Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bahn Mi

Bahn Mi are a Vietnamese sandwich, typically served on a baguette with various Asian condiments and vegetables. They are an interesting blend of east and west, a hold over from the French colonial era. Since I went to undergrad near so many Vietnamese restaurants, I got a craving for Bahn Mi this week, so we made our own!

First step: Baguettes. I make my own (this is my third go round at this), and let me tell you, there are few kitchen items as satisfying as fresh baked baguettes, mostly because they involve so many steps and so much time. You can also buy these to save time, but I recommend trying to bake your own.

Pickled carrots and daikon radish are a key condiment for Bahn Mi. To make these, boil 1/2 cup of rice vinegar with a couple teaspoons of sugar and a dash of water (you can add more sugar if you want them sweeter). Let this mixture cool, then marinate the carrots and daikon (and whatever else you would like to be vinegary) for at least half an hour.

Other toppings? Some form of mayonnaise is usually applied to the inside of the bread before the other condiments. I added a dash of curry powder and galangal to ours to create a spicy mayo.

After spreading with mayo, add your pickled vegetables, other veggies (such as bell peppers), jalapeno peppers (amount depends on your taste), and whatever protein you like. Bahn Mi typically come with chicken or tofu. Fried egg, our choice, is also delicious. Stuff the sandwich with cilantro to your liking and you're all set!
A look at the inside of my sandwich, with curried mayo, orange bell pepper, pickled carrots and dikon, cilantro, and a fried egg

Monday, January 7, 2013

Brussel Sprouts!

...inspire fear in most people. I don't think I've personally ever had them, but for Christmas Eve we made Alton Brown's Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and Cranberries.

 REALLY easy to make. You shred the brussel sprouts (I just chopped them but you can use a mandolin or food processors). Toast the nuts in the pan (dry), add three tablespoons of butter and melt it, then toss in the brussel sprouts and cook a few minutes until bright green and soft. Then you just turn off the heat and stir in a generous amount of dried cranberries.

Simple, and incredibly delicious. AND seasonally colorful with the green and red.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reformation Dinner

Last week was October 31st -- for most Americans the celebration of Halloween. It was also the 495th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, and we celebrated with an appropriate dinner. (And by not giving out any candy. We are lazy, and often tired.)

The star of the meal were the Laugenbrezeln, a kind of German pretzel roll. The "Laugen" denotes that they are blanched in a lye mixture, as opposed to, well, any other type of pretzel. This gives the finished pretzel its signature dark, crispy crust, and that slightly-sour pretzel flavor. FORTUNATELY, through the magic of modern science, there is a recipe to manage these rolls using baking soda instead. This recipe is from Under My Knife, the blog of an intern at America's Test Kitchen.

You make a fairly basic dough (a bit drier than most), then let it rise. Then you form your pretzel shapes and put these in the fridge to chill, which is supposed to make them hold their shape better during the blanching. (We did not do the full hour called for.) The blanching is kind of scary, messy, and time-consuming. You mix baking soda in a pot of water on the stove (not quite at a boil), and drop in each roll for a few seconds. The mixture leaves white residue on the pot, which comes off easily, but is still a little unnerving. However, this step is absolutely essential for that lovely crust and flavor.

For protein, we got a nice big sausage and fried it up on the stove. The sausage and rolls went well with some spicy mustard. We also made roesti, which are like Swiss hashbrowns. In New Glarus -- America's Little Switzerland -- roesti came with pretty much every meal. It's just shredded potatoes, dried out and chilled with a little oil. Then you mix in some strongly flavored cheese and fry them like hashbrowns or latkes. Everything was served up with some plain applesauce.

For afters? German Chocolate Cake, of course. This recipe is from our Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's called something like, The Betty Crocker Cookbook. That's pretty close, that least. We were very, very, VERY careful to follow high-altitude baking adjustments. Cake has been our big baking failure so far. (Although, our new cake pans might also help. Maybe you're not supposed to make cake in Corningware?)

The recipe is meant to make three layers, but we only had two pans, so we made a few cupcakes that Joe brought to school. The frosting is a simple chocolate butter cream. Excessive frosting is unnecessary on this cake. It uses melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, so it has amazing flavor and texture.

I think Katie would be proud.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Once a month, we have a pizza and wine date. Here are some samples of the pizzas we have made:

Cast Iron Skillet pizza with artichoke, spinach, and tomato sauce

A view of said pizza on plates
The non-cast iron skillet version, with tomato, onion, mushroom, and arugula

I mix up the dough earlier in the day, and since it only needs one rise it is ready whenever we want to eat. Here's a dough recipe below...and a tomato sauce recipe (but you can just use olive oil and cheese too).

Mix 2.25 tablespoons active dry yeast with 1.5 cups warm water (around 120 degrees). Let the yeast rise for a few minutes, then add 1/2 cup of flour and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix it up with your stand mixer and dough hook attachment. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a good dash of salt, and 3.25 cups flour (I usually make about 1 cup of that whole wheat). Mix/knead with the dough hook. Dough should be moist and glistening but not can add more flour if necessary. Put the dough in a bowl greased with olive oil...and let it rise for about an hour (or more).

Then just roll out the dough on a pan, top as you wish, and place the pizza in a 425 degree oven until the crust is nicely browned and cooked.

Joe's Tomato Sauce:
Saute a red onion in a good amount of olive oil until translucent. Add a couple cloves garlic if desired. Add about a third of a cup of alcohol (cooking sherry or wine) and reduce until most of it burns off. Add a can of either diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes...salt and pepper to taste. You can also add oregano, basil, rosemary, or similar Italian spices to jazz up the sauce. Add red pepper flakes if you wish. Let the sauce simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes, then cool slightly before topping pizza. Also great on pasta.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peanut Sauce

I have a peanut sauce recipe. I know I've had it since high school, because I can remember making up just enough sauce for a single serving of noodles as dinner before going to work at Dairy Queen. I don't remember where I found it, and I don't have it with me, but that's okay -- it's just garlic, ginger, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water, mixed in whatever ratio gives the right taste and texture. Brown sugar if you want it sweeter. Throw in some green onions. Done.

I learned in college that this kind of stuff-covered-in-peanut-sauce dish is called gado-gado (although I'm sure there's such a thing as REAL gado-gado, which this ain't.) I love peanut sauce so much I made up a song about it.

Gado-gado is the best
Gado-gado beats the rest
You can have it for lunch or have it for supper, 
eat it from a plate or eat it from a cup or
eat it right out of the pot!
Gado-gado really hits the spot!

So, yes. When I found chicken satay sandwiches from, an awesome Thai food blog, I was going to make it. But Thai peanut sauce is a little different from my standard.

The recipe is here on the SheSimmers blog, as well as lots of information about Thai peanut sauce, but if you don't want to click the link, here it is abbreviated:

  •  13.5-oz (one can) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup (half a little jar) red Thai curry paste
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
    bring to a gentle boil, stirring; simmer 3-5 minutes. Keeps in the fridge.
That's it. But this stuff is magic. Then all that's left is to make homemade ciabatta, flatten some chicken breasts and rub them in Penzey's satay seasoning, fry the chicken on the stove top, and chop up some cucumbers, red onion, chiles (jalapenos are good), and cilantro. Make sandwich.

Invite over a friend or two, if you're feeling nice. Have a beer.

Now, the only problem: this recipe makes about three meals worth of peanut sauce, and you can only dunk plain ciabatta rolls in peanut sauce so many times. What to do with the rest? Here's what we did:

Cook angel hair pasta. Steam some broccoli florets. Pour peanut sauce on top. Now THAT sounds like the gado-gado my high-school self knows.

Oh, and with the peanut sauce that sticks to the Tupperware? Here is what you do.

Remember those broccoli florets? You bought a whole stalk of broccoli because it's cheaper, right? So you have stalks left? While the broccoli is steaming and the pasta cooking, turn the oven on to 350 F. Slice the stalks nice and thin. Whisk up an egg and a little milk, and pour some panko, a little salt, and your favorite mix of spices (salt and onion powder is good!) in a dish. Dredge the stalk chips in the egg mix and then the panko, and place on a baking pan. (You gave the pan a spritz with non-stick spray, right?) Pop in the oven. About ten minutes later, pull them out of the oven. Dip the now hot-and-crispy chips in what's left of the peanut sauce.

If you get these in the oven as you're serving dinner, they become dessert. For me, anyway. But I really like peanut sauce.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Savory Peach Pie

I got a hankering for a savory pie, so a few weeks back I found a savory pie dough recipe, stuffed it full of pears and cheddar cheese, and baked it. It was INCREDIBLE. So now we eat a savory pie once a week. Here is the latest, greatest iteration:


                                                                       After Baking:

This is technically a "galette," as we do not own a pie tin, so it's made free-form on a pan. I think that ends up more delicious, however; the crust goes further up the sides of the pie so the crust isn't as thick at the edges. It also looks way cooler. This pie was stuffed first with very ripe peaches (which we drizzled with a little honey), spinach, and monterey jack cheese. Our inspiration was a panini recipe; we just stuffed those ingredients into this galette. It was delicious; so delicious we ate the entire thing for dinner. Recipe (my modified version) is below:

(Day Before you want to eat)
Mix 2 cups flour, pinch of salt, and a good amount of pepper in a medium bowl. Cut 1 stick frozen butter into small cubes. Add these cubes to the flour mixture, and rub together with your hands until the pieces are smaller than peas and the consistency is chunky. Add just enough cold water (usually around 1/3 cup) and mix with your hands to make the dough stay together when you squeeze it into a ball. Cover and refrigerate overnight (allows the flour to absorb the moisture)

Next Day:
Remove from fridge and allow to come close to room temperature. Preheat oven go 425 degrees. Roll dough out into a roughly circular shape. Scatter desired fillings interspersed with cheese in middle, and fold up edges of dough around to make a nice volcano shape. Make sure there's some cheese on the exposed top part...the cheesy layer is delicious and keeps the insides from burning. Bake until crust is firm and slightly golden, and cheese is sufficiently melted. Enjoy!

Hobbit Second Breakfast

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the best children's book ever, I decided to make second breakfast on a Saturday morning. Here's the Menu:

Cinnamon Scones
Crusty Bread
Eggs and Bacon
Pork Pie
Fresh Peaches

I won't post recipes for everything on this one, pretty straightforward but here's a pictorial guide:

                                                     Cinnamon Scones (great with jam):

Pork and onions sauteed in cinnamon and ginger for the pie

The Pie before baking
The Completed Pie!

Bacon and eggs on the stove
Delicious Bread, with a little whole wheat flour, in a "bloomer loaf" shape

Here's a view of the table

From above...Strong Black Tea was an important component. I had Keemun.