Last Saturday I posted my Daring Cooks Challenge dishes with promises that I would post this very manly recipe and another dish this week. For this part of the challenge my mandatory ingredients I selected were: Instant coffee, cauliflower and goat cheese.
The goat cheese and cauliflower were a perfect foil for the rich rib eye, the flavor was slightly pungent with plenty of garlic. Now the steak, let me just share with you some comments made by McGyver.
Our Daring Cooks challenge this month was more like a scene from “Chopped”, contestants, open your baskets.
In basket 1 you have Parsnips, Eggplant, and Cauliflower
In basket 2 you have Balsamic Vinegar, Goat cheese and chipotle peppers
In basket 3 you have maple syrup, instant coffee, and bananas
The challenge was to pick one ingredient from each list and create a main meal from them. The challenge this month is hosted by David and Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. The purpose behind this challenge was NOT to have a “Chopped” challenge, it was to inspire original…truly original recipes from a set of ingredients.
I think I may have over done this month’s Daring Cook’s Challenge! Carolyn, a non-blogger participant of The Daring Cooks challenged us this month to “Brave the Braise”. Carolyn shared with us what braising is:
Traditional cooking methods may be classed as how heat is conducted through the food. First is moist heat (poaching, simmering, steaming or boiling) where heat is conducted through some sort of liquid; be it stock, sauces or steam. The second method is dry heat (roasting, baking, broiling, sautéing, pan frying) where heat is conducted by hot air, radiation or hot fat. Different methods are suited for different kinds of food. Braising, from the French “braiser”, offers us a combination cooking method – dry heat followed by moist heat. Typically, meat is seared in hot fat which helps to add flavor and aromas, improves color (browning), and texture (crust). It is then submerged in liquid and cooked slowly and gently at low heat. In a nut-shell that’s it! It should be noted that there are endless variations for braising including stove-top versus oven; partially submerged in liquid or completely submerged; or stews where there are many ingredients that are cut into smaller pieces.
Braising has several advantages over other cooking methods in that it provides for uniform cooking when done in an oven with heat coming from all sides instead of just the bottom of the pan as well it requires less attention as it’s cooked at a slow and steady temperature for longer periods. Other advantages are that it clears the stove top for other preparations, the dish may be prepared in advance and the flavor improves over time!
Carolyn also provided us with several recipes for inspiration. One of which has been raved about all over the blogosphere is Braised Short Ribs. It’s the first time I’ve made them and I see why everyone adores them! You can get the recipe here.
No, I’m not having any holiday confusion. I know it’s St. Valentine’s Day but it is also The Daring Cooks challenge for this month…patties! Get it…Saint Valentine’s Day, Patties…heart shaped patty? The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!
Way back in the 70’s when I was a little girl, not much shorter than I am now, my parents used to take my sister and I out to dinner. Sometimes it was Shakey’s pizza, or maybe a burger joint but every now and then they would take us out for Chinese. Going out for Chinese was fine dining in my little girls eyes.
The Chinese restaurants that I remembered were exotic and wonderful. At the entrance, on either side of the door, you would commonly find giant sized golden dragons or maybe Buddha’s to greet you. An indication of the riches you were going to find inside. We would always be met by some little old Chinese lady, (I’m pretty confident she was Chinese, back in the 70’s Chinese people worked in Chinese restaurants, now it’s a ‘fusion’). Then we would be escorted to a beautiful high glossed cherry wood table. The table would invariable be outfitted with a built in lazy-Susan, can you believe that…built in. Spin, spin, oops there goes the soy sauce.
My eyes danced around the room, soaking in Chinese art of dragons, maidens and koi all gilded in gold. Lanterns with red tassels hung from the ceiling, everything seemed so rich and wonderful. I could have sat at the table all day fantasizing about what its like to live in China.
Each place setting had a paper place mat, you know the one with the Chinese zodiac. I’d search out my birth year hoping that I wouldn’t be anything gross like a rat or a snake! In case you’re interested I turned out to be a snake, sounds very uncomplimentary. It’s not all bad though:
Characteristics: philosophical, organized, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive…and this cracked me up: Women under the sign of the snake do well in housework but are irritable (Source).
My parents would drool and slurp over the menu. Ultimately we would get number something, the family meal for four. Pretty standard, egg rolls, egg drop soup, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and some kind of stir fry vegetable all served family style. In addition to our family meal my parents always ordered the Chinese barbeque pork (Char Siu). It would arrive thinly sliced on a plate with a trio of condiments in a small saucer: Chinese hot mustard, ketchup and sesame seeds. As you can tell, I grew up with very fond memories of Chinese food and of Char Siu.
Many years have gone by and it seems that my childhood Chinese dining style experience is more difficult to come by. Rather its been replaced with buffets and take-outs. I had to resort to learning to make it at home, one of the things I made at home was Char Siu, but I used a packet mix (this is straight from my pantry).
You can only imagine my excitement when I found out what the Daring Cooks challenge this month was,. Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!
It was a balmy38°F, here so I actually went out and grilled…it snowed the very next day. I was lucky to sneak in one last grill time.
Knowing how much my family loves Char Siu, I doubled the recipe, I was sure that we would get a little piggy with it, plus I wanted to freeze some. In the spirit of my childhood days, I also made Pork Fried Rice, with the Char Siu. Plus we had some sweet and sour chicken (not pictured), it was a frozen P.F. Chang package, it was surprisingly good.
I did not grow up eating Char Siu Bao, truthfully, I hadn’t really experienced them until 7 or 8 years ago when McGyver took me out for Dim Sum for the first time. It was love at first taste, the steamed buns were these wonderful soft pillows of dough stuffed with a barbeque pork mixture. While we lived in the Saint Louis area I got to enjoy these babies on a regular basis.
Now that we have located to the Northern tundra which happens to be the 22nd coldest city in the United States (true fact just found out today), there isn’t a Dim Sum place any where nearby. There may not be one in all of Montana for all I know. This challenge was a perfect opportunity for me to learn to make my own.
The Char Siu part was a breeze to prepare and cook but I have to confess that I had some trouble with the dough for the Char Siu Bao. My first batch was way to dry and tough. I let it rise anyways and gave it a go, but it just wasn’t working like it should. I redid the dough, the second time using only 2 1/2 cups of flour versus the 3 cups the recipe called for..ahhh perfection! No worries though, I fried the other dough and put some powdered sugar on it and viola, dessert.
Chinese Pick-up Sticks
Wednesday is also the day that I post a black and white food related photo. This week, to go along with my post, I did a still of Chinese chopsticks. The way they are arranged reminded me of the children’s game called ‘Pick-up Sticks’. Because I can’t resist a great pun, I titled the photo “Chinese Pick’-up Sticks”. I know, I’m killin’ you! If you are interested in seeing more culinary black and white photos or participating, head over to my hostess Susan’s site, The Well Seasoned Cook.
Note: The recipes below are the ones that were provided us, the few changes I made are in red.
1 pork fillet/tenderloin (roughly 1-1.5 pounds)
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon (3 gm) ginger, grated
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 ½ tablespoons maltose (you can substitute honey)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
½ teaspoon (2 gm) ground white pepper
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon (2 gm) five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil ½ teaspoonpillar boxfew drops ofDuff red food coloring
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)
Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. By cutting the pork in to smaller pieces to marinate you will end up with more flavor some char sui. If you want to leave the pork in one piece you can do this as well. Place in container that you will be marinating them in (I used a zipper lock bag).
Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. I placed my maltose in the microwave for a few seconds to make it easier to work with. Maltose is quite a solid hard sticky substance.
Cover pork well with ⅔all of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, I find it is best left to marinate overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork (I used the marinade left in the bag).
For all methods, let pork rest before slicing it.
Cooking Method 1 – Oven
Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place on top of this a rack on which to cook the pork. Place pork on the rack and place in oven. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, basting and turning. Turn the heat up to moderately hot 200˚C/400°F/gas mark 6 for the final 20 minutes as this will aid the charring. Cook until cooked through.
Cooking Method 2 – Seared in pan & then into the oven
Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place on top of this a rack on which to cook the pork. Place pork in a hot frying pan or wok. Sear it quickly so it is well browned. Remove from pan/wok and place pork on the rack and place in oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, basting and turning until cooked through.
Cooking Method 3 – BBQ
Place marinated pork loin on the grill of your BBQ, Cook on a medium heat, approximately 15 minutes, until cooked through. Be careful to watch that you don’t burn the pork. (The last 5 minutes I turned my grill on high, marinated and turned the pork repeatedly until I got a nice char.)
1 cup milk, scalded
¼ cup (60 gm/2 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon oil
¼ teaspoon (2 gm) salt
2½ teaspoons (8 gm/1 satchel) of dried yeast
3 cups (420 gm/15 oz) plain flour (I used 2 1/2 cups) (1 cup=240 ml, 1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan. Sauté the shallots for one or two minutes until soft. Add diced char sui to the wok/pan and stir. Add oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for one minute. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.
Scald milk and then stir in sugar, oil and salt, leave to cool until it is lukewarm. Once it is the right temperature add yeast, leave until yeast is activated and it becomes frothy, about 10 – 15 minutes. Sift flour in to a large bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 – 2 hours depending on weather conditions. Punch down dough and divide in to 20 equal portions. Roll each dough portion in to a 7 – 8cm (2¾ – 3 ¼ inches) round. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre of the round, gather the edges together at the top and place on a 8cm (3 inch) square of baking paper. Repeat until all dough has been used. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
Place buns in bamboo steamer, leaving space between the buns. Heat water in a wok until it is simmering and place steamers one on top of each other in the wok. Place lid on top bamboo steamer and steam for approximately 12 minutes.
When it comes to cooking, I pretty much just cook the everyday stuff. The typical American hodge podge, melting pot of meals. I cook Mexican/TexMex but don’t make my own tortillas. I cook Italian but I don’t make my own pasta. I cook French but don’t make fancy pastries. I cook German but don’t make my own sauerkraut. I cook this and that but I tend to shy away from things that I perceive complicated/above my skill level. In other words I’m a chicken in the kitchen (and kinda lazy too).
(Pictured are all teas that I have in my pantry, including the roses. The roses are a tea that I purchased in Chinatown, San Francisco.)
Which is why I’ve avoided Daring Kitchen’s Daring Cook’s Challenges. Till now. It’s time that I stopped reading them on other blogs and started doing them myself. I’m a commitment gal, if I sign-up to do something or promise to do something I do it (unless it’s too myself, read: diet and exercise). I know myself and I knew if I signed up for a challenge, I would attempt it regardless of how chicken I might feel about it.
Talk about an interesting first challenge! Sarah provided us recipes for Chinese Tea Eggs, Green Tea Soup and Beef stew (made with Rooibos tea). I was absolutely fascinated with the Chinese Tea Eggs. The seeped eggs were so unique looking, they reminded me of a stained glass. I had great success making them, it was really quite simple. I was amazed at how subtle the tea flavor was and how the Chinese 5-spice really shined through. I could have easily gobbled all of them.
I wanted to make the Green Tea Soup also but my family isn’t too keen on tofu. Soup was still on my mind, I remembered I had made a fresh Miki Soup several months ago that we all loved. I took the basis of that recipe and turned a traditional Filipino soup into a Chinese/Filipino fusion. The basis for my broth was ginger tea that I simmered with chicken and shrimp shells. Bok Choy was used for color and crunch, fish sauce was added to intensify the flavor. The finishing touch, was of course, a Chinese Tea Egg quarter.
I thought that something crunchy would be a nice accompaniment, well actually I had some left over wonton wrappers that I needed to use… a crunchy side was still a great idea. Here’s where I got creative…daring even, all on my own. No copy cat Chinese Tea Egg, no inspiration from another soup, just my own little brain cells firing away. This was a tea challenge and I wanted to incorporate tea in every aspect. Enter tea salt, you read that right, tea salt.
Here’s how my brain works: A while back I watched chopped, rose petals were part of the challenge. The contestant nuked the rose petals (to dry them), turned them into a powder, mixed it with salt = rose salt. I have tea that is made of roses. I didn’t want rose salt but I did want salt on my wonton chips. Tea is already dried. I put white tea and salt in a mini-processor and whirred them together = tea salt.
Nothing short of brilliant and daring! The wonton chips were certainly the big hit of the meal, so good that by the next day we had snacked on them until they were gone. I thought that it was interesting how tea salt looked like salt and pepper on the wonton’s, very appetizing along with being tasty.
I did discover that fresh Chinese noodles do not hold as well in broth as fresh Miki noodles which are considerably thicker. I cooked the noodles in the broth, however after a few hours in the soup they disintegrated into mush. I have adjusted my recipe to cook the noodles on the side and put them in the bowl then to pour the soup over the top to maintain the integrity of the noodles. Unfortunately I had to toss all of our leftovers, the texture was too unpalatable. But isn’t that what challenges are about? Learning.
6 eggs (any size)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (6 gm) black tea leaves, or 4 tea bags
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon (5 ml) (3 gm) coarse grain salt
toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
In a large enough pot to avoid overcrowding, cover the eggs with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for twelve minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and keep the cooking water. With a spoon, tap the eggs all over until they are covered with small cracks. This can also be done by tapping and rolling the eggs very gently on the counter.
Return the eggs to the pan and add the tea leaves or bags, Chinese five spice powder, and salt. Cover the pan. Heat gently and simmer, covered, for one hour. Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs cool down in the liquid for 30 minutes. Remove the eggs from the liquid. Peel one egg to check how dark it is; the others can be returned to the liquid if you wish to have the web-like pattern darker. Allow the eggs to cool fully.
To serve, peel and slice the eggs in halves or quarters. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Ginger Tea Soup with Chinese Noodles
1 (9 oz.) package fresh Chinese noodles
8 cups water
12 to 18 shrimp, peeled (shells reserved)
2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oil
1 head bok choy, chopped (stalk and greens separated)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 head garlic, minced
5 to 6 green onions, chopped (whites and greens separated)
1/2 cup fish sauce
3 to 4 ginger tea bags
Salt and pepper to taste
Chinese Tea Eggs, quartered (see recipe above)
To make broth: In a large pot bring to a boil chicken, shrimp shells and water. Turn down to a simmer, add tea bags (I used 4). Simmer until chicken breast is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Drain broth, shred chicken breast, discard shells and tea bags. Reserve the broth.
Using the same large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until onion is tender and transluscent. Add bok choy stems and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add chicken, broth and fish sauce, bring to a gentle boil. Add bok choy greens and shrimp, cook until shrimp is done, about 3 minutes (they will turn pink). Salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate pot, bring some water to a boil, add Chinese noodles, cook for 3 minutes. Drain noodles. To serve soup, place some noodles in a bowl, ladle soup over noodles. Garnish with Chinese Tea Egg quarter and green onion tops.
Wonton Chips with White Tea Salt
Packaged wonton wrappers
1 bag white tea
2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Canola oil for frying.
To make tea salt: cut open tea bag and remove tea, mix with salt. Run tea/salt mixture through a spice grinder or processor.
In a deep pan heat oil until it reaches 350°F. Cut wontons in half diagonally. Fry wontons approximately 15 seconds on each side, drain on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle tea salt over wontons. Store in an air tight container.