Monday, February 27, 2012


Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Paczki is one of my favorite pre-Lenten guilty pleasure. Perhaps, it is my only pre-Lenten guilty pleasure. Derived from a tradition of strict Polish Catholics where they use up excess fat, sugar, and fruit in preparation for Lent, things that are not allowed during this holy season, preparing paczki is one way of getting rid of such excesses. They are usually prepared the day before Ash Wednesday and are consumed right away. This tradition is very common mostly in the Midwest but it is slowly gaining ground all over the country. My groupmate Jeff used to be the harbinger of such delightful treats being of Polish origin and it was a good way for me to remember that I had to fast and abstain the next day. Having gone our own separate ways after graduate school, him staying on at Michigan with his wife and their little girl, I moved all over the country always hoping that come Fat Tuesday (day before Ash Wednesday here in the US), I will be able to find a bakery that will carry these treats. 

This year, I tried to find paczki in town and failed miserably. Even Walmart which carried them last year did not have any so I settled for a small box of donuts. Having set in my mind that I wanted paczki, it seems that the only way I can have them was to make my own. And that is what I did. I was also inspired by the number of hits for my paczki post last year which means others were interested in them as well.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The recipe I'm using is based on a recipe from the website and after reading the comments on the website for the posted recipe, I decided to give it a try. Having learned from my previous experiment making paczki that the dough is the secret to this delightful treat, I had to make sure that I don't mess up this second time around. The dough is allowed to rise three times since the starter dough or sponge as it is referred to in the recipe is also allowed to rise until doubled in volume. It is a rather unusual way of preparing a dough but it worked out well since the paczki came out really moist and soft. I also had to resort to using lard instead of butter so the texture is a bit denser but I actually liked it.

Paczki - Adapted*

Starter Dough or Sponge:
1 cup milk
4 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp warm water
1 cup flour, sifted

1. Heat the milk in a small pot until it reaches 110°F.

2. In a bowl, combine the yeast with the sugar and warm water and mix
    well. Add the milk when at temperature and sift the flour over the
    mixture. Mix well and cover with clingfilm. Set aside in a warm place
    until doubled in volume.

5 cups flour, sifted
5 large eggs
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (or lard), softened
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt

1. In your mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs with the
    confectioner's sugar and beat at high until thick and lemon-colored.

2. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the risen sponge mix and
    beat at medium speed just until combined. Add the butter or lard and
    beat for a minute to incorporate into the sponge mix. Add the orange
    zest, rum, vanilla extract and salt and beat for another minute just to

3. At low speed, slowly add the flour and continue to beat until all the
    flour has been added. Switch the paddle attachment to the dough hook
    attachment and at medium speed, knead the dough until it all comes
    together and comes away from the side of the mixer bowl.

4. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl  and seal with clingfilm. Allow to
     rise until doubled in size in a warm area. This took about 3 hours.

5. Once risen, divide the dough in three parts. Pat down the dough gently
    until about 1/2 inch in thickness. Using a small inverted glass, cut out
    the dough rounds and transfer the paczki dough onto a baking sheet
    lined with parchment paper. Continue to do the same for the rest of
    the dough. Knead the cut portions and do the same until every piece of
    dough have been cut out into rounds.

6. Allow the dough to double in size in the baking sheets covered with a
    clean dishtowel.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
7. Once the dough have
    risen a second time,
    heat the oil to 280° to
    300°F and fry the dough
    in batches. Take care
    not to overfry them.
    Drain the fried paczki in
    paper towels. Once
    cooled, fill them with
    your choice of filling
    and either glaze with a
    sugar frosting or dust
    with confectioner's

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
To fill the paczki, poke the paczki with a skewer and move it around to make room for the filling. I used a double recipe of pastry cream using heavy cream instead of milk to achieve a thicker filling. I divided the pastry cream into three and flavored one with chocolate and another one with espresso. I also used homemade raspberry jelly as the fourth filling but you can buy them in the grocery stores as well. I dusted the raspberry filled-paczki with confectioner's sugar while I topped the espresso pastry cream-filled  and chocolate pastry cream-filled paczki with a sugar glaze flavored with espresso. The plain pastry cream-filled paczki were topped with a chocolate glaze.

Espresso Sugar Glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp espresso powder

Combine and mix well until a smooth spreadable glaze is achieved. Use right away.

Chocolate Glaze:
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp unsalted butter

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl and heat in a microwave for 30 seconds or until the butter and chocolate has melted. Do not overheat in the microwave or the chocolate will seize. Use the glaze while warm.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet Rice Cake

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Last week, I featured a bibingka (Filipino rice cake) recipe and it was a very light and yet rich cake that is sure to delight any guest you may have for an afternoon snack. As it is, I was very happy with the overall cake and it was definitely approved by my friends who loved the cake a lot. While browsing through the grocery aisles with plans to make more of the same cake, I stumbled upon a packet of sweet rice flour. This gave me the idea to use the sweet rice flour using the same recipe and test if there will be a difference to the texture of the cake. As I was preparing the batter, I made additional changes to the recipe and the cake came out equally scrumptious but the texture is a lot more dense. Still very good eats though.

Sweet Rice Cake

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter,
2 tbsp unsalted butter,
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup young coconut
   meat strings
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup Grana Padano, thinly sliced
2 tbsp shredded coconut
white sugar for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round pan and line with parchment
    paper all the way up the sides. Grease the paper.

2. Sift the rice flours with the baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set

3. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter with the paddle attachment at high speed
    until smooth. Turn off the mixer and add the sugars. Beat at medium
    speed until the butter is fully incorporated into the sugars.

4. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Decrease the
    speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated.

5. At low speed, pour in the coconut milk. Increase the speed to medium and
    beat for a minute. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15

6. Take the pan out of the oven and layer the toppings starting with the
    young coconut strings, followed by the the sliced cheese, grated cheese
    and topped by the shredded coconut. Return to the oven and bake for
    another 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
7. Off the oven, brush the
    top of the cake with the
    melted unsalted butter
    and sprinkle with a light
    layer of white sugar.
    Let cool in the pan
    on a cooling rack for
    about 5 minutes.

8. Invert the cake on a
    second cooling rack
    and peel off the
    parchment paper.
    Invert back onto a
    serving platter and serve warm.

Spice Gallery

I think it is important for me to feature a few of the crucial ingredients needed to cook Indian food with great success. A key to their cuisine is really about the correct amount and kind of spices and seasonings needed to bring out the flavor of a certain dish that will distinguish it from a fairly similar one. It has definitely been a challenge to go around town looking for select spices but it was all worth it in the end. Most of the powdered spices are easy to find so I'll highlight the more exotic and hard to find ones.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Cumin - These little brown grain-like seeds are often mistaken for a very similar seed, the caraway. However, cumin is much hotter to the taste, lighter in color and much larger. Often used whole, fried or roasted, in its ground form, it forms an essential base to many dishes from curries to rice. It's distinctive flavor and strong, warm aroma are due to its essential oil content, the main ingredient being cuminaldehyde.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Nigella - Also known as black onion seeds, these teardrop-shaped seeds are very aromatic when cooked and are used often to flavor breads and pickles. The seed has been called fennel flower, blackseed or black caraway. Obtained from the flower Nigella sativa which is native to south and southwest Asia, the seeds have a bitter pungent taste and aroma. It is also used not only as a spice but also in confectionery and liquor. The oil obtained from the seed also have various uses in medicine.

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Cardamom Pods - The pods are usually light green in color with little black seeds which are very aromatic in flavor. Cardamom comes in three varieties: green, white and black. The first two variants are used for both sweet and savory dishes especially with rice. The latter is used for only savory dishes. The pods can be used whole while the seeds can be crushed and used to flavor sweets and other dishes. It is one of the main components of garam masala. Cardamom has a strong unique taste with an intensely aromatic resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a smokey though not bitter aroma with a coolness similar to that of mint.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Fenugreek Seeds - The seeds resemble pebble-like mustard yellow seeds with an earthy flavor and are mainly used in pickles and vegetarian cooking especially as an ingredient in curry powder and curry paste. The leaves are spinach-like and are used to flavor breads and other dishes. The leaves can also be harvested as a microgreen and used as a vegetable.

1. Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000.


Boca Negra (Black Mouth Cake)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This cake was featured in the Baking with Julia show with guest baker Lora Brody and there have been a lot of blog postings in reference to this cake. I finally gave it a try due to the positive reviews but to me, it was just an okay cake. A very rich cake indeed but I think it could have been better. Part of the problem might be the alcohol I used for the cake and I'm talking about a lot of alcohol. The flavor of the cake will surely depend on the type or brand of liqueur used with the recipe calling for the use of Bourbon. Overall, the cake is easy to make. It is definitely worth trying again and a good brandy might be a good option in lieu of the bourbon. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The name of the cake is a bit weird sounding but it is in reference to the amount of chocolate stuck on your teeth after having a bite of this very dense and chocolate-laden cake. Hence, the term "black mouth". The cake is also topped with a white chocolate ganache which actually balances the bittersweet taste with its sweetness so do not leave it out. I also added an additional garnish to the cake inspired by Nigella Lawson's Jim Pollack's inspired creation with her chocolate cheesecake. I just thought a drizzling of melted dark chocolate in an abstract pattern over the cake breaks the simplicity without detracting from the actual flavor. 

Boca Negra - Adapted*

White Chocolate Ganache:
12 oz white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon

1. Heat the cream in a small pot over medium low heat. Once almost boiling, 
    pour over the white chocolate in a bowl. 

2. Let the hot cream soften the chocolate for about a minute and with a 
    whisk, process the ganache until smooth. Add the bourbon and mix well. 

3. Transfer to a sealable container and store in the fridge. Prepare the 
    ganache a day or two early. 

12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
8 oz unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp flour

1. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan and line with parchment paper all the 
    way up to the sides. Grease the paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

2. In a small saucepan, heat the bourbon and 1 cup sugar. When the syrup 
    starts to boil and all the sugar has dissolved, pour over the chocolate in 
    a small bowl. Stir using a rubber spatula until the chocolate has melted 
    and the mixture is smooth. 

3. Gradually add the softened butter and mix well until the batter is 
    smooth and glistening. 

4. In another bowl, combine the eggs and the remaining sugar and whisk 
    until thick. Add to the melted chocolate and mix well. Add the flour and 
    mix to combine.

5. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a roasting pan filled 
    with hot water to about an inch for 30 minutes. The top of the cake 
    should have formed a thin crust at this point. 

6. Remove the cake pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Loosen the cake 
    by running a knife in between the parchment paper and the pan. Cover 
    the top of the cake with clingfilm and top with a cake board cut to fit the 
    size of the cake. Invert to release the cake from the pan. 

7. Remove the parchment paper off the cake and invert the cake again into 
    a lined cake board or a serving platter. Remove the clingfilm protecting 
    the top of the cake. Let cool in the fridge at least overnight. 

To decorate the cake, melt 2 oz of bittersweet chocolate and pour into a cone made with parchment paper. Secure the opening and snip a small part of the tip. Squeeze and drizzle ribbons of melted chocolate over the cake. Allow to set. 

To serve the cake, bring the white chocolate ganache to room temperature and beat with a mixer until thick. Slice the cake with a warmed knife and serve with a piping of the whipped white chocolate ganache.  

*Greenspan, Dorie: Baking with Julia, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York:1996.

Bombay Chicken Masala

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I was introduced to this dish by my Indian friend Tilak when he would invite me over to eat with his family at their apartment. His wife, Lata, will have something cooking in the kitchen and the first time I was there for dinner, they served Chicken Masala. It was actually a good way to reintroduce me to Indian food which I thought initially was too smelly and spicy but is in fact actually very tasty. I have had Indian food while still in graduate school at Michigan State University when my Indian friends invited me over during one of their parties. What I tasted then was a bit too intense for me that it left a not so pleasant impression of Indian food on me. However, I do love my friend Vasudha's Chai Tea and I think she makes the best Chai Tea in the world.

Tilak's wife is actually a very masterful cook in her own right. She makes everything from scratch too. She even makes her own yogurt. And I have to say, there is not one food in her kitchen that I did not love. It was actually eating in their kitchen that got me hooked on Indian food. It was another friend though, Celeste, who gave me the push to cook Indian food when she gifted me with an Indian cookbook that was easy to follow. Living in Atlanta at that time, the ingredients were so much easier to find so I was in Little India heaven. The more I cooked Indian food, the better I got and what also helped was having friends who liked to try different kinds of food. Anyway, this recipe is slightly different from Lata's version but it is fairly close. The recipe calls for a lot of cilantro and blitzing it into a paste caused my blender to actually breathe its last breath so I'm a bit bummed but still, it was for a good cause.

Bombay Chicken Masala - Adapted*

3 lbs chicken pieces, skinned
2 large onions, diced
5 jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced
4 tsp ginger, peeled and diced
12 garlic cloves, diced
2 tbsp coriander powder
4 tsp cumin powder
2 large bunch of cilantro, including the stalks
1 cup water
4 tbsp canola oil
4 cups chicken broth
12 oz tomato paste, canned
salt and pepper

1. In a blender, process the water, cilantro, onions, jalapeno, ginger, garlic
    coriander and cumin powder into a paste. You can do this in two batches.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and fry the cilantro paste
    until aromatic.

3. Add the chicken pieces and the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover
    and lower the heat to low and simmer until the chicken is tender. This
    will take about 30-40 minutes. 

4. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Check for flavor and adjust
    accordingly. Simmer for another 5 minutes and serve right away.

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000.

Shrimp with Bay Leaves and Fenugreek

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Shrimps is not one of my favorite food to eat as I grew up being allergic to them. It was only later in my 20s that I started to eat them regularly. I did feel some tingling sensation in my extremities but they eventually went away and I do think I have built up an immunity to them. Not so much with crabs though. I still get terrible hives with them. I managed to eat my way through a whole lobster though by taking an antihistamine minutes before gorging on them while attending a conference at New Hampshire. I dare not try this trick with crabs.

Shrimps are cooked simply back home. They are washed in water, drained and steam-cooked covered in a thick-bottomed wok over medium heat. The only seasoning is salt and you leave them cooking in their own juices until they have all turned coral. A little bit of oil is added to toast them lightly and then they are devoured quite quickly. For this version, I'm upping the level of difficulty just a tiny bit. This dish is basically cooked in aromatic herbs and spices on a bed of sauteed onions which I think imparts a sweetness to the already sweet taste of the shrimps. This recipe works well for shrimps that have been peeled since the additional flavor makes up for the rather bland taste of shrimp cooked with both the head and shell missing. Bay leaves were used in lieu of fresh curry leaves which is not available where I live but if you can find them, do use double the amount as they impart a distinct perfumed aroma to the dish which is quite hard to explain and describe.  

Shrimp with Bay Leaves and Fenugreek - Adapted*

2 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 bay leaves
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 dried red chili, deseeded
1 1/2 lb large shrimps, shelled with tail on
2 tsp ginger, grated
salt and pepper
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onions with the bay leaves
    until the onions are softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the nigella seeds and the red chili and saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the shrimps and and ginger and increase the heat to medium high.
    Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the shrimps have turned coral. Do not
    overcook the shrimps.

4. Add the fenugreek seeds and lemon juice and cook for 2 minutes more.
    Serve immediately.

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000. 

Coconut Rice

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have always wanted to try this because I always go for the Saffron and Cardamom Rice whenever I have an Indian-themed dinner. This time however, I think a change of recipe is in order. Cooking rice with coconut milk is nothing new to me. Back home, we cook sticky rice in coconut milk to make a sweet native dessert. The coconut milk add a richness to the rice and even with savory dishes like Arroz Valenciana, this combination is quite tasty.

This rice dish is enhanced by the addition of both cumin and mustard seeds and pieces of dried red chili. I used the dried Thai red chili which packs a lot of heat so I decided to remove the seeds and it worked quite well. You get a hint of the heat without the kick. Bay leaves are also used but if you can find them, use double the amount of curry leaves which is what the original recipe requires.

Coconut Rice - Adapted*

3 cup basmati rice
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
6 bay leaves
3 dried red chili, deseeded
1 1/2 cup coconut mlik
4 1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
roasted cashews for garnish (optional)

1. In a deep pot, heat the oil at medium heat and saute the cumin and
    mustard seeds for 2-3 minutes. Add the bay leaves and saute for another

2. Add the red chili and the rice and mix well until the rice is coated with
    the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the coconut milk and water and increase the heat to high. Bring to
    a boil and continue to boil uncovered until almost all of the liquid has

4. Lower the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 30 minutes or until
    the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork and serve right away or
    garnished with roasted cashews.

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jeera (Cumin) Potatoes

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Jeera (cumin) potatoes is one of my favorite things to eat. My previous colleague Sunil's wife Vina makes Dosa (Indian pancakes) filled with Jeera Potatoes and it was super yummy. They actually packed me this dish to take with me when I drove moving from Atlanta to Knoxville. I was munching on them while drinking ice-cold Mountain Dew driving on the expressway on a Jeep packed to the rafters and with only a couple of hours of sleep. The treat actually forced me to nap in a rest stop halfway through the trip since the potatoes were very filling. The 5 hour drive was usually not a problem but the snack and the nap made the tedious trip due to my lack of sleep go a lot faster despite the break. On a side note, I used to stop by this gas station owned by an Indian couple in Chattanooga to buy a hotdog. They served the best hotdogs along that stretch of highway in my opinion. 

Anyway, before I get carried away with other side stories that have nothing to do with the dish, I'm presenting this recipe with some minor changes added to it. I toned down some of the spices knowing that I'm feeding a group of Americans and with all the rich food we have on the menu, it seemed a good idea to hold back on the intensity of flavors on some of them to offer some contrast to the palate.

Jeera Potatoes - Adapted*

2 lbs potatoes
4 tbs canola oil
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
cilantro to garnish

1. Peel the potatoes and boil in a large pot with enough water at medium
    high heat until cooked through. Drain and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the ginger and cumin seeds over
    medium heat. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the jalapeno and cook for
    another minute.

3. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes
    for about 6-8 minutes turning them over halfway through, allowing them
    to turn light brown and crispy.

4. Drizzle in the lemon juice and turn one last time. Add the cilantro and
    mix well. Serve right away.

*Vijayakar, Sunil: 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000.

Paneer Butter Masala

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Racking my brains on what to do with my extra paneer, I stumbled upon this recipe which I thought will be great to try out. Just the thought of cooking paneer in a thick sauce with a butter base is enough incentive for me to give it a go. I found two versions of the recipe and I decided to go for the one with the prettier picture of the dish. I did add some minor changes but overall, I kept the integrity of the dish and it turned out really well. Paneer when homemade is quite bland in taste but this sauce just gives it enough punch to counter that problem giving the dish a well-balanced flavor that will go well with either steamed basmati rice or a steaming warm naan.

Paneer Butter Masala - Adapted*

2 cups cubed paneer
1 large onion
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup water
2 jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish

1. In a small pot over medium heat, saute the onions, jalapeno, ginger and
    garlic in the canola oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Cool down for a little bit and blitz in a food processor or blender with 1/2
    cup water.

3. In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion
    paste. Allow to simmer until the oil from the butter starts to separate.

Butter Masala Sauce without the cream
Copyright 2012 LtDan’sKitchen blogs
4. Add the spices, tomato
    paste and 1/2 cup
    water and simmer at
    low heat for about 10
    minutes. Check for

5. Add the paneer and
    simmer for another
    10 minutes.

6. Add the cream and mix
    well. Check for flavor
    and adjust accordingly.
    Garnish with cilantro
    leaves and serve right away.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dry Aged Steaks

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
With Lent fast approaching, it is time to indulge in one of life's greatest simple pleasures: Beef Steak. I already featured a recipe of beef steak and how to cook them on a skillet medium rare which is how I like them served. However, I'm going one step backwards and show you how to dry age the steaks prior to roasting them. Dry aging of prime steaks is the secret of great steakhouses. What happens during this process is that the moisture is removed from the surface of the meat while naturally occurring enzymes start breaking down the meat rendering it more tender and flavorful. This is usually done in a controlled climate but it can also be done in your fridge. You do have to buy your meats early as it will take days to properly age your steaks.

Dry aged steaks
Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I've seen this process done in the fridge watching Alton Brown's show but he is way too technical for me (which says something since I'm a chemist) and I managed to find a simple way of dry aging your meat in the fridge without breaking a sweat. All you need is a large baking pan, some cooling racks and a clean kitchen towel that you won't miss for several days. However, if you read about the dry aging process used by steakhouses, you will realize that it will take about 21 days for a meat to be considered fully aged. Since I don't have a climate controlled room nor do I have any drying apparatus, I'm going to stick with the fridge method and dry age my steaks for 5 days.

Dry Aged Steaks

0.5-1 lb 1-inch thick sirloin or ribeye steaks
kosher salt

Steaks fresh from the butcher
Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
1. Lay the steaks on a wire
    rack on a baking sheet.
    Cover the steaks with
    paper towels and cover
    them with a clean
    kitchen towel. Store in
    the fridge for about 5
    days making sure that
    you change the paper
    towels everyday.
2. Bring the steaks to
    room temperature by
    taking them out of
    the fridge 30 minutes
    prior to pan-roasting

2. Heat a non-stick skillet at high heat. Salt one side of the steaks and fry
    the salted side on the hot pan for 5 minutes. When ready to turn, salt
    the top side and flip the steaks and pan-roast for another 5 minutes.

3. Remove the steaks from the pan onto a cutting board and let the steaks
    rest for 5 minutes. Serve in big chunks or sliced. Steaks will be medium

The original video that featured this technique in cooking the steaks to medium rare is adamant that the steaks be eaten without any condiment. This method of cooking renders the steaks to be very juicy and flavorful which is the ideal way of cooking them. However, I have always wanted to know what the British HP brown sauce tastes like so I bought a bottle at a not so cheap price of $4.50. My cousin's husband also likes to eat his steaks with hot sauce but that is a bit too intense for me so I'm sticking with either the HP sauce or none at all.

By the way, the HP sauce was delicious. Totally worth the price I paid for. So were the steaks.

Potato Latkes

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Potato Latkes are traditionally eaten during the Hanukkah festival but it seems fitting to make them for our steak dinner in lieu of the usual mashed potato or the all-time favorite french fries. A traditional latke is cooked in schmaltz which is rendered chicken fat but I'm doing away with this step. It might result to tastier latkes but health-wise, I'll take my chances with canola oil. A side condiment can either be sour cream or vanilla-flavored applesauce. 

Potato Latkes - Adapted*

2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp flour
1 tbsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
4 baking potatoes (~2 1/2 lb)
1 onion, grated coarsely
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and shredded
canola oil for frying

1. In a small bowl, mix the egg with the flour, salt and white pepper. Set 

2. Peel the potatoes and shred coarsely. Mix with the shredded onions and 
    apples and squeeze dry. Add to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Let 
    sit for 10 minutes. 

3. Heat the oil at medium heat and fry the latkes in 1 heaping tablespoon 
    sizes until golden brown. This will take about 2-3 minutes per side.

4. Keep warm in the oven at 200°F until ready to serve. 

To make the vanilla-flavored applesauce, add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp lemon juice to 3/4 cup bottled applesauce.

*Finklestein, Martha, Food and Wine, November 2000: page 196.     

French Green Beans with Onions

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
A simple side dish that goes well with beef steak is this green bean dish from Ina Garten. I read about this recipe in a magazine while waiting at a doctor's office last month as a simple alternative to the usual three bean salad for the Thanksgiving meal. I didn't get the exact recipe but it was easy to figure out how to make this dish since the steps were quite basic. Shallots were originally used in the recipe but I'm going to use regular onions.

French Green Beans with Onions

2 lbs French green beans
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper 

1. In a large pot, boil 6-8 cups of water at medium heat. Season with about a
    tablespoon of salt and add the green beans.

2. Cook the beans until bright green, about 1-2 minutes. Remove the beans
    and transfer to an ice bath to shock the beans and set the color. Once
    cooled, fish out the beans and dry in a baking pan lined with paper towels.

3. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil at medium heat.
    Saute the onions and garlic until slightly browned. Season with salt and
    pepper. Add the Herbes de Provence and mix.

4. Add the beans and saute until heated through. Season with salt and
    pepper. Serve right away. An extra drizzling of olive oil is also a good way
    to finish this dish. 

Apple Pie

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Apple pie is one of my weaknesses as a baker. I love me some really good apple pie but I cannot seem to bake my own. The only time I came close was using a recipe that my friend Jenn gave me a long time ago. It was written on a sticky note so of course, I lost it. I have baked an apple pie only once after losing that seemingly magic recipe and to be honest, it was not as good. However, I am willing to give it another go. I just think that you need at least one good apple pie recipe in your repertoire and I hope that this will be it. My friend Sunny has an Apple Pie Cobbler recipe that is delicious but she has yet to write it down for me. After starting this blog for her, you would think that she could at least send a single recipe my way. : )

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Anyway, let's talk about the elephant in the room which always bothered me whenever I bake an apple pie. I'm talking about the giant gaping hole that is formed in between the top crust and the apple filling after baking. I've always wondered how commercial apple pies come up with such a perfect looking pie sans the flavor but homemade pies that taste like heaven always end up looking like a child's art project gone awry. With the quest to find the trade secret on how to prevent this, I stumbled upon this blog which tackles this exact problem and with pictures to prove their claim. Armed with this new information, the recipe I'm using is roughly adapted from the Joy of Baking blog apple pie recipe and infused with the new techniques from the new blog that I found.

Apple Pie

10-12 apples ( Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Honey Crisp)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
1 recipe of Pate Brisee 

1. Peel, core and slice the apples thinly. Add the lemon juice, salt, brown 
    sugar, cinnamon and corn starch and toss. 

2. In a large pan over medium heat, cook the apple mixture until the apples 
    are soft but not mushy. Remove the apples using a slotted spoon and 
    transfer into another bowl. Cookt he sugary syrup until thick and dark 
    golden brown. Cool and mix with the cooled apples. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
3. Preheat the oven to 
    425°F. Line a 9-inch 
    pie plate with one of 
    the pie crust and prick 
    the bottom part with 
    the tines of a fork. Fill 
    with the cooled apple 
    filling and spread 
    evenly.  Dot with the 
    cold unsalted butter.  

4. Fold the second pie 
    crust into quarters and 
    cut 1-inch slits on the 
    folded parts. Unfold and use to cover the pie. Seal the pie by crimping the 
    edges of the top and lower pastry crust into a flute using your fingers.

5. Cover the edges with 
    foil to prevent it form 
    overbrowning and bake 
    the pie on a baking pan 
    at the lowest level of 
    the oven for 30 minutes. 

6. Remove the foil and 
    continue to bake for 
    another 20 minutes or 
    until the pie crust is 
    golden brown. 

7. Let cool for a couple of hours before cutting into the pie. 

Bibingka (Filipino Rice Cake)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Bibingka was a nice treat when I was growing up back in Bacolod. They were sold in the market where we go to buy our produce and meats but they are wildly popular during the Christmas season at the early morning masses. The stalls offering various native treats are synonymous with the early morning masses and everyone looks forward to having these treats for breakfast with their morning coffee. 

The rice cakes I grew up with are of the simple variety. However, while I was studying in Manila, I was introduced to a special bibingka with cheese toppings, coconut meat and as a must to vouch for its authenticity, slices of salted duck eggs. The latter are an acquired taste but they are basically duck eggs soaked in brine water for 21 days before they are cooked hard-boiled. The eggs absorb the salt and become mineralized and is quite similar to what a century egg is to Chinese cuisine. The addition of the salted eggs balances the sweetness of the cake which is actually quite nice and gives the cake a complexity when you bite into it. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Traditionally cooked in a banana leaf on a clay pot, I had to make do with parchment paper over a round baking pan. The oven used to bake these cakes are also quite different and is heated using charcoals but a conventional oven will do quite nicely. Salted eggs are quite hard to find but feta cheese or some sharp cheese comes to mind as a good substitute. Seriously, what I would not do for my gluten-free friends. Still, it was a nice trip down memory lane making this treat for them.

Bibingka (Filipino Rice Cake)

1 cup rice flour 
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup grated Grana Padano
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
3 large eggs
1/2 cup young coconut meat, sliced into strings
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and line a 9-inch round cake pan with 
    parchment paper. Grease the paper and set aside.

2. Sift the rice flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. 

3. In your mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the 
    sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time 
    mixing well after each addition. 

4. Decrease the speed to medium low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until 
    just incorporated. 

5. Decrease the speed to low and add the coconut milk. Pour the batter into 
    the cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. 

6. Remove the cake from the oven and top with the cheese and the coconut 
    meat. Return pan to the oven and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes or 
    until the top is golden brown. 

7. Brush with the melted unsalted butter and dust with white sugar. Cool to 
    room temperature.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cashew Nut Chicken

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is a version of curry using cashews as the base for the sauce. Equally good compared to my favorite Indian stew, Chicken Garam Masala, this stew is wonderful eaten with basmati rice, whether flavored or just plain steamed. The dish carries enough flavor in the thick sauce that it doesn't really need anything else to enhance its flavor. A good side dish though is a raita. This stew is flavored with red chilies and may pack some heat and raita can provide the perfect foil to balance the heat. 

The dish is very easy to make and requires only three steps although looking at the dish, you might think it took hours to make it. Most of the work comes from measuring the spices needed to make the spice paste which includes the main ingredient which is the cashew. You do need a blender or a food processor to make the paste although a large mortar and pestle might do the trick as well. 

Cashew Nut chicken - Adapted*

1 onion, diced
2/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup cashew
4 tsp garam masala
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
4 tsp salt
2 tbsp yogurt
4 tbsp canola oil
6 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 cup dried apricots, diced
2 lb chicken pieces, skinned
2 cups chicken stock
4 dried red chili, deseeded
toasted cashew and cilantro to garnish

1. In a food processor, combine the onion, tomato paste, cashew, garam 
    masala, garlic, lemon juice, turmeric, salt and yogurt. Blitz until a 
    smooth paste is formed. 

2. In a deep pot, heat the oil at medium heat and fry the spice paste until 
    fragrant. Add half the cilantro, apricot and chicken and stir. 

3. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer at low heat and cover until 
    the chicken is cooked. This will take about 30 minutes. Add the 
    remaining cilantro and dried red chilies. Check for flavor and season 
    with salt. Serve garnished with toasted cashews and more cilantro 

*Vijayakar, Sunil, 30 Minute Indian, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego:2000.