Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thai Duck Noodle Soup

Duck soup, Thai style is wonderful! It has a lovely special exotic flavor and it is full of rice noodles, Shitake mushrooms, baby Bok Choy and green onions. I first had this at a Thai restaurant years ago and it became one of my son Stephen's favorite soup when he found a good little Thai restaurant near his university where we would go there whenever I would visit him. That great little Thai place closed down, unfortunately so we had to start making it ourselves. How to start? Well, the first time we made it ourselves, we used the duck bones from the roasted duck we bought at the 99 Ranch Market. Nowadays, we roast our own duck and then make soup the next day.

I was shopping at Uwajimaya's the other day - my favorite grocery store and duck was on sale. We roasted the duck and saved the leftover meat, but there wasn't much left as duck is not the meatiest of birds.  In order to get the rest of the bits off, you need to cook the bones for a while, remove the meat and then return the bones to simmer some more.  The broth is cooked with a stick of cinnamon, some star anise and an onion, garlic, ginger, some carrots and some chunks of daikon radish. Then when the broth is done, you strain it and briefly cook the baby Bok Choy, mushrooms and  rice noodles int he broth. Season it with  some fish sauce, some sweet soy sauce, some salty soy sauce and a squeeze of lime. Garnish with green onions and cilantro and you have an amazing meal!

Thai Duck Noodle Soup

Carcass from one duck, in pieces with the meat picked off and reserved
8 cups of water
2 Star Anise
1 stick of Cinnamon
1 onion, cut into big chunks
2 garlic cloves
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small Daikon Radish, peeled and cut into chunks
2 slices of ginger
6 baby Bok Choy bunches, washed, root end cut off and cut into about 2" pieces
8 dried Shitake Mushrooms, rehydrate in a bowl of boiling water
8 oz Rice Noodles - cooked in boiling water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Tamari
2 Tablespoons Sweet Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
Juice of one Lime mixed with 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Black Pepper to taste

To Serve:

Green Onions, root end removed and ends trimmed, cut into small pieces
Handful of Cilantro Leaves, washed
Sriracha Chili Sauce

Place duck bones in a soup pot and add water, Star Anise, Cinnamon Stick, Onion, Garlic, Carrots, Daikon Radish and Ginger.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Cook for one hour.  Remove bones and cool slightly, removing the remaining meat on them and reserve.  Return bones to the broth and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.  Strain.  (Broth can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it.)

Bring broth back to a boil. Shitake Mushrooms and the baby Bok Choy.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add in the Soy Sauces, Fish Sauce and Lime Juice mixture.  Divide rice noodles between 4 bowls and put reserved duck meat on top.  Pour broth over the noodles, making sure to give each bowl enough baby Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms.  Sprinkle Green Onion pieces and Cilantro on top and serve with chopsticks and Asian spoons and Sriracha Hot Sauce added to taste.

Five Element Analysis

Duck is a Watery food and soy sauce is a Water seasoning and this is a soup, which is a Water food so that element is completely covered. The baby Bok Choy, cilantro and lime juice contribute plenty of the Wood Element.  The Sriracha and Black Pepper bring in the Fire Element, whereas the carrot. sweet soy sauce and brown sugar bring in the Earth Element.  The green onions, onions, radish and spices add the Metal Element so this ends up being a completely balanced meal!  No wonder it feels so good when I eat it....

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Creamy Potato Vegetable Soup

I've been dealing with jetlag and because of a lingering stomach bug, I haven't been terribly adventurous in eating for the past few days. Back here in Seattle, it is freezing and that is soup weather for me. So,this is the soup that I made with the ingredients I had on hand as I haven't gone grocery shopping yet. It  was so good that I had to share the recipe with you  It is creamy and nourishing and soothing too. It comes together easily and simply with ingredients most people have on hand.  And it can be dressed up with a dollop of Crème Fraiche and some fresh herbs if you want to serve it to guest. I just had it plain and it made me very happy. I hope you enjoy it too.

Creamy Potato Soup

2 carrots, cut into small pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional:  a dollop of Crème Fraiche or Sour Cream when serving
Fresh dill or parsley chopped for garnish

Cook onion, carrot and celery in butter in a soup pot until they just begin to brown. Add the broth and potatoes and stir to scrape up the browned pieces on the bottom.  Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender – about 20 minutes.  Then use a stick blender and blend until smooth (you can also use a food processor or blender but do half at a time).  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of Crème Fraiche and some fresh herbs for garnish.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes and carrots belong to the Earth Element so that element is thoroughly represented and your spleen and stomach will thank you for it.  The celery and the chicken broth contribute the Wood Element and the onion adds the Metal Element and the Creme Fraiche adds even more.  Only the Fire Element is missing so serve this with a Fiery food or beverage (I had tea) to create balance.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hoisin Glazed Lamb Chops

I was very social while visiting Copenhagen and wanted to share with you the wonderful Chinese barbecue marinade I made for the lamb chops we had. Now that I am back in Seattle, I know I want to recreate this dish many times, because it was divine! 

Lamb is a relatively new food for me as I was never served it in my childhood, mostly because my mother has a pretty severe distaste for it. Then my subsequent attempts often involved Sunday roasts at my boyfriend's house and usually included mint jelly.  Unfortunately a lot of that lamb tasted a lot more like mutton and it was too gamey for me.  It's only been recently that I started eating lamb more regularly and I particularly like Chinese sauces with it although a good wine for a lamb roast is wonderful too. So, I learned that the most important thing is to buy really good lamb and for that, it's best to visit a butcher to buy the Rib Lamb Chops.

I made the barbecue sauce and put the lamb in to marinate the night before so the flavors would really permeate. Then, I commissioned the guys to barbecue them as that is a cooking technique that I simply have not mastered.  Being barbecue purists, they chose to use wood charcoal and after the wait for the charcoal to get hot enough, the lamb chops only took about 10 minutes for the thinner rib chops and about 14 minutes for the thicker ones if you like your lamb chops to be medium rare to medium. This would also be a really great marinade for Pork Spareribs too. And, it would be quite easy to broil these in the oven instead if you don't have a grill. I served them with a big stir fry of various green vegetables and rice. I really cannot tell you how good these were - you are just going to have to try them yourselves!

Hoisin Glazed Lamb Chops

12 Lamb Chops, cut from the rib (about 3 pounds)
3 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Chinese Shaoshing Rice Wine (or you can use Riesling)
1 Tablespoon Sriracha Chili Suace
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 large or 2 small garlic  cloves minced fine with 1 teaspoon of sat

Mix together the Hoisin Sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, Sriracha, garlic and brown sugar together in a small bowl until smooth.  Put into a large Ziploc bag and add the lamb chops.  Seal and shake the bag until all the lamb is covered.  Put into the refrigerator and marinate overnight or at least 2 hours.  When ready to cook, remove from bag and place on grill or in oven broiler. Cook for about 10 minutes per side.  

Five Element Analysis

Lamb is a Fire Element Food, so this is a good meat to add when you need fire in your meal and the Sriracha Chili Sauce and rice wine adds even more fire. The Hoisin Sauce and the Soy Sauce add the Water Element although the sweetness of the Hoisin Sauce also contributes a bit of the Earth Element, which is enhanced even more by the brown sugar.  The Garlic Cloves adds the Metal Element, but to create balance, I served the lamb chops with rice and some stir fried green vegetables that contributed the Wood Element. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Antonie's Spiced Oranges and Cream

We had a dinner party in Copenhagen and like many times when I shop and cook, I focused on the dinner and completely forgot about dessert! So I found a big bag of oranges and started thinking of ways to serve them. Antonie told me that she likes to eat them with cinnamon sugar as they do in Morocco but she also likes to add a little whipped cream. Adding cream mixed with vanilla to the oranges made it taste like one of my favorite childhood treats - 50/50 bars with vanilla ice cream inside an orange popsicle - except this was even better! I also added a bit of grated orange peel to the whipped cream as it added the Fire Element and made the cream really pretty with small orange flecks in it. This dessert was so popular that we made it again a few nights later! It tasted light, clean, refreshing and vaguely exotic too from the cinnamon. Cut into thin slices and layered, the oranges were also beautiful. Remember to sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on each layer and  marinate it for a while.  I highly recommend  this wonderfully simple and delicious dessert!

Antonie's Spiced Oranges with Cream

6 - 8 large Navel oranges
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons sugar

For topping  

1 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange rind

Cut oranges by slicing off the top and bottom.  Then using a sharp paring knife, slice off the all of the rind and as much of the white pith as possible, going with the curve of the oranges. Then slice the oranges horizontally into thin slices.  Continue until all oranges are cut.

In a round serving dish, place orange slices in one layer, sprinkle with 1/2 the cinnamon sugar and then put second layer of oranges on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.  Let marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes up to one hour.  

Mix the whipping cream with the Powdered Sugar, vanilla extract and grated orange rind until soft peaks form.  Chill until ready to use.  To serve, pass to guests so they can add a dollop on top of their spiced oranges.

Five Element Analysis

The flesh of oranges belongs to the Wood family of foods so that element is covered and the rind, being bitter adds the Fire Element. The sugar adds the Earth Element, whereas the cream, vanilla extract and cinnamon contribute the Water Element.  Only the Water Element is missing so this is a good dessert after a meal that is composed primarily of a Water food like fish so that it helps to create balance.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mexican Flan

I had a dinner party the other night here in Denmark and wanted to make something different so I cooked Mexican food.  There was a lack of certain ingredients and it was actually fun to recreate dishes with whatever I could find. For example, I ended up using half a packet of Fajita Seasoning Mix combined with pineapple juice to marinate the chicken pieces before roasting them and they turned out great!  The one thing that was easiest to make was the Flan and it was a big hit. Flan is one of my favorite desserts (along with Creme Brulee) and I admit that I do have to take a Lactaid pill in order to eat it, but it is so worth it. It is creamy and smooth and sweet in just the right way. This recipe is a variation of several that I have tried over the years, the most famous of which is the one from Diana Kennedy.  Her recipe calls for 4 extra egg yolks and it does make the flan richer, but I think this way is lighter and I actually prefer it.  I've never had trouble inverting the flan and if you do, just scoop it up and put the flan in dessert glasses and act like you meant it to be that way.  Flan is a lovely end to a big meal.

Mexican Flan

3/4 cup sugar for caramel
3 ¼ cups milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs

A 9-inch Pyrex pie dish or 9x9" square baking dish

Heat oven to 325 degrees 

Heat the sugar for the caramel in a small frying pan over medium heat until it begins to dissolve. Shake the pan often until all the sugar melts and it turns caramel colored. Pour the caramel into the bottom of the pie pan or baking dish and quickly turn it until the entire bottom of the pan has been lightly coated with the caramel. Set aside to cool.

Put the milk, salt, sugar, and cinnamon or vanilla into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and yolks together.  Stir in a small amount of milk and then pour into the milk mixture.  Pour the mixture through a strainer into the glass pan and place it in a hot water bath in the oven. Test after 45 minutes with a sharp knife; if it comes out clean the flan is cooked but the middle should still jiggle. If the knife comes out with too much that sticks, keep cooking for 5 minutes more.  When done, remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely before refrigerating. (It will puff while it bakes and flatten when it cools).

To unmold, carefully slip a butter knife around the rim of the flan and gently under the flan slightly.  Place the serving plate on top of the mold, invert quickly, and turn over.  Cut into wedges or pieces and serve with extra syrup spooned on top.

Five Element Analysis

As a custard, this dish is composed of mostly eggs and milk.  Eggs belong to the Water Element and Milk to the Metal Element so those elements are covered.  And, as a sweet dessert, especially one that has caramelized sugar, you know the Earth Element is involved. What's missing is the Fire and Wood Elements so this is a good dessert to supplement main dishes and vegetables that contain those elements to create balance.  I served it with Mexican Chicken, which is a Wood protein and a Mexican Salad with lettuce that contributed the Fire Element.