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Monday, March 29, 2010

sunday compost dinner

a quick look at the fridge, a quick email to the house

dinner at 6pm:
risotto with crispy mushrooms
creamed chard
prawns with garlic



lay out bacon on tray, sprinkle with sugar and paprika, bake at 450F.
cut 1.5inches off asparagus, rinse, dry then lay out on tray. splash some olive oil, sprinkle some salt, bake at 500F.
crumble bacon over nicely cooked asparagus (don't overcook them, cos they will feel like limp lobster legs in your mouth.) sprinkle lemon juice over.

swiss chard.
wilt swiss chard with white wine (pinot grigio).
meanwhile, make bastardised bechamel (BB) sauce (equal parts flour and butter, about 3-4 times more milk). cook it till it's tan in color to remove the taste of raw flour. keep whisking while adding milk bit by bit to avoid clumps. here's where i bastardised it - i added dried thyme and bits of parmaggiano. toss wilted chard with BB sauce.

slice mushrooms thinly (this chef i used to work for replied to my question about rinsing mushrooms by saying," mushrooms are fungi. so if there's other fungi on the mushroom, it's all the same.") deep fry in a pot with 1.5inch of oil at about 375F. quickly remove mushrooms when golden brown, spread them out in a single layer over paper towels and salt.
reconsitute leftover risotto, adjust with salt pepper and water.

heat pan with some oil and butter, let butter brown. add prawns, and slice garlic. once cooked, remove shrimp, deglaze with white wine and reduce. pour over plated prawns.

eat without linnea, then put a double portion on her plate and make all her yoga efforts go to waste. ah ah ah (sesame street's count's laughter)!

also, i made some mozzerella today, so it will be eaten tomorrow with some tomatoes, if they arrive in weshop.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Scissors Cut Rice

Yesterday for dinner, Bertram and I ambitiously tried to recreate the Hainanese-style Scissors Cut Rice, but to very limited success.

Dish 1: Pork Rib Curry
Having learnt my lesson from last time, I allowed my pork curry to simmer for a longer while, resulting in softer and juicier pork ribs. First I fried blended garlic and shallots until the nice fragrance came out, then I threw in blended ginger and onions, and fried till they became "dry and toasty", in Mr Pang's words. I next threw in the Curry Powder Cake (a la Rendang Powder Cake from the previous time), fried the mixture for a bit, before throwing the pork ribs (available, amazingly, at Weshop!) and cubed potatoes in. After stirring for a bit, I added 3 cups of hot water, and allowed the mixture to stew for 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes, I added one can of coconut milk, and allowed the mixture to simmer very gently for 20 more minutes. At this point I shrieked, because I'd forgotten to add lemongrass in the earlier stage of frying the spices, and I was pretty upset because we've actually got lemongrass this time.

Stewed a little bit more, added some salt to taste, copped out with a dash of fish sauce because it was somehow pretty bland, and served.

Dish 2: Soggy(?) Cabbage Stir Fry

Garlic slices, fry. Cabbage, fry. Add ikan bilis (dried anchovies) stock, allow to simmer. Add a dash of sesame oil for fragrance, some white pepper powder, throw on some scallion, and serve.

Dish 3: Special Mapo Tofu

Pseudo claypot tofu made on a pan with an assortment of leeks,red onions, celery, white mushrooms

Dish 4: Crispy Fried Eggs (special guest chef, Mr Andrew Lim)

This is essentially frying the eggs in a good unhealthy portion of hot oil such that the eggs start to bubble upon hitting the oil. After the sides start to brown, flip it over and wait a few seconds before removing from heat. Ideally the yolk should still be runny and the outsides crispy and oily. 

Conclusion: Far from any self-respecting Scissors Cut Rice -- we had no time to prepare the starchy black gravy for the eggs and veggies, nor was the curry smooth yet tasty enough. And of course, nothing was really Scissors Cut. But as my Boss likes to say, "in this world, who don't make mistake?"

Friday, March 26, 2010

orzo oh my

I had a craving for orzo today. Luke made some during Spring Break and it was lovely. For this one I included a lot of random things I found in the shop. Roasted peppers, tomatoes, basil, olives, mozzarella, asparagus, garlic, lemon juice and rind, and onions. It had a very nice light flavor to it, but as you can see the proportions were a bit off and there was more ingredients than orzo. The sausage was a surprisingly tasty thai-curry flavored variety which I have definitely become a fan of. The onions continue to rumble in my stomach as I write, it was too raw for the lack of better articulation, maybe I should just use less in the future. Because of bad approximation of portion, I was left feeling quite hungry after my bowl was empty so I cooked an omelet inspired by watching Julia Child do it on youtube. It involved a lot of butter and shaking of the pan.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

finally! some decent meat we can use our points on

They were selling pork ribs at wesshop today and vickie decided to do some heart attack inducing cooking. The marinade for this is soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, chives, and sugar. Let sit for two hours before deep frying  in a lot of oil. the recipe advices to remove and fry again. Apparently the double frying is to ensure the insides get cook and the outside stay crisp without getting burned. Taste wise, it was pretty damn good and almost tasted like charsiew, a little too salty, but nothing nice a bowl of white rice couldn't handle. The recipe in chinese can be found here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

clearing out the fridge

luke calls this compost pasta containing brussels sprouts, shrimp, carrots, bacon bits, pine nuts, and....hmmm

asparagus with almonds, potato, sweet potatoes baked with salt

avocado smoothie made with avocado, condensed milk, sugar, and milk.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"this is how my house smells like everyday at 7pm" Sam

Dinner was simple today with a few friends. It was nice. We made dumplings with turkey meat, which don't really do dumplings any justice but unfortunately they really like their turkey here. We also had fried rice with salted fish (that made the street smell like a wet dog when fried), chicken, and fresh eggs mixed with the crumbled yolk of a salted egg. Props to Charmaine for her direction with the fried rice, according to her, it should ideally have included dried and fresh shrimp and pork instead of chicken.

chinese food - too many good things part II

Outdoor cooking to avoid oily splashes and to share the smell of fried salted fish with the street. Mr Swee stated with a twinkle in his eyes, "wah if got real fire hor, than is really like zhi cha, wah I want to be like a zhi cha cook."

Mr Swee's curly haired vege (insert lewd joke) garnished with carrots as an afterthought.

Mr Pang's impromptu chicken made with funky smelling stop-and-shop chicken with dried chili, star anise, and what I think is chinese cooking wine and soy sauce.

This fed 12 people and was over in a blink . On the left is roasted pork belly. On the extreme left is Mr Swee's roasted pork belly fried further with soy sauce, sugar, and garlic - quite simply candied pork. A savory, sugary, fatty delight that has surely shortened my life by a couple of minutes. As Mr Swee, repeatedly asserted, "That's why my mother hor, only cook this once a year during Chinese New Year."

melayu makan - too many good things at once

1. beef rendang

A. Blend / pound (tombok in Malay, methinks) ginger, galangal, dried chilli, chilli padi and lemongrass into a paste and set aside. Do the same, separately, with garlic and shallots. [There is no need to clean the blender between the two blends -- such is the beauty of this dish -- the tastes are not distinct, but complementary.]

B. Meanwhile, add hot water into the pre-prepared Rendang Powder, available at your friendly neighbourhood wet market stall, until it becomes a cake. I get mine from Bedok North Hawker Centre, at a stall called P.G. Raju's Curry Powder. If unavailable in Middletown, CT, blend: coriander, fennel, cumin, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, chilli into a powder.

C. Heat oil in pot, and fry the garlic / shallot mixture until fragrance emits. Throw in ginger-galangal-chilli-lemongrass mixture and stir fry. Add more oil, allow the mixture to heat up for a bit, then add Rendang Powder Cake. Fry some more. Add beef cubes into the mixture, and keep frying. After about 5 minutes, add some water and allow the mixture to simmer for at least 45 minutes.

D. After 45 minutes, add coconut milk and allow the mixture to simmer down into a viscuous gravy. Add toasted peanut bits to enhance texture. Stir well.

E. Beam. Your rendang is done.

2. sambal stingray
normally cooked over a charcoal grill, you're now given only an oven. bo pian (nothing much you can do in hokkien). so how? (also a slang for, so what are you going to do now?)
heat oven to 450F
oil pan/tray
put stingray/skate on tray
put aunty sophia's sambal belachan (homemade chilli paste with dried shrimp. sorry, her trade secret, so i am not allowed to tell) on stingray
bake for about 20 mins (test for doneness by inserting knife into thickest part and holding it against your wrist. if warm-hot, it's almost done)
blast it quickly using the broil function to char some areas.

3. haebee hiam (literally, dried shrimp spicy)
get your dried shrimp from your local fast talking and brash asian grocery store
rinse it, then bake it to your housemate's chagrin to drive out the moisture. or, you could cook it over medium heat in a pan (low heat if you're not really attending to it), outside of the house. it smells like cat food, but it will get better, as a lot of people say that about things in life.
while the shrimp is drying, grind lemongrass, ginger, galangal (blue ginger), chilli powder, salt and some tumeric to a fine paste. add water if necessary to help in the blending. fry this paste with a tbsp of oil till it's moist (drier than when it started out).
add the paste to the shrimp, add about 4-5 tbsps of oil, and fry over med-high heat. the heat will caramelise the shrimp and the sugars, leaving you with a sweet fragrance that often comes when you barbeque prawns with their shells on.
toss for a good 20 minutes till the shrimp is pretty dry, does not clump together and is a nice brown.
let it cool and munch with beer.

4. Pseudo-achar

This dish is idiot proof, and almost as simple as Nigella recipes. Cube cucumbers, pineapple, onions. Add salt, white vinegar, lime juice and sugar. Allow to sit for about an hour. Serve with toasted peanut flakes sprinkled on top.

5. laksa
blend lemongrass, dried chilli, galangal (blue ginger), ginger, shallots, onion and tumeric.
fry paste the same way you do with the haebee hiam and until the raw smell of fresh spices becomes toasty
add chicken stock, laksa leaves and a kaffir lime leaf
once it reduces, turn heat down so that the stock is simmering and add coconut milk
serve with overboiled thin spagetthi (cooked past the al dente stage), sliced boiled chicken, sliced boiled eggs and bean sprouts.

Recipes by Mr Swee and Mr Pang.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In the words of General Yue Fei:


(Translation: Let us feast heartily on the flesh of the barbarians, and chat merrily while we drink their blood)

One thinks: who needs barbarian flesh and blood when ze can have spicy sichuan hotpot with thinly sliced pork, cabbage, mushrooms, tang hoon (transparent vermicelli), and above all -- good company and beer?

(Guess whose hands these are!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

korean fried chicken potluck

Last summer we ate at a Korean restaurant called Unidentified Flying Chicken in Queens (I kid you not). In addition to the lady cashier who was described by my Korean friend as being quite "fine", the garlic and soy sauce fried chicken was pretty damn fine too. I tried to recreate this today, of course unfortunately we didn't have the fine cashier with us.

I de-boned some drumsticks, instead of frying them whole, as I wanted to save on oil and to use the bones to make soup. Season chicken with salt and pepper, cover with corn starch and fry till brown. The recipe recommended double frying, so I fried the chicken in batches due to my small pan, took them out in batches and fried them again - the meat was very tender and not at all overcooked. The secret of this recipe is in the sauce, which calls for frying up some diced garlic and onions, pouring in half cup soy sauce, quarter cup mirin, and two tablespoons of sugar, some ginger, allow to simmer. Strain the sauce and mix the fried chicken in it before serving. The chicken turned out a little soggy, losing some of its crispness, certainly not up to par with Unidentified Flying Chicken which was incredibly crispy and tasty at the same time, a party in your mouth. I will reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency in the future and see how it goes, maybe I should try re-frying the chicken after the sauce dip. Recipe found here.

The leftover garlic soy sauce went into the porridge which Thomas brought and the tu dou si which Linnea made, making everything taste quite delicious. I believe I have stumbled across a magic sauce. In addition, Ginger made a Christmas colored omelet which was quite yummy with the divine okonomiyaki-mayo combo.

spontaneous cheapo bbq fail

In our second attempt to relive the wild Guatemalan street food days, we tried to set up the bbq grill with hot coals and all hoping to make some delicious roast meat. Unfortunately our stinginess with coal and the general cold left the heat of the grill a little lacking. After spending half an hour getting the fire going and another 20 mins trying to cook mushrooms and tofu on the grill we gave up and decided to toss the lamb into the oven to broil instead. Dinner turned out good but the aftertaste of defeat lingered on our tongues.

Notice the coal concentrated on one side and the tofu, barely roasted after sitting there for half an hour. This was certainly no proud day for us.

Monday, March 8, 2010

of beets and eggs

Contrast on a plate of carbonara and beet salad. For the salad, greens with sliced beets, almond slivers, crumbled goat cheese, fried bacon bits, and seasoned with lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and assorted herbs. The carbonara recipe comes from Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl: beat eggs in bowl, throw hot pasta into bowl, which is suppose to cook eggs, but we were too afraid of salmonella so we popped it back on the stove on low heat to stir without getting it too dry; in the mean time, fry up some bacon bits together with a few cloves of garlic, throw out the garlic, pour the fat and crispy bacon into pasta mixture, mix and serve. Here's to hoping we don't get salmonella!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

late afternoon snack

these photos are quite decent arent they?
this dessert is called mua chee - it's glutinous rice cakes coated with crushed sugared peanuts. it's chewy, nutty and sweet from both the sugared peanuts and the glutinous rice cakes.

except, they look like meatless chicken nuggets and taste like how they sound. like sheeeet. i didn't have glutinous rice flour, so i substituted plain flour and cornflour with xantham gum. damn, even that doesn't sound appetising from the start.

so, today you've grown a little wiser i guess, since you know that not all nice pictures of food taste like how they look.

experiment mua chee: FAIL.

gavin's lunch

for lunch on a beautiful sunday afternoon, ayam panggang (broiled chicken simmered in a sweet black sauce with tumeric, cumin, coriander, dried chilli), coconut rice with screwpine (pandan) leaves, asparagus with shrimp, chicken curry, the greatest mamasan (takes care of call girls) from singapore's sambal belachan and simmered chicken in chicken stock. spring break is starting out pretty nice.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

it's nice when the house is empty

oyakudon - chicken and egg dish. the lady in the campus kitchen says that's wrong, but how different is that from eating cheeseburgers?

anyhow, cut your chicken, mix up dashi, water, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. you're looking for a sweetish yet savory sauce. crack an egg and beat it up. slice half an onion.

place sliced onions on cold pan and place cubed chicken on top.

pour sauce over, turn the heat up to medium and cover.

your rice is cooking right? blast your favourite music, since no one's at home.

pour beaten egg over the now simmering chicken.

almost there...

slice up nori, and get your rice ready.

pour meat egg over, sprinkle nori slices, sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

happy birthday in advance, vickie

hainanese chicken rice - lightly boiled chicken, rice cooked with rendered chicken fat, ginger, chicken stock and screwpine leaves. the chilli sauce, the rice, the chicken are all extremely important, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. it's like eating a damn castle and not the bricks themselves man, whatever that means.

sliced tomatoes with soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions, roasted carrots and parsnips by the only angmoh in the house, the usual accompanying sliced cucumber and tomatoes and, conan.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

procrastination can be useful

i was eating an orange as part of my self imposed, tightly regulated break a day before my clinical neuropsych exam. suddenly, when i had eaten the last slice, i was left with 6 elliptical pieces of used orange. the rind suddenly looked very appealing and potentially useful.

so i removed most of the pith (the white part) and sliced them thin.

they were boiled in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) for 40 mins to remove their bitterness.

now, take a sauce pan,

put in some sugar,

place the orange rinds, toss,

then munch or use as garnish (after a few hours of drying). remember to save the syrup for glazing/drinks/needed orangey sugar high.

last minute house dinner

sah por fun.

clay pot rice (because it's normally cooked in a claypot), with a normally burnt bottom that gives smokiness to the dish. the umami-ness of it is enhanced by the use of dried scallops, chinese sausages and dried chinese mushrooms. smoking hot sesame oil poured over the rice and sliced scallions explode into clouds of fragrance.