Monday, September 22, 2014

Red Velvet Macarons

I made macaron once before, it failed, and I've never tried making it again until recently.  It's not that I don't like it because once in a while I still buy from a store and enjoy it immensely.  Then, I found my interest in making it once more.  This time armed with a good recipe, a very dry day, and a bag of ground hazelnut, I promised myself that it'd work out.  

Red Velvet Macarons

Makes about 40 (1-inch) macarons

1 packed cup (145 grams) hazelnut flour
⅔ packed cup (145 grams) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons (17.5 grams) cocoa powder
Pinch fine sea salt
1 tablespoon (5 grams) powdered egg white
¾ cup (150 grams granulated sugar
½ cup (115 grams) aged egg whites (from 4 eggs)
½ teaspoon (3 grams) cream of tartar
5 drops red liquid food coloring

Place hazelnut flour, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 times to combine them.  Sift with a fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet of waxed paper.  

With a hand whisk, whisk together the powdered egg whites and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous.

Set the bowl and whisk attachment on the mixer and whisk on medium speed until the meringue is glossy and forms a stiff peak, about 11 minutes.

Once the meringue reaches stiff peaks and resembles marshmallow fluff, stop the mixer.  With a spatula, quickly fold the sifted dry ingredients into the meringue.  When the batter appears to be 90 percent incorporated, scraped the sides of the bowl, and fold in the food coloring.

Cover the batter with plastic wrap placed directly over it, to prevent a skin from forming, and let the batter sit 1 hour at room temperature.  It will be thick, but loosen somewhat in the hour.

Preheat the oven to 200F.  

Spoon the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip.  Fill the bag halfway, leaving the rest of the meringue in the bowl while piping; cover it with plastic wrap while a batch is in the oven.  Twist the top of the bag to close.  Pipe the meringue on the silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet into quarter-sized mounds, 1 ½ inches apart from one another.  Firmly slam the baking sheets down to remove excess air.

Bake meringue shells at 200F for 15 minutes.  Increase the oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 11 minutes, until the foot and edge of the shells feel firm.  Remove the shells from the oven.  Slide the silicone mat or parchment onto a cooling rack and let the shells cool completely, for 1 hour.

Cream Cheese Filling

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
½ packed cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch fine sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on low speed until the mixture is fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.  Beat until smooth, about 5 minute, scraping regularly with a spatula to ensure that everything is well combined.  The fluff can be kept covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.  Spoon into a piping bag when ready to fill.

Pipe a small amount of the cream cheese filling in a circular shape about ½-inch thick, not going all the way to the edge, on the flat sides of 40 of the shells.  Top with another shell, twisting slightly to secure the fillings.

Source:  Les Petits Macarons byt Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Soy-Ginger Pot Roast

Leaves are falling fast in my backyard and we basically have two choices, one is to rake them into piles; the other one is to let them sit for a while and pray that somehow they'll turn to compost magically.  The joy of leaving next to a park is that we always have lots of trees to shade us from the heat of summer, but, comes fall, we complain miserably about the leaves those trees dump on the yard.  Sigh.  

I know what will cheer up my family after a hard weekend chore is this soy-ginger pot roast.  It's a hearty dish with tons of flavor like ginger, soy sauce, onion, garlic, and mushrooms.  I like to buy a good quality of chuck roast for a dish like this because the beef stays moist and fork-tender.  Now, we don't have a tradition like Sunday roast supper, but this surely qualifies it for when the weather starts to get cooler.

Maybe if I cook something like this every weekend, my family would not be so grumpy of doing yard work for hours :)

Soy-Ginger Pot Roast

Serves 4

3 pounds beef chuck pot roast
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
16 ounces button mushrooms
1 (14-½ ounce) can reduced sodium beef broth
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro
2 red sweet peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
Snipped fresh cilantro
Hot cooked egg noodles

Preheat oven to 325F.  Trim fat from meat; season with salt and pepper.  In a large Dutch oven, brown roast on all sides in hot oil over medium-high heat.  Transfer to a plate.

Add onion, garlic and ginger to Dutch oven.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until onion is softened.  Add mushrooms, broth, soy sauce, and the ¼ cup of cilantro.  Return roast to Dutch oven.  Bring to boil, cover, transfer to oven.  Bake for 2 hours.  Add sweet peppers.  Cover; bake for 30 minutes more or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter; cover to keep warm.  Bring liquid in Dutch oven to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.  Serve sauce with meat and vegetables.  Sprinkle with additional cilantro and cooked noodles.

Source:  Better Homes and Gardens

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mu-Shu Chicken and Shrimp

Mu-shu dish is one of my son's favorite dishes to order in a Chinese restaurant.  The idea of eating a spoonful of stir-fried morsels of meat, egg, and veggies and drizzled with hoisin sauce wrapped in mandarin pancakes, really delights his taste bud.  It's a tasty dish, no doubt about it, and there's some variations on how to include in the dish.

In a more traditional way, the dish is most often comprised of pork, dried daylily flowers or golden needles, and wood ear mushrooms, along with eggs, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine and scallions.  The less authentic way would be to omit the dried daylily flowers and wood ear mushrooms but to add some vegetables, for example, cabbage, bell pepper, celery, or snow peas.  

Rice is the traditional way to serve the dish, but here in America, mandarin pancake is served as the medium to eat the dish.  And let's not forget about hoisin sauce which is used to drizzle the dish as it goes in the pancake.

The way I cook it is by combining the best of the two ways.  I grew up eating daylily flowers and wood ear mushrooms, so those two ingredients would be present in the dish.  My family prefers chicken and/or shrimp instead of pork and I'm happy to substitute that.  As with adding vegetables in it, my philosophy is that there's nothing wrong of eating more vegetables in a dish :)  I use whatever is available, in this case, I used green cabbage.

No matter what your preferred protein/vegetable choice to include in the dish, just remember that if you cook it the right way, it'll come out delicious anyway!

Mu-Shu Chicken and Shrimp

Serves 6

½ ounce wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted
1 ounce dried daylily flowers or golden needles, reconstituted
10 to 12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast
6 ounces raw peeled, deveined, medium-sized shrimp
4 eggs
8 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
3 to 4 large scallions, sliced diagonally, white and green parts separated
1 tablespoon Shaohsing wine
2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the marinade:
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon soy sauce
Pinch of white pepper
1 teaspoon Shaohsing wine
1 teaspoon potato flour--can substitute with cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon canola oil

Mandarin pancakes 
Hoisin sauce

To reconstitute wood ear and daylily flowers, soak each thing in a separate bowl with boiling water, enough to cover it, for 20 to 30 minutes.  Drain and squeeze excess water but leave damp.  Split daylily flowers one lengthwise and if it's quite long, cut in half.

Slice the chicken into thin, even-sized rectangular pieces.  Put it into a bowl with the shrimp.

Add the salt, sugar, soy sauce, pepper, wine, potato flour or cornstarch, and water to chicken and shrimp.  Let marinate for 20 minutes.  Stir in the oil.

Beat the eggs lightly with 1 tablespoon of the oil and ¼ teaspoon of the salt.

Heat a wok over high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl it around.  Add wood ear mushrooms and stir for about 30 seconds, lowering the heat if necessary.  Add daylily flowers and continue to stir and turn until very hot.  Season with ¼ teaspoon of salt, the soy sauce and the sugar.  Transfer to a warm dish and set aside.

Wipe the wok and reheat until hot.  Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl it around.  Pour in the egg, and sliding the wok spatula to the bottom of the wok, fold and turn until the egg forms into lumps.  Transfer to a warm plate and set aside.  Wash and dry the wok.

Reheat the wok over high heat.  Add the remaining oil and swirl it around.  Add the white parts of scallions, stir and let them sizzle for a few seconds.  Add the chicken and shrimp and turn and toss quickly for about 1 minute or until partially cooked and turning opaque.  Splash in the wine around the side of the wok, continuing to stir and turn as it sizzles.  Return all the ingredients to the wok.  Stir and mix for another minute, so that the chicken it thoroughly cooked, the egg firmer and all the ingredients piping hot.  Add the green parts of scallions.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve with the pancakes and hoisin sauce.

Source:  adapted from Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook