Saturday, October 30, 2010


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lemon Sabayon Tart on a Pine Nut Crust

I brought this tart to my weekly girls' gathering to watch The Bachelor and it was a hit! The Boy had indicated that my American lemon tart last week was too sweet, so I decided to make a sabayon instead for a lighter, tarter flavor.

Sabayon is a light custard with Italian origins, usually made in a bain-marie. I use one of my metal mixing bowls over a simmering pot of water with a slightly wider diameter for the bain-marie. Also, if you watch the Food Network, they usually use a hand whisk and beat very fast. Sorry, I'm short and have to tip toe to look over my pot on the stove, so an electric whisk is my tool of choice here. You have to be a little careful in the beginning too though, and pulse the electric whisk. Otherwise your sabayon-to-be is going to fly all over the place!

This recipe is from Thomas Keller's 'Bouchon'.

Cooking time: 30 mins
Equipment: 9 inch springform pie pan

2 cups pine nuts (I used a mix of pine nuts, almonds, walnuts and macadamias cos that's what I had left in the pantry)
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg (approx. 2oz/60g)
1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat your oven at 350F/175C.

2. Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times until roughly fine. Transfer into your mixer bowl and add the sugar and flour. Mix well.

3. Add butter, egg and vanilla extact and mix well to incorporate all the ingredients. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal parts (I weigh each part) and wrap each piece in cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 10 mins before using. If you are like me and like your crust a bit thicker - which is wonderful with this nutty crust - I divide the dough into 2 equal parts instead of 3. The extra dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.

4. Press the chilled dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of your pie pan. Trim off any excess dough. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, then rotate it and bake for a further 15 mins until pale golden brown. Take it out of the oven and let it cool while you make your sabayon.

Cooking time: 10 mins
Equipment: 1 metal mixing bowl, 1 pot with a slightly bigger diameter, 1 (electric) whisk

2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 3 large lemons)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold


1. Fill the pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.

2. In your metal mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together well.

3. Set the bowl over the pot and whisk the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating - you will need oven gloves for this). After about 2 mins of whisking, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened slightly, add 1/3 of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously for approx 2 mins. When the mixture thickens again, add another 1/3 of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again and add the remaining lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously, turning the bowl, until the mixture has thickened and leaves a trail on the surface when you lift your whisk. The total cooking time should be approx 8-10 mins.

4. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Divide the butter into 6 pieces and whisk each piece in one at a time.

5. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust. Give it a few small shakes so that the sabayon fills the tart crust evenly.

6. Preheat the broiler and, while the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Watch it as it browns in a few seconds, rotating the tart for an even color. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. The sabayon will thicken and set as it cools. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stir fried Beef Tenderloin w/ Spring Onions and Ginger

Part of what drives me to blog is to demystify Chinese cooking. Chinese cooking doesn't have to be a big production, although it can be. It isn't difficult or inconvenient if you have the basic pantry items, which keep and keep and keep. You don't need a wok - a skillet will work - but why wouldn't you want a wok? =) Authentic Chinese food is exceedingly healthy (no cloying sugary Pei Wei sauces, although those are nice sometimes) and works with your body. And it is yummy.

For example, beef is great if you are tired and need an energy boost (roll call all pregnant moms out there). Ginger has many health benefits as well. It is invigorating, and great for postpartum moms who have a lot of 'wind' in their body that ginger can 'drive out' (although some doctors warn against eating too much ginger if your baby is jaundiced). During my own pregnancy, I have been craving (among other things) ginger, tofu and sweets. If you have lost your appetite due to morning sickness, ginger can revive it.

The Boy and I are also on a fat free kick at the moment. So I've inserted comments here and there how we try to get there. All suggestions are welcomed.

An easy method of Chinese cooking is stir fry, so let me get onto tonight's dish:


A - Meat and Marinade
10 oz beef tenderloin, thinly sliced
(Springerhill brand is the leanest and is recommended by nutritionist Keith Kline. It can be found at Smart Meals (Fountainview) and, I'm told, Randalls)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp light soya sauce (Korean brands are lower in sodium)
1 tbsp ginger juice (put a small piece of ginger in the garlic press and squeeeze...)
1 tbsp Chinese wine (vermouth or dry sherry works too)
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp oil

B - Vegetables
2" root of ginger, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 spring onions, cut into 5 cm strips

C - Seasoning
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Chinese wine


A - Marinate the beef with the ingredients (in order - dry ingredients first). Leave for 10 mins.

In a wok, heat 2 tbsp of oil (high heat). When the oil is smoking and very hot, stir fry the beef slices to seal in the juices. When the beef is cooked and not pink anymore, ladle it out and set aside.

B - Rinse and dry the wok. Then, in the wok, heat 1 tbsp of oil (medium heat). Add ginger and stir fry for a few seconds to flavor the oil. Add garlic and spring onions and stir fry until an aroma rises. Don't let the garlic brown as it will turn bitter - control your heat and add it last always.

(I also like to add 1/2 tsp of chili flakes at this point to give the dish a bit of kick.)

C - Mix in the cooked beef slices. Serve hot.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! We've been in a flurry since Christmas and now that Junior (represented by the tiny red stocking) is hotting up mommy's belly. Here's a recap of what we've been up to:

The Boy cooked up a fantastic breakfast
with leftover post-Christmas black bean soup,
hash browns, eggs and his very own ranchero sauce.

Coffee with our Cousin Elizabeth,
who knows the coolest places in town.
The perfect rosetta, and pink shoes for Junior.

The Boy attempted some haute cuisine for his
cousinas, with a deconstructed peanut butter and jelly
that he saw Bobby Flay do on Iron Chef.

Back in Houston, TX, where The Boy
continued his culinary streak.
(I had a wee sip only)

The Boy's virgin roasted tenderloin. Perfection!

He also baked the most scrumptious butter almond cake
with chocolate glaze. I am so proud!

To top it off, this is a picture of our ridiculous
New Year's Eve Scrabble game --
there were at least three 7-letter words,
and the final score was an incredulous (for us)
425 pts to 357 pts!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicken Poblano Soup

Specially for my Bachelor girls. A quick and easy entree for laid back entertaining. Some tricks for making your food fat free as well.

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 20 mins

A - Aromatics
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 poblano chilis, seeded and finely chopped (I used jalapenos today cos that's what I had in the fridge)

B - Liquids
1 can chopped fire-roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen makes a good one)
4 cups chicken stock (store bought or homemade - if homemade, store in fridge overnight and skim the white layer of fat off before using)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp epazote, a Mexican spice (optional)

C - Meat
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

D - Tortillas (OK, this is not fat free)
Corn tortillas (approx 12)
Grapeseed oil (or any other oil with a high smoke point)
Chili olive oil (optional - I like to use a bit of chili oil to add a kick.)

E - Other garnishings (pick and combine as you like)
Cheese, shredded (Monterey Jack, which you can find fat free) (I used the Butter Queso I had in my fridge today)
Scallions or cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Romaine Lettuce, julienned
Lime wedges


A - In a 5 quart dutch oven or other pot, fry the chopped onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Just as they soften and get translucent, add the garlic and poblano. The reason you add the garlic second is so that it doesn't brown and get bitter.

B - Stir in the canned tomatoes, stock, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 mins.

C - Add shredded chicken.

D - While the soup is simmering, prepare the tortilla strips. In a skillet, heat up a half-half combination of grapeseed oil and chili olive oil (if using) - about 1/2 inch high. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut each tortilla in half and each half in strips about 1/4 inch wide. Deep fry in the oil until crispy and slightly browning at the edges. Remove and rest on kitchen towels to drain the excess oil. You'll probably have to do this in 3-4 batches, depending on the size of your skillet.

E - Serve soup with garnishings on the side, so that your guests can pick and choose according to their tastes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Eating well?

I'm snowed in in Kansas City at the moment, where we are visiting The Boy's family. Don't worry, my in-laws a big time foodies, so we have a lot of food stored up for the winter blizzard days. I've also been, quite literally, eating for two. =)

You may notice that I've expanded my Table of Contents on the right-hand column to include some more technical methods of cooking: Braising, Stewing, Roasting and Baking. The Boy and I have also been trying to eat vegetarian at least once a week, so I've included a category for "Vegetarian". All my Asian cooking is also clearly marked under "Asian" with the country of origin.

Thank you for reading my blog so faithfully. Do leave a comment if you are passing through, tell me what you like to eat, share a recipe, say hello.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coq au vin

It is ok to use sparkling shiraz to make coq au vin.

At least, that's what I discovered this time...

Coq au vin used to be *the* dinner party dish. But with the simplification of cooking, it's halo has somewhat dimmed. I know we have had several chicken casserole dishes recently, but this was what I made for a dinner party last Thursday, so thought I would post it.

You won't believe the funny story I have though: So, I knew I had a bottle of red someone had given us in the pantry. A Beaujolais or dry fruity Pinot Noir is recommended, but really any table red has worked well for me in the past. So I don't give it a second thought. I go grocery shopping, come home, prep everything, dredge the chicken and all. Just as I'm ready to pour in the braising liquid, I happen to glance at the label casually and, guess what it was? *Sparkling* red wine. Well, too late now. I prayed and poured it in.

It worked great.

So, I'm even more convinced now that absolutely any red will work. But this might be black swan white swan thing.

Anyways... recipe adapted from Molly Stevens fantastic book on braising.

Cooking time: 1 hour
Equipment: 1 cast iron Dutch oven or heavy casserole, tongs, parchment paper, 1 covered non-stick skillet

A - Meat
4 oz bacon, diced - slab bacon (without the rind), pancetta, or the bacon fat you have in a teacup in the fridge will work
1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs), cut into 8 pieces - the butcher can do this for you
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp butter

B - Aromatics
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2" pcs
1 carrot, chopped into 1/2" pcs
1 tbsp tomato paste

C - Braising liquid
2 tbsp cognac
1 bottle dry, fruity red wine (750ml)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken stock

D - Garnish
10 oz frozen pearl onions
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped


A - Add the diced bacon in your Dutch oven, cold, and turn the heat to medium. Cook the bacon until it is browned and crispy all over on the outside. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the rendered fat behind. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the fat.

While the bacon is cooking, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Spread the flour in a small baking dish or other flat dish and dredge each piece of chicken, coating on all sides. When the butter has melted, lift each piece of chicken with tongs, shaking off any excess flour, and ease them into the hot bacon fat/butter. Sear on both sides, turning with tongs, until the skin turns a deep golden brown. Transfer chicken to a large platter (I usually use the overturned side of my Dutch oven cover). You will probably have to do this in two batches - just add another tbsp of butter for the second batch.

Pre-heat oven to 325 F / 163 C.

B - Melt the butter in the pot. Saute the onion and carrot until the vegetables are softened and very slightly browning. Add the tomato paste and mix well with the vegetables.

C1 - Add the cognac and bring to a vigorous simmer. To deglaze the pot, scrape off the caramelized bits at bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Simmer and stir until the liquid is almost all gone.

Raise the heat to high, add the red wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and parsley. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and simmer until the wine has reduced to half.

Add the reserved bacon and chicken stock, bringing to a boil. Then turn off heat. You should have a rich red liquid. Ladle 1/2 cup of braising liquid and set aside (to cook the pearl onions later).

C2 - Return the chicken pieces into the pot in a single layer, with the chicken breasts on the top, skin side down. Pour in any juices that collected as the chicken sat.

Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the chicken and extends over the sides of the pot a little. Weigh the parchment paper down with the lid. Place the pot on the lower rack of the oven to braise.

After 15 mins, uncover and turn the breast pieces over with your tongs. Return to the oven - do all this quickly so that the braising liquid doesn't lose too much simmer! Continue braising for another 45 mins until the chicken meat is fork-tender.

D1 - While the chicken is cooking, start working on the garnish. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a non-stick skillet. Add frozen onions and saute until they are slightly browning. Season with salt and pepper, and add the reserved 1/2 cup of braising liquid. Cover and simmer until onions are tender (test with a fork). Remove the lid, increase heat to a boil and reduce the liquid to a glaze. Transfer onions and glaze to a small platter, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon.

Return the skillet to the stove and melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter. When the butter stops foaming, saute the mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper. Continue to saute until the mushrooms have released all their moisture and start searing slightly. Remove from heat.

Return onions and glaze to the skillet with the mushrooms and set aside.

D2 - To finish the dish, remove the Dutch oven from the oven when the chicken is fork-tender. Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Place the pot over high heat and bring the gravy to a boil, reducing it until it has thickened to the consistency of a vinaigrette.

Lower heat and add reserved garnish of onions and mushrooms. Heat through and spoon gravy over chicken pieces. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

You can serve this with tagliatelle or mash potatoes. We made super healthy mash potatoes with non-fat milk and non-fat sour cream and lots and lots of black pepper!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chicken and No Dumplings

There is nothing more warming on a winter's day than a bubbling braise. Particularly, for the first time in history, we have early snow in Houston!

I made this braise for a quick family dinner when we were up in Kansas City over Thanksgiving with The Boy's folks. It was so good that I was thinking about it the next morning and the next night, and had it for breakfast and a late night supper!

It's super easy too. Braising has only a few basic steps - sear meat, cook aromatics, deglaze pan with braising liquid, cook, garnish and serve - and then it's all about practice. Every time you braise, it's just about these 4 things: meat, aromatics, braising liquid, garnish.

The reason why I've called it 'Chicken and No Dumplings' is because we aren't very fond of dumplings in this household. The only dumplings we like are Chinese jiaozi, which I make fresh and always have a batch in the freezer for a quick meal (like the one The Boy is having at the moment, after having been sent home from work because of the snow *pfft*). The chicken stands magnificently on its own though, so it's not a big loss. You can serve it with mashed potatoes, or boiled fingerling potatoes, and/or a baguette. Yum.

Here's to heartwarming homecooked meals this winter!

Cooking time: Approx. 1 hour
Equipment: 1 Dutch oven or heavy casserole

A - Meat
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces - the butcher can do this for you
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp butter

B - Aromatics
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 strips lemon rind
1/4 tsp nutmeg

C - Braising liquid
1 cup Vermouth or a dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock

D - The Liason (a French technique to thicken and enrich the gravy at the end)
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and black pepper
1/2 lemon, squeezed
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


A - Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or heavy casserole, melt the butter and sear the chicken meat until the skin is blonde (not brown). If you cannot fit all the meat in at one go, do it in two batches. Set aside (I always set aside the meat on the overturned cover of my casserole).

B - Melt the butter and fry the vegetables until the onions are soft and glistening. Take in the aroma of the onions, mixed with spices and heady fragrance of the lemon.

C - Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape off those caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan which will give the braise depth of flavor. Bring down to a simmer and cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Add in chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken pieces into the casserole in this order: layer all the pieces in a single layer at the bottom of the casserole, and the two breasts pieces on top, skin side down. Cover and simmer gently for 10 mins.

After 10 mins, uncover the casserole and turn the breast pieces over so that it's laying skin side up. If the liquid is simmering too turbulently, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover again and continue to braise for another 30 mins. The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.

Remove the chicken pieces to your serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

D - Whisk the egg yolks, cream, salt and pepper. Whisk in a ladle of the gravy in to warm the egg mixture slowly, so that the eggs do not scramble. At very low heat, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the gravy and stir until it thickens and leaves the side of the pan slightly - a little like making custard. Be careful to control your heat - you don't want the eggs to scramble! Taste and add more salt or pepper or lemon juice as desired.

Spoon over the chicken. Garnish and serve with some boiled fingerling potatoes and sliced baguette to soak up that delicious gravy.