Sunday, July 31, 2011

Le Opera Cake

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The Opera Cake is the favorite cake of my French friend, Cedric. I made this for him on his birthday last year and after my first try, I swore I won't be making this cake again. It is just too much work for such a cake, despite it being really delicious. The first time I baked it, I made a lot of modification to the recipe but this time around, I stuck to the recipe and followed each step religiously as I could. As the author of the recipe states, why mess with something that is already a classic. 

I don't know much about the history of the cake but in this case, it is hardly necessary. Given a cake this delicious, who cares how it came about. What is more important is how to get a copy of the recipe. I'm glad I was able to find one that is actually very good. I managed to ask Cedric for a recipe of the cake but it was a bit too mangled for me to follow so I went ahead and used Dorie Greenspan's recipe. Her post offers a bit more information on the cake as well which might be of interest to you. Who knows, given the right motivation, I just might bake the other cake that I swore I will never make again, Wolfgang Puck's 16-layer chocolate cake that I made for a friend for his birthday as well.

*Opera Cake - Adapted

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

Coffee Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso or coffee

Coffee Buttercream
2 tbsp instant espresso or coffee
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Chocolate Ganache
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Chocolate Glaze
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter

To make the cake: 

1. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 
    425°F. Line two 12 1/2-x15 1/2-inch (31-x-39-cm) jelly-roll pans with 
    parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

2. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar 
    and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another 
    mixer bowl, gently scrape the whites into another bowl.

3. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, 
    confectioners sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and 
    voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only 
    until it disappears.

4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, 
    then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and 
    spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

5. Bake the cakes for 7 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and 
    just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a cooling rack and cover each 
    with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Turn the cakes over and 
    unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over 
    and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come 
    to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. 

To make the syrup:

Stir everything together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool. (The syrup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

To make the buttercream:

1. Make a coffee extract by dissolving the instant espresso in the boiling 

   water. Set aside.

2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir just until the 

    sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 
    230°F (pre-soft ball stage) as measured on a candy or instant-read 

3. While the sugar is heating, put the egg and the yolk in the bowl of a 

    mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the eggs are pale 
    and foamy. When the sugar is at temperature, reduce the mixer speed to 
    low and slowly pour in the syrup. Raise the speed to medium-high and 
    continue to beat until the eggs are thick, satiny and room temperature, 
    about 5 minutes.

4. With the mixer on medium speed, steadily add the butter in 2-tablespoon 
    chunks. When all the butter has been added, raise the speed to high and 
    beat until the buttercream is thickened and satiny. Beat in the coffee 
    extract. Chill the buttercream covered until firm. 

To make the ganache:

1. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the half and half and cream to 

    a full boil and pour it over the chocolate, wait 1 minute, then stir gently 
    until the ganache is smooth and glossy.

2. Add the butter into the ganache in 2 to 3 additions. Refrigerate the 

    ganache, stirring every 5 minutes, until it thickens and is spreadable, 
    about 20 minutes. 

To assemble the cake: 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, trim the cake so that you have two pieces: one 10-x-10-inches (25-x-25-cm) square and one 10-x-5-inches (25-x-12.5-cm) rectangle. Place one square of cake on the parchment and moisten the layer with coffee syrup. Spread about three-quarters of the coffee buttercream evenly over the cake. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten with syrup. Spread the ganache over the surface, top with the last cake layer, moisten, then chill the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of coffee buttercream. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours. It should be cold when you pour over the glaze.

To glaze the cake:

Bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and clarify the butter by spooning off the top foam and pouring the clear yellow butter into a small bowl. Discard the milky residue. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, then stir in the clarified butter. Lift the chilled cake off the parchment-lined pan and place it on a rack. Put the rack over a parchment-lined pan and pour over the glaze, using a long offset spatula to help smooth it evenly across the top. Slide the cake into the refrigerator to set the glaze and chill the cake, which should be served slightly chilled. At serving time, use a long thin knife, dipped in hot water and wiped dry, to carefully trim the sides of the cake so that the drips of glaze are removed and the layers revealed.

*Greenspan, D., Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops, Broadway Books: 2002

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon - A Simplified Version

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Beff Bourguignon is one of my favorite beef stews and one that I have made quite a number of times. For this reason, I've managed to to figure out how to simplify the recipe without having to involve both the stove top and the oven during the cooking process. Another important thing to remember is that the flavor of the stew depends a lot on the kind of wine you use. For this recipe, I used a French red wine although any good red wine will do. Just remember that whatever wine you use has to be something that you would want to drink. I certainly enjoyed drinking the rest of the red wine I bought to make this recipe. I also managed to obtain fresh thyme for the bouquet garni and it certainly lent a more intense aromatic scent to the dish. 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The recipe I used is based on Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cuisine. I also have another version of the recipe from my Good Housekeeping cookbook which is where I learned how to simplify the cooking process of this dish. I hope that you give this a try. It is certainly one beef stew that you will love. 

*Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon - Adapted

6 oz bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lb lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
2-3 carrot, sliced lengthwise
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du
   Rhone or Burgundy)
2 - 3 cups beef stock
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
18 to 24 white onions, small
2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one bay leaf, one sprig thyme, tied  
   in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms

1. Sauté bacon in 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pot over moderate heat  
    for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove with a slotted 
    spoon and set aside. Increase the heat to medium high.

2. Dry beef with paper towels and coat with flour. Add beef, a few 
    pieces at a time into the hot fat and brown on all sides. You will 
    have to do this in batches.

3. In the same pot, brown the garlic and onions over medium heat. 
    Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with 1/2 tsp salt 
    and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add the bouquet garni.

4. Stir in wine and 2 cups stock or just enough so that the meat is barely 
    covered. Simmer for two hours over low heat. Add the carrots and 
    simmer for another 30 minutes.

5. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. In a  
    skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter and add one cup of 
    water. Simmer the  onions covered for 10 minutes. Cook uncovered 
    until the liquid has evaporated and the onions have browned. 
    Set aside.

5. In the same skillet, do the same for the mushrooms and simmer in  
    butter and water for 10 minutes. Remove cover and let the liquid 
    evaporate. Do not brown. Set aside. 

6. Check the meat for tenderness. If the meat is tender enough that a 
    fork pierces it easily, add the onions, mushrooms and the tomato 
    paste. Check for flavor and bring to a simmer for another 30 minutes.

7. Serve hot and garnish with chopped parsley.

*Child, J.; Bertholle, L.; Beck, S., Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Alfred A. Knopf, 1961

Ratatouille - Confit Byaldi

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The year was 2007 and the world's most famous French chef was a rat named Remy. Sounds familiar? Well, it should be if you are a fan of of the animated film Ratatouille from Pixar. As with most animated films, I take my sweet time to watch them and wait until I visit my nephew and nieces in Illinois because by the time I get there, they already have a copy of the movie on DVD (something that I'm thankful for since it saves me a trip to the movie house). While not my favorite animated film, it is definitely in my top five and that's just because the movie involves cooking and Remy who was out to follow his passion for cooking, is someone who I can definitely relate to (not the rodent bit) .

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The movie is named after the signature dish that becomes the focal point of the plot. In reality, it is a fairly organic and rustic dish that has evolved quite a bit. The layered concept evolved around 1976 and became an important aspect of the movie. They needed to present the dish in a more elegant way that will translate well on the big screen. The conceptualized version of ratatouille in the movie is therefore an almost deconstructed version of the original dish which drew inspiration from the Turkish eggplant dish, Imam Bayildiwhich is comprised of layers of eggplants, tomatoes and onions. The recipe as created by chef Thomas Keller for the movie was printed in the New York times as Confit Byaldi and this is the recipe that I have been using the number of times I made this dish.

*Ratatouille (Confit Byaldi) - Adapted

1 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
6 tomatoes (about 24 ounces total weight), peeled, seeded, and finely diced, juices reserved
2 sprig thyme
2 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt

1. Heat oven to 450°F. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut 
    side down. Roast until the skin blisters, about 15 minutes. Remove 
    from heat and let rest in a bowl covered with clingfilm until cool 
    enough to handle. Deseed and peel the skin off and chop finely.

2. In a saucepan, simmer about an inch of water and drop the whole 
    tomatoes. Simmer until the skin starts to blister and peels off easily. 
    Remove from heat and cool slightly. Peel completely and deseed 
    over a sieve to catch any liquid from the tomatoes. Dice finely.  

3. Heat the oil in a skillet over low heat and add the garlic, and onion 
    until very soft but not browned. Add tomatoes, their juices, 
    thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very 
    soft and very little liquid remains. Do not brown. 

4. Add the peppers and simmer to soften them. Season with salt and  
    discard the herbs. Let it cool slightly and put in a blender and blitz.
    Reserve a tablespoon of mixture and spread the remainder in the 
    bottom of an 9x13 baking dish.

1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces) sliced in 1/16-inch rounds 
1 Japanese eggplant, (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds 
1 yellow squash (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds 
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16-inch rounds 
1/2 tsp minced garlic 
2 tsp olive oil 
1/8 tsp thyme leaves 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oven to 275°F. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of 
    alternating slices of vegetables over piperade, overlapping so that 
    1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap 
    vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward 
    center. Repeat until pan is filled; all vegetables may not be needed.

2.  Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and 
     pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover pan with foil and 
     crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when 
     tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for 
    30 minutes more. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.) 

3. At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up 
    to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350°F oven until warm.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chervil, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and 
    pepper to taste in a bowl.

2. To serve, heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly 
    browned. Slice in quarters and very carefully lift onto plate with 
    an offset spatula. Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into a 
    fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate. Serve hot.

Foie Gras

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
There is a lot of controversy regarding this delicacy and I never really understood the fuss over it until I've tried it myself. I love liver especially chicken liver but the thought of how foie gras is produced kind of makes me think of ever declaring my undying love for it. Truth be told, I just found it okayish. I'll be fine if I don't have a bite of it for a long long time. But then again, my blog does not promote any biases on any food that I managed to taste and thought was worth blogging about. Thus, we can leave the moral issue aside and focus on the merit of the food itself. Just like veal, I think that foie gras is worth a try at least once. Just for the hell of it. Aside from the fact that prolonged consumption of this delicacy will surely kill me, I'm glad I've given it a try and deemed it as an "ate that, done that" thing. 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
We served this as an appetizer spread over toasted bread. Given as a gift from Cedric who just came back from France two weeks ago, this was part of my bribe for taking him to and picking him up from the ariport here in Bozeman. I was also gifted with packets of herbes de provence, something that I'm really excited about. There's also a bottle of cognac that's got my name on it. Life is certainly magnifique!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beef (Short) Ribs in Hoisin Sauce

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My friends in Atlanta are crazy over beef short ribs. I rarely buy this cut of beef but if or when I do, it is because I have the craving for Beef Pares. Beef Pares is a street food fare back home and is just crazy delicious. My friends and I use to go to this Pares eatery almost every Sunday just because we could just not get enough of it. The dish is basically made with the cheap cuts of beef and is slow cooked in beef broth flavored with soy sauce, sugar and star anise. In some cases, ginger is also added to the spice mix. My only gripe is that your whole house will smell of this dish for days and given that I hate the smell of food on me let alone the place I stay, I try to not cook this dish that often. 

Dave Lieberman made a dish with beef short ribs when his show was still on the air. I bought his books last year and so I been sitting on his recipe for some time now and methinks it is high time I tried his recipe that has a bit of an Asian flair to it. I could write some more about this dish but I ran across this post from Dave Levobitz regarding Dave Lieberman and his beef short ribs and as confusing as this may sound, it is probably best that you follow the link instead of me explaining this weird "Bermuda triangle moment" and have a good laugh over what transpired. Incidentally, I could not find short ribs so I used regular ribs. I also made this a one pot dish which I think is a good thing.

*Beef (Short) Ribs in Hoisin Sauce- Adapted

6 lbs beef (short) ribs, about 12 ribs
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
10 to 12 garlic cloves smashed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
12 oz good ale (recommended: Bass)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 cup Hoisin sauce

1. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large  
    heavy pot with a lid over high heat and brown the ribs on all sides,  
    in batches if necessary. Remove the ribs and pour off all but a couple  
    tablespoons of the rendered fat.

2. On the same pot at medium heat, saute the garlic and ginger for about
    3 minutes. Return the ribs to the pot. Add the beer and the vinegar and  
    bring to a boil. Lower the heat then cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

3. Pour the Hoisin sauce over the ribs and at low heat, cook uncovered
    for 30 minutes.

4. Remove ribs and ginger from sauce. Strain fat from the top of the sauce.
    Serve with Creamy Mashed Potato and Yams and Sesame Green Peas.

*Creamy Mashed Sweet Yams and Russet Potatoes - Adapted

3 lbs Russet potatoes and sweet yams, peeled
1/4 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper
1 bunch parsley, chopped

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Boil potatoes and yams until fork tender. Drain and let it steam off the heat in the same pot covered for about 20 minutes. Heat the butter and half-and-half over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. With a ricer, mash the potatoes and add the hot liquid to the potatoes. Whisk to mix until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add parsley and mix before serving.

*Sesame Green Peas - Adapted

1 lb green peas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
salt and pepper

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Rinse the green peas and trim off the ends. Heat the oils in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the green peas and saute until bright green, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and toss.

*Lieberman, Dave. Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals. Hyperion, New York: 2006.

Pork and Vegetarian Dumplings

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
One of our favorite hotspots in Atlanta is the Hongkong Harbor where they serve really good Chinese food. On weekends though, they serve dim sum for lunch and it was always a fun treat to see what was inside those little steamer baskets. I usually go there with Vincent, my boss and Sunil and his wife for a group dinner or with my friends, Jianrong and Jason. This way, I don't overeat as much although it is very difficult not to do so. We also frequent another dim sum restaurant, The Canton House and if you ever decide to go there, be ready for the vast amount of dim sum that will pass before your eyes. It is definitely a feast for the stomach and the eyes. 

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The recipe below is something that I found in my Good Housekeeping cookbook which came as a bit of a surprise it being an American cookbook. It was a welcome surprise however as the recipe is actually very good. It tastes almost as good as the dumplings I've had from the Hongkong Harbor or the Canton house. And just in case you don't eat meat, I'm also including a vegetarian version courtesy of Dave Lieberman. I was also planning to include a shrimp dumpling but I'll save that for another post. So the next time you are in the mood for Chinese, you should try out these recipes. 

*Pork Dumplings- Adapted

2 cups packed, shredded Napa cabbage
½ lb ground pork
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1 tbsp dry white wine
2 tsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
1 green onion, minced
36 wonton wrappers
1 large egg white, beaten (to bind the dumplings)

1. In a 2-quart saucepan, add enough water to about an inch and heat to  
    boil. Add the cabbage and cook for 1 minute. Drain and immediately  
    rinse with cold running water.

2. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water  
    out of the cabbage as possible. Finely chop cabbage. Squeeze any
    residual liquid from the chopped cabbage. Put in a bowl.

3. Add the pork and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.

4. Arrange wonton wrappers on a floured surface and with a pastry  
    brush, moisten each wrapper lightly with the egg white. Spoon 1  
    rounded teaspoon of filling on the center of each wrapper.

5. Bring together opposite corners of the wrapper over the filling and  
    pinch and pleat edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining  
    wrappers and filling.

6. In deep 12-inch skillet, heat ½ inch water to boiling over high heat.  
    Place all dumplings, pleated edges up, in one layer in pan. Stir gently  
    to prevent sticking. Heat dumplings to boiling over high heat.  
    Reduce heat to low, cover skillet, and simmer 5 minutes or until 
    dumplings are cooked.

**Filling for Vegetarian Dumpling - Adapted

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 bundle green onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated
2 cups Napa cabbage, finely shredded and cooked as above
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar 
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 medium carrot, grated
2 tbsp corn starch
1 egg, beaten

1. In a saute pan, heat the oil at medium heat. Add the garlic and  
    onion. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients     
    except for the last two. Cook until all of the liquid has
    evaporated. Cool.

2. Add the egg and the corn starch. Mix well and prepare and cook the 
    dumplings as described above.

Soy dipping sauce
¼ cup soy sauce (low sodium is better)
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
black pepper

Whisk with fork to mix ingredients and season with the black pepper. Add some green onion slices if desired. (This is my recipe. I did not like the dipping sauce that was recommended for this recipe. This is a bit mild in taste but it does not overpower the taste of the dumpling. You can adjust the amount of lemon juice or vinegar to taste.)

Note: You can steam the dumplings over high heat for about 10 minutes on a greased steamer.

*Good Housekeeping Step-By-Step Main Dishes: Hearst Books, New 
**Lieberman, Dave. Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to  
   Home-Cooked Meals. Hyperion, New York: 2006. 

Sweet and Spicy

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I've been enjoying a variety of weird and wonderful sweet snacks lately I just had to share them at least on the blog. The first one is chocolate infused with red chili and I mean the spicy red chili kind. I have seen these being sold at the World Market and I bought a couple of them with the plan to send them to my friend Jason who loves anything spicy. With the heatwave hitting half the country though, that plan will have to wait for now as the chocolate may not even make it to Atlanta without melting. Using that as my excuse, I started opening these little gems and I have to say, I'm surprised at how much I love them. The Lindt brand is actually not as spicy and you get to savor the sweetness of the chocolate before the heat hits you a few seconds later. The World Market brand on the other hand is a lot more intense and the heat is more apparent the second you take a bite. Snacking on these candies made me think of chicken mole. With chocolates like these at my easy reach, I don't have to worry about about adding heat to the mole sauce if I use these chili infused chocolates. I'm definitely looking forward to making this dish very soon. 

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The second treat I was feasting on was honey brought by monks from the Monastery of St. John of San Friancisco. We had them over for dinner last night and the honey was a wonderful parting gift. I have to say, I've never tried honey as fresh as this and it is just wonderful. There is a sense of purity to the flavor and the sweetness was just right. I may have to switch to honey with honeycombs now. I think it is just worth it.

Pancakes for Breakfast

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As they all say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gets you started and it helps keep you balanced (in a digestive way). Anyway, breakfast growing up consisted of rice and any leftovers from last night's dinner. Or it could be with an omelet, fried fish (yes, fried fish), or some cured meats my Mom made over the weekend. We were never big on bacon, hotdogs (yes, we fry them back home too), or any cold cuts that yet again, we fry to a crisp. My favorite breakfast and one that I craved for so many years though was the Jollibee (our local version of McDonald's) breakfast meal of sausages, fried eggs and fried rice. It was really good and greasy and oh so delicious. I've been home infrequently but when I do get the chance, I feast on this breakfast item.

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Back here in the US, I still do the usual rice with leftovers but there is simply no time to cook in the morning so a yogurt cup is a good alternative or a slice of bread with jam and cheese. Once in a blue moon, I would make buttermilk pancakes or banana cake/bread and I'll have a ready to go breakfast on hand for me to enjoy the rest of the week. Here then is a home-made buttermilk pancake recipe which I found on the website. Unfortunately, the banana cake recipe is a family recipe (not my family but I was entrusted to keep it so in a way, my family too ) so I don't have permission to post it on my blog. Alternative recipes are found in the JoyofBaking blog. 

*Buttermilk Pancakes - Adapted 

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Let it
    rest for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Preheat a skillet over
    medium heat.

2. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle. Flip pancakes when  

    edges appear set, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Cook pancakes on the other side for same amount of time until  

    golden brown. Do the same for the remaining batter.

4. Serve immediately and top with a dot of butter, a drizzling of your  

    favorite syrup and if you so desire, a grating of soft cheese. Fresh  
    fruits on the side is also a good accompaniment. 

* - Buttermilk Pancake I

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Whole Lemon Bars

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I have a love/hate relationship with lemon bars. There are times when I crave them and there are times when I just can't stand them. I cook a lot with lemons though so I'm not sure why I have this bipolar reaction to this dessert. We used to make lemon meringue pie a long time ago and the recipe was somehow misplaced and I could never find a similar one so I gave up on it. After that unfortunate incident, I just lost my interest in making any lemon desserts. I guess that was my defining scarring moment.

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That changed when I visited Dave Levobitz blog earlier this year and I came across a featured lemon bar recipe with get this, whole lemons. By whole lemons, he means all of it. And I have to say, it does make a difference. My only concern with this novel concept is that sometimes, the lemon sold in the stores have really thick piths underneath the rinds. To correct this issue, I found that collecting the rinds and then peeling off the pith works quite well. You get all the lemony flavor without the bitterness of the pith. This now is a favorite mini dessert and although I don't crave for it all the time, it is definitely a good way to get rid of extra lemons without making lemonade.

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I followed the recipe religiously except for the small minor part of removing the pith so I've taken a picture of what the lemon should look like prior to the blitzing step. Hope the visual helps somehow especially when you are dealing with thick skinned lemons.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tinola - Chicken Ginger Stew with Green Papayas

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When I think of chicken soup, the first thing that comes to mind is Tinola. This simple dish is definitely one of the staples in every Filipino household. It requires minimal ingredients and the flavor is very simple but it definitely warms you up. The broth from this dish is what makes it one of the most requested soup whenever someone in the family is under the weather, like me, right now. I'm having my seasonal allergies and I have been coughing due to the particulates in the air. I've tried every home remedy to make it all go away, I say it is time to bring in the big guns! Time for Tinola.

Tinola - Chicken Ginger Stew with Green Papayas

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch ginger root, sliced in wedges
1 stalk lemon grass
2-3 lbs cut up chicken
6 cups hot water
salt and pepper
2-3 tsp fish sauce (optional)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cups of spinach leaves
1 lb green papaya (or 3-4 chayotes), peeled, cored and sliced into big   chunks

1. In a large pot, heat the oil at medium heat. Add the garlic, onions,  
    ginger and lemon grass and saute for about two minutes until fragrant.

2. Add the chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cook them 
    until slightly browned.

3. Add the hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or  
    until the chicken is tender. Add the papaya and simmer for 15  
    minutes more or until the papaya is fork tender.

4. Adjust the flavor with salt and fish sauce (if using) and add the  
    spinach leaves. Cook for about a minute to wilt the leaves.

5. Serve hot.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Back home, this dish is always cooked with lemon grass so if you find one in your grocery stores, use one stalk and twist it around to form a little bundle of lemon grass. If you can't find one, no need to panic. The dish will stand on its own without it. Also, pepper leaves were used to finish off the dish but since those are hard to find here as well, spinach leaves come close. But use fresh spinach and not the frozen one. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay some time ago and I hate to admit this but I watch the show purely to see him lose. There is something about this guy that rubs me the wrong way. I have to say though that he does win gracefully on his show and I love more the fact that his assistants don't mind telling him how it is. Chicken Cacciatore was one of the throwdowns that resonated with me and I have made this winning recipe of Keith Young a number of times. It may look like just another chicken stew in tomato sauce but it is really delicious. It can be served with spaghetti, adobo rice or as I prefer to serve it, with rice pilaf.

*Keith Young's Chicken Cacciatore - Adapted

Flour, to coat chicken
2 - 2 1/2 to 3-pound cut-up chicken
5 - 6 tbsp olive oil (you might need more)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
10 to 12 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 - 28oz can whole tomatoes, with their juice, crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
3 to 4 tbsp tomato paste
6 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1. Coat the chicken pieces with the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat  
    3-4 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the  
    chicken in batches and fry until golden brown on all sides. When all
    the chicken has been cooked, set it aside.

2. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and season with salt and pepper  
    and cook until softened. Add the red pepper flakes and half of the  
    oregano and saute for about a minute. Add the wine and let reduce  
    for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes.

3. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring  
    constantly. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

4. In a separate saute pan, heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat  
    and add the mushrooms and the red bell peppers and saute until the  
    vegetables are soft, approximately 6 minutes. Add to the pot with   
    the chicken and stir in the tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Add remaining oregano and adjust the flavor with salt if needed. Stir  
    in the fresh basil just before serving. 

Forzen Tri-chocolate Terrine

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This recipe is adapted from Maurice Ferré's (a pastry chef at Maxim's in Paris) Terrine. Terrines are usually made with meat but this version is made with chocolate, three different kinds to boot, and resembles or should be technically classified as a semifreddo. An essential equipment needed to make this dessert includes a porcelain mold but a metal baking pan (loaf pan) that measures 12x3x3 or something similar will do. You can also prepare individual servings and make the terrine in ramekins. It usually requires 2 loaf pans for the recipe given below. Served with a mint custard sauce, it is a wonderful dessert for these hot summer nights. It is akin to eating frozen chocolate mousse since the components are quite similar (chocolate, eggs, and heavy cream) except for the ratio of ingredients and the freezing process. I'm not a big fan of mint so when I make this dessert, I skip the mint and opt for a mix of vanilla and Kahlua liqueur instead.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dessert is made up of three components made the same way except for the use of three different kinds of chocolate. You also have to take into consideration that there is the issue of the cooling process in between layering the terrine. It is best to follow this step although the combination of two different kinds of chocolate terrine layers in a marbled effect does not seem such a bad idea at all which is what happened in this case. I got impatient as I had to go somewhere while trying to get this completed so I dumped the third milk chocolate layer over the white chocolate layer in what I hope will look like a mod design. I've also made this with just two layers and it worked equally well. However you want to make it, just make sure that you be patient and follow the last essential freezing step once the terrine have been completed to ensure that it does not fall apart when served. Even at it's frozen state, they start to soften in minutes which makes it even more delicious. Believe me, you'll never want to eat ice cream again after trying this one out.

*Chef Maurice Ferre's Frozen Tri-Chocolate Terrine - Adapted

4 oz each semisweet/white/milk chocolate
9 tbsp heavy cream
6 eggs
6 egg whites
9 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar

1. Using a pastry brush, lightly oil the sides and bottom of the mold
    with canola oil and line the bottom with wax or a parchment paper.  
    If using a metal baking pan, brush with oil and line with clingfilm  
    leaving room for the edges to fold over and cover the top of the pan.

2. Cut the semisweet chocolate into smaller pieces and melt in a  
    double broiler. Meanwhile, on another pot, bring 3 tsbp of the cream  
    to a simmer. Whisk into the melted chocolate.

3. Whisk in 3 egg yolks into the chocolate mixture one at a time. Add 3  
    tbsp of butter and whisk until melted into the warm mixture.

4. In a separate bowl, beat 4 egg whites into stiff peaks. Add 1 tbsp  
    sugar and beat for 20s more until it turns glossy. Fold in the chocolate
    mixture and pour into the mold and level flat.

5. Freeze for 30 minutes. Do the same for the white chocolate then the
    milk chocolate.

6. Once the top layer has been poured into the mold, fold the clingfilm  
    over or if using a mold, top with a cutout of wax or parchment  
    paper. Freeze terrine for at least 6 hours or until firm.

Mint Custard Sauce

1 bunch mint leaves
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1. Rinse and crush the mint leaves. Add to the milk in a heavy-based
    sauce pan. Heat until it simmers. Strain the milk into a bowl and
    discard the leaves.

2. Whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch and add in the infused milk  
    reserving about 1/2 cup of the milk.

3. Return the custard to a pot and cook over medium heat until it  
    almost comes to a boil. Continue cooking until thickened enough to  
    coat the back of the spoon. Stir in the reserved milk and restrain the
    custard sauce into a bowl. Let cool in the fridge.

Copyright 2011 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
To serve the terrine, if made on a mold, dip the mold in a roasting pan filled with hot water for 10-15 seconds. Peel off the top liner and invert into a serving dish. Peel off the bottom liner. The mint custard sauce is served on the side. If made with the baking pan, dip the pan in hot water and peel off the top plastic layer and invert the terrine on a serving plate. Peel off the clingfilm and serve as directed above. As an alternative, you can make the custard with 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp coffee liqueur which you add once the custard has cooled.

* Willan, A., Perfect Chocolate Desserts, DK Publishing Inc., New York: 1997