I managed to find a day when I could bake mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe. Thursday was it, and I did a batch of those plus a batch of the Jubilee Jumbles (Applesauce variation). The chocolate chip were as awesome as when I was a child. The fun ones were the Jubilee Jumbles because they get brushed with Browned Butter Glaze.... tasty. I ended up with 70 plus cookies and most of those were boxed and sent to Annie's office. I need to get out of the baking mode because my blood sugar is really getting out of wack.
Chcolate Chip Cookies
Applesauce Jubilee Jumbles w/Browned Butter Glaze
It is maddening when I talk to people in China and they find out I cook American cuisine - the first response is always "hamburger?", "sandwich?". Aaaaaaaagh. It is not that I do not like hamburgers and sandwiches, because I love them. But 90% of sandwiches in Beijing are horrible. And I mean truly horrible. The choices in hamburgers are slightly better. If you feel the craving coming on (and some days I do) then the best place I know of is The Blue Frog in Sanlitun. There are other places that do a passable job,, but The Blue Frog will get you pretty close to Red Robin. But if you want grilled forget it.
But this isn't really about burgers, mainly because I have not been able to locate a bun that is worth a damn. Instead it is about avocado. I happen to love avocados and there is so much you can do with them. I have been trying to get more on a healthy kick as I really need to lose some weight, but as you can tell I really do not have much self-control. Last night I only had about an hour to make dinner so I knocked out two nice chicken plates with a southern Cal flair. The first is just a basic chicken salad with avocado, sprouts, cucumbers etc and some fresh grated parmesan. The dressing was a chicken stock reduction from the saute pan mixed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Fresh croutons with olive oil on the side.
The sandwich is on a fresh french roll from Symphony bakery in Central Park (same loaf was used for the croutons). I spread a nice layer of the Green Onion Salad dressing from a couple of nights back, then fresh lettuce, sprouts, tomato, cucumber and avocado. Add some hot chicken breast slices, fresh parmesan and you are good to go. A small salad on the side with more of the dressing and cherry tomatoes. That is a nice B grade sandwich. Americans make awesome sandwiches and there are so many to choose from, there must be thousands of great ones out there. Luckily I bought two french rolls so I can have another one for lunch :)
I am working on the pork tenderloin trying to develop a more asian dish. The marinade is the key to getting this right, and so far I am not satisfied with the flavor. The pork is good - but is does not taste special or asian. The asparagus stuffing was nice but a bit too moist. I have been trying different types of stuffing ideas - some with egg, some without egg but with chicken broth, etc. I have been thinking that I can work on some bread ideas and then use the leftovers to develop stuffings. The edamame was a nice touch, and the baby carrots complimented the pork.
I continue to try and figure out what has gone wrong with my emulsification method, and I'm not having great luck. I have some ideas but I want to try a few more things. Tonight I remade my Green Onion Salad Dressing (the one that screwed up the other night) and while it came out better, it definetly was not the way it should be. I ended up blending it one time, refrigerating for 40 minutes and reblending. The consistency at that point was about right, but the method to getting there was way out of wack. The salad was red and green lettuce, chopped scallion, shredded zuchinni, tomato, green pepper, cucumber and chopped hard boiled egg. I topped this with slices of grilled Sicilian eggplant and chopped grilled chicken. And shredded fresh parmesan before it hits the table.
Usually we use the grill pan for our veggies but I have been wanting to try grillling some meats on it. The chicken came out nicely, but it is not even close to using the real grill. Its more like sauteing with grill marks. I could not tell any flavor difference between the grill pan and the regular skillet. The eggplant was awesome though as usual. That is where the grill pan rocks - veggies! The key to getting this salad right is making sure the dish is served with the eggplant still hot. Its the difference between blah and amazing. The pic is not that great because I saturated mine with the dressing. Annie was smarter and as always - she wants the dressing on the side :)
My wife's friend asked me to host a small dinner party for 10 people last night. I put together a menu that worked out pretty well, including another iteration of the carrot cake. Three of the dishes were cajun with two from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen and one from his Fork in the Road. Two others were my own and one was a modified Rachel Ray recipe.
- Garlic Hummus w/ croutons
- Orange & Avocado Salad
- Green Onion Potato Salad
- Basic Rice
- Okra & Beef Gumbo
- Grilled Chicken w/Roasted Peppers & Chorizo
- Carrot Cake w/cream cheese frosting
Overall everything worked out fine except for the potato salad, which I would classify as a disaster but people still ate it. The problem was getting the emulsification process to work right when creating the dressing. Things work differently sometimes in China. I am not sure whether it is the eggs or the oil, but it is essential that you do not go by the recipe, but trust your instincts instead. I did a wicked Hollandaise sauce a few weeks ago and the emulsification was perfect, but I eyeballed it. Truthfully if you are using a blender (which I was) the process should be idiot proof. Just one more lesson in why it is important to trust instincts first.
Tian Tian requested that her Uncle Jeff make a magic cake. As we know, a magic cake requires 3 main characteristics, and a healthy application of Magic Dust.
- Carrots - because Bugs Bunny likes carrots.
- Cheese - because Mickey Mouse likes cheese.
- Pink - because Cinderella likes pink.
We frosted the cake in the park and the attending princesses applied the magic dust at the appropriate moment.
From the culinary standpoint this is my current version of carrot cake. I have settled into what I feel is a pretty good recipe. The key with creating a good carrot cake is to use a batter that is dangerously close to becoming pudding instead of cake. It should be so thick and heavy when it goes in the pan that you are convinced it will never become cake. Then you have to somehow find a way to get it to turn into cake without burning. I use a 350F (180C) oven and baked for 75 minutes. And you need to check every 5 minutes for the last 20, using Pyrex so you can see if the crust starts to burn. This particular cake used 6 eggs, 1.5 cups of vegetable oil and 3/4 cup melted butter, so you can see why its tricky to get it to not become carrot pudding. This method is ridiculously, crazy good. I didn't write down the final measurements for everything this time, but I will bake one more and publish the recipe.
I received a personal phone call from the princess after the party and she assured me it was 100% princess approved.
I wanted something special for Friday night, so I decided to try Julia Child's ratatouille recipe (Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, page 503). I matched this with a pork dish I have been working on, and the old standby sweet potatoe dish. The ratatouille was good, but not outstanding. I do not have the right size casserole dish (2.5 qt) so I had to fudge it in a larger cast iron pot. I am still debating whether to go to Pantry Magic and try to pick one up on their final weekend of business. I probably won't as there are other things to spend money on - like food - and space is becoming an issue in the Beijing kitchen.
Ever since my dining experience at ,LM Plus I have been fascinated with pork tenderloin. For now I am mostly concerned with getting the cut correct and the cooking time exactly right. I start with wrapping the loin in plastic wrap and placing it in the freezer for about 40 minutes. Its nice and stiff but not frozen. Then I slice that thinly at an angle to get nice oval medallions of pork about 3/16 inch (4.5 mm). Its similar to how I scallop flank steak and venison. For this dish I chose a marinade of soy sauce and sesame oil. for about 1 hour.
Quartered mushrooms are browned in butter and olive oil, then removed. Then the pork is browned on each side in small batches, about 1 min per side and removed. After that I toss in a one chopped shallot and saute for 3 min or so, then clear with red wine and reduce. Add heavy cream, 1/4 cup of chicken stock, bring to a boil then salt and pepper to get it right. Let it reduce for a while, maybe even 10 min. Add shrooms and pork back to the sauce plus juices, toss in a nice handful of chopped parsley and some chopped rosemary, simmer for a minute or two and serve.
Next is to steer away from the heavy sauce, probably even eliminate the wine. I want to try and base the flavor strictly on the pork/marinade and the herbs. Then serve that over fresh greens so the flavor of the pork really comes through.
I have been having the urge for some good sheperd's pie. I had an order at Paddy O'Sheas (Beijing) and it was good enough to make me crave some more. To be honest, my recipe is the best I have ever had... anywhere... ever. It takes a bit more work then the typical, but it is lighter and has much more flavor. I just barely had enough for both of us to have lunch the next day, we ate the whole thing. Served with grilled zuchinni and eggplant.
On Sunday I was out walking and found another open market just west of Blue Zoo. This was a fairly large market with lots of vegetables, fruit and mushrooms. The only downside of this market was that it is setup in a dirt lot, so if it is a windy day there is a layer of dust on the produce. Not a big deal for most things, but I probably wouldn't get my mushrooms here.
Still searching for the recipe. I have done the original Tollhouse, the top rated one on FoodTV and still. Nothing is as good as my mother's recipe
She said she will resend it to me this week. In the mean time I sent off the latest attempt to Annie's co-workers. She said all 30 lasted less then 5 minutes.