicken and half ground pork and it turned out very well, probably because the mild chicken didn't compete with the pork. Beef might work, but it might not quite match up with the oyster sauce, especially if that cut or cow is at all “livery” or gamey tasting. You can also substitute minced shrimp (a great dim sum pairing with pork) for some of the meat. Larger pieces of shrimp tend to not stick to the meat mixture, so if you want to include some, don’t go overboard or it might not hold together.
  • Other ingredients for the meat mixture could include diced lap cheong (I’ve had great results with that one), char siu, or minced cilantro. Anything that would work well in pork-based dim sum is fair game.
  • These have a nice flavor on their own, but it’s mild. If you want a dip, try Chinese hot mustard or a vinegar-based hot sauce.
  • For those who (like me) aren’t eating much gluten, try steaming the filling in a heat-safe bowl inside the steamer, and remember it’ll take much longer to cook. The resulting “meatloaf” is not nearly as fun to eat, but it’s very tasty and you can chop it up to put on top of rice or noodles, maybe with some sesame oil. If you want no gluten at all, leave out the oyster sauce and perhaps use wheat-free tamari, sesame paste, minced dried shrimp, or a flavorful Chinese condiment you like.
Technique: Stuffing Dumpling Wrappers
  • After defrosting wrappers I leave them in the fridge until I start cooking so they don’t have a chance to get gummy and hard to work with.
  • I keep some water in a bowl under my hands and wet the “wrapper” hand before I pick up each wrapper so that I don’t have dry edges breaking as they pleat around the filling
  • To stuff, either cup one in the palm of your hand, add filling, then squeeze around sides to get folds of wrapper to stick to filling; or make a “c” shape with your hand and push center of wrapper into the hole, so your hand is already squeezing the sides. 
  • You’re not trying to seal this (it ends up open at the top, like a little cup), so you don’t have to have perfect technique. They’re a bit easier to work with, though, if you err on the side of too little filling rather than too much.
Technique: Steaming
  • I have a bamboo steamer, but metal is fine too and you can probably even use a little fold-up steaming insert, you just might have to steam in more batches.
  • Set up a wok or large pot that your steamer will fit inside. If it’s a dedicated steamer it will have its own lid so the pot doesn’t have to completely encase the steamer, it just needs to be wide enough that you can set the steamer into it over the water.
  • I want to keep food out of the crevices of the bamboo, so in each tray I lay down a big leaf of lettuce, heat-safe plate, or piece of foil; if I’m using a plate or foil I make there is a bit of space on the sides for the steam. Your steamer might not require this step.
  • When you’re ready to steam add a couple inches of water to the pot, as much as you can without having the boiling water touch the bottom of the food. (If you’re using a steamer basket and want to get it higher off the bottom of the pot, you can coil up a wad of foil or use some other heat-safe metal item to raise it up further.)
  • Turn the heat to high, and check the water level every so often (this may require lifting up the steamer) so it doesn’t boil dry.
Placing Pork Hash in the Steamer
Left to their own devices the wrappers will stick to the steamer and to each other, so you have to oil anything that will come into contact with the wrappers. I’ve tried two approaches:
  1. Brush oil around each wrapper when you finish stuffing it. Advantages: You can nestle the pork hash right up against each other, which allows you to steam more at once, and they hold each other up and come out in nice cylinders. Disadvantages: It takes longer to set up and is messier.
  2. Just oil the lettuce/plate/foil and then space the pork hash out so they don’t touch (and stick to) each other. Advantages: Setup is faster and neater. Disadvantages: You have to steam them in more batches, they spread out more, and if they bubble up over the edges of the wrapper they get sloppy, so they don’t look as nice. I don’t mind the spreading on its own but I don’t like it when they bubble over, so again I err on the side of under-stuffing. 
You can always try a batch, or even just a few, then adjust your technique for the next batch. Aside from keeping some water in the pot, you can go as fast or as slow as you like.

Technique: Pan-Frying Pork Hash

The photo that accompanies this post was taken the day after I made the pork hash, when I pan-fried them as I would potstickers. If you want to do the same:
  1. Heat a pan with one or two tablespoons of oil on medium heat. When pan is hot, set pork hash on their flat bases, with a little space between them so they don’t stick to each other.
  2. Fry pork hash without moving them until you can pick one up without any sticking and see that it is crisp and golden.
  3. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan and cover, allowing just a bit of steam to escape.
  4. When water is evaporated and edges of wrappers are pliable (because if you’re using leftovers, they’ll have dried out a bit in the fridge), uncover and allow to cook for a couple more minutes until bottoms are crisp again.
To read about Eric's Chinese-style pork dumplings, too, click here.


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Stuffed Mussels

I grew up in Norwalk, CT, hometown of the Oyster Festival and went to high school right near Mystic, CT, another hot-spot for Connecticut seafood. My Mom says my Dad gave me my first raw clam when I was 1, although I've heard this isn't necessarily a good idea... I guess what I am getting at is that I love seafood! I hadn't made stuffed mussels in a very long time and thought it was high time I tried it again. The first time it was mostly Parmesan cheese and butter. THis time I thought I'd make it more about the broth and white wine.

1 bag of fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1/2 cup White Wine (I used a Chardonnay)
1/2 cup Plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 Red Pepper, finely chopped
Fresh Parsley, chopped, about a handful
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp butter
black pepper

Anytime you make Mussels you need to make sure they are clean and de-bearded. The A&P near us happens to have pretty clean Mussels so it wasn't much work but I used a scrubbing pad and double checked for beards and yanked out the ones I found under cold water.

The first part of this recipe is to steam the Mussels until they open. I used the White Wine to steam them. Watch them carefully and take them out as soon as they open to ensure they don't get overcooked when you bake them. See the picture to the right for reference. When mussels or clams steam they release their juices into whatever you are steaming them in, creating a wonderful broth. I always use this broth for something and this time is no different.

I took the mussels out, and placed the half with the meat on a baking sheet. I took the broth off the burner and added the butter, red peppers, and parsley. Ideally, you stir this mixture and put it in the fridge until it's hardened so you can spoon it into the halves and then dip them into your breadcrumbs easily. I learned this while preparing clams casino in seafood restaurants in high school. Unfortunately I didn't have much time so I just scooped up some of the mixture in the shell and spooned some breadcrumbs onto each one. This took much more time but allowed me to eat these the same night.

Once the pan was full of stuffed mussels, I placed them under the broiler and watched them like a hawk for when they browned. I served them in a bowl and spooned the rest of the broth mixture on top of them. They paired perfectly with the rest of the White Wine I used to cook them in. I was very happy with the results!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Scallops With Organic Mushrooms, Spicy Lemongrass-Thyme Coconut Broth, and Pomegranate

Scallops make perfect small plates.  I'm really never in the mood for a full size scallop entree, so whenever I make scallops, it is almost always as a small plate with a delicious broth and dressing and other ingredients to dress it up.  This is the first of two scallop appetizers I plan to post this week.  This dish served as the introduction to our home-cooked Valentine's Day dinner, after a fabulous night out last night for Valentine's Day eve, capped off with a scrumptious chocolate fondue.

Without further ado, as I am writing between the commercial breaks of the olympic pairs figure skating and moguls, here is how I prepared my impromptu scallop small plate.  This dish features a thai-spiced coconut broth, and a medley or organic mushrooms.  The combination of flavors was dynamic, and the pomegranate seeds were the perfect accompaniment to finish off this winter dish.  I love how the broth turned out - it was delicious and complemented the scallops nicely.  The mushrooms were high quality and flavorful, while the pomegranate seeds gave the dish a nice, tart lift.

Sasha's Small Plate Scallops With Organic Mushrooms, Spicy Lemongrass-Thyme Coconut Broth & Pomegranate (Serves 2 as an appetizer)

1 can lite coconut milk
1 cup low sodium organic chicken broth
1 sprig of thyme
2 tsp dried lemongrass
1/3 tsp red pepper flakes (add some heat, or leave out for a milder broth)
6 sliced organic shiitake mushrooms
handfull of organic tiny chanterelle mushrooms
3 T canola oil
4 scallops
1 T butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp pomegranate seeds

First, prepare the broth, by combining the coconut broth (use lite broth, which is much lower fat), chicken stock, thyme, thai lemongrass and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for about twenty-five minutes.  In a saute pan, saute the mushrooms in canola oil (about 2T) and then add to the broth.  

Pan sear the scallops in a mixture of a tablespoon of canola oil and a tablespoon of butter, seasoning liberally with pepper and a bit of salt.  Pan sear until slightly browned and cooked through.

Plate by serving the scallops in the coconut broth with the mushrooms, and top with the pomegranate seeds and a bit of chives.  I love the way that I executed this dish from start to finish, and I was very pleased with the plating.

Sasha's Kitchen: Oreo Cookie Monster Cupcakes

Last weekend, I made a batch of a dozen of Oreo Cookie Cupcakes for my Modern Art Series Cupcakes.  Until now, I have not revealed what happened to the other two cupcakes in the batch, since there were only 10 modern artist themed cupcakes in the batch.  I took two of the extra cupcakes and prepared a new Cookie Monster themed cupcake for a new cooking with kids project, that I can't wait to make someday with my own children.  Cookie Monster was always my favorite Sesame Street Character growing up, and I think that these cupcakes are perfect for parents looking for a fun project in the kitchen with young children.  They are also quite simple to make and they come out looking pretty good as well.

Sasha's Oreo Cookie Cupcakes  (Makes approximately 12)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup of milk
5 oreo cookies, chopped with a nut chopper

To prepare the cupcakes, beat the butter and the sugar in your artisan mixer basin on medium high speed until combined and smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.  Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients and the milk.  You can add a little but more milk it the cupcake batter is too chunky.

Fill silicon cupcake trays with paper for foil liners, each about 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes until very slightly golden on top, and cooked through.  To make sure they are done, but not overcooked, test with a toothpick.  When it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.

Cookie Monster Frosting  (makes enough to frost about 12-15 cupcakes)
1/2 oreo cookie for each cupcake
blue sprinkles
Fondant for eyes (for this recipe, you are best off purchasing ready to use white fondant)
black gourmet writer
1 stick of butter
4 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
blue food coloring (use gel based food colors)
Approximately 1/4 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, confectioners sugar and cream cheese until combined and increase to beat at high speed for a few minutes until you have a fluffy icing.  Add heavy cream as needed to thin the icing to the desired consistency.  I usually add about a quarter cup.  Beat in a drop of gel based blue food coloring.  Don't use water based food colorings as they may be problematic with the heavy cream.

To make the cookie monster cupcakes, use a spatula to frost each cupcake with the blue icing.  To avoid making a mess, don't over-frost.   Dip the cupcakes in the blue sprinkles to give the monster-fur the right texture.  Make the eyes out of fondant using the black gourmet writer pen that writes on food and then cut them out of the fondant.  Attach the eyes to the cupcake with a bit of icing.  Cut an Oreo Cookie in half and use to make the mouth, attaching with some frosting.

Click here for red velvet cupcakes; click here for sushi cupcakes; click here for modern art series cupcakes; click here for cute carrot papaya cupcakes

To make popovers with your kids for brunch, click here for Matt's recipe.

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