Chinese New Year

dsc_0068

Happy Chinese New Year!

I am lucky to have friends that are not only patient with my pestering and begging, but occasionally even indulge me. And this time I hit the jackpot: homemade dumplings! Yes, I know you are combatting some serious jealousy, but I do have some good news: the recipe itself isn’t hard. As for the beautiful folding technique… there, you might just want to give up hope. Even after two dozen attempts, my dumplings were definitely clumsy misshapen things, though they remained first rate in taste.

sycee
Sycee

Dumplings are a traditional food made on Chinese New Year, which fell on January 28th of this year. Dumplings are roughly shaped like an ancient Chinese coin called a Sycee. A Sycee is an ancient Chinese ingot (piece of precious metal) currency, and therefore the similarly shaped dumplings have become a symbol of prosperity and wealth in the coming year.

Step One: Have a Snack

Kopitiam
Kopitiam Coffee House, Teh Tarik, and Kaya Butter Toast
Teh tarik as it is "pulled"
Teh tarik as it is “pulled”

Arielle, a native of Singapore, led the way to Kopitiam Traditional Malaysian Coffee House (51B Canal Street, New York NY 10002) for a bite before starting Operation Dumpling. Here I was introduced to kaya butter toast and teh tarik, a popular snack in Singapore and Malaysia…. and maybe my new favorite thing.

Kaya butter toast is toasted white bread spread with butter and magical kaya jam. Kaya jam, a glorious chartreuse color, is a sweet spread made from coconut milk, eggs, pandan leaf, and sugar.

Teh tarik (pulled tea) is black tea and condensed milk poured back and forth repeatedly between two cups. This not only mixes it thoroughly, but gives it a thick frothy top and cools it to a perfect drinking temperature.

singapore

Step Two: Hunt & Gather

grocery-sauce

grocery2

Hong Kong Supermarket
Gathering ingredients at Hong Kong Supermarket Monchong (157 Hester Street, New York NY 10013)

Step 3: Food Oragami

dsc_0063

Instead of being served by the piece as they are in the United States (i.e. 6 dumpling appetizer), dumplings are sold by the pound in Asia. They are not served or thought of as a first course/starter in Asia, but as the meal. That said, when making your own dumplings, estimate 20-30 per person for large appetites and 10-15 for lighter ones.

dsc_0057

Arielle and Brenda
Good friends and fellow karateka: I love these ladies!

dsc_0016

Ingredients

Dumplings:

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon fermented rice cooking wine (Shaoxing)
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 inch knob ginger, finely minced
  • 1/2 medium napa cabbage, finely minced
  • 6 shitake mushrooms, finely minced
  • 6 scallions, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 package dumpling skins (about 42)

Dipping sauce:

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • chili oil, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Squeeze the cabbage with your hands to get as much water out as possible.
  2. Mix together the ground cabbage, pork, rice wine, soy sauce, Chinese five spice, ginger, mushrooms, scallions, and salt.
  3. Drizzle in the olive oil a little at a time while mixing until the filling is shiny looking and holds together.
  4. Fill the dumplings, being sure to seal every seam well (use water to wet the folds to help stick the dough together). Be ambitious and try folding the traditional pleats, or save yourself aggravation and simply fold and seal similar to ravioli. Place on a plate dusted with flour to keep the dumplings from sticking to the plate or to one another.
  5. Boil a large pot of water. Gently place dumplings in a single layer in the pot (boil in batches if necessary). When the water returns to a boil, pour in a cup or so of cold water. Repeat once more (wait for the rolling boil, add another cup of cool water) and after the third boil, remove the dumplings. The dumplings should be floating by this point.
  6. Mix dipping sauce ingredients and serve with the hot dumplings!

dsc_0064

❤️️ The warmest thanks to Arielle and Brenda for their friendship and hospitality. ❤️️

 

Advertisements

Red, White, and Blue Mojito

IMG_9634

This is a fruity, summery cocktail, not too sweet and just in time for election fever!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • handful mint leaves
  • handful strawberries
  • handful blueberries
  • 1/2 can soda
  • ice
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a glass muddle lime, simple syrup, mint, strawberries and blueberries.
  2. Add rum and stir. Fill glass with ice and top off with soda.
  3. Garnish with a skewer of strawberries and blueberries.

<<<<Watch the video instructions>>>>

Mojito Video

IMG_9629

Lemon Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

LemonCheesecake-02

This lightly citrusy cheesecake is tall and decadent, creamy without being too heavy, and absolutely sure to impress. Both people who swore they hated cheesecake and those that hated lemons (who hates lemons?!) sang this cake praises.

It’s not difficult to make, but keep in mind that it does need to be made a day ahead of serving in order to chill.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 5 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 large eggs
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon twists (garnish) – I used this recipe by blogger HomemadeToast

Method

Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir the cookie crumbs and the butter in medium bowl until evenly moistened. Press the mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter removable-bottom cheesecake pan. Use a tall pan (at least 3 inches) because this recipe makes a very tall cheesecake. Also, I like to line the bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment. Bake the crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
  2. Stack 3 large sheets of foil on work surface. Place same cake pan in center. Gather foil snugly around pan bottom and up sides to waterproof.

Filling:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the salt. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the sour cream, grated lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour the filling into the pan.
  2. Place the wrapped cake pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake until the filling is slightly puffed and moves only slightly when pan is shaken gently, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove the cake pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 2 hours. Then chill uncovered until cold; cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
  3. Run a knife around the sides; carefully loosen pan bottom from sides and push up pan bottom to release cake. Place cake (still on the pan bottom, unless you’ve lined the pan with parchment) on a platter. Garnish with lemon leaves or twists.

LemonCheesecake-01

Game Time

Super-Bowl-Party_01

A few craft store supplies can seriously elevate your entertaining ‘game’. White tape and sticker numbers transform a green tablecloth. Diamond-shapes cut from construction paper, folded in half and glued over yarn, make an impressive pennant banner. Brown felt, white paint, and hot glue are that’s necessary to create these DIY football koozies.

Super-Bowl-Party_03

Super-Bowl-Party_05

I love these Super Bowl Bingo cards from Play.Party.Pin!

Super-bowl-party-games-football-bingo

Guinness Float

Beer float? Strange, yes – but interesting enough to be worth the risk. Really.

guinness-float

This version uses Guinness and coffee ice cream; neither are crowd-pleasers, so experiment with flavors and brews to your heart’s content.

guinness-floatThis concoction barely calls for instruction, but here goes:

  1. Scoop some ice cream into a frosted mug.
  2. Slowly pour the beer, stout, or ale over the ice cream.
  3. Top with chocolate or caramel syrup.

guinness-float

Chag Hamantashen Same’ach – Happy Purim!

hamantashen_05

I’ll go-ahead and admit it: before I moved to NYC, the only Jewish holiday I could name was Hanukkah.

As an attempt at some justification of this inexcusable ignorance, .03% of the population of North Carolina (where I spent a decade of my formative years) is Jewish.

Side effect: I lived a Hamantaschen-deprived life.

Hamantachen are cakey sugar dough cookies with a filling, most traditionally poppy seeds or prune butter made & eaten to celebrate Purim. Purim is a holiday similar to Mardi Gras in that it is celebrated with lots of heavy drinking and masquerading. It celebrates the story of Esther, whose bravery saved the Persian Jews 2,500 years ago.

The hamantaschen recipe below is my friend Jill’s, by way of her Jewish boyfriend’s grandmother. Those are her hands in the photos, too!

hamantashen_03

hamantashen_02
hamantashen_04

Dough

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Filling (see recipes below) + Finishing

  • Choice of filling: poppy seed filling (most traditional), prune butter, apricot butter, apricot jam, strawberry jam or even chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • cinnamon/sugar mix
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover 2 baking sheets w/parchment or foil.
  3. Either by hand or with a mixer, combine the oil, eggs, vanilla, water, sugar, baking powder and flour and knead until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough out into a very thin layer. Dip the rim of a 3 or 4 inch cup or glass in flour and use like a cookie cutter to cut the circles. Re-roll the scraps of dough and reuse.
  4. In the center of each circle drop a teaspoon of your filling.  Shape into a triangle by folding 2 sides of the circle to the center, and pinch together at the corners. Make sure corners are tightly pinched so they don’t open during baking.
  5. Place hamantaschen 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Brush with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen. Hamantaschen freeze well.

How to Fold Hamantaschen
How to Fold Hamantaschen

Poppy Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb. poppy seeds
  1. Pour boiling water on poppy seeds and drain.
  2. After poppy seeds have settled to bottom, chop up fine.
  3. Add egg and sugar, stirring well.

Prune Filling (Lekvar)

  • 2 cups dried prunes
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash clove
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  1. Combine everything into a saucepan (except brown sugar) and cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes. Heat to boiling.
  2. Lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  3. Mix in the brown sugar. Cook, reducing the liquid and stirring every few minutes being careful not to scorch the mixture. Mash with a wooden spoon until the prunes are soft and broken up and mixture is about the consistency of oatmeal (about 20 more minutes). It will thicken more when cooled.

Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and also freezes well.

The Spatchcock

Spatchcocked Turkey
Spatchcocked Turkey

First spatchcocked.

Now on exhibit, bare-skinned and splayed. Disgraceful.

Spatchcock in Process
Spatchcock in process: removing the backbone

To spatchcock, the spine is completely removed from a bird so that the butterflied body can be flattened for cooking, usually on a grill.

My favorite explanation for the odd-sounding term is the theory that it is a combo of the words “dispatch” and “cock.” Fitting, since this is undeniably the quickest way to get the job done, with golden crisp skin and absolutely no dry meat, and the biggest miracle of it all…

A perfect bird in 80 minutes.

My single complaint about this experience is that manhandling bird carcasses pushed the limits of my work space. By NYC standards, my kitchen is plenty large, but flattening out a turkey calls for some serious real estate.

Supplies

Actual, real-thing poultry scissors – even kitchen shears probably won’t get it done
Step stool – to get the leverage needed to break the breastbone
Strong stomach – this is no job for the squeamish

Pumpernickel Bacon Stuffing
Pumpernickel Bacon Stuffing

I love Serious Eats’ nuts+bolts explanation and recipe on this technique, which I used as the foundation of my own spatchcocking experiment. Their gravy recipe is no less impressive; it is certainly the best gravy I’ve ever made.

By Request: Smutty Sweets

Boob Cupcakes: Styled A

My apologies to the easily offended. Candy solutions to off-color problems must be shared.

In my defense, lest I be judged a total lech, these cupcakes weren’t my idea. These naughty cakes were a special request from a friend, a gift to her husband at his birthday party.

If there is ever another occasion calling for such an inappropriate dessert, here is the method:

  1. Smash Orange Chews under a smooth-bottomed cup
  2. Poke the flattened chews through the center with a chopstick and stick a Hot Tamale through the hole
  3. Stick the candy combo on frosted cupcakes

I used plain vanilla frosting, but chocolate would work just as well, or vanilla with a little food coloring to achieve a more realistic flesh-tone.

Boob Cupcakes: Candy

Boob Cupcakes: Styled B

Baking Science

Eggnog Cupcake

Cocoa Anatomy

Cocoa beans naturally start out at about 50% fat.  After fermenting, drying, roasting, and de-husking, the beans are ground to a paste; at this point it’s essentially baking chocolate. When put through a hydraulic plate press, squeezing out about half of the cocoa butter, a hard disk of concentrated cocoa remains. This block is then ground into cocoa powder.    

Vocab

Cocoa Butter: fat squeezed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Solids: the substance remaining after the cocoa butter has been removed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Nibs: roasted, de-husked cacao beans broken into pieces

Natural Cocoa Powder: cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground into a fine powder. Baking soda, which is alkaline, is generally paired with natural cocoa in recipes to neutralize its acidity.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder: dark, milder tasting cocoa powder treated with an alkali (potassium solution) to neutralize its natural acidity. Baking powder, also near-neutral in pH, is paired with Dutched cocoa in recipes.

jill_cocoa powder

Black cocoa: cocoa powder that has been heavily-Dutched  Ex: Oreo cookies

Unsweetened/Baking Chocolate: pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans (cocoa butter + cocoa solids)

Dark Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar

Milk Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk

White Chocolate: cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk (no cocoa solids)

Notes & Tips

  1. Cocoa powder can be used instead of flour to dust pans
    (especially if concerned with gluten free cooking)
  2. Because of the differences in chemistry, Dutched cocoa powder and natural cocoa are not reliably interchangeable in baked goods. The easiest substitution advice I found is:
    • To replace natural cocoa and baking soda with Dutch-process cocoa, substitute an equal amount of Dutch-process cocoa but replace the soda with twice the amount of baking powder.
    • For Dutch-process cocoa powder and baking powder, substitute the same amount of natural cocoa but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda.
      (The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion)

cocoa