I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung hay fat choy!

This Lunar New Year I finally learned to be okay with making a dish or two rather than a banquet. Enjoyed dinner a great deal more. Also enjoyed these recipes from Kylie Kwong's Simple Chinese Cooking:

White Radish Salad, made with watermelon daikon from the CSA box. Gorgeous! A little salty, cut the recipe by 1/2 T next time. I sliced the green onions thinly rather than julienned them, for the sake of time. Delicious with the noodles, but also would be great on a banh mi!

Stir-Fried Hokkien Noodles with Prawns, Chilli and Bean Sprouts: I added a red bell pepper, thinly sliced, with the onions. Didn't use the chile but put sambal olek on the table to add as we pleased. I also minced the ginger and garlic, and added them a minute after the onions and peppers, then proceeded with the recipe 30 seconds later.

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Arianna's Fantastic Frosting (vegan)

I am not a baker. I love to chop and season and baste/braise/grill/roast/steam and stir-fry, tasting as I go. I do not like to carefully measure and then give it all up to the kitchen gods.

I have serious control issues with baking.

So cupcake season, ie MZ's birthday, is not my favorite time of year. Last week I made 3-dozen mini cupcakes using the Cook's Illustrated buttercream recipe for frosting. I simmered and took the temperature and carefully timed each step. And, meh. A bit too fluffy for my taste, not that I could stand to eat it once I fully understood why they call it Butter Cream.

And then I tried to use it again a day later and it curdled and I realized I would have to beat it again and I threw it away. 

And then I called Arianna the Crafty, my clever friend who can make ANYTHING, from Star of David beads to snowflake tie-dye tees to this fabulous frosting, which takes color beautifully, spreads smoothly and can be put to use after chilling with a light massage to the pastry bag.

It has good mouthfeel and isn't too sweet and all in all it's my new favorite frosting. Now if the cupcakes would just bake themselves I'd be set...

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 generous T vanilla
1/4 cup soy mil, as necessary

Sift sugar. Beat first 4 ingredients together till fluffy. Adjust fats in equal measure to reach desired level of sweetness (I added more fats by T-fulls as I found it a bit sweet at first). You'll know when it's fluffy, it just changes like magic. Add soy milk if necessary if it seems to thick. Beat some more.

Color as desired, or divide and color pink and purple like we did!

This makes enough to frost 3 dozen full-size cupcakes.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Favorite Chicken Pot Pie

I've been making this pot pie since 2004, ever since I got the recipe at a Draeger's cooking class. The theme was "Quick, Healthy Chicken Dishes," it was someone's bridal event, there was wine and many god friends to aid the enjoyment, and every single recipe Chef-Instructor Francis Wilson made was a keeper. But this is the one recipe I make several times a year, it's my go-to dish whenever I have leftover chicken. I've made a few changes to give the broth a bit more structure, but overall this is just as we had it the first time.

While I do on occasion make it with a traditional pie crust, more often I top it with steamed dumplings, a re-use of a Bert Greene recipe from my tattered copy of Greene on Greens. And if I'm really in a hurry, I use a sheet of frozen puff pastry, which transforms it from Healthy to Decadent. This dish is super fast if the filling is made a day ahead.

This time I doubled the recipe, using 4 cups of leftover roasted Cornish game hen; subbing turnips from my farm box for the butternut squash, mashed roasted garlic cloves for the fresh garlic, and adding 3/4 cup of frozen peas to please MZ. In summer, I've used summer squash, corn and shiitakes; I've used diced onions or shallots instead of leeks. It's a forgiving and comforting recipe, and every time I think I've lost it I have a heart attack so here it is:

Chicken Pot Pie with Chanterelles and Butternut Squash
Serves 6

1 T each olive oil and butter
1 leek, white part only, halved, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 stalk celery, halved and cut into 1/2" slices
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 T flour
1/4-1/2 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, clean and torn into pieces
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup cubed butternut squash
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 T chopped fresh parsley
2 t roaughly chopped fresh thyme
1 t chopped fresh marjoram
1/2 cup frozen peas

1 sheet pie crust or frozen puff pastry, or 1 recipe dumpling batter (below).

Heat olive oil and butter, add the leeks, carrots and celery, sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook over medium heat until vegetables have softened slightly, but do not brown. Add the garlic and mushrooms, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle the flour over all, cover and allow to cook 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, add salt and pepper to taste, and add the butternut squash. Simmer 10-15 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Add the chicken and fresh herbs, and frozen peas if using. Adjust the seasonings. If using the pie crust, place the filling in an ovenproof pie dish to cool a bit (the hot filling will melt the dough). If there is too much liquid, remove the solids to the dish and reduce it in the pan before adding, or reserve for another use. 

If using a pie crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring filling to room temp. Roll the dough out to a circle 1" wider than the pie plate, and about 1/4" thick. Lay the dough over the filling, brush with an egg wash and fold the edges up around the edge of the pie plate to form a fluted edge. Make a few cuts in the top of the crust and bake until golden brown and pastry is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

If using puff pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, place filling in square casserole and top with puff pastry sheet. Brush with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes, or until pastry is nicely browned.

If using dumplings: Make the filling in an oven-proof Dutch oven. Prepare the dumpling batter after adding the butternut squash as it simmers. Drop batter by the tablespoonful onto the filling, not too thick or it will take along time to steam. Place the cover on the Dutch oven and steam for 18 minutes. 

This recipe just needs a green salad and a glass of wine to complete the meal.

Cornmeal Dumplings
1/2 cup flour, preferably pastry flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2t salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk

Sift the flour with the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat in the egg and the milk with a wooden spoon until smooth. Drop by tablespoonfuls over chicken pot pie filling or simmered greens and ham, and cook 18 minutes, covered, in a Dutch oven.

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