Monday, March 28, 2011

Orange Chili Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Severaaallll years ago, I got a small sushi making kit and got very into making my own rolls.  As a birthday gift, my friend Jasmine, got me this killer book on Asian cooking.  I am embarrassed to write that I've hardly touched it in the last 7-8 years.  In a recent moment of inspiration, I decided to make us Chinese Chicken Lettuce cups for a fun Sunday dinner.  This recipe is easy, but requires multiple sauces.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the dried vermicelli at our local Vons and regret that I did not make the 10 minute drive to the Asian Supermarket, because these were not quite complete without the "crunch" that vermicelli provide.

Orange Chili Chicken In Lettuce Cups
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves 4 as a starter

500g (1 lb) Chicken Mince (Ground Chicken, in American-speak)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
peanut oil, for deep-frying
60g (2 oz) dried rice vermicelli noodles, broken up (I didn't have these, and they were greatly missed)
1 red pepper, finely chopped
120g (4 oz) can water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 iceberg or romaine lettuce

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon mild-hot chili sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
1 teaspoon corn flour

1/ Mix together the chicken mince, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil, cover and refrigerate.

2/ Half-fill a wok, deep-fryer or large, heavy-based pan with oil and heat to moderately hot.  Add the rice noodles in small patches (they increase in size rapidly, causing the oil to rise) and fry for 1-2 seconds, or until puffed.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

3/ To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients and stir until the cornflour has dissolved.  Set aside.

4/ Heat a little peanut oil in a wok or large pan.  Add the chicken mixture and fry for 3-4 minutes, breaking up any lumps with a fork or wooden spoon.  Add the red pepper, water chestnuts, spring onion and ginger to the pan and toss for 1-2 minutes.  Add the sauce to the pan and stir for about 1 minute, or until slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat and mix in the noodles, reserving a few for garnish.  Form the lettuce leaves into 8 cups by trimming the edges and divide the chicken mixture among them.  Sprinkle the reserved noodles on top.

I like to serve this dish with the lettuce leaves in a stack, unfilled, so you can "make your own" lettuce cup, as-you-go.  It's more fun!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Green Tea Ice Cream

I decided to attempt Green Tea Ice Cream as a birthday gift for our neighbor's daughter, on her eighteenth birthday.  Her party included a buffet of 18 appetizers, and (because our neighbors generously loan me their ice cream maker so often) I offered to make Savannah's favorite flavor of ice cream as dessert; which, as it turns out, is Green Tea.

Green Tea Ice cream is actually a pretty simple flavor to make.  The only tricky part is finding Matcha (powdered green tea).  I've actually seen it suggested that you can use loose leaf green tea and grind it down yourself.  This just sounds like too much work.  In an act of desperation, I went to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and asked politely for them to give me a few scoops of their Matcha powder if I  also ordered a drink.  I purchased a hot chocolate, and still had to pay an additional $1.50 for the 2 tablespoons of powder.  It was worth is, however, because I'm not sure I'd be spending the rest of the month using up the powder in my own iced green tea lattes.

Green Tea Ice Cream
Yield: Makes about 1 quart
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons matcha (powdered Japanese green tea)

Bring cream, milk, and salt to a boil in a 3-to-4 quart heavy saucepan and remove from heat.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, and matcha in a bowl (tea will not be completely dissolved), then add 1 cup hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking vigorously.  Whisk custard into remaining cream mixture in saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil).

Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Chill, covered, until cold, at least 1 hour.

Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

*Note: This recipe yielded an ice cream that had no green coloring.  I actually added a little blue and yellow food coloring, while it was mixing in the ice cream maker, until I got a yellowish-green.  The texture is more like a custard or frozen yogurt, but still delicious.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Collard Greens with Bacon and Apple Cider Vinegar

Shown Here with Stuffed Pork Chops

After posting a Giada recipe for Spicy Parmesan Green Beens and Kale, our friend Kurt send me this recipe from Simply Recipes, for Beet Greens.  You can also substitute Kale or Collard Greens, and since the supermarket had slim pickings, Collard Greens was my choice by default.  

When I initially tasted this, I wasn't a fan of how sweet it was (1 tablespoon of white sugar seems like a lot, especially for a dish with greens), however when paired with Stuffed Pork Chops, the sweetness was a perfect compliment to the apple stuffing.  Mike gave this one a big reception, which is rare, so I highly recommend.  In addition to the original ingredients, I added some fresh shredded parmesan.  Simply because cheese makes everything taste better.

Serves 4
1 pound beet greens (or in this case, collard greens)
1 strip of thick bacon, chopped (or a tablespoon of bacon fat)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup of water
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used a little extra to cut the sweetness)
1/6 cup of cider vinegar
(Optional) Approx 3 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan

1/ Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water.  Drain greens and wash a second time.  Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems.  Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

2/ In a large skillet or 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 Tbsp of bacon fat.)  Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until onions soften and start to brown.  Stir in garlic.  Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan.  Stir in sugar and red pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil.

3/ Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender (I suggest treading towards less cooking time, so the greens don't wilt and turn brown).  

Stir in vinegar.  (For kale or collard greens continue cooking additional 20-25 minutes or until desired tenderness.)  Add optional parmesan right before serving.

Stuffed Pork Chops

Another delicious 1950's recipe from my Alcatraz Women's Club Cookbook.  I altered a little, by adding cinnamon and thyme and drizzling with olive oil before cooking.  Served with Collard Greens, cooked with Bacon and Apple Cider Vinegar, these are exceptional.  I am definitely serving this meal for our next dinner party.

Recipe compliments of Mrs. Viola Delmore.

(Serves 4)
4 pork chops, 1" thick
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped apple
1 tsp minced onion
salt and pepper
(optinal) Omit the Sage and add 1 tsp dried Thyme and 1 tsp Penzey's Baking spice OR Cinnamon.

Combine bread crumbs, apple, onion and salt and pepper to taste. (I also added a little Penzey's 
Baking Spice and dried thyme.)

Cut pocket in chops and fill with mixture.

Drizzle pkts with a little olive oil and top with a little extra salt and pepper.  Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.  (For timing, I actually broiled the chops on their side, with the breading mixture faced up.  They were done in approximately 8 minutes and cooked perfectly.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Meringue Lemon Pie

Awhile back, my husband was in a show that went to the San Francisco Fringe Festival.  Wonderful man that he is, he brought me back a cookbook called the Alcatraz Women's Club Cook Book.  It's a collecion of recipes that were from the wives of Alcatraz employees from the 1950's and they are truly nostalgic.

I've completely re-written the recipe below, because it was very hard to follow as written in the book, but the ingredients and details are untouched.

Meringue Lemon Pie
Mrs. Verna Severson

(For the Meringue Crust:)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar (OR 1 tsp vinegar)
1/8 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar

(For the Filling:)
1 Tbsp gelatin, unflavored
1/2 cup water, cold
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon rind, grated
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Butter a large pie pan, and set aside.  For the meringue, add 1 teaspoon vinegar or cream of tartar and 1/8 teaspoon salt to 3 egg whites.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar.  Spread evenly in buttered pan and bake for 1 hour or until delicately browned.  (This step is tricky, as my meringue was quite browned, but still not 100% baked through.)

Beware, the eggwhites expand while baking and the meringue will rise several inches from the pan, but collapses after being pulled out of the oven.

While the meringue is baking, prepare the filling:
Cook yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice and salt in a double boiler to a custard consistency, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water.  Add softened gelatin and lemon rind.  Cool.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Gently fold egg white and sugar combo into cooled custard mixture.  Pour into baked meringue shell and chill until firm (2 to 3 hours).

Serve with whipped cream.  (I used the recipe for the orange blossom cream from recent Chocolate Souffle post, but substituted lemon zest and added 1-2 tsp vanilla extract.)  Just for fun, I piped the whipped cream onto the pie, instead of serving it on the side.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mam Papaul's King Cake

I first learned of King Cake (a New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition) at the opening party for a show my husband did last year - Louis and Keely, Live at the Sahara and loved the sweet, bready texture and flavor.  The fun part of King Cake is a small plastic baby that get's hidden in the cake (something that completely freaked out on of my co-workers when she found it unexpectedly).  I was very excited when I found a box mix for this cake at Cost Plus World Market.  There are several steps and it's a bit time consuming (kneading the dough and then allowing it to rise, twice), but all-in-all, the instructions are pretty easy to follow and the result is a fun treat for Mardi Gras!

Mam Papaul's Boxed Mix comes with all ingredients (even the plastic baby).  
All you need is hot water, 1 stick butter and 1 egg.

Mix and Knead in Bag
1/ Place cake mix (large bag) and yeast in reclosable bag.  Lock bag and shake well.  Add 1 cup hot water, and 1/2 cup butter to contents of large bag.  Press air from bag and lock.  With fingers outside bag, mix by squeezing and pulling dough untl butter can no longer be seen.

2/ Add 1 egg to contents of bag.  Press air from bag and lock.  With fingers on outside of bag, mix and knead ingredients by squeezing and pulling dough for approximately 15 minutes.  (Be careful not to puncture bag)

3/ Unlock bag.  Set bag of dough in a bowl in a warm place until dough has doubled in size.  Warm Place: Turn oven to lowest setting for 2 minutes that turn oven off.

Shape and Rise
1/ Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Flour rolling pin and roll dough in 5" x 30" rectangle.  Mix 2 tablespoons melted butter with brown sugar praline mix.  Add nuts, if desired.  Spread evenly over dough.  From 30" side, roll dough jelly roll fashion.  Pinch edges to seal.

2/ Place on large cookie sheet.  Shape into oval.  Let rise in a warm place approximately 30 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Bake and Decorate
1/ Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned.  Cool.

2/ Mix 1 tablespoon water with white glaze mix.  Spread on top of cooled cake.  Decorate with colored sugar crystals.  Place "baby" under cake.  Makes 12 servings.

Do not place the plastic baby in the cake.  When cake is cut and served, server need only place the baby under the piece of cake so it is easily detected on th eplate by the guest as he/she lifts the piece of cake.