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
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.
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.
There is a place in building #5 at the Soho Sanlitun called "The Drive'Thru". The guy there stocks a massive assortment of beers along with his own spices. He dries stuff, blends stuff, and sells stuff. Best way I can describe it. I've been there twice and I picked up a couple of things, finally it was time to experiment with the goods. First up was the Mongolian black garlic. This is awesome and you can easily eat it right out of the bunch. It tastes almost like a date, or dried plum or some kind of fruit. It is a little pricey ($5 or so a head) but I had to have some to experiment with.
First up was an attempt at emulsification into a mayonnaise. Using two fresh eggs, 4 cloves of the black garlic, some salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar, I was able to quickly get a great mayo using canola oil. A nice spread for sandwiches and it clearly showed the black garlic flavor. But the best part was adding some pickled jalapenos, whole grain mustard, cracked peppercorn and French cream - then blending that to make a salad dressing. It was ridiculously, stupidly good. Below is the dressing on the left, the mayo on the right.
Next I prepared two sole fillets using a mixture of eggs, cream and flour. It has taken me a long time to get the coating on fish the way I like, but finally I can say I have it down. This basic system works great and you can incorporate whatever spices you want for the specific dish. For this I added the wasabi rub onto the fish just before placing it into the hot oil. The veggies I wanted to try with the pink Himalayan salt, so I wanted a nice clean flavor for the veggies and then I would just sprinkle that salt over them when serving.
Dinner was accompanied by a sauvigon blanc from Chile. The fish was bedded on a simple salad of romaine, endive, cherry tomato and the black garlic dressing. The himalayan salt and the dressing were by far the best part of this meal. It caused my wife to swear loudly and lick the plate - this is an unusually good sign. So I take it as success.
I still cannot find cornmeal in Beijing that is of the right consistency to make good cornbread. The only boxed stuff I can find is from Springfield, and it's not very tasty. Since I was only looking for a base for stuffing, the boxed version is ok. The real winner of this meal was the Kasteel Tripel 11. Sometimes you just get lucky with a good food/beverage pairing, and tonight that was the case. I do not even like wheat beers that much, but this was excellent and bounced off the flavors in the meal quite well. The colors were fun too, normally I do a green cabbage but it always looks little blah, the purple is really much more interesting. This was sauteed with onions in olive oil for a few minutes, and then chicken broth for flavor.
Annie was leaving for the office and said she had a craving for lean lamb meat, so I happened to find lamb tenderloin at Schindlers that morning. I did a thing with dried red peppers, cumin seed, onion, fresh red peppers and peanuts that came out really well. So well in fact, that I had to pull the wife out from underneath the stove hood as she was devouring all of tomorrow's lunch. I got a lot of praise for this one, so I think I will work on refining the ingredients to get it the way I want. The rest was just some old standbys, the shredded sweet potato with tequila/lime juice and sliced brussel sprouts sauteed in olive oil. The thing about doing the two sides together is that the food processor is already out. Just a quick change between disks and the potato and sprouts are both processed in 10 minutes or less. You have to clean the thing anyway, so why not just use it to speed up the prep for everything?
For me, presentation is still a weak. This meal tasted great, but the way it looks on the plate is still "Wednesday-night-at-home". I need to work on this somehow. Probably pay a little more attention when we are dining out, and maybe do some research online or get a couple of books. If I could just improve this part, it would make a huge difference.
I keep seeing different types of veal at Schindler's Meat Market and I've been wanting to try a few things. For some reason veal seems like a taboo dish even though it is quite normal to serve it in many places in the world. Some of that feeling comes from the work of the Humane Society to investigate and publish conditions at veal processing plants.
I put together a Brown Veal Stew with Tomatoes & Mushrooms (Saute De Veau Marengo) from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, page 360. This was served with some fresh pasta from the Imperia pasta machine and a Scottish stout beer. I really was not sure if Annie would like it because the meat and mushrooms are cut fairly large. But the recipe made enough to serve 6, and I made it slightly larger. This morning there is about 1/2 a serving left because all of it was eaten last night, and the flavor was very good.
I have been out most of last week and Annie has been too busy to come home so our eating habits have been poor. I decided to break that streak tonight and serve a dish I have not made since I lived in Arizona. Upon completion of this dish I am sad to say I am half way through my supply of pecans.
Once again we pull out Paul Prudhommes Louisiana Kitchen and throw down on something wicked. Sole fillets from the Ole Supermarket were used in his recipe from page 54. The meuniere sauce is heavy and you really don't want to serve too much with this. I may even use a squirt bottle next time and place it under the fish that way. And you have to constantly whisk it, you cannot let it rest for a minute or you will get lumps. And the pecan butter on top, what can I say? Intense, awesome.. all of that.
The dish was served with a side of Basic Rice, baked in the oven with the shrimp stock. The grilled zuchinni are a nice side because you need something light to offset the heavyness of the fish. Some boiled baby carrots would go well too and look nice.... maybe next time.
I took a 1 kg bird and split it down the back, smeared it with butter and then flattened it out on a cookie sheet. Then I sprinkled on salt, pepper, garlic granules and paprika. The bird is broiled breast side down for 10 minutes and then temp reduced to 400F, bird flipped to breast side up and roasted for 35 minutes.
I was supposed to fix dinner for a friend of mine but he cancelled tonight. I had already thawed out a kilo of tiger shrimp so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out the BBQ Shrimp recipe from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen (page 88). I served it with a Rogue American Amber Ale. It was a good dish, but not as awesome as Shrimp Diane. I am still nursing some shrimp stock from that and I hope it will keep until Monday when I can throw down on something else for Annie when she gets home.
We had some friends over last night and I prepared a Cajun meal from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. It was a basic 4 dishes, Shrimp Diane, Corn Maque Choux, Basic Cooked Rice and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. The Shrimp Diane was made with fresh Shitake mushrooms from the Ole Supermarket. Everything went very well and I have about 4 cups of seafood stock left over to work with next week. I would like to freeze it but there is not any more room in our tiny freezer in Beijing. There are several shrimp recipes in that book I have not tried and I think I will work on them over the next couple of months.