appetizers

in the polyscience: sous vide pork belly bao

Last week, I posted a video about my menu for the Ikea Supper Club: five courses of small offerings that reflected both my heritage and upbringing. A month has gone by since the Supper Club, and I still reflect upon the menu fondly.

The guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy the dishes (or at least that’s what they told me), and when asked which was their favorite, a majority said it was the pork belly bao.

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salmon poke recipe

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.


Recipe: Salmon Poke

Ingredients

  1. 1 lb. sashimi grade salmon, cubed
  2. 1/2 c. Soy sauce
  3. 3/8 c. Chopped scallion
  4. 1 tbsp. Sesame oil
  5. 1/2 tbsp. Toasted sesame seeds
  6. 1/2 tbsp. Crushed red pepper
  7. 1/2 tbsp. seaweed seasoning

Instructions

  1. In a med. Bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hrs. Before serving.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

bruschetta

Bruschetta

Voila! Classico antipasto italiano.

A classic antipasto italiano–Italian Appetizer–is bruschetta, pronounced with a short “u” as in “brush” and a hard “ch” sound like a “k” as in “basket”. Many Americans incorrectly use a long “u” and a soft “shh” sound, and while this is acceptable in most English speaking countries, I like to use the authentic Italian version, complete with rolling R’s and gusto.

Now that we’ve got the pronunciation stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the dish itself. I recently hosted another birthday dinner for friends Joy, Joanna, Heari, and Teresa. Their birthdays stretched way back from February and into the future to May; everyone’s lives had just been too busy for us to coordinate dates. But finally, during a recent Saturday evening, we found ourselves seated around my farmhouse table sharing a meal together.

I decided to go with A Night in Tuscany as the theme since they all enjoy those ever-so-reputedly-bad-for-you carbs. For the first course of the four-course meal, I made this classic bruschetta dish. It turned out yummy; the red onion added a sweet yet pungent kick to each bite. I used Genovese basil fresh from our garden and a saltier, French butter on the baguette slices before baking. The creamy richness of the butter (which my dad bought for us from a Vietnamese grocery store) added an extra oomph to the bruschetta. Perfection in every bite. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Recipe: Bruschetta

Summary: Original recipe courtesy of my friend Karen

Ingredients

  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced & strained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • minced garlic (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • balsamic vinegar to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 baguette, sliced into 3/4″ slices
  • melted butter
  • 1/8 c. grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a med. bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, and basil. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss well and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spread butter on each baguette slice. Bake at approx. 350 degrees for 3 to 5 min. or until butter is melted and bread is lightly toasted.
  3. Top with tomato onion mixture. Add parmesan cheese on top if desired.

Variations

You can add minced fresh garlic to the tomato and onion mixture if desired. Italian food is known for the garlic, after all.

Cooking time (duration): 20

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

vietnamese eggrolls

Eggrolls

Crisphy cha gio on top of a bed of vermicelli

Cha gio, or Vietnamese eggrolls: one of my favorite things to eat. I can make 100 of them and nibble on them every day for weeks. I never get tired of this homemade version which is a recipe I modeled after my own mother’s. And you know mama’s home cookin’ is the best kind of cookin’ they is.

My mom used to make these as a treat every once in awhile, and they’re so good that I don’t even eat them with nuoc cham, or the fish dipping sauce that is a staple condiment for many Vietnamese. I prefer the eggrolls virgin, untouched and unmarred by any any additional sauce or lettuce or vermicelli. Of course, eating them this way makes them disappear much quicker, so I like to feed them to others with a bowl of vermicelli (bun cha gio).

This recipe is not exactly my mothers–she passed away when I was 14, an age before I became interested in cooking. But of the dozens of Saturday mornings I spent in the kitchen peeling eggroll skin after eggroll skin for her, I got to “know” the ingredients by sight and smell. It sounds a little sick, but I loved inhaling the aromatic raw meat and vegetable mixture that is to become the eggroll filling. As a matter of fact, I still do that today when I make eggrolls–that’s the only way I know if the mixture needs more fish sauce or garlic or whatever.

So eggrolls being one of the things I missed most from my mama’s kitchen after she died, I came up with my own concoction that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, tastes incredibly similar to hers. Now if only I was talented enough to figure out her homemade pho from scratch.

Eggrolls contain pork, but one time in elementary school for an international culture week, my mom substituted the ground pork with turkey because I had a Muslim classmate. Now that I have a husband who avoids beef and pork, I too make my eggrolls with ground turkey. They’re not as juicy but they’re healthier. (Well, as healthy as they can be after being submerged in the canola oil.).

I must say cha gio are my masterpiece, but they’re only made like once a year because the whole process–from chopping the veggies to wrapping the eggrolls to frying them–used to take six hours or something insane. Thank God for the food processor, which now has cut my prep and cook time down to a mere four hours. (Har, har.) Don’t let that scare you away from attempting them though; keep in mind that I’m a slow worker, not to mention blind. So remember that if I can do it, so can you. And I encourage you to try this.

Recipe: Vietnamese Eggrolls

Summary: Based on my mom’s cha gio recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground pork or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & minced
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg. carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. dried cat ear mushroom (black fungus)
  • 6 (1.75 oz.) pkgs. dried bean thread noodles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 pkgs. egg roll wrappers or rice paper
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Soak mushrooms and noodles in hot water until tender, about 5 to 10 min. Then finely chop either with knife or food processor.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a lg. bowl and season with pepper to taste.
  3. If using eggroll wrappers, use beaten egg to seal. If using rice paper, simply wet paper and roll, using about 2 rounded spoonfuls of filling in each eggroll.
  4. Heat oil and test for readiness by dropping the tip of an eggroll into the oil. It is hot enough if it immediately begins to sizzle. Fry eggrolls until golden brown, about 4 to 7 min. each.

Quick Notes

Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows the flavors to meld together better.

Don’t overstuff your eggrolls or else they will either burst or not cook through.

The folding technique is as follows: if using the square eggroll wrappers, set the skin so that it is a diamond in front of you. Set the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold the corner pointing at you up over the mixture. Then fold in the two sides. Then roll eggroll away from you, sealing the far corner with a little bit of beaten egg. If using round rice paper for skin, simply wet the banh trang in a lg. bowl of very hot water. It just needs to be immersed for a few seconds; don’t oversoak–the paper will get more and more pliable as it soaks up the water. Oversoaking the rice paper results in mushy skin that will tear easily. Place the circular skin in front of you, place the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold in the same pattern as with the square skins, but omitting the beaten egg for sealing.

Line the cooked eggrolls on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil. Paper bags, I heard, do a better job of soaking up the oil without making the eggrolls soggy.

Variations

The authentic Vietnamese eggroll uses rice paper for the skin, but many use the Filipino lumpia eggroll skin nowadays. Just be sure not to use the Chinese eggroll skin; I made that mistake the first time I ever made eggrolls (yes, back in college), and the skin puffed up like a wonton crisp, which is NOT what you want.

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

scallops gratineed with wine, garlic & herbs



In honor of Julia Child’s birthday (Aug. 15, 1912 – Aug. 13, 2004), here is a recipe from her classic cookbook. It also happens to be the second course for Jade and Uyen’s birthday dinner. (Yes, it’s another French dish.) I served it with a mushroom risotto on the side. Ever since our honeymoon, we have been obsessed with food, and especially French foods. This is why it’s no surprise that I have downloaded both volumes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking from RFB&D and lie in bed at night listening to recipe after recipe until I fall asleep. Nuts? Just a little bit.

To gratinee something or cook it au gratin means to add a layer of an ingredient(s) (e.g. bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, butter) over the top and brown it lightly in a moderately heated broiler prior to serving. This is a common technique from the French and adds flavor and texture to the dish. When I was in Paris 9 years ago, my great aunt made numerous au gratin dishes, mostly in the form of some sort of vegetable in a casserole dish with tons of butter, cheese, and eggs–those French sure know how to eat.

I find that Costco usually has the tastiest looking scallops for a reasonable price–I think I got them for $9.99/lb. Costco has fresh seafood all around, so check out their kiosk next time you’re there on a weekend. They usually have everything from lobster to king crab.

As noted in the recipe below, I have this terrible habit of overcrowding my cookware. I always try to jam things into a small mixing bowl or crowd food into a pan. It comes from my laziness–I’m trying to minimize the time and effort needed for later dishwashing. This is why my food sometimes comes out half overcooked and the other half raw. I really need to break this cycle. Spacious cooking, here I come.

Recipe: Scallops Gratineed with Wine, Garlic & Herbs

Summary: Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale–original recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. yellow onion, minced
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1.5 tbsp. shallots or green onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs. washed scallops
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 c. Swiss cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Cook onions slowly with 1 tbsp. butter in small saucepan for 5 minutes or until tender and translucent but not brown. Stir in shallots or green onion and garlic, and cook slowly for 1 minute more. Set aside.
  2. Dry the scallops and cut into 1/4 inch thick. Just before cooking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll in flour, and shake off excess flour.
  3. In a large skillet, saute the scallops quickly in 2 tbsp. very hot butter and olive oil for 2 minutes to brown them lightly.
  4. Pour the wine into skillet with scallops. Add herbs and cooked onion mixture. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Then uncover and, if necessary, rapidly boil down the sauce for a minute until it is lightly thickened. Correct seasoning and discard bay leaf.
  5. Cut 2 tbsp. butter into 6 pieces. Spoon scallops into a baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to gratinee.
  6. Just before serving, run under moderately hot broiler for 3 to 4 minutes to heat through and brown the cheese lightly.

Quick Notes

Since this recipe is a first course for 6, I doubled the recipe in order to serve it as the main course. I also have this bad habit of overcrowding food into cookware so some of the scallops soaked up all the sauce while others were undercooked. Don’t fall into my bad habits! Cook in batches or using more pots and pans if you have to. (I know it’s hard for us lazy folk.) After gratineeing the scallops, they turned out slightly overdone. Flavor was still great though. Serve with a chilled rose or dry white wine.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Diet type: Pescatarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: French

Microformatting by hRecipe.


And remember, if the Blind can Cook, then so can you.

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