Saturday, December 31, 2011

E-Fu Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Chives

I've been trying to figure out how to make these noodles for about 10 years, and I finally did it!

This dish is the last course of the 10-course banquet at East Ocean City, one of my favorite restaurants in Boston's Chinatown.  I love the spongy texture of the noodles.  The dish is very simple, but even after I've eaten 9 other courses, I always find room for them in my stomach.

Given the light, spongy texture, I figured that the noodles were fresh, but every package of fresh noodles from the Chinese grocery store didn't have the sponginess to soak up the sauce.  I spent years feeling discouraged.  Due to my limited Chinese, I even had trouble ordering the dish in restaurants.  However, I had the noodles at East Ocean City again on my birthday this year. They were so delicious that my determination to learn how to make them was renewed!

My sister-in-law told me that the Chinese name for the noodles is "e-fu," and I read about them online, learning that the noodles were usually sold in the dried form.  I had hoped I could just order some online and have them delivered, but alas, Amazon Grocery hasn't started selling them yet.  My friend Chris confirmed that her husband had purchased this type of noodle from our local Chinese grocery store.  None of the store employees speak English, so I thought about asking Chris's husband to come on a shopping trip with me.  However, today I went to the grocery store to see what I could find on my own.  I asked one of the employees for "E-fu? Yi mein?" in my terrible accent, and then I showed her the Chinese characters from the Wikipedia page on my phone.  Success!

I thought that I'd just use the packet of soup base that came with the noodles, but after some scrolling through Google search pages, I found a recipe for the exact dish I was looking for.  I did actually weigh the ingredients on my fabulous kitchen scale (which also helps my husband be very accurate with the postage when mailing out packages), but below I tried to estimate how much to use if you don't have a scale.

I think the dish came out as good as East Ocean City's, and I made it for less than a third of what they charged us last time!

E-Fu Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Chives
adapted from

200 g dried e-fu noodles (I used 3 packages of dried noodles)
150 g garlic chives (about a bunch 1-inch in diameter), cut into 2-inch segments
10-12 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cooking wine
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For sauce:
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste, because saltiness of oyster sauce varies)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil

1.  Fill stock pot or water with about 4 cups of water (enough to cover one package of dried noodles).  Add mushrooms and bring water to a boil.  Then add one package of dried noodles, blanching noodles for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Immediately remove noodles from water. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Repeat for each package of noodles.  Remove mushrooms and let cool.  Reduce mushroom water to about 1/2 a cup.  (If you don't have time to reduce the mushroom water, just substitute a 1/2 cup of chicken broth in other steps.)  Thinly slice mushrooms.

2. Mix together sauce ingredients with 1/2 cup of reduce mushroom water.  Set aside.

3. Heat wok or large nonstick skillet on medium high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant, and then add sliced mushrooms.  Stir-fry them until lightly brown, about half to one minute. Add chives and sprinkle wine on side of wok and give a few quick stirs until chives soften.  Remove mushroom and chive mixture to plate.

4. Pour in mixed sauce in center of wok. Bring it to a simmer, then put in noodles and mushroom and chive mixture. You need to constantly flip and turn them to avoid sticking to the wok. Stir well and until all the sauce is evenly coated to the noodles.  Serve immediately.

Time: about 30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings if main course, maybe 4 servings if side dish

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

I'm not much of a baker, but even I like to bake around the holidays.  I searched the internet for some easy cookies to make for my office and came across this macaroon recipe.  

The macaroons themselves were easy to make, but I had to consult my husband when it came to how much chocolate to put on them.  He declared that drizzling chocolate over the macaroons didn't provide enough chocolate flavor, so I ended up dipping about half of the macaroons in chocolate.  This made the process a little messier, but I agree that more chocolate makes them even yummier.

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons
adapted from Bon Appetit via

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
3 large eggs
24 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.

Drizzle chocolate over macaroons or dip them. Chill on sheets in refrigerator until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 45-50 pieces

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deviled Eggs: My Bedtime Snack!

Searching online for good Thanksgiving appetizers was making me really hungry last night, and then the internet suggested deviled eggs.  Once the idea was in my head, I couldn't get it out.  I had to make them!  I had to make them right away!  It was 9:30 pm, but I went for it.

I've been using the same deviled egg recipe since I started my love affair with Epicurious in 2002.  That was the year that I branched out beyond my three cookbooks: Chinese Cooking for Dummies, 365 Ways to Cook Chinese, and the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I still have and use all three, but I use the internet for most of my recipe needs now.

I don't pipe my deviled egg filling so that it looks pretty.  I just boil the eggs, scoop the yolk out, mix yolk with other ingredients, spoon mix back into egg, and devour!  The husband and I devoured this entire plate before bed yesterday.  Silly me, I thought we might have leftovers to eat today.

Deviled Eggs
adapted from Gourmet via epicurious

6 large eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Cover eggs with cold water by 1-1/2 inches in a heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, 10 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise and mustard and stir with fork until smooth. Sprinkle cayenne pepper over the top.

Yield: 12 pieces
Total time: 30 minutes

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Version of Afghani Kaddo (Butternut Squash with Meat and Yogurt Sauce)

One of our favorite restaurants in Cambridge is Helmand particularly for their roasted pumpkin dish, kaddo.  I've been looking for a recipe to replicate that delicate balance of sweet pumpkin, savory meat and tomato sauce, and tangy yogurt sauce for years. I tried a recipe found online last year, but it came out way too sweet.  Knowing me, I probably didn't halve all the ingredients correctly since I doubt I had two sugar pumpkins, but it was also a pain to roast the pumpkin for 3 hours and baste it.  Have you ever basted roasted vegetables???  Anyway, even if I fixed the sugar issue, I wasn't up for that time commitment again.

Apparently there's a shortage of sugar pumpkins in New England this year because of Hurricane Irene, and our farmer warned us not to keep our squashes around too long because of this year's growing conditions.  With multiple butternut squashes sitting around my kitchen from our vegetable share, I decided to give a different kaddo recipe a try with butternut squash.

I'm happy to report that this recipe came out fabulously, and it was a lot easier and faster than the last recipe I tried.  Peeling went super fast with  my new carbon steel C-peeler, so now I don't look like I'm about to chop off my fingers when trying to break down winter squashes.  I didn't bother adding garlic or salt/pepper to the yogurt but instead just added it plain to the rest of the dish.

My Version of Afghani Kaddo (Roasted Butternut Squash with Meat and Yogurt Sauce)
adapted from Chowhound

One 2 to 2.5 pound sugar pumpkin or winter squash (such as butternut or acorn), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound ground meat (I've made with beef or pork, but I think even ground chicken would work)
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large oven-proof skillet or dutch oven that will fit all the pumpkin/squash. Brown the pumpkin/squash pieces, turning frequently, until golden brown (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Mix sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over pumpkin/squash. Cover with foil or pan cover. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.
  4. While pumpkin/squash baking, make meat sauce: In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook the onions until lightly browned. Add ground meat, garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix well and cook until meat is browned. Add tomato sauce and water, mix thoroughly and bring to a simmer, lower heat, and cook about 20 minutes until it cooks down to a thick sauce.
  5. To serve: plate portion of the cooked pumpkin/squash, top with meat sauce and dollop of yogurt. 
Yields: 4 servings
Total Time: 45 minutes, all active

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vegetable Week Continues: Turnip and Turnip Green Risotto

What to do when you pick up your weekly veggie share and you get enormous turnips with even more enormous turnip greens?  Turnip risotto!

I made turnip risotto last year, but I can't seem to find the recipe anywhere.  I scoured the internet, and I found one on epicurious that looked pretty close to the one I remembered.  Too bad I didn't have any bacon!  Well, I had some frozen turkey bacon on hand, but I didn't think rendering fat from turkey bacon would be the same.

Most of the time I don't have arborio rice handy. Once I substituted brown rice, and the risotto took forever!  However, I do usually have some sushi rice on hand, and it seems to work just as well as arborio rice.  Long-grain white rice also works but take a bit longer.

I couldn't really add both of my enormous turnips to this recipe due to the volume of the turnip greens.  If I did, it would have been turnip and turnip greens with some rice garnish!  I'll have to find another recipe to use my other turnip in.  Any suggestions???

Turnip and Turnip Green Risotto
adapted from

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium turnips or 1 large turnip, preferably with greens, cut turnips into 1/4-inch dice and chop steps (about 3/4 pound total)
5-6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Arborio or short-grain sushi rice
1 tbsp butter
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

  1. In a saucepan bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer. 
  2. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and stir for about 2 minutes. Then add turnips and turnip greens and stir from another 2 minutes.
  3. Add rice to onion and turnip mixture and stir constantly for one minute. 
  4. Stir in 1 cup of broth and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total.
  5. Remove from heat.  Add butter and stir until melted.
  6. Garnish with parmesan cheese (optional)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant

It's definitely the time in the CSA season when I am looking for some new ways to cook vegetables.  As much as I like vegetable stews and soups, I just wasn't in the mood for them tonight.  I had bookmarked a recipe from a few weeks ago, and this week's vegetable share allowed me to try it out!

I've simplified some of the directions, but feel free to look at the original recipe.

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty via

2 medium eggplants
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup small dark lentils (such as Puy or Castelluccio), rinsed
3 small carrots, keep 1 whole and make 3/8-inch dice with the other two
3 celery stalks, keep 1 whole and make 3/8-inch dice with the other two
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill
2 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt
salt and black pepper

  1. Pierce the eggplants with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil-lined tray and place directly under a hot broiler for 20 minutes, turning at least once. The eggplants will deflate, and their skin should burn and break.
  2. Remove the eggplants from the heat, and turn the oven down to 275°F.  Cut a slit down the center of the eggplants and scoop out the flesh into a colander. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes.  Then add 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the drained eggplant.
  3. Mix chopped celery and carrots with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in oven for about 20 minutes until carrots just tender. 
  4. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan with whole celery stalk and carrot, bay leaf, thyme and onion.  Cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for up to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.  Drain lentils and discard carrot, celery, and bay leaf. Transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to the lentil mixture to taste. 
  5. When cooked vegetables are done, mix them with the warm lentils, followed by parsley and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto serving plates. Pile some eggplant in the center of each portion and top it with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
Yields: 4 servings
Active and total time: about an hour

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Last of the Summer Vegetables: Veggie Enchiladas and Black Beans and Rice

We had a wonderful 4-day weekend in Buffalo, but I came home to a week's worth of vegetables from our CSA still to cook!  I searched the internet to figure out what I could make to consume the most number of vegetables.  Since my night classes have started again, I was hoping for a good casserole dish so that I could make something ahead of time and reheat for the rest of the week.

I ended up combining a few different enchilada recipes I found online. There are definitely easier and faster ways to make enchiladas, but my goal this week was purely consumption of maximum vegetables.  If you want to make this faster, you can use a canned enchilada sauce or a simpler enchilada sauce recipe.

Vegetable Enchiladas with Black Beans and Rice
adapted from epicurious, allrecipes, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, and the back of a Goya can of black beans

1 tbsp butter
3 cups coarsely chopped zucchini and/or yellow crookneck squash
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) or frozen
1 4-ounce can diced mild green chilies
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 large fresh medium-hot dried chiles, cored, seeded, and minced
3 tbsps corn oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds tomatoes, cored and chopped with their liquid (about 3 cups, can also use canned)
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsps freshly squeezed lime juice

Black beans and rice
2 tbsps olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5-ounce can of black beans (undrained)
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp oregano
3/4 cup water or chicken broth
cooked rice

10 six-inch corn tortillas

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Make filling.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion and sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 4 minutes. Mix in corn, canned chilies.  Remove filling from heat into bowl.  Stir in sour cream, ricotta cheese, and 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese.  Set aside.
  3. Make enchilada sauce.  Put oil in medium saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add chiles, onions, and garlic.  Stir occasionally until onions soften, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, sugar, water or chicken broth, salt, and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir in lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Puree in blender or food processor.
  4. Make enchiladas. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Warm each tortilla for about 15 seconds or until flexible. (Can also microwave each for about 30 seconds in a damp paper towel). Place about 1/4 cup of filling in each tortilla.  Roll up, and place seam side down in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining cup of Monterey Jack.  Place pan into oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until cheese begins browning.
  5. Make black beans and rice. Heat oil in medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pepper, and garlic.  Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Yields: 10 enchiladas
Total time: about 2 hours
Active time: about an hour

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Crispy Fried Goodness: Egg Rolls!

I was craving some good, crispy egg rolls the other day, but I remember what a production making them was from watching my mom when I was little.  It was a lot easier to just watch someone make the egg rolls and then eat them!  However, since my mom wasn't here to make some for me and I didn't have any classes for a few weeks, I relished the opportunity to spend a few hours making egg rolls.

We have a deep fryer, but the husband (a.k.a. the person who has to clean up after my cooking escapades) requested that I just deep fry on the stove top instead. I agree that was easier for this recipe since the egg rolls fry up so quickly. I can't really see in the window of our deep fryer, and the egg rolls really do require frequent monitoring. It was pretty fun flipping them while they were floating in oil and seeing them get darker!

A few recipe notes:
  • If you don't have a whole afternoon to prep and cook, I would recommend making the filling the day before. It's a lot of chopping!  
  • The original recipe called for celery, but I didn't have any and didn't miss it.  
  • My mom used to serve egg rolls with a vinegar sauce, but I opted for a 50-50 mix of water and soy sauce heated in the microwave.  
  • If having a dinner party, I probably would use wonton wrappers and make mini egg rolls!

Chinese Egg Rolls
adapted from

2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 4 cups peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 bunches scallions (about 10), white and pale green parts cut into 2-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into very thin matchsticks (2 1/2 cups)
1 medium carrot, cut into very thin matchsticks (1 cup)
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (3 cups)
1 lb medium shrimp in shell, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/4 lb ground pork
1 (1-lb) package Asian egg roll or spring roll wrappers
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Make filling
  1. Stir together oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt in a small bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved.
  2. Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add 2 tablespoons peanut oil, swirling skillet to coat. 
  3. Stir-fry ginger, garlic, and scallions until scallions are wilted, about 1 minute. 
  4. Add carrots and mushrooms and stir-fry until vegetables are softened, 4 to 6 minutes. 
  5. Push vegetables toward edge of skillet, then add shrimp and pork to center and stir-fry until shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  6. Add oyster sauce mixture and stir together all ingredients in skillet until combined. 
  7. Season with salt and transfer to a large shallow bowl. 
  8. Cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Make egg rolls
  1. Put 1 wrapper on a work surface, arranging wrapper with a corner nearest you and keeping remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap. 
  2. Spread a scant 1/4 cup filling horizontally across center of wrapper to form a 4-inch log. Fold bottom corner over filling, then fold in side corners. Brush top corner with egg and roll up wrapper tightly to enclose filling, sealing roll closed with top corner. Transfer roll, seam side down, to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Make more egg rolls in same manner, transferring to baking sheet as formed (you may have some filling left over).
  3. Heat 1 to 2 inches of peanut oil in a wide heavy pot (at least a 4-quart pot) until it registers 350°F on an instant thermometer
  4. Fry 2 egg rolls (don't crowd pot), turning with a slotted spoon, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towel-lined colander and drain rolls upright 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Fry remaining egg rolls in batches, transferring to colander.
  6. Serve immediately.
Yield: 12 to 14
Total time: About 2.5 to 3 hours

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cream of Zucchini Soup with Shrimp

So, most of my recent cooking has revolved around whatever vegetables we get in our weekly CSA box. The box has been an inspiration to try new recipes.  I've explored all types of squash, radishes, turnips, chard, and kale this summer.  I've found that soup is a wonderful way to use a mixture of the week's leftover vegetables.  Now that the weather is getting a little cooler, I believe veggie soup will be on our home menu more often!

This particular recipe from uses a can of cream of mushroom soup.  I don't think the recipe really needs it, but I had a can in the pantry to throw into the pot.  Delicious with some seared shrimp!

Cream of Zucchini Soup with Shrimp
adapted from
4 cups diced zucchini (about two medium squash)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 8 medium shrimp, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

  1. In a large stock pot saute zucchini, carrots and onion in butter, until done, approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Sear shrimp, about one minute per side.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl combine flour and milk. Mix until smooth and then add to stock pot.
  4. Cook soup until thickened and then puree with stick blender until smooth and creamy.
  5. Add cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, wine and yogurt. Simmer until heated through and then serve with shrimp on top.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Total time:  45 minutes, half active

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chive and Gruyere Popovers

Wow!  It's been too long since I've posted.  I am still cooking, but finding time to post has been challenging.  I have a bunch of recipes and pictures saved up, so hopefully I'll be able to post a bunch of them before classes start again.

I might have to change the name of this blog to The Perfect Popover as there are now more popover recipes than dumpling ones!  I didn't grow up eating popovers, so I'm not sure why I really wanted to start making them.  The name just makes them sound delicious.  Now I have a popover pan; I need to put it to good use.  I was disappointed with my last popover outing, but I decided to try my hand at popovers again.

This time, I used a basic recipe from Epicurious because one reviewer said her 10-year-old kid made them, and they were delicious.  I added the chives and cheese to make them a bit more interesting, and everything's better with cheese!  I saw that different popover recipes had different egg to flour ratios, so I made this recipe twice in the last two weeks.  My husband voted for the ratio in the source recipe based on his excellent tastetesting skills.

Any suggestions for more popover flavorings?  I think I have to make a bunch more popovers before that pan pays for itself!

Chive and Gruyere Popovers
based on a recipe from

1 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 ounce Gruyere cheese, shredded

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F for 20 minutes. Place 1 piece of butter in the bottom of each cup of a six-cup popover tin (or six 1/2-cup custard cups). Place the popover pan on a baking sheet.
  2. In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the eggs until they change color. Whisk in the milk.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until well blended. Gently whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until only small lumps are left, and set aside.
  4. Place the popover tin and baking sheet in the oven for 4 minutes. At 3 minutes, give the batter a light whisk and add chives. 
  5. Using an oven mitt, remove the hot tin from the oven and immediately divide the batter among the prepared cups. Evenly divide shredded cheese and sprinkle on top of each cup.  
  6. Bake for 25 minutes without opening the oven door. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 popovers
Total time: about an hour, half active

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm back! Pan-Fried Whole Tilapia with Garlic-Ginger Sauce

Okay, it's been over three months since I've posted, but life has been busy.  I really can't remember a time when life was so busy, and yes, that includes residency!  It wasn't the hours so much but how much work bled into my home life.  I was barely cooking over the last few months, but I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time cooking this summer.  In truth, I really missed cooking, but it wasn't fun when I had to do it just to eat.  I love trying out new recipes.  Our vegetable CSA with Farmer Dave's starts soon, and I'll have to stay home and figure out what to do with all those veggies before they go bad.  I'm excited for the challenge.

Last night, I decided to venture back into the seafood section of my local Chinese grocery store.  I've been intimidated by it before.  There are no numbers or any order whatsoever to determine who is next to be served.  You just have to push to the front and get the attention of someone.  Some of the Chinese grandmothers even start grabbing fish that are laid out on the ice and throwing them into bags to hand to the guys to clean.  I've been so frustrated in the past that I've left the counter and decided to get something else for dinner instead.  Luckily, it wasn't too crowded yesterday, and I didn't have to elbow a grandma to get my fish.

Pan-Fried Whole Tilapia with Garlic-Ginger Sauce
adapted from Mark Bittman's "Crispy Sea Bass or Other Small Whole Fish with Garlic-Ginger Suace" in How to Cook Everything

vegetable oil
1 whole tilapia or similar fish, about 1.5 pounds, gilled, gutted, and scaled with head on
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable oil to a depth of 1/4 for an inch and heat for 3 or 4 minutes.

2. Pat fish dry.  Put fish in oil and cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes on first side.  Turn carefully with two spatulas.

3.  While fish is cooking, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook until garlic begins to color.  Keep warm.

4.  Cook fish on second side for 8 to 10 minutes or until flesh offers little resistance to knife or chopstick.

5.  Remove fish to a plate.  Drizzle with garlic ginger sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Search for Crispy Skin: Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon Herb Sauce

I'm surprised I haven't posted about this recipe already. The first time I made this chicken was a revelation to me--even the breast meat was juicy and the skin was crispy.  Of course, there's an extra step or two more than how I would usually pan roast chicken.  You have to crisp the skin then cook the chicken through then crisp the skin again, but the results are definitely worth it!  This makes for a nice weekend dinner that's easier for me than a traditional roast chicken, mostly because I haven't mastered covering a hot chicken.

The key to this recipe as with most roasting is having a good meat thermometer.  I used to use a Polder probe thermometer that would stay in the meat with a separate screen that monitored the meat and over temperatures.  The first one I had was great, and I used it for years.  However, eventually the temperatures became more inaccurate, and the replacement I purchased didn't work.  I spent a few years avoiding roasting altogether, lusting over the Thermapen recommended by Cook's Illustrated (CI).  However, I couldn't justify spending almost $100 on a meat thermometer.  Thankfully, the good people at CI did a kitchen test of inexpensive meat thermometers last year, and I purchased the recommended CDN ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer for about $13.  While I miss the convenience of a probe thermometer, the CDN Quick-Read lives up to its name, registering the temperature much faster than my old Polder. While cooking at my sister's this past Christmas, I found out she didn't have a working meat thermometer, and I immediately express shipped her the CDN thermometer!

If you're interested in hearing more about whether a Thermapen is worth the money, check out my former cooking teacher's kitchen test of meat thermometers.

Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon Herb Sauce
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, or a mix, with breasts cut in half), trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 - 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Lemon-Herb Sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken pieces skin-side down and cook without moving until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

2. Using tongs, flip chicken pieces skin-side up. Reduce heat to medium-low, add 3/4 cup broth to skillet, cover, and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 155 degrees for breasts and 170 degrees for legs and thighs, 10 to 16 minutes (smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces). Transfer chicken to plate, skin-side up.

3. Pour off liquid from skillet into 2-cup measuring cup and reserve. Using tongs, wipe skillet with paper towels. Add remaining teaspoon oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Return chicken pieces skin-side down and cook undisturbed until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and it reaches 160 degrees for breasts and 175 degrees for legs and thighs, 4 to 7 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and tent loosely with foil. Using spoon, skim fat from reserved cooking liquid and add enough broth to measure 3/4 cup.

4. Heat teaspoon of oil in now-empty skillet over low heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add reserved cooking liquid, and bring to simmer, scraping skillet bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Simmer rapidly until reduced to 1/2 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in any accumulated juices from resting chicken; return to simmer and cook 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in lemon juice, parsley, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce around chicken and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 45 to 60 minutes, mostly active

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Instant Dinner Party Indeed! Pork Shoulder Ragu

We moved to a new apartment about six months ago, and this place was built for entertaining.  However, finding time to make food for company on top of my full-time job and part-time class schedule is not the easiest.  I've been hunting around the internet for some easy make-ahead recipes for entertaining, and I landed one day at the blog Dinner: A Love Story. Jenny and Andy post recipes that fit into a busy lifestyle, and Jenny is one of the co-authors of the book Time for Dinner and used to work at Real Simple, my favorite magazine. When they posted this recipe under the title "Instant Dinner Party", I was sold.

First, I had to get over my fear of talking to the butcher at my local store since there were only 8-pound pork shoulders out.  I love my pork, but 8 pounds was really going to be too much.  It turns out that he's really a very nice gentleman and cut down a roast to a more reasonable size for me.  On the other hand, he doesn't know how many ounces there are in a pound, but maybe he's more used to the metric system?

Anyway, we'll have to have a group of people over to try this soon because it is ridiculously easy.  Since the roast time is 3 to 4 hours but very little active cooking time is needed, this recipe is perfect for the weekend day you're home but not wanting to spend a lot of time cooking for company coming over later.  For this first time, I tried it out on just the husband and one friend.  I'm going to bet that my sister, who has been blogging up a storm, will be stealing this recipe very soon.

Pork Shoulder Ragu
adapted from Dinner: A Love Story
2 to 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 large can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

1 to 2 lbs of cooked pasta (fettuccine used in picture)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Pat roast dry and then liberally salt and pepper all sides. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all. 

Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, and hot sauce (if using). Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) so that liquid comes to at least 1/3 of the way up the pork. Meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. 

Pull pork apart with two forks. Serve over pasta with the grated Parmesan on the side.

Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: About 4 to 4.5 hours
Active time: 30 minutes or less

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Sunday Brunch: French Toast Casserole!

My husband and I had brunch with our friends Sarah and Jack a few weeks ago, and they introduced us to the fabulous idea of French toast casserole.  It has all the yumminess of French toast without all the work of frying the individual pieces of eggy toast.  

There were a bunch of French toast casserole recipes on the internet, but most of them sounded like glorified bread pudding.  As usual, Cook's Illustrated to the rescue!  This recipe has the bread soaked overnight in eggs, milk, and cream just like regular French toast, and then the topping makes the outside sweet and crunchy. No syrup necessary!

French Toast Casserole

1 loaf (16-ounce) supermarket French or Italian bread , torn into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , softened
8 large eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened
1 1/3 cups packed (9 1/3 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup pecans, chopped coarse
1 cup slivered almonds

1.  Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the bread out over 2 baking sheets and bake until dry and light golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Let the bread cool completely.

2. Coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with the butter and pack the dried bread into the dish. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined and then whisk in the milk, cream, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and press on the bread lightly to submerge.

3. Make the topping by first stirring the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup together until smooth, then add nuts.

4. TO STORE: Transfer the topping to an airtight container and wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the topping and casserole separately for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

5. TO SERVE: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the casserole and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top, breaking apart any large pieces with your fingers. Place the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.

Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Active time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: 15-20 minutes of prep, overnight soak, one hour of baking

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dim Sum at Home: Shu Mai

First blog pic with our new camera!
We bought a new camera last night to replace the one that died after the soup incident.  My husband has been jabbering on about all the wonderful new features our Canon PowerShot S95 has. I'm sure the myriad of settings will come in useful eventually, but all I care about is that I don't have to take food pictures with my camera phone anymore!  Woohoo!

Anyway, I knew when I changed my blog name to incorporate dumplings as a nod to my Chinese heritage I would probably have to make some dumplings at some point.  So, this is my first stab at steamed dumplings (shu mai), which is probably one of the most popular dim sum dishes.

When I told my sister I was going to start with a Cook's Illustrated (CI) shu mai recipe, she balked.  "You're not going to use a Chinese recipe?" she asked.  Well, to be fair, I didn't have a family shu mai recipe handed down to me, and none of my current Chinese cookbooks had a recipe for shu mai.  Plus, I like that the CI team tries many different variations on a recipe to optimize flavor, and I trust that they would try to make their recipes taste as authentic as possible.

My husband and I agreed that the flavors were pretty much spot on in this CI version of shu mai. I only left out their recommendation of cilantro due to my husband's severe aversion to the herb and my feeling that it didn't quite belong in shu mai to begin with. I admire the other things the CI team did to tweak the recipe.  They used gelatin to try to recreate the succulent texture lard usually lends to the dish, and instead of MSG they used a combination of soy sauce, cooking wine, and rice vinegar to add flavor to the filling.  The pork ribs I got were pretty lean, and while my shu mai weren't dry, maybe next time I'll use some fattier pork for a juicier dumpling with better mouthfeel.

Shu Mai (Steamed Chinese Dumplings)
adapted from Cook's Illustrated September 2010

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, tails removed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
3/4 ounces dried shitake mushroom caps (about 5 large or 10 small), soaked in hot water 30 minutes, squeezed dry, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 package yellow, round wonton/dumpling skins
1/4 cup carrot , finely grated (optional)

1. Combine soy sauce and gelatin in small bowl. Set aside to allow gelatin to bloom, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place half of pork in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground into approximate 1/8-inch pieces, about ten 1-second pulses; transfer to large bowl. Add shrimp and remaining pork to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces, about five 1-second pulses. Transfer to bowl with more finely ground pork. Stir in soy sauce mixture, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cornstarch, sesame oil, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper.

3. Working with 6 rounds at a time, brush edges of each round lightly with water. Cover remaining rounds with wet paper towel to prevent drying out. Place heaping tablespoon of filling into center of each round. Pinch wrapper creating a fold on opposite sides of filling.  Rotate wrapper 1/2 turn and pinch wrapper again.  Make a total of 8 pinches and then squeeze sides against filling, shaping dumpling so that top of filling is exposed. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with damp kitchen towel, and repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Top center of each dumpling with pinch of grated carrot, if using.

4. Cut piece of parchment paper slightly smaller than diameter of steamer basket and place in basket. Poke about 20 small holes in parchment and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place batches of dumplings on parchment liner, making sure they are not touching. Set steamer over simmering water and cook, covered, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Yields 35 to 45 pieces
Active time: About 90 minutes (maybe I'll be faster next time)
Total time: About 100 minutes

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Not All Recipes Are Amazing

Thanks to my new year's resolution to do weekly menu planning, I've been cooking a lot more. I've really enjoyed it as cooking is a nice way to unwind after a hectic day at the hospital. While I putter around the kitchen and prep the ingredients, I talk with my husband about our days.

With menu planning has come inspiration to try new recipes, and I've been trying a lot of them. Some have been great, but there have been some misses in the kitchen over the last two weeks that I thought I would share.

1. Giant Cheesy Popovers.  There will never be a more beautiful picture of a something I baked but didn't love. They didn't taste bad, but I wasn't wowed by the flavor.  I will give two thumbs up to my new Chicago Metallic popover pan, though.  According to a Cook's Illustrated review, the open design maximizes heat transfer, which is crucial to high-rising popovers, and boy, did those popovers rise!!!  I was so excited that I tried to wake my husband saying, "Honey, my popovers are rising! Come look!"  He was not as excited as I was.  I'll keep looking for a popover recipe worthy of my new pan.

2. Cauliflower and Potato Curry. I thought cooking Indian food would be a great way to add vegetarian dishes to my repertoire, but this recipe was missing something.  Quite a few reviewers doubled or tripled the spices, so maybe I'll try that next time.

3. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.  This week's muffin snafu is not the recipe's fault as I've made it a few times before with great results.  I forgot about the baking powder!  I didn't realize it until the muffins had already been in the oven for five minutes.  I took the pan out of the oven, scooped the batter back into the bowl, added the baking powder, remixed, and refilled the baking cups, and then put them back in the oven.  The muffins didn't taste bad, but they were definitely denser than usual.

I'll definitely keep trying new recipes as it's fun for me.  However, this week my night classes start, which will put a dent into my cooking time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Melon Soup: The Soup That Killed a Camera

Winter melon soup before camera died =(
This food blog has had its first casualty.  While taking pictures of this soup, our camera fell into the bowl of soup.

I'm still getting used to using our mini tripod, and now I've learned my lesson about keeping an eye on electronics when close to bowls of liquids. I wonder if this has happened to any one else. A quick Google search says no.  The camera can actually still take blurry pictures but the LCD screen doesn't work anymore. *sigh*

It is a small consolation that the soup was delicious, really delicious.  I had never bought winter melon before or even seen one except in restaurant soups.  I was worried that I would get the wrong melon because there are no English labels at my local Chinese grocery and usually no one who speaks English.  Luckily, I read somewhere that winter melons are usually sold by the wedge since the whole melon can be up to 50 lbs, so I picked from the only melon wedges at the store.  Bingo! Maybe in the future I will try this vegetarian version but I thought the bits of ham and dried scallop really added different layers of flavor to the soup. Since the melon itself doesn't have much flavor by itself, it soaked up the broth flavors.

As reviewers on epicurious note, don't substitute fresh scallops for the dried scallops; it would be better to skip them if you don't have them.  Lucky for me, my mother-in-law brings gives us a bag when she visits, so I usually have some around.

I skipped the original recipe's soaking process for the dried scallops and just threw them in near the end. I was also too lazy to skim off the fat, but I probably would if company was coming.

Broth with chicken and veggies taken by camera phone
I made this soup a few days ago, and tonight I shredded the boiled chicken and added that plus some watercress to the leftover broth.  It was as yummy as the original, but the picture is not as clear since it was taken with my camera phone.  Hopefully we'll have a new camera in the next few weeks!

Winter Melon Soup
adapted from Gourmet Magazine via epicurious

For broth
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) whole chicken
1 bunch scallions, halved crosswise
2 oz ham steak
1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, smashed
10 cups water
1 tablespoon salt

For soup
Dried scallops, handful
1 (2-lb) wedge winter melon
2 oz ham steak, sliced into thin matchsticks
3 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Make broth: Rinse chicken inside and out, then stuff cavity with scallions, ham, and ginger. Bring water with chicken and salt to a boil in a deep 7- to 8-quart stockpot or pasta pot, then reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off froth occasionally, 1 hour. Remove and discard chicken. Let stand 5 minutes. Skim off fat.

2. Cut off and discard rind from winter melon. Remove and discard seeds, then cut melon into 1/3-inch cubes (about 5 cups). Add melon and dried scallops to broth and gently simmer, uncovered, until melon is transparent, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Stir in ham, scallions, and salt to taste just before serving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken with Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce

A friend gave me Nina Simonds' A Spoonful of Ginger back around 2003, and I go to it when I want an Asian recipe that is simple and comforting.  The book is based on an Asian philosophy of food as health-giving, balancing yin and yang.  I'm not sure how much I buy into that philosophy, but I'll admit that there is something about these recipes that makes me happy.

This recipe is probably my favorite in the book because my version has very little hands on time, making it workable for a weeknight. I've cut out a bunch of steps including marinating and roasting the chicken before simmering it.  This time I made it true to the original recipe, but I didn't think it made any difference in the flavor. It seems like a waste to heat your oven all the way up to 475 degrees just to pre-roast the chicken  for 15 minutes.  It looks like this cookbook is going to be re-released this April, and the pre-order price is only about $10! I wonder if there will be new recipes!

Chicken and Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce
adapted from Nina Simonds' A Spoonful of Ginger

3.5 to 4 pounds of dark meat chicken parts (thighs, legs, or wings)
10 dried Chinese black mushrooms

Braising Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 tablespoons oyster suace
3 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1.5 teaspoons sugar
6 slices of fresh ginger
About 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of cold water

1. Place mushrooms in 1.5 cups of water and microwave for two minutes. (I use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Steep for 10 minutes until soft. Then remove stems and cut caps into thirds.

2. Mix braising sauce together in a small bowl. Place chicken and mushrooms in a Dutch oven along with braising sauce.  Heat to boiling and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes.  If the sauce hasn't thickened, add add another teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of cold water.  Serve over rice and vegetable.

Yield: 6 servings
Active time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pan-Seared Thick Cut Ribeye Steaks

It's a blessing and a curse to learn how to cook the restaurant food I love.  It's a great feeling to know that I can save myself some money and prepare food at home, but sometimes I go to a restaurant and don't want to order anything because the price mark up terrifies me!

Well, this recipe has pretty much guaranteed that I won't be ordering steaks at restaurants anymore.  I learned the basics of cooking steaks from Alton Brown's cookbook I'm Just Here for the Food. I basically patted the steak dry, liberally salted it, rubbed with oil, and seared both sides.  However, I remember Cook's Illustrated publishing a recipe that had you put the steaks in the oven first and then sear claiming that you got a crisp sear with a greater percentage of even pink meat inside, and less grey meat adjacent to the seared surface. Helen Rennie, whom I took a cooking class from once, posted about this cooking technique again recently at Beyond Salmon reminding me how much I had been wanting to try it.

After declaring that one of my new year's resolutions is to eat less meat, it's ironic that my first recipe post is about steak, but continuing to eat meat for me is about eating higher quality meat that was raised with respect in smaller quantities.  This recipe definitely honored the meat as it tasted fantastic, and together we shared a 12 oz steak for a special occasion.  Although it was a little more work than my usual steak regimen because I was taking the pan out of the oven frequently to check the steak's internal temperature, the end result was worth it.  With some practice, I'll become less nervous about the timing as what was in the recipe was pretty accurate.  The smile on my husband's face after reminding him about last week's steak is a telltale sign that this recipe is a keeper! 

Sorry that the picture doesn't really show off the inside of the steak. It looked so good that I didn't have the patience to spend time futzing with the camera. I was hungry!  Check out the wonderful picture Helen posted when she first wrote about this cooking technique. Looks delicious, right?  The original recipe had multiple pan sauces to change up the flavor, but it really didn't need it.

Pan-Seared Ribeye Steaks
adapted from Cook's Illustrated May 2007 with help from Helen Rennie at Beyond Salmon

Boneless ribeye steak (at least 1-1/2 inches thick cut into 4 to 6 ounce pieces)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pat steaks dry with paper towel. Consider tying steaks with twice make whole piece an even 1-1/2 inches thick. Season entire surface of steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Place steaks on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95 degrees for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes, or 100 to 105 degrees for medium, 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place steaks in skillet and sear steaks until well-browned and crusty, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat underneath each steak. (Reduce heat if fond begins to burn.) Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer all steaks to wire cooling rack and reduce heat under pan to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 steaks at a time on their sides. Holding steaks together, return to skillet and sear on all sides until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Repeat with any remaining steaks.

3. Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Keeping the blogging in the family!

While I was trapped at my sister's house for a few extra days in the post-Christmas blizzard, we spent a lot of time cooking together and realized we get a lot of our recipes from similar sources.  I was taking pictures of her food when she started asking if I was going to start blogging about our joint effort meals.  Well, I guess she started her own blog to keep me from stealing all her recipes for mine.  Check out my sister's blog at Yum Yum for the Family.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Food Resolution: Menu Planning!

It's the new year which means it's time for some resolutions. Besides my yearly resolution to floss more, I tried to think of what I could do to make my life better this year, and I think I found it--weekly menu planning!

I've had Jennifer Ford Berry's book Organize Now! for about a year. It's a great book, but I haven't made much progress beyond the first two chapters. The first two chapters really ask a lot because they focus on organizing your mind and then your schedule. For someone like me who has trouble saying no and somehow thinks that I work better when I have too much to do, those are hard tasks for me. Basically, the book says I need to start planning better so I don't feel so harried all the time. Since food is such an important part of my life, I think weekly menu planning will not only help me plan my time better but will help me with my other following resolutions:

1. Eat healthier. I take night classes twice a week, and without forethought, I end up eating something ridiculously fattening from the hospital cafeteria (ironic, yes?) and my husband eats take out burritos. Even if I have time to cook, I often don't have what I need in my pantry. Hopefully if I plan ahead, I'll be able to buy what I need and do some cooking the night before my class so I'll have something healthy and homemade to keep my brain awake during class.

2. Eat more vegetables, less meat. I don't think I can ever give up meat, but I've read Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and would like to decrease the amount of meat I eat for my and the environment. However, trying to make a balanced vegetarian meal without tons of eggs and cheese is a challenge for me. I've been collecting recipes with beans and different types of grains (quinoa, farro) to try in the new year, and with some planning, I'll be able to stock the pantry with what will hopefully be new kitchen staples.

3. Spend less money. When there are too many obstacles to make dinner at home, sometimes it's just easier to get take out or go out to eat. However, my class schedule has definitely increased the number of times we eat out a week. Cooking more at home also means there will hopefully be leftovers to bring in for lunch the next day--even more cost savings! Also, if I only go grocery shopping once a week, I'll save money on gas.

So far, I did some research, and I've set up a spreadsheet that has room for main dishes and vegetables for each day of the week. I did the grocery shopping already for this week and am mostly following the plan. It's been a great way to incorporate my love for trying new dishes into the week because I can grab the ingredients at the store ahead of time rather than furiously searching through epicurious every night for a well-reviewed recipe that includes ingredients I have on hand.

Next post: I'll blog about our New Year's Eve meal. I tried out a cooking technique I've been dying to try, and the results were awesome!