Be Our Guest!

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We interrupt this program to bring you a non-dumpling post about a worthy cause.

Yesterday I made Asian-Fusion Dinner for Ten–a special auction dinner for TIBA foundation: 

http://tibafoundation.org/blog/

It was totally fun to come up with the menu and plan and execute the dinner!  Kudos to my wait staff and board members Gail & Arne, and to my amazing kitchen crew Jenn & Susan.

now, put on your French accent, channel your inner Lumiere, and say with me–

“It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now, we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents… your dinner!”

 

Dinner menu:

Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Empanadas with Thai chili sauce

Tobiko micro-tostada 

Crabcakes with mango-tomato relish and green sauce

Fresh corn soup with crispy prosciutto and chives

Korean beef taco

Sheng jian baozi with daikon carrot slaw

Korean acorn noodle salad with quail egg

Sticky rice and chicken in lotus leaf

Lemon sorbet with mint

Surf & Turf: Chili prawns and Filet Mignon with pauper’s rice and vegetable pearls

Lemon mousse and berries with phyllo crisps

Wines from Lynmar Estate Winery, Sebastopol

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“There may be something there that wasn’t there before”

YES. I AM Mrs. Potts. when I am not Molly Weasley.

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Ravioli

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I’ve often lamented that my kids lack the common bond that links my generation together.  Those of us who had to get up to change the channel (channel 2, 4, 5, 7, or 9?) belong to a deep and influential fellowship, forever united by our collective memory.  I’m talking about the commercial jingle, that great bastion of 1960’s American culture.

“Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener . . That is what I’d truly love to be–ee–eeee . . .”

“N-E-S-T-L-E-S  . . . . Nestle’s makes the very best . . . . CHOCOLATE”

AND just picture all those kids running and singing “WE’RE HAVING BEEF-A-RONiiiii—–Beef with MAC-A-RONiiiii—-HOORAAYYY for BEEF-A-RONI!”  You gotta hand it to the Chef Boyardee Mad Men.

Back in the day, my experience with ravioli was indeed from Chef Boyardee.  My family never ate in Italian restaurants, with the Grand Exception of Negri’s in Occidental.  Once a year Dad drove us all the way to Occidental just to eat their famous family style Italian dinner.  Soup and salad followed by RAVIOLI, then whatever the main course was that eve. I loved that ravioli. But mostly it was the canned stuff. yuck.

As an adult, I love Italian pasta–who doesn’t?– but I’ve avoided stuffed pastas at restaurants because of my preference for long slurpy noodles.  And I certainly never considered making homemade ravioli. But in the words of that famed philosopher Rafiki:  “EET EES TIME.”

And so, armed with my NEW Pasta maker and Ravioli mold, I made homemade ravioli. [NEW! TOYS!]

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The Filling:  I’m not a huge fan of cheese filled ravioli, so I lifted this filling from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.  It is adapted from the Pork Filling for her Anolini.  Mostly I just tripled the recipe because they don’t sell little half pound pieces of pork shoulder at my grocery store.  

2 pound boneless pork shoulder

1 onion, chunked

1 carrot, chunked

1 celery stalk, chunked

3 ounces diced pancetta

1 tbsp crumbled dried porcini (I left this out, didn’t have any)

3 sprigs rosemary

1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups chicken broth

4 ounces mortadella (also left this out, didn’t have any)

2 slices bread

2 eggs

2 tsp salt

pinch of nutmeg

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut pork shoulder into large chunks, mix with onion, carrot, celery, pancetta, porcini, and rosemary.  Heat broth with tomato paste, stirring till smooth.  Pour over meat and vegetables.  Roast one hour. At this point the pork was not yet falling apart tender, so I covered with foil, turned down to 350, and baked another hour.  At this point the pork easily yielded to the tines of my fork.  Remove rosemary stems. Next time, I’ll just cook the whole thing on the stove top for an hour and a half.   Let cool, then I set aside half of it to freeze for next time.   Put the meat in a food processor with bread, nutmeg, mortadella, salt, and pulse to finely chop. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed . Mix in eggs and cheese. 

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The pasta:  This is Chef Anne Burrell’s recipe from her cookbook Cook Like a Rock Star.  It’s a great recipe. I don’t make it by hand as she instructs.

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

4 large eggs plus 1 yolk

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt. I used 1/2 tsp

Place flour in kitchenaid mixer bowl.  Make a well in the center and add eggs and yolk, olive oil, and 2 tbsp water. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low till well combined.  Remove from bowl and knead well for a long time, 8-15 minutes is what Anne recommends.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour.  Cut the dough into quarters. Flatten into an oval disc, dust with flour, and run it through the widest setting (1) on the pasta roller. Fold into thirds and run it through again.  Do this one more time, then turn to setting 2, dust with flour, and roll it through again, ONCE.  Turn to setting 3, run it through once. Dust with flour as needed and run through setting 4, 5, and 6.  Cut the dough to fit the length of the ravioli mold.  Spray the mold with Pam.  Place a sheet of dough on the mold, place the plastic press on top and push it down, forming 12 perfect indentations. Place a scoop of filling in each depression, cover with another sheet of dough, and seal by rolling a rolling pin over the top.  Turn the ravioli loose onto a floured baking sheet.  THIS IS SO FUN TO DO.  

This make 6 dozen ravioli. I would have made 8 dozen except I ruined the first quarter of the dough.  

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Boil the ravioli for just a couple of minutes. I tend to overcook since I’m not used to fresh pasta.  Drain and serve.  I tried three ways:

(1) olive oil, salt, and parm.

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(2) Chicken broth.  

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(3) Red sauce.

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The chicken broth narrowly edged out the red sauce, they were both really really good, and the oil and parm alone was a distant third. We ate half, and I froze the other half in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, place them in a ziplock bag and return to freezer.

These are better than canned.

this is my rolling out ravioli song. 

 

 

 

Steamed Sticky Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp

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My world is divided between people who like sticky rice and people who don’t. It’s a texture thing.

Patsy, Pierre, and Phil J belong in the non-sticky camp. They find the soft chewiness of sticky rice and rice flour dumplings objectionable.

Amy and David are firmly in the sticky camp; Korean dduk and Japanese mochi are favorites, and they prefer their rice overly wet.

Most of the rest of us are in the middle; we enjoy the chewy texture, but would not trade our first born for mochi. One of my favorite foods growing up was fried Niangao. Mom would take the brick like white cake out of the fridge, cut it into slices, and fry it up. Like other magical food transformations (jiffy pop, shrimp chips), it would change into a delicious treat: sweet and translucent, chewy and crispy.

So it was with high expectation that I made my first Vietnamese dumpling—Banh It. I love sticky rice flour dumplings, but Truth be Told, I was lured by the prospect of using bamboo leaf. What a cool vehicle for my dumplings! AND it would impart some new exotic flavor as well!

 

This recipe is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings.

Steamed Sticky Rice Dumplings with Shrimp and Pork (Banh It). makes 12 dumplings

Filling:

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 ounces ground pork (I used 8 ounces. 3 ounces just did not seem enough. I had some leftover filling which was delicious with rice)

2 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, stemmed, chopped.  (her recipe calls for dried wood ear which I did not have so I doubled the mushrooms and used 4)

1/4 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, diced

1 tsp fish sauce

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onion in a little oil till soft.  Add pork, breaking it up and continue to sauté until cooked through.  Add mushrooms, fish sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook two minutes, then add Shrimp and cook 2 more minutes JUST UNTIL shrimp turns pink and is cooked through.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

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Banana Leaf:

12 circles, 3.5 inches in diameter, cut from fresh or thawed, frozen banana leaf, rinsed and wiped dry.  Arrange on counter or baking sheet and brush lightly with oil.

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Dough:

1 1/2 cups Mochiko Blue Star brand glutionous rice flour

3/4 cup Thai (Erawan) glutinous rice flour.  I went to Marina and they stopped carrying this brand a couple of weeks ago.  So I used all Mochiko flour.

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup + 2 tbsp water

Andrea’s book calls for stirring together the 2 flours and salt, then making a well in the middle and mixing in the water with a spatula then kneading with your hands to form a dough. I decided to put the flour + salt in my kitchenaid mixer, turned it on low and slowly poured in the water.  One of the great joys of making dough is the therapeutic process of kneading dough.  Bypassing any activity that could be helpful, productive or therapeutic, I figured the mixer could do the kneading and left it on for awhile.

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This turned the nice stiff pliant dough into a sticky goopy mess, the texture of oobleck (thank you, 6th grade Lawrence Hall of Science field trip).  I tossed this dough, but not before memorializing it for you in a photo:IMG_1891

Round 2 with the dough: stir with a spatula, then knead with your hands, like Andrea instructs.  This dough is not nearly as pliant and fun as the Wheat Starch dough (see my previous FAILURE post).  It’s a little grainy and, being made of rice, has no elasticity (Hello, gluten free).

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Divide the dough into 12 portions. Take one portion, roll into a ball, and flatten into a small upside down Frisbee. Place a scoop of filling (about 2 tablespoons) into the Frisbee and push the sides of the dough up and around to seal, then toss the Frisbee-now-Ball back and forth between your palms to smooth the surface.

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Place on one of your exquisitely cut bamboo leaf circles, and repeat till you’ve made 12 dumplings. Steam on high for 15 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes, and serve with a delicious dipping sauce.

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Critique:

These dumplings were not bad. The filling was fine but needs to be more flavorful.

They really need to be consumed fairly quickly, or the skin gets hard and grainy. If you steam them too long the skin gets goopy.

The banana leaf did not add any discernable flavor.

They were on the big side. I like little dumplings.

Initially I was happy with their appearance on the banana leaf. Then I looked at images of Banh It on line.  Firstly, my bamboo leaf circles are not round. Second, in comparison to the beautifully decorated spheres I viewed, mine look like Olaf in summer.

When I make this again (yes, despite above they were good enough for a 2nd try) I plan to

  • make the filling more flavorful, and add cilantro, oyster sauce and some other spices
  • make them smaller. I am all about cute food.
  • hire kindergarteners to cut better bamboo leaf circles.