Sunday, April 29, 2012

Prime Rib Dinner

Our family loves steak. I love prime rib. Luckily our grocery stores had prime rib on sale (for about $4/lb). They only appear, at this price, about twice a year – once after Easter and another at the end of summer.

A couple weeks ago, our family helped prepare a prime rib dinner with a bunch of side dishes.

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Richard and Andrew made a zucchini casserole with garlic, onions, strained tomatoes (passata), and parmesan cheese. This was a hit with the family. I particularly adored the concentrated tomato sauce on top of the zucchini.

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Potatoes were quartered, seasoned with Montreal chicken spices (mainly dehydrated onions, roasted garlic and salt), then baked in a hot oven to cook and crisp up. These potatoes were really fluffy and seasoned perfectly. I'd probably add a bit of cayenne pepper to the mix to add a little heat next time.

A salad of green beans, red peppers, carrots and a mandarin orange dressing was also put together.

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Once the prime rib was taken out of the oven to rest, the juices in the pan were used to make mushroom gravy with a bit of wine. This was made just before we were ready to eat.

I had bought some frozen Ace baguettes for something else, but I had to bring them out for the dinner. Just as we started to make the gravy, the baguettes were briefly baking in the oven.

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After resting for about ten minutes, the prime rib was sliced. Everyone grabbed a plate and filled them up with all the fixings. That was quite the spread. Cheers, to another delicious prime rib dinner!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice Noodles

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You’re looking at a hot bowl of Vietnamese beef stew, bo kho, with rice noodles, glistening by the kitchen window.

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Earlier this week, it began with some spare ribs, this spice blend (made of paprika, star anise, garlic, chili, onion, ginger and cloves), lemongrass, star anise, cloves, fish sauce, onions, garlic and water.

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Everything simmered together in a pot for about three hours. Carrots were added afterwards. Chunks of daikon and beef tendons were cooked separately from the pot of bo kho before they finished cooking in the bo kho.

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While some people like to eat carrots and daikon when they become an over-cooked mush, I like them before they get to that point. And so I fished out the carrots, daikon, and all of the beef tendons into a smaller pot.

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When the pot of bo kho was simmering away, two packages of wide rice noodles were soaked in cool water. It only took an hour for the noodles to soften up and turn opaque (see photo above). This quickens the cooking process and gives the noodles a great texture. We like using the rose brand and elephant one because they don't break apart easily when you eat them.

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The stew was seasoned with Chinese chicken bouillon powder, sugar, and salt. Not much was needed though. A slurry of flour and room temperature bo kho was stirred into the pot to tighten up the stew. There was quite a bit of oil floating over the stew. Solution? Give the top of the soup a few gentle swirls with a ladle and scoop out the bo kho.

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When we were ready to eat, a pot of water was boiled to cook the rice noodles, and the pot of bo kho was heated to a gentle simmer. The soaked rice noodles didn’t need more than ten seconds in the boiling water.

The rice noodles were cooked first. I like to cook mine for, literally, two seconds and then press the cooked rice noodles with the back of the ladle to drain excess water. Some beef tendons, carrots, daikon, and chunks of tender beef topped the rice noodles.

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Ladles of bo kho and a sprinkle of cilantro completed the bowl.

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Andrew’s bowl had a little bit of everything; beef, daikon, carrots, beef tendon, onions, garlic, and cilantro. It looks like he had too much noodles.

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The Vietnamese beef stew wasn’t thick enough to earn the name stew, but it was fine when we ate it with rice noodles. If we ate it with bread, the bo kho needed to be much thicker. The flavour was so complex. With each bite, flavour waves of coves, anise, lemon grass, ginger, beefy richness and bright cilantro greeted our taste buds. It was beautiful.

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Me: The beef and vegetables were so tender...

You: How tender was it?

Me: They were so tender that you can eat it without using dentures. Ang!

Instead of eating it with rice noodles, she was in the mood to mop up all the bo kho with some bread. If we had loaves of french bread, I would’ve probably had two small bowls of bo kho. Mmm... french bread.

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Regardless of how the bo kho was eaten, everyone happily slurped their bo kho away. Only empty spice-speckled bowls and spoons remained.


We had a bit left over. Most of the fat was skimmed off before the bo kho was reheated for breakfast. It was my kind of breakfast. What a great way to start off a day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Medallions with Pasta

We don't usually have many convenient frozen foods in our two freezers. They're mostly filled with frozen seafood and random cuts of meat that we breakdown beforehand. Our parents would be quick to argue that a stir-fry can be made quickly. I was always jealous of looking into other people's freezers and seeing stuff like frozen dinners, pizza pockets, chicken fingers, french fries, and waffles. We rarely had those in our freezer when we grew up.

To be honest, I don't mind spending a bit of time to cook something. The stuff we make is definitely healthier and tastier than the frozen stuff! But I'd rather make and eat Canadian or European food than Chinese food (dumplings and noodle soups aside). Some of it does have to do with my general disliking of steamed rice.

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Frozen bacon-wrapped chicken medallions. Richard cooked the medallions on the stove with some fresh thyme we had growing in the backyard a few years ago. Everyone liked it so much that we've been cooking it that way ever since. The cooked medallions just seem too plain without the herbs now. Sometimes we just use the toaster oven to bake the medallions with the herbs instead of standing over the stove.

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We made a quick broccoli cream sauce to go with cooked macaroni by boiling broccoli and a bit of garlic, and then puréeing it all with a roux and some cream. We had some buttered corn, broccoli, and sautéed onions and red peppers to go with everything. They just weren't in the picture.

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Dinner was made in under half an hour. We finished everything in less time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ham Chim Peng

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In the past, I've referred to the deep fried round Chinese bread as hang jing bian. I don't even know how to say it properly and so when I tried to type it out phonetically, it came out wrong. I've come to realize that the proper spelling of is ham chim peng (or bánh tiêu in Vietnamese). No wonder google never came up with anything.

It's been quite a while since I last walked on Somerset St W, but earlier this week I made the trip twice and bought some ham chim peng at the Kowloon Market. Remember to get six items in the bakery area and they won't charge you taxes. I'm pretty sure they do it at all Chinese stores.

The ones I bought were plain. I never knew there were red bean-filled and glutinous rice-filled kinds. I've never seen it in Ottawa or even Toronto and Montreal.

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The way I heated these up for breakfast was how I normally reheat pizza; microwave it for about twenty seconds before toasting it in the toaster oven. While the toaster oven was busy heating those up, I boiled some water and made some strong coffee.


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Normally when these are toasted, the bread sweats off some oil - which is quite nasty. But the batch I got was skillfully fried and wasn't heavy with grease. Impressive.

It's tough to describe the flavour of ham chim peng, since this particular batch had a mild flavour. Even when we went to Hong Kong, the ham chim peng tasted similar (though they were really greasy then). Whenever my mom has attempted to make this (here and here), her dough was a traditional yeast dough, whereas this dough is different. The sesame seeds on these discs of carb were toasted and fragrant. I'm not sure if they pre-toasted the sesame seeds prior to adding them or if the bakery just fried the dough in a lower temperature. Whatever they did, these were great!


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As kids, we were never allowed to drink coffee unless there was youtiao or ham chim peng for dunking. Even when Lucy and I have grown into our twenties, we still enjoy strong, sweet coffee with our youtiao and ham chim peng.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Albondigas aka Spanish Meatballs

When I think of Spanish food, I think of paella and tapas. What kind of tapas? Thinly sliced cured meat, olives, small fried fish, and tortilla. I’ve never had Spanish food before, nor have I ever attempted to make any of the dishes.

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A friend of mine was organizing a potluck get together with a Spanish tapas theme. I looked up some stuff and decided I’d try to make Spanish meatballs (aka albondigas). I didn’t know what herbs and spices they used, but I found out that they do use smoked paprika, cumin, and parsley in their cooking.

With that in mind, I just threw something together. It’s not legit by any means. I totally made this recipe up, but I actually measured the ingredients so that I can share it with you. Here's the recipe for my Spanish-inspired meatballs:

1.240 kg            Ground pork
0.535 kg            Ground chicken
3 Cloves             Garlic, minced
106 g                  Sardines, chopped finely
5 tbsp                 Paprika
3                          Small onions, finely diced and sautéed
5 tbsp                 Seasoning sauce (Maggi)
5 tbsp                 Cumin
½ cup                Breadcrumbs
Parsley, Cilantro
Black pepper, Salt, Sugar

Sauce:
1½ Bottles        Passata
2                           Small onions, finely diced and sautéed
Cumin
Black pepper
Salt, Sugar, Rosmary

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ba Bao, Cha Siu Bao, and Puff Pastry with Strawberries - Feb. 13th, 2011

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Mom started off by making the dough for the meat-filled steamed buns (baozi) first. We call them ba bao (ba = meat, bao = bun, bread) in Teochew. After all the dry ingredients were mixed in, she slowly added water and a splash of vinegar. When everything began to come together, vegetable oil was added to the mix before the dough got a rest.

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The filling was made while the dough rested. Ground pork, onions, baby bok choi, and oyster sauce were stirred together.

After a few hours of rest, the dough is rolled out and divided. A ball of dough gets flattened and then topped with a slice each of boiled egg, Chinese sausage, shiitake mushroom, and the ground meat filling.

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I tried making porcupine/hedgehog-like buns by cutting the dough with scissors before steaming them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Afternoon Snack: Hummus, Wheat Thins, Havarti, and Apricot Jam

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While havarti cheese and Wheat Thins pair up nicely for an afternoon snack, I thought I'd add some more things to the plate for more variety.

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A dollop of hummus and apricot jam each did the trick.

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In the end, my favourite combo was having the a bit of fruity apricot jam with the salty havarti atop a Wheat Thin cracker. While the hummus tasted fine with the Wheat Thins alone, it didn't play nicely with the other two things on the plate.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fire Up the Griddle: Over-Easy Eggs, Genoa Salami, Toast

Breakfast isn't my favourite meal. It's a meal that is frequently neglected in our family, but once in a while, we get cravings. One particular morning, I was in the mood for some eggs and toast. I found some genoa salami in the fridge during my routine morning inspection.

Mum had the day off work and had not eaten breakfast yet. And so I brought out our large griddle and made some over-easy eggs, heated up some slices of genoa salami, and made some toast, as the pot of coffee slowly dripped away.

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Not bad for a quick breakfast.

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We had made some potato pancakes the previous day and had some left over, but I stuck to fresh toast that morning.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Homemade Okonomiyaki: Take Two

Just like the first time Lucy and I made okonomiyaki, the base of our Japanese pancakes consisted of shredded cabbage, cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions. This time we cooked them for the family.

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Everything was mixed together in a bowl, depending on the person's preferences; more cabbage, more batter, etc.

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The pancakes cooked on our griddle. Then came the fun part – dressing the okonomiyaki!

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A squeeze of kewpie mayo, a few shakes of furikake (which was made from seaweed, powdered soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and dried egg), a squeeze of okonomiyaki sauce, and a handful of bonito flakes. The bonito flakes were dancing with excitement -- that is until we gobbled them up.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Pork Toast, Pork-Stuffed Tofu Puffs, Eggplant, and Red Peppers

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When we tried to recreate the breaded shrimp ball mince, it tasted more like fish than shrimp. Mom and I tweaked the ratios between ground pork (and extra pork fat), shrimp, and fish paste from 1.5:1:1 to 3:1:1. We unfortunately didn’t have any more shrimp to add.

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The mince was seasoned with ginger, less garlic, and more sesame oil. Instead of steaming the stuffed tofu, they were shallow fried in vegetable oil.

I really liked the flavour of the stuffed tofu. The pork mince was bouncy and juicy from all the fat in the ground pork. The shrimp added a little sweetness to the mix, while the fish paste rounded out the flavour with another savoury dimension. The porky concoction tasted more like a dim sum item.

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When all of the tofu puffs were used up, Mom looked around the kitchen for other things to use. One of the things she used was some sandwich bread. Have you heard of shrimp toast? Well, this is pork toast – super greasy pork toast. The bread was saturated with so much grease that I could’ve taken one pork toast, squeezed out all the oil, and then used the oil to cook up a batch of pot stickers. Are the shrimp toasts during dim sum this greasy? No, eh? I preferred the stuffed tofu puffs over the pork toast.

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Another thing Mom brought was a red pepper. She cut the red peppers up in large chunks and then stuffed it with the pork-shrimp-fish mince. Jimmy said that the red peppers were bitter.

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The last thing Mom found in the fridge was an eggplant. The eggplant was sliced, topped with the mince and then fried. The eggplant was a bit soggy, but at least they weren’t saturated with grease. They weren’t bad at all.

All in all, I'd say this batch was a success. They tasted more pleasant than the last batch that tasted fishy.

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