Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Egg drop soup

Egg drop soup is a personal favorite of mine, so I wanted to see how challenging it would be to make at home. It turns out that it's actually very simple to make, but hard to get perfect. The version I made was pretty good, but could have been a bit better. The recipe I used comes from Simplerecipes.com. I'd recommend it, but with a couple of tweaks, which I describe below.

3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of corn starch
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
3/4 cup of straw, enoki, or sliced shitaki mushrooms

1. Reserve 1/2 cup of the stock and mix with the cornstarch until dissolved.
2. Place the chicken stock, ginger, soy sauce, green onions, mushrooms and white pepper in a pot and bring to a boil.
3. Add the cornstarch and stock mixture and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer.
4. Slowly pour in the beaten eggs while stirring the soup. The egg will spread out into ribbons. Turn off the heat and garnish with a few more chopped green onions. Serve immediately.

The Results:
I liked this recipe, but there were a couple of changes I would have made to improve it. The recipe calls for enoki, straw or sliced shitaki mushrooms. I used enoki, because they were what was available at the market near my apartment. The sliced shitaki mushrooms probably would have worked a bit better and added more to the soup. I'm also used to egg drop soup which is a bit thicker than how mine turned out. To fix this, I would add a bit more corn starch in the future. I used low sodium soy sauce, because that's what I had at home when I was making this, and the soup needed salt when it was finished. I'd recommend using regular soy sauce instead.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dark chocolate fruit

This week's recipe is very simple and easy, but it's still delicious. For a recent dinner party I decided to make some dark chocolate covered fruit for dessert. There's not much too this recipe, but it was a big hit.

Start out by preparing whatever fruit you want to use. I decided to go with strawberries, raspberries, pineapple and banana.

I used the same chocolate ganache recipe for this as I did for the chocolate cake I made a couple of weeks ago, but in a slightly reduced quantity. Simply bring 2/3 of a cup of heavy cream to a boil and pour it over 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate. 

After that, simply dip the fruit in the chocolate and lay it down on parchment paper to cool. Use what ever method works best for you to do this. I used skewers to coat the banana and raspberries and just dunked the strawberries and pineapple by hand. You could also serve the fruit and warm chocolate as fondue if you wanted. I chose to chill it, just to cut down and the mess and because I like the presentation.

Once the chocolate has sufficiently cooled and hardened, use a spatula to remove them from the parchment paper. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pad see ew

Pad see ew is a traditional Thai street food which has become popular in America. It's one of my personal favorite Thai dishes. It's surprisingly easy to make at home, so I thought I'd share the recipe for anyone who is interested.

The key to really good pad see ew is the fresh rice noodles. You should be able to find them in most Asian markets and they are a big upgrade over dried noodles. In the DC area I usually go to the Bangkok 54 market for the noodles and Chinese broccoli. Bangkok 54 is a great spot to pick up items you might not be able to get at your regular supermarket, like Chinese broccoli or bok choy.

I'm making this version with chicken, but you can just as easily make it with beef, pork, shrimp or tofu if you want. For this recipe you'll need both light and dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce similar to the standard soy sauce you'll find at sushi restaurants. Dark soy sauce is much thicker and has a molasses-like texture to it.

I've experimented with a bunch of different recipes for pad see ew and I've settled on a combination of two of them. The recipe for the marinade comes from Chezpim.com and really adds a lot of flavor to the chicken or whatever protein you choose. The recipe for the rest of the dish comes from Thaitable.com. This recipe will make about two servings, but can be easily doubled. Pad see ew is a fairly mild dish, but you can spice it up with chili sauce or hot sauce. I recommend doing this at the table so everyone can have it to their desired heat.

For the marinade:
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp oyster sauce
a splash of dark sesame oil

For the rest of the dish:
1 tablespoon sugar  
1/2 pound chicken, thinly sliced  
2 tablespoons light soy sauce  
2 cloves garlic, chopped  
1 lb fresh flat rice noodles  
1 egg  
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce  
1 lb Chinese broccoli

1. If your fresh flat rice noodles are not pre-cut, cut them into strips of 3/4 inch wide. Cut Chinese broccoli into 2 inch long pieces. Halve the stems lengthwise because thick stems take longer to cook. You are going to want to cook them at the same time.
2. Heat a wok to high heat and then add 2 tablespoons of oil. Drop in the chopped garlic and stir. 

3 .Add the sliced chicken. Stir to cook the chicken. 

4. When the chicken is somewhat cooked or turned from pink to light brown, add rice noodles. Stir to break up the noodles. 
5. Add light and dark soy sauce and sugar. Stir to mix the seasonings into the noodles and chicken. 
6. Open a spot in the middle of the pan, and drop the egg in. Scramble the egg until it is almost all cooked (not watery any more). Fold in the noodles and mix them all. 

7. Add the Chinese broccoli, stems first. Add half of the Chinese broccoli and stir until it wilts and then add the rest. If you have room in your wok, you can cook all the Chinese broccoli at once. As soon as the Chinese broccoli is cooked, turn off the heat. 

I was pleased with how this recipe turned out. Its a relatively simple recipe, so its hard to mess it up too bad. Pad see ew has a great savory taste that you can kick up with some chili sauce or sriracha. The prep time is bit long if you use the fresh noodles and slice them yourself, but they are worth the effort. Pad see ew is a pretty easy recipe and you can actually get restaurant-quality results at home. Definitely worth a try for any one who's a fan of this dish.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream icing and dark chocolate ganache glaze

I really didn't intend for this to be a dessert blog, but this is the third consecutive dessert entry I've done. This weeks entry is a birthday cake that I made for my girlfriend. She requested a very chocolately cake and this one definitely meets that standard. This cake is based loosely on a recipe by Sara Campbell on foodnetwork.com. Her recipe looks incredible, but it makes a giant cake and there seem to be some issues with the directions for the buttercream. My version combines separate recipes for the cake, the buttercream frosting and the dark chocolate ganache glaze.

The chocolate cake is from a recipe by Cathy Lowe on foodnetwork.com. The buttercream frosting is based on a recipe from Wilton.com. The dark chocolate ganache is based on a recipe from allrecipes.com

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup boiling water

For the buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened (Make sure to use unsalted butter.)
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk

For the the dark chocolate ganache glaze:
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional) (I opted not to add the rum.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by rubbing with butter, sprinkling with flour and tapping out extra.
2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon then set aside.
3. In small bowl combine eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat well with hand mixer. Slowly add boiling water and mix.
4. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and fold and stir until smooth. Pour batter into pans, dividing evenly.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove cake from pans and cool on racks. While the cake is cooling prepare the buttercream frosting.
6. In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. (I don't have an electric mixer, so I did all the mixing by hand. This worked fine, it just requires a bit more work.)
7. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
8. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
9. Frost the cake once the cake is cool and the frosting is prepared. Put the frosted cake in fridge and let set for about 30 minutes. (I fully admit that I did not do the prettiest job frosting this cake, but you won't be able to see this layer when its finished.)
10. Place the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.
11. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.

The Results:
I seem to say this in every post, but while this dish may not look great it tasted absolutely amazing. The cake was extremely rich and decadent. I would recommend reducing the quantities in the ganache recipe. As you can see the cake was overflowing with chocolate glaze and there still plenty left over in the bowl. This isn't a terribly difficult recipe, but it is time consuming because of the multiple layers. This is by far the least healthy thing I've ever cooked. I may have to do something low-calorie next week to make up for this.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dark chocolate coconut clusters

After my last dessert recipe turned out so be so popular I decided to try out another one. This recipe is a bit simpler than the chocolate peanut butter middles, but it's still delicious. These dark chocolate coconut clusters are essentially a no-bake version of macaroons. I'm a huge dark chocolate fan, so expect a lot of these desert recipes to be popping up on the blog. For this recipe I'm using some Green & Blacks Organic 70 percent cacao dark chocolate. You can use a higher percent cacao chocolate if you want for this recipe. The recipe I'm basing this on from 101 Cookbooks used a 70 percent cacao chocolate. I just recently got into coconut so this is the first recipe I've tried using it.

The original ingredients are below with my notes in italics. The directions are slightly modified from the original, again with my notes in italics.

2 1/2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted and cooled (I initially toasted the coconut by putting it in the oven for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. This turned out to be way too long and it was overdone. I forgot that I only wanted them lightly toasted and my oven overcooks everything. I can't say how this would have affected the taste of the final product, but it was definitely not what the recipe called for. I put a second batch in for about 8 minutes and that turned out better. In the picture below you can see the properly toasted batch on the left and the overcooked batch on the right.)

1/2 cup toasted almonds, cooled and chopped (I toasted the almonds in the oven for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.)

7-8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans (optional) (I did not add the espresso because I didn't have any around, though I think it would add some nice extra flavor.)
a big grain finishing salt - if you can get your hands on a smoked one, great (I just used a bit of wide grained sea salt for this.)

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. (I used parchment paper, since I don't have a silpat. My somewhat limited resources will be a running theme throughout the blog.)
2. Toast the coconut and almonds. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine the coconut and almonds in a large bowl.

4. Place the chocolate in a double boiler to melt along with the ground espresso. (In addition to not having a silpat I also don't have an actual double boiler. Fortunately, I was able to make an easy stand-in out of two similarly sized pots.)

5. Pour the chocolate over the coconut mixture and stir to combine. 

6. Let cool a few minutes and then drop by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheet. 

7. Finish with a few grains of salt on top of each. 

8. The mixture will be a bit crumbly, but will set as the chocolate cools. If your kitchen is on the cool side the clusters will set up over the course of an hour or so. If you want to speed up the process a bit, pop them in the refrigerator. (I put them in the fridge, both because I'm impatient and to protect them from my cat.)

The Results:
This may not be the prettiest looking recipe, but it is absolutely delicious. Admittedly, its hard to mess up dark chocolate, almonds and coconut. The quality of the chocolate was very important. I'm glad I decided to spend a couple of extra bucks to get a better brand. The recipe wound up making 30 clusters, but the amount will depend on how large you make them. The original recipe suggested that it would produce 36 clusters, so they must have been pretty small. This was a really simple recipe that I highly recommend as long as taste is more important to you than aesthetics.