Shu Mai

February 28, 2014

The dumplings were beautiful and delicious, but take a fair amount of patience to assemble. You will need to practice a bit on the technique to pinch together the pleats; a total of 8 pinches per dumpling and then rotating the dumpling so that the pleats all swirl in the same direction. It’s definitely worth the effort. Chris Kimball recommends serving with a chili oil. While the chili oil was fine, I found it unsatisfying and would recommend skipping it altogether. If you decide to make the chili oil start immediately after putting the mushrooms to soak in Step 1.  I enjoyed a more traditional soy-sauce-based-dipping-sauce. I threw my sauce together without a recipe, but Chris Kimball has a few good alternatives; e.g. here and here.  Overall, the dumplings were a big success; 4-1/2 stars. Delicious flavors, and the cutest dumplings I’ve ever seen.

Delicious but needs dumpling sauce

Delicious but needs dumpling sauce

Comments / Issues:

  1. The Chili oil recipe yielded about four times as much as necessary, so I modified the recipe (given below) to yield a more reasonable amount. The Chili oil is quite hot, so be careful if you have a delicate palate.
  2. Fortunately, I was able to use my 3-1/2″ biscuit cutter and still get two full-size cut-outs for each 5-1/2″ egg roll wrapper. The original recipe calls for a 3″ biscuit cutter (but I wanted to use the one I already had in my kitchen).
  3. My local Chinese take-out charges $6 for 8 dumplings, so my $12 work of dumplings would cost me $30. However, these are much cuter, and I am always suspicious of the ingredients my local Chinese restaurant uses.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12 for 42 dumplings.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The Chili Oil recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked both the Shu Mai and the Chili Oil today are given below:

Steamed Dumplings:
4 dried shiitake mushroom caps (3/4 ounce)
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs
1/2 pound shrimp
1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine or can substitute dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 package 5-1/2 inch egg roll wrappers (1 pound)
2 carrots

  1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Defrost shrimp, peel and remove vein. Cut eat shrimp in halved lengthwise. Cut the pork ribs into 1″ pieces. Chop the water chestnuts, and mince 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Finally, grate 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger. After the mushrooms have soaked for 30 minutes, squeeze then dry, and cut into then 1/4″ pieces.
  2. Add the soy sauce to a small bowl, sprinkle in the gelatin and let it bloom for 5 minutes. Finely grate carrots on the small holes of a box grater.
  3. Meanwhile, place half of pork cubes into a food processor and pulse ten 1-second pulses (should be ground into 1/8-inch pieces). Put ground pork in a large bowl.
  4. Add 1/2-lb shrimp and remaining pork to food processor and pulse five 1-second pulses (should be ground into 1/4-inch pieces). Add to the same bowl with other ground pork.
  5. Add soy sauce mixture, chopped water chestnuts, mushrooms, cornstarch, cilantro, sesame oil, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix until well combined.
  6. Use a 3-1/2″ biscuit cutter to cut two rounds from each egg roll wrapper. You can cut in stacks of 6 to 7 wrappers at a time. Cover rounds with moist paper towels to prevent them from drying out.
  7. Lay out 6 rounds at a time, brush the edges lightly with water. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling mixture in the center of each round. With each hand, lift opposite sides of wrapper and pinch to form two pleats. Rotate 90 degrees and pinch again to form two more pleats. Continue two more times until you have eight folds.
  8. Pick up the dumpling. Using your thumb and index finger (as if to form the OK sign, but with the Shu Mai in the middle) gently squeeze near the top of the dumpling to form a “waist.”
  9. Use your middle finger to support the bottom of the dumpling and pack down the filling using your other hand (or a butter knife). Place on a piece of parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Immediately cover with damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
  10. Place a small pinch of grated carrot on the center of each dumpling; mostly for appearance. I have also seen a single pea used.
  11. Cut a round piece of parchment slightly smaller than your dutch oven and poke 20 holes, and put it over your improvised steamer. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray. I had to cook the dumplings in two batches, to make sure that they don’t touch. Be careful because they will plump slightly during steaming. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes per batch. Serve immediately with chili oil.

Chili Oil:
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1-1/2 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1-1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt

  1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until it measure 300 degrees on and instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove pan from heat and stir in pepper flakes, garlic, soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar and table salt.
  3. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Discard garlic before serving.
Worth the effort

Worth the effort

Baked Sole Fillets with Herbs and Bread Crumbs

February 21, 2014

I love a nice thick fish fillet (see here, here, and here), but it’s really hit-or-miss if I can find fish that’s worth cooking. Much more common are those thin little fillets, like sole or flounder, but they can be unsatisfying. Today’s recipe rolls those ubiquitously available thin fillets into a delicious meal. The mild flavor of the fish is boosted by the butter, herbs and seasoned bread crumbs. The recipe bakes the fish in a slow oven, so it remains moist and delicate.  My only complaint is that the recipe calls for too much bread crumbs. While the bread crumbs are delicious, I found myself eating spoonfuls of leftover bread crumbs, they over-power the delicate flavor of the fish. My suggestion would be to only lightly cover the fish in step 7. Overall, 4-stars.

Sorry for the cell phone picture

Sorry for the cell phone picture


  1. If your store’s flounder fillets look better than the sole, they also work well in this recipe.
  2. Ideally your fillets should be of similar size. If using smaller fillets (about 3 ounces each), you will need 2 fillets per person. You will also need to reduce the baking time in step 5 to 20 minutes.
  3. Fresh basil or dill can be used in place of the tarragon.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $18.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Dinner time 5:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 lemon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, either minced or pressed through garlic press (2 teaspoons)
6 boneless, skinless sole fillets (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Lemon wedges (from zested lemon) for serving

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 325-degrees. Mince your parsley leaves, chives, and tarragon leaves and put them together in small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside 1 tablespoon herb mixture for bread crumbs. Mix in lemon zest into remaining herbs.
  2. Place an 8″ skillet over medium burner, add 4 tablespoons butter. When butter has just melted, press 1 clove garlic directly into skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until for 1 minutes. Set skillet aside, leaving garlic butter still in skillet.
  3. Use paper towels to pat fish dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. To prepare your fish, working with one filet at a time. Lay fish skinned side up with tail end pointing away from you. Spread 1/2 teaspoon Dijon onto each fillet, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon herb–lemon-zest mixture, and 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic butter. Roll fillets up tightly beginning with the thick end; forming cylinders. Arrange fillets seam side down in 13″x9″ baking dish.Repeat with remaining fillets.
  5. Drizzle the remaining garlic-butter over fillets, cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 325-degrees for 25 minutes. Wipe skillet out but don’t wash.
  6. While fillets are baking, add 1 tablespoon butter to now-empty skillet and melt over medium burner. Add 2/3 cup panko and cook for 6 to 7 minutes until crumbs become deeply golden brown, stirring frequently. Turn down burner to low, saute second clove of pressed garlic for 1 minute. Empty into a small bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool, then stir in reserved tablespoon herb mixture. Cut lemon into wedges for serving.
  7. After fillets have baked 25 minutes, remove baking dish from oven. Use a spoon to baste fillets with melted garlic butter from bottom of the baking dish, sprinkle with all but 3 tablespoons bread crumbs (use your judgement as to how much bread crumbs to add). Continue to bake for 6 to 10 minutes more, uncovered, until internal temperature reaches 135-degrees. Using thin metal spatula, move 1 to 2 fillets to each individual serving plates, sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Serve with lemon wedges.

Valentine’s Day Truffles

February 16, 2014

I made these truffles once before. While the cocoa powder coating was a disaster, my main complaint was the unbearable monotony of having 64 exactly-equal truffles. So this year for Valentine’s Day, I pulled out all the stops and made more than a dozen variations. They turned out beautiful, even though I sat home alone on Valentine’s Day (well, alone with my two sons). The variety started with two base fillings; (1) the chocolate ganache in the original recipe, and (2) a peanut butter filling. I formed both into round balls, and I describe below how I turned these two varieties into at least a dozen unique truffles. Overall, the truffles need to be made in two phases, (1) prepare the ganache/peanut butter balls (about 3 hours total), and (2) the final assembly (about 1-1/2 hours). The chocolate mixture needs at least 2 hours between the steps, and the peanut butter needs to freeze solid. Of course, they turned out to be a perfect 5-star.

A bucket of truffles

A bucket of truffles

It was important for me to try to make a lot of unique truffles. Here’s how I did it. For the chocolate ganache, I used to following techniques to make 10 different varieties.

  1. Cocoa powder coating.
  2. Rolled in chopped nuts.
  3. Dipped in Milk chocolate and placed on parchment paper to form round balls.
  4. Same at #3, but using Dark chocolate.
  5. Made cups, putting a dab of melted Milk and/or Dark Chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a small truffle, then another dab of chocolate.
  6. Same as #5, but top with some chopped nuts. Between #5 and #6 there were 4 difference variations.
  7. I used a toothpick to decorate some of the milk chocolate truffles with melted dark chocolate.

For the Peanut Butter, I used to following techniques to make 4 different varieties.

  1. Dipped in Milk chocolate and placed on parchment paper to form round balls.
  2. Same at #1, but using Dark chocolate.
  3. I made classic peanut butter cups, both with milk and dark chocolate.

Comments / Issues:

  1. Below there are three parts. I would recommend preparing the first three parts the night before you plan to do the finally assembly. The Peanut Butter balls especially need to be frozen solid of they will not slice. The next day, be sure to remove them from the freezer at the last-minute, and only in batches of about 7 to 8.
  2. Microwaving at 50% power on my counter-top microwave was not enough. I needed 80% power.
  3. The recipe says to use an 8″x8″ pan, yielding 64 pieces. I used a 7″x7″ pan and got 49 slightly-larger pieces. If you are using 1-1/2″ cups, then I would suggest the slightly larger size.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $20.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 12:00 PM. Dinner time 4:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Lightly spray a 7″-to-8″ square baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Prepare a parchment sling by folding 2 sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as the inside of baking dish. Arrange to two sheets of parchment perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Firmly push into corners and up sides of pan to that the parchment is flush to baking dish.
  2. Roughly chop the chocolate and put in a medium microwave proof bowl. Microwave at 50% power (or 80% for a counter-top microwave) for 2 to 3 minutes; stirring once or twice. The chocolate should be mostly melted, but there should remain a few small pieces of chocolate. Set aside.
  3. In a Pyrex measuring cup, microwave cream for 30 seconds until it is warm to touch. Add corn syrup, vanilla and the pinch of salt; stirring to combine. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit, without stirring, for 3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave butter for 20 second to soften and cut into 8 pieces.
  5. After 3 minutes, use a wooden spoon to combine cream into chocolate, then add small butter cubes one at a time, until everything becomes fully incorporated and smooth.
  6. Empty ganache into the prepared baking dish, and use a rubber spatula to even out. Allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
  7. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days)

Peanut Butter Filling:
16-to-18 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder for dusting your hands.

  1. Lightly spray a 4″x8″ loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Prepare a parchment sling by folding 2 sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as the inside of loaf pan. Arrange to two sheets of parchment perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Firmly push into corners and up sides of pan to that the parchment is flush to the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter, dry milk, and sugar until combined; you should have a stiff mixture.
  3. Empty peanut butter mixture into the prepared loaf pan, and use a rubber spatula to even out. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
  4. Grip overhanging parchment and lift to remove from loaf pan. Cut into thirty-two 1″ squares (8 rows by 4 rows).
  5. Keeping remaining squares as frozen as possible, work in batches of 8. Dust your hands in cocoa powder to prevent the peanut butter from sticking to your hands. Roll into round balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover balls with plastic wrap and freeze again for at least 2 hours. (I’m talking about cooking! lol)

Final Assembly:
1 pound Milk Chocolate
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1-1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (1/2 ounce)
1-1/2″ mini cup-cake liners
1 pound Bittersweet Chocolate

  1. Break milk chocolate into rough chunks, and melt in a bowl set over simmering water (later you will melt the dark chocolate in step 8).
  2. Prepare the coating by sifting the cocoa and sugar through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl. Sift again into a pie plate and set aside.
  3. Wipe out large bowl from previous step with paper towel, chop nuts, and place in the freshly wiped bowl. Set aside.
  4. Grip overhanging parchment and lift ganache. Cut into sixty-four 1″  squares (8 rows by 8 rows). If the ganache cracks while you are slicing, allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Use the dusting powder to cover your hands so that theganache doesn’t stick to your hands. Use your hands to roll each square into a round ball, re-applying dusting powder as necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands. I would suggest rolling in big circles between your hands. If at first they don’t roll, eventually the warmth from your hands will allow you to succeed.
    1. For those truffles that you want to coat in powder, transfer to pie plate and evenly cover with powder, then lightly shake to remove excess powder.
    2. For those truffles that you want to cover in nuts, more them around bowl with chopped nuts, pressing the nuts firmly
    3. For those truffles that you want for milk chocolate balls, drop in melted chocolate and fish out using a fork. Tilt to allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the pan, then transfer to parchment lined backing sheet. After you get about 6 to 8 balls, put them into freezer for 1 minute to set the chocolate.
    4. If some of your squares of ganache are small, then make in mini cup cake wrapper. Put a dab of melted Chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a small ganache ball, then another dab of chocolate to top. Sprinkle some of them with left-over chopped nuts.
  6. Working in batches of 6 to 8 peanut butter balls, cut those that you want to make into peanut butter cups in half, and leave the remaining peanut butter balls un-sliced.
    1. For those truffles that you want for milk chocolate peanut butter balls, drop in melted chocolate and fish out using a fork. Tilt to allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the pan, then transfer to parchment lined backing sheet. After you get about 6 to 8 balls, put them into freezer for 1 minute to set the chocolate.
    2. For those truffles that you want peanut butter cups; Put a dab of melted chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a half-ball with the flat side upward. Add another dab of chocolate to top, and smooth so that the top is flat. I would suggest doing the peanut butter cups last, so that you know how much extra chocolate you have. That will dictate how full you fill the cups.
  7. Return all unused peanut butter balls to the freezer.
  8. Break dark chocolate into rough chunks, and melt in a same bowl containing the remaining milk chocolate. Continue to simmer pot of water, ensuring that the water doesn’t boil.
  9. As the dark chocolate melts, dip the tip of a toothpick into the melted dark chocolate and draw some designed some of the finished milk chocolate truffles; especially 5.3 and 5.4 (nut-less).
  10. Assemble the remaining truffles as you did in step 5 and 6, saving the peanut butter cups until last (and fill to a level based upon available chocolate).
  11. Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Mango, Orange, and Jícama Salad

February 14, 2014

A nicely balanced, Latin-themed fruit salad. The simple flavor of the jícama nicely contrasts with the sweetness of the mango and orange. Simple to make. Unfortunately, I don’t think that my sugar transformed into a thick enough syrup. Keep cooking until it forms a thick syrup. Simple. 3-1/2 stars.

The finished salad

The finished salad


  1. The recipe makes a lot more than just a side dish. As a side dish, 5 people at about half the salad.
  2. One of my mangos looked ripe on the outside, but was not sweet on the inside. Fortunately, my other mango was deliciously sweet and made up for it.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium/Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 5:15 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
12 ounces jícama
2 mangos
2 oranges

  1. Peel the jícama, and cut into 1/4″ dice (should yield 1-1/2 cups).
  2. In small saucepan, add the 3 tablespoons sugar, lime zest and juice, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, a pinch salt. Put over medium burner and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar dissolves; stirring constantly. Remove pan from burner, stir in jícama to coat, and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the mangos, removing pit, and cut into 1/2″ dice (should yield about 4 cups). Add to a large serving bowl. Peel your oranges and cut away the pith. Slice into 1/2″ thick rounds and then into 1/2″ dice. Add to bowl with diced mango.
  4. After the syrup has cooled for 20 minutes, pour over fruit in serving bowl and toss until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes prior to serving.

Shredded Beef Tacos (Carne Deshebrada)

February 7, 2014

For years I’ve been complaining about Chris Kimball’s lack of steak tacos. Instead, he mostly has recipes for chicken tacos (see here and here). So I was pleased to see that the new March/April includes Shredded Beef Tacos, as I have been making my own simple steak tacos. Overall, Chris Kimball’s tacos are delicious, and he uses a few great techniques. He uses a bottle of bear and cider vinegar as the braising liquid. He uses whole chilis instead of lackluster chili powder. Chris Kimball also skips the traditional browning of the beef on the stovetop in favor browning in the oven (at end of step 2). Unfortunately, the recipe costs and astonishing $34, and the cabbage/carrot slaw is a lot of extra complexity for just a little payoff. Most of the extra cost was from using $8/lb boneless ribs instead of $3-to$4/lb chuck. Also, I found the clove/cinnamon too strong, though not so much so that it ruined the dish. Overall, I doubt that I will make these tacos again exactly as given, but there are a lot of improvements here that I will adopt. 4-stars.

Final tacos are delicious

Final tacos are delicious

Comments / Issues:

  1. While I paid $24 for 3-lbs of boneless beef, I could have paid just $12 for chuck. And truthfully, looking at the beef I think that my butcher was using  meat from the first few ribs (i.e. the chuck section). Chris Kimball wants to use rib meat to boost the beefiness, but if $34 seems to much to spend, then you can easily substitute a nice chuck roast. Especially if you use the cloves/cinnamon then I doubt you will notice the difference.
  2. The recipe calls for queso fresco (fresh cheese), which is traditional for Mexican tacos. My supermarket doesn’t carry queso fresco, so I had to import my queso from the Bronx. Chris Kimball says to substitute feta, but I think I would prefer to substitute a non-traditional Monterrey Jack and/or sour cream.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use a fine mesh strainer and a 2-cup measuring cup in step 6. I used a fat separator, which was much more efficient than skimming the fat from the measuring cup using a spoon.
  4. Leftover beef can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and you should gently reheat before serving, being careful not to dry out the meat.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $34.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30 PM. Game time 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Beef Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 ounces (4 to 6) dried ancho chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion
3-lbs boneless beef short ribs
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
Lime wedges

  1. Lightly crush your 6 garlic cloves and peel. Remove and discard the stem and seeds from your dried ancho chiles and tear into 1″ pieces. Slice your onion into 1/2″-thick rounds. Trim away any excess fat from your beef and cut into 2″ cubes.
  2. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. In a Dutch oven, add bottle of beer, 1/2-cup vinegar, ancho peppers, tomato paste, crushed garlic, 3 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Set out onion rounds into a single layer on bottom of pot, which will keep the meat elevated. Arrange the beef on top of onion in single layer.
  3. Cover your Dutch Oven and bake at 325-degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
  4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the cabbage-carrot slaw; see recipe below.
  5. When the meat is browned and tender, remove the beef using a slotted spoon and set in a large bowl. Loosely tend with aluminum foil.
  6. Empty pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Do not wash pot. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and onions. Put the remaining solids into a blender. Allow liquid to settle for 5-minutes so that the far rises to the surface. Add de-fatted liquid to blender, supplementing with water so that you are adding a full 1 cup.  Blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Add sauce back to the empty pot.
  7. Use two forks to shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Once the beef is cool enough to handle you can shred with your hands.
  8. Bring the sauce up to a simmer over a medium burner, add shredded beef and mix to ensure evenly coated. Adjust salt according to your taste.
  9. Finish making the cabbage/carrot cole slaw, see step 3 below. Warm your tortillas in the microwave. Crumble the queso fresco onto a serving small platter, and slice a lime into wedges.
  10. Spoon beef mixture onto tortillas, topping as desired with cabbage slaw, queso fresco and lime juice.

Cabbage/Carrot Slaw Ingredients:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 head thinly slice green cabbage (6 cups)
1 onion
1 large carrot
1 jalapeño chile
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. While the beef cooks, prepare the cole slaw. In a large bowl, add 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Whisk until dissolved.
  2. Prepare your vegetables adding to the vinegar mixture as you go. Slice the cabbage in half, remove the core, and slice thinly. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Peel the carrot and shred. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeno, and mince. Toss to cover everything in vinegar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but up to 24 hours).
  3. Drain cole slaw and mix in chopped cilantro just before serving.

Superbowl Chili Cheese Pigs-in-a-Blanket

February 3, 2014

Admittedly it was a crazy idea. As this was the closest I’ve ever been to a Superbowl; 15 miles; I wanted to make traditional Superbowl fare to share with my two sons. I was torn between (A) chili cheese dogs, and (B) pigs in a blanket. Then one of my sons suggested that I make both; so (C) was obviously a combination of A and B. I already had some leftover 4-1/2 star ground beef chili, so it was just adding my existing 3-1/2 star Pigs-in-a-Blanket recipe instead of using regular hot dog buns. The results, were just 3-stars, but Superbowl Food is seldom delicious, and with just my two sons and myself, today is more about football than food.

Not a typo. Chili Cheese Pigs in a Blanket.

Not a typo. Chili Cheese Pigs in a Blanket.

Of course, Chris Kimball doesn’t have a recipe for pigs-in-a-blanket. While I used my standard recipe, the dough turned out to be too sweet. The sweetness did not compliment the chili. I’ve modified the recipe below, in case I ever decide to make them again.

While I’ve never “lived” in Seattle, I did have a Washington State Id Card with my sister’s Seattle address, though I was traveling the world for about 5 years. Eventually I settled down to New Jersey, about 10 miles from the location of the Superbowl. So I was pleased with the outcome, though would have enjoyed a closer game.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:30 PM. Game time 6:30 PM.

Not surprisingly, Chris Kimball doesn’t have a recipe for PIBs. Here are the descriptions of how I cooked them today. Below is the modified recipe so that the dough is less sweet, because of the added chili:

1 Tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg
3 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
3-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages of hot dogs
10 slices American cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, then immediately turn it off. If you have a warm kitchen, the you can just proof the dough on your countertop.
  2. Heat the water/milk in pyrex measuring cup for 55 seconds in microwave, until liquid reaches 110 degrees. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar, stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Finally, add shortening (or butter) and mix in egg.
  3. Add flour and salt to bowl of standing mixer. With standing mixer on lowest setting (equipped with a dough hook), slowly add liquid ingredients until roughly combined; about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high (setting 6 on a KitchenAide) and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stray large bowl with kitchen spray. Add dough and turn once to grease top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm but turned off oven until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove dough from oven and pre-heat the oven for at least 10 minutes to 350-degrees.
  6. Place hot dogs on wire rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet. Pre-bake plain hot dogs (without breading) for 10 minutes at 350-degrees. Let cool briefly and dry with paper towels. Discard foil and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Gently empty dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 even halves (one per package). If only making one package of hot dogs today, tightly wrap one half of the dough in plastic wrap, then place in plastic shopping bag and place in refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  8. On a floured counter roll out half the dough into a large rectangle, measuring so that the dough extends 3″ longer than your hot dogs. Use a paring knife to cut into approximate size.  Lay out hot dog on edge of dough, then set the cheese alongside. Add chili along the length of the hot dog (see photo below). Wrap each hot dog a place seem-side down on prepared baking sheet.
  9. Allow to rise for 30 minutes or refrigerator for up to one day before baking. Bake at 350-degrees for 17 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Makes enough dough for 10 to 12 chili cheese pigs-in-a-blanket or two packages of chili-less hot dogs.

Easier Fried Chicken

February 1, 2014

While my kids love fried chicken, I hate having to deal with the 5 cups of leftover oil. The 1-3/4 cups of oil used in this recipe is not enough to cook the chicken evenly, but it is enough to create a wonderfully crispy exterior.  Once the chicken is crispy, the chicken finishes cooking in a 400-degree oven. As an added benefit, while the chicken bakes a lot of the excess oil from frying drained away into the baking sheet. The results are crispy and less greasy than typical fried chicken. The only slight drawback is the coating on the bottom chicken becomes a little soggy as some of the chicken juices come out during baking. 4-stars.

Uses only 1-3/4 cups of oil

Uses only 1-3/4 cups of oil

If you have a splatter-screen, be sure to use it during frying. While the chicken is well seasoned, next time I will kick up the spices a little. I like it spicy.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $6 for 3-1/2 pounds.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3-1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
Table salt
dash hot sauce
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-3/4 cups vegetable oil

  1. Trim away any excess fat, and cut breasts in half so that they are roughly the same size as the rest of the chicken pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, add 1 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon salt, dash of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and pinch of cayenne. Whisk until combined, and add chicken. Turn until entirely coated. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to brine in refrigerator for 1 hour (or up to overnight).
  3. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees.
  4. In a medium bowl, add 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Whisk to combine. Add 1/4 cup buttermilk and combine using your hands until you get small clumps.
  5. One piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mix and press onto chicken so that you get a thick, even coating. Set chicken skin-side up on a large place and repeat dredging with remaining chicken.
  6. In an 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven, add 1-3/4 cups vegetable oil, set it over a medium-high burner and heat until the oil reaches 375-degrees. Place chicken in oil with the skin-side down and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Flip and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the second side becomes golden brown. Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and put a wire on top.
  7. When chicken has browned, move to wire rack/baking sheet, and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken reaches its final temperature; 160 for breasts, and 175-degrees for legs and thighs. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.

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