Thursday, March 9, 2017

baked char siu bao (roasted pork buns).


My weekends are for tackling cooking projects.  Not all of them are labor intensive 48 hour adventures but on occasion I get that itch to tackle an over-the-top project that's been on my to-do list for some time.  

(Like croissants which 3 years later are still on my to-make list. )

Char Siu Bao are one of those weekend long projects.  They aren't particularly difficult (though the length of the recipe may lead you to believe I'm lying) but I find it best to draw the preparation of them out over a couple of days.   It makes the whole thing more relaxing and stressful.   

If you've never had char siu bao (otherwise known as a roasted pork bun) you're in for a real treat. Extremely tender (and very light and fluffy) dough encases shredded a sweet and spicy shredded pork that people find irresistible (I find it seriously irresistible).    I love them for their portability but also because the dough which utilizes a process called tangzhong is super soft which means you can reheat them in the microwave and they stay tender (it's kind of magic).   

So yes, making these is a project, but it's a project that's well worth it.     

Baked Char Siu Bao
Recipe from Crepes of Wrath and Serious Eats

These freeze brilliantly so don't worry if you can't eat them all!   

For the Char Siu Pork

3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into large pieces
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
1 3-inch knob of ginger, grated on a microplane or finely minced
4 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or finely minced

For the Char Siu Filling

1 pound of your roasted pork, diced into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon black bean paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup minced chives 

For the Tangzhong

3 tablespoons bread flour
1/2 cup water

For the Dough

1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Roast your pork - Cut your boneless pork shoulder or butt into 5 or 6 pieces and place it in a sealable back or container. Whisk together all of your marinade ingredients, and pour it over the pork. Marinate for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight. When ready, preheat your oven to 300 degrees F, place your pork in an oiled baking dish, cover with foil, and roast for 2½ to 3 hours, until the pork is very tender and shreds easily. Remove the pork from the oven, uncover, and let cool slightly. You will only need about ⅓ of your pork for the buns - the rest makes for great leftovers! Toss it with some roasted or stir-fried broccoli and you've got lunch for the rest of the week.

Make your char siu filling - Chop ⅓ of your roasted pork into small cubes and set it aside. Finely dice an onion, heat your vegetable oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk together your water, cornstarch, vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, black bean paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add your pork to the onion, and add your sauce to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has darkened and thickened - be careful not to burn the filling, as the sugar will quickly caramelize. When ready, remove the pork from the heat and set aside until ready to use.  Can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble.

For the Tangzhong - In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the water and bread flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and lightly golden. Remove from heat and transfer the tangzhong to a small container. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

For the Dough - Warm 1/2 cup of milk and pour in the yeast. Let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Combine the yeast-milk mixture, the Tangzhong, and the remaining dough ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface until stretchy, about 10 minutes longer. Spray the dough all over with nonstick spray and return to the bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the dough to prevent it from drying out and set in a warm, draft free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour (or overnight in the fridge).

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 even pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. Using the palm of your hand, press down each dough ball until flat. Place 2 tablespoons of filling on the center of each round. Pull up the edges and pinch together to seal. Transfer the filled buns, seam-side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Re-cover with the coated plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly brush your bao with your beaten egg, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, then brush lightly with honey and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm. These will keep well for up to 5 days - just heat them up for 15-20 seconds in the microwave before serving. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

almond olive oil cake.


A couple of weeks back, I was left in charge of making my Dad's birthday cake which is not a task I take lightly as birthday cakes have the ability to make or break the day and therefore carry a lot of weight in my book.   

(Nothing like a little pressure.)

When you think about a traditional birthday cake I'm sure you conjure up a vision of layered yellow cake with lots of chocolate frosting.   That to me is the quintessential celebratory cake (and one that I love) but sometimes, you want a birthday cake that exudes a more subdued vibe.   

This is that cake.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one but since it's a Gina DePalma recipe (her zucchini olive oil cake is one of my top 5 favorite cakes) I figured it had to be pretty delightful.  In reality it's one of the best cakes I've ever made and one I plan on making again before this winter is over.   

The combination of almond flour, olive oil, and orange juice produces a light and delicate cake that is reminiscent of a chiffon or angel food cake. During the winter when everything feels dense and heavy, this is a welcome alternative.   But lets be honest, the best thing about it is a the brown butter glaze which provides an extra layer of flavor and something that transforms this from basic into a celebratory.   

Almond Olive Oil Cake
Recipe from Gina DePalma at Serious Eats

For the Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup blanched or natural almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon or 1/2 a medium orange
1/2 cup orange juice

For the Glaze

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small, heavy saucepan. When the bubbles subside, lower the heat and watch the butter carefully, swirling it in the pan occasionally to distribute the heat. When the butter begins to turn a light tan color and smells slightly nutty, turn off the heat and let the butter sit. It will continue to darken as it sits.

While the butter cools, sift the confectioner's sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk until completely smooth but thick, then slowly whisk in the butter. Taste the glaze and add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. Stir in the toasted almonds. Spread the almonds and glaze onto the top and sides of the cake and let it sit until set and dry.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

socca.



In our new apartment, we have a lot more cabinet space.   It's awesome (because who doesn't want more space) but it's also extremely annoying because I now see, on an almost daily basis, the items I purchased, used half of, and are now languishing in the cabinets just waiting to be used again.   

So the challenge has become, how can I use these half finished bags of things. Things like chickpea flour which I bought at one time and only used 1/4 cup of...

And this my friends is how I found myself making socca for dinner one night.   Socca is a chickpea flavored flatbread/gluten free version of pizza and it's quite frankly awesome.   It comes together in about 20 minutes and works with a wide array of toppings (making it an easy way to finish off those bottles of assorted pickled things you have in your fridge).   Our favorite version involves olives, roasted red peppers, and feta which gives it a middle-eastern vibe, but you could easily make it more Italian (with pesto, arugula, and Parmesan).  The possibilities are endless (and it may mean chickpea flour will now be a pantry staple).   

Socca
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Toppings of your choice - Feta, roasted red peppers, olives, herbs, roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, sprouts, pesto

Heat the oven to 450. Put a well-seasoned or nonstick 12-inch pizza pan or cast-iron skillet in oven. (If you have a socca pan, obviously that will work well also.)

Put the chickpea flour in a bowl; add the salt and pepper. Slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover and let sit while the oven heats, or for as long as 12 hours. The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove the pan, pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into it and swirl. Immediately pour the batter into the pan and top with desired toppings. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pancake is firm and the edges set.

Cut it into wedges, and serve hot or warm.  Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days and eaten at room temperature.    


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

feta-brined roast chicken.


I buy a lot of feta cheese.  I love its briney, tangy flavor and how well it pairs with any number of ingredients by providing an extra level of "punch".    (Avocado and eggs are so much better with a little sprinkle of feta).  But, its always felt sad to me that when you finish your feta you're left with a plastic container of feta flavored water that just gets dumped down the drain.

That was until the NYTimes came along and showed me that you can use the feta brine to brine chicken!!

This is a game changer.  One, it gives me a new way to use something that would typically get thrown out and two, it results in a chicken that is so incredibly tender and flavorful that I feel there is no better chicken recipe out there.   

Feta Brined Roast Chicken
Recipe from the NYTimes 

The original recipe calls for you making your own brine by combining feta with water but I realized you could just use the brine the feta comes in instead of making your own.  If you don't have a full four cups of leftover feta liquid, you can offset this by making (some) of your own feta "water".  

4 cups of feta brine or 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 3 1/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
1 to 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
2 large lemons
¼ cup olive oil, more as needed
1 large bunch arugula or other sturdy salad greens, for serving

If you have 4 cups of feta brine - The day before serving, combine 4 cups of feta brine with 2 teaspoons of salt.   Put chicken in an extra-large resealable plastic bag or a container large enough to submerge chicken, and cover with the feta brine. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

If you don't have 4 cups of feta brine - The day before serving, combine 2 ounces feta, 2 teaspoons salt and 4 cups water in a blender and blend until smooth. Put chicken in an extra-large resealable plastic bag or a container large enough to submerge chicken, and cover with the feta brine. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Before cooking, remove chicken from brine and transfer to a towel-lined tray. (Discard brine.) Pat chicken dry with paper towels and allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour.

In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, the oregano and the zest of the lemons (about 1 tablespoon). Liberally cover chicken in herb mix and gently massage entire bird. Halve lemons and place 3 halves in cavity (save remaining half for serving). Using kitchen twine, tie legs together.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add oil and heat until it just smokes. Place chicken, breast-side up, in pan. Transfer entire pan to oven. Cook, basting once or twice, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife, 50 to 60 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, then stir remaining crumbled feta into juices in pan and stir well. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes in the pan before slicing and serving on a bed of greens, with feta-laced pan juices on top, drizzled with a little lemon juice from the reserved lemon half.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

lemon poppyseed cake.


With the world feeling impossibly grim as of late, I've been craving bright flavors.  Namely lots of citrus. 

Grapefruit!  Oranges!  Limes!  And of course, Lemons.    

Lemon poppyseed cake is something that begs to be made in the winter.  During the cold doldrums of January and February, cake is necessary and cake that reminds you of warmer places is even better.

This lemon poppyseed cake is the best I've ever made.  It's a one bowl (no mixer required!) pantry staple cake that somehow manages to get more moist and flavorful as the week goes on (magic!).   It's delicious and just the thing to share with your friends who may need a little winter pick-me-up.   

#bakeamericacakeagain

On a not food related note - If you are ask appalled as I am about the Muslim ban (that isn't a ban but let's be honest it is a ban) on countries that have never attacked us (shockingly the countries that have attacked us aren't on the ban list because SURPRISE SURPRISE someone has business ties to them) consider donating to the ACLU.  I set up my monthly donation this past weekend because I appreciate the hard work they do to support American's rights.   

In addition, as I've said before, if something angers you, CALL YOUR SENATORS and call them everyday.   Whether it be the wall, the muslim ban, Betsy Devos, Scott Pruitt (the one who angers me the most), Steve Bannon being part of the NSC, call them.   

Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Recipe from the NYTimes

Feel free to sub the buttermilk for sour cream or creme fraiche.   I also subbed 3/4 cup of the white flour for spelt since I've been very into utilizing different grains in my baked goods.   

Butter, for greasing pan
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, more for pan
Zest of 2 lemons
1 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar and rub with your fingers until it looks like wet sand. Whisk in buttermilk, 4 tablespoons lemon juice and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk dry ingredients into the batter, then whisk in oil and poppy seeds.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan until warm to the touch, then turn out onto a baking rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Turn cake right side up.

Whisk together remaining 4 teaspoons lemon and the confectioners’ sugar. Use a pastry brush to spread glaze evenly over top and sides of cake. Cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

white chicken potpie.


I have a running iPhone list of foods I want to make.  Sometimes these foods remain on the list for the better part of 2 years without still being tackled (I'm looking at you croissants) and other times they last 2 days before being made (tahini chocolate chip cookies).  Some dishes get added to the list because Tyler mentions them offhandedly (which is why I'll be making pierogi's next weekend) and other times its because I stumbled across a recipe that is made up of my favorite things (the best Sicilian pizza).   There is no rhyme or reason to the list and that's why I love it.    

Chicken pot pie somehow made it's way on to the revolving list a couple of months back.   I don't remember what triggered me adding it, but this past weekend, knowing we were heading into several days of cold, rainy, and dreary weather, it felt like the appropriate time to finally make one.  

Chicken pot pie has a lot of variations and people have vastly differing opinions on how it should be prepared.  Should it have both a bottom and top crust?  Are peas cool?   Can you use white and dark meat?  The list goes on.   This version incorporates my favorite things (lots of peas and chicken) under a biscuit like crust.  The resulting dish is full-blown comfort food and the perfect thing to eat this time of year.

*On a not food-related note, call your senators if you are unhappy with how things are going.  I called mine this morning because the climate change changes that have gone into effect the last couple of days leave me feeling queasy.  Do the same if you feel un-happy about something.  There job is to listen to you!

White Chicken Potpie
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

Ok - I liked this recipe in theory but edited a decent amount.  First off, I wanted to make this a one pan affair so I used my 10 inch cast iron.   You will want to do this to, it will make your life a lot easier.

The initial recipe made a LOT of biscuit topping.  Way more then seemed logical to me.  So I reduced the topping by 1/3 (my edits shown below) and feel this was a more "normal" ratio of biscuit to filling.   

After speaking about chicken potpies with my mama, I decided  to add in some mustard.  I find this to be a welcome addition as the accidity offsets the richness of the dish nicely.   I also made peas mandatory because peas below in a potpie.  

Last but not least, this makes a lot of chicken potpie.  You've been warned.   

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds) or 2 1/4 pounds of chicken parts (I used half chicken so I got a mix of white and dark meat)
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 cups chicken stock or water
1 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), chilled, additional for greasing pan
2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, more as needed (or 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup whole milk)
2 small carrots, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk

Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Let rest 15 minutes. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine chicken, stock or water, wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook chicken gently until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate to cool completely. Strain and reserve cooking liquid (you should have about 2 3/4 cups). Once chicken is cool, shred into bite-size pieces.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 10 inch cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks and shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Melt in 4 more tablespoons butter. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the strained stock and the milk (or milk and cream). Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in celery root or carrot, and potato; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas if using and mustard.  Remove from heat and set aside.   

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, the baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut the remaining 6 tablespoons butter into cubes; using a pastry cutter or two forks, mix into flour until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Dollop mixture on top of potpie filling (it’s O.K. if there are spaces between biscuits). 

Transfer casserole to oven; bake until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.