Tuesday, July 28, 2009

蝴蝶酥/Elephant Ears/Palmiers

As a child, I got to pick out a snack whenever my parents dragged me to the Chinese supermarkets. I just found a very simple recipe on Simply Recipes to make one of them - hudie su, or butterfly pastry. It has different names in English, but it's really very very easy to make.

Time: 0:30
Makes: 16

1/3 sheet puff pastry, defrosted (that was all we had in the freezer, but can be easily multiplied)
2 Tbsp sugar

1. Preheat over to 400F.
2. Dust one side of the puff pastry with 1 Tbsp sugar. Fold the two long sides into the center. Dust the top with sugar, then fold the two sides into the center again. Dust all sides with the remaining of the sugar, and fold in half so that you get the two butterfly wing halves.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the log of puff pastry into 1/2in pieces (about 16). Place on parchment paper, spread apart (they expand in the oven). Bake for 9min. When you remove them from the oven, quickly flip them over (they'll stick to the parchment paper if they cool and the melted sugar hardens). Bake for another 5min. Quickly remove to a plate to cool. They'll stick as the sugar hardens, so keep them separate.

Since the puff pastry itself has little inherent taste, you can season it with whatever you want - cocoa powder, cinnamon, pesto, spinach & feta, ham & mustard, etc.etc.etc. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I was bored of the same old chicken recipes and came across a new way to use chicken on use real butter. I don't understand fancy cheese and all that stuff though, so I made it very simple.

Time: 1:00
Serves: 1

1 chicken breast
1/2 cup fresh spinach
salt, pepper, seasoning to taste
a couple toothpicks
a dollop sour cream (optional)

1. Butterfly the chicken breast. Pound it if desired; I personally prefer using the back of my cleaver to give it a few good thwacks. Season as you normally would - I put salt on all sides and a mixture of cayenne pepper & oregano on the inside. While you let the seasonings seep into the chicken a little, wash the spinach, dry it as best you can, and dice it up.
2. Oil the bottom of a pyrex baking pan, or whatever pan you happen to have. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Stuff the spinach into the butterflied chicken breast. Roll up the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Place onto the baking pan with the open side up. Bake at 350F for 40min or until the chicken is done. Remove the toothpicks and slice into 1/2in thick pieces. Serve with a dollop of sour cream for garnish.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chocolate Covered Biscotti

My mom really likes biscotti and buys them from Costco pretty often, so the other day I decided to try making them. It turned out to be a lot easier than I expected - some flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, and I had biscotti.

I'd bookmarked Baking Bites awhile ago and was eager to try something out from it. I borrowed the chocolate covered strawberry biscotti recipe, with slight modifications.

Time: 1:30
Serves: a lot

2.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond extract, if you prefer)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup halved almonds (optional)

1. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy. Slowly add in the sugar and vanilla, beating to incorporate.
3. Preheat oven to 350F.
4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. When you've added about half of it, stop using an electric mixer and start mixing with a wooden spoon. It will soon get too thick for the mixer to be useful.
5. Put a piece of parchment paper over your baking sheet. Divide the batter in half and spoon onto the parchment paper in two long logs. With well-floured hands, shape into rectangles about 1/2in high. Bake at 350F for 20min - it should rise a little and look kind of like a cake.
6. Take out of the oven and carefully slice into 1/2in thick pieces. Lay flat on parchment paper and bake at 300F for 15min. Flip onto other side and bake for another 15min at 300F. This is to help it dry so that it has the hard crunch that differentiates biscotti from other cakes/cookies.
7. Wait for it to cool, then dip into chocolate if desired. Serve with coffee, milk, or plain.

Vegetarian (Tofu) Duck (素鸭)

My mom makes these anytime she entertains, because it's easy, looks nice, and can be made ahead of time (since it's primarily served as a cold dish). For my potluck with Chinese coworkers last week, I decided to make this. I had some leftover tofu skin, so I made some more for lunch this week. The ingredients can vary slightly based on what you have, but the basic process for making it is the same. The soy sauce/sugar is just an estimate; I make it and taste to determine whether to add more sugar or sauce, so I don't really have an exact recipe.

Time: 0:45
Serves: 10

2 large, dried tofu skins
1 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp sugar
pinch of wu xiang (optional)
1 Tbsp oil of your choice
2 cups water

1. Mix the spices together (over low flame optional, else just mix them in a bowl).
2. Lay one piece of tofu skin flat on a smooth surface. With a pastry brush, cover the entire skin with the sauce. Place the second piece of tofu skin directly on top of the first. Brush the entire skin with the sauce as well.
3. Starting from the edge near you, roll the two skins upwards (so that it's a rectangle, not a cylinder). At about halfway, fold in thirds (so it's about as long as your pan), then continue rolling to the end.
4. Over medium-high flame, heat the oil. Lightly brown the roll of tofu skin on each side (start with the side where you last rolled so the seam gets seared close first).
5. Cover with water. With a fork, poke holes every two inches or so on top, then flip and poke holes on the other side. Let it simmer until the water boils off; flip every 10min or so to cook evenly. Place on a plate to cool, then slice into 1/2in wide pieces. Serve cold (not chilled - leave it out an hour or so before serving).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chicken Marsala

We moved to a new house so I tried making something new, especially because we now have an awesome kitchen with gas burners. I decided to try a chicken marsala based off smitten kitchen's recipe. I thought I'd try using chicken thighs instead of breasts just to see what the changes were - I rather liked it, though there was a lot of fat to remove. I also only had white wine on hand so I used that instead of marsala - I'm not sure I liked that as much. The color definitely didn't turn out as great as with red wine.

Time: 0:45
Serves: 4

1.5lb boneless chicken thighs
salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (or marsala, which would actually be chicken marsala :P)
1 cup chicken stock
8oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1. If the chicken has skin/bone/fat on it, remove them as best you can. I left a little of the fat on and reduced the amount of oil used in the dish itself instead. Salt & pepper.
2. In a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and brown the chicken in batches on each side, then set aside on a dish.
3. In the same skillet (don't wash in between), cook the onions and mushroom until the released liquid has evaporated. Make sure not to burn the onions.
4. Add the wine and chicken stock and cook until there's about 1/2 cup liquid left. If you'd like, add some flour or corn starch to thicken the sauce.
5. Return the chicken to the skillet, removing any oil/grease that has dripped onto the plate. Simmer over medium low-heat until cooked thoroughly, turning once.
6. Serve with pasta or bread. Garnish with parsley if you like. The bread featured here is also home made and will be featured in another post some other time. :)

update 8/9/09: I found Marsala wine at Trader Joe's and tried it again - it's sooooo much better. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sugar Sesame Seed Mix

My grandpa used to make this for me. I forget why, but he claimed it was somehow good for the health. *shrug* Anyway, it's a simple dessert that's tasty and low in calories (100 calories/serving, less if you use less sugar) if you're craving something sweet.

Time: 0:10
Serves: 2

3 Tbsp black sesame seeds
1 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1 Tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Grind the sesame seeds. A coffee grinder is best, but in a pinch, I pour them into a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.
2. Mix with sugar. If it's not sweet enough, add some more, but make sure you don't cover the aroma of the ground sesame seeds. You shouldn't be able to see the white grains of sugar over the black of the sesame seeds.
3. Enjoy. They stay for a long time, so you can make more and keep it in an airtight container at room temperature (just be sure to keep it sealed away from ants and other such bugs). The quantity I specified is perfect for serving in a shot glass (and yes, I do happen to be a loyal Yankees fan).