February 25, 2012

Thai Take-In

Okay, so, I took some fantastically gorgeous pictures of this dinner!  Lots of them!  ...Without a memory card in my camera.  Ooops.  I promise I'll take some more (WITH the memory card) when I'm eating leftovers next week.  Unless I forget because I'm busy with the new job (had I mentioned that yet?  I'm employed again!), in which case I'll just have to make this whole thing over again and eat even more Thai and you know, that sounds like an amazing idea really!


Rewind four months.  I was just coming back from the Grand Canyon Adventure with Adventure and Cooking Buddy Stacey.  Traditionally, we make our first meal after a backpacking trip a special one.  In Alaska, it was always Moose Tooth.  This time we tried the steak house at the Canyon, but the food was not up to our ridiculous foodie standards.  I thought Stacey was going to cry when her dessert came out covered in cool whip.  So we needed another, better post-Canyon celebration dinner.  Well, plans changed and Stacey came back to Vegas with me before returning home, and she declared that we should feast at Lotus of Siam.  This was a place that had been recommended to me by several people but I just hadn't made it there yet (something which I now regret).  So, off to Lotus we went.

Oh.  My.  God.

We ordered drunken noodles with crispy duck and khao soi with braised short ribs.  I was in heaven.  Absolute heaven.  Unfortunately, we only had a few more weeks left in Vegas at that point.  I set about going to Lotus every chance I got.

Back to the present:  I have been Lotus-less for four months now.  I swear I have actually been dreaming about that khao soi.  I had to have some.  So, I had to make some.  I spent a few days looking at various recipes on the internet, then set about winging it with my own recollection of the dishes from Lotus.  I was very pleased with how the Khao Soi turned out.  The Drunken Noodles weren't perfect, but The Husband loved them anyway.

Khao Soi Braised Short Ribs


6 beef short ribs
salt and pepper
1 T evoo
2 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
1 T red curry paste
1 c red wine
6 c water

1 package thin rice or egg noodles
1 T evoo

2 T vegetable oil
1 T minced garlic
2 T red curry paste
1 can (2 c) coconut milk
2 c braising liquid or beef stock
1 1/2 t turmeric
1 T soy
1 T sugar
1 t salt

1 diced serrano chili
pickled veggies*

Place dutch oven** on lowest rack.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, heat the evoo.  Rub the ribs with salt and pepper, then brown on each side.  Set aside.  In a sauce pan, heat up the vegetable oil until it is sizzling.  Add the garlic and the red curry, stirring well.  Add the wine and simmer for three minutes.  Add the water and return to a simmer.  Carefully pour liquids into dutch oven.  Add ribs and cover.  Cook for 2-2.5 hours or until meat is falling off the bones.

When the ribs are almost done, make the curry sauce.  Heat the vegetable oil, then add the garlic and red curry, stirring well.  While stirring, add the coconut milk, then the braising liquid.  Simmer for three minutes.  Stir in the turmeric, soy, sugar and salt (for a spicier dish, add the diced chili).  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes.

While the curry is cooking, cook the noodles according to the package instructions.  Drain.  Heat the evoo in a skillet and toss the noodles in, stirring constantly until noodles are slightly toasted.

Serve curry and short ribs over noodles, topping with pickled veggies.

*I tried pickling my own but I wasn't happy with the result.  I will try again.
**If you have a flat bottomed dutch oven, no need to preheat, just use it instead of the saucepan in the following steps.

Drunken Noodles with Veggies


2 T vegetable oil
3 cups diced veggies - baby corn, bell peppers, green beans
2 T minced garlic
3 serrano chiles, diced

1/2 bag of wide egg noodles

4 T soy
1 1/2 T oyster sauce
1 T rice vinegar
3 T brown sugar
lime juice from 1 lime

dash white pepper

Heat the oil in a large wok.  Add the veggies, garlic, and chiles, stirring well.  Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.  While vegetables are cooking, boil noodles according to package directions and drain.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the noodles and continue to fry for 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, mix together the soy, oyster sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and lime juice.  Pour over the noodles and veggies, stirring well.  Cook until the sauce has reduced, stirring constantly.  Top with a dash of white pepper and serve.

February 15, 2012

Marsala Risotto, Crispy Roasted Veggies, and the Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake

February's HH6 (as a side note, I really need to update my HH6 blogs tab) (side note two, I'm also a few days early with this) cooking challenge:

In celebration of Valentine's Day, create a dish that represents your relationship with your significant other. (example: the meal you had on your first date, on a vacation together, what you ate before you got engaged, the meal you had at your wedding etc.)

I have changed a lot over the course of my relationship with my husband.  I count myself as very fortunate that he has changed along with me.  Those who knew me in high school are continually amazed at the person I've become and I owe much of that to my husband who has always encouraged me to be a stronger, better person (even if he doesn't realize he's doing it!).

When we got married, I couldn't really cook.  I was student teaching right before we tied the knot and I'm pretty sure I lived on Kraft mac and cheese, Hamburger Helper, and frozen bagged stew mix.  The problem with this?  My husband hates cheese.  Insanity!  So there went the mac and cheese and most of the Hamburger Helpers!  What's a girl to do?  Why, learn to cook real food, of course.

One of the first real dishes I learned to cook was Chicken Marsala.  I've blogged this recipe before, so just follow the link to see.  I chose to use it for this challenge because it is pretty much the only thing that I cooked during our first year of marriage that survived my transition into a crazed foodie - and The Husband absolutely adores it.  The fact that he's been begging for it lately also might have played a part in my decision.

Back when we first got married, I'd serve the chicken with bagged instant rice and frozen veggies.  No more!  Now my chicken is accompanied with a creamy risotto flavored with marsala wine (no cheese, dear), and crispy roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, both of which we would be content to eat like popcorn.  You never knew brussel sprouts could taste this good!

Marsala Risotto


1 c white rice
2 T butter
1 c marsala wine, divided in half
1 quart chicken stock (preferably home made!)

Always stir risotto CONSTANTLY!  This means if you need to cook something else at the same time, make sure that everything is mis en placed and within arms reach.

Heat the chicken stock until simmering.  Reduce heat and continue to simmer.  In a separate pot or saucepan, melt the butter until bubbly.  Add the rice and stir constantly until just toasted, not browned.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add in 1/2 c marsala wine.  Stir constantly.  Once the liquid is mostly gone, add a ladle of chicken stock.  Again, stir constantly.  Once the liquid is mostly gone, add another ladle of chicken stock.  Getting the picture?  Keep going until the stock is gone and/or the rice is creamy and fully cooked (if you run out of stock and it's not cooked, use hot water).  When the rice is cooked, add in the last 1/2 c marsala and keep on stirring.  Serve immediately.

Crispy Roasted Veggies


1 broccoli head, sliced into bite-sized pieces
4 brussel sprouts, quartered
Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 500.  Toss veggies onto a tray, drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with pepper and garlic salt.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Now, about the cake.  Valentines Day also happens to be The Husband's birthday, so I like to go all-out.  Last year was strawberry tartlets.  The two years before, though, he was deployed and got cake-in-a-jar (I should blog that sometime).  This year is all about the chocolate.

When I was in college, I went around making giant chocolate layer cakes for Christmas.  Of course, I used box mixes and what have you, but I think this tendency is part of the reason The Husband fell in love with me.  He comes from a family of chocoholics, and has been occasionally dropping hints that I have failed in providing him with Epic Layer Cake Goodness.  I needed to fix that.  So here we go, the Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake: chocolate fudge cake layered with cream cheese filling, chocolate-caramel butter cream and caramel cream drizzle.  You will never need another cake again.

*with the exception of the cake, which makes a full 13x9 sheet cake, the other recipes have been reduced because I only wanted to layer and frost a mini-cake, there being only two of us here.  If you are making a full-sized layer cake I recommend doubling the filling and the frosting.

Holy Grail of Chocolate Cake

Cake (Adapted from Alton Brown's Devil's Food Cake)


1 c boiling water
4 oz cocoa powder
1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c sugar
4 c flour
1 t baking soda
pinch salt
1 c vegetable oil
4 oz sour cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a 13x9 pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.

Combine water and cocoa powder until smooth.

Mix sugars, flour, baking soda and salt in your stand mixer.  In a separate bowl, whisk oil, sour cream, eggs, yolks, and vanilla.  Carefully add the chocolate mix to the wet ingredients, stirring well.  Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry, blending until smooth.  Pour into pan and bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before removing cake from pan.

Cream Cheese Filling


6 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 T butter, room temperature
1/2 T vanilla
2-3 c powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well mixed.  Add vanilla, then carefully add powdered sugar. Taste and add the final cup of sugar if you feel it necessary (I like my filling a bit tart).

Chocolate-Caramel Buttercream


1/2 c butter, room temperature
2 oz cocoa powder
3-4 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk
2 t vanilla
2 t caramel coffee syrup

Combine powdered sugar and cocoa.  In a different bowl, beat butter for a minute.  Carefully add the sugar and cocoa, then the milk, vanilla and syrup.  Beat until fluffy.

Caramel Cream Drizzle


1/2 c brown sugar
2 T butter
2 T milk
powdered sugar to taste (2 T-1/3 c)

Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan, stirring constantly.  Cook until the mixture is quite bubbly, then whisk in milk.  Keep stirring and cook two more minutes, then set aside to cool.  Whisk in powdered sugar to taste (more if you want to use as frosting, less if you want to drizzle).

Building the Cake

Chill your cake layers (covered in plastic wrap) for at least an hour before building the cake.  Use a knife to level each layer if necessary.  Place first layer on a sheet of parchment paper.  Spread thickly with cream cheese filling, but leave a margin of 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the edge.  Place second layer on top and press down gently.  Spread the second layer with filling, again leaving a margin.  Top with third layer.  Spread cake thinly with buttercream - this is a crumb coating, don't make it perfect or thick.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before continuing.

Remove cake from fridge.  Spread with final layer of buttercream, then carefully transfer to the serving plate. Drizzle with caramel cream and enjoy!

February 10, 2012

Chinese Take-In

Sometimes, you just want Chinese food.  And sometimes, you're in a new place with little in the way of food options, and there's just no where good to go.  Therefore, tonight was Chinese Take-In.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of this earlier, making my own.  It's brilliant.  Just as delicious, cheaper, and nearly as easy.  Plus, it's kinda fun!

I wanted to surprise The Husband tonight.  Things have been pretty hectic the past few weeks and it's been difficult for me to cook more than spaghetti, so we've been eating out a lot.  This was our first evening home in several days, so it deserved something special.  Now, I think these will be regulars in our home!

Our Chinese Take-In consisted of the following:  Egg drop soup, lo mein, beef and broccoli, and kung pao beef.  I like egg drop soup a lot, but The Husband prefers wonton.  Egg drop was easier though, so that won out tonight.  We both love lo mein.  He usually gets something like beef and broccoli (or orange chicken, that will be a later dinner!) and I prefer spicier options, so I made both beef entrees.  As it turned out, he actually preferred the kung pao!

Given that my knowledge about cooking chinese food is... limited, I had some help with dinner tonight.  The recipes I modified, I posted here along with a link to the original.  Those I did not modify just get linked!

Egg Drop Soup

Lo Mein

Beef and Broccoli


1/2 lb stir fry beef, cut into strips
1 large head of broccoli crowns, sliced

1/2 t baking soda
1 t sugar
1 T soy sauce
2 T peanut oil
1 T sherry
1 t ginger

1/2 c soy sauce
2 T teriyaki sauce
3 clove garlic, minced
1 t cornstarch
2 T sherry

3 T vegetable oil

Whisk together the marinade.  Toss the beef in the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Turn once, halfway through.

Mix together sauce.

Heat 2 T of oil in a wok.  Saute broccoli 2 minutes.  Remove from wok and set aside.  Add 1 T of oil to wok.  Saute meat and 1/2 of sauce for 4 minutes.  Add broccoli and the rest of the sauce.  Cook two more minutes.

Kung Pao Beef


1/2 lb stir fry beef, cut into strips

1/4 c teriyaki sauce
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t ancho chili powder
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t ginger

1 T peanut oil

2 scallions, sliced.

Mix together the sauce.  Toss the beef in the sauce.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour, turning once.  Heat oil in wok.  Add steak and cook 4-5 minutes.  Sprinkle with scallions.