Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vietnamese Beef Pho

You guys! I made pho tonight!!! Well, about 80% of it since I didn't make my own beef stock. But still, it's been on my list of things to try and I can now proudly say I did it. I recently got The Kitchn Cookbook and The Slanted Door and I've been tagging a lot of the Vietnamese food recipes. I feel that I should learn some of the basics since my dad is from there and recently came back from a trip to Vietnam. Also, it might end up saving me some cash because I love going out for pho!

This recipe is adapted from The Kitchn a bit. Mostly made changes in the toppings and garnish since I really wanted to focus on the broth.

Vietnamese Beef Pho Broth
Makes enough to serve 4

2 large onions, peeled
4-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
2 pieces of whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
1800 milliliters of low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
3 carrots, peeled and chopped

Peel and quarter the onions and ginger. Set on baking tray and broil for about five minute, flip and broil again for another five minutes. We just want a slight char, so if you have an open flame, that works too (use tongs to hold onions and ginger).

Put the cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds in a large pot over medium-low heat. Dry-roast it a bit and stir to keep them from burning. When the spices are aromatic, add in the beef broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, carrots, charred onions, and charred ginger. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover with lid, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After, take out another pot, place a strainer or sieve over it to separate the ingredients. Keep the broth hot in this second pot until ready to serve.

I prepared some scallions, cilantro, limes, and quickly cooked the bean sprouts in boiling water. I'm not going to specify quantities here, it's up to you! I always need limes with my pho, so I get 3/4 of the wedges while Howard uses 1. He'd probably not use it but I'm trying to convert him into adding lime juice to the broth. I feel that it tastes so much better with that sour note.

I didn't want to buy a whole pack of Thai basil, but that's generally something I add to my pho as well. As for the boiled bean sprouts, that's something my parents do and we ask restaurants to do it as well when we eat out. I think it has something to do with their preference of cleaning the bean sprouts in a quick flash of hot water.

For the meat topping, we purchased rib-eye beef that's intended for hot pot, but works beautifully here as well. After you cook the flat rice noodle (vermicelli), place the thinly sliced beef on top. Don't worry that it's still raw. If you kept the broth hot enough, it'll be cooked in no time!
See? Pour the broth over to cook the meat and this will also keep the noodles from sticking together. Garnish to your taste. You can see my bowl on the right already has two squeezed lime wedges in it. If you need some spice, add chili or Sriracha.
Verdict? The broth wasn't like the restaurant versions - we're guessing they use their own beef stock and cook that broth for hours. We found that this smelled great and wasn't greasy at all. But if you like it clean and not salty, this is the one for you. In fact, it wasn't salty enough, so we might throw in a pinch next time. We usually feel incredibly thirsty after eating pho out, but this one caused no such desires. But Howard did wish that there was a mango smoothie to end the meal with. Hmph!

Friday, December 19, 2014

American Thanksgiving with Korean Food

We celebrated American Thanksgiving this year with a homemade Momofuku Bo Ssäm. It was such a success that we might do it again for Christmas or New Years or Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day and you might want to, too!

We purchased an eight pound boneless pork shoulder from a local butcher and covered it in a cup of granulated sugar and a cup of salt. In a pan, we rubbed the sugar and salt all over, covered it in plastic wrap, and the meat cured overnight (or for at least 6 hours if you're strapped for time). The next day, we preheated our oven to 300°F (150°C), poured any excess liquid out of the pan, had the pork set fat side up, and popped it in the oven at noon. It baked for 6 hours, we basted every hour with juices from the pan.

A little alteration to the Momofuku cookbook's ginger-scallion sauce: 2½ cups of thinly sliced scallions, ½ cup peeled and minced fresh ginger, ¼ cup of grapeseed oil, 1½ teaspoons of soy sauce, 3/4 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar (instead of sherry vinegar), and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Any leftover sauce we had, Howard used for the rest of the week. It is that good!

The ssäm sauce felt too oily for us, maybe reduce the amount some more? It's was a mix of 1 tablespoons of fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang), ½ tablespoon chili paste (kochujang), ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (again substituted instead of sherry vinegar), and ¼ cup grapeseed oil. We'd try to reduce the oil in half next time.

We bought kim chi and lettuce. Made steamed rice, a cucumber salad, and rice cakes as well.

I love these roasted rice cakes! I urge Howard to make them every chance I get. First you make the Korean Red Dragon sauce. Boil ½ cup of water and ½ cup of sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang) until it dissolves. Add in 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to combine. Set aside.

To make the final sauce that the rice cakes will be tossed in, use another small saucepan and boil ¼ cup mirin and ¼ cup of chicken broth on high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of Korean Red Dragon Sauce and reduce on medium for 6 to 7 minutes.

Boil the rice cakes until they float. Drain the water. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil when hot. Then add the rice cakes. Sear the rice cakes for about 3 minutes per side. They get sticky, so use tongs or chopsticks to help flip them over individually. Toss the crunchy rice cakes in the sauce until they're evenly covered (they magically un-stick here). Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Eat them right away, they're so addictive and yummy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Today is the anniversary of our closing date. I would have missed it if Howard didn't remind me because we didn't actually move in until the new year. We spent a good amount of timing scrubbing the place clean and slowly moving pieces of our lives in, and then carefully choosing furniture. Yet, today feels like a momentous occasion to acknowledge. We're adults! We have more responsibilities! We have lots of bills to pay!
Even with the side effects of being in debt, I have had one of the happiest years of my life so far. I still crawl into bed (which I also purchased a year ago) with a smile on my face (that makes Howard think I'm a lunatic) because I feel so lucky and blessed. I have family and friends who are healthy, generous, and supportive. I have a warm home and a great job to go to every day. The luxury of a car and savings to go on small trips. And the best partner to do all of this with! Howard is there as my gentle reminder and backup so that I can go forward without worry. I can't wait for our wedding day next year.
Domo looks happy in his new home too. He has the best view of everything that happens in our place.

I don't even mind that our kitchen is 60 square feet. I've seen those who do more in their small kitchens online and know that my aunt and uncle in New York have an even smaller kitchen space. The stove, oven, fridge, and dish washer works. There's (some) counter space, a small sink, and a set of drawers. We just have to be super selective on which counter-top appliances, dishes, pots, pans, and pantry staples we need. This sounds like a good idea for a future post. I would like to share what works for us in our small space!
Then there are my books, my pride and joy. You'll be pleased to know that I put cookbooks where a DVD player (which we don't own) would normally sit on the media unit. We have one bookshelf that reaches 8 feet high and is pretty much full. I worry that it'll topple over from the weight and break the walls, but so far it has been safe to walk by. I probably have two more bookshelves worth of books still at my parent's house waiting to be moved.

It's a week from Christmas, so I hope you're all grateful for what you have and feel blessed and happy as well. It's been a learning experience and a test of patience for us, but I feel a little wiser and closer to our parents who are experts at all things home and garden. To family!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Classic French Madeleines

How have you been? I know it's been quite around here, it's been quite hectic at work. Worst of all, I met my nemesis, the flu. The flu kicked me down and knocked me out for a week. I'm still fighting the after effects, but I think I am finally winning.

The wedding plans are also coming along (mostly?). I don't think there's anything left for us to do this year. All the things that need to be booked ahead of time are done (I hope, I think?), so we just wait until we're closer to the date. I'd like to think we're ahead of schedule or at least on track! I wish I could tell you more, but I'm an odd believer that I'll jinx it if I do. Some things were too good to be true and then fell through, so I'll wait until it's all over before I say any more!

I'm still loving little madeleines though. These tiny tea cakes make good afternoon snacks. I hope you all get madeleine pans this holiday and make these tasty little morsels.
Classic French Madeleines
Recipe from Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share
(Makes about 24 regular or 48 minis)

1 stick of unsalted butter + 4 tablespoons for the pan
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3 large eggs
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
  1. Preheat the oven at 175°C or 350°F.
  2. Place the butter in a microwavable bowl and melt on lower power for about a minute. Let it cool to room temperature. Butter up with the 4 tablespoons! Make sure you brush soften butter into all the nooks and crannies of the pan for easy lift up after.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until it is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add in vanilla extract and lemon zest, mix for another minute until combined. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Don't over mix at this stage, the flour just needs to be incorporated completely.
  5. Use a spoon or scoop to fill the pan molds until they're almost full. You can smooth out the batter if you like, but I find that it'll melt nicely into the mold in the oven's hot temperatures.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for regular sized madeleines and 5 to 6 for the mini sizes. They should puff up to show that signature madeleine hump and be golden in colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and let the madeleines cool. Eat them right away. Seriously, they're best when they're fresh!
I'm thinking these will make great gifts this holiday at the office. I've made macarons two years in a row, it's time to switch it up!
One more thing, don't skip the lemon zest, it gives the cakes such a great boost in flavour. Not to mention, the aroma!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Madeleines

Madeleines . . . the first time I had memorable madeleines was at Café Boulud. They were sitting in a warm nest of linen napkins, and even though I was full from the meal, I devoured them.

Little miniature tea cakes, madeleines are described as "small, shell-shaped cakes made of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter and baked in molds." I think we can all agree that we could use more madeleines in our lives, so I couldn't wait to look through a whole book about them!
Beautiful endpapers should always be acknowledged.
If I woke up to that basket of madeleines every morning, I would be happy and content. All would be right.
I quickly flipped to chapter three, dark and deluxe chocolate madeleines!

Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share
Written by Barbara Feldman Morse
Photographs by Steve Legato
ISBN 13: 9781594747403
ISBN 10: 1594747407
Publisher: Quirk Books
Hardcover: 224 pages

Let's give the dark chocolate espresso madeleines a try. The author mentions that this recipe was adapted from her award-winning recipe that is a mix between brownies, fudge, and dense chocolate cake.
I used a double boiler and a stand mixer to create the batter. A lot of butter, sugar, semisweet chocolate chips, espresso powder, eggs, flour, and cocoa powder went into this.
This particular batter was dark, thick, and shiny. It also doesn't rise much, so you can fill the molds to the top without worrying about overflow.
The espresso flavor really stands out, the only thing I wished was that my mold was more defined. I felt that they didn't produce enough of a shell imprint on the madeleines. So if you're on the search for madeleine pans, get ones with more defined edges!

If you're not picky on how they look, then it doesn't matter because they taste great anyways. Looking over the table of contents, I would want to try these recipes next: the classic French madeleines, lemon poppy seed, chai tea, peanut butter and jelly, sunshine, molten, peaches and cream, snowball, fresh lemon drop, browned butter pecan, gruyère and rosemary, brie-stuffed, caramelized onion and asiago, and banana foster. As you can see, there are savory and appetizer madeleines!

Disclaimer: A review copy of Madeleines was sent to me for review from Eric Smith at Quirk Books. Thank you! No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book.
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