Monday, May 30, 2016

Croquetas de Jamon


Croquetas de Jamon, is a classic tapa available at most bars across Spain. It can be served as a tapa, part of a meal with a salad on the side, and it loved by all. The beauty of it, is that you can fill it with just about anything— use your left over roasted chicken, or heck another way to use leftover Thanksgiving Turkey, chopped hard-boiled eggs, finely minced shrimp or squid, chopped chorizo, mushroom, cheese, or a combination of these. 

The real beauty of these lie in the delicate richness of the bechamel sauce combined with the flavors of your favorite filling. Make it a day ahead, to give the mixture enough time to harden in the refrigerator or freezer. It will then be easier to handle.

After spending two months in Spain, the kids loved Croquetas. It has never been my favorite Spanish tapa, but every time we are out for dinner, it is ordered— and everyone I know simply loves them!

Apparently, the Croquetas at the restaurant Embarcadero in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain are the best ever. So you can imagine my excitement when I found the recipe online.

While we were in Las Palmas (Spain), my aunt gave me a good supply of homemade frozen Chicken Croquetas, which was the best thing to have for quick last minute kid dinners with some corn and veggies on the side, or when friends stopped by.
Back in New York, our freezer is stocked back up with Croquetas de Jamon, and the kids are still loving it!

Recipe courtesy: Restorante Embarcadero  

Ingredients
125 grams / 9 tablespoons butter
1 liter / 4 cups whole milk
125 grams / scant 1 cup onion, minced
200 grams jamon Iberico, minced (or finely minced mushrooms, left over roasted chicken, or a filling of your choice)
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

4 eggs, beaten 
2 cups all-purpose flour
200 grams / 4 cups bread crumbs
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot on medium heat.
  2. In a saucepan warm the milk.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Mix and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the jamon, mix. Season with salt and white pepper.
  5. Add the flour, and keep mixing, until very well incorporated. 
  6. Add the milk, little by little, to ensure that the flour dissolves well. It will be a thick consistency. 
  7. Transfer it to a glass baking dish, flatten it out. Let it cool, transfer to the freezer. Let it cool until it is frozen hard enough to work with. Cut into rectangular shapes, about 2-inch x 1-inch. 
  8. Lightly coat in flour, then dip in the egg, generously coat with bread crumbs. At this point you can freeze it again. Or bring it back to room temperature and then deep fry. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Apple Clatoufis


Clafoutis is a French dish that is sort of a cross between a flan and a pancake. Similar to a flan, clafoutis is a very easy dessert that always impresses. It’s hearty enough even to serve for breakfast. It is traditionally made with black cherries but also sometimes with berries, prunes, or other fruits. My girlfriend Mumtaz and I did a French Bistro cooking class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and when we learnt and ate this dessert, I loved how simple it was to prepare, lovely rustic looking dessert, warm and delicious.

Since we served this to kids tonight, I skipped adding the liquor. It was still divine, and served with Talenti's Sea Salt Caramel ice cream took it way over the top. 

Inspired by Julia Child, recipe courtesy Brooklyn Kitchen
Serves 8

Ingredients
Pancake Batter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Apples
4 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 3 cups apples) (I used Granny Smith)
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup calvados, dark rum, or cognac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
Garnish
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish
Ice cream of your choice, for serving (I used Talenti Sea Salt Caramel ice cream, it is simply divine!)

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pancake batter: Combine the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Cover and place in the fridge to set for at least 10 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  3. Apples: Meanwhile, prepare the apples. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the apples until lightly browned. Remove from heat, pour over the liquor, cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar, and let stand up to 30 minutes to absorb flavor.
  4. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish and pour the apples into the base with their liquid. Do ahead.
  5. Bring the batter to room temperature. Pour the batter over the top.
  6. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake about 50 minutes. It is done when it a knife inserted to the center comes out clean and the top is light brown.
  7. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Changri Tarkari (Bengali Shrimp Curry)

My five-year old son absolutely loves 'Gambas al Ajillo', a Spanish shrimp dish, where the shrimp is cooked in abundant olive oil, with a generous amount of thinly sliced garlic, some dried red chilies, and parsley. We do too. So every time I buy shrimp, we eat 'Gambas al Ajillo'.
But today I craved a Shrimp Curry. Aditya Bals cookbook, Chakh Le India had this recipe which looked delicious— exactly what I wanted— spicy and tangy. 
A chat with my dear Chef Bengali friend Meera, had me sharing her Panch Poran, or Bengali five-spice mixture, and hence a delicious dinner on the table. Meera said that some desire a deeper, more reddish color. That can be achieved by 'bhunaoing' it for longer (steps no. 3 & 4), however, we were happy with this deep-turmeric color.

4 servings

Ingredients
1 lb medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)

Marinade
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

The Curry Base
1 tablespoon oil ((preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon Bengali five-spice mix (equal quantities of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds)
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, split
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely minced
3 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, sliced very thin
Salt, to taste
2 cups water, hot

Garnish
Juice of 1/2 lime
3–4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Method
  1. Marinate the shrimp. Set aside. Prep the other ingredients.
  2. In a large flat-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the shrimps, on both sides, until almost cooked through. Remove on a plate. 
  3. In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of oil. Fry the whole spices until fragrant, be careful not to burn, about 30 seconds— 1 minute. Add the onions, salt to taste, and mix well. The salt will help the onions cook faster by letting its water out. Brown the onions, by using the ‘bhuno’* method.
  4. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the powdered spices, and let it cook until the oil separates. This is a clear indicator that the spices have cooked and released its natural oils. Continue to ‘bhuno’ for 5 more minutes, to get a deeper color.
  5. Add the tomatoes, and once the oil separates, pour in the hot water. Stir the curry a few times, till the oil surfaces again and the curry is perfectly cooked. 
  6. Immerse the shrimp along with all their resting juices into the simmering curry. Stir the shrimp gently and poach them to a juicy tenderness for 6–8 minutes. Simmer the curry uncovered to reduce it a little.
  7. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice, which will amazingly lift the whole curry perfectly. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over white Basmati rice.
Bhuno

This is a fundamental cooking technique used in Indian cuisine. Spices, herbs, and aromatics are sautéed over high heat, till they are toasted and intensely aromatic. A little liquid is then added to deglaze the pan and blend the ingredients well. Once most of the liquid evaporates, the process is repeated, till the aromatic spice base is homogenous and the oil rises to the top, signifying that the masala is properly cooked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño


A visit to Nobu in New York or Kabuki in Madrid, always called for us enjoying a perfect modern sashimi, with a delicate play of taste and texture. This Yellowtail Sashimi is inspired by just that. A fine balance of acid-sodium-heat. Thin slices of yellowtail, brushed in garlic, topped with the chili-lime-soy sauce, garnished with the fresh citrus cilantro and crunchy heaty jalapeño.
   
Ingredients
2.5 ounces sushi-grade yellowtail
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pureed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon red chili powder
6 very thin slices of jalapeño (less than ¼ of 1 jalapeño)
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Method

  1. Slice yellowtail in six thin slices. This is easiest when the fish is very cold or even slightly frozen — pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes if you’re having trouble).
  2. Spread garlic puree over a small plate, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine lemon, soy, chili oil, and red chili powder. Set aside.
  4. Dip each slice of yellowtail in the garlic and arrange on serving plate. Don’t try to use all the garlic — there should just be a slight coating on each piece of fish.
  5. Top each slice of fish with a slice of jalapeño. Do ahead. Chill if not serving immediately.
  6. Pour lime-chili-soy sauce over fish, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Chicken Keema, Indian Takeout

It always makes me uncontrollably happy when a kid is open to trying new foods. Even more when they enjoy it! Benjamin, my sons friend, tried chicken curry in our home once, and has ever since been asking his mom for it. Warmed my heart, so today when I made a big pot of Chicken Keema (ground chicken) I saved some for Benjamin to take home for lunch, on this cold and snowy day. His sweet dimpled smile was the icing on the cake for me. 

We grew up on eating all forms of Keemas, or ground meat— Lamb Keema, Turkey Keema, Chicken Keema, and more. The entire process takes an hour, but it makes for a one-pot dinner (well, almost one pot, not counting the rice or naan accompaniment). 

Serves 4 
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, crushed

2 large white or red onions, minced 

Chicken Marinade
1 pound ground chicken (preferably dark meat)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
Sliced green chilies, to taste (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Red chili powder, to taste (optional)

4 large tomatoes, cut in half / pureed in a blender
Salt, to taste

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Method
  1. In a medium sized pot, or a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamon pods. Let it cook for 20 seconds, until fragrant. Immediately add the minced onions, and a teaspoon of salt. (The salt helps the onions sweat and brown faster). Brown the onions for 45 minutes or so— Every few minutes, stir the onions, and scrape the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add a tablespoon of water if the browned bits do not come off, mix the onions and let them continue to brown. A deep reddish-brown color is desired, not a burnt black-brown color. The browning process is the most important process in achieving the depth of flavor and color, give it the love and time it deserves. The more browned bits you scrape up, the better it is. 
  2. While the onions brown, marinate the chicken in the ginger-garlic paste, green chilies, and dried spices.
  3. Once the onions have browned, add the chicken in its marinade. Mix well with the onions and let it cook for 3–4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and a quarter cup of water. Cover and let it cook for 3 whistles if using a pressure cooker, or 15–20 minutes if using a regular pot. Remove the lid, pull the tomato skins off and smash the tomatoes and the chicken until the tomatoes are well broken up.
  4. Taste for salt and season accordingly. Serve with naan or Basmati rice.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stir-Fried Crystal Shrimp

"Mommy, can you make this for me every day?" Beautiful words for any mothers ears. 

After another long and exhausting day, going into the kitchen was not what I wanted to do. Sitting on the couch with my feet up, a few clicks on my Seamless Web app to order in dinner was way more attractive. But I went into the kitchen as I had this fresh shrimp waiting to be stir-fried. And what a reward I got from my 5-year old. I'm not so sure about making it for him everyday, but often enough I will make it! 

Grace Youngs' description below is true to the final dish. 
“The seasonings are subtle in this dish—the stir-fry is to be appreciated for the sweet, succulent flavor and crisp texture of the shrimp. The key to achieving this is to first wash the shrimp in salt. Chinese home cooks use many variations for cleaning shrimp with salt and water. Velveting chicken, scallops, or fish ensures a satiny, smooth texture, but when the technique is applied to shrimp it bestows a crisp, crystal-like texture the Chinese revere. Always buy the highest-quality shrimp.”

Serves 2 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multi course meal.

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 slices ginger, smashed
3 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch sections
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted

Method
  1. In a large colander rinse the shrimp. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the salt over the shrimp and with a wooden spoon stir the shrimp in a vigorous circular motion for about 1 minute. Rinse the shrimp under cold water, then shake out the excess water. Sprinkle 1 more teaspoon of salt over the shrimp and repeat the washing process, stirring again for 1 minute. After the shrimp has been thoroughly rinsed, set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry. In a medium bowl combine the shrimp, egg white, and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch. Stir until the cornstarch is totally dissolved and no clumps are visible. Put the shrimp mixture uncovered in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan bring 1½ quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low. When the water is barely simmering, carefully add the shrimp, gently stirring them so that the pieces do not clump together. Cook 1 minute or until the shrimp just turns orange but are not cooked through. Carefully drain the shrimp in a colander mixture, shaking the colander to remove any excess water. 
  3. In a small bowl, combine the broth, rice wine, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and white pepper.
  4. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the ginger and scallions, then using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. 
  5. Add the shrimp the wok, add the peas, and sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Re-stir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce just clings to the shrimp.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce

This afternoon, our Sunday family brunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Cafe Evergreen, did not happen. So out came the wok, and Chinese flavors! My 5-year old loved it (we just hid the red chilies from him!). Served with some vegetable fried rice, and we were in heaven. 

A mix of recipes from Grace Young's book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge— I cannot complain with the results. 

Dark soy sauce is richer in flavor than regular soy sauce, it is also less salty, and may have added sugar, so it is sweeter. If you do not have dark soy sauce, then using a low-sodium soy sauce and adding a dash of sugar may help create a similar flavor. 

 Ingredients
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce 

1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 large dried red chilis (or more to taste)

4 spring onions, sliced at an angle

Method
  1. In a medium bowl combine the shrimp, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon rice wine, soy sauce, salt. Once combined well, add in the oil. Mix. set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mash the black beans with the ginger and garlic, dark soy sauce. Set aside.
  3. In another small bowl, combine the broth, 1 tablespoon rice wine, honey, and salt. 
  4. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the dried red chili. Stir fry for 10 seconds. Carefully add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Stir-fry for 1 minute or until the shrimp is almost cooked through. 
  5. Add the black bean mixture and scallions and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant. 
  6. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok, sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir-fry for another minute or so, until the shrimp is cooked through. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chinese-Burmese Chili-Chicken

  Denise, my American mom (as I called her), was one of my biggest influences in cooking. May her soul rest in peace, and I'm sure she smiling down on me right now, as I keep trying new recipes. One of her biggest lessons to me was to always work with a recipe from a chef or source that has a reputation, so that you know their recipes are correct, with no steps or ingredients missing. A chef that she absolutely loved was Sara Moulton. Another chef that I absolutely love, is Grace Young. Watching them on TV together was great! The Chinese-Burmese Chili-Chicken really spoke to me with the cumin and paprika, flavored heavily with ginger and garlic. The other bonus is that it has a good portion of vegetables, making it a one-wok meal.

Grace Young got this recipe from Irene Khin Wong, owner of Saffron59 catering in New York City. You can also find this recipe in Young's cookbook, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge

Adapted from Grace Young's recipe.
Serves 3 as a main dish with rice, or 4 as part of a multi-course meal

Ingredients
1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breast, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small yellow onion, quartered and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (1 1/3 cups)
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (1 1/3 cups)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 large Anaheim or Jalapeño chili, cut into thin slices 
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into scant 1/2-inch thick slices (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Method
  1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch and 1/3 cup cold water. In a separate small bowl combine the paprika and cumin.
  2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within1  to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, add the onion, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 30 seconds or until the onions begins to wilt. Push the onions to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Stir-fry 30 seconds or until the chicken is almost completely opaque. Add the ginger, garlic, and the paprika mixture, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the aromatics are fragrant and the chicken is well coated in the spices.
  3. Add the red and green bell peppers, reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the peppers begin to soften. Do not be alarmed if the spices stick a little to the bottom of the wok. Add the fish sauce, chilies, zucchini, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Re-stir the cornstarch mixture, swirl it into the wok, increase the heat to high, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just done and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the chili powder. Serves 3 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multi-course meal.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chindian Chili Flounder

Growing up in Mumbai, in the '80's, you went out to eat one of the following cuisines: Indian, Continental (all things European clubbed together), or Chinese. And all Chinese restaurants served mainstream food, targeted to the Indian palette— Chindian, or an Indo-Chinese cuisine. And it is absolutely delicious! Ingredients such as chilis were always used, onions were regular onions and not always spring onions, and cilantro was always abundant. Fried rice was always made with the long-grained Indian Basmati rice, and not the shorter-grained Asian Jasmine rice. It was simply delicious.

A commonality between Indian and Chinese foods is that it is often eaten with rice, and a sauce or gravy is needed to soak up the rice with. This is a great example of a dish to serve with rice! 

So, when Saira Malhotra had a class cooking some Chindian (also known as Indo-Chinese) foods, I was the first to sign up! She made Chili Paneer, Chili Shrimp, and Panfried Noodles with a Celery Sauce. This Chili Flounder is inspired from her Chili Paneer recipe. 

Ingredients
Paneer Marinade
2 cups cubed flounder (or any firm fish) / paneer / tofu / chicken / shrimp
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (preferably freshly ground paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon kecap manis
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sauté ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
1 large red onion (or spring onions)
3/4 teaspoon black peppers
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 green chilis, chopped chunky (try and buy a variety for color)
1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped chunky
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped chunky

Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons corn flour + 1/4 cup water (make a smooth paste)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Marinade the fish. Set aside for 15 minutes. 
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Heat a large wok over high heat, swirl 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Lay the fish out on the wok, and let it cook for 1 minute untouched (this will help give it a good sear). Then gently stir fry it for another 30 seconds, until almost cooked through, but not entirely. Remove from the wok onto a plate. Set aside.
  4. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the hot wok. Sauté the onions, black pepper, chili flakes on high, for one minute. Return the fish to the wok, gently stir fry it, trying not to break the fish pieces. Add the sauce ingredients and allow it to thicken. Serve immediately.
Add some Sweet Corn Chicken Soup to your Chindian repertoire! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kadai Paneer

My first year of college was in the United States, far away from Bombay, where I grew up. As exciting as the experience of leaving home, discovering a new country and culture while studying art, was, I was terribly home sick. The walk to the Indian grocery store was long, so I would stock my pantry up with all the spices and my freezer up with as much as I could carry back home— especially paneer. Paneer is a fresh cheese, made in India, made by curdling heated milk and yogurt, with the help of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Once the fats of the dairy seperates, it is strained through a cheese cloth and left to set. It can be eaten plain, but is mostly cooked in different gravies or spices. Today it is easily available, even at Whole Foods. 

Kadai is the name of the pot in which the paneer is cooked in. It is similar to a wok, a deep round bottomed pan. Traditionally the kadai is made of cast iron, but I used my stainless steel Al Clad pot. 

One of the first, and most frequent paneer dishes I made in college, was Kadai Paneer— only because the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I owned then had an easy recipe. Years later I broadened my paneer cooking skills and didn't make Kadai Paneer as often. But last night, that's all I craved. The kids went to bed, and I cooked this for dinner— filled with spices and heat. 

Tone down the heat level if that doesn't appeal to you, but do not skimp on the rest of the aromatics— such as the ginger and garlic, coriander seeds or even the dried fenukgreek (kasuri methi). 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7–8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/5-inch piece of ginger, half crushed, and half julienned
5–6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted
5–6 Kashmiri red chilies
1 large green pepper, julienned
1–2 green chilies, chopped (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste
250 grams paneer, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoons crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Method
  1. In a kadai or round bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Sauté until the raw smell disappears.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes. Sauté till the tomatoes and oil separate, and the tomato thickens.
  3. In a mortar, pound the coriander seeds and red chili peppers to a powder. Add this to the tomato mixture.
  4. Add the green pepper and chopped green chillies, and cook for another 5–7 minutes.
  5. Follow by adding salt and garam masala powder. Mix these with the rest of the tomato mixture until well incorporated.
  6. Add the paneer in the masala and cook for 2–3 minutes. 
  7. Lastly, add the kasuri methi, julienned ginger, and cilantro leaves. Sauté for another 2–3 minutes. Serve hot. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups


I woke up this morning craving Chicken Sung, or Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups. A perfect and filling dinner, without the carbs. Flavor packed, with a kick! 

Grace Young, in her book, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, says: There are countless versions of this elegant stir-fry, a favorite served at Chinese banquets. Interestingly, the original was made with minced squab. Over time the recipe has ‘modernized’ and now duck, chicken, and pork are often used in place of the squab. The dish is about the enjoyment of the ingredients playing off one another; every bite should burst of contrasting textures and flavors. All of the ingredients, from the mushrooms, to the chicken, have a slightly different level of sweetness and texture, each punctuated by the heat of fresh chili.

Serves 4 as part of a multi course meal. 

Ingredients
8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

8 ounces ground chicken
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic 
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

16 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce


  1. In a medium shallow bowl soak the mushrooms in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid for stocks. Cut off the stems and chop the mushrooms to make about 1/2 cup.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, cornstarch, and sugar. Stir to combine. Stir in the sesame oil.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a beat of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry the chicken, breaking it up, until slightly pink, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Add the garlic and chili and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute or until well combined. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green. 
  5. Return the chicken with any juices that have accumulated to the wok and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. 
  6. Serve with the lettuce leaves: have diners put 2 or 3 tablespoons of the filling in a lettuce leaf, fold the leaf over, and eat like a taco. Some cooks serve the cups with a small dollop of hoisin sauce.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Velvet Chicken with Asparagus


There is something so rewarding about hearing the sizzle on the hot wok while stir-frying. It is like a conversation between your wok and you, about how delicious the meal will be. Grace Young calls it wok-bonding, and I couldn't agree more.

This recipe in her book is perfection. But make it and eat it immediately. I served myself some more a half hour later and it had lost some of the silky-smooth quality of velveting the chicken.

Although it requires a bit more work than a regular stir-fry recipe, it is truly worth the extra 15 minutes. Add these ingredients to your grocery list now and get cooking! 

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multi course meal.

The technique of velveting is most impressive when applied to chicken breast. This is one of the most refined stir-fries. The flavors are deliberately mild and subtle so that the textures of the main ingredients can be better appreciated: the chicken breast is silky-smooth, with extraordinary succulence, and the asparagus is crisp-tender. When the broth and rice wine mixture is swirled in at the end of the stir-fry, it creates a classic Chinese “sauce” that barely clings to the chicken and asparagus.
From Grace Young, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

Ingredients
1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into ¼-inch-thick bite-sized slices
2 tablespoons egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1/3 cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Method

  1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, egg white, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, 2 teaspoons of the rice wine, and ¾ teaspoon of the salt. Stir until the cornstarch is totally dissolved and no clumps are visible. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir to combine. Put the chicken uncovered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan bring 1 quart water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring, 1 minute or until the asparagus is bright green and the water has almost returned to a boil. Use a skimmer to transfer the asparagus to a colander, reserving the pot of water. Shake well to remove excess water. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl.
  3. In a small bowl combine the broth, white pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine and ¼ teaspoon cornstarch.
  4. Return the water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low. When the water is barely simmering, carefully add the chicken, gently stirring it so that the pieces do not clump together. Cook 1 minute or until the chicken just turns opaque but is not cooked through. Carefully drain the chicken in a colander, shaking the colander to remove any excess water.
  5. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the ginger and garlic, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Add the asparagus, sprinkle on the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the asparagus is almost crisp-tender. Add the chicken. Re stir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce lightly coats the chicken.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Classic Pound Cake


A classic dense, yet soft, pound cake is one I've always loved. I remember my mother would bake it for us, and it would be fresh and warm when we got home from school. And then the bakery across the street baked an excellent pound cake, which she would buy for us instead. Dédé Wilson, the author of this recipe, says that this freezes well too. Double wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a zip lock, squeeze the air out, and freeze it. I have some in my freezer, and will pull a slice out tomorrow and spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on it for breakfast. Decadent and delicious!

When it comes to baking I'm a stickler about measurements, temperatures, and also equipment. Read the entire recipe first, then read it again to make sure that you didn't miss anything out, and then follow the recipe when you bake it. There is nothing worse than starting the mixing process when you realize that you missed a step or an ingredient is too cold and it's ruining your batter. 

One of the most important steps in this recipe is creaming the butter. The recipe asks for the butter to be creamed for about 2 minutes, and that is about right, but if you look at it, and it isn't creamed or fluffy enough, then give it another minute or so. Similarly for when you add the sugar, beat it more if it isn't fluffy enough. 
After the creaming stage, don't over beat anything. In fact, stop when you think that maybe it needs one last beat. The last phase will ask you to fold in the flour, at which you can make sure that it is all incorporated. Gently and lovingly, fold in the flour, to ensure that all the lightness to the batter that has been created with the creaming isn't lost. 

Recipe courtesy: Dédé Wilson
Yield: Serves 10

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups (173g) sifted bleached cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (266g) superfine sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Preparation 

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C). Coat an 8-by-4-inch (20-by-10cm) metal loaf pan with nonstick baking spray (the kind with the fat and flour, such as Baker’s Joy). Line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper that extends up and out of the narrow sides of the pan; coat the paper as well.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  3. Whisk the eggs together in a large measuring cup, or whisk in a bowl and transfer to a pitcher with a spout, set aside. 
  4. Beat the butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. 
  5. Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup (50g) at a time (you can do this by eye) and beat on high speed until the mixture has lightened and is very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Do not rush this step. The mixture should be room temperature at this point. Turn off the mixer and touch the mixture to check. Keep beating if it is cool to the touch. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Add the eggs about 1 tablespoon at a time (you can do this by eye), beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl occasionally. Once all the eggs are added, beat the mixture for about 30 seconds to make sure it is thoroughly combined. It should be smooth and satiny. If it looks curdled or separated in any way, the mixture is still too cold. Let it sit to warm up a bit and beat again, looking for the visual cues described above.
  7. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the batter (removing the bowl from the stand mixer, if using), and fold in gently with a large silicone spatula. Stop when a few streaks of flour remain, then add the next batch of flour mixture and continue until all has been added. Make sure all the flour mixture has been incorporated into the batter to create a thick and smooth homogenous batter. Scrape the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a small offset spatula.
  8. Bake until a wooden toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted into the cake just tests clean when removed, 70 minutes to 80 minutes. The toothpick should look a bit moist and not bone-dry. Halfway through the baking, rotate the pan once front to back. The timing will depend on the temperature of your ingredients when the cake went into the oven. Cool the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then unfold the cake, peel away the parchment, place the cake upright, and cool completely. Store the cake, well wrapped with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 4 days. Cake texture is best, and it slices most neatly after an overnights rest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms

My new obsession has been my 14-inch flat bottomed carbon steel wok, all thanks to Grace Young and her detailed explanations on how to use and season a wok, how to use it with the correct utensils, and more. I hope to cook more and more in it, to help build that lovely thick black petina (or seasoned coating). And if you don't have one, I highly recommend getting one! 

A trip to Pacific Supermarket in Queens had me buying fresh Lo Mein, and researching a good recipe from Grace Youngs' book Stir-Frying to the Skys Edge
For effective stir-frying, you have to have everything mis-en-place— all prepped and in its place. I even put it in order you need it, first thing closest to the stove. This way, you can stir and toss and get your perfect stir-fry out on the table in minutes. 

To quote Grace Young:
This recipe is extremely simple to make and has a nice peppery flavor from the red pepper flakes, white pepper, and ginger. There is a variety of fresh noodles in the refrigerator section of most Chinese food markets. The best noodles for lo mein are about ¼ inch thick and are sold in 1-pound packages. If fresh shiitake mushrooms are not available, use button mushrooms. I will sometimes substitute bean sprouts for the Napa cabbage.

Serves 3 as a main dish or 4 as part of a multi course meal.

12 ounces fresh Chinese thick, round egg noodles
2 teaspoons sesame oil
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thigh, cut into ¼-inch-thick bite-sized slices
1 tablespoon finely shredded ginger
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (about 5 ounces)
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
½ cup finely shredded scallions

Method
1. In a 3-quart saucepan bring 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the noodles. Return to a rolling boil and boil according to package directions until al dente. Carefully pour the noodles into a colander and rinse several times with cold water. Drain the noodles, shaking well to remove excess water. Return the noodles to the unwashed pot, add the sesame oil, and toss until well combined. Set aside.
2. Put the chicken in a shallow bowl and add the ginger, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and pepper. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, add the red pepper flakes, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the pepper flakes are fragrant. Push the pepper flakes to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken mixture and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Stir-fry 30 seconds or until the chicken begins to brown. Add the cabbage and mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute or until the cabbage is just wilted but the chicken is not cooked through. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a plate.
4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the noodles and stir-fry 15 seconds. Restir the soy sauce mixture, swirl it into the wok, add the scallions and chicken mixture, and sprinkle on the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and noodles are heated through.