Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fujian/Fuzhou Fried Rice with Shrimp & Scallop Gravy

Fried rice with seafood gravy? NO!!! I MEAN, YES!!!! OMG!!!!! The first time I tried this dish was at Happy Harbor Restaurant in Rowland Heights at our company's Chinese New Year celebration earlier this year (thanks boss man, Paul!). Some call it "Fuzhou" fried rice, others "Fujian" fried rice. I wanted so badly to replicate this dish at home, but since recipes were hard to come by, here's my version: a light Jasmine fried rice with scrambled eggs, scallions, garlic, salt & pepper, topped with an oyster sauce based gravy with shrimp, scallops, crimini mushrooms, and diced asparagus. Doesn't get better than that. The addition of dried scallops would make this dish even mo umami betta (will try that next time).
  

INGREDIENTS:

SEAFOOD: 1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
16 oz. sea scallops, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
4 tsp. baking soda
Cold water
4 cups ice

MARINADE:

1 tbsp. rice wine
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil

FRIED RICE:

Jasmine rice (cook 4 cups raw rice with 6 cups water in rice cooker - remove and let cool to room temperature or refrigerate overnight)
3 eggs, beaten
5-6 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

VEGGIES:
1 scallion, minced
16 oz. small crimini or shiitake mushrooms & stemmed, each halved or quartered
1 bunch thin asparagus, bottom 2" trimmed off

GRAVY:
4 cups chicken stock (4 cups water + 2 tbsp. chicken base)
4 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. white pepper
2 tbsp. light soy sauce

Cornstarch slurry: 4 tbsp. cornstarch + 8 tbsp. water

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DIRECTIONS:

COOK THE JASMINE RICE: cook 4 cups of raw rice with 6 cups of water in a rice cooker. When cooked, remove the rice to a large plate or baking sheet, spread out and let cool to room temperature (can be refrigerated and used the next day for this recipe). NEVER use hot steamed rice to make fried rice or you'll have a mushy mess on your hands. 

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MAKE THE SCALLOPS & SHRIMP "BOUNCY" OR CRISP-TENDER, THEN MARINATE:

Cut the shrimp & scallops into 2-3 pieces each (depending on their size). 

Place in a bowl and add 4 tsp. baking soda. Massage the shrimp gently with the baking soda until mixed through.

Pour enough cold water over the shrimp to just cover; add 4 cups of ice. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

 Drain and rinse the shrimp, removing all ice. Pat dry with paper towels.

Add the marinade ingredients; stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to an hour.

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MAKE THE FRIED RICE:

Add 2 tsp. oil to a large saute pan or wok. Add the beaten eggs and scramble until just done. Immediately remove to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, add 5-6 tbsp. oil. Add the minced garlic & scallions. Saute briefly, 15-20 seconds until fragrant. 

Add the cooled/cold rice and stir quickly, but gently (preferably with a wooden spoon or wooden spatula) until heated through. Add the scrambled eggs, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

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COOK THE VEGGIES & SEAFOOD:

Add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the scallions for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms; cook until the mushrooms start to soften, about 3-4 minutes. 

Stir in the diced asparagus, season lightly with salt, and toss 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the veggie mixture into a bowl to stop the cooking (don't want the asparagus to get too soft); set aside. 

Add 1 tbsp. vegetable oil to the same pan over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and scallops and saute until the shrimp just turn pink. Remove from heat and pour the seafood (including any juices) into the veggie mixture; set aside.

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MAKE THE GRAVY:

Combine all gravy ingredients together in a bowl or large measuring cup. 

Add to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour in all accumulated juices from the reserved seafood-veggie mixture. Stir and bring to a boil for 30 seconds to 1 minutes.

Stir in the cornstarch slurry, bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the sauce is nicely thickened. Turn off heat.


 Add the seafood mixture to the gravy.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from heat immediately so the shrimp and scallops don't overcook.

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 ASSEMBLE THE DISH*:
1. Plate the fried rice onto a serving platter.

2. Pour the seafood gravy mixture over the rice and serve immediately.

*If you want to serve only half or a smaller portion of the fried rice, place the remaining fried rice, gravy and seafood mix into separate containers and reheat just before serving again.




Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Coconut Layer Cake

I made this cake for my dad's 90th birthday last month. I knew he liked coconut and, therefore, a coconut layer cake seemed to fit the bill for this special occasion. Since I'd never made this before, I perused my cookbooks and the web for recipes and decided to use Bobby Flay's from his Throwdown cookbook based on the same show he had on Food Network as the base. I tweaked it a bit, using ingredient variations from King Arthur Flour's and Cook's Illustrated to come up with this version. The extra rum was my own addition. Go figure...The cake turned out very moist and tender and I was quite happy with how it turned out, and I think dad was, too!


What can be made ahead (the day before): 
Coconut Custard
Coconut-Rum Simple Syrup
Cake (but leave out at room temperature overnight)
Buttercream and toasted coconut are best made before assembling cake

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MAKE THE CAKE:
2 tbsp. butter, room temperature (for the pans)

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

5 large egg whites, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pcs. (slightly cold)



1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Butter and flour two 9 x 2" round cake pans; line the bottoms with rounds of parchment (you can buy parchment rounds in some specialty food stores, or just use scissors and cut them out.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, whole egg, vanillas seeds, vanilla extract, and coconut extract.




4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment), add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 


5. With mixer on low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time.



 6. Continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. 



7. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium until pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. 


8. With mixer on low, add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for another 20 seconds. 


9. Divide batter evenly between the 2 cake pans and smooth tops over with a rubber spatula. 



10. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pans on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the sides of the pan and invert the cakes onto a baking rack. Peel off the parchment and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

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MAKE THE COCONUT CUSTARD*:

3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (reserve bean and seeds)
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. Malibu coconut rum or, for more of a kick, dark rum 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract



Malibu Coconut Rum, unsweetened coconut milk, and vanilla extract.


Whole vanilla beans.



1. Combine the milk, coconut milk, vanilla bean and vanilla seeds in a medium, non-reactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. 


2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a large bowl. 



3. Slowly whisk the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, then return the mixture back to the saucepan, set over medium heat and bring to a boil.



4. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, remove the vanilla bean, and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. 



5. Let cool to room temperature.



6. place some plastic wrap over the top of the custard to prevent a film or skin from forming, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours, even overnight, until very cold. 

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MAKE THE COCONUT-RUM SIMPLE SYRUP:
1 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. Malibu coconut rum
3 tbsp. dark rum

1. Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. 


2. Stir until sugar has dissolved and remove from the heat.

3. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Stir in the coconut and dark rum (adjust amounts according to taste - I like my cake boozy, hence the total of 6 tbsp. of the coco and dark rums). 

5. Set aside, covered, until ready to use (ok in the frig).


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MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp. confectioner's sugar
6 tbsp. of coconut custard*



1. Beat the butter and confectioner's sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. 

2. Add the 6 tbsp. coconut custard and salt and beat until smooth. 


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MAKE THE FILLING:
1 1/3 cups Coconut Custard* (or whatever is left after reserving 6 tbsp. for the buttercream)
3/4 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

1. Combine the custard (about 1 1/3 cups), heavy cream and coconut extract in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

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MAKE THE TOASTED COCONUT:
14-oz. bag of sweetened coconut flakes



1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Spread the coconut flakes evenly onto a cookie sheet.

3. Bake 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally (watch carefully to make sure they don't burn).

4. Remove the cookie sheet immediately from oven when the flakes are lightly browned and scrape them out onto a plate to cool (don't leave them in the pan or else they will continue cooking and burn).

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ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:



1. Use a long serrated bread knife and slice each cake horizontally through the middle to form two layers.

2. Reserve one of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake.



3. Place another one of the layers on a cardboard round, cut side up, and brush with some of the simple syrup.


4. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and spread in an even layer with an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2" border around the edge of the cake.

5. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. 


6. Place the layer, cut side down, on top of the cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream (I prefer to use just enough buttercream to cover the cake to keep it light and not overly sweet).


7. Pat the toasted coconut along the sides of the cake and also sprinkle some on top.






Monday, July 25, 2016

Vietnamese-Style Beef Stew with Tomatoes & Carrots (Bo Kho)

I first came across this dish in Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. She noted that "This stew is so popular that practically every Viet cook has his or her own version. I have read recipes that call for curry powder, annatto seeds, tomato paste, and beet...It may be served in shallow bowls with warm French bread...or it may be spooned over rice or wide rice noodles." I took inspiration from her recipe and adapted it, including typical pho garnishes such as bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, basil, chopped scallions & cilantro, and lime wedges. I also opted to serve the stew over relatively thin (not wide) rice noodles. Delicious, flavorful and (except for the fish sauce) somewhat reminiscent of Chinese soy-braised beef with turnips and carrots.



4-5 lbs. beef chuck and/or beef shank, cut into 1 1/2" pieces

3 tbsp. oil

MARINADE:

1 stalk lemon grass (end parts of leaves removed), cut into 3" pieces and smashed (or 2 tsp. lemon zest)
6 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. oil

1 onion, minced
2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 bay leaves
1 star anise

8 cups water


2 lbs. carrots (10 medium carrots), peeled and cut along the bias


8 oz. dried rice noodles


OPTIONAL GARNISHES:

Basil
Chopped Cilantro
Sliced Scallions
Bean Sprouts
Sliced jalapeños 

1. In a bowl, combine the cubed beef with the marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let marinate 1-2 hours. 


2. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot (an enameled cast iron pot or a Dutch oven work great). 


3. Remove the lemon grass pieces from the beef marinade and set aside.


4. Brown the marinated beef in 3-4 batches (place the beef cubes in a single layer in the pan and don't overcrowd or else they will steam and not brown). Remove and set aside.


5. Add another 1 tbsp. oil to the same pot and add the chopped onions, cooking over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. 


6. Add the chopped tomatoes and 2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes over low heat until the tomatoes have reduced.


7. Add the reserved beef, bay leaves, curry powder, and star anise. Cook 2-3 minutes, uncovered, to let the flavors blend with the meat. 


8. Add the reserved lemon grass pieces and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that develops on the surface. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 1 1/2 hours.


9. Add the diced carrots and cook another 3o minutes or until the carrots and beef are tender. 


RICE NOODLES:

1. Heat a medium pot of water to a boil.

2. Remove the pot from the heat. 


3. Add the dried rice noodles (do not stir or else you'll break the noodles). Let sit 8-10 minutes until the noodles are al dente, i.e., tender-but not mushy.


4. Drain noodles in a colander.


TO SERVE:

1. Place cooked noodles into individual serving bowls (how much depends on your or your guests'  appetite).

2. Ladle hot beef stew over the noodles.


3. Garnish each bowl with bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, scallions and lime wedges (or you place all the garnishes on a platter and let your guests add their own). 



Beef chuck

Cubed beef with marinade ingredients (marinate in the frig for 1-2 hours).

Lemon (use this if you don't have lemon grass), ginger root, five spice powder, fish sauce, black pepper.

Brown the marinated beef in batches.

In the same pan, brown the onions in 1 tbsp. oil.

Add tomatoes and 2 tsp. salt.

Cover and cook 10-15 minutes until the mixture has reduced.

Add beef, bay leaves, curry powder and star anise.

Add 8 cups water and reserved lemon grass from the marinade. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Diced carrots.

Add the diced carrots and cook another 30 minutes or until the carrots and beef are tender.

Serve the stew over rice noodles
Garnish, as desired, with bean sprouts, jalapeños, cilantro, scallions, basil and lime wedges.
Also great served as is with French bread on the side or over rice.