Monday, January 31, 2011

Quadruple Mushroom Soup

This recipe was inspired by the mushroom soup i had at Upstairs at Bouley. (It was disappointing to hear that the restaurant was closed. I really enjoyed the food and loved watching chefs cooking in the open kitchen.)  I tried to recreate the soup on my own. After experimenting a few times, I have developed my own version. This soup has become a regular on my dinner table. 
Mushroom lovers - you must give it a try.

Quadruple Mushroom Soup
Serves 5-8 people
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour

- 1/3 lb cremini mushroom (baby bella)
- 1/3 lb white mushroom
- 1/3 lb oyster mushroom
- 1 large Portobello mushroom cap
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 6 cups of Chicken or Pork stock (optional)
- Truffle oil (optional)
- Salt

 - Slice all the mushrooms. (Thinly slice Portobello mushroom, because its texture is firmer than the other mushrooms.)
- In a large soup pot, heat up all the mushrooms on high heat for 2 mins or till the mushrooms start to soften.
- Pour 6 cups of water or stock over mushrooms. Cook on high heat till boil, then simmer on low heat for 1 hour.
- Add salt to taste (about 2 tsp).
- In a small bowl, add 2 tbsp of cold water in the corn starch. Mix well. Slowly pour in the starch mix, and stir the soup at the same time. The soup should start to thicken.
-Turn off the heat, mixing in 1-2 drops of truffle oil.

Mixing in corn starch.

[**Pork stock recipe:
- 2 lb pork neck bones
- 2 scallions, cut in 1-inch long
- 1 piece of ginger (about 1 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp of cooking wine
- In a large stock pot, brown the bones and add water. Cook till boil, add in cooking wine and simmer for 2-3 hours.
-  Chill the soup in the fridge, remove the oil on top.]

** You can make a delicious soup even if you only have white and baby bella mushrooms.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The world famous Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken (宫保鸡丁) is one of the most known traditional Chinese dishes in US.   It is a classic dish in Sichuan cuisine.  The name "Kung Pao" is allegedly derived from the name of the person that created the dish.

Kung Pao chicken
Serves 5-8 
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

- 1.5 lb skinless and boneless chicken breast meat
- 1 lb raw peanuts
- 2 scallions, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 slices of ginger

- Light soy sauce or all purpose soy sauce
- Shaoxing cooking wine
- 4 tbsp of Sichuan Doubanjiang (chili bean paste) 豆瓣酱
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn (花椒)

1) Prepare the chicken
- Cut the chicken breast into 1/2 inch thick slices
- Use the back of your knife to gently pound the chicken. This helps break down the meat and make it tender.
- Dice the chicken into 1/3 inch cubes
- Marinate the chicken with 1 tbsp cooking wine, 1tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp corn starch. Mix well and marinate for 10 mins.

2) Fry peanuts
- In a large skillet, pour the canola oil (or vegetable oil) to about 1/4 inch deep.
- Make sure the peanuts are dry. Add in the peanuts and start cooking on medium heat. 
- For about 8 minutes, the peanuts will turn golden. Turn off the heat. Place the peanuts on a large plate and cool them off at room temperature.
- When completely cooled off, the peanuts will be crunchy and nutty. If at that time you still think it need to be cooked more, you can roast them in the oven at 400F for a couple more minutes.
- Rather under cook than over cook the peanuts.

3) Make peppercorn oil
(This step is not required. You could simply leave the peppercorns in. However most people are not used to the numbing feeling when accidentally having one of those little peppercorns. I usually prepare the oil beforehand and take out the peppercorns.)
- 5 tbsp of canola oil
- Add 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn and cook on high heat
- Stir occasionally for about 2 mins
- Turn off the heat before the peppercorns turn dark. Strain out the peppercorns and reserve the oil for cooking.

4) Making Kung Pao chicken
- In a large skillet or wok, heat up the peppercorn oil with garlic, ginger and scallion. Add in chili bean paste. Stir fry for 30 secs.
- Add the marinated chicken.  Stir fry on high heat and break apart the chicken (because of the corn starch, the chicken dices stick together).
- After about 2 mins, add in 1 tbsp of cooking wine. Continue cooking on high heat for 5 mins. Add 1 tbsp of soy sauce, cook on medium heat for another 5 mins or until chicken is cooked.
- Add in the fried peanuts. Stir fry on high heat for 2 mins.  

Tips: Sichuan bean paste and peppercorn can be found in Chinatown grocery stores. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Italian Sausage with Root Vegetables Stew

Italian Sausage with Root Vegetables Stew
Serves 3 people
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins

- 2 Italian hot sausages (about 2/3 lb), cut into 1/2 inch length
- 1 turnip rutabaga
- 3 carrots
- 2 red potatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp of cooking wine (Shaoxing rice wine or sherry wine)
- 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp fennel seeds

- Peel all the root veggies and cut them into rough chunks
- In a medium size pot, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil
- Add in the sausage, cook on high heat for about 2 mins, or until sausage is lightly browned
- Add garlic, turnip rutabaga and the cooking wine, cook for another 2 mins
- Mix in potatoes and carrots. Add in parsley, bay leaf and fennel seeds. Stir on high heat for 2 mins.
- Pour in the tomato sauce. Then add 1 cup of water or broth.
- Cook on high heat until boil. Simmer on low heat for 20 mins.
- The veggies should be tender now. Add 2 tsp of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cook on high heat for 1 min to reduce the broth.

Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Lettuce with Oyster Sauce is a very traditional Chinese dish. It is one of the most common ways to cook lettuce in Chinese cuisine.

Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins

- 2 heads of lettuce, cut into 1-inch width
- 1/2 cup of sliced oyster mushroom or white mushroom
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp salt

- Use a large pan or wok, drizzle 1 tbsp of canola oil. 
- Add in the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds on high heat.
- Add in the chopped lettuce. 
- Stir fry for about 2 mins on high heat. After the lettuce wilts, add salt and 1 cup of hot water.
- Continue to cook on high heat for about 2 mins. Add oyster sauce, stir and ready to serve.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Banana Cream Pie - Is it your favorite too?

I did not grow up having pies. The closest thing to pie in China are those rectangle red bean pie pockets from McDonald's.  Homemade pie is something new to me. If I can make it, anyone can make it :)

This is only my second time making banana cream pie. It already became the all-time favorite dessert by my team at work. It is easy to make and will be a hit at your next party.

Banana Cream Pie 
Prep time: 30 mins 
Total time: 5 hours (including refrigeration time)

- 3 egg yolks  (what to do with the egg whites? Try the recipe here)
- 5 tsp cornstarch
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 whipping cream
- 2 bananas

- 1 egg white
- 1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust

I cheated with the pre-made pie crust (shhhh!). As a novice at pie making, I don't own a pie pan. And I personally think the pre-made crust is perfect for carrying the pie to work. They even give you the plastic top!

- In a heavy medium-size saucepan, beat the egg yolks. Mix in the corn starch and sugar. Stir in milk, salt and butter.
- Cook the egg/milk mixture over medium heat for 7 mins, until bubbling and thick. Stir occasionally.
- Turn off the heat. Mix in the vanilla extract. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
- Use an electric mixer to whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the custard.
- Peel and dice 1 banana into small cubes. Fold the diced banana evenly into the custard mixture. This step gives the pie a lot of banana flavor.

 *Pie crust
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Lightly brush the pie crust with the egg white.
- Place the pie crust on the center of the oven rack and bake for 7 mins. When it is lightly browned, let the crust cool on a rack.

- Peel and slice 1 banana. Place the banana slices evenly on the bottom of the cooled pie crust.
- Spoon the filling into the crust, cover with plastic wrap and chill for another 2 hours or overnight.
- Arrange a few banana slices on top for decoration. Ready to serve!

 Chilled Custard
 Adding whipped cream
Mixing in diced banana

  Banana cream pie being shared at work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Treat from Nature - Homemade Granola

This is my first time making granola. It turns out surprisingly good - hearty and earthy. Most importantly, you can pick and choose the ingredients you like. And it is so EASY!

Raisins and Nuts Granola

 - 2 cups rolled oats
 - 2 cups wheat germ
 - 1 1/2 cups oat bran
 - 2/3 cup sliced raw almonds
 - 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
 - 1/2 sunflower seed kennels
 - 1/2 cup dark raisin
 - 2 tbsp granulated sugar
 - 1 tsp salt
 - 7 tbsp honey
 - 2 tbsp vegetable oil

- In a small sauce pan, mix honey and oil on low heat until the honey is loose.
- In a medium bowl, mix all the rest of the ingredients. Pour the honey/oil mixture over the dry ingredients, mix well. 
- Preheat the oven to 300F
- On a large rimmed cookie sheet, spread the granola mixture evenly. Bake for 10 mins. Take out the pan and use a spatula to mix the granola to make sure it bake evenly. 
- Bake for another 10-12 mins or until golden.
- Store in air-tight container or zip log bags.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lamb and Carrots Stew

I made lamb stew on last Friday night. My dad often cooked lamb stew in the winter when I was growing up (thanks Dad for the recipe!). In my own version, I added some western ingredients such as shallot and rosemary.

Food has the nature of  Yin (阴) and Yang (阳) in Chinese culture. Yang foods are believed to increase the body's heat, while Yin foods are believed to decrease the body's heat. In the winter, people have more Yang foods to help blood circulation. Lamb is therefore a popular dish in the cold season. 

This lamb stew combines the savoriness of lamb and the sweetness from the carrots. It is the perfect stew on a winter day.

Lamb and Carrots Stew

Ingredients (serves 2-4)
- 1 lb of lamb leg meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 carrots

- 1 shallots, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup of chopped tomato
- 1 tbsp of ginger, roughly sliced
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 anise star
- 1 tbsp of dry rosemary
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp of fresh parsley (optional)

- 1 tbsp of raw brown sugar
- 4 cubes of crystal sugar
- 5 tbsp of dark soy sauce (老抽)
- 2 tbsp of light soy sauce or all purpose soy sauce
- 2 tbsp of cooking wine
- 1 tsp of salt

* Dark soy sauce is sweeter and richer than light soy sauce. 
** You can use granulated sugar to replace brown sugar and crystal sugar.
*** I used Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing rice wine). You can also use white wine or sherry wine.

- In a medium pot, drizzle canola oil on the pan for high heat. Add shallots, stir for about 30 secs.
- Add lamb, ginger and garlic. Sear the meat till lightly brown.
- Add cooking wine and carrots, stir fry for about 2 mins.
- Add sugar, soy sauce, all the dry ingredients (rosemary, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, anise star) and 1 cup of water, cook on high heat till boil.
- Cover the pot with lid and simmer for 40 mins.
- Remove the lid, add salt and parsley, cook on high heat for 5 mins. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Almond Crisps - A simple yet delicious snack

Happy 2011.
One of my new year resolutions is to write more recipes on the blog. After all, cooking is what I truly enjoy doing. I hope you can share your experiences here and try some recipes for fun.

Ok, here is the first recipe- Almond Crisps. They are very easy to make, great for a light snack and healthier than cookies.
The original recipe uses 2 tbsp of butter. I realized that I forgot to add in the butter when the crisps were already done. They taste so good that you can't even tell it doesn't have butter!

ALMOND CRISPS (non-fat version)
- 2 egg whites (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 cup of sliced almond

- In a medium bowl, gently mix the egg whites with sugar and salt. 
- Sift the flour and add flour to the mixture. Mix well.
- Only mix, do not beat the egg whites. (add butter at this step if you do wish to use butter)
- Mix in the sliced almond.
- Line parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Use a 1tsp measuring spoon, scoop the mixture on the cookie sheet. The space between the scoops is about 1 inch.
- Use a silicon spatula, spread the scoops on the parchment paper. Spread so that the almond slices are not on top of each other and the mixture is thin enough. 
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the crisps for 10mins or till half of the crisps are golden.
- Use a flat spatula to scrape off the almond crisps. Cool them on a cookie rack (be gentle!) for a few minutes.
- Store in air tight container for up to a week.

P.S. With some left over egg white mixture, I made a few more crisps using pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. They are also really good. You can try this recipe with lemon peel, poppy seeds, pine nuts, etc. ...

Photos by steps -