I am supposed to be looking for healthy alternatives for dinner. While not terribly difficult, it is nice if it can be done in a way that is interesting. I sort of wavered on this one when I used the dressing and blue cheese, but overall it was a reasonably healthy dish. The main part of this is the sole, and that is prepared using Paul Prudhommes oven fry method from his book, Fork in the Road. The prep is key, and it involves chopped green onion and parsley mixed with spices and bread crumbs, then moistened with olive oil.
The fish was plated over steamed white rice. Over the top of the steamed broccoli I added some of my Mongolian Black Garlic dressing and a few pieces of Danish blue cheese. All right.. so maybe that was unneccessary, but it made the dish!
I enjoy working with different types of cornbread stuffing at the moment, mainly because I keep trying to work out a good cornbread recipe here and I end up with lots of extra. There were some New Zealand lamb chops with a special price over at Schindlers, so I grabbed a few and pulled out my grill pan. They were seasoned with thyme, salt, pepper and a bit of onion powder. Then placed in a bowl with some soy sauce and olive oil for a few hours.
Cornbread stuffing is just a very easy side dish, especially if you have fresh chicken stock in the fridge like I usually do. Just saute onions and celery in butter, add crumbled cornbread and chicken stock, and you have insta-stuffing! I plated this with brussel sprouts that I ran through the food processor for slicing, and sauteed in olive oil with salt/pepper. Served with a Rogue American beer.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...