Friday, February 24, 2012

Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp

Oh my, oh my!!! This was the recipe of the far.  Absolutely loved this tonight.  I could not get over the fantastic flavors and the cilantro added at the end on top of  the shrimp dish was just over the top!!!

This will be put on a "make often" list.  We both loved it, but I think I loved it the best!!

Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp
from Once Upon a Chef

This turned out to be the easiest and the tastiest recipe I have found in a long time.  I would rate this a 10+ on a scale of 10.  Quick to put together and so good.  We served it on rice and added sliced cucumbers, salted and with sesame oil on the side.  PERFECT!!!

Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp
Serves 4

1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine fish sauce, dark brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and water in a bowl and whisk until brown sugar is dissolved.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook. stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Do not brown.

Turn heat up to medium-high and add shrimp.  Cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are just barely pink and still translucent in spots, a few minutes.  Add fish sauce mixture.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer until shrimp are cooked through. a few minutes more.  Off heat, stir in scallions and cilantro.  Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

Do not hesitate trying this recipe.  I absolutely KNOW you will love it!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Italian Pot Roast with Polenta....Oh yes!!!

I am surprised I have not posted this dinner before.  The last time we had it with mashed potatoes and it was great.  This time I made polenta and it was outstanding!!   Pasta would also be an alternative, but I loved the soft polenta.

The recipe we pulled from Cook's Country TV several years ago.  It is a great tasting Italian Pot Roast. Perhaps a little putzy to put together, but the oven does most of the work.  If you are ready to try a new pot roast recipe, let it be this one.

Italian Pot Roast
from Cook's Country with my interpretation

I boneless beef chuck roast  2 1/2-3 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup red wine (divided)
1 large head garlic, outer papery skin removed, then halved
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.  Pat dry roast and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown roast on all sides for 8 to 12 minutes.  Transfer roast to large plate.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onion, celery, mushrooms and tomato paste until vegetables begin to soften  5-8 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes, water and 1/2 cup of the wine, garlic head and thyme.  Return roast to accumulated juices to pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Place foil over pot, cover with lid and transfer pot to oven.

Cook for 1 hour and flip roast over.  Continue cooking in the oven for another 1 1/2 hours or until fork tender.  Uncover pot and let the roast rest in the juices for 20 minutes, skimming fat from the surface.  Transfer roast to carving board and tent with foil.  Remove the garlic head and add remaining 1/2 cup of wine.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Cook until sauce thickens, about 12 minutes.  Meanwhile, carefully squeeze garlic from the cut half bulb and mash into paste.  Add rosemary to pot and simmer until fragrant...about 2 minutes.  Remove and discard rosemary and thyme springs.  Stir in mashed garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the roast into slices against the grain.  Transfer to platter and pour the sauce over.  Serve over soft polenta, mashed potatoes or pasta.

I had to do quite a search on the Internet looking for the right ratio for soft polenta.  It seems most people cook the thicker polenta that is then sliced and fried.  Finally, I found the ratio and it turned out perfect.

I found Bob's Red Mill Polenta Corn Grits at Whole Foods.  I took what I needed out of the bag and put it in the freezer.  It needs to be frozen or in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Soft Polenta

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coarse or medium grind corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper

In a 4 to 6 6 qt. pan over medium high heat, bring the water and broth to a boil.  Whisk in the salt and then the corn meal in a thin, steady stream, whisking non-stop until smooth.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, for 8-10 minutes or until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter and olive oil.  Serve right away or you can cover and it should keep warm and soft for about 20 minutes.  It will get stiffer as it cools.

With such a delightful meal, you really need a great wine.  This wine was the right choice.  It is known as a "Super Tuscan."  It is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  It was ranked 69 out of the Top 100 in 2011 by Wine Spectator.  Wine Spectator also ranked it most drinkable in 2012-2022.  We felt it was very drinkable now and will age 3-5 years.  It has the essence of black current, cherry and cedar aromas.  Price was $18.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My surprise gift

Just before Christmas, I heard from a friend from high school.  He had found some old photos  of my family when my brother and I were kids.  I told him I would love them.  What a surprise came in that envelope from him.

Above you see a wine holder which seems to be quite popular right now.  The best part of this gift is that it is made out of black favorite wood, and my friend, Ron, handcrafted this himself.  Okay, I will be honest.  When I first saw this, I was baffled for about 15 minutes as to what it was.  Then it hit me!!  Ron, I love this and will treasure it always.

I do have to give credit to Facebook for connecting me with Ron again.  We worked together in high school on my yearbook, and then as it happens, I married and moved again from the home town, and lost track of these old friends.  Ron befriended me on Facebook and we have been in touch ever since.  So Ron, thank you so much for thinking of me and for such a beautiful gift.  I love it and will treasure it.  You are special.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stir-Fried Pork, Sichuan style

The minute Cook's Illustrated magazine arrived in our mailbox this week, we bookmarked 2 recipes to try.  I find this a wonderful magazine.  The testers have gone to all the trouble to take a recipe, try it several ways, and then present you with the perfect completed dish.

Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce was such a recipe.  One very strange step to me, was taking the slices of raw pork and soaking them in baking soda water to tenderize.  It really was beautifully tender and reminded me of Chinese restaurant style dishes.  But my curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I do think the next time I try this, I will forego the baking soda soaking just to see if there is a difference.

Though I did make a couple of substitutions in the sauce ingredients, I think it turned out very good.  I have never been a fan of adding sugar to sauces or salad dressings, so I will eliminate the sugar addition to the sauce next time.  I just don't care for it.

Sichuan Stir-Fried Pork in Garlic Sauce (yu xiang pork)
  by Cook's Illustrated
  serves 4 to 6

If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar.  If Asian broad-bean chili paste is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons of Asian chili-garlic paste of Sriracha sauce (use carefully).  Serve with steamed rice.


1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (I used Vermouth)
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch


12 ounces boneless country-style pork ribs, trimmed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (I used Vermouth)
2 teaspoons cornstarch


4 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, white part minced, green part sliced thin
2 tablespoons Asian broad-bean chili paste
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
2 celery ribs, cut on bias into 1/4 inches slices

For the sauce:  Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

For the pork:   Cut pork into 2 inch lengths, then cut each length into 1/4 inch matchsticks.  Combine pork with baking soda and water in bowl.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Rinse pork in cold water.  Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.  Whisk rice wine and cornstarch in bowl.  Add pork and toss to coat.

For the stir-fry:  Combine garlic, scallion whites, and chili paste in bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 2-4 minutes.  Add celery and continue to cook until celery is tender-crisp, 2-4 minutes. ( At this point, I added the garlic, scallion whites and chili paste to the pan and stir fried for about 1 minutes.  I felt adding it to the meat would burn the garlic.)Transfer vegetables to separate

Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to now empty skillet and place over medium-high heat.  Add pork to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.  Whisk sauce mixture to recombine and add to skillet.  Increase heat to high and cook, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened and pork is cooked thoroughly.  Return vegetables to skillet and toss to combine.  Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with scallion greens.

I was very fortunate in the 70's, as a young wife and mother, to live in a town in Michigan, where I was able to learn Chinese cooking in a class taught by an American woman married to a man from China.  I also lived next door to a woman from Korea who taught me several dishes including fantastic egg rolls and kim-chee.  After all these years, I still go back to these recipes.  I think most important of all, they taught me the technique of Oriental cooking.  I treasure those days of learning to cook in this delicious style.  Thank you Lynda and Lee.  I remember you both well.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Translated, it is Water Cake

Because it was my birthday week and we were dining in all week, I decided to make my mother's old recipe for Wasser Kuchen.  She made this recipe so often, she did it by memory. The recipe card used to hang on the inside of the spice cabinet door in her kitchen.  Such few ingredients, I memorized it myself as a young girl.

Mother always baked this sponge-type cake in a 9 x 13 pan.  Then added fruit or pudding or chocolate or whatever she felt like.  Since this is strawberry season in Florida, I knew I would make a shortcake of sorts.

When we lived in Germany 44 years ago.....can it be that long ago?.... I bought a cake form called a "Torten Boden" which literally means the bottom of the cake.  You can buy these ready made in Germany such as our small, round shortcakes.  What I love about the pan is that it forms an edge so all the lovely fruit cannot escape.

It is a Dr. Oetker pan and looks its age.  The trick is to diligently get shortening into every little ripple and crevice in order for the cake to simply drop out after baking.  No rush on this job.

Wasser Kuchen  (Water Cake)

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup water

Beat the eggs until very foamy.  Add sugar and beat to mix.  Add baking powder to flour and slowly add alternately to the sugar/egg mixture with the water.

Bake in a greased, sugared and then lightly floured 9 x 13 pan, or if you have a fluted German cake pan, please use it instead.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.    How simple is that!!

I mentioned last time that I received this great gift from Debby at A Feast for the Eyes.  One of the items was an envelope of King Arthur "Instant Clearjel Powder."  It is a thickening substitute for flour or cornstarch for pies.  But this is the best part...  I cut up the strawberries and put half the amount of sugar on them and let them sit for a half hour.  Into the other half of the sugar, I added 2 tablespoons of this "Instant Clearjel Powder."  I mixed the last half of the sugar and gel into the strawberries gently, and it quickly thickened to a perfect texture.  No cooking involved.  I then spooned the strawberries onto the cake.  This worked so slick!!!  I know I will use this product often.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cinnamon Chip Scones

I was fortunate to win a giveaway from Debbie at A Feast for the Eyes.  One special part of this gift was a package of King Arthur Cinnamon Chips.  I have been wanting to find a special recipe for this and I think I have.

I found the post here on CC Recipe blog.  They smelled so wonderful while they were baking.  I really do like those cinnamon chips.  Tiny little bursts of great tasting cinnamon.  As most scone recipes, this came together quickly.

Cinnamon Chip Scones

2 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup buttermilk

Heavy cream for brushing top and cinnamon/sugar mixture for sprinkling on top

Mix dry ingredients and cut butter into it.  Add the cinnamon chips.  Add buttermilk all at once, folding to incorporate.  Knead dough gently to just hold together.  Form into a rectangle approximately 3 1/2 inches by 15 inches long.  Cut dough into 14-15 triangles.  (I made them a little bigger and got 12).

Place on parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.  Brush with cream and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar.  Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.