Tuesday, August 30, 2016

All Under Heaven by Carolyn Phillips

I was 12% into this book when I knew I wanted a copy for myself. I was 20% into it when I realized I needed to preorder multiple copies for everyone I know who cooks Chinese food.

I've got several Chinese cookbooks and had sworn off ever buying any more. My favorite, The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo, never lets me down and has a lot of variety packed into it.

However, All Under Heaven was written with the same sort of clear instructions and approachable style. Additionally, it looked at the usual Chinese regional cuisine divisions (Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, etc.) more closely than I'd ever seen.

This means than you don't just read about Cantonese or Southern Chinese cooking, but also get to try typical Hakka dishes or try that of Taiwan's military families who came from different provinces and then gave everything a big stir to create their own distinctive cuisine. Some of the dishes sound like a familiar twist on our favorites like Silk Road Fajitas, until you realize that this is a traditional Northwestern Chinese dish. Some have a technique that I can't wait to try, like Shaved Noodles with Meat Sauce where you use an ultra-sharp knife to shave noodles off a block of pasta dough.

I loved Carolyn Phillips' writing, especially the accessible headnotes to each recipe. Her explanation of the different regions was always personalized at the end so that we got to share a little of her life in China too.

This book was provided in a terrible Kindle version by NetGalley. I assume the garbling of the recipes is because of NetGalley's conversion. My review is my own.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Green Onion Pancakes

These are one of my favorite things to make, because they can be appetizers or a main course, they take very few ingredients, and they're very easy to make. It can be a little tedious to roll them out, but even that doesn't take very long. And as a bonus, people are usually very impressed both with the execution and the result.

The first time I made green onion pancakes was with a different recipe than the one I'm giving here. It didn't specify that the water for the dough should be boiling, and it didn't have the multiple roll-outs of the dough. These things make a huuuge difference! As did an old gas range and a powerful, newer one, but that was just a benefit of moving.

Now, this recipe is from Serious Eats by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Pancakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
Up to 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil (I actually like regular sesame oil better)
2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens

Dipping sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp finely sliced scallion greens
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sugar

To cook:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt

Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside at room temperature. (The original recipe has this step much later, but I feel it's important to do this early on or the sugar won't have time to dissolve)

Place flour in bowl of food processor. With processor running, slowly drizzle in about 3/4 of boiling water. Process for 15 seconds. If dough does not come together and ride around the blade, drizzle in more water a tablespoon at a time until it just comes together. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.

Divide dough into four even pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into a disk roughly 8-inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Using a pastry brush, paint a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk. Roll disk up like a jelly roll, then twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath. Flatten gently with your hand, then re-roll into an 8-inch disk.

Paint with another layer of sesame oil, sprinkle 1/2 cup scallions, and roll up like a jelly roll again. Twist into a spiral, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. Repeat steps two and three with remaining pancakes.

Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick or cast-iron (I use a wok) over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slip pancake into the hot oil. cook, shaking the pan gently until first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs, and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until second side is even golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt, cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately with sauce for dipping. Repeat with remaining 3 pancakes.

NOTE: If you don't have a food processor, just stir the flour with a wooden spoon or chopsticks in a large bowl as you add the boiling water. After it comes together, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for five minutes until satiny and smooth. Proceed as instructed

This chef has great insights into why these techniques are the best ones and how they improve the recipe. If you like this recipe, I would check out his other stuff. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crab Mac and Cheese

One of the most consistently good cookbooks I've ever gotten was from Julie when I got married. It's Nigel Slater's Eat. All of the recipes are simple, not too many ingredients, and written in paragraph form, which I found off-putting at first but quickly learned to love. So here is one of the first things I ever made out of it: crab mac and cheese.

Crab Mac and Cheese

8 oz medium-sized pasta (penne, serpentelli, macaroni)
10 oz lump crab meat
1+2/3 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Boil pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water for about 9 minutes, til tender. Drain and return to the saucepan, then add milk, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and whole-grain mustard and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir in crab meat, and simmer gently, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Check the seasoning, then transfer to a deep baking dish. Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan, scatter on top, and bake for 20 minutes, til bubbling around edges.

And I recommend everyone get Eat, because it really is great for fast, easy meals!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Best Mapo Tofu

Hi!

I'm Hannah, Julie's daughter, who now has access to this blog to post all my favorite recipes!

So to start off, here is a recipe for Mapo tofu from Serve the People: A Stir-fried Journey Through China by Jen Lin-Liu. Now, I will say that one ingredient we used is probably not what the recipe actually intends. The recipe calls for broadbean paste (doubanjiang), which exists in plain and spicy versions. The way the author calls for chili sauce in equal part to broadbean paste in other recipes in the book makes me think it's meant to be the plain version. I couldn't find a kind that didn't have chili in it at the Vietnamese or Thai grocery stores I go to, so I just used Lee Kum Kee's chili bean sauce, which has broadbean paste in it but also a hefty dose of chili. So my husband was a big fan, partly because he takes very spicy food as a challenge, but I like it with a little bit less chili bean sauce. I could have tried a Chinese market, but I'm not made of trips to the store. And I like this version anyway.

"The Best" Mapo Tofu

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons minced leek or scallion
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/4 cup broadbean paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water
1 package firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine

Add the oil to a wok and place over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beef, breaking it into small pieces and stirring until it begins to brown. Add the following ingredients, stirring for a minute between each addition: leek and ginger, broadbean paste, soy sauce, rice wine, salt, and sugar. Add the water, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tofu, raise the heat to high, and stir for another 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the ground Sichuan peppercorns and remove from the heat. Serve immediately.

It's easy, fast, and delicious!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Chorizo-Rice Casserole

This is from Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. They say: this casserole is something of a cross between a Tex-Mex picadillo and a Cajun Jambalaya.

Our family says, "This is like Grandma's Texas Hash."

Anyone who didn't grow up in Texas is going to think of something like Corned Beef Hash and say, "What? Hash has chopped potatoes." But in Texas, it has rice instead. And ground beef. And a Mexican flair, if you are lucky.

After being introduced to the Davis family Texas Hash, I tried the recipe below and then began adapting it for our family's preferences. I like the raisins but the rest of the family — not so much. (Lines are through items I just don't include.)

Delicious!

Chorizo-Rice Casserole
I double the recipe and simmer it for 20-30 minutes on the stovetop. For one thing our chorizo comes in 1 pound frozen packages from a local butcher. For another, we like leftovers!)

1/2 pound good store bought Chorizo
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small tomatoes, preferably Roma, chopped (or canned, diced tomatoes)
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium red skinned potato, diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped

3/4 cup uncooked rice
1/2 c. currants or raisins
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (I just use ground and move on)
1-3/4 cups unsalted beef or chicken stock (I use 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron, brown chorizo over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces. Pour off the accumulated fat as necessary to leave no more than about 1 tablespoon.

Add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, celery, potato and bell pepper to the chorizo and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are limp and somewhat tender.

Add the rice, currants, chili powder, and cumin, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the stock, cover the dish, and bake casserole for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the peanuts and cilantro. Serve the casserole immediately.