Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year Post: Dim Sum And Then Some

For those still checking out this blog, thank you very much, and by the way, Happy New Year!  

I'll be doing a bit of travel throughout the year ranging from Hong Kong and Madras, to New Orleans, and a quadruple threat of Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

I never thought I'd ever even DREAM of visiting even ONE of these places, and yet, 2017 has me both, beginning my year, and ending my year (as well as starting 2018!) in Asia.

One thing that always meant a lot to me (and still does) is the ability to transport yourself by eating foods from other cultures, even if you've never GONE to those cultures, we can still experience the delights that each country can provide us, and often times, elevating humble ingredients into something truly special.

I cannot imagine going to the homelands of dim sum, or nasi goreng, or beef rendang or pla lad prik! I'm hoping to come home with a new perspective on things, and with some new favorite items to learn how to make.

In the 15 years I have been married, I was unable to incite excitement in my husband, aka The Maharajah, regarding dimsum, and this was something relegated to girl's days out with a friend. In October, I seized a moment when we both were in NYC for an appointment, and left without a plan for lunch, I took my husband hostage and took him to Jing Fong in Chinatown--which to me is something truly special. Surely there are places that might do certain dishes better, but Jing Fong is accessible by an escalator which dumps you upstairs into what amounts to a vacuous ballroom sized dining room. 

As of current date, to my knowledge, Jing Fong is still operational--I keep an eye on news updates on line regarding it, as it IS planned for demolition as a developer wants to put up a new high rise and hotel etc, in the on-going gentrification of the lower east side of Manhattan. However, as of today it's still alive--I just checked online just now. Who knows when it's subject to change.

Anyway, I took the husband there, and despite not seeming all too keen on it, the place left an impact on him. And soon we have been visiting a local dimsum place near our homes, which is considerably smaller, and offers some of the same types of dishes.

And one of our favorites we gravitate to consistently is turnip cake. To be honest, I'd be happy with nothing but har gow, bbq ribs, char siu bao, and turnip cake. It truly is something very special and each place we have gone to makes it nice. 

It is my hope that after visiting Hong Kong, which I view as the mother land for dim sum itself (with Shanghai being the motherland for dumplings, specifically), that I will be making this dish regularly.  I found this recipe online and the photos really SELL the recipe as being tasty. The photos make me salivate:)  Posting this link to share, as well as a "note to self" for when I return stateside.   


Monday, December 05, 2016

One of My Signature Dishes: *Kanga* Nadu* Chicken* Surprise*

Very rarely will I actually toast and grind my own spices. I leave that for special occasions. Normally, I rely heavily on good quality spice blends from either Kalustyans, Penzeys, or Shaan, all of which EXCEED my needs.

Disclaimer: This is my own creation, not an actual dish; and if it WERE an actual dish, it'd be a biryani, I GUESS, but I fail every time I make a biryani, so this is neither a biryani, nor is it a pullao. It's in the great tradition of 1970s one dish/casseroles, and I'm calling it "SURPRISE."

This dish is similar to a Kerala dish called "curry meen pullichatthu" where there is seasoned pearl spot fish, pan seared, then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed in the leaf on a tawa/skillet to finish. This is also NOT dissimilar from a Bengali dish, Bhekti Macher Paturi, but the only similarity is the fish is seasoned with a paste, and neither the paste nor the fish is cooked prior to being wrapped in banana leaf, then steamed on a tawa/skillet. All of these are merely variations on the same theme.

Rather than give an ingredient list, and then go into the process; I'm just going to list the process with the ingredients in each step. Oh, and there are SOME photos of the process.

Note: Right up until you get to the instructions for the rice and remainder of the recipe, what will be detailed is pretty much MY VERSION of what is known as Chicken Varuval.

Step One:
Toast in a dry skillet: 1 handful of dessicated coconut, and 1T
that's TABLESPOON) of ground cashews or almonds (I
used Trader Joes brand) until it is this color. Set this aside.

 Step Two (No Photo, Sorry):
Toast in a dry skillet:
1 T coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed* 
1 tsp split moong dal
(*I may alter this measurement in future batches)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed

Toast up until fragrant--make sure you don't scorch it!
Let it cool, then grind in a spice grinder, then sprinkle over
1-2 lbs of diced up boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 
mixing in a smidge (about a tsp) of jingelly oil*.
(*Indian sesame seed oil, not to be confused with 
toasted sesame oil used in Chinese or Japanese cooking.)
Set chicken aside.

Step Three: 
Fry up the tadka in 1 tsp jingelly oil:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
12 curry leaves 
1 dry red chile pepper, broken in small pieces
A couple dashes of asafatoeida (compounded, powdered) 

Step Four:
To the prepared tadka, add:
1 white onion, minced (my onions are about 160 gm)
1 red bell pepper/capsicum, diced

Remove the tadka/onion mix from skillet and set aside.
Toss in the diced, seasoned chicken, and turn up the heat. 
Sear the chicken pieces on all sides.
Note: I use a Green Pan wok, which pretty much ensures
nothing will ever stick to my wok. YMMV, depending
on the nature of your cooking vessel. 
I pretty much ignored my chicken while it cooked, 
and I was doing other things. 
But this is what it is supposed to look like once 
you've achieved a good sear on all sides.
Toss tadka/onion mix back in and cook together for 2 more minutes.
Toss in the toasted coconut/ground cashew mixture, 
then set aside. 
Oh, and if you're so inclined, squeeze a bit of lemon juice 
over this and give a good stir. 
Oh! I almost forgot: About 20-40 grinds of fresh pepper. YMMV.
NOTE: I *am* INTENTIONALLY omitting a special ingredient. 
:) SUE ME :)
Into your pressure cooker or rice cooker, toss what you see here,
with the water and oil measurements on the bags.
Toss some additional saffron into the water, if you're so inclined.
It's truly disgusting how easy and tasty this rice IS at this point.
Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with the paddle to your rice cooker, 
and set aside.
Yes. Banana leaves. Not parchment paper, though you COULD
use parchment paper and set this up "en papillote," 
HOWEVER, you would be missing the subtle fragrance
with which the banana leaves imbue (YES IMBUE) 
the tasty tidbits inside.

Thaw out, wash and dry your banana leaves,
trimming off the tough ends.

This works good for one big casserole dish, or for 
individual serving sizes, as shown below...
Here are the pouches filled up and ready for the oven.
(Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes to steam in the leaves.)
I'm hopping around, I know. Stay with me. It'll all be worth it.
This is how you should layer:
Layer banana leaves criss-crossed with longer ends to tuck everything in.

First layer on bottom: Rice.
Second layer in middle: Chicken varuval with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Third layer: More rice.
Fold each end of the banana leaves over the food, pressing down
and tucking the ends into the pan to make a good seal.

Surprise! It's fucking delicious!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Just a few photos I managed to save from our Thanksgiving this year. My menu doesn't vary all that much from year to year. 

 Flowers I bought for the hostess (me!).
We went from originally having six people to twelve;
I needed to rent an additional table and chairs to
accommodate everyone.
 Here I am, the night before, pouletting the bird
after having spatchcocked it.
 Sorry, no photos of it in the roasted state.
But it was delicious.
 The view everyone sees when they came
into our home.
PS: That "Give Thanks" banner stays up all year long.
 Beverages offered: Sangria, Dark and Stormies,
and apple cider spiked with Apple Jack and
spiced bitters.
What to do with leftovers? Deep dish Thanksgiving Pie!
Hint: Canned buttermilk biscuits form the "crust,"
then you layer all the leftovers in, bake it for 20-25 minutes.
BOOM. Thanksgiving Pie.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's Been a While Since My Last Loaf

It's been a while since I've baked a loaf. Considering that my stoneware baker is so long, the loaf that it produces is quite big, and I managed to slice it and freeze half. So pretty much it's big enough for nearly 3 weeks worth of bread.

Last night I fed my starter/mother with some APF, so that'll make her nice and happy and active. Tonight I'll mix up a batch of the oatmeal bread I've used in previous attempts (some of which I've blogged about), and instead, this time, of the three cups of flour, I've used only two cups of KAF Bread Flour and one cup of teff (to add some interest/taste).

I'm going to mix up the batch, and do stretch and folds every 30 minutes for about two hours, and then dump it into my prepared banneton, and shove it in the fridge overnight. Then tomorrow a.m., before I head off to physical therapy, I'll take it out of the fridge, and put it on a heating pad to proof up. Granted this post was for "room temp," to be honest, my room temp isn't all that conducive to bread proofing. My kitchen always it more than a bit cool (unless we're in the dead of July and August, and even then it's still a dodgey affair). So I'll put the heating pad on low, and hope for the best.

I'm hoping the banneton helps me get the crust I want to achieve. 

I'll put some other add-ins into it like maybe a bit of hemp hearts, and meusli and dried cran for interest. 

I'm really hoping the crumb and crust cooperate.

Time will only tell.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Plenty Going On

Sometimes to go without blogging can be an indication of either too much going on or too little. For some people, it's a matter of perspective, I guess.

I'm forever tinkering, trying to come up with the best pizza dough, as well as fine tuning the perfect amount of time FOR ME to bake my pizza. I think I recently landed upon a pretty goodish recipe, my issue of course comes down to rack position for the pizza stone, as well as temp and time to bake it.

The 2nd permutation of my personal pizza dough is as follows:

Yet Another Sourdough Pizza Dough To Try (2nd permutation--still working on this!)
Makes 1 pie


40 gm Warm Water
40 gm  Olive Oil
220 gm Active, fed starter
2 gm Sugar
3 gm Yeast
150 gm APF
8 gm Salt

Semolina flour for dusting


1.    Mix wet stuff first, then gradually incorporate dry, with salt being the last item. Mix until it comes together, shaggy, but together. Set aside for 24 hours.
2.    Place rack (with stone) on 2nd tier from top.
3.    Pre-heat oven to 550. (My oven goes up to 525--beggars can't be choosers!
4.    After 24 hours, do a few stretch and folds, then separate into two floured bowls (covered) for 45 minutes as oven pre-heats.
5.    Form into disk and start “pizza-man” stretch over hands, letting gravity do its thing, stretching out the dough.
6.    Place on parchment and get it as roundish as possible. Prep pie.
7.    Bake 12-15 minutes.
8.    BOOM! PIZZA!

As my continued interest in sourdough bread baking ensues, so too, does my interest in ingredients and tools to help improve the quality of my output. My most recent acquisition is this:
Pictured above is the Sassafrass brand Super Stone Covered Bread Baker. I have not used it yet; however, I am contemplating what my maiden loaf will be. Perhaps a sourdough challah (which I have been day dreaming about using apple cider for the water), or perhaps another recipe from Sarah Owens' book, perhaps the loaf that requires beet puree? Either one will be lovely, no doubt. The Maharajah's bread box is down to his last three slices, so I need to pull my starter out of the fridge tonight, give it a feeding tomorrow, and start planning! Two more days, two more slices, and Rosh Hashana is nearly here--and while we aren't Jewish, it would be lovely to bake a challah (albeit not a ROUND ONE) for the Jewish New Year.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Given my love of sourdough as of late, this screen cap from AV Club  really spoke to me.
H/T to my friend "Gerg" who shared this w/me!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Rhapsody in Rye: Unintentional Detour, Part Deux

I'm realizing I never posted an interior shot of my loaf of Sourdough Rye Beer Bread. I've made this loaf thrice, and I'm always thinking of ways to improve it.

If you're playing along at home, this will be the second permutation of my version of Sourdough Rye Beer Bread. I used the recipe in the post I linked to above as my jumping off point, and I tweaked it, and the recipe I have presented below is the second tweak.

What I have fleshed out here is going to be my second permutation of this recipe. I tinkered with the ratios, by doubling the sourdough starter (and thereby lowered the volume of beer and bread flour, each by approximately 56 gm), and I'm hoping for the best.

Maven’s Sourdough Beer Rye (2nd Permutation)
Makes one large loaf, approx.. 2 pounds (It's not rocket science--give or take, 2 lbs)

224 gm       Sourdough starter, unfed
280 gm       Beer of your choosing, room temperature
28 gm         Honey (Buckwheat honey, tho; tho molasses plays nice with others)
196 gm       King Arthur Bread flour  (plus extra as needed during kneading)
140 gm       Rye flour (light or pumpernickel)
84 gm         Buckwheat flour
15 gm         Sea salt  (I use Himalayan pink, because it’s what I have on hand)

1.    Approximately 12 noon the day before you want to bake: Set Up Levain:
Mix the first four ingredients up together, and set aside until you can see plenty of bubbles and activity. (3-6 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is)

2.    Mix In Remaining Flours:
Add remaining flours (I do this all by hand). Cover the bowl tightly and let autolyze/rest autolyze/rest 30 minutes.

3.    Add Salt.

4.    Knead:
Knead dough in bowl for approximately 5 minutes, adding more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time within the first 5 minutes until the dough comes isn’t so sticky (point of reference: Not more than 4 T of flour—tho YMMV).

The dough should be somewhat smoother, but still tacky to the touch. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately another five minutes few minutes by hand, adding as little flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands and the counter. It should still be a bit sticky, but should feel smooth and clay-like.

5.    Warm/Room Temp Bulk Proofing:
When you’re done kneading, place the dough in a large, lightly oiled ceramic bowl or a large plastic container at least twice the size of the dough. Ignore it overnight--ignore it like a lover who forgot your birthday.

Note 1:  I use a Silpat mat to help with clean up.
Note 2:  If you have disposable, nitrile gloves, use them  (if you’re like me and can’t handle the sticky dough sticking to the hands).
Note 3: The warmer the spot you place your bowl of dough, the faster it will rise. (DOH!)
6.    Next Morning:  Stretch & Fold Cold Proofing:
In the morning, stretch and fold the dough about 3 times, and put in a loaf pan (sprayed with a bit of PAM) or a floured proofing basket, cover with a cloth or Saran Wrap and put in fridge. Ignore it all day in the fridge--give that fucker the cold shoulder like a lover you know is sexting someone else. IGNORE IT. ALL DAY.

7.    Prepare the oven and bake the bread:
2-3 hours before you want to bake the bread, remove from the refrigerator.  When ready to bake, put baking stone in oven (middle rack) and crank oven to 450º, and at bottom of oven or very bottom-most rack put a shitty old roasting pan to heat up.
Note: If using a proofing basket, gently turn it out onto a wooden peel dusted with flour or cornmeal.
8.    Lame/Slash The Top:
Holding a lame or sharp knife at a 45º angle to the loaf, draw the blade, about 1
deep, across the top of the loaf, beginning and ending 2 from the bottoms of the boule. Make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes.  Make fancy assed designed slashes, if that's your bag:)

9.    Ready The Implements For Steam:
(A)  Fill a 1 cup measure with ice cubes.
Have spray bottle of water at hand.

10.Baking The Loaf:
Quickly slip the boule off the peel and onto the stone, and toss the cubes into the hot pan on the floor of the oven. This will steam the outside of the loaf, allowing it to expand as it bakes.  Give the loaf and the walls of the oven a few (2-3) spritzes of water right before closing, so to increase steam.

11. Baking Time:
For 20 minutes: Bake the loaf without opening the oven, then reduce oven temp to 375
For 35 minutes: Bake the loaf at 375
º, then turn oven off.
For 5 minutes: Leave loaf in hot oven (without opening door).
Remove from oven, and let cool in loaf pan 5 minutes.

Note: If you’re the scientific sort, an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle should read around 200º, the temperature at which the starches in the dough are set.