Category Archives: Recipe

Crazy- Amazing Stuffed Squid

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As much as I love to write about cooking, I myself am a professional cook in my everyday life (which explains why I almost never have time to post).  One of the many amazing things about my line of work is the incredible people I have met along the way.  Don’t get me wrong, the industry is crazy, and has plenty of downsides– but more on that later.  Most cooks are just people who are so obsessed with cooking that they have dedicated their lives to learning more.

One of the best ways to learn is through others– and with that, I need to explain how this beautiful recipe fell into my lap.

This is Helen.

Helen!

Pictured here casually with celebrity chef Scott Conant

She’s just as lovely on the inside as she is on the outside, trust me.  She’s a cook that came to the game after already pursuing another career– and as a result, has amazing skills cooking many of the dishes she grew up with, and pays homage to her Vietnamese heritage. While she learns French cuisine along with the rest of us, she has an amazing trick up her sleeve.

Normally, Helen doesn’t do much to bring attention to her delicious recipes– just simple Instagram posts and casual dinner parties for fellow cooks and family.

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Like this beauty; aka “casual dinner”

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Or this gorgeous dish. She does this on her days off, people.

Her food should definitely be celebrated– the depth of flavor in her dishes and thoughtfulness to the detail is so necessary to honor a cuisine that is notoriously complex.  So, after at least a few hours of begging her while prepping at work, Helen agreed to share one of her recipes with me, and the world  suddenly seems like a happier place.

Ingredients

  • 20 small to medium cleaned squid with tentacles.

Pork Stuffing

  • 1/2 lb ground pork (80/20 fat is best, but any will work)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 shallot (minced)
  • 1-2 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 3 stalks green onion (minced thinly)
  • 1/2 cup bean thread noodles (soaked in warm water for 10 min, drained then chopped)
  • 1/3 cup wood ear mushrooms (soaked in warm water for 10 min, drained and chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine the pork, fish sauce, ground pepper, white pepper, garlic, sugar, salt, shallot, green onions, bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms.
  2. Let the pork mixture marinate for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Stuff the calamari using a small spoon or a piping bag. Seal the calamari by threading a toothpick at the end.
  4. In a frying pan on medium high heat, add the stuffed calamari with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover the pan with a lid and steam the calamari for 10 minutes. This will evenly and perfectly cook both the pork and calamari without drying them out.
  5. Then, remove the lid, cook uncovered with tablespoon of oil and tablespoon of oyster sauce until golden brown.
  6. Slice to the desired thickness and serve.

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to pick the brains of more of my fellow chefs– and share it all here.

Thanks, Helen!

-L

 

 

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Wintertime Sweet Potato Hash

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I don’t know about anybody else, but I hate the cold.

With a passion.

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This is me. In the snow. Unhappy.

So when the weekend rolls around its hard to get me out of my warm bed to head anywhere. A girl’s gotta eat, though, right? I’m not one to forgo yummy breakfasts and brunches just because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of putting on pants.  So I started making hash at home for myself and guests when they visit as a yummy and filling option to dining out in the wintertime (who even has going-out money after Christmas anyways?).

The best part about this hash is that its infinitely customizable. Ive traded the bacon for pork sausage and the rosemary for sage with just as tasty results. This dish is intended to be a “clean out the crisper” type dish, that can be added to, subtracted from, and made your own.  This goes from the cutting board to the plate in under an hour, all without having to put on pants, or worse, a coat.

 

Ingredients

3-4 Sweet Potatoes

1 spring Rosemary

1 Yellow onion

4 Strips Bacon

1 tbsp Maple Syrup

Eggs, for Serving

 

Directions

Preheat over to 400F.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into cubes, and place into bowl. Chop Rosemary and garlic and add then toss with Olive Oil, add salt and pepper, and spread onto a sheetpan.  Roast, until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, cut onion into thin slices.  Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Standing over the pan, I like to use kitchen shears to cut my strips of bacon into smaller strips directly over the pan.  Thanks mom for the trick!

Cook the bacon until it is almost all the way cooked and some fat has rendered into the pan, 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook with the bacon until the onion is soft and starts to carmelize, 7 minutes or so.  The bacon should be crispy but not burnt and the onions should be nice and soft and starting to sweeten.  Add the maple syrup and cook another minute or so, then turn off the heat.

Take the potatoes out of the oven and add to the onion bacon mixture in the pan, stirring to combine.

Cook your eggs, make your coffee, or take a quick smoke break.  When you are ready to serve, reheat all the ingredients together for about 3 minutes so the flavors can mix, stirring the whole while.

Serve and enjoy the day watching the amazingly–addictive and intense Netflix Drama The Keepers. This post isn’t sponsored or anything, I just saw it recently and thought it was amazing. Weekend plans made.

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Happy Weekend!

-L

 

Roasted Chicken Ramen Broth

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Roasted Chicken Ramen Broth

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Even though spring is (supposedly) around the corner, its been pretty frigid.  There was a blizzard of sorts here on the Northeast the other day.

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…of sorts.

What better way to warm up than a steaming bowl of soup? I was craving ramen the other day, and so I decided to try my hand at making a deep rich broth to pair with some noodles, Law and Order SVU reruns, and throw blankets.

I’ve never made ramen before, so I was a bit nervous. Everybody and their mother is making amazing ramen these days.  Would mine hold up?  I promise you, this is simple. Scary simple.  And full of flavor.  Two of my favorite things.

Ingredients:

I chicken, cut into 8 pieces

NOTE: you can buy this at the grocery store already cut up or have your butcher do it for you, or do it yourself.  Either way, we are looking for some chicken bones and trim here.

1 bunch scallions, trim reserved and whites/ greens thinly sliced for garnish

1 knob ginger, sliced (you can keep the skin on)

7 cloves garlic, smashed

3T sesame oil

soy sauce, mirin, and hoisin sauce- about 1/4 C each, to taste.

1 stalk lemongrass, bruised

4 C chicken stock

2 C water

Directions:

Trim the chicken and reserve trim meat and bones.  Whisk together soy sauce, mirin, and hoisin to taste and set on the side.

Heat sesame oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat and add chicken bones and trim, searing to get a deep brown, roasty color on all sides.  Add ginger, garlic, and scallion trim and sweat until fragrant, about a minute or two.  Add soy sauce mixture and scrape up any chicken bits that may have stuck to the bottom and cook until a bit syrupy.  Add chicken stock and water and lemongrass stalk and bring to a simmer and let reduce and flavors concentrate, about one hour.

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Strain and enjoy!

For some possible garnish, Here are some ideas:

Noodles; Lo-mein from the Asian section at the supermarket, ramen noodles for about 50 cents from any corner store, leftover cooked rice or microwave dumplings are great ideas also.

Veggies! The more the merrier, in my opinion.  I like pickled  any pickled veggie for the nice tang, radishes, arugula, kale, carrots, mushrooms.

Extra seasonings like Gochujang, Sriracha, scallions, and cilantro.

I love a poached egg as well, but who doesn’t?

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Seriously, who doesn’t?

Happy Slurping!

-L

 

 

Adventures in Breadbaking

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Adventures in Breadbaking

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For the holidays, I have been given the best gift ever, and have a full week off from work. That’s right.  Monday to Sunday.  After years of going and going in this industry, a little time to rest is an amazing thing. Since I get bored easily, though, I decided to cook up a storm, try harder home cooking methods, and finally try tackling a project that has intimidated me as a cook: home sourdough bread baking. Using natural yeasts, of course.  I gave it my best efforts this week, and here are some things I learned:

For even more bread baking,  here is a great article from Bon Appetit on the subject.

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Tools of the trade

A good starter takes time and good ingredients:

One of my closest friends is a baker, so I am already at a huge advantage here.  Her pastries are divine, especially for someone that was trained classically savory (we studied together at culinary school).

“Always start your sour the night before, Lana, ” she pretty much yelled at me on Monday. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it together.”

Starters, or pre-ferments, are essential here.  A mix of flour and water that pulls yeast from the air, that lets the bread rise when baking.  A starter can be kept and maintained for years, as long as it is fed consistently.

She gave me the formula that I would be using this week for my starter:

12 oz water (by weight)

6 oz rye flour (organic)

6 oz bread flour

Apparently rye flour is very good at pulling yeast microbes from the air, even better than bread flour.  My friend found this information out by staging with one of the best bakers I know personally, so I think that’s an incredibly useful factoid.

She mixed it together and told me to add 6 oz each water and bread flour every 12 hours.  Further investigation on my part made me want to make this a full sour starter, so I adapted the recipe.

12 hours after the initial starter, I added 6 oz each of water and bread flour, then let the starter sit in a warm spot with a paper towel between the container and lid, for about 18 hours.

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Little bubbles of activity in the initial sour

On Day 3, I experimented using some of the sour (more on that later) for making bread. I took 8 oz each of the initial sour, bread flour, and water by weight, and mixed it together.  I tossed the rest.  At this point, it should smell like alcohol and fermentation; this is a good sign that the right bacteria has begun to eat the natural sugars in the flour.

On Day 4, feed your starter 8 oz each of water and flour, and let sit.

Day 5: your sour should be fully developed and fermenty and lovely.  Mix 8 oz of sour (discard the rest) with 16 oz of water and 24 oz of flour (rye or bread). Let sit one more day at room temperature, then you can add to the fridge; slow down process and feed 8 and 8 oz flour and water every three weeks to maintain.  You can use part of the starter at any point to make more sourdough at this point.

At this point I am still in the baby stages of my own starter, so I can only guess if I can maintain mine for some time.  Only time will tell. My friend warned me, “It’s like having a child!” and I’m inclined to take her seriously.

Now on to the main event: The Breadbaking process 

I woke up relatively early to a starter that had doubled in size, smelled like ferment and alcohol, and was bubbling happily.  So I was excited to try using it in making delicious, homemade bread.  Here’s how my day went:

I scaled down my recipe a bit, since I was only tying to make one boule (round loaf).

I added about 2 lb of bread flour to 1/2 lb of the pre-ferment, and about 1 lb 9 oz water. Mix with a stand mixer with the dough attachment for about 3 minutes on medium speed, then rest. Add salt and a tablespoon of water and mix until dough is smooth, about 2 minutes.  Then let rest at room temperature for about an hour.

After this point, it all gets very formulaic.  You want to slap your dough, and fold it in on itself so the gluten develops properly, and then let it rest for about an hour, and then do it again, but only letting the dough rest for 20 minutes the second time.

Basically, you cannot stress out the dough.  That’s the important thing here.

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I really hope he’s not panicking

Once the dough has rested for the second time, you want to pre shape and proof.  To make it easier on myself, I decided to do a boule shape; it’s large, round,  doesn’t require as much shaping practice as a skilled baker, and fits in a dutch oven beautifully.  Amazing.

One last thing I learned: Don’t have the tools? Get creative.

Who has a proofer in home nowadays (or ever)? Hardly any young cook, especially those that I know.  But the want to learn is out there, believe me.  So the only thing we can do is get creative.  Proofing bread is essential to the process; a humid environment is key to this.  So I like to shower with my food.  That’s right.  I set the bowl in the bathroom while showering; the steam released by my shower proofs the bread and helps it expand and become light and airy.

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Proofing near the shower–notice the toothpaste in the background

In that same vein, I don’t have a steamer in my traditional oven. But steaming bread is also essential to creating that light, airy texture. There are two ways to beat this: Use a stone, either fireplace or pizza, in a preheated oven.  When you add the bread, throw ice on the stone to release steam for the baking process. Open oven in last 15 minutes to create golden crust.

Also don’t forget to score your bread–helps release any pent-up steam.  I clearly need to practice my designs. Less is more.

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“artistic” slashes

Or you can use a dutch oven, covered, in the oven, to bake bread.  Uncover bread for last 15 minutes to create golden crust.

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Yay.

Final Results 

In the end, I had a pretty flat loaf.  I think I tripped up a bit with adding salt too early, and proofing a bit too soon as well.  It still tasted good, and my family was impressed with my efforts. I was too.  I t was a full day event, including resting times, proofing times, and my time spent studying up on the subject. So much was learned, most so that bread baking can elude even the best of us, so I shouldn’t feel bad that I at least produced something I can be proud of.

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…Maybe too proud of.

I also saved some starter, so ill be trying to make another loaf probably in the next couple of days, especially since I still have some time off and now I’m kinda (dough) hooked (sorry for the dad jokes, I can’t help myself sometimes). I’m definitely inspired to continue exploring this incredibly interesting niche in the cooking world.

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-L

 

 

Recipe: Basil Salt

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Last week, my garden was overrun with basil.  I didn’t know what to do, as the space was competing with tomatoes, and the tomatoes were quickly winning.  It’s a massacre out there for all the other veggies.

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I can hardly tell what is what over there.

I have been doing everything I can to preserve the beautiful basil my garden produced, and this recipe is no different.  Easy and super fast, you can add this salt from everything to tomato and corn salad or cheeses, to pasta dishes and desserts. Basil salt is awesome! It adds just that beautiful freshness to anything it touches, and is beautiful and bright green like the herb that produced it.

It lasts for six months too, so there is plenty of time to taste summer long into winter.

Ingredients

1/2 C tightly packed basil leaves

1/2 C kosher salt

Method

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.  Pulse basil and salt in blender until incorporated.  Mixture will be clumpy.  Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment or tin foil and bake until dried, about 30 minutes.

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basil salt after drying but before blending for a second time

Take dried salt and pulse again in blender until powder.  Store in airtight container for six months or more.

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Used the salt to top this dish of tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Perfect basil flavor and nice hit of salt

 

-L

 

Recipe:Stuffed Squash Blossoms

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This summer, I finally decided to tackle something that I have been either too busy, or too afraid to tackle: My very own garden.  I know it sounds silly, but I have dreamed of growing my own food for some time now.  I have to say, it has certainly been a learning experience.  What to grow, and how to grow it, and how to protect it from the environment around it is still something I am learning, and probably will be for seasons to come.

One thing my garden has been very bountiful in giving me is squash blossoms.  While my plants are hit or miss, and have produced some delicious summer squash varieties, I think my favorite thing to collect are the beautiful, golden–yellow flowers that are delicious and earthy in every way.

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This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the blossoms: stuffed with fresh cheese and deep–fried, lightly salted, and eaten with sparkling wine.

Deep Fried Squash Blossoms

6-12 squash blossoms

2 C vegetable or other neutral, high heat oil

For the filling:

1 C ricotta (I used goat’s milk, but cow’s milk is also perfect)

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1 tbsp chopped chives

zest of 1 lemon

lemon juice, salt, pepper to taste

 

For the batter:

6 oz AP flour

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp salt

200 ml seltzer water

Method:

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, until bubbling, around 350 degrees F.

Whisk ingredients for batter together and set aside

mix filling ingredients, mixing together until a smooth paste forms.  fill into a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag.  Cut the tip off the pastry bag or a corner off the ziplock bag, so you are able to pipe the filling into the blossom. Try not to overfill, and close each petal around the filling so it forms a nice little pocket.

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Drop each blossom into the batter and directly into the hot oil, frying only a few at a time, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy!

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This is an amazing summer treat!

-L

 

Baking Christmas Pies

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  I don’t know about you, but 2015 flew by.  I know, i know, the old adage is that with every year time seems to move by quicker, but it is scary how that statement actually rings true.  I wish I could go back to my days when it seemed nap time would take forever to be over…but I digress, as this is not a post for reminiscence, but for looking forward to the holiday season.

I recently took a baking class at culinary school, and was not dissapointed.  My teacher, a man who could give Santa a run for his money not only in looks but in joyous personality- was also a certified master baker, and was kind enough to share some tidbits of wisdom with my class which come in handy for the holidays, including how to make pie from scratch.  It’s a lot easier than one would think- I remember before entering culinary school how I would think that it was easier just to buy store-made dough and add the filling myself- but the extra effort is well worth it.

I promise, baking your own pie from scratch will most likely impress friends and family much more than the actual effort needed to make these things. You might not even need to leave your house to obtain these ingredients. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Pie Dough can be broken down into a simple 3-2-1:

3 lbs flour (cake flour is awesome, but AP will do as well)

2 lbs fat (butter for most standard pies, but lard or other animal fat will work for meat pies)

1 lb water by weight (don’t worry about breaking out the scale for this one: there is an old saying “a pint is a pound the world around” which chefs swear by. In other words, a pound of water is 2 cups, or a pint).

1 oz salt, as needed

This ratio will work if you scale it up or down.  Not sure how much to make? I’ve got another formula to make your life easier:

You will need about 1 oz of dough for every inch in diameter of your pie tin.

So a 9 in diameter pie tin uses about 9 oz, or a little over a half pound, of dough. (I promise, the fanciness that surrounds chefs is all formula memorization and application in the proper circumstances).

Method:

So once you have your dough ingredients, all you have to do is mix them.  For a flakier crust, cut the butter cold into manageable cubes and let mix with the flour in a stand mixer until the mixture has combined into small pebble-like portions.

Then add the water, ice cold, and mix for another 6 seconds.  Seriously, don’t over mix this, or you will have tougher dough than anticipated.

Let this dough chill in the fridge for at least an hour. 

Roll the pie dough out to a 1/4 in thickness, and drape over pie tin. Then add the filling.

My favorite pie to make for the holiday season? 

 Berry pies. Easy, simple, and delicious, using fresh or frozen berries is appropriate. Another simple ratio to remember, this time for the filling:

1.5 lbs berries, fresh or frozen

1 lb sugar 

1 oz cornstarch

Feel free to add fun flavor combos.. For instance, I love to put thinly sliced lemon with my blueberry pies, or elderflower syrup with strawberries. 

You can throw a top piece of dough on your pie to keep the berries in.There will be a lot. 

  
I like to egg wash my dough and sprinkle a little turbanado sugar on top. Bake your pie in the oven at 375 for an hour, or until golden brown. The pie will drop fruit juice, so I would cook on a tray with some parchment paper underneath. 

Take out your pie and let chill before slicing and serving. Then gobble that thing up before your family members get at it. 

  
Happy Holidays!

-L