Sunday, November 16, 2008

It has begun!


Gorgeous Dinner Setting, originally uploaded by razzieswirl.



First of all, I'd like to apologize for my long delay in posting on this website. One thing that has kept me from this site has been the remodel going on in our lovely little home. For the last month and half we've had no bathroom. A little remodel, with a few upgrades, turned into a huge remodel. Because we had no toilet, shower or even walls we were forced to move out until a few of those things were replaced. So, Thomas and I packed up the pugs and some of our things and out to my mothers house we went. Although she lives in a fairly spacious house, I would say that after a few weeks even the closest mother and daughter (and their respective spouses) cease to get along so well. That and driving nearly half and hour back and forth up to up to three times a day wore on my mind, body and nerves. But, after a few struggles and what seemed like a year, we are back in our little abode. Unfortunately, we only have a floor, new walls and a toilet (no shower yet, which is remedied by the YMCA or Thomas' mother who lives close by), our house still reflects a construction site. I'm just happy to be home!

Months ago I started looking for people interested in a gourmet cooking group, or as some call it, a club. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet some people who had the same passion for food as I do. Although I love all of my friends dearly, many of them aren't as invested in the magic of food as I am. So, eight people responded and we meet for wine a cheese. Then, appetizers. After that, a halloween dinner. For our halloween dinner we had a new member, Rachelle, whom I was most excited to meet, she seemed to have that same passionate spark that I do. When she emailed me, she even sent a picture of a cake she made, which as you know I loved, because I am a fan of all things sweet (and photographs of sweet things is just as wonderful). After our Halloween dinner she offered to host the next meeting at her place. Usually at the end of every meal we decide on a "theme" or come up with a concept. Many of us had wanted to try our hand at thai, korean or vietnamese so we decided to create dishes with a general asian theme. We also had a member that had cooked for dignataries in parts of Asia and seemed to know a lot about traditional food. Cooking with a general asian theme would provide some freedom for creativity and we would be left with dishes from all over, not just one region.

I had been planning on creating a special posting for each meeting. Offering my readers ideas, recipes and my ongoing experience with the group. Our first three meetings were very new, and, seeing as for part of it I wasn't at home (and couldn't find my camera battery charger) I didn't have the time or resources to photograph and post. But I was prepared this past Friday, and boy am I glad I was. Unfortunately, this post is missing over half the dishes that were supposed to be there. I say supposed to because five people cancelled last minute, all within an hour or two of dinner. This hadn't happened before and most of us left in the wake were all a bit stunned. We lost all of our sides, one dessert, and drinks (luckily I had a bottle of champagne in the fridge). We may have missed out on dishes, but most of those who ended up contributing really brought their A-game. Would it have been nice to have sides? Yes, of course. But Rachelle, created a stunning clay pot vietnamese pork main with toasted coconut rice. Ashley brought along an abundant amount of freshly made crab rangoon with her own sweet and sour. Layla brought a plate of edamame with kimchee (excuse me if my spelling is blatantly wrong). Michelle brought drinks. I supplied the cupcakes, with an asian flair of course. And here, in one post, you will get the recipes and my thoughts on each dish. I will not however be providing Laylas recipe (or Michelles because she brought a bottle of wine) simply because it was very simple. To recreate Laylas dish simply steam some edamame and serve with some store bought kimchee. That would make a good snack at home in the afternoon too!

I felt terrible for Rachelle. She went all out, created such a lovely dining experience. The table was set with her wedding china, a full formal setting, with candles abound. A large pitcher of lemon and mint water flanked one side of the table. On each place setting sat a piece of vietnamese candy (Rachelle made a traditional vietnamese dish). As soon as I entered her apartment I was in love! It is me to a tee. It doesn't look like it belongs in bellingham, it's very parisian in nature. Large planked wood floors, high ceilings, wide crown molding, gorgeous lead cabinet built ins. I could go on and on for days, but I won't! It was simply lovely, and right away I could tell she put a lot of care into getting the place ready for us. As much as I was in awe, I immediately felt a twang of guilt, I know it wasn't my fault, but I felt so terrible that she had gone to so much effort and so many had canceled. I know how that feels too. Nonetheless we popped the bottle of champagne and ended up having the best evening we've had so far, truly.

So read on for some fantastic recipes!

Appetizer: Crab Rangoon with Homemade Sweet n' Sour made by Ashley


Ashleys Rangoon Bitten, originally uploaded by razzieswirl.



I loved this appetizer.
I probably consumed a few too many (not including the three we "tested" when she made them at my house!) But I knew there weren't going to be any sides by the time we arrived at Rachelles so we went a little crazy on these crispy crab pockets. Best of all they're baked, not fried, which means they are a bit healthier, but there's also a lot less mess!

Here is how Ashley did it:

Ingredients: Crab Rangoon

Package of won-ton wrappers
1 package cream cheese
2 cans of crab (I'd suggest dungeness)
4 scallions - chopped
small bowl of water
1/4 cup of oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 375

1. Lay out a few lines of wonton wrappers flat
2. Mix cream cheese, crab and chopped scallions into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
3. Place 1 teaspoon (more if you can fit and fold it) into wrapper.
4. Seal wrapper with a little water on the edges of wonton wrapper and fold in half (it will look like a triangle now). If you like fold ends into middle of wonton to create what I call a "pocket" (as seen in picture).
5. Brush both sides with oil
6. Bake about 10 minutes, flipping half way through, or until golden brown. f

Sweet N' Sour Sauce - still waiting on Ashley's recipe:


Main Plate



I highly suggest you try both of the dishes below. The pork melts in your mouth like butter, and although the flavor is extremely rich and a bit salty, paired with a crispy fresh side this would make an impressive meal. Best to make this on a weekend night or for your next dinner party!

Coconut Rice Made by Rachelle


Toasted Coconut Rice, originally uploaded by razzieswirl.



Now, this recipe is fairly easy. I'd say you could whip this together as an accompaniment to your next stir-fry or asian inspired dinner. Everyone at the table couldn't stop raving about it, and most of us had two servings (some even more!) This would make a great recipe to try on the kiddies too. The sweet, crunchiness of the coconut pairs well with the stickiness of the rice. The textures are a treat unto themselves, and paired with the spicy, salty, soft pork, ooooohhhh melt in your mouth perfection. I could go for some right now!

Recipe: Coconut Jasmine Rice

serves 4-6 as side dish

Ingredients:

1 tbl butter
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt (omit if serving with Clay Pot Pork)
2 cups jasmine rice, washed and drained well
½ cup good, thick coconut milk (shake can to mix well before opening)
2 cups water
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Recipe:

1. Heat butter a medium sized, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. When butter is melted, add brown sugar and salt, stir until dissolved.
3. Turn heat to high, add rice and stir until all grains coated evenly.
4. Add coconut milk and water. Stir occasionally to prevent grains from sticking to bottom.
5. When boiling, immediately cover with tight fitting lid, turn heat to medium-low and simmer undisturbed for 20 minutes. 6. Remove pot from heat but do not open lid. Really, no peeking!
7. Let sit for10 minutes.
8. While rice is cooking, toast coconut flakes on a dry skillet over medium high heat. Stir frequently to avoid burning, remove from pan as soon as coconut is golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Clay Pot Vietnamese Pork Dish Main - Made By Rachelle


Vietnamese Pork, originally uploaded by razzieswirl.



I enjoyed the dish. Yes, it was a bit salty, but I think the coconut rice is supposed to balance the salty out a bit. I don't think it was so bad it shouldn't be made and experimented with. The flavor was good, the pork was like butter the salt just needed a little adjustment. Here are a few words Rachelle shared about the dish: It is extremely rare that I regard the product of one of these recipes with dismay, but Clay Pot Pork produced exactly that reaction.Too salty. Unbearably salty. This is inspired by Vietnamese cuisine, says the introductory paragraph, which often uses sweet and bitter together. The idea (and it's not posted on Epicurious so I can't show you) is to produce caramel by melting 1/3 c. sugar, then adding 1/3 c. fish sauce and 1 3/4 cup chicken stock. Then you add some other things (shallots, garlic, scallions) and cubed pork shoulder, which you braise for 2 hours. Don't skimp on the fish sauce, the recipe says. It's necessary for authentic flavor.

And now for the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth or water
1/3 cup Asian fish sauce, preferably Vietnamese
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally, white and green parts kept separate
1 lb trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Cook sugar in a dry 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, without stirring, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar has melted into a deep golden caramel.
2. Carefully add stock and fish sauce (caramel will harden and steam vigorously) and cook, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. 3. Add shallots, garlic, and white part of scallions and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
4. Toss pork with pepper in a bowl and stir into sauce. Bring to a simmer, then cover pan, reduce heat to low, and braise pork, stirring once or twice, until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
5. Stir in scallion greens and serve with rice.


Honey Toasted Sesame Cupcakes, White Chocolate Green Tea Frosting topped with White Chocolate Dipped Fortune Cookie: Made by Mallory



I thought these were very good, the frosting didn't hold shape like I'd wanted, it was probably due to the sour cream in the recipe. The frosting was also a tad too gooey for me, not in a soft way, in a sticky/chewy kind of way. The little cakes were incredible though. I wanted to use toasted sesame like you'd use poppyseeds. My fear was that the seeds would end up being too noticeable, or that they'd be a nuisance and get stuck in your teeth easily. This wasn't the case, they just added a really interesting depth and flavor to a very light cake. I adapted the recipe from cheryl porro's honey cakes. Frosting was all my creation.

Recipe: Toasted Sesame Honey Cupcakes

1 cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup whipped honey
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds (toss in a pan on low heat until evenly golden, the heavenly smell will tip you off that they're done)

Directions: Preheat to 350 - Makes 12 cupcakes

1. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, milk, egg yolks, and honey. Stir to combine.
3. On a low setting, start to beat the dry mixture and slowly add the wet. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated.
4. Transfer mixture to another bowl. Wash and dry mixer bowl.
5. Whip egg whites with whip attachment on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer on medium speed, add cream of tarter and slowly add sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Scoop a cupful of the stiff egg whites into the batter and stir to combine. This should lighten up the batter.
7. Fold sesame seeds into batter
8. Transfer the batter to the egg whites and gently fold until there are no more streaks of egg white
9. Fill cups nearly to the top, leaving about 1/4 inch

Recipe: Matcha (Green Tea) White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

4 oz. sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese
6 oz. white chocolate melted
3 rounded tablespoons of matcha (powdered green tea, very brilliant in color and strong in flavor)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (to stiffen a bit)

Directions:

1. Combine sour cream and cream cheese in mixer, mix thoroughly (about 3 minutes)
2. Slowly add white chocolate mix until combined
3. Add matcha and powdered sugar and mix thoroughly


And there you have it! There is my uber long post, chock full of ideas and recipes for your pleasure! Enjoy!

3 comments:

RachelleLouise said...

Wow, great wrap up of our festive evening! You made me blush with all of your compliments! I must say that I am obsessed with all things french, so to even put the word 'parisian' with my apartment sends me over the moon! Thank you! You are such a gracious woman!

A couple notes on that pork dish, those statements were something I tracked down online by another person that made the dish. I wonder if Epicurious took the recipe off of the site due to these issues. What I did find that helped tame the saltiness was to fish the pork out with a slotted spoon, keept only some of the shallots/garlic and reheated in sodium-free chicken stock. With the amount of fish sauce in that dish it was just going to end up salty. So, cut the fish sauce, or deal with the 'brinyness' by putting only the meant (no liquid) with a generous portion of rice...?? I felt the need to add that in case someone attempts the dish!! It was unique and quite authentic I believe, just beware! : )

Thank you for putting all that time and energy into creating such a lovely post, Mallory! Have a WONDERFUL week!!

RachelleLouise said...

Should have checked for typos!!

Kevin said...

Those cupcakes look amazing!