Recipes for inspiration in the kitchen
Recipes for inspiration in the kitchen
Stuffing is one of those dishes with the most liberal of interpretations, depending on who makes it and what ingredients are used. Technically, what I make is not stuffing, but rather dressing. It’s not stuffing because it’s not stuffed in anything. (I never roast my bird, and frying a stuffed turkey would just be bad news.) But I like calling it “stuffing” anyway, because that word is just more fun to say than “dressing.” (Plus I always think of salad vinaigrettes when I hear “dressing.”)
One of my earliest memories of stuffing was when I was in college and had a box of StoveTop for whatever reason. Maybe I was looking for an easy side to accompany some chicken I’d made. But I quickly became addicted to StoveTop and would eat it by itself as a full meal. There was so much flavor, and there was something about the pillowy texture that exuded comfort.
I love corn and have to have it every Thanksgiving. It adds a nice crispy texture next to the creamy potatoes and casseroles. Back when I was an amateur cook, I used to serve them straight out of a can with some butter, salt, and pepper. Now I’ve graduated to cutting them off the cob and increasing the number of ingredients used.
When I think of American comfort food, I think of potatoes. I love potatoes in all forms: fried, baked, mashed, smashed, or whipped.
What, you might ask, is the difference between mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, and whipped potatoes? After digging around online, I’ve come up with this answer.
IT’S THANKSGIVING WEEK! I’m that excited that I have to type it in all caps. I’ve said it many times before: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Most get four days off, the weather is lovely, there is no pressure and stress of gift-giving, and all you do is watch/play football and stuff your faces with comfort foods.
I’m bringing food back! It’s been quite a long while since I posted a recipe. But I recently got a brand new PolyScience immersion circulator, something I’ve been eyeing for quite some time, and now our kitchen has become a 24-hour sous vide factory.
I’m still learning the ins and outs of this beautiful machine, but I thought I’d write about the first food item we cooked in the immersion circulator: New York strip steaks. Now, the strip is not my favorite cut because it’s rather lean when compared to the more marbleized (and, thus, fatty) ribeye. But that’s what we had on hand (because I like variety, and I always get ribeye), and I was anxious to try out the Creative series immersion circulator. The first two strip steaks were cooked at 138°F for 2 hours, and they came out to a medium well. They were good, but not the medium rare I love.
So the second time around, the strip steaks went in for 90 minutes at 130°F. And these were quite possibly the most tender strip steaks I’ve had outside a five-star steakhouse.
I’ve been on a fresh homemade pasta kick lately. That’s because I just bought a Mercato Atlas Wellness 150 pasta maker (yes, it’s made in Italy). I’ve been wanting to try my own hand at pasta-making at home, and Luca from this season’s ”MasterChef” recommended me this particular brand, saying he’d gotten it as a wedding gift and loved it.
And now, I do too. The hubster’s eyes brighten every time I bring the pasta maker out of the closet because, well, being a guy, he likes anything mechanical. So it’s nice to have such an eager helper in the kitchen while making pasta. So far, I’ve made two types of pasta: a mushroom duxelle stuffed ravioli topped with a white wine tomato and basil sauce; and angel hair with shrimp, garlic, tomato, and white wine sauce. (We’ve had an influx of tomatoes in our garden this summer, so I’ve been constantly putting them in my pasta dishes.)
I haven’t posted a recipe in a while. It’s mainly because most of the things I’ve been cooking lately are recipes going into my cookbook (which, I might add, is slated to publish in May). So, of course, in order to entice you to buy the cookbook, I can’t be posting them all over the web, right?
It’s August, and that means it’s the dead middle of the dog days of summer. So what do you do with these dog days? You eat cold fish, that’s what. And not just cold fish but raw fish.
In a recent “MasterChef” episode, Felix lovingly assigned me a beautiful whole salmon. Salmon is one of those fish that I love to eat raw but can’t stand cooked. In the form of sushi or sashimi, I gobble it up. Even smoked, I’ll throw it on some bread with cheese and herbs. But cooked? I can’t stand the stuff. I think it’s dry and foul-tasting. I have yet to taste a cooked salmon that I could call delicious. (This is a challenge for you folks now; give me a cooked salmon that can stand on its own next to some beautiful sashimi.) I groaned when I realized which fish Felix had given me because my mind was immediately sent reeling into oblivion: while I would love to serve the salmon raw, Kaimana from the top 100 had not been given an apron for his out-of-this-world tuna tartare because the judges said serving it raw showed no cooking technique. And so I was torn. I decided to bake a salmon filet but not before slicing off the fatty belly to set aside in case I got the guts to follow my instincts and make a tartare or a roll.
Alas, a big FISH FAIL for me in that challenge. I went against my intuition and served the judges something I myself would hate to eat—breaded baked salmon and rice—while leaving the beautiful salmon belly to rot on the side of the Boos block.
After that day, I learned to never again doubt my instincts, always cook what I love, and not worry so much about what the judges wanted. I figured that if I followed my palate, I would fare better because I’d actually believe in my dishes and have pride in what I put on the plate.
As an “in your face” to salmon, I recently made salmon poke to not only redeem my crappy salmon dish but also to avenge for Kaimana’s raw audition dish. My poke was only a fraction of his tuna’s goodness, but I enjoyed eating it all the same. Obviously you can use ahi tuna in lieu of the sashimi grade salmon—ahi tuna is more common to this dish anyway—but I wanted to put a twist on the tradition.
Poke (pronounced POH-kee) is a common raw fish salad eaten in Hawaii where the fish are super fresh and therefore celebrated. I like to eat my poke on sheets of nori (seaweed), won ton crisps, or sesame crackers. It’s super easy to make and delicious and healthy. The only downside is you’ll have to splurge a little bit to buy the fish but you’ll still be saving lots of dollars making it at home rather than ordering it in a restaurant. Just remember to use a very sharp knife to cut the fish, and employ a clean single slice as to not butcher the beautiful piece of fish you’d just spent $$ on. And remember if the Blind can [not] Cook it, so can you.
At the beginning of summer, I’d cooked a special farewell lunch for my grad program friends: Cajun stuffed Cornish hens, dirty rice, and Brussels sprouts with candied bacon. For dessert, I kept with the Louisianan theme and served homemade beignets and Cafe du Monde New Orleans-style coffee with condensed milk, just the way Vietnamese people love to drink it.
While I grew up around Cafe du Monde’s ready-to-brew coffee grounds (which came in those notorious mustard yellow tin cans that afterwards became every Vietnamese family’s piggy bank/knickknack holder), I didn’t have my first beignet until college when I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I visited the brick-and-mortar Cafe du Monde and did what all the other tourists did: sat in the open-air cafe and sipped on steaming chicory drip coffee with the powdered sugar from the three beignets snowing all over my mouth and lap. It was a heavenly combination of flavors, and boy, all I can say is those French sure know their fried desserts.
Beignet, which literally means “bump,” is the French version of the American fritter. I love to eat them with powdered sugar and honey. They should be pillowy on the inside with a very light crunch on the outside. Before “MasterChef,” I always got my beignets from local shops. But then I learned how to make them from scratch, and there ain’t nothin’ like a beignet fresh out of the fryer. My friends gobbled them all up, their faces and fingers covered in white. If it hadn’t been for food coma written all over their eyes, they would’ve been mistaken for a bunch of cokeheads. Try these out, and let me know what you think. If the Blind can Cook it, you know you can too.