Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vietnamese Lemongrass Curry

You keep craving the curry.  You have delivery from Indian, then takeaway from Thai, then you keep thinking that if I made this it be so much better.  The fresh aromatics, curry spices, and the smell lingering in your kitchen.  It's just the best. Better than anything a restaurant can throw at you.  You are a curry making genius. Thick aromatic lemony yellow curry that makes you want to dive in and drown in its richness.  Add in a bit of British comedy and a glass a wine. Tidy.

10 ounces of chicken thigh meat, boned and skinned, sliced into small pieces

5 ounces of sweet potato, sliced into chunks
1 inch of ginger, minced
1/4 sweet onion, minced
1 lemongrass stalk
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, deseeded and minced
7 ounces coconut milk, full fat (just don't bother with that bloody lite stuff, it's just regular coconut milk diluted with water, yuck)
1 TBS fishsauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Heaping TBS Thai Yellow curry paste
1/4 tsp turmeric

Make sure first to get that lemongrass pounded with a meat tenderizer and then remove shredded string inner soft flesh and get that nicely minced up.  Chop up the tough parts into 3 inch chunk pieces.  Heat a nice amount of peanut oil in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat.  Toss in all together your lemongrass, sweet onion, garlic, ginger, chili.  Give it a good stir about until it softens and gets really fragrant.  Mix in the curry paste and turmeric and get it all mooshed in with the aromatics.  Add a little extra oil,  toss in the extra chunks of lemongrass, and bobble these about with the rest.  Dump in the chicken and give it a good stir about till well coated with spices, aromatics, and the lot.  Add in the fish sauce and sugar and a pinch of salt.  Deglaze the pan with enough water to cover the bottom, toss over the sweet potato chunks and pop the lid on.  Leave at low heat now and let this simmer till the potatoes are just fork tender.  Take the lid off and let the liquid cook down.  At this point in time you can just go ahead and eat this.  An over the top vietnamese kind of stir fry, but then you add the coconut milk and scrap up everything and stir till golden and lovely.

Serve over jasmine rice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lady and the Tramp

sometimes you find yourself hanging out with your niece and nephew and watching old classics like Lady and the Tramp.  And then a strange urge comes over you.  You wonder, what is this hunger inside of me?  How did it Start?  Then you realize your watching the scene everyone remembers, the scene where Lady and Tramp are dining on spaghetti and meatballs. Then you realize you must have this at any cost . . you shall have . . . you will have it.  The next night you are settled into a hazy bliss of garlicky tomatoey with a glass of white winey goodness.  Ahhhhh.

My Quick and Simple Mushroom and Sausage Tomato Sauce

1 jar of Whole Food's 365 Roasted Garlic Tomato sauce (well I did say Simple)
8 oz. of good quality Italian sausage (house made stuff)
A double cupped handful of cremini mushrooms, halved then sliced
Red wine
A pinch or two of cinnamon
A sprinkling of oregano
1 TBS of Brown Sugar
4 pats of really good butter, I used organic and local Rose Valley brand
Olive Oil

Warm you sauce pan over medium heat with a nice amount of olive oil to coat.  When the pan feels warm add the sausage bit by bit.  Fry this up till lovely and brown.  Remove sausage and set aside.  Add 1 pat of butter and allow to melt.  Put the mushrooms into the pan and using a spatula, wooden spoon or whatever toss the mushrooms about in the butter.  Leave for a wee bit.  Don't fuss about with it, just let them be and let them brown.  Once starting to brown and soften and an extra pat of butter over the mushrooms and stir this pat of butter about with the mushrooms to make sure each slice has been coated with butter.  Allow to be still again and cook for a wee bit more.  Add back in the sausage.  Add the cinnamon and oregano.  Stir.  Add enough red wine to fully submerge everything.  Scrape up the brown bits.  Turn to high and allow red wine to boil off till almost gone but not quite.  Add in the Jar of Sauce.  Stir about, scrapping stuff and combining all thoroughly.  Add the brown sugar.  Stir.  Have this simmering for a good bit, like ten minutes maybe.  Turn off the heat then and add two pats of butter and the end stirring them in till melted and combined.
Serve over pasta with whatever cheese you like.  Although this sauce was so damn good I didn't really need any cheese.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ramen: the Nostalgia Trip

Sometimes you forget the joy in eating something simple.  A memory lingers in your mind of childhood pekishness, and what you used to do when it popped up.  Make toast.  Pour some cereal into a bowl, adding milk optional.  As you get a little older you begin to understand the act of measuring and boiling water into a pot.  You have discovered ramen.  Warm, comforting, and the added bonus of being salty instead of sweet.  Your tastes are beginning to mature just a little.

Then years later your grown up.  You’ve become the worst kind of food snob; an intellectual food snob.  Okay, not really, just couldn’t resist the random Philadelphia Story reference.  But still, you poo poo instant ramen; instead of broth packages your boiling bones from last nights dinner with a plethora of aromatics and herbs.  This is all very well, but nagging in the back of your mind is a need for simpler times and simpler food.  What is it  . .  . .and then you find the last package of shrimp flavored ramen stuffed in amongst your graveyard of goodies you keep cuz they’ll just never go bad.  And then you find yourself slaving over a pot of instant ramen like never before.  Garnishing it with sesame oil doused scallions, sprinkling on seven-spice, and finishing with julienne ham.  You’ve discovered a childhood classic and elevated it just enough so you and your childhood can meet up halfway and have a reunion.  Now if only you could find that old vhs copy of Back To the Future your evening would be complete.

Shrimp Ramen with Ham and Scallions

1 package maruchan shrimp ramen
2 cups of water
1 tsp yamasa soy sauce
1 tbs mirin seasoning
Seven spice seasoning, to taste
1 fat scallion, sliced
¼ tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup spiral ham, julienne
Handful of frozen peas
1 tsp grated ginger, from ginger in a jar
sesame seeds, to taste

bring the water to a boil.  Add the flavor packet from you ramen and allow to simmer a few seconds while giving a good stir.  Add the soy sauce and mirin.  Toss scallions with sesame oil and  pinch of sea salt.  Add ramen noodles to pot and keep on medium heat.  Now lay on top the scallions, ham, sprinkle over the seven spice and sesame seeds.  Loosen up noodles with chopstick.  Now add in frozen peas and watch as they warm up and noodles cook.  This takes seconds.  Turn off the heat and add the fresh ginger and mix in.  Taste and adjust as you like.

Add more of these as you like: the seven spice, ginger, sesame seeds, mirin, soy sauce.
Eat right away with a Chinese soup spoon and chopsticks. Yummy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, Little Em's Favorite Food

It was a lovely afternoon.  Summer had slowly started to creep its way into Portland, and as with all Portlanders everyone was outside the minute the sun was out.  Walking, talking, hanging about the parks and going up and down on the swings.  My mother and I were on our way to pick up little Emily, my cute four year old niece, from her day care.  Emily is absolutely one of my favorite people.  I just might choose her as my companion on a deserted island; provided there is a well established food forest and I can bring my cupboard of ingredients.  My latest culinary conquest would become a regular among our edibles upon this island: Hot and Sour soup.  It is Emily’s favorite food to eat when she comes visiting, but up until this day we would go to August Moon for her soup. 
Since my mother and I are both struggling financially we decided to make dinners together and save money.  So on this particular evening I suggested we make Hot and Sour soup at home instead of going out to the restaurant.  I didn’t make a truly authentic version, except maybe in flavor I chose to add what I liked.  I believe in soups you should just add what you like and what’s in the fridge.  I used chicken and mushrooms because that’s what we had.  As is always the case little Em was quite excited, and no sooner had I lit the fire underneath the pot she was there standing atop a kitchen chair in apron moving a wooden spoon about in the soup pot.  The soup received an extra heavy hit of fresh ginger as I let Emily scoop the ginger out of my ginger paste jar; never mind, I thought, ginger is my second favorite aromatic, seconded only by garlic.  The sweet and earthy smelly of ginger and mushrooms frying in the pot gave a heavenly scent to the kitchen.

Within less than an hour of the soup being made it was gone.
Emily ate most of it, and asked for me to make it again the very next day.

Hot and Sour Soup

2 chicken tender loins, sliced thin
4 large cremini mushrooms, julienned (To give off the appearance of tofu and Chinese mushrooms)
Sesame Oil
1 tsp ginger
Pint of chicken stock
½ tsp light soy
½ tsp dark soy
Pacific coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS mirin seasoning
2 TBS cornstarch
½ cup water
2 TBS organic, unpasteurized, unfiltered Cider Vinegar (Whole Foods brand, I highly recommend this vinegar)

Heat sesame oil on medium heat on soup pot.  Add chicken and fry, tossing about sometimes, till white.  Add the mushrooms and a little more oil.  Fry till softening a bit.  Add ginger and fry tossing about till wonderfully fragrant.  Pour in the chicken stock slowly.  Bring to a boil, and during this time add the soy sauces, salt, pepper, and mirin.  Once to a boil, turn immediately to low.  Mix the cornstarch with the water and add this to the soup.  Allow to simmer till thickened to a very light cream consistency.  Add the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasonings as you like.  I found that mine wanted a little extra vinegar.