Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stir-fried Yu Choi and Shiitake Mushroom

Here is a simple and delicious vegetable dish that can be used as a main dish or a side dish for something like Osso Buco since it can stand up for itself. It took me only 5 minutes to prep and another 5 minutes to cook the dish.

1 lb yu choi or other chinese vegetables, ends trimmed
1/2 lb shiitake mushroom, sliced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-inch ginger, julienned
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a wok on a medium high heat and, when hot, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry quickly for 1 minute or so until fragrant.
  • Add in the vegetables, mushroom, and sauce and stir until combined. Cover and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Osso Buco

It's going to snow in San Francisco... it's going to snow in San Francisco... NOT! After a non-stop hoopla in the news in the past week, snow did not arrive in San Francisco this weekend. Although it was cold, it was sunny all weekend long and it reminded me of the days when Arthur just laid out on the balcony or in front of the window enjoying the sun. My beautiful dog Arthur passed away 2 weeks ago because of lymphoma cancer, he came to my life, turned it up side down for good and I missed him dearly.

I made this Simply Recipes' Osso Buco in expectation that it would be an overcast wet and cold weekend and in memory of Arthur because I know that he would enjoy gnawing the bone marrow out of the shanks. I couldn't find any veal shanks so I used beef shanks instead which means I had to cook it for another hour to get it tender. I served this delicious goodness on top of steamed white rice, sprinkle with gremolata and a side of Stir-fried Yu Choi and Shiitake Mushroom.

1/4 pound pancetta, diced 1/4 inch cubes (do not substitute bacon)
2-1/2 to 3 pounds veal shanks (4 to 6 pieces 2-3 inches thick)
1/2 cup diced carrot (1/4 inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced celery (1/4 inch cubes)
1 medium onion, diced 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons (about 4 cloves) chopped garlic
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 cup dry white wine
1-2 cups chicken or veal stock
flour for dusting the meat before browning
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons minced flat (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Heat a dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat for about five minutes. Add pancetta to pan, cook, stirring occasionally. When the pancetta is crispy and most of the fat has rendered (about 5 minutes of cooking), remove the pancetta to a plate covered with some paper towel and set aside. If necessary, drain off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
  • Season the veal shank well with salt and pepper. Dredge the veal shanks through some flour, shake off any excess, and add the meat to the hot fat in the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and cook the meat on each side until well browned (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the shanks to a plate, set aside.
  • Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the dutch oven. Cook the onion mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent (about five minutes) and toss in the garlic and thyme. Continue cooking until the vegetables just begin to brown (about 10 minutes).
  • Add the shanks and the pancetta back to the pan. Pour in the wine, and then add enough stock to come a little more than half way up the side of the shanks. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and put it in the oven to cook until the meat is tender, about 2-2.5 hours.
  • Combine the gremolata ingredients, place in a separate small serving dish.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thomas Keller's Gruyère Gougères

I first heard of gougères from Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires. The way she described these little cheesy wonders that are so simple, elegant, and so frequently made in the household of a former NYT food critic really makes you salivate. Since then, I have made gruyère gougères several times. The most recent time I opted to use a Thomas Keller recipe. As usual, any recipe touched by Thomas Keller is instantly 50% more complicated than any other recipes. But hey, what other Thomas Keller dishes can be done under an hour (even by a slow cook like me)?

So next time you have friends over and need an appetizer or snack to munch on, make gougères. And make sure they are hot out of the oven when you serve them. That's when they are the puffiest, butteriest, and tastiest.

Note: The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of salt and the gougères ended up way too salty for me. Since the cheese already has a salty flavor, I'd adjust the salt amount by half next time. Also, add some cayenne pepper! It will make the flavors richer and more intense.

1 cup water
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt (I suggest using much less)
1 pinch of sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour4 large eggs (up to 5 eggs)
1 1/4 cups grated Gruyère
Freshly ground white pepper
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium, and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, or until the mixture forms a ball and the excess moisture has evaporated. (If the ball forms more quickly, continue to cook and stir for a full 2 minutes.)
  • Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle and beat for about 30 seconds at medium speed to cool slightly. Add 4 eggs and continue to mix until completely combined and the batter has a smooth, silky texture. Stop the machine and lift up the beater to check the consistency of the batter. The batter in the mixing bowl should form a peak with a tip that falls over. If it is too stiff, beat in the white of the remaining egg. Check again and, if necessary, add the yolk. Finally, mix in 3/4 cup of the Gruyère and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
  • Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch plain pastry tip with the gougère batter. Pipe the batter into one-tablespoon mounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the gougères as the mixture will spread during the baking. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with about 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining grated cheese.
  • Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until they puff and hold their shape. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. When the gougères are done, they should be a light golden brown color. When you break one open, it should be hollow; the inside should be cooked but still slightly moist. Remove the pans from the oven and serve the gougères while hot.

Alton Brown's City Ham

If you are going, what is City Ham? Is it made from urban pigs? Here is what chef/scientist/nerd Alton Brown has to say about city style ham: A city ham is basically any brined ham that's packed in a plastic bag, held in a refrigerated case and marked "ready to cook", "partially cooked" or "ready to serve". Better city hams are also labeled "ham in natural juices".

Simply put: those big wrapped up hefty chunk of ham you see in grocery stores that's not labeled "lunch meat." I will suggest though, get a piece with a bone in it! They yield a much tastier result.

This recipe does require hours of work, waiting for the ham to slowly roast in the oven. It's perfect for big get-togethers, like Thanksgiving, where you are hosting a large number of people, and will be stuck in the kitchen making food all day anyway. After all, City Ham is a very low maintenance dish. Prep work doesn't take very long, and it makes a very beautiful and delicious entree.

1 city style (brined) ham
1/4 cup brown mustard
2 cups dark brown sugar
1-ounce bourbon (poured into a spritz bottle)
2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies

  • Heat oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Remove ham from bag, rinse and drain thoroughly.
  • Place ham, cut side down, in a roasting pan. Using a small paring knife or clean utility knife set to the smallest blade setting, score the ham from bottom to top, spiraling clockwise as you cut. (If you're using a paring knife, be careful to only cut through the skin and first few layers of fat). Rotate the ham after each cut so that the scores are no more than 2-inches across. Once you've made it all the way around, move the knife to the other hand and repeat, spiraling counter clockwise. The aim is to create a diamond pattern all over the ham. (Don't worry too much about precision here.)
  • Tent the ham with heavy duty foil, insert a thermometer, and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature at the deepest part of the meat registers 130 degrees F.
  • Remove and use tongs to pull away the diamonds of skin and any sheets of fat that come off with them.
    Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Dab dry with paper towels, then brush on a liberal coat of mustard, using either a basting brush or a clean paint brush (clean as in never-touched paint). Sprinkle on brown sugar, packing loosely as you go until the ham is coated. Spritz this layer lightly with bourbon, then loosely pack on as much of the crushed cookies as you can.
  • Insert the thermometer (don't use the old hole) and return to the oven (uncovered). Cook until interior temperature reaches 140 degrees F, approximately 1 hour.
  • Let the roast rest for 1/2 hour before carving.

Momofuku's Crack Pie

Crack is addicting. That's what we learned from watching Dave Chappelle before he became a underground ghost comedian weaving in and out of small comedy clubs in various cities. So when Vincent challenged me to make a dessert that has "crack" in its name, well, my mouth watered. The only thing that kept me from making it as soon as I looked at the recipe was the fact that the recipe had three parts, and total time adds up to over 10 hours. Oh no.

But once I actually read the recipe again and got the ingredients ready, the process isn't gruesome at all. It's like any dessert, really. Mix the flour, eggs, cream, then bake until the sweet aroma from the oven fills up the kitchen.

Okay, maybe it's a little more complicated than baking a tray of chocolate cookies and more importantly, you do need the patience to wait for it to chill in the fridge for hours. But trust me, the wait is worthwhile! And once the pies are ready, unlike other freshly made desserts that need to consumed within a day or so, crack pies are good for over a week. Whenever you crave something sweet and buttery and gooey, just take out a slice from the fridge and enjoy.

I used this recipe from
LA Times, but most recipes you find online don't vary too much.

You can dust the sugar powder in whatever shapes you like. Just make a cutout from a piece of paper and dust the powder on top then remove the paper. Here I did a bunny shape to celebrate Lunar New Year (it's the year of the Hare).

Cookie for crust


2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 egg
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats


  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.
  • With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.
  • Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.



Crumbled cookie for crust
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt


  • Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together).
  • Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins (smaller pie tins are okay too; you will just end up with a thicker pie).
  • Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins.
  • Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.



1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, garnish

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.
  • Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
  • Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.
  • Bake the pies for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.
  • Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Pies are good for up to a week in the fridge.