Pot Stickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce

June 17, 2010

These Pork and Cabbage Dumplings are perhaps my all-time favorite ATK recipes, and are served with Scallion Dipping Sauce. This has become my meal to celebrate my events (e.g. my birthday, fathers day, etc); today was an early Father’s Day because I will be on vacation for the “real” Father’s Day.

An early Father's Day feast.

First salt the minced cabbage in a colander for 20 minutes to remove moister, then combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of filling to center of wrapper, fold over squeezing out any air, and seal using water and pinch closed. They cook in three phases. First, cook in a 12″ skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil for 5 minutes, which brown the bottom. Second, add 1/2 cup water and cover immediately; steaming for 10 minutes.  Finally, cook uncovered for 4 minutes to dry out the excess moisture. Put on paper towel lined plate and cook the next batch.  The Scallion Dipping Sauce takes just a few minutes to mix together.

Absolute 5-star recipe. These have become my favorite recipe from Chris Kimball, even though I don’t generally eat Chinese Food (it’s the MSG that I don’t like).

Issues:

  1. Unless you have two 12″ non-stick skillets with lids, you will have to eat in batches. Usually it takes 4 batches, but I spread that over 2 days.  Actually, I do have two skillets and lids for when guests come over.
  2. I can no longer buy round gyoza wrappers from our local supermarket. Instead I need to find a local Asian market, but in the mean time, I am using square wonton wrappers.
  3. I have switched to just use regular cabbage (rather than napa cabbage), because it taste the same and is much cheaper.
  4. I don’t use Mirim (don’t really know what it is) or chili oil for the dipping sauce.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $10. Between 50 and 60 dumplings.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Last Batch at 7:00 PM.


Best Old-Fashioned Burgers

June 14, 2010

These burgers are unlike any you’ve ever had before. Their combination of tremendously beefy flavor, toasted buns, and classic Thousand Island burger sauce will undoubtedly be the best burger you’ve ever had.  But even still, these hamburgers are fast and easy. This recipe only takes 35 minutes from start to finish; less time than a BBQ.

The secret: Buy Sirloin tips ($9/lb) and boneless short ribs ($6/lb) and “grind” it yourself in your food processor. I almost couldn’t bring myself to spend the $14 on mere burgers, but the whole family was glad I did.

Home ground beef of specific cuts is the secret to these great burgers.

Start by cutting 10-oz of Sirloin tips (flap meat) and 6-oz boneless short ribs into 1-inch cubes. Freeze for 15 minutes until slightly firm. Meanwhile make the burger sauce. Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl: 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1/2 teaspoon each of pickle relish, sugar, and white vinegar. Then 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.

After the meat is ready, run half the meat through food processor using 10 one second pulses.  Repeat with second batch of meet. Handling as little as possible, divide into 4 piles and gently form 4 patties leaving very loose burgers with lots of nooks and crannies. Add kosher salt and pepper on both sides, and refrigerate the patties while toasting the buns.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon butter in regular skillet until foaming subsides, then toast buns for 2 minutes.  Use another 1/2 teaspoon butter for the second batch of buns. Wipe down pan and add 1/2 teaspoon oil. Carefully add the burgers using a spatula and fry in same skillet for 4 minutes on first side, flip and let cook on second side for 2 minutes. Add the American cheese 1 minute before the burgers will be ready. While cooking, prepare the buns with sauce and roughly chopped onion.

Problems.

  1. During frying, my burgers hadn’t browned sufficiently after 3 minutes, so I cooked the first side for 4 minutes. Similarly, I cooked the second side for 2 minutes.
  2. My supermarket doesn’t seem to have Sirloin tips or Flap meat, so I substituted Skirt Steak which is very similar
  3. My supermarket doesn’t have boneless short ribs, so I used a thick Flanken cut instead (and removed the bones myself).

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $14 for six 1/4-lb burgers, about  $2.35 each.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 6:35 PM.

"Grind" in food processor and form loose patties.


Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Parmesan and Basil Filling

June 10, 2010

I arrived home not knowing what I was going to cook, except that I had three freshly purchased bone-in chicken breasts.  A quick survey of my mostly empty refrigerator meant my options were fairly limited, so I was very glad to find this recipe, which came from one of Chris Kimball’s cookbooks, The Best Chicken Recipes.

Too bad more of the cheese didn't stay stuffed.

The chicken itself has nothing but salt, pepper and olive oil. All the flavor is in the filling. Mix 2-oz of grated Parmesan. 2-oz of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4-cup minced basil, 1 clove of garlic, 1/8-teaspoon each of salt and pepper. I divided the filling into 3 parts, since I was only cooking for three. I separating the skin from the meat using my fingers, then spread the filling as evenly as possible inside the pocket. I then baked for 35-minutes at 450-degrees.

The result: the family gave it 5-stars for flavor, but I reduced the rating to 4-stars because the flavor wasn’t evenly distributed. One bite was heavenly, and the next bite was just plain chicken.

Problems:

  1. Even though I used only three breasts (recipe says there’s enough for four), there was still not enough stuffing. Because only gravity was preventing the stuffing from oozing out, each breast lost between 1/4 and 1/2 of filling.
  2. The recipe says “it is important to buy chicken breasts with skin still attached and intact”. “Intact”. I guess they get better chicken than I get at my local supermarket, but obviously buying chicken is a crap-shoot; maybe the skin is intact and maybe not. In my case, the thin membrane under the skin was mostly okay. I had to lay two of the breasts on their side so that gravity would keep the filling (mostly) inside.
  3. As usual, the ribs had to be cut off, but fortunately that didn’t affect skin being “intact”.
  4. The kitchen got a little smokey with all the oil dripping down in such a hot oven. I’m sure glad I lined that broiler pan with aluminum foil.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 7:00 PM.


Sloppy Joes

June 9, 2010

First a confession: I suffered “culinary abuse” as a child. One (of the most inconsequential) effects was that I used to think Sloppy Joes were made by just adding ketchup to ground beef. While they certainly are just a “kid’s” recipe, it doesn’t mean that shouldn’t be at least a little interesting. Cook’s Country has a good recipe.

Dinner in a flash for these busiest of days.

My second confession is that between the kid’s school, soccer, tennis  and planning/reserving for my up-coming summer vacation to Guatemala, I have been getting home at 8 or 9pm. Simply too late to cook, and it is times like these that I worry that my two sons may remember Sloppy Joes as the lowliest meal I made for them.

Overall, these are great Sloppy Joes; the boys gave them 4-stars.  But I miss cooking real food. Tonight it supposed to be rainy, so my fingers are crossed hoping that the rain will clear my schedule and I can get back to cooking.

Rating: 4 stars for kids.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 7:30 PM. Dinner time 8:00 PM.


Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

June 7, 2010

I haven’t made Caesar’s salad since February when I had my Caesar’s Salad Shootout. With the beautiful weather lately I wanted to grill the chicken, so I added it to the winning dresssing recipe along with homemade croutons.

Perfect Summer Meal; quick and light.

The dressing takes just a few minutes.  The recipe calls from cooking the egg for a scant 45 seconds in boiling water, but the yolk’s temperature only made it up into the 70’s. Essentially I am still eating raw egg, so why bother since most recipes just call for raw egg yolks anyhow.  It turns out that a USDA study found that only 1 in every 30,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella, and that most of those are merely contaminated on the outside of the shell. This step helps mitigates that slight risk.

Last week I cut up a half-eaten loaf of Italian Bread into nice crouton-sized cubes. Today I tossed it in a little garlic-infused olive oil. Instructions.

For the salad, most of the hour preparation time was waiting for the charcoals to heat up. First I cooked the chicken over indirect heat for about 15 minutes to bring up the internal temperature, then finished over the flame for great flavor.

Just a few minutes of work turns your stale bread into something delicious.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $5 for three meal-size servings.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 7:00 PM.


Smokey Kansas City BBQ Beans

June 2, 2010

Smokey Kansas City BBQ Beans are made together with the sticky ribs as part of one of America’s Test Kitchen’s greatest summer recipe. Perfect for a summer day when you are home and want to relax. This recipe lets me pretend to be working all day (without actually expending much effort) so nobody will ask me to do any real work around the house.

The best beans ever!

These baked beans are made with sauteed onions, bacon and homemade BBQ sauce. They cook on the stovetop for two hours, then another two hours on the grill (down with the coals) while the juices from the Kansas City Sticky Ribs drip down through a few slits made into the foil-covered pan; two-level cooking with the ribs on top flavoring the beans below. Hats off to ATK for this ingenious technique.

Potential Problems:

  1. If you forget to soak your beans overnight, you can cook them briefly in the pressure cooker. I’ve only done this once, and the beans came out super tender and just as flavorful.
  2. I usually have to remove the bacon before sauteing the onions, because I cannot accurately time when to add the onions.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 12:00 PM. Dinner time 5:00 PM.


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