Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Lately I've been on an ice cream making kick.  It was pretty hot in August and ice cream was a perfect dessert.  Now that I've got some ice cream making skills under my belt, I've started trying to tinker and create my own recipes.  Ice cream is one of those great things to mess with, because most ice creams start with a normal base and then you can make whatever creative concoction you can dream up.

I've been tossing around the idea of making a cafe sau da, or Vietnamese ice coffee, flavor but I wasn't sure how well condensed milk would freeze.  Awesomely enough, my cousin chi Khanh brought these concentrated base of it to a family gathering.  It's made by Lee's Sandwich, a chain of banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) fast-food restaurants.  I used the triple shot formula for this recipe.  All in all, it turned out really good but it wasn't quite as sweet and strong as cafe sua da.  I think it's just the inevitableness of having cream and sugar as part of the ice cream base...

Vietnamese Coffe Ice Cream
Ingredients:

  • 1 c. plus 2 tbs. whole milk
  • 1 tbs. corn starch
  • 1 1/4c. Heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1/2 c. Lee's Sandwich triple shot cafe sua da
Directions:

  1. Whisk 2 tbs. of milk with corn starch in small bowl, set aside
  2. In medium saucepan over medium heat, add sugar, whipping cream, and triple shot cafe sua da concentrate and allow to come to simmer.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in corn starch slurry, condensed milk, and vanilla.
  4. Refrigerate overnight
  5. Follow ice cream maker's directions, then freeze for at least 2 hours before serving




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Smoothies

Smoothies, breakfast of champs!  It's hard for me to get Reid to eat breakfast. He likes something on-the-go that won't cut into snooze time. I like getting fruits and veggies into our day somehow.  I was made aware of how bad we were at getting at least 3 servings of fruit/veggies a day when my friend, Dalia, headed up a Facebook get healthy in 30 days challenge. We were given points for healthy choices and it made me aware that the days I didn't drink a smoothie, I wasn't getting enough fruits or veggies. 

We have a really nice blender, a Blendtec, which makes smoothies a breeze in the morning. I can drink one before (or if I'm running late, carry to) work and leave one for Reid by the door to drink on his way to work. The Blender Bottle really helps break up that weird crust that forms if you don't drink a smoothie right away, so it's my choice for on-the-go smoothies. I even tried the Dr. Oz 3 day smoothie cleanse (because you can do anything for just 3 days). I like smoothies over juicing because it retains a lot of the good fiber benefits from eating fruits and vegetables and it allows me to use frozen fruits.  Plus, blenders are way easier to clean than a juicer! I'm not going to stick to doing something if it's not super convenient for our busy lifestyle.

Here are a few of the smoothie recipes I enjoy.  The raw honey helps my allergies, probiotics help GI health, and ground flax seed is a source of omegas.  All are optional. Reid doesn't like dairy in his smoothies, so I add Greek yogurt after I've poured his cup out.


Green Smoothie

  • 2 c. Coconut water
  • 1 tbs ground flax seed
  • 1 tbs raw honey
  • 1 probiotic capsule, opened
  • 2 c. spinach or kale greens*
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 c. Frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 c. Frozen mango
  • 3 tbs Greek yogurt
Combine ingredients in order listed and blend.
*can use a combination of both.  I find kale more bitter and usually add more pineapple to balance it out.


Berry Banana Smoothie

  • 2 c. Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk
  • 1 tbs ground flax seed
  • 1 tbs raw honey
  • 1 probiotic capsule, opened
  • 1 c. Frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 c. Frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  •  3 tbs Greek yogurt
Combine ingredients in order listed and blend.


Strawberry Mango Smoothie

  • 2 c. Unsweeted vanilla Almond milk
  • 1 tbs ground flax seed
  • 1 tbs raw honey
  • 1 probiotic capsule, opened
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 c. Frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 c. Frozen mango
  • 3 tbs Greek yogurt

Combine ingredients in order listed and blend. 
Berry Banana Smoothie

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Green Smoothie

Blendtec's an investment, but well worth it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheese 101

A few weeks ago, Reid and I went to a Cheese 101 course at Antonelli's Cheese Shop.  Antonelli's is an awesome cheese shop that is about 5 blocks away from our house.  Obviously, we eat a lot of cheese from there.  Sometimes we just visit and talk to the cheese mongers, who are really knowledgeable and friendly.  It's much smaller in selection than the typical fromageries I'm used to in Paris, but that's a benefit because it doesn't stink!

Any way, I dragged Reid to one of their cheese courses for a date night.  We ate a lot of cheese.  And learned a lot about cheese.  Maybe got too much info about cheese regulations going on right now.  Reid thought 2 hours about cheese was way too extensive.  I was happy, though, because, come on, eating cheese!
Learning About Cheese!
Delicious Cheese

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tamara's Chicken Fried Steak

Reid and I spent the weekend in Abilene, visiting his parents, sister's family, and grandma.  I snatched up the opportunity to learn how to make a good chicken fry and to buy an awesome couch off of Abilene Craigslist.  Yay!  The kitties, Cleo and Alex, were recovering from their recent spays so I couldn't pester them too much.  Did get to check out the Paramount theater for a showing of Indiana Jones and drive around town.  It was a great weekend hanging out with Reid's family.

I really wanted to learn how to make a good chicken fry(ied steak), because it's one of my favorite things to order at southern comfort food restaurant.  Reid has let me know there is good chicken fried steak, and there is bad chicken fried steak.  I really had no reference point because my mom never made chicken fried steak.  Surprise!  I think Luby's has a good chicken fried steak.  Pretty much any place with chicken fried steak on the menu is good to me.   Boy was I wrong!  I learned there is cheap steak, there is batter that is too thick (to double dip, or not to double dip?), or too soft, or too crunchy.  It's these subtleties that outsiders don't pick up on that is really interesting.  The other weekend when we were hanging out with my family, we lamented on a place that put broccoli in their pho.  People from non-Vietnamese backgrounds probably don't think, broccoli in pho, that's just wrong!  But my family was outraged.  So Reid told me that liking chicken fried steak from Luby's is like pho with brocoli in it.  It's just plain wrong if you know what the good stuff should be.

Tamara, my mother-in-law, showed me how it's done.  Of course, like all awesome cooks, Tamara does not measure out anything so this recipe is my approximations from watching her.

Chicken Fried Steak
Serves 4
Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs round steak, tenderized
  • ~4 c. Crisco or vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
Directions
  1. Melt Crisco, or bring oil up to medium-high heat in 10 inch straight-sided frying pan.
  2. Salt and pepper both sides of steak.  Cut steaks into sections or steak fingers, depending on preference.
  3. Combine egg, sugar, milk, and 1 tbs each of salt and pepper in medium bowl
  4. Set flour in shallow dish
  5. Dip steak into wash, then flour, then fry steak
  6. Once blood is seen seeping through first side, flip; about 3-5 minutes
  7. Fry until golden brown and cool on paper towel lined plates.
Alternative versions:
Healthier-Pan fry in vegetable oil with no batter (flour only)
Joie's version (Reid's paternal grandma)- Dip in buttermilk, then dredge in flour, then double dip in buttermilk and flour


Country Gravy
Ingredients
  • 1/4 c. reserved pan drippings
  • 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c. milk
Directions
  1. Cook pan drippings and flour on medium heat until flour cooked through or light brown.  Add salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in milk and cook until thickened.  

Egg, flour, fry
Straight from frying
White Gravy

Yum!



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Macarons

A few months ago I decided to try my hand at French macarons.  I used a recipe from Martha Stewart and made chocolate mint macarons and chocolate hazelnut macarons.  It was pretty dark in my kitchen the night I made them, so sorry for the poor quality photos!

These were a lot of work, especially with grinding my own almond flour, and soaking/peeling filberts.  Why are hazelnuts (aka filberts) so flipping hard to work with!  Luckily, I used a simple technique I learned thanks to the internets and blanched the 1 c. filberts in 1 c. water and 1 tbs baking soda.  The skins came off much easier.

These macarons would have totally been worth the usual $3 price. Even at the best Austin macaron store, Cinnamons Bakery.  We miss you Cinnamons Bakery! Oh Chef Loic from Cinnamons Bakery, why did you have to have a heart attack and die?!   He was our favorite Texas transplant from France.

Now I have to spend 8 hrs of my own day trying to whip some up...

Basic Recipe for French Macarons
Ingredients
  • 3/4 c. almond flour
  • 1 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 egg whites, room temp
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/4 c. fine sugar*
  • filling (jams, butter cream, chocolate ganache, etc) chocolate ganache recipe below
Directions

  1. Combine almond flour and confectioners sugar in food processor and pulse until smooth.  Sift twice.
  2. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with hand mixer on medium until soft peaks form.  Add fine sugar and beat on low.  Then beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
  3. Fold in flour/sugar mixture into egg whites and load into pastry bag/ziploc bag.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F
  5. Using pastry bag (or ziploc bag with tip cut off) and round tip, pipe mixture into 3/4 inch rounds, about 1" apart onto Silpat or parchment lined baking sheets.  Tap the edges of baking sheet to help release air bubbles
  6. Reduce oven temp and bake at 325F for about 10 minutes or until firm and crisp, rotating pan halfway through.
  7. Cool 2-3 minutes before transfering to wire cooling rack
  8. When completely cooled, add filling and make little macaron sandwiches.
  9. Serve immediately.  Or wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months

Variations:
Hazlenut-Chocolate: Use ground hazelnuts instead of almond flour and 1 tbs. cocoa powder
Mint-Chocolate: Add 1/4 tsp peppermint extract and 3 drops green food color, grate bittersweet chocolate over before baking

*I used my BlendTec to grind some regular sugar for a few seconds

Chocolate Ganache
Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 3 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter, melted
Directions

  1. Bring cream to medium boil.
  2. Pour over chocolate in heat-proof bowl
  3. Mix in butter.  Use immediately





Sunday, September 7, 2014

Vietnamese Pork Chops

There's a broken rice specialty restaurant in Houston that we go to almost every time I'm home.  Thuan Kieu Giang Com Tam has delicious broken rice and meat (or tofu, or egg rolls, or fried egg, or Vietnamese pork roll/cha lua...) dishes.  It inspired me to try a Vietnamese-style pork chop.

Most com tam dishes are served with lettuce, pickled shredded carrots, and tomatoes.  I did not have any com tam, or broken rice bits, so I just used Jasmine rice.  I bought some beautiful 1" pork chops from the SFC Triangle Farmer's Market to grill.  Marinating the pork chop in a fish sauce marinade really imparts a Vietnamese flavor and caramelizes the pork chop once it hits the grill.  Veterinary school has perpetually freaked me out about under cooked pork (no tritrich for me!), so I like to finish the chops in the oven until an instant read thermometer hits 145*F.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Vietnamese Pork Chops
Ingredients
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. fish sauce
  • 2 tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • shallot, thinly sliced
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 1" thick pork chops
Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients (except pork chops) in a shallow casserole dish.  Make sure the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Marinate the pork chops in sauce in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Take out and allow to come to room temp and turn the pork chops in marinade.  Shake off excess marinade form chops.
  3. Grill 4 minutes per side over medium-high heat.
  4. Allow to finish cooking in 375*F oven until cooked through in center.
  5. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.