Taste of Chicago

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My cousin’s graduation took us to Chicago and it was the shortest but the best food trip we took!

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Egg Croft

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For my afternoon tea party with other mommy friends, I imagined for days what kind of savory bites I can make to contrast all the sweets that would be there. A lot of ideas but nothing seemed promising until the night before when we received a dozen of fresh eggs from our neighbor’s home raised chicken! Then it became clear that I need to make an egg dish. Starts with a puff pastry shell, nest in a baked scallion egg cake, top with sautéed mushroom, smoked trout and then a piece of salmon roe – that was a perfect bite. The bonus was the wow effect that came after.

Most components of this dish are quite easy, the only “cooking” part I had to do was to cut out small rounds from the puff pastry dough and bake  them in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes or so and then make the baked scallion cake.

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Scallion Egg Cake

Ingredients

Servings: 48

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • Scallion (diced) 2 cups
  • Salt pepper to taste

Beat the eggs with the heavy cream until incorporated. Add the scallion, salt and pepper.

Butter a 1-inch mini cupcake pan (48 cavities). Pour in the egg mixture to fill each of the cavity and bake in 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until puffed up and golden brown

I have also made this using just one medium sauce pan, kind of like omelet. That is an even easier way to serve for casual breakfast.

Needless to say, this was quite popular during the tea party. Then I was asked what it is called and I couldn’t come up with a nice name until I sat down to blog about it! Since our neighborhood is named Croft lane and this is clearly created in honor of the eggs produced right here and by a resident, the most suitable would be – the egg croft!

Sticky Toffee Pudding My Way

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While I was taking 2 months off after delivering my baby boy, I had the luxury of staying in bed for most of that time regaining my strength. It could be the most boring time if nothing else is happening. Luckily, I befriended my LCD TV that is right in my bedroom and watched pretty much all the food related shows that I can find. One of the trend that seems to getting its momentum is a fresh look at English cooking. The perception has been  that there is not much gastronomy in Britain but many young creative chefs are trying to prove it wrong. I very much enjoyed all the refreshing ideas that were brought forward and also a history lesson on all the typical British food. Sticky Toffee Pudding is for sure one of the iconic one so I had to give it a try.

 

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I was making it for the first time for my afternoon tea party with my mommy friends. Of course, a lot of us have taste buds that are deeply and proudly Chinese, which resent super sweet food. So I  thought I would modify the traditional recipe to adapt to that and introduce some familiar tastes to make it feel like an old friend. What helped to achieve that were two ingredients – black tea and jujube honey. In the toffee sauce, I added in black tea which made it almost resemble the popular milk tea in Asia. In the dates mixture, I added the jujube honey. It is, to me, in the dates family and has its presence in a lot of Chinese desserts. My scheme worked so well that all the 24 little plates were gone in no time. Part of the trick was the gold dust and decorative white chocolate square which I should talk about more one of these days.

Here is how I made it.

Ingredients

Servings: 24

Pudding

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 cup Jujube Honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Sauce

  • cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tea bag good quality black tea 

 

Preparation

Pudding

  • Preheat oven to 350 °. Butter 24 2-inch cupcake pan. Chop dates into small cubes and mix it with 1 cup boiling water and the jujube honey. Place in a blender and blender into paste. Set aside; let cool.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla in a large bowl to blend (mixture will be grainy). Add the eggs; beat to blend. Then blend in the flour to form batter.  Pour batter into mold.
  • Bake until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 10 – 15 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert pudding onto rack.

Sauce

  • Bring cream and tea to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; Remove the tea leaves by pouring the cream through a sieve. In another small saucepan, put in the sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, then slowly add in the tea cream. Stir continuously, for another 5 minutes or so until the sauce thickens a little.
  • Place the cakes in tasting plates. Serve with sauce.
  • Optional: dust with some edible gold and place a thin slice of white chocolate with design as a garnish.

 

 

 

Scallop & Escargot

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I was taking my stroll in Whole Foods the other day and spotted these snails. I thought it would be fun to make a nice appetizer out of them. Snails do not have a lot of flavors themselves, so the seasoning is very important. Unfortunately, these snails came stuffed with butter and herbs already, so I can’t do much with it. All I needed to do is bake them in 340 degree oven for 10 minutes. What I could do, however, was to pan sear some scallops to go with them.

Before I cooked the scallop, I drunk them with rice wine overnight, patted them dry and seasoned them with vanilla salt. It added a nice sweet flavor to the scallop. Then I covered them in rice powder to dry out the surface, which made it easier to pan fry with butter and also left a crispy crust once it was done.

Put some rainbow micro-greens at the bottom of the plate and layered on the scallop and then the snail. The juice from the scallop made a nice sauce. This is a simple dish to make at home and yet looks like from fancy restaurants 😉

 

Taste of Fall 2015

For days leading up to Thanksgiving, I had been testing different ways to prepare dishes that utilize all the fall flavors but with a twist. The first ingredient that is essential to this season would have to be pumpkin. Instead of making the usual pumpkin pies, I thought a savory version might be more interesting and thus came the pumpkin pancake with salty toppings.

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Sour Cream/Salmon Roe/Chive

I liked the burst of saltiness from the Salmon Roe and creaminess of the sour cream and the garlic after taste of Chive. Not bad for the first bite and certainly eye catching with the popping color of the Salmon Roe.

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Sour Cream/Smoked Trout/Basil

This is my favorite because of the meatiness of the smoked Trout. The basil has a strong earthy taste and actually worked well with the smoky fish, plus the creaminess of the sour cream counter balance  the sweetness of the pumpkin – I will definitely make it again.

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Truffle Mousse/White Fish Roe/Baby Parsley

This one might be the most luxurious with the Truffle Mousse on top. But it is a little bit too rich to pair with the pumpkin and not enough texture contrast.

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The sweet version of the pumpkin is my twist on Martha Stewart’s Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcake with Sage. In addition to the brown butter and sage, I added grounded walnuts to give it more texture and nutty flavor. The soul of the recipe is still the amazing combination of the brown butter and sage – they are simply heavenly and everyone should give this flavor combine a try!

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The second must have ingredient would be cranberry. It goes well with Turkey and it also goes well with pork ribs! I changed the traditional Chinese sweet sour ribs recipe to use cranberry as the sour element. The fried ribs were covered in the cranberry sauce as the traditional ribs were covered in the sweet sour sauce. One thing I would change next time is putting the sauce on the side instead because the moisture of the sauce would take away the crispness of the pork unless I fry them really hard which I try to avoid.

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The third must have ingredient would have to be turkey. Admittedly, the effort to roast a whole turkey does not pay off in my family – we are very picky with the flavor and texture of the meat. So, I decided to make  Turkey meatball wrapped in filo instead. This won over my Mom and my sister. To make it a complete meal, I made some mountain yam puree with cream. Also added some wasabi sesame seeds to make it even more interesting.  I was quite happy with my plating too 🙂 This is certainly the highlight of my fall cooking experiments.

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Chinese Style Pork Pie

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Pork Pie is quite popular in China as a fulfilling snack. It also can be another form of moon cake, with a savory taste. Making it, though, had always been a daunting task to me, until now. The key is in the dough, how to make it flaky. The process is very similar to the making of puff pastry, biggest difference is instead of using the pure butter to make the layers, we would use the lard mixed with flour. To me, it almost makes it easier to roll out because the consistency is closer to the regular dough.

If you are still hesitating on the labor needed, just remind yourself of the reward – warm flaky crust and juicy meat inside…. now, my friend, go get the flour and bake!

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Grounded Pork  1 pound ∙ Egg  1  ∙ Diced Scallion ½ cup ∙ Diced Ginger 1 tsp ∙ Minced Garlic 1 tsp ∙ Soy sauce 2 tbsp  Corn Starch 2 tbsp ∙ Flour 2 ½ cups ∙ Water ½ cup ∙ Olive oil 2 tbsp ∙ Lard ½ cup ∙ Egg wash 1

 

Make the dough:

Dough A: In a medium bowl, mix the lard with 1 cup flour until fully incorporated and form a dough, set aside

Dough B: In another medium bowl, mix the remaining flour with the water and olive oil until fully incorporated and form a dough, set aside

 

Make the filling:

In a large bowl, mix the pork, egg, scallion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and corn starch until fully incorporated, add salt and pepper to taste

 

Assemble:

Divide each of the two doughs into 16 shares. Take one piece of dough B, flatten it out using a rolling pin to about the size of the palm and then place one piece of dough A in the center of dough A. Cover dough A completely with dough B and place the ball with the closing side down on a board and roll it out with the rolling pin again to the size of the full hand. Start with one end of the sheet and roll it up like rolling up a rug. Then flatten it again and roll it up again from one of the narrow ends. Finally, flatten it the last time and roll it out with the rolling pin to the size of the palm.

 

Take about 2 tbsp of the filling and place it in the center of the dough, cover it complete, then place the dough with the closing side down on the baking sheet.  Repeat for the remaining 15 pieces of the doughs

 

Brush each of the dough with some egg wash and bake in 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown

Serve warm.

 

A variation of this can be sweet nutty flaky cookies. I particularly like the combination of walnuts and brown sugar, so instead of meat filling, I substitute with grounded walnuts mixed with brown sugar. The ratio is about 1 cup of walnuts : 1/2 light brown sugar. I also rolled out the dough after putting in the filling so that it flattens out more. Bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes. It turned out great –

walnut cookie 1Walnut cookie 2