Tin Tuirtle Design

Dinner for 9

clock April 12, 2012 22:44 by author Bald Turtle

We had a dinner party for some of Annie's family over the weekend. It was a big deal for me because some of them had not been to our home before or had experienced real American food prepared in a quality way. I was instructed to take pictures of every dish by Annie's sister, but unfortunately I got busy and just forgot. I did 10 dishes, including a great strawberry pie. We started out with some Deviled Eggs but these were made with my Mongolian Black Garlic dressing and sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt.

Deviled Eggs in China

For cold dishes we served the Black Tag Salad and a Orange and Avocado Salad with Cumin Vinagarette. I've been trying to figure out what to do with this cheap wine that we got for the Chinese New Year. I took one bottle of red, one bottle of white and mixed that with some orange juice, a little sugar, Absolute Pear Vodka, a Russian plum liqueur, Gran Marnier and slices of lime, lemon and apple. Sort of a pseudo Sangria.

Sangria from Chinese wine

While there were many other dishes, I only got a picture of my oven baked ribs. I use a rub of brown sugar, ground cloves and spices - and then slow roast them for 6 hours. It makes for a pretty good dish.

oven baked ribs

Making a Basic Cooking Stock

clock April 5, 2012 22:36 by author Bald Turtle

For me, stocks (broth) are an essential part of the majority of my dishes. I typically used good grade, organic stocks purchased in the store for many years, but now I am trying to move away from this practice by making my own stocks and storing them in the freezer. By doing this there are less chemicals, flavor enhancers (like MSG), preservatives and other unwanted characteristics in my food. Making your own stocks also allows you to use up items you might typically throw away, so it reduces waste as well. There are many types of stocks, but mainly I use chicken stock. The next two most commonly used by me are seafood and beef, but you can also make vegetable stocks, pork stocks or almost anything else.

The key to making a great stock is three things. First, you want to use fresh, good quality water (I prefer purified). Second is your choice of vegetables. I usually do 1 carrot, 4 celery stalks and a whole white onion. These can all be cut up into a few large pieces. And third is the boiling time - the longer the better. I like going 4 - 6 hours if possible, but even if you can only boil for one hour it is still better than using plain water. The veggies you use can vary, you can throw in turnips, parsnips, almost anything that will not be bitter. So no peppers, radishes, lettuce or things of that nature.

The last choice of ingredient depends on your stock flavor. For chicken you can add necks, backs, or anything except the internal organs. You can boil a whole chicken and use the meat for chicken pot pies, or put it over rice, after saving the stock. For seafood stocks I like to buy shrimp with the heads on, and then remove the head and keep as much of the red fat as possible. then place the heads, shells, feet etc in the pot to make the stock. You can use fish heads, bones etc, (not gills). Beef is easy too, just use any bones or beef scraps.

Once this is all placed in the pot, then you begin the boil. Get it to temp quickly, and then back off to a low simmer. You can do it covered or uncovered, it just depends on how deep you want the flavor. The main thing is you must NEVER add spices of any kind. No salt, pepper etc. The stock (broth) must be pure so that you can flavor your dish when you prepare the meal.

When you are done with the boil just drain the pot through a wire strainer so you are left with pure liquid. The veggies and bones and be thrown away. You can cool and refrigerate this for up to 9 days. What I like to do is pour the broth into plastic containers and then freeze them. After a few days you can remove the container from the freezer, and pour some hot water on the back. Then turn it upside down over a cutting board and the frozen block will slide right out. It can then be wrapped in plastic (I like to use my Food Saver), marked with the type of stock/broth and the date, then placed back in the freezer. Next time you need stock just pull one out and cut it open!

Black Garlic Chicken Salad

clock April 1, 2012 18:51 by author Bald Turtle

The salad dressing I am making using the Mongolian Black Garlic is really tasty. And more and more I am finding that the Drive-Thru in Sanlitun is my goto source for spices. The stuff is fresh, and there are some unusual things that just lend themselves to new ideas. My current method for this dressing is to emulsify eggs and canola oil, then blend in black garlic, jarred jalapenos, himalayan salt and white pepper. There is no need for white vinegar with this method because the jalapenos have plenty.

For the chicken I like to grill whole breasts (boneless) or sautee and then chop them fine in the food processor. This, mixed with some fresh chopped celery and the dressing makes a really, really good chicken salad. It can either be served like you see below, or it makes a killer sandwich using the foccacia from LMPlus.

Shrimp w/cream sauce over spinach fettuccini

clock March 28, 2012 18:45 by author Bald Turtle

I had to test my theory about using the souffle sauce technique for other dishes. I had some fresh seafood stock in the fridge along with some shrimp and scallops. I sauteed a long green pepper, celery and onion and then removed to a bowl. Next I sauteed the shrimp for 4 minutes and removed to a bowl. After that I used the same pan and used the flour fryed in butter technique but instead of boiling milk I added the seafood stock. Once this was whisked into a smooth paste I added in heavy cream, cayenne pepper, white pepper, black pepper, salt and garlic powder. Incorporated the veggies and shrimp, brought to a boil and then served over spinach fettuccini from the pasta bar at LMPlus. From start to plate was about 30 minutes. The pasta did not come out perfect, I think that when using this type of purchased pasta it is important to completely unfold the noodles and seperate before adding them to the boiling water. Not a big deal, and it was still very tasty.

A box of eggs... souffle anyone?

clock March 27, 2012 18:27 by author Bald Turtle

So Annie came home with a box of eggs that were sold to raise money for an orphanage north of Beijing. I stood there, somewhat baffled, trying to figure out what to do with 50 eggs. But then I started thinking on it and had some great ideas. First, did you know you can freeze egg whites? At least Julia Child says so, and I trust her completely.

Next thing is salad dressing. But you can only use 4 at a time that way. Still, sauces are great and having 2-3 in the fridge is really nice.

But then I thought... souffle. Yes, that wacky idea from the French that I have never mastered. And I happen to have a huge souffle pan in the cabinet that I got from Pantry Magic when they were going out of business last year. A souffle in that thing takes 14 eggs. I have to make at least 2 and maybe 3 to really get it down - right?. So... first up - cheese souffle (souffle au fromage) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, page 163.

The real key to a great cheese souffle is the cream sauce that you fold the egg whites into. For the best color you fry the flour in butter but you must be very careful not to let it turn brown. Then quickly add in boiling milk and whisk like mad, then season. Using Julia Child's method I was amazed at how smooth it came out, and realized this would be an excellent way to make gravy or cream sauces. Then the folding process has to be done without over-folding. This is really important. Then pour it all into a souffle pan buttered and coated with plain bread crumbs.

The oven in China can be dicey when it comes to temp, but the real problem lies with the heating element at the top. It can switch on to maintain temp at the weirdest times, and for this souffle it can burn it easily. It was dark (and looks burned in areas in the pic) but actually it did not burn. No burnt flavor or smell - and most important the taste was incredibly good. The souffle has to be eaten within 5 minutes of removal from the oven, but I kept the leftovers in the fridge anyway and they were fine. Annie had them for breakfast the next day and pronounced it a success.


Cooking with a Himalayan Salt Block

clock March 26, 2012 18:18 by author Bald Turtle

The guy at the Drive-Thru (Sanlitun SoHo #5) has these pink Himalayan salt blocks for sale. He cooks his breakfast on them, so I was interested in trying one. People in the U.S. use them and rave about how cool they are, so I got one last week. First thing I did was season it with bacon, then prepare filet mignon, squid and vegetables. This was served over a bed of black ink tagliatelle from LMPlus.

The salt block process was ok for the bacon and the beef, but the squid was so salty as to be almost inedible. And after cleaning, the block had a crack down the center almost completely halving the block, though it remains whole. I will probably sand it clean and use it for presentation in the future. It has a wonderful flavor, you just have to be careful not to go to the extreme. I think in talking to the Drive-Thru owner that it takes some practice to understand how to use this the proper way.

Black Tag Salad

clock March 23, 2012 18:09 by author Bald Turtle

LMPlus (Central Park) opened up their pasta bar downstairs so now I can just go downstairs and pickup different kinds of fresh pasta. Everything is made every 48 hours and by a real Italian from Sardenia.... hard to get much better than that. Everything is uncooked, so I just bring it upstairs and now I almost don't need to use my Imperia pasta maker for anything. Actually I will still use it for lasagna, but this is so much easier. The first time I saw their black ink tagliatelle I started getting ideas for new dishes. It is striking black, made from squid ink, and has a wonderful texture. I think Massimo thought I was deluded when I told him I wanted to use it for a salad.

My Black Tag Salad remains a work in progress. This is the third version, using arugula, endive, romaine, olives, cherry tomato, guyere cheese and peppercorn salami. The dressing is olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar and worcestershire sauce. The key to using the black ink tagliatelle in a salad is to boil for 3 minutes, and them immediately immerse in a bowl of purified water at room temp. This stops the cooking process, but also rinses the pasta. It prevents any of the black ink (squid ink) from bleeding over onto the lighter ingredients (like the white cheese) and everything ends up looking perfect.

Smoked Turkey Manwich

clock March 17, 2012 22:56 by author Bald Turtle

When writing a blog about cooking, and approaching lunch time - it is easy to get extremely hungry. So we get a loaf of sourdough, split it lengthwise and make a smoked turkey sandwich. Spanish onion, tomato, pickles and the Mongolian black garlic mayo. This thing was so good...

Braised Lamb w/Hoisin Noodles & Dream Bars

clock March 15, 2012 22:44 by author Bald Turtle

The wife's birthday requires the traditional birthday dish of noodles with an egg. Usually in the restaurant they bring out a soup dish with an egg floating on top. It is a good soup, but if we are at home I like to prepare something with a more complex flavor. The noodles signify long life (so they can never be cut). I always make the noodles fresh with egg and flower and run them through the Imperia pasta machine.

The lamb dish I prepared this year was the dish I made for her on her first birthday in the United States (many moons ago). Over the years I have made other birthday dishes, but this is by far the best. A hoisin sauce is a orange flavored Chinese sauce that is used for pork, lamb etc. It is combined with some grated orange rind, orange flesh and spices to create something out of this world.

I was going to do a cake, but I have been having this weird craving for something my mother made for me when I was a child. If you are from the midwest or the southern part of the U.S. you know these as dream bars, or sometimes 3 layer bars. The recipe used to be found on the side of cans of condensed milk. We don't have access to condensed milk in China (or at least not safe) but coconut cream is a actually a better choice. We do not have graham crackers either, but we do have lots of different types of shortbread cookies from Europe. I chose some fresh Danish ones and ran them through the food processor. Then I added melted butter to create a thick paste for the bottom. Then I lined a casserole dish with parchment paper and pressed this down about 3/8" thick. In a big bowl I combined the sweetened coconut, the cream and chocolate chips. Then this was spread on top and baked at around 350. When it was close to done I flipped the broiler on for about 5 minutes to toast the top. It was a good choice, and they actually taste better after being refrigerated for a day.

Wasabi Pork, Black Garlic Carrots & Rice

clock March 13, 2012 22:37 by author Bald Turtle

The wasabi powder from the Drive-Thru had characteristics that seemed like they would be a good match for pork. Additionally, the Mongolian black garlic seemed like an interesting addition to a basic veggie dish of carrot chips sauteed in butter and brown sugar. For the pork I chose a good quality tenderloin and marinated that in soy sauce and sesame oil. Just before frying in canola oil I rolled the slices of pork in the wasabi powder.

I wanted the garlic flavor to really become part of the carrot dish, so I chose to melt butter with a small amount of canola, and then add chopped pieces of 4 cloves. This was whisked for a minute or so and then I added the carrot chips and brown sugar along with some salt. While this was going on there was a basic white rice being prepared in the steamer.

Some dishes take more work than others, and this is one of those that will need to be tried with a few variations. With some work, this might be an awesome dinner, but for now it was just good. The reason was the wasabi powder did not survive the frying process enough to really be present in the flavor of the final product. It was tasty, just not wasabi tasty. For the carrot dish the black garlic did not break down into the butter the way I had hoped. To do this properly next time I will wait until the end and add the garlic just before serving, and chop it into much smaller pieces.

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