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Archive for April, 2012

This soup is not appealing in the picture, but it’s a very comforting and homey Cantonese soup for me. Watercress sold in Chinatown or Chinese grocery stores used to have big stems and big leaves, and was quite cheap. But in recent years the price has go up and they are getting tiny– which is good for making salad, but not for making this soup. So, whenever I see the right type of watercress selling, I always tempt to make this soup.

Watercress & Pork Rib Soup 西洋菜湯

Watercress & Pork Rib Soup 西洋菜湯

Watercress & Pork Rib Soup 西洋菜湯 Recipe (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs pork spare ribs– cut into pieces
2-3 bunches watercress– see note below
4 dried red dates
1 1/2 gallon water
salt to taste

Method:

  1. Add red dates and water to a deep pot, cover and let it boil for 5 minutes on high heat.
  2. In a separate pot, blanch spare ribs in boiling water to remove any impurities. Remove and rinse ribs. Discard the water.
  3. Add blanched ribs to the deep pot, cover and boil on high heat for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover and continue cooking for another 1.5 hours. The soup will look “cloudy” if cooked for a long time.
  4. While the soup is cooking, wash and rinse watercress several times. Since watercress grow in water, there are tiny slug sometimes hiding in between the leaves.
  5. Add watercress to the soup and give it a couple of stir to mix in. Add more water if necessary. Cover and continue cooking until the watercress turns yellowish and soft, about 30 minutes. Add salt to taste. If you want some crunchy texture of watercress, reserve some and cook in the soup briefly before serving.

Regina’s Note:

  • How to pick watercress for this soup: According to my mom, use watercress that has no reddish stem/leaves or the soup will taste bitter. Also, use watercress that has bigger stems and leaves. The young tender ones are good for salad but not for this soup.

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Recently I bought some salted fish because I have been craving for this dish, a very simple food that brings back warm memories. Salted fish is either sold in semi-dry or wet form. In Cantonese it’s called “Mui Heong” 梅香. You only need a little to bring out the flavor as it has a very pungent smell. Many people think it smells like stinky shoes, but the smell is not as strong after it is cooked. I like to eat this dish simply with a bowl of white rice, and drizzle some of the broth to the rice as well… Oh, silken tofu is much better here than regular tofu.

Steam Tofu with Salted Fish & Minced Pork 鹹魚肉末豆腐

Steam Tofu with Salted Fish & Minced Pork 鹹魚肉末豆腐

Steamed Tofu with Salted Fish & Minced Pork 鹹魚肉末豆腐 Recipe

Ingredients:
1 box silken/soft tofu
1/3 lb ground pork
1/2 inch salted fish– I use the wet salted fish, remove skin and bones
2 slices gingers– minced
4 slices gingers– cut into thin strips
1 red hot pepper– chopped

pork seasoning: cooking wine, salt, ground white pepper, sesame oil, tapioca starch, water

for garnish:
chopped green onion and/or cilantro

Method:

  1. Rinse tofu, then cut into pieces of 1/2 inch thickness. Pat dry.
  2. Lay tofu pieces, single layer, in a deep dish steam plate. Sprinkle a little salt on top of tofu.
  3. Chopped salted fish with group pork together so the fish blend in with the pork. Add in minced ginger and pork seasoning (easy on salt as there’s salted fish in the mixture). Mix to blend well.
  4. Scatter ground pork on top of tofu. Sprinkle ginger strips and red pepper on the top. Steam on high heat until the meat is cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onion and/or cilantro on top. Serve hot with steam rice.

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My MIL is visiting us during spring break. So when I went shopping at Costco last week I got a tub of hand picked Dungeness crab meat; thinking to make something crabby because she likes crab. Then I remember the famous crab dip at Horatio’s– it was so rich, creamy and delicious that I can never forget. So I decided to replicate the flavor.

This is my second time making crab dip. My first crab dip few years back, although wowed by my guests, was not exactly what I was expecting– it just didn’t taste like Horatio’s at all. People who have been to Horatio’s try to replicate the flavor but none has success. I thought I might have most ingredients, and here comes my experiment…

The verdict: Compared to my first trial which I used pepper jack cheese, this time around the dip tastes a lot better and more like Horatio’s version– creamy and rich, and not tangy. I didn’t use marinated artichoke hearts though (Horatio’s got artichoke hearts in the dip). I sliced some torta sandwich rolls from Costco and made some garlic crostini to serve the dip. My MIL likes it very much. She even asks for the recipe. This recipe is a keeper until I crack down Horatio’s secret ingredients (especially the cheese they use…):-)

Dungeness Crab Dip

Dungeness Crab Dip

Crab Dip Recipe (please note this is for a large portion enough for a party appetizer, but you can scale down for smaller serving)

Ingredients:
1/4 medium onion– chopped
3 cloves garlic– chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb Dungeness crab lump meat, free of shells
2 cup shredded Italian five cheese mix, plus more for sprinkling
6 oz champagne aged Cheddar Cheese– grated– see note below
5 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

garlic crostini– recipe follows

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a big sauce pan, melt butter and saute onion and garlic over medium heat until aromatic. Set aside to cool.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the sauce pan, mix gently to combine. Transfer to a oven safe bowl or deep dish container (I used Pyrex glass casserole). Sprinkle more five cheese mix on the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Then turn to broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown the top (always keep an eye on the food when you are broiling, don’t turn away and do something else). Serve hot with garlic crostini.

Garlic Crostini Recipe:

Ingredients:
4 torta sandwich rolls (I bought from Costco)– slice into 1/2 inch thin
extra virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange slice breads on a large baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Turn the breads over and do the same. Bake 3-4 minutes on each side of the bread, or until light golden brown.
  2. Remove from the oven, and rub garlic on each side of crostini.

Regina’s Note:

  • Champgne aged Cheddar cheese: I used this cheese because I just happened to have it (got it from Costco), but regular aged cheddar cheese should be fine too. I won’t go for sharp Cheddar because the flavor might be too strong for the dip.

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This year’s Easter, we treated ourselves to prime ribs when Costco was selling it for Easter. My first successful prime rib, although has a flavor crust and delicious, was over cooked around the edges with a pink meat center. Last Christmas, I roasted prime rib again using another “formula”, one from the magazine, The Costco Connection, as it says the recipe produces rosy pink tender meat from surface to the center… the only problem is that since it uses low temperature during the whole roasting time, there’s no crust on the surface!… So, I combine the two recipes– and it works, at least for me! I got the best of both worlds– tender, juicy, pink meat from surface to the center, and a flavorful salty crust!

Standing Rib Roast #2

Standing Rib Roast #2

Standing Rib Roast #2 Recipe (serves 6-8 people)

Ingredients:

8.5 lbs bone-in rib roast (must use bone-in for much better flavor)– see note below for aging rib roast
cooking oil

seasoning rub (mix well):
1  1/2tbsp freshly ground black peppercorns
2 tbsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
2 tbsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. Place oven rack to lower half (so the roasting pan is positioned in the middle of the oven).
  2. Let the meat stand in room temperature for a few hours. If you age the meat, trim off discolored fat and meat. Coat the meat with cooking oil, then rub the seasoning generously all over the meat.
  3. Place the meat on a roasting rack, bone side down, inside a roasting pan. Roast at 500°F for 15 minutes (this high heat is to crisp up the surface to make a crust). Reduce oven temperature to 200°F and continue roasting, about 25 minutes per pound, until the internal thermometer reads 130° for rosy pink meat (see chart below). It took me 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach this temperature).
  4. Remove the meat from the oven. Cover the meat with 2 pieces of foil, and kitchen towels on top of it. Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes. The internal temperature will continue go up for about 5° or so during resting time (in my case, the thermometer read went from 130° to 135° during resting for medium cooked meat).
  5. Separate the roast from the bones. Carve the roast and serve with au jus (see below).

To make Au Jus: Remove excess fat from the roasting pan and deglaze with 1 can of chicken broth, cook au jus on the stove until reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Age Rib Roast: Rinse rib roast then pat dry with paper towels. Wrap the meat with paper towels and place it in a shallow pan in the fridge for at least 3 days. The longer it ages the flavor gets better. Change the paper towels everyday. On roasting day, trim off any discolored and/or dry part of the meat before coating with oil.

Thermometer Chart:
120 degrees for Rare
130 degrees for Medium Rare
140 degrees for Medium
150 degrees for Well Done

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Never have I had a chocolate babka before until one of the parents in MERC Chinese School gave me one to try– and man, that was GOOD! I searched online about this bread, and found out it is a Jewish Easter bread filled mostly with bittersweet chocolate. Well, I am not a Jewish, but I made this bread for Easter Sunday’s breakfast. A lot of butter was used making babka, to a point that when I remove the bread from loaf pan/muffin pans I see there’s lots oil at the bottom of the pans (I used non-stick pans and I didn’t spray!) Luckily we don’t eat babka on a regular basis. Despite that, the bread is very rich and chocolatey. Chocolate babka is best when enjoyed fresh hot from the oven– as the streusel topping is crunchy while the bread is buttery soft, moist and chocolatey. Since only bittersweet chocolate is used, the babka doesn’t taste awfully sweet at all, just the way I like it. It’s not that difficult to make. Try it, my friend; your Easter baking will never be the same… :-)

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka Recipe (makes 1 loaf and 12 muffin size pieces– adapted from Epicurious.com)

Ingredients:
For dough:
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 tsp yeast
3 1/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp (1 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For egg wash (mix well):
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk

For chocolate filling (mix together):
5 tbsp unsalted butter, very well softened
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped– see note below
4 tbsp almond meals– toast in dry frying pan on low heat until pale golden, cool
1 tbsp candied orange peel– finely chopped

unsweetened cocoa powder

For streusel topping (combine flour and sugar, then cut in butter using a fork or butter knife until it resembles crumbs):
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (4oz, 1 stick) unsealed butter (room temperature)– cut into small pieces

Method:

  1. To make dough: Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Stir in yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5-8 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
  2. Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl (the dough will be very soft and sticky).
  3. Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I sit my bowl on top of a big pot filled with hot tap water at the bottom of the pot– just be sure the water doesn’t touch the dough bowl).
  4. Line loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise), and liner for muffin pans.
  5. Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then divide the dough into 1/3 (for loaf pan) and 2/3 (for 12 muffin molds) portion.
  6. For loaf pan: Roll out 1/3 of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13×10 inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush egg wash on the long side farthest from you.
  7. Dust cocoa powder evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space all around. Spread remaining 1/3 of the chocolate filling evenly on top of cocoa powder. Starting from the long side nearest to you, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch firmly along egg-wash side to seal.
  8. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into lined loaf pan.
  9. For muffin pans: Roll remaining 2/3 of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15×10 inch rectangle, with the long side in front of you. Brush egg wash on the long side farthest from you.
  10. Dust cocoa powder evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space all around. Spread remaining 2/3 of the chocolate filling evenly on top of cocoa powder. Starting from the long side nearest to you, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch firmly along egg-wash side to seal. Divide dough log into 12 even pieces.
  11. Take a piece of dough, hold it with one hand and twist the dough with the other hand (so it looks like a cinnamon twist). Carefully place the dough into lined muffin mold. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
  12. Loosely cover pans with greased plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)
  13. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, prepare streusel.
  14. Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Scoop some streusel topping on the top. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 35-40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature (please note muffin pans take a little less time to bake).

Regina’s Note:

  • Bittersweet chocolate: it’s better to use good quality chocolate for this recipe. Also, use a food processor for the chopping– just be sure to freeze the chocolate and blade before chopping.
  • Babka tastes best when warm, reheat in toaster or toaster oven when it is cold.
  • According to Martha Stewart, unbaked babka can be frozen for up to 1 month. After 2nd rise in the pan, wrap the pan with plastic wrap, followed by foil. When ready to bake, remove from freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 5 hours, and bake.
  • Alternatively, this recipe yields 2 loaf pans– I don’t have second loaf pan so I used muffin pans.
Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

Chocolate Babka

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Stewed Pork Belly 焢肉

Stewed Pork Belly 焢肉

Stewed Pork Belly 焢肉 Recipe

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless pork belly (skin on)
8 shallots– coarsely
6 cloves garlic– coarsely chopped
4 slices ginger
2 stalks green onion
1 star anise
1 stick rock sugar
1 tsp five spice powder + 1/2 tsp
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 tbsp cooking wine
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce + 3 tbsp
3-4 cups hot water

Method:

  1. Cut pork into pieces (3 inches length, 1/2 inch thickness).
  2. Marinate pork with cooking wine, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp five spice powder and dashes (extra) ground white pepper. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok and sauté shallots, ginger, garlic and green onions until aromatic. Add marinated pork and stir until the surface is cooked. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on high heat, uncovered, until it boils for 5 minutes. Turn down heat to medium low, continue cooking, uncovered, until the meat is tender (to maintain the bouncy “QQ” texture of the skin, I arrange the skin facing up half way through cooking). Add more water if necessary. Serve with steam rice.

Regina’s Note:

  • Add ground pork to the stew to make ground pork stew 鹵肉, which is also delicious on steam rice or noodles.
  • Stewed pork belly can also be the filling for steamed pork belly buns 焢肉包.
  • I found out the flavor of stewed pork belly is very similar to my all time favorite canned meat sauce 香菇肉醬, which is not available in US. Next time, I want fine tune the recipe and make the meat sauce.

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These muffins are delicious, and they are moist and light too! I think I used just a little too much (3/4 cup here) milk, the batter was quite runny. When the muffins came out of the oven they were quite soft, and thus the bottom of the muffins don’t hold the nice perfect shape. Finally I had to flipped the muffins up side down to cool on the rack, or else the muffins would “sink” in on the rack bar. Anyhow, they came out delicious, and that’s the only one matters :-)… As I’m typing down the recipe, I thought of the mangoes sitting on the counter. Guess what comes to my mind? Mango muffins with toasted coconut flakes, mmm… Okay, now’s it’s on my baking list.;-)

Strawberry Chocolate Muffins

Strawberry Chocolate Muffins

Strawberry Chocolate Muffins (makes 10 pieces)

Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup hazelnut chocolate cocoa mix or cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 salt
3 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter– melted and cooled
3/4 cup milk– see note below
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a muffin pan with 10 paper muffin cups or grease with cooking spray. Fill the 2 empty cups halfway with water.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in 2 tbsp of sugar. In another bowl, hand whisk egg yolk, milk and melted butter until blended well. Pour the yolk mixture over the flour mixture and whisk until just combined (do not over mix– the batter will be slightly lumpy).
  3. Use a electric hand mixer, beat egg white until fluffy. Add in 1 tbsp sugar gradually and continue beating until soft peak appears as for meringue. Gently fold in whipped egg white into the batter until just blended.
  4. Add in chopped strawberries, stir just enough to combine.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffins cups. Bake the muffins until golden, for about 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on the rack. Flip muffins up side down to cool if the bottom part is too soft.

Regina’s Note:

  • Milk– I used 3/4 cup of milk this time and the batter was quite runny. Maybe cut down to 2/3 cup milk, or even to 1/2 cup milk next trial?

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