Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ginger Scallion Lobster Buns


This past Labor Day I went on a road trip to Portland, ME with two of my favorite people in the world.  I insisted that we go to Eventide Oyster Co. since I was still dreaming about their lobster rolls from my trip 2 years ago.  This time the Hollandaise lobster roll had been replaced on their menu by a ginger scallion version, which I just had to try, along with my favorite from last time, the brown butter lobster roll.


I took a bite of the ginger scallion lobster roll first and decided right then and there that it was my favorite lobster roll ever, until I took a bite of the brown butter one.  Both were just so good in their own special way!  I knew I had to try to recreate the ginger scallion lobster roll at home, and this time, I was going to make my own steamed buns.  I used my mom's recipe for making hua juan except I omitted the sesame scallion glaze and just shaped the rolls by rolling the dough into a long snake and cutting them into about 5" logs.  I also made some hua juan to use for buns since I figured it was in the same flavor profile.

After trying both, I really preferred the sandwiches made with the hua juan.  They're just so pretty, and the added flavor and texture really complements the ginger scallion lobster well.  You can also just use store bought steamed buns, but I guarantee that the fresh made ones will be better than anything you can get from a store.


Ginger Scallion Lobster Buns
serves 4-6

3 1.5 lb lobsters, steamed
3/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 hua juan or steamed buns

Remove the meat from from the claws, knuckles, and tail of the lobsters.  Chop or tear into small pieces and mix with the scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and salt.

Slice the hua juan or steamed buns in half, leaving one side attached.  Fill the buns with the ginger scallion lobster salad and enjoy!


Previously:  Taiwanese Taro Swirl Mooncakes
Last Year:  Lobster Bisque

Monday, September 8, 2014

Taiwanese Taro Swirl Mooncakes


Today is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, which to me means mooncakes!  Most of my life, when I thought of a mooncake, I pictured a heavy, rich pastry filled with red bean or lotus seed paste and maybe a salted egg yolk inside.  They're good, but you can only eat a couple of bites before it gets to be too much.  Then I discovered Taiwan's version:  light, flaky layers of pastry wrapped around sweetened taro root paste.  Not only are they delicious, they're really gorgeous!

I never imagined they'd be something I could make at home, but then I came across a few recipes and just had to try.  Some of the recipes use unsalted butter or shortening in the dough and/or taro paste, but I personally like the subtle coconut flavor you get from using coconut oil so I used that instead.  Note:  This took way longer than I thought it would take to make.  I made the taro paste the day before, and it still took me over 3 hours to make the mooncakes the day of.


Taiwanese Taro Swirl Mooncakes (adapted from The 350 Degree Oven)
makes 20 pastries

For the taro paste:
2 lb. taro root
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil

For the white dough:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons coconut oil

For the purple dough:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons oil
Purple food coloring

Peel and cube the taro.  Steam for about 30-40 minutes until the taro is fork tender.  Use a ricer or mash the taro into a paste.  Mix with the the salt, sugar, and coconut oil.  Set aside to cool.


Sift together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt for the white dough in a medium bowl.  Add the coconut oil and 1/4 cup of water.  Stir and add more water if necessary, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.  Knead for a few minutes until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt for the purple dough.  Add the oil and a few drops of purple food coloring.  Add more food coloring as necessary to get a pale but noticeably purple dough.  (I used a gel food coloring, and for some reason it never really spread very well throughout the dough and mostly stayed in little specks.)  This dough will look and act more like wet sand than pastry dough.

Divide both doughs into 10 pieces and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to rest and chill slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.


Roll one of the balls of white dough into a rough circle and wrap it around a ball of the purple dough, sealing it completely.  Roll the combined dough into a long oval and then roll it up into a spiral.  With the seam on the bottom, rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll out again into a long rectangle.  Roll the rectangle up into a spiral again and slice in half.  You'll now have two pieces of dough with beautiful spirals showing on the cut sides.


Place the cut side down and flatten the dough with your hands.  Roll out into a rough circle.  It's okay if the layers tear a little through this whole process.  Take a spoonful of the taro paste and place it in the center of the dough.  Gently pull the dough upward and around the paste to seal it inside.  Don't worry if the edges don't seal all the way; the dough doesn't stick to itself very easily.  Flip the ball over and gently reshape so that the spiral is centered on top and the bottom is slightly flattened.


Place on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before eating.


I ended up with a lot of leftover taro paste, so I used it to make a taro swirled Hokkaido milk bread (upcoming post).


Next:  Ginger Scallion Lobster Buns
Previously:  Thomas Keller's Caramelized Scallops
Last Year:  Ramen Lobster Rolls

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thomas Keller's Caramelized Scallops


The first time I made these, it was because one of my friends really, really wanted to make something from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook with me.  I picked the caramelized scallops because I've always wanted to learn how to make those beautiful seared scallops you always see TV and it was probably one of the simplest recipes in the book.

Keller's recipe uses size U7 scallops, which means there are 7 scallops per pound.  Those are some ridiculously big scallops.  I asked for the 7 largest scallops at my local grocery store, and they only weighed a little more than half a pound.  =(

To account for the differences in size, I adapted his recipe by decreasing the brine and cooking time slightly.  I also changed the ratio of hot to cold water since I found that I had a hard time getting the salt to dissolve in the amount of hot water specified.  If you can find U7 scallops, bravo.  For the rest of us sad souls, here's how to make normal sized caramelized scallops.


Thomas Keller's Caramelized Scallops (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
serves 2

1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup hot water
1 cold water
12 of the largest sea scallops you can find (about a pound)
About 2 tablespoons clarified butter
1/2 lemon (optional)

Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the salt with the hot water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water and refrigerate until cold.


Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 8 minutes (no longer, or the scallops may become too salty). Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels.


Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.)


Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook the scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.) Cook, without moving the scallops, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side.


Transfer the scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.

Previously: Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
Last Year:  Brown Butter Vinaigrette Lobster Buns

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)

When I used to have to go to the Upper East Side for work, I loved going to this little sliver of an Italian restaurant called Tre Otto.  I always ordered the melanzane alla parmigiana, which was actually an appetizer, but quite filling with their awesome bread.  It wasn't the usual eggplant parmesan with fried, breaded eggplants cutlets (although an eggplant parm sub is my go to order at  pizza/deli joints); this was layers of delicate eggplant, fresh basil, and the most delicious tomato sauce topped with fresh mozzarella and baked to perfection.  Sadly, I no longer go to New York for work, and apparently Tre Otto is no more, but luckily, I've been able to recreate the dish at home!


Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
serves 2 

1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.)
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
28-oz. can of San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly


Slice the eggplant into 1/4"-1/2"slices, either lengthwise or crosswise, whatever will best fit into your baking dish.  Place the slices on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet or on paper towels and lightly salt on both sides.  Set aside while you start the tomato sauce.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and cook for minute or two, until softened but not browned.  Add the tomatoes with their juices (I like to use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes up in the can before adding them) and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer while you cook the eggplant, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.


By now, the eggplant slices should have started to sweat.  Rinse under cold water and pat dry.  Add enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat on medium-high.  Add only enough eggplant slices to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer.  Brush the top of the eggplant slices with olive oil while they are cooking.  Cook each side for a couple of minutes until soft and cooked through.


By now the tomato sauce should be almost done.  Stir and few times and mash any leftover big pieces of tomato.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Stir the chopped basil into the tomato sauce and remove from heat.


Lightly brush the bottom of a small baking dish or two individual sized ramekins with olive oil.  Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then add a layer of eggplant, a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese, and a layer of fresh mozzarella.


Repeat layers, finishing with a layer of tomato sauce and cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving with some crusty bread.


You may have leftover sauce and/or mozzarella cheese, which would be perfect for making a margherita pizza!

Next:  Thomas Keller's Caramelized Scallops
Previously:  Salt and Pepper Tofu

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Salt and Pepper Tofu


The picture above probably doesn't look that impressive, but that there was the best tofu I've ever had in the Western Hemisphere.  It's the salt and pepper tofu from Northwest Tofu, which my friend Mitchell recommended to me the last time I was in Seattle.  It's a simple enough dish--tofu dusted with starch, salt, and pepper and then deep fried--but that description barely does it justice.  The crust is super thin and light, but full of crispy texture and perfectly seasoned.  The tofu itself is so soft and custardy it pretty much melts in your mouth.


I tried to recreate the dish at home using firm silken tofu, cornstarch, and finely ground Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt.  I think it turned out pretty well for my first attempt, but the coating got a little thicker than I wanted, and the tofu was firmer than I remember the original being.  I can't imagine trying to keep a cube of soft silken tofu intact through the coating and frying phases though; the firm tofu was already breaking up a bit even though I was trying to be very careful.  That said, I think my version was still really tasty.  =)  Next time I might try using tapioca flour or potato starch instead of cornstarch just to see if that ends up being closer to what I remember.


Salt and Pepper Tofu
serves 1-2

12 oz. package of firm silken tofu
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sea salt, finely ground
1 teaspoon Sichuan or black peppercorns, finely ground
Vegetable oil, for frying

Pat the tofu dry with paper towels.  Cut into 1" cubes.

Mix together the cornstarch, salt, and ground pepper.  Pour enough oil into a saucepan to reach 1" depth and heat over medium high.  The oil is ready for frying when it reaches 350°F or bubbles start to form when you dip a wooden utensil in the oil. 

Working in small batches, carefully coat the tofu cubes in a thin layer of the cornstarch mixture, the thinner the better.  Fry the tofu, turning after a minute or so, until all sides are a pale, golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels.  Serve immediately.


Next:  Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
Previously:  Crispy Skinned Salmon Teriyaki
Last Year:  Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crispy Skinned Salmon Teriyaki

The other best meal I've had in my life (besides lunch at L'Arpège) was at Eric Ripert's Blue at the Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman.  I ordered the tasting menu, and course after course of the best seafood I'd ever had were brought out to me starting with his signature Tuna Foie Gras.


I'm usually not a fan of foie gras not only because of the animal cruelty behind it, but also because I just don't really think it lives up to the hype.  But I'll admit, that dish was the first time I liked foie gras.  

Sadly, I've never been to Ripert's outpost in New York, La Bernardin, but I will gladly try his genius recipe for making crispy-skinned fish.  The technique is surprisingly simple and uses a secret ingredient:  Wondra flour.  If you can't find this in your supermarket, you can substitute with all-purpose flour or fine cornmeal.  

I decided to take the recipe a step further and marinate the salmon first and then slather it with some homemade teriyaki sauce at the end.  I liked this technique because instead of a dry slab of salmon meat topped with a corn syrup sweetened soy sauce, you get a moist, flavorful fillet of salmon with a crispy skin. 


Crispy Skinned Salmon Teriyaki (adapted from Food52)
serves 4

4 six oz. skin-on salmon fillets
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake or rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed in 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon canola oil
Wondra flour for dusting
Chopped scallions and sesame seed for garnishing

Mix together the soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar and heat in the microwave on high for a minute.  Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Transfer to a small baking dish and add the salmon fillets, skin side up.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to overnight.


Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Remove the salmon from the baking dish and reserve the marinade.  Dry the skin with a paper towel and dust with Wondra flour, blowing off the excess.


Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and heat on medium until it starts to simmer.  Add the cornstarch slurry and stir until the teriyaki sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, oven- and flame-proof sautĂ© pan on the stovetop until the oil is very hot, but not smoking.  Put the fish in the pan, skin side down, and press down on the fish with a spatula. Sear on the stovetop over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. 


Turn the fish over, put the pan in the oven, and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until a metal skewer can be easily inserted into the center of the fillet and, if left for 5 seconds, feels just warm when touched to your lip. 


Remove from the oven, turn the fillets over again, and brush with the teriyaki sauce.  Garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.


Next:  Salt and Pepper Tofu
Previously:  Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie
Last Year:  Mozzarella Stuffed Arancini (Risotto Balls)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie


I've never heard of an Atlantic Beach Pie, but once I saw this post on Food52, I knew I had to make it.  It's an amalgam of some of my favorite things:  a salty-sweet buttery crust made out of saltines, a tart citrus filling, and a simple topping of whipped cream garnished a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.  It kind of reminds me of the Momofuku Milk Bar Grapefruit Pie I made once, but a whole lot easier to make.  It's no surprise that I would love a pie with this name since I'm such an East Coast kind of gal.  =)


For the citrus juice that goes into the filling, I just used a half cup of the juice I got from juicing the zested lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit I used for making the citrus cured salmon.  The next time I make this, I will probably use the recommended lemon and/or lime mixture so that the tartness really shines through.


Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie (adapted from Food52)
makes 1 pie

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (about 6 oz. or 60 crackers)
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup citrus juice
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.


While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), whisk the egg yolks into the milk, then whisk in the citrus juice.  Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.


Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set.  Cool on a wire rack until the pie has reached room temperature and then transfer to the refrigerator.  The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced.


Whip the heavy cream just until stiff peaks appear (if you keep whipping too much you'll make butter).  Top the chilled pie with the whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkling of sea salt.


By the way, this is what happens when you try to carefully cut a slice and transfer it to a plate to take a picture.  Fail.  Still yummy, though! 


Next:  Crispy Skinned Salmon Teriyaki
Previously:  Citrus Cured Salmon
Last Year:  Crimini Mushroom Risotto