Tempura Vegetables and Seafood

After feeling a wee disappointed in the store-bought pre-fried Cajun style turkey from QFC (flavor was okay but way too salty), I decided that I wanted to eat Japanese food. I am in somewhat of a Japanese phase right now with watch J-drama, anime, and online videos so I thought tempura sounded like a good idea. And it was a great idea.

I followed the instructions from the Kikkoman tempura batter mix to make the batter and heated the oil. I don’t have a thermometer so to gauge whether or not my oil is hot enough, I add a few drops of the batter in. If it instantly sizzles and bubbles, then it is done. The oil can get too hot though so be careful!

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Then all you really need is to dip your veggies and seafood into the batter and deep fry. I choose a selection of sliced pumpkin, baby bella mushrooms, broccoli florets, sliced onions, and chunks of salmon and cod. A quick dusting with salt and pepper, and all the ingredients were ready to be dipped and fried. Salmon fries beautifully btw. To keep pieces crispy, I placed them on a rack for any excess oil to drip off.

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To accompany the tempura, I quickly made rice and a simple broth for udon noodles. Nothing quite memorable as I have yet been able to replicate restaurant versions. I am not providing a recipe at this time since it is not as good as I hoped.

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I had purchased some shucked oysters and figured this was the chance to make delicious fried oysters. Oysters are the best fried seafood in my opinion. Crispy, moist, and flavorful.

Instead of tempura coating them, I decided to panko coat them since panko helps retain all the oyster juices. Basically, I dredged them with flour, followed by a dip in an egg, and then crusted them with panko. After a quick fry, they came out amazingly! Yummy fried oysters.

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So to recap, tempura vegetables and seafood is super easy to make. All you need is 1) tempura batter 2) oil. Just follow instructions on the tempura mix box and make sure your vegetables and seafood are dry.

Panko-crusted fried oysters are amazing and super easy to make as well. All you need is 1) flour 2) beaten egg 3) panko 4) oil. Wipe excess moisture from the oysters and dredge them slightly with flour. Quickly coat the flour-dredged oysters in the egg wash and coat with panko crumbs. Deep fry until golden brown. Simple!

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Any tempura that I couldn’t finish, I refrigerated and then baked in the oven to reheat. For the most part, all the veggies were still crisp and delicious. So make a lot. It’s fun and easy.

Ms. Helen’s Gumbo

I have been making this gumbo with Ms. Helen every Christmas since I was young. It’s an okra gumbo recipe, not roux-based, that originated from Louisiana. Ms. Helen’s parents were from New Orleans; and for those gumbo snobs who tout about “real” gumbo being roux-based, gumbo’s already a mix of culinary tastes ranging from African and Indian to French and Spanish that you’ll just as likely to find a true gumbo as a true Scotsman.

My recipe is modified to be cheap and simple and without further ado, the ingredients:

2 medium onions, chopped
minced garlic, (3-4 cloves or to taste)
3 bell peppers, chopped
2 bags frozen cut okra
3 celery ribs, diced
1 large can of tomatoes, undrained
beef or pork sausage, the hotter the better
1 roasted chicken, meat pulled in large chunks
1 bag of frozen oysters (highly optional)

To taste, season with:
Creole seasoning, Tony’s or equivalent
Salt and pepper
Chicken bouillon
Bay leaves

First, sweat and brown the onions. Then add the tomatoes and brown. Add garlic, sausage, celery, and bell peppers, and okra and brown slightly. Add chicken, oysters, water to fill 3-4 inches above the mixture, bay leaves and chicken bouillon. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 hr. Season with more chicken bouillon and creole seasoning to taste.

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Bun Rieu Cua (Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup)

Spicy Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup!

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This is my favorite Vietnamese soup after pho. I love the sweet crab meat mixed with minced pork and eggs in a tangy rich flavored broth. Topped with Vietnamese fixings. It’s filling, healthy, and simple to make. This Bic recipe takes about 1 hour. I cheat with some shortcuts such as using a bun rieu soup base and chicken stock. I also really like eating meat so I make a lot of the crab mixture.

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Ingredients:

for the Rieu (crab mixture)
14 oz “mince prawn in spices”
1 lb canned crabmeat (less is fine)
1 lb pork (less is fine)
3 eggs
1 tbs fish sauce
salt and pepper

for the stock
6-8 cups chicken stock (or less depending on how much soup base you want to add)
6-8 cups water
4 tbs bun rieu soup base (or tamarind soup base)
2 tbs “fine shrimp sauce”
2 tbs fish sauce
6-8 tomatoes, quartered
4-6 hot peppers, sliced (optional depending on your spice tolerance — i used habaneros)

to serve
vermicelli rice noodles
chopped green onions
bean sprouts
lime wedges
mint (traditional garnish)
fish mint (traditional garnish and not for everyone)
shredded banana flower (traditional garnish)
shredded water spinach (traditional garnish)

The stock is incredibly simple. Combine all the ingredients for the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil for 40 minutes before turning down to a medium simmer. Depending on how cooked you like your tomatoes, add them in the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Remember to season to your preferences so you might add more or less of certain ingredients. For example, I prefer to use half water since it’s cheaper than using 100% chicken broth.

While that’s boiling away, prepare the crab mixture by dumping all the ingredients into a large bowl and stirring them together. Slowly add this mixture to your simmering stock. Season again to your taste, and then you’re basically done. All you have to do next is ladle the mixture over vermicelli noodles and garnish with whatever accompaniments you want.

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I only had bean sprouts and some assorted herbs on hand so my toppings were simple. Nevertheless, the flavors of this dish are amazing. Enjoy!

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Flank Steak Pinwheels Stuffed with Roasted Tomatoes

Steak Wheels

I tried this recipe this weekend, and it turned out delicious so I figured that I would share. I paired it with a sliced, loaded baked potato.

Ingredients:
Flank steak (butterflied)
Roasted tomatoes
Spinach
Monterey cheese
Steak seasoning
Salt & Pepper

Butterflying a flank steak sounds fancy but in reality is quite trivial. Basically, it means cut it along the grain without slicing completely through, keeping the two halves still connected.

For the tomatoes, I sliced roma tomatoes in half, covered them with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed rosemary, and roasted in the oven for roughly 1 hour at 300°C or until they caramelized.

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I seasoned the steak and added the first row of tomatoes, cheese, and spinach. Then I rolled the steak over the ingredients and added a second row of tomatoes, cheese, and spinach, and repeated. I used bamboo skewers (6) to hold the steak roll in place, spacing them evenly so it was easier to cut.

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The pinwheels were sliced, seasoned again, placed on a roasting rack, and baked for roughly 20-30 minutes at 350°C.

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This was extremely simple to make and turned out delicious. The pinwheels look fabulous plated because they look like a little steak package. Bon appetit!

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Easy Cantonese-Style Lobster

The Lazy Man Approach to Cantonese Lobster

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For New Year’s Eve, my sister and I decided to whip up a quick and easy version of Cantonese lobster flavored with ginger, scallions, and soy sauce. We used 2 2lb fresh lobsters, 5 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 cup of chopped ginger, 1 bunch of scallions (green onions), 1 can of chicken broth, 1 cup of cooking wine, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tbs olive oil, 2 tbs corn starch, 3-5 tbs soy sauce (to taste), and 2-3 tbs sugar (to taste). Serves 6-8.

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We started with chopping up the lobster into small chunks. This involved pushing a heavy, sharp knife through the center of the lobster head and splitting the lobster in half. The tail was chopped into bite sized pieces and claws cracked; the lobster head was trimmed of excess legs and antenna.  For the squeamish, it’s best to freeze the lobster for 1 hr before chopping it and to remove the tomalley before cooking. Some people, like me, enjoy eating the tomalley and don’t find it gross. Others find it too strong of a flavor.

DSC_1103The lobster chunks normally would be coated with either corn starch or flour and quickly deep fried before adding the sauce, but being a Lazy Man’s Approach, we skipped this. Instead, we stir-fried the garlic and ginger in both sesame and olive oil to release the aromas and poured in the cooking wine, soy sauce, sugar, and corn starch dissolved in chicken broth. At a low boil, we added the lobster claws and cooked that for 5 minutes before adding the rest of the lobster meat.

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We tossed everything around, put a lid on the pan, and cooked until the lobster turned red and looked done. After adding the scallions and mixing everything up again, the lobster was ready to serve.

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We also served shrimp and crabs boiled in Louisiana crab boil. It was a delicious dinner of seafood.

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Happy New Year! Hope the New Year brings exciting adventures, good food, and great company!

Delicious Frittata using Arby’s Fries

Breakfast Scramble

I woke up craving crispy bacon and runny eggs with toast to soak up all the goodness but alas I had no bread or much of anything in my pantry. As I was scouring my refrigerator for something to eat, I found leftover cheese and frozen Arby’s seasoned curly fries and had a eureka moment! I was going to make a bacon egg frittata using Arby’s fries in lieu of regular potatoes.

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For the frittata, I used 1 small onion, 8 eggs, 1/2 lb of bacon, 1/2 bag of Arby’s fries, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and 2 splashes of milk. I sauteed the onion in a bit of bacon grease, tossed in pre-baked Arby’s fries, and added chopped bacon to the mix. In another bowl, I whisked together the eggs, cheeses, and milk and added that mixture to the pan and turned off the heat. I didn’t add any salt as the other ingredients were pretty salty on their own.

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In a preheated oven set at 350°F, I baked the frittata for about 15 minutes or until the center was solid. I served it with some hot salsa on the side, and it was delicious.

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Chocolate on a Stick

Stir Well

Last year, I gave hot chocolate on a stick from Etsy as small Christmas stocking stuffers and loved the idea so much that this year, I whipped up a batch of my own. All I used was chocolate (70% cocoa bittersweet), cocoa, powdered sugar, and flavors (cinnamon vanilla and peppermint). For the sticks, I used Wilton candy cane spoons, cinnamon sticks, and birch spoons. And I used square ice cube molds to divvy the chocolate into convenient individual portions.

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Basically, all I did was chop up my chocolate bar (9.7 oz) and melted it slowly in a double boiler.

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Then I added 1/2 cup of sugar, give or take depending on taste, 2-3 tbs of unprocessed cocoa, a pinch of salt and continued to stir until the chocolate was smooth. You can leave out the salt and the chocolate milk will still taste delicious. (I forgot in my first batch and it came out just fine.) To another batch, I switched out a tbs of cocoa for a tbs of ground cinnamon and added the scrapings of half of a vanilla bean to the chocolate. It was truly that easy!

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I transferred the chocolate to a disposable pastry bag and filled the ice cube tray 3/4 of the way up. To remove all the air bubbles, I picked up the trays and dropped them a few times so that the chocolate set evenly.

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Then for the toppings! To the regular chocolate, I sprinkled them with more powdered sugar and topped them with either a candy cane spoon or birch spoon. The sugar looked a lot like snow which I think is a festive look for the holidays.

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It’s always difficult to get all the chocolate from A to Z, and instead of licking the remaining chocolate in my pastry bag, I let it dry and used it to top my second chocolate batch.

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I put them in the fridge for 10 minutes to set the chocolate quickly which really helps keep the spoons stay straight. After about 30 minutes, I used a butter knife to go around the edges and gently pulled out the chocolate on the spoons.

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They turned out fabulously.

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And tasted just as deliciously as they looked melted in a mug of warm milk.

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Spicy Seafood Miso Hot Pot

Seafood Sauna

I was in the mood for a healthy bowl of Asian noodles with vegetables and seafood so I decided to make a Korean inspired spicy miso hot pot. To prepare the broth, I sauteed 3 slices of ginger, 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 1 sliced onion, and 3 red chilies in a tsp of olive oil until the onions were translucent, and then I added water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes. I added 2 tbsp soybean paste (Doenjang), 2 tbsp red pepper paste (Gochujang), and 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (Gochugaru) to three different tea bags and soaked them in the broth. The soybean paste and pepper flakes can contain large particulates so I used tea bags to keep them out of the broth.

I also added some rehydrated shitake mushrooms to the broth to add more flavor and let the broth come to a boil, followed by a nice simmer. I removed the tea bags after most of the soybean and red pepper paste had dissolved and then seasoned the broth with fish sauce (~3 tbsp) to taste. Yum!

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In the meantime, I boiled some rice vermicelli noodles and prepared the vegetables and seafood. For the vegetables, I used chopped napa cabbage and 4 different types of fresh mushrooms: enoki, brown beech, maitake, and button. I love mushrooms in hot pots because they absorb the flavor of the broth and are just delicious.

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For the seafood, I used precooked frozen mussels and clams, uncooked shrimp, and an assorted mix of fish balls. Th fish balls were a little too sweet for my taste so I’ll probably leave them out next time.

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I didn’t have a special hot pot cookware so I just used a backpacking burner, which I don’t recommend using and would not do again. Open flames and little stability are not ideal for cooking a hot pot.

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To those unfamiliar with hot pots, each person adds what they want to eat to the pot and then fishes it out themselves in a very communal way. I shared with Jake and Rob, and our hot pot ended looking great. Doesn’t it look delicious?

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