Cook it.

Recipes for inspiration in the kitchen

vietnamese shaking chicken (or beef)

Ga luc lac or bo luc lac are French influenced dishes consisting of seared and sauteed bpcubes of meat served with a vinaigrette dressing. The term “luc lac” comes from the sound of the meat shaking in the pan while cooking. The dish is usually made of sirloin or ribeye steak, but I decided to go a slightly healthier route and make it with chicken. Whichever meat you choose, it’ll be tasty.

You can serve it with white rice or a French style fried rice (recipe posting TBD). This is often a favorite at Tan Tan and Sinh Sinh restaurants (reviews of these places also TBD).

The picture below is of the beef version which is on Rasa Malaysia. The one we took of our chicken version turned out too dim for the web.



Bo luc lac (Shaking beef)

Photo courtesy of Rasa Malaysia



Recipe: Vietnamese Shaking Chicken (or Beef)

Summary: Original recipe for beef from Ravenous Couple on Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs or beef sirloin or ribeye, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Marinade:
    • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
    Vinaigrette dressing:
    • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tbsp. salt
    Dipping sauce:
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch watercress, long stems trimmed (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients with the meat. Refrigerate and let marinate for 30 to 90 minutes.
  2. Prepare vinaigrette by combining vinaigrette ingredients. It should be a balance of sour, salty, and sweet. Pour 3 to 4 tbsp. over the onion and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat. Add onion and meat 1 layer at a time and sear for about 2 minutes. Then shake the wok to sear all sides of the meat, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Prepare dipping sauce by combining ingredients.
  5. Drizzle vinaigrette on top of meat and serve with tomatoes, rice, and dipping sauce.

Variations

I accidentally added cupfuls of sugar instead of tablespoonfuls. (This is what happens when you are blind and have to juggle all the measurements in your head.) We managed to throw a lot of it out and salvage the dish, but in the end, it wasn’t too sweet at all. I also used brown sugar instead of white as a healthier alternative.

The original recipe called for slightly pickled red onions but I prefer mine sauteed with the meat. I can’t get enough of that scrumptious sauce flavor so I just added the onion to the wok while cooking the meat. I also substituted green onion since that’s what was in my fridge, and I needed to get rid of it. But using actual onion is preferable.

I also cut the rice vinegar by half for the vinaigrette. This worked out much better. I would maybe try white vinegar and even less of it next time to see how that turns out.

Lastly, the original recipe called for more oil to be added to the wok for cooking but I found the sesame oil in the marinade was enough to keep the meat from sticking to the wok surface. Otherwise, it’d be a super greasy dish.

Cooking time (duration): 30 (excluding marinade time)

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

prime rib au jus with horseradish sauce

Ta da! The main entree served with the roasted new red potatoes and the country green beans is prime rib.

I have not had the privilege to consume a lot of prime rib in my life, but I can tell you the best prime rib I’ve had is at San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib. They serve succulent slices of prime rib cut off the cart right in front of your table. And the best thing is seconds are on the house. They don’t advertise this on the menu but guests are allowed a second serving of prime rib–all one has to do is ask.

I decided to do a prime rib for this year’s Christmas lunch because my dad was tired of fried turkey, and as the thought of roasting a duck for the first time at a family holiday gathering was intimidating, I settled on prime rib instead. Originally, I was going to purchase a pre-marinated prime rib from Costco but when I realized that marinating your own prime rib was a fairly simple process, I decided to forego the ready-to-go prime rib at $8.99/lb. and go for the naked slab of USDA beef at $7.99/lb. I bought a five-pound hunk of prime rib, assuming that my family, with their dainty appetites, will only eat about half a pound each. (I heard my relatives are also bringing lobster and chicken wings.)

The must-have tool for cooking prime rib (and just about any big chunk of meat, for that matter) is the digital meat thermometer. We got ours last-minute from Target the other night for roughly $20. Cooking meats–whether it’s beef, pork, and chicken, and whether you roast, grill, or fry it–requires an exact temperature reading to indicate doneness. It’s a shame I’ve been cooking all these years without using one; I usually just get John to cut the meat open and look to see if it’s pink or bloody or done. But as cooking is as much a science as it is an art, the best way to produce consistent, edible, and desirable results is to use a thermometer. There are even digital talking thermometers for the blind, and I will one day get to blogging about all these independent living aids for the blind (I know I keep saying that, but I promise.)

The prime rib should be served with two sauces: an au jus and a horseradish. Au jus is French for “with juice,. In French cooking, au jus is usually made by taking the natural drippings from the roasted meat and served as an accompaniment to enhance flavor. In American cooking, however, au jus refers to a sauce that may or may not be made from the pan drippings but is almost always prepared by combining other ingredients such as beef broth, soy sauce, or worcestershire sauce and reduced to a sometimes gravy-like consistency. American au jus is frequently made separately using additional external ingredients whereas the French au jus is purer in the sense that it’s the natural juices produced during cooking.

Horseradish sauce provides a little creamy kick to the savory meat. I find that horseradish meshes well with beef: think of a roast beef sandwich topped with horseradish sauce. (Hello–Arby’s!) So without further adieu, here are the triple decker recipes to make prime rib, au jus, and horseradish sauce.

Note: Pictures to come after Christmas.


Recipe: Prime Rib

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 (5 lb.) standing beef rib roast
  • 2 tsp. kosher or rock salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Allow roast to stand at room tempreature for at least 1 hr.–very important!
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a sm. bowl. Place the rib roast on a rack in the roasting pan, fatty side up. Rub seasoning on the roast.
  3. Place the thermometer in the meat, and roast in oven for 1 hr. Turn off oven, and let roast sit inside the oven for 2 to 3 hrs. Do not open oven door–the roast is still cooking. Before serving, turn the oven back on to 375 degrees and roast for another 30 min. or so to heat through. The internal temperature should read at least 145 degrees when ready. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 min. before carving and serving. Serve with au jus and horseradish sauce.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Recipe: Au Jus

Ingredients

  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can French onion soup
  • 1 (10.5 oz.) can beef broth
  • 1 can cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Bring ingredients to boil in a med. saucepan. Strain, discard onions, and serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 3.5 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Recipe: Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. to develop flavors. Serve in sm. ramekins alongside prime rib.

Quick Notes

Makes 1.25 cups. Can be made 2 days ahead.

Cooking time (duration): 5

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

roasted new red potatoes

2010 will be our first Christmas celebrated as husband and wife. To mark this mini milestone, John and I are hosting Christmas lunch for some of our family. So what’s on the menu this time?

Well, I started off the month of December with a cold, and so the rather unfortunate circumstance had me rethinking whether we should even host a holiday gathering at our house at all. But then after some of the Nyquil fog cleared from my head, I decided maybe we’ll just buy pre-marinated meats from Costco, pop it in the oven Saturday morning, and call it a meal. But when we went to Costco to look for something, there weren’t really many options. And so back to the ol’ drawing board it was; time to go to plan B.

Then I found a recipe for [insert mystery meat here] online and decided the [insert mystery meat here] wouldn’t be too difficult to make. So after running it by my husband, we’ve decided to go ahead and attempt yet another fancy dinner from scratch. So what is the mystery entree? You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out. What I will tell you is that this side dish and the quick and easy and delicious country green beans are what we’ll be serving alongside the main entree. Can you guess what it’ll be?

Potatoes are so versatile and yummy. They can go in soups, stews, or salads. They can be baked, mashed, pan-fried, or deep-fried. At the grocery store, there are mountains of potatoes, and I’m talking potatoes of all kinds: russet, white, yellow, gold, red, new, fingerlings…The options are endless. So how do you go about choosing the perfect potato? It all depends on what you are trying to do with the spud. This calls for a lesson in potatoes, which I’ll be posting soon. But for now, let’s cut to the chase. We’ve got four days till the Noel and no time for B.S.

These potatoes should be fabulous complements to a savory meat. Serve a few as a side next to roasted chicken, roasted duck, rack of lamb, strip steak. Their simplicity should add to the dynamic flavors of the dish, not vie for center stage. And with only four ingredients and two cooking steps, this is definitely a dish the Blind can Cook.


Recipe: Roasted New Red Potatoes

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. small new red potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Adjust rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, salt & pepper. Arrange, cut side down, on a single layer on a lg. lipped cookie sheet or baking pan.
  2. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 min. (Check after 20 min.) Transfer to a serving bowl.

Variations

For something a little extra, try sprinkling rosemary, parsley, or basil over the potatoes halfway through roasting.

Cooking time (duration): 40

Diet type: Vegan

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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gingerbread cookies

Hello! Happy holidays! Welcome to the week of Christmas. Every day this week up until Saturday the 25th, I will post an entry featuring–of course–food. So let the blogging and cooking begin…

As with most desserts containing warm, rich spices of ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and/or cinnamon, gingerbread cookies are a tasty holiday treat. I usually like to bake these and snickerdoodles to give away during Christmas. I’m posting the recipe a few days before Christmas just in case you’d like to have them all wrapped up in pretty ribbon for your guests by the holiday.

The first time I ever bit into a gingerbread man was when I was in the seventh grade, and my friend, Jennifer, had baked a dozen as my Christmas present. They came neatly wrapped inside a paper box designed to look like a little gingerbread house. At first, I didn’t think I’d like the spicy cookies–I didn’t like much of anything with ginger in them, let alone dessert–but I was pleasantly surprised that the cookies were very delicious. In fact, the spices made them perfect for munching on a cold winter’s day. Gobble them up with a glass of milk by the fire, and you’ve got a true American Christmas. And as always, if the Blind can Cook it, you can too.

A photo will be posted as soon as I bake them and get John to take a picture.


Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies

Summary: An easy recipe that doesn’t require molasses. Originally from All Recipes. Number of cookies made depends on the size of your cookie cutter. Usually makes 15 to 30 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1.5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, cream together butterscotch mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir in the pudding mixture. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hr.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
  4. On a floured board, roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness using a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter (I have both gingerbread man and mitten shapes) to cut into shapes. Place about 1″ apart on the cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 min. or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack. Decorate with frosting if desired.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake

Don't let the two pounds of cream cheese scare you away.



Ah…now finally we come to the dessert portion of our grand Thanksgiving holiday meal. Naturally, it’s often a pie of some sorts, pumpkin or apple. But this year, I also decided to put a twist on the dessert and make a pumpkin cheesecake a la Cheesecake Factory style. What better way than to use up all that leftover pumpkin from Halloween than to bake it in a dessert?

When I was younger, I loved cheescake, especially the chocolate covered kind from Olive Garden. But as I got older, I found the cake too rich and creamy for my taste. I came across this recipe, however, online through the Food Network website, and all the reviews said even though they didn’t like pumpkin or didn’t like cheesecake, this hybrid dessert was to die for, a full five stars. I’ve also never had the pumpkin cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory, but I figured John loves cheesecake, so why not try to make this fully from scratch using our homemade pumpkin puree instead of the canned variety?

A funny story on the side about the pumpkin puree. We had spent all that time as described in this post to create this pumpkin puree from a leftover Halloween pumpkin. But when we were at the grocery store the other week, we passed by rows and rows of canned pumpkin puree, all going for less than $2 each. If I calculated it out, we basically saved 50 cents an hour by making it ourselves. We are some damn cheap labor.

Anyway, back to the cheesecake. We used the food processor to ensure even mixing but forgot to add the spices until after we had already poured it out into a bowl. The hand-mixing post-spices was a mistake because not all of the spices were distributed evenly, and we would get an occasional mouthful of ground ginger or ground cloves in the end product. Regardless, I was very happy with my first attempt at making cheesecake and pleasantly surprised that if you use a pre-baked graham cracker crust, the recipe really wasn’t that tedious. Warning, though: this dessert is not for the weight-conscious. I guess you could try using fat-free sour cream and cream cheese. Let me know how that turns out.

And this concludes our edition of the Thanksgiving series. You can whip up any of these recipes for Christmas, too. Remember, if the Blind can Cook a fabulous feast, so can you.


Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Summary: Original recipe from Food Network‘s “Almost Famous” collection, which calls for a crust made from scratch

Ingredients

  • 3 (9″) pre-baked graham cracker crusts
  • 4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
  • 2.25 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 6 lg. eggs at room temp., lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/3 c. toasted pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the sour cream. Then add in the pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, salt, and the spices. Beat until just combined. Pour into the crusts.
  3. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but center is still loose, about 35 to 40 min. Then turn off oven and open door briefly to let out heat. Leave cheesecake in oven for 30 more min. Let cool on a rack. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hrs. or overnight. Serve with a sprinkle of pecans.

Variations

My version of this recipe makes three 9″ pie-sized cheesecakes. If you prefer to make one thicker, larger cheesecake, use the same ingredient measurements but refer to the original recipe linked above to make the graham cracker crust from scratch. With busy lives, though, I figured who had the time? Too bad I can’t say my cheesecake is 100% made from scratch since the crust wasn’t, but hey, the pumpkin was.

Cooking time (duration): 50

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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slow-cooker mashed potatoes

Happy “Gobble, Gobble” Day! You didn’t think I would forget to post anything on the biggest binge eating day of the year, did you?

As mentioned in a previous post, I always serve up fried turkey, broccoli rice casserole, StoveTop stuffing (I like the chicken flavor best), kernel corn, and Betty Crocker Homestyle mashed potatoes (get the butter & herb flavor). This year, I’m going the extra mile and will make the mashed potatoes from scratch.

I’ve made mashed potatoes from scratch before in college, and it’s often turned out to be a disaster. It’s utterly time consuming; even with a hand mixer, my arms ache from mashing pounds and pounds of potatoes; and the end result is never as good as that darn Betty Crocker woman’s boxed kind. Regardless, I’m going to try this recipe I found online this year. What attracted me to it (besides the positive reviews, of course) was that it utilizes the slow-cooker. I am a fan of the slow-cooker–even though most of the dishes I’ve had that came from a slow-cooker were never anything to rave about, I like that you can just throw in all the ingredients and forget about it for hours. With John and I having such busy lives, anything convenient is welcome in our kitchen. Of course, I don’t like to sacrifice quality and taste for convenience, so if this pot of potatoes turns out under par, you can bet I won’t hesitate to throw the recipe out.

Making these mashed potatoes will give us the chance to try out this Cuisinart hand blender that we received for our wedding shower. A friend had told us it was the “new thing” in contemporary kitchens, but the last few times I’ve tried to use it, I only managed to make a mess in the kitchen. I think of it as a substitute for a hand mixer, but I think it’s more of a blender. All the cookie dough I’ve used it on ended up splattered across our blacksplash. Oops. Hopefully it will redeem itself with these mashed potatoes. If not, it’s time to get one of these for future baking and just use the fooc processor for mashing potatoes.

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. red potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic or to taste
  • 3 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a lg. pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the potatoes, garlic, and bouillon until potatoes are tender but firm, about 15 min. Drain, reserving water.
  2. In a lg. bowl, mash potatoes with sour cream and cream cheese, adding reserved water as needed to obtain desired consistency.
  3. li>Transfer mixture to a slow-cooker, cover, and cook on low for 2-3 hrs. Just before serving, stir in butter and season with salt & pepper.

Quick Notes

I like to leave the peels on the potatoes because: (1) it’s less work, (2) it adds taste and texture, and (3) it’s where the nutrition is.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

green bean casserole

Every Thanksgiving, I serve fried turkey and broccoli rice casserole (which I make from scratch), and corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes (which I don’t make from scratch). The sixth side always changes from year to year. First it was asparagus (which I later realized is a mistake because asparagus is apparently out of season in November). Then it was steamed green beans which turned out to be very boring. I knew I wanted this fifth side dish to be something green since so many of the other dishes were not as nutritious, and we all know Thanksgiving is the week of binging on high-calorie, high-sodium foods, so I figure why not throw something a little more healthy in there? Well, the steamed green beans were too healthy, and so this year, I will settle on a compromise between healthy and tasty. I will make a green bean casserole. (Okay, I know with these canned beans and all the cheese, sour cream, and butter, this is far from healthy, but I’m deluded into thinking anything green = good for you.)

Casseroles never sound that tasty to me; I always think of a slop of leftover ingredients piled on top of each other in a baking dish and thrown into the oven until it all melts together into some congealed mass. I think of it as the American version of fried rice: its sole purpose is to use up leftover food, and anything goes. That is, until I made that broccoli rice casserole some nine years ago. Then I thought, Maybe, just maybe, casseroles don’t all have to be nasty.

Fast-forward some years later to 2007 or so. Our church catered our holiday dinner from Cleburne Cafeteria. I had the first enjoyable green bean casserole. So now in 2010, I will attempt to make a version of this homestyle favorite.

I do have to admit that the great thing about casseroles is their ability to be prepared ahead of time. For example, today I will prepare both the broccoli rice and this green bean casserole, cover it securely, and refrigerate it until it’s ready to go straight into the oven. So go ahead and prepare these casseroles today, then bake it tomorrow. For big holiday dinners (or just any time you’re entertaining), it’s nice to have a repertoire of dishes that can be prepared ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself scrambling to do everything last minute on the day of.

I’ve found that typical green bean casseroles contain condensed cream of mushroom and are topped with a layer of fried onions. I found this alternative version of the dish which uses sour cream and Ritz crackers instead. Once it’s out of the oven, we’ll take a photo and upload it, and I’ll adjust the recipe according to my personal taste and experience.


Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. diced onion
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 (14 oz.) cans French-style green beans, drained
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. round butter cracker crumbs (Ritz)
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a lg. skillet over med. heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for 1 min. Stir in the salt, sugar, onions, and sour cream. Add green beans and stir to coat.
  3. Transfer mixture to a 2.5 qt. casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a sm. bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 min. or until top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Quick Notes

French-style green beans are the skinnier version of regular green beans. Often they are cut lengthwise into thinner strips.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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broccoli rice casserole

Recounting the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted back in 2001 (the year I graduated college and finally had a kitchen and place I could call my very own), in addition to the deep-fried turkey, I made this broccoli rice casserole. I probably found the recipe online but I honestly don’t remember where–it could’ve possibly been before I discovered All Recipes.

Regardless, it was very simple to make, and my dad raved about it, asking to take home a chunky portion as part of his Thanksgiving leftovers. My friend, Mark, also asked for the recipe, followed by Danny years later. Nearly going on its tenth year in the making, this dish is a must-have at all my holiday comfort food gatherings. I’ve also brought it to several potlucks; up or down the ingredients according to number of people. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Note: I’ll upload a photo of the dish come Thanksgiving when we actually make it. For now. here’s a photo of the Pancake Bunny.



Pancake bunny

Do you like my new hat?



Recipe: Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 2 (10.75 oz.) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 oz. processed cheese, melted
  • 3/4 c. minced onion
  • 2 c. uncooked minute rice
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook minute rice as directed.
  2. In a med. pan, saute onion in butter over med.-high heat until yellowed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a lg. bowl, mix broccoli, onion, cheese, cream of mushroom, rice, and salt & pepper to taste until well-blended. Pour mixture into a 10″x13″ casserole dish. Bake for 60 min. or until edges are browned.

Quick Notes

I personally like the edges and even the top pretty brown. It adds flavor and texture.

For the cheese, I like to use Cheez-Whiz.

Cooking time (duration): 75

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

deep-fried turkey

Fried turkey

Frying the turkey



For nine years and counting, it’s been my little tradition to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving. In 2001 when I started my first job out of college, my Louisianan coworker, Brandi, informed me her family deep-fries a turkey every year for Thanksgiving. I pictured a spicy flour battered turkey–just like Popeye’s chicken but in whole bird form and five times larger. I was surprised to learn that fried turkey wasn’t battered at all–simply rubbed down with Cajun spice and then thrown (very carefully) into a vat of hot peanut oil. I was a little disappointed since fried chicken skin is always the best part but since everyone and their mama claimed fried turkey is so good, I decided to give the turkey frying a try anyway.

To try this at home, I recommend acquiring the following items:

  • 1 40-qt. stockpot with basket (these are usually sold together for turkey and crawfish cooking purposes–both Southern/Louisianan dishes)
  • 1 propane burner for outdoor cooking
  • 1 propane tank
  • 1 lg. pc. cardboard to lay under burner so oil splatters won’t stain your concrete

You can find the turkey fryer at Academy; I personally found mine at Tuesday Morning for about $50 if I remember correctly. The propane burner and tank is from Wal-Mart. I imagine you could probably make one stop at a Home Depot or Lowe’s and find all these things.

The advantages of frying a turkey are:

  1. It’s delicious. Once I went fried, I never went back. Even the breast meat is juicy.
  2. It’s quick. Roasting a turkey takes anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per pound depending on if it’s stuffed or not, and you have to tend to it frequently for basting. Frying, on the other hand, takes 3.5 minutes per pound, just a fraction of the time it takes to roast the bird. And once you get it in the fryer, you don’t have to touch it till it’s finished.

The disadvantage? Obviously, it’s not as healthy. But when you’re stuffing yourself with mashed potatoes and casseroles and pies for the holidays anyway, who cares? That’s the Southern motto.

This turkey has received rave reviews from every mouth it’s touched for the last nine years. So why not do it yourself this year? John and I like to sit in our garage and driveway, pop open a beer, and relax while taking in the wonderful smells of deep-fried turkey.

Note: This photo of the turkey was actually taken in 2006 because the one we took of the turkey this year was half carved and not a good picture.



Fried turkey 2

The tasty end result



Recipe: Deep-Fried Turkey

Summary: Call it Cajun, call it Southern. I just call it damn delish.

Ingredients

  • 3 ga. peanut oil for frying
  • 1 whole turkey, no more than 14 lbs.
  • 1/4 c. cajun or creole seasoning
  • 1 jar cajun or creole marinade with syringe for injecting

Instructions

  1. The day before cooking, remove giblets and rinse turkey. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Inject turkey with marinade: 1 syringe-ful in ea. leg, 1 in ea. thigh, 1 in ea. wing, and 2 in ea. breast. During injection, pull syringe out slowly while pushing down plunger to spread marinade evenly throughout meat.
  3. Rub inside and outside liberally with seasoning. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
  4. When ready to cook, fill 40-qt. pot with 3 gal. peanut oil. (This should fill about half the pot.) Heat oil on high heat to 400 degrees or until oil has lines in it, indicating high heat.
  5. Make sure skin at turkey neck has at least a 2″ opening so oil doesn’t get trapped inside the bird later. Place turkey in basket neck side down.
  6. Slowly lower basket into pot. Cook 3.5 min./lb. or until internal temperature of thigh is 180 degrees.
  7. Remove turkey and let it sit for 20 min. before carving.

Quick Notes

Note that it takes 24 hours to thaw five lbs. of turkey. I.e. a 14-lb. turkey will take 72 hours. And remember that it needs to be fully thawed before the marinade can be injected, which means if I had a 14-lb. turkey I wanted to fry on Thanksgiving Thursday, I need to move it from the freezer into the fridge Sunday morning (thawed by Wednesday so it can marinate a full 24 hours before going into the fyer.

For the marinade, we always use Tony Chachere‘s Creole butter flavor. As for the rub, we used both Rudy’s turkey rub and Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning.

Peanut oil is ideal for deep-frying because it has a high smoking point.

Birds 14 lbs. or less are ideal for this method of cooking–any larger, and the bird’s skin could be overexposed to the hot oil, resulting in a charred skin. And we can’t have that considering skin is the best part!

Be extremely careful when frying the turkey. They say you should cook this completely outdoors in case a grease fire shoots up to the sky, but we always cook ours in the garage and have yet to have a black hole on our ceiling. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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“quick” & easy vietnamese chicken noodle soup

Pho ga

A comfort food staple in our home

Ahh…the most famous Vietnamese dish in conjunction with the baguette sandwich, banh mi thit. How can we talk about comfort foods and not talk about pho? Pho ga–or noodle soup with chicken–is perhaps my favorite of the pho family. I grew up eating pho on occasional Sunday mornings, and while I know it’s a cliche to say so, my mama seriously made the best pho. Seriously. The best. My parents’ friends had even urged her to open up a little pho restaurant. She was bestowed the recipe by a Vietnamese chef she once knew. Unfortunately, my mama died before I ever got the chance to learn her secrets, and my dad never found the written gem anywhere. Quite literally, she took the secret to the grave.

Years later, I discovered Quoc Viet, a handy little brand of soup base. They make a variety of soup bases, including pho bo (Hanoi beef noodle soup), bo kho (beef stew), and bun bo Hue (spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup from central Vietnam), to name a few. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the outcomes using Quoc Viet products.

Pho is definitely a comfort food: eaten on cold days or after a late night of partying, it hits just the right spot. Vietnamese people often eat it for lunch, brunch, or even breakfast. (I’ve seen Pho Danh, which I believe has the best pho in Houston and which I will review next time I go, crowded with diners at 9 AM.)

So what makes a good pho? It’s mainly in the broth. It can’t be too oily, it has to be flavorful with the right flavors. You’d be surprised at some of the weird tasting pho broths out there. For example, Les Givrals Kahve–not to be confused with the original Givral on Bellaire, this one is an entirely different chain: one on Washington, the other on Congress–has one-dimensional broth that reeks of pepper and nothing else. Blegh.

Quoc Viet makes a delicious broth. I actually prefer my homemade quick & easy chicken pho to any other restaurant’s. One day I will attempt to make it from scratch, but till then, this is a simple yet savory substitute. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.


Recipe: “Quick” & Easy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Summary: Pho ga–instructions can be found on the label of the Quoc Viet soup base, but here is my version.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar Quoc Viet brand “chicken pho” soup base
  • 15-20 chicken legs
  • 1 pc. fresh ginger, unpeeled but washed
  • 1 whole onion, unpeeled but washed
  • 1 (13.5 oz.) can chicken broth
  • 2-3 gal. water
  • 3 pkg. rice sticks (banh pho), cooked al dente
  • 1 bunch scallion/green onion, washed & finely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed & finely chopped
  • 3 limes, cut into sm. wedges
  • Sriracha, hoisin sauce & fish sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. In a lg. stockpot, combine chicken, ginger, and whole onion. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add contents of the Quoc Viet soup base, making sure not to tear open the enclosed spice bags. Boil at med. heat for 20 min.
  3. Remove chicken, ginger, onion, and spice bag. Add chicken broth to soup and adjust water to 2-3 gal. of water, depending on taste. Bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and let simmer until ready to serve.
  4. Meanwhile, remove skin from chicken and shred meat.
  5. To serve, in a lg. bowl, place noodles, chicken, scallion, and cilantro. Pour steaming broth into bowl. Garnish with freshly squeezed lime juice, Sriracha, and/or hoisin sauce.

Quick Notes

I put quotation marks around the word “quick” because while it is quicker than making pho from scratch, it still takes some time to prepare.

You can often find the Quoc Viet soup bases, along with the other ingredients, at your local Asian grocery store. You can also find them online but you’ll probably have to purchase in bulk.

The specific brands of ingredients I like to use are:

  • Swanson chicken broth
  • Sriracha brand hot sauce which is a Thai sauce made of sun-ripened chili peppers and garlic
  • Koon Chun hoisin sauce

As for rice sticks, I like to get the medium-sized noodles (rather than the small that are served in most restaurants), simply because this is what my mama used to serve, and it’s nostalgic for me. As for brand, I used to get the one with a red rose on the package, but that brand has become increasingly harder to find, so I’ve resorted to using one with an elephant. Some cooks I know say it’s an abomination to use dried rice sticks, preferring to only use the fresh ones in the refrigerated section of the store. Anyone have a suggestion as to which rice stick brand I should use?

Variations

Different people like different garnishes and condiments with their pho. I personally only add lime, choosing to forego all the various sauces and veggies. Call me a purist, but I tend to like tasting the essence of a dish. For others, though, you can serve raw veggies: bean sprouts, mint, basil. My mama used to like stalks of green onion blanced in broth. Sometimes, I like slices of red onion doused in vinegar. Place these garnishes in the center of the table and let diners help themselves. Just be sure to let the newbies know it’s for the pho and not a side salad; my dad’s seen a man eat this at a restaurant before his pho came out.

This recipe should make about 20 servings.

Cooking time (duration): 60

Meal type: brunch

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

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