Chicken in Caramel Sauce

Chicken in Caramel Sauce

Chicken in Caramel Sauce

Chicken in Caramel Sauce

Ever since our China dinner party, my tastebuds have been obsessed with Asian cuisine in general.  The office is ridiculously close to some of the best dim sum San Francisco has to offer on Clement Street and that’s been breakfast more than once over the past week.

One of the great things about spending time with Mike Rogers is our conversations about food.  A few weeks ago he happened to have brought his lunch which was this chicken in caramel sauce.  It went immediately on the list.  The recipe came from the Chronicle.  It’s a product of Charles Phan’s inspiration from street stands in Vietnam.  I feel a Phan restaurant crawl coming on.  I’ve never actually been able to get into the Slanted Door.  Usually by the time I discover I’m hungry at the ferry building, it’s a situation that needs more immediate attention than a torturously long wait downwind from glass noodles with crab will allow.  But I digress.

The recipe calls for Thai chiles which were nowhere to be found at Safeway so I used red jalapeños instead.  They worked really well.  So well, in fact, that I think I’ll add a third one the next time I make this dish.  As it turned out, we had some neglected baby portobello mushrooms in the fridge so I added them as well.  We used brown rice instead of white rice, which we always do — we just like it better.  It’s a great quantity for two, because you’ll have plenty for lunch the next day and it’s even tastier then.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dark or regular soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon slivered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 small Thai chiles (fresh or dried), broken in half
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless dark-meat chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 pound skinless, boneless white-meat chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Steamed white rice
  • Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Instructions:
  1. Combine the brown sugar, water, fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, pepper and chiles in a small bowl. Mix well.
  2. Set the sauce mixture aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the shallot and saute until brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken to the pan and saute until it is slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the sauce mixture and bring it to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the sauce has reduced by half, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Note: Fish sauce is available in Asian markets and upscale supermarkets (and Safeway).

Five-Spice Ice Cream and Almond Cookies

5 Spice Ice Cream and Almond Cookies

From last night’s Chinese dinner party, here are two of the recipes that I have.  The 5 spice ice cream is really tasty and works extremely well with Darlene’s gingerbread cake — I’ll work on getting that recipe too.  The almond cookies were the also-ran of the desserts last night, but I’m actually really enjoying them today.  They practically demand that you brew some tea.  They’re very bossy cookies.

I found the recipe for the ice cream from the food network from everyone’s favorite Chinese chef, Emeril Lagasse.  Go Figure.  The almond cookies came from about.com.

Five-Spice Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 whole egg yolks

Directions

Combine the half-and-half, five-spice, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds and salt in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, then immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.

In a large bowl add the sugar and egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the half-and-half mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, to the beaten eggs and sugar, whisking after each addition. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Transfer the bowl to an ice bath and stir frequently until custard is completely cool. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Pour the filling into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for churning time. Remove the ice cream from the machine and transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm, about 8 hours.

Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (can add up to 2 more tablespoons, if desired)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 30 whole, blanched almonds (one for each cookie)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter or margarine, shortening, and sugar. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well blended. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Note: The dough will be crumbly at this point, but don’t worry – that is what it’s supposed to be like.
  2. Use your fingers to form the mixture into a dough, and then form the dough into 2 rolls or logs that are 10 to 12 inches long. Wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (this will make it easier to shape the dough into circles).
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  4. Take a log and lightly score the dough at 3/4 inch intervals so that you have 15 pieces and cut the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, approximately 1 1/2 inches apart. Place an almond in the center of each cookie and press down lightly. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Brush each cookie lightly with beaten egg before baking. Bake for 15 minutes to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and store in a sealed container.
Culinary Travel Party: China

Culinary Travel Party: China

China-inspired Deliciousness

Last night was that wonderful time again when Cass, Darlene, Monica, Brian and I go through the kitchen portal to some far-off exotic land to sample the cuisine.  Last night was China and it was delicious.  Some 15 HOURS later and I’m still full.

Here’s the menu:

Potstickers

– Homemade Pork Potstickers These little suckers are harder to pleat that you’d think, unless you’re Darlene.  Some were perfect, some were misshapen but all were delicious.  I love the process of frying, then steaming, then frying again — soft on top, crispy on the bottom.  We ate two pans full with a sauce made from chili oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper garlic paste.

 

Green Onion Pancake

Green Onion Pancake– Like the filling for the potstickers the pancake dough arrived magically andexpertly created.  My contribution was rolling out the dough before they were fried to perfection.  We used the same sauce as the potstickers.

Ma Po Tofu

Ma Po Tofu – Brian has been fascinated with the effects of Sichuan peppercorns and wanted to make something that used them.  He added baby corn and bamboo shoots and fried the tofu in chili oil before adding it to the mix. The result was delicious, though he wanted it to be spicier.  I’ll be having some for lunch.

We rounded out dinner with baby bok choy sautéed with ginger and garlic.

Monica discovered our new favorite late summer cocktail: Red Lotus: equal parts vodka and lychee liqueur with a splash of cranberry for color.

Dessert was homemade Five Spice Ice Cream with Darlene’s gingerbread cake, which worked very well together.  Because dinner conversation tends to be about food and travel we discovered that Chinese Five Spice is made up of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ground fennel and ground sichuan peppercorns.  We’d used the little tingly buggers a second time without even knowing.

Summer Squash and Red Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

Summer Squash and Red Quinoa Salad with Walnuts

As much as I love to cook, I really love it when I just get to pull myself up to the table and revel in someone else’s creation.  Brett and Frank had us over for dinner last weekend to help break in the new counter top rotisserie, which was filled with skewered shrimp, scallops and vegetables.  They also plucked this ultra-fresh, salad of summery, crunchy, nutty goodness out of the latest issue of Bon Appetit.  We liked it so much we had to make it at home.  It works really well as a side dish, but our inability to stop after a small portion makes it an entrée here.

Tonight was one of the rare occasions when there wasn’t any parmesan in the house so we used pecorino instead and it worked very well.    The best news is that there’s enough for lunch tomorrow!  Welcome to regular rotation!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup red or other quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve, drained
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound assorted summer squash
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan plus 1/4 cup shaved with a peeler
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

PREPARATION

  • Bring quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season with salt, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 12–15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Uncover; fluff with a fork and let cool.
  • Cut squash into 1/8″-thick slices, some lengthwise and some crosswise. Transfer to a large bowl, season with 2 tsp. salt, and toss to coat. Let sit until slightly wilted, about 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Whisk grated Parmesan, zest, juice, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
  • Combine squash, quinoa, parsley, walnuts, and basil in a large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat. Garnish with shaved Parmesan.