Monday, October 24, 2011

Momofuku Milk Bar compost cookies

This is a story about failure and success. It's also about cookies. And kind of about family.

I'll start with the part about family. This weekend I finally set aside some time to bake cookies to mail to my brother and two cousins, who are freshman in college (the cousins, not the brother). I will probably never forget how excited I was the first time I got non-university and non-parent mail at my dorm. It was a card from my aunt with a gift card and it 150% made my day.

Usually, my brother and his girlfriend get monster cookies, so those were definitely on the list. But, I have been wanting to try this recipe since Jake and I had the real Momofuku compost cookies at Milk Bar a couple of years ago.

I used the recipe on Amateur Gourmet but I got a little carried away with the mix ins. I probably ended up with at least double what he recommends for baking ingredients and snack mix-ins.

Now, we get to the part about failure. Below, please marvel at my giant failure. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you get all excited about getting to add potato chips and M&Ms and Milk Duds to your cookies. You accidentally forget to add THE DRY INGREDIENTS. Key stuff, like the flour, and the baking soda and baking powder.  But, we scraped this scary stuff off the sheet and ate it anyway. It was kind of like cookie/candy/snack-brittle.

Back to the good stuff: success! and cookies! My cookies aren't quite as puffy as AG's are in the original recipe. But, I also used margarine instead of butter and, like I said, at least double his amounts for mix ins. Oh -- and the flour and leavening ingredients were added AFTER the fact.

But these cookies were very, very delicious. They were the first to go today at the office, between the bag of compost cookies and the bag of monster cookies. If I were to do it again, I would not use caramel candy melts or Milk Duds. The caramel really melts down at 400 degrees and you get weird caramel blobs sticking out of the edges of your cookies, which you later have to snap off so that the cookies are somewhat uniform for packing.

And, here they are. Three care packages, heading all over the country (Washington state, Colorado Springs, and Staten Island) for three college boys, whom I love and want to share baked goods with.

The moral of the story is this: it's important to love your family, and cook/bake them tasty things. It's also SUPER important to read the damn recipe and following the freaking directions.

Monster cookies recipe to follow....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quick dinner: green curry and brown rice

I finally got my hands on a couple of big tubs of curry paste, one red and one green. Where did I find them? WalMart of all places. And they were super cheap.

This was a quick dinner I threw together the other night. It was delicious and took less than 30 minutes.

If I were to buy ingredients especially for this, I think I would have used cashews instead of peanuts, and I would have added water chestnuts.

I think it would also be good with a piece of white fish or some shrimp and peapods.

1 can coconut milk
2-3 TBS green curry paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 TBS oil
1/3-1/2 cup stock
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 can bamboo shoots
1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
1/3 cup peanuts
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces (I used two chicken thighs and it was a perfect amount)
cilantro to garnish

Heat garlic, onion and oil until fragrant. Fry curry paste with the garlic and onion, then add stock slowly to help break up the paste.
Add the pepper, bamboo, chicken and spinach and stir to cover with the curry mixture.
Slowly add the coconut milk and stir until completely combined. Heat 5 to 10 minutes more over medium heat.
Add peanuts for the last 5 minutes.

Serve over brown rice and top with chopped cilantro for garnish.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Honeymoon eating: the food in Hawaii

Food for honeymooners. One of the best parts about our trip to Hawaii was the opportunity to eat a radically different cuisine for two whole weeks. No one's body is really meant to eat take out or restaurant food for that many meals in a row, but it definitely helped that there was so much fresh food in Hawaii.

Here are some of our highlights:

Poke from Side Street Inn -- we went here on a recommendation from friends (they all recommended the pork chop, but neither of us are huge pork chop people). This was easily the best poke we had in Hawaii. Rich, buttery, and super delicious.

The spicy fried chicken at Side Street in was also awesome. The menu warns you you'll wait a little longer for it, but the extra 10 or so minutes were worth it. It was crispy and juicy, and almost tasted like it had been marinated in sweet spicy may ploy sauce.

Kalua-style pig sliders - these were awesome. I'm a huge fan of any kind of pork bun (especially char siu bao or Momofuku pork buns) and these were such a nice combination of salty pork with the sweet grilled pineapple.

This was our first experience with roadside fruit stands. We bough cold coconuts from a nice lady on the North Shore. She also let us sample lilikoi (passionfruit), which were incredibly delicious. Sweet but tart, and with seeds somewhat similar in texture to pomegranates.

The North Shore is also home to more food trucks than I have ever seen in Minnesota. Most of them specialized in shrimp. We stopped at one at the ruins of an old sugar mill and got garlic shrimp and mahi mahi. I love how many of the lunch plates come served with rice and/or macaroni salad.

Spam musubi are everywhere. Perfectly wrapped little bundles of white rice, spam, usually at least one other ingredient (egg, cheese, furikake seasoning are common). They're a nice snack, and even the ones in the convenience stores are not bad. I even picked up my own musubi press to make them at home.

Eggs N Things was another place that came highly recommended by our friends. We stopped there one night for breakfast for dinner. This is definitely the way to go, as we drove by another morning and the line was out the door.

The spread at Ono Hawaiian foods. This was on Anthony Bourdain's list of places to go in Honolulu. He stopped here for authentic Hawaiian plates, and we had the same. Poi, a kind of beef jerky, lomi lomi, purple sweet potatoes, coconut gelatin and of course, spam, all came alongside our meal.

In the windward side of the island, we stopped in a town called Kailua (the subject of a recent NYT Travel story) for lunch and went to Agnes' portuguese diner for malassadas for dessert. These were great. We also had more malassadas the night we were at Aloha stadium -- after the game, the vendor was apparently trying to get rid of the excess dough. We got a huge bag of freshly fried malassadas for $5.

Our big night out in Honolulu was at Alan Wong's. We had gotten recommendations to come here but also warned that it was expensive. We bit the bullet anyway, and had a really incredible night out. Above, the bread. It's incredible. Warm, light and fluffy on the inside. I was tempted to ask for more of these instead of ordering dessert.

Jake's tomato salad - a whole blanched tomato, then sliced crosswise, and served with cucumbers and li-hing (sour plum) dressing. He liked it so much he almost ordered a second.

And, because we were honeymooning, the staff not only brought us a complimentary dessert (after we had ordered separate desserts!) but we got to take home custom menus from the night with our name (they spelled it wrong, but oh well!) and signed by the staff.

On Kauai we went to a fun tapas place for dinner the second night. Our waiter talked us through the menu, which led us to things like this dish: poke served with avocado foam. The appetizers leaned more toward the style of being sort of couture food, eclectic but not too weird.

This was some kind of char siu dim sum ball. They were awesome.

And our final stop on the "Anthony Bourdain went there" tour was Puka Dog (he went to the one on Waikiki, but we went to the one in Kauai). I was hesitant to try this at first, as I'm not a huge eater of hotdogs, but I was sold when I heard they offered a spicy lilikoi mustard. I had mine with pineapple sauce.

Friday, October 7, 2011

#LetsLunch October edition: Brown Sugar Shortbreads for High Tea

Before I get to my post on high tea for this month's LetsLunch, I have two pieces of news to share!

First, I got married!
 (photo by Glen Stubbe Photography)

Which was then followed by two amazing weeks in Hawaii for our honeymoon:

(me, after our amazing dinner at Alan Wong's -- which we went to Cheryl Tan's recommendation!)

The second bit of news, is that I made my debut in the Star Tribune Taste section yesterday, with my piece about baking my friends' wedding cake in August (previous posts about my cake baking trials here, here and here). You can read the piece here.

But back to LetsLunch: this month marks my one-year anniversary of contributing to LetsLunch, after being invited by Cheryl late last summer. All of my LetsLunch posts are archived here.

I'm only an occasional food blogger, so I love coming up with a recipe and photographing it each month. This month I've been a bit busy (see previous two pieces of news) and we just returned from Hawaii last weekend.

The topic we picked for September, then slid into October, is High Tea. Who doesn't love a good cup of tea? Karyn, the recipient of the wedding cake baking, is the friend who first turned me on to looseleaf tea in college.

My boyfriend-then fiance-now husband (!) and I really got back into looseleaf tea last winter, leading up to the current moratorium on buying new teas.

(Our current tea stash and Teavanna tea maker)

When you drink a lot of looseleaf tea, you start to find out about how most tea really doesn't get brewed with boiling water and it really does matter how long you let the tea steep. I have little notes on all of my tea with the different specifics for herbal teas (tisanes -- there's no actual tea leaves in most of these blends), white teas, green teas, etc.

My LetsLunch to go along with the High Tea theme is a shortbread cookie with a dollop of pineapple-passion fruit jam -- both purchased at the Aloha Stadium swap meet in Honolulu.

RECIPE: Brown Sugar Shortbread (adapted from The Essential Baking Cookbook)
(makes one half-sheet pan of shortbread cookies)

8 ounces of butter, softened (two sticks)
3/4 cups soft brown sugar
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup rice flour, semolina or corn flour (I used instant masa flour)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp all spice

Preheat oven to 315 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a medium sized bowl cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).

Sift together the flours. Add slowly to the sugar and butter, with a pinch of salt and the spices. Mix with a butter knife until the dough comes together. Gather and knead for 1 minute.

Chill the dough for about 20 minutes, then press into your pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool the shortbreads 10-15 minutes in the pan, then make slices with a butter knife. Spread a tiny dollop of jam on each (about 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp). Cool completely before eating.

LetsLunch is a monthly meeting for food bloggers and I was invited by fellow AAJA-er, Cheryl Tan. Our group chooses a date and a theme, then we all post our recipes on the same day.

Our group is always growing! If you'd like to join us, we'd love to have you! send a Tweet to us using #letslunch (I'm @emmacarew).

See what everyone else made this month:

 High Tea at The Kitchen Trials
Tea and Kaya Toast at Spicebox Travels
Rich Tea at Grongar blog
Little Lemon Meringue Tarts at Monday Morning Cooking Club