Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birthday food: shrimp scampi, tacos, mussels

The past week has included mine and Jake's twenty-third birthdays, and we've had a ton of great food and a ton of fun celebrating. 

Tuesday was my birthday, and I wanted shrimp scampi for dinner. Jake surprised me with those gorgeous yellow roses, but sadly I don't actually own a vase so they are now living in a juice bottle.

Some friends came over that night to celebrate and watch Glee. They brought CUPCAKES!!!

YUMMMM, oh man these were delicious!!

Next up was Jake's birthday - his favorite is tacos. So we stopped on the way home at Panam International downtown (the Latin market by our old house) for chorizo, queso fresco and some other taco fixings.

It's not terribly organized, but we had chorizo, steak, the queso fresco, onions, cilantro, and corn and black beans cooked with tequila and some spices. I topped them off with homemade salsa and homemade guacamole.

Yesterday we were in Baltimore for the day and had lunch at Bertha's Mussels on a recommendation from a friend. Jake had a phenomenally sour and salty bloody mary, our appetizer was four gorgeous shrimp coated in jalapeno cream cheese, then wrapped in bacon. This giant bowl of mussels was my main course:

We found dessert in Little Italy at a nice, casual desserts-only place called Vaccaro's. The. Best. Cannolis. Ever. See below:

I've had cannolis before - lots of them. But these had a decadent, creamy extra sweet filling, and were thick with chocolate chips and were just all around fantastic.

So, happy birthday to me and Jake!! We had a great time. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Teppan Edo Japanese dinner re-creation: steak, shrimp and udon

During my last night at Disney World, we ate in Japan in Epcot, at the restaurant Teppan Edo. It was fun to watch the chef put together a meal for 8 people on the giant grill (above) but it was also a great excuse to try and re-create it at home the other night.

The main portions of the dish were easy to recreate, since I got to watch it being cooked. Zucchini and onion chopped and grilled, then mixed with udon noodles and a little soy sauce. Steak cooked to medium and grilled shrimp, served with white rice and a series of dipping sauces: white, ginger and mustard.

That's where it got a little interesting in the home kitchen. The white, I made a simple bechamel with cornstarch. It was creamy and complimented the shrimp nicely.

The ginger sauce also had kind of a peanutty creaminess to it, so I used peanut butter as the base for the second sauce.

The mustard sauce went a little awry. I had almost no idea what was in the one they served us at Teppan Edo, so I was sort of shooting in the dark. I don't think I came close to it, but it ended up tasting pretty good anyway.

Recipe: Japanese dipping sauces

White (for seafood):
Melt 3 TBS butter, then whisk in 1 TBS cornstarch. Brown slightly, then pour in 1 c of whole milk or half and half. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk until thickened slightly. Set aside.

Ginger (for everything):
In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together 3 TBS peanut butter, 1 TBS hot water, 1 TBS soy sauce, 1 TBS rice vinegar (or wine vinegar). Mix in 2 TBS freshly shredded ginger, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 tsp red chili flakes. Set aside

Mustard (for beef/pork):
In a small saucepan, mix together 3 TBS Korean soybean paste (doengjang), 1 TBS hot water, 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp garlic, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 TBS stone ground mustard, 1 TBS hot and spicy mustard, 1 tsp lemon or lime juice.

For 2 servings:
Chop 2 zucchini, 1 medium sized onion. Saute together until fork tender. Season with pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce, then toss with cooked udon noodles. (sliced, cooked mushrooms can also be added)

Grill steak or pork, and shrimp. Serve with white rice and the dipping sauces.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Homemade Recipe Cards - wedding shower gift

Forgive me, these were taken on my Blackberry this afternoon.

A co-worker is getting married in a few weeks, and we threw him a shower in the office today. I wasn't really sure if I should go with a gift off the registry (remember, I'm mostly broke!!) or even get a gift at all -- I've only known the people in my office for 6-8 months.

I settled on homemade recipe cards for pineapple fried rice, bulgogi and sesame noodles. Had I thought a bit more in advance, I think I would have rounded the gift out with some ingredients, maybe a small sack of rice and can of pineapple, or a package of Chinese noodles and a small jar of peanut butter.

My boss suggested I write "from the Kitchen of Emma L. Carew" on the backs of them, which I thought was a cute idea. If I could draw at all, I might have doodled around the edges, but ... well, I can't.

Anyway, I think they're fun, and I think they were well received! Anyone else used recipes for similar gifts?

Korean soup broth -- tteok guk

I've written about my deep love for Korean rice cake soup, tteok guk, before. But, I've struggled over the past few years to replicate the broth exactly as I've had it in *real* Korean kitchens.

Well, the mystery is solved. The broth I made last night was pretty spot on to the real thing. The secret ingredients? Dashida and Bonito flakes.

Dashida is ones of those things I learned about in Korea, when I was working in the kitchen at Ae Ran Won. The cook kept hers in a jar, so I never saw it in a bag, which, like this one, labels it as "soup stock beef flavor." I just knew that it definitely went into soups.

Now, I still don't actually know what bonito flakes are made of (something fishy, I suspect, based on the smell when I opened them), but I saw them being used in a Korean cooking video and decided I should give them a try.

Voila! It worked. I took 8 cups of water, 4 heaping teaspoons of dashida and 1 of those packets of bonito flakes (also about 1 tsp of garlic powder) and this was the result: a beautiful, pale broth with a lovely flavor.

I also managed to get my hands on some actual tteok-guk tteok. So yes, I now have 2 huge bags of tteok in different shapes. I also have a 6 kilo brick shaped box of gochuchang -- maybe I really *am* Korean!! The tteok gets boiled in the broth for just a couple of minutes, until they float, and mixed with some sliced beef and green onions.

Last steps: drizzle in the beaten eggs (2 eggs + 1 egg yolk for this soup), and slice the nori sheets (3) into the soup, crack an obscene amount of black pepper over the top, and drizzle with sesame oil.

But, really, you can do whatever the heck you want. The broth is the star of the soup, and it's a great thin, clear broth with a ton of flavor. Go forth, and soup like a Korean.

Dreaming? of Star Wars cookie cutters, thanks to Bakerella

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gnocchi + carbonara sauce

Post-Disney there wasn't a ton of food in the house, so this dinner came about as sort of a pantry/fridge dump.

This is also only the second time I've used gnocchi, and I severely under-salted the water. I also forgot to set aside 1 cup of "pasta" water before draining the gnocchi for the sauce. *sigh*

Anyway, I went with a garlicky "pseudo" carbonara sauce, spinach, tomatoes, bacon and artichoke hearts. Turned out pretty well for an on the fly meal, and it's made up of mostly staples, so give it a try for your next last-minute dinner.

Garlicky Gnocchi Carbonara
1 lb gnocchi (I used the ones from Trader Joes)
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 package frozen artichoke hearts (you could also use canned - drain & rinse them)
1 small can diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained
4-6 slices of bacon or pancetta, chopped
1/3 c white wine (if you have it on hand, you can sub 1/4 c olive oil)
1/2 to 1 tsp red chili flakes
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
lots of freshly cracked pepper

* Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil, and cook gnocchi one minute less than directed on the package. They will continue cooking a little in the sauce.

* In a skillet, fry the bacon to your liking (not too crisp), then lower heat and add garlic, red chili flakes and artichoke hearts

* When the artichokes are softened, pour in the wine (if using) and scrape any brownings off the bottom of the pan. Mix in the tomatoes and spinach.

* In a separate bowl, beat the eggs then temper with 1/2 c of the gnocchi water. Mix in the cheese.

* Remove the skillet from heat, and mix the gnocchi with the wine and bacon sauce. Pour the egg and cheese mixture on top, and combine. Top with lots of freshly cracked pepper, and parsley if you have it.

Dreaming? of my last meal in Disney World at Teppan Edo in "Japan"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sticky caramel and coconut cupcakes

These cupcakes are adapted from a cake recipe my friend Holly introduced me to in college. "Bette than sex cake," was what she called it. Not exactly safe for bringing goodies to work.

Take your favorite chocolate cake - we use Betty Crocker German chocolate (yes, I actually used a box mix for this). Poke holes in the cake as its cooling. If you're making a sheetcake, use the end of a wooden spoon. For these, I used the larger end of a chopstick.

Let the cake cool completely. Mix together 1 can jar (about 12-14 oz) of caramel and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and pour over the cake. This gets insanely messy. I ended up sort of painting it on with a silicone brush. addendum: For a sheet cake, you will probably use all of the caramel, and all of the condensed milk. For 2 pans of cupcakes, I had a TON of leftover, so I just spooned it back into the caramel jar for later uses.

Give the caramel about 30-45 mins to soak into the cake. Use 1 can of pecan coconut frosting and ice the cupcakes.

Top the frosting layer with a layer of whipped cream (the recipe calls for cool whip). I also like to go one step further and dip them in coconut.

Dreaming? of a cupcake reunion with Holly and Courtney

Recent cooking adventures: barbecue ribs, beer brats, homemade calzones, and penne carbonara

Just because I've been a bit neglectful of the blog doesn't mean I haven't been continuing to cook!

Take a peek at a few things I've been up to lately - beer brats last weekend, then a major cooking marathon of side-by-side barbecue ribs and homemade calzones, then last night's creamy carbonara:

Carbonara is one of the first dishes I learned how to make when I started cooking for myself sophomore year of college. I had never even heard of it, but read an article about Rachel Ray, and how it was a special meal for she and her husband. I loved how it was nicknamed "coal miner's pasta," and I decided to make it myself.

The worst screw up I have ever had cooking this dish was making the mistake of drinking some of the wine while cooking, then laying down on the couch while the bacon and garlic browned. Lesson learned: never walk away from the stove for a quick lie down. Especially not while you are an overworked college student.

I recently had a pasta special at the little cafe next door to my office that was called carbonara but was a really creamy sauce, almost as thick as alfredo.

I decided to try to incorporate a little of that creaminess into my dish this weekend.

Penne carbonara recipe:
(adapted from Rachel Ray)

1 lb pasta (I like rigatoni for this, you can use regular spaghetti. I used penne this weekend), cooked to just before al dente in salted water. Reserve 1 c of the pasta cooking water.
1/3 lb pancetta or about 8 slices of bacon
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 c white wine, like pinot grigio
2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 c heavy cream or half&half
3/4 c shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (can use a mix of Italian cheese)
handful of chopped parsley
black pepper

Fry bacon until not quite crisp. Remove from pan and chop roughly. Drain the fat from the pan. Reserve entirely if you have uses for it, otherwise keep just 1 TBS

Heat 1 TBS bacon fat over low heat, return bacon to the pan and stir in the garlic and red chili flakes. Saute about 2 mins (do not burn the garlic), then stir in the wine. Increase the heat and allow alcohol to evaporate. The liquid will reduce by about half. Turn off the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and yolks, then slowly stir in about 1/3 c of the pasta water to temper the eggs. Mix in the half&half (if using) and the cheese.

Slowly stir in the egg mixture into the pan sauce, then quickly toss in the pasta. Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper and parsley.

And, if someone has a good way of reheating carbonara that *doesn't* cause the egg in the sauce to scramble, please let me know.

Dreaming? of my next Disney trip, in just one week!