Archives for the month of: April, 2012

When I was doing early planning for this dinner party, I came across some fresh figs at central market, and became very excited about it, since fresh figs are only in season about 2 or 3 times a year. I initially thought about doing an appetizer with it, but I found a Daniel Boulud recipe of a stuffed quail with Fresh Figs. I was flip flopping between duck or quail for my poultry dish, and this recipe sealed the deal for quail.

The figs are wrapped with proscuitto and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I bought quail at central market, and they come in a packet of four with all cavity bones removed except for the thigh/drumstick bones and the wing bones. These are the type of quail you want to buy if you have access to it. If you get quail with cavity bones in tact, you can still cook it the same way, but it will be a little harder to eat.

The quails are washed and patted dry, and the cavity is seasoned with salt and pepper. The proscuitto wrapped figs are stuffed in the cavity of the quails.

The quails are seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides. I made the quail up to this point a few hours before the dinner party and kept them covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.

About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve the quail, some oil is heated on moderate high heat in a pan, and the quails are seared on all sides until browned, which takes about 4-5 minutes.

Once the quail is browned, the pan is placed in a 475F oven and roasted for 10 minutes.

The quail is removed from the pan and placed on a plate to rest while the sauce is being made.

The pan is placed over medium heat and deglazed with white wine, scraping up the browned quail bits on the bottom.

Butter is whisked into the pan, and the sauce is spooned over the quail.

The quails were perfectly cooked when we cut into them, and the figs lent a nice subtle sweetness to contrast the savory proscuitto and the gaminess of the quail.

Quail Stuffed with Fresh Figs and Proscuitto:

While enjoying the previous course of snow crab salad with avocado and grapefruits, I had set up a pot of boiling water ready for the second course of steamed sea scallops. I picked this recipe for it’s simple elegance, and also quick cooking time.

Giant sea scallops are placed in small bowls and seasoned with salt and pepper (I used white pepper).

Next, a mixture of equal amounts of sake, riesling, and oystersauce is spooned over the scallops.

The bowls are placed in a Chinese bamboo steamer basket, or a regular steamer pot (with the water already boiling), covered, and steamed for 2-3 minutes max.

While the scallops are steaming, thinly julienned pieces of scallion and ginger are flash fried in a hot pan with a bit of oil.

The ginger and scallions are topped on the cooked scallops and they are ready to serve. During steaming, the scallops will release it’s natural juices, which will blend with the sake, riesling, and oyster sauce, and create a delicious broth that will collect on the bottom of the bowls.

Masaharu Morimoto’s Scallops Steamed in Sake and Riesling Recipe:

One of my best friends from my teenage years was visiting Austin with her BF and we had a little dinner party to celebrate. My parents loves to throw dinner parties as well, and they always had a seafood dish, a poultry dish, and a red meat dish. This is also a rule that I adhere to most of my dinner parties.

I composed the menu last week, and here is what I came up with.

Raw oyster on the half shell
Snow Crab Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado
Sake and Riesling Steamed Sea Clams with Ginger and Scallions
Roasted Fig-and-Proscuitto-Stuffed-Quail
Braised Beef Shortrib with Red eye gravy and Polenta
Concord Grape Granita
Homemade Nutella-Chocolate Tart

The menu goes from light dishes to heavy dishes, and I decided to cook and serve each course as the dinner went on, instead of doing it family style like I usually do where everything is served at the same time.

For the salad course, I chose a crab, grapefruit and avocado recipe I tried a few months ago, and I substituted snow crab legs for the king crabs that the recipe called for. This recipe is very quick and easy, which is another reason I picked it.

The crab meat are picked clean from their shells, and quickly seared in a hot pan for about 30 seconds until heated through.

Then fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is added to the pan to deglaze and cooked for a few minutes until the crab meat is caramelized.

To assemble the dish, slices of grapefruit and avocados are arranged on a plate.

Then the crab meat is arranged over the fruits, and topped with red onions that has been marinaded in a mixture of olive oil, grapefruit juice, and soysauce.

The salad is finished off by drizzling extra dressing on top of the crab and fruits, and sprinkled with crushed roasted almonds and fresh cilantro leaves.

This was a great light start to a 6 course meal, and I love the way the creamy avocado, crunchy almonds, and the juicy grapefruit textures and flavours play together.

King Crab Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado Recipe:

Using leftovers as an ingredient is something I’ve been trying a lot. Oftentimes, food improves overnight because time allows the flavours to blend and meld more. I make pasta and tomato sauce quite often, but I never really thought about using leftover pasta as an ingredient in anything before. When I decided to make breakfast Sunday morning, I looked in my fridge and found that I had some leftover Strozzapreti pasta in vodka sauce that I had cooked during the week. After a quick search online, I found a breakfast frittata recipe that used leftover pasta (spaghetti in the recipe) and white mushrooms (I substituted Shiitake). I also just happened to have all the other ingredients that the recipe called for (proscuitto, parmesan, eggs), so I went to work.

First, onions and sliced shiitake are sauteed in a pan with some olive oil and garlic until soft.

The shiitake and onions are mixed in with the leftover pasta, cream, shiitake, sliced proscuitto, and eggs.

The recipe called for 8 eggs, but I only had 5; however I did not feel like it affected my frittata.

The mixture is poured into a well oiled, ovenproof pan and cooked at medium heat until the frittata is starting to set around the edges.

The pan is transferred to a 350F oven, and baked for 30 minutes until the eggs are completely set.

I was able to easily slide my frittata from the pan on to a plate, but you can follow the recipe’s instruction to invert it on to a plate.

Pasta Frittata with Mushrooms Recipe:

For the vegetarian dinner dessert, I made a Apple Tart with Almond Cream filling. The name is a little bit misleading, as the almond filling is a lot more textured than what you usually think of a cream filling should be like. This tart takes a little bit of work, but can be made a day ahead of time and kept at room temperature.

To make the tart shell, flour, eggs, cold butter, and ice water are processed together, until little pea size shaped dough are formed.

The flour mixture is dumped on to a floured surface and kneaded a few times until the dough forms. For a extra crispy crust, you want to knead the dough as little as possible. The dough should be formed into a ball, and wrapped in plastic wrap, and chilled in the fridge for about 1 hour.

After the dough has rested, it is rolled between two sheets of plastic wrap until about 12 inches in diameter. The dough is carefully moved into a 9 inch fluted baking pan with a removable bottom.

The edges of the pastry shell are either trimmed or folded inwards, the bottom pricked all over with a fork.

The shell is lined with tin foil, and dry beans placed in the pan on top of the tin foil as pie weights.

The shell is baked at 400F for 25 minutes until the edges are lightly browned, then the beans and the tin foil removed, and the pastry shell is baked for another 10 minutes. The shell is removed and cooled.

To make the almond cream, slivered almonds are processed with some flour, and mixed with granulated sugar and salt.

4 tablespoons of room temperature butter is creamed with a hand held blender, and the almond flour mixture, eggs, and rum added to the butter and mixed thoroughly.

The almond cream is spread on the bottom of the pastry shell, and thinly sliced pieces of apple placed on top of the almond cream.

Butter is brushed and brown sugar is sprinkled on top of the sliced apples.

The tart is baked for 1 hour, transferred to a rack and cooled slightly, and carefully removed from it’s pan.

The tart is sliced, and I served it with coffee ice cream.

Apple Tart with Almond Cream:

For the appetizers for the vegetarian dinner, I made a herbed zucchini feta fritter, and Brussels sprouts toasts. The zucchini fritters were light, fluffy, and fried. I love fried things, and the feta in these fritters added a salty and creamy angle to the flavour profile. These fritters were incredibly easy to make, and I served them with a yogurt dill dipping sauce that unfortunately I don’t have a photo of.

To make the fritters, 3 or 4 medium sized zucchinis are grated, and tossed with some salt. The zucchini mixture is placed in a colander and set aside over a bowl for about 5 minutes. The salt will draw out the water from the zucchinis so that when you fry them, they won’t become a watery mess.

Squeeze out as much water as possible from the shredded zucchinis, and add them to chopped mint, parsley, and dill.

Then eggs, feta, and flour is added to the zucchini and herbs, and mixed thoroughly.

Oil is heated in a deep fryer to 350F, and table spoonful of the batter is dropped in to the oil.

The fritters takes about 2 minutes to cook, they should be fried until brown. They should be drained on some paper towels.

The fritters can be kept warm in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until you are ready to serve, and they are really damn good with the dipping sauce.

I also made a Brussels sprouts toasts by caramelizing some onions with smoked hungarian paprika, and mixing it with blanched, sliced brussels sprouts.

The vegetable mix is spread over toast with melted cheddar.

Herbed Zucchini Feta Fritters Recipe:
Brussels Sprouts and Smoky Onions on Cheddar toast:

To prep for a photo shoot, we had some people over for dinner to discuss ideas and concepts, and one guest was a vegetarian. I have never came into contact with so many vegetarians in my life until we moved to Austin. I don’t have a dislike for pure vegetarian foods, but since most of our friends don’t have dietary restrictions, I’ve never felt the need to cook pure vegetarian dishes on a regular basis. Since moving to Austin, I think almost every dinner or dinner party we’ve had to host people, we have had to have at least a few courses be either vegetarian or vegan. I think this is a fun way to expand my horizons and try new things as a home cook.

For the main dish, I found a Food and Wine staff favourite recipe of Rustic Vegetable Tart stuffed with fresh fava beans and asparagus. To make the dough, a mixture of flour, semolina flour, butter, and vegetable shortening is processed together with some ice water, set aside in the fridge for about an hour.

While the dough is resting, the fresh fava beans are shelled from their pods, and flash blanched in a pot of boiling water, then removed from the pot with a slotted spoon, and set aside until cool. The beans are shelled again of their hard peels.

Blanche the asparagus in the same pot of boiling water used on the fava beans, and cut into 1 inch lengths. To cook the vegetables, some green onions are sauteed in a pan with some garlic for a few minutes.

The asparagus and fava beans are added to the pan and cooked until cooked through. The vegetables are seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside until the dough is ready.

Once the dough is ready, it is rolled between two sheets of plastic wrap until about 14 inches in diameter. It’s laid out on a baking sheet very carefully.

The cooked vegetables are placed in the center of the tart with about 1.5 inch of dough clear.

Next the sides of the tart are folded carefully in.

The tart is topped with parmesan cheese, and the sides are brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

The tart is baked in a 400F oven for about 30 minutes, until the sides of the tart turns golden brown.

Rustic Vegetable Tart Recipe:

I haven’t made Asian food for a while, and I found this really great recipe in Food and Wine of a stir fried noodle dish with Chinese Char-sui pork, ground pork, and Chinese broccoli. My boyfriend loves spring rolls, so I also made some Vietnamese shrimp and pork spring rolls.

For the spring rolls, I used a recipe from First, I peeled and de-veined some shrimp, and then finely chopped the shrimp with a cleaver.

The shrimp is mixed together, with some ground pork, some chopped mung bean noodles, garlic, and shredded carrots.

To roll the spring rolls, a round sheet of rice paper is placed on a piece of wet paper towels, and warm water is spread on top of the rice paper until it becomes soft and pliable. It will take about a minute for the rice paper to soften up.

A table spoonful of filling is placed a little below the center of the rice paper round.

Next the rice paper is rolled from the bottom side up and the filling is formed into a little cylinder about 2.5-3 inches long.

The filling is rolled about 2 inches more, and the sides of the rice paper are folded in.

Then, the spring roll is rolled all the way up.

The spring rolls are placed in a pan lined with wet paper towels, be careful not to let the rolls touch each other since they might stick together.

The spring rolls are fried over medium low heat oil, and it might take up to 10 minutes, but it will ensure the exterior of the spring rolls are crispy and the center cooked. The rolls are ready when they turn golden brown.

The spring rolls are drained on a paper towel, and served with vietnamese chili-fish sauce and Sriracha sauce.

The noodles is composed of blanched Chinese broccoli, Chinese roast pork, ground pork in black bean sauce, and fresh egg noodles. Each ingredient is cooked individually until it’s time to assemble, so technically you can make the ingredients hours ahead until you are ready to eat.

To blanch the broccoli, a big pot of salted water is brought to a boil, and the broccoli is dumped in for a couple of minutes, then removed with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

While the water is still boiling hot, you can cook the fresh egg noddles, which takes about 10 seconds, then drained and set aside. If you cannot find fresh egg noodles, you can cook dry egg noodles per package instruction until al dente, and set aside.

To make the ground pork, I started out by frying up some garlic and shallots in a hot wok, then adding the ground pork and a sauce made out of black bean paste, dried chilies, and fish sauce.

The meat is cooked until browned, and chicken broth is added to the wok and cooked until almost evaporated. A tablespoon of Chinese vinegar is added to the ground pork to finish, and the pork is removed and set aside.

To assemble the noodles, the cooked ground pork, the roast pork, and the Chinese broccoli is added to a hot wok with a few quick stirs.

Then the noodles are added, and after tossing to combine, the finishing sauce is added, composed of chicken broth, sambal oelek, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.

The finished dish was salty, meaty, crunchy, and delicious.

Asian Noodles with Roast Pork Recipe:
Vietnamese Spring Rolls:

We had some delicious leftover whole roasted veal shanks from Friday’s dinner party. I thought the shanks would make a great ingredient in a pasta dish.

I first started looking online for a pasta sauce, and although I’ve always heard of an Italian vodka sauce, I have never made one. Vodka sauce is actually very easy to make, and the sauce’s roots come from Italian American cuisine. To start the sauce, some Italian pancetta is cooked along with some fresh minced garlic in a heavy bottomed pot, until lightly browned, and the fat is rendered from the pancetta.

Next vodka is added to the pot to deglaze, and tomato paste is added and cooked for a minute or two.

Then the crushed tomatoes are added to the pot along with fresh basil leaves and a pinch of sugar. The sauce is brought to a boil, then simmered at low heat for 30 minutes.

After the sauce has finished simmering, heavy whipping cream is stirred into the sauce, adding a nice orange-y color to the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepepr to taste.

To assemble the pasta, al dente Spaghetti is tossed together with the sauce, shredded chunks of veal shank, and topped with fresh basil leaves.

To go with the dish, I made a salad with radicchio, Belgian endive, frisee, and roasted shiitake mushroom vinaigrette.

Vodka Sauce Recipe:
Salad of Mixed Greens with Mushroom Vinaigrette:

There was only one meat dish at the vegan/vegetarian friendly dinner party, and I wanted to making something real big and meaty. After going though various recipes for short ribs, steak, ribs, and lamb, I decided to go with a Thomas Keller recipe for roasted whole veal shanks, from his Ad Hoc recipe cookbook. The veal is slow roasted for 8 hours until it resembles the same consistency as pulled pork, and served with it’s own juices and vegetables. It’s a very simple dish that lets the freshness of young cow shine through by it self.

To prep for the dish, carrots, onions, and celery are cut into 1 inch pieces and tossed together. I layered enough vegetables in a heavy cast iron casserole until covered, and reserved the rest until the veal is ready to be placed.

The veal shanks are taken out of the fridge and left at room temperature for 1 hour. I try to take off as much fat and tissue that surrounds the meat as possible, while still leaving enough to keep the shanks together. This will help the meat and vegetables taste clean.

The shanks are seasoned with salt and pepper, and browned in a hot pan until brown on all sides, which will take about 6 to 8 minutes depending on the size of your shank.

After the shanks are nicely browned, they are placed in the casserole, and the vegetables are pack in afterwards.

The veal shanks are placed in a 250F oven and braised for 8 hours (might be longer or shorter depending on the size of your shanks, mine were approx 3.5 lbs each). When the meat is ready, a fork can penetrate easily into the meat, and the meat will have shrunken away from the bones by a lot.

To serve, I pulled the meat off in chunks, and ladled the braised vegetable pieces along side with it. You can also eat the marrow from the bones if you’d like.