hakka chinese chicken in wine soup, lite version

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The wine-y smell of this soup takes me back to my childhood. I confess it wasn’t the sort of dish I enjoyed when I was younger. I’m not fond of soups and the smell of this one was an earthy and mysterious liquid garnet that tasted disappointingly like vinegar. I never tried it until today when I made a “lite” version, i.e. skinless chicken, trimmed of excess fat. When I tasted it, I realized I had captured the smell that I remembered in this pot. It was delicious. What can I say? I grew up! 

Hakka Chinese Chicken in Wine Soup, Lite Version
Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 minutes

2 chicken thighs, skinless and trimmed of excess fat
2 chicken drumsticks, skinless
1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless
Salt and pepper
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup red wine
1 1/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium preferred
1 small onion (I used quarter of a large onion)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
10 small dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and softened, OR 4 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered
Scallions, sliced on the bias, for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, lightly salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Set aside.

In a large saucepan or small Dutch pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry until lightly browned on the outside.

Add the wine and chicken broth. Add the soy sauce, onion, and the mushrooms. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken breast and set it aside. Continue cooking the thighs and drumsticks for 15 more minutes. Three minutes before cooking time is up, add the breast back to the soup to warm it. Serve at once, ladled into bowls garnished with scallions, if you wish.

new year’s resolution: eat healthy, eat light, a tangerine sorbet with vodka (naturally)

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To begin my new year’s resolution for healthier eating, David Tanis (NY Times Cooking) proposes a meal:  Miso Chicken in Leek, Ginger, and Scallion Broth, Tofu and Herb Salad with Sesame, and of course, a dessert. This delicious tangerine sorbet has only three ingredients: fresh squeezed tangerine juice, powdered sugar and vodka (I didn’t have sake). Because of the vodka the sorbet wouldn’t freeze, not completely, anyway, I put it in the freezer to harden for several hours. This recipe method is for the KitchenAid ice cream maker.

Tangerine Sorbet (adapted from David Tanis)
Yield 4-6 servings
Time: Suggest 3 days to set up and 1 hour 35 minutes (at least)to make sorbet

3 cups fresh squeezed tangerine juice, with pulp (about 18 small tangerines)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 cup vodka (sake in original recipe)

Twenty-four to 48 hours before making the sorbet, put the ice cream maker in the freezer. If you make the sorbet in the morning of the second day, it will be solid enough to enjoy for an after-dinner dessert.

In a blender, combine the juice, sugar, and 1/4 cup vodka. Start out with 1/4 cup vodka to see if the sorbet will freeze in the ice cream maker. Put the mixture in the refrigerator to chill, at least 1 hour.

Set up the ice cream maker and turn on the machine to Level 1. While the dasher is turning, pour the chilled juice mixture into the bowl. Continue churning 20-30 minutes or until the sorbet thickens and can be scooped up in a spoon. Because of the vodka, the sorbet may stay in a liquid state. In that case, put the entire workbowl in the freezer to set up.

new year dessert: crystal osmanthus flower jelly with wolfberries


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Crystal Osmanthus Flower Jelly with Wolfberries is an agar-gelatin dessert. It is served at New Year because the osmanthus flower, a tiny yellow fragrant flower, is thought to represent good luck, friendship, and success. For centuries the Chinese have been using flowers like these to make fragrant teas and desserts. This dessert also contains wolfberries, also called goji berries, which are considered an antioxidant high in Vitamin A, 8 essential amino acids, and minerals. The Chinese have been using them for thousands of years to make soup-tonics. This dessert is light, slightly sweet, with a tiny sharp clean scent from the chrysanthemum flowers in the tea. It is a bit firmer and “crisper”  than desserts made with gelatin on account of the agar. But it is so good for you. So here’s to a healthy 2020! Chaiyo!

Crystal Osmanthus Flower Jelly with Wolfberries
Makes one 8-inch cake

9 g powdered agar
20 g gelatin bloomed in 100 g water
166 g rock sugar
1380 g water (about 6 cups)
2 chrysanthemum tea bags
2.5 g dried osmanthus flower (about 2 tablespoons)
8 g dried goji berries (2 tablespoons)

Special Equipment:
large aluminum finish saucepan
8×8-inch square or 8×2-inch round pan

Put the goji berries in a small bowl and cover them with water. This will plump and soften the berries. When softened, 5-10 minutes, drain off the water and reserve the berries. Hydrate 20 g gelatin in 100 g cold water. Stir to mix well and let stand 5 minutes. Lightly oil pan and set aside.

Simmer rock sugar in the saucepan until sugar is completely dissolved. Off the heat and drop in the chrysanthemum tea sachets. Let the tea steep until you get a light golden color for the jelly. Discard tea bags.  Sprinkle agar on top of the liquid to hydrate. Because agar needs to boil in order to activate, bring the mixture to a boil.

Add the osmanthus flowers and goji berries; simmer, 2 minutes. Don’t steep the flowers and berries any longer than 2 minutes unless you want a darker jelly. Strain the flowers and goji berries, and reserve. Add the gelatin mixture to the tea mixture. Mix until completely dissolved.

Let mixture cool 30 minutes. To hasten thickening, set the pot in a large bowl of ice. Stir occasionally. Once jelly has started to thicken slightly, add the reserved flowers and berries, stirring gently with a fork to mix well so that the flowers and berries are suspended in the jelly. Pour into the prepared pan. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours,  preferably overnight.

When it is set, unmold the jelly. Run a long thin blade around the edges of the jelly. Cover with a plate and invert. Gently shake, slap the bottom of the jelly pan. The jelly should slip out onto the plate. Use a sharp knife to cut the jelly into squares. Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is best when it is cold.

a christmas cookie sampler

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Clockwise from the top: black and white and green cookies; Mexican wedding cakes rolled in strawberry sugar and plain; Cranny Garcias (a riff on Cherry Garcias); chewy cinnamon snickerdoodles; and in the center, iced gingerbread stamped cookies

These cookies have the slightly bitter taste of mint, the sweetness and crunch of coarse sugar, and the smooth caress of chocolate. To ramp up the peppermint flavor, I have added a drop or two of peppermint.

Black and White and Green Cookies (adapted from Bon Appétit)

2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups (320 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt, plus more (1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
2 cups (packed; 45 g) fresh mint leaves
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 284 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-2 drops peppermint extract, optional

Toppings
Coarse white sanding sugar
1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (20 g) Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon light corn syrup*
*Substitute golden honey or simple syrup (1 cup sugar to 1/4 cup water, heated until dissolved)

Special equipment:
One 3-inch diameter cookie cutter

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk to combine 2 teaspoons baking powder, 320 g flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse 45 g mint and 200 g sugar in a food processor until mint is finely chopped. Add peppermint, if using. Add 284 g butter and pulse until just combined; butter will still be visible. Add dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Add egg and egg yolk. Pulse until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until dough holds its shape. Divide dough in half; pat each portion into a one-inch thick disk. Wrap disks in plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Can DO AHEAD.

Place rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 350˚F/175˚C. Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough on a silicone baking mat to about 1/4 inch thick. Dusting mat with flour may not be necessary. Cut rounds with lightly floured cookie cutter and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Only make enough rounds to fill one baking sheet. Refrigerate the left overs until ready to use. Pat dough scraps into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill 10 minutes if soft. Repeat process with scraps.

Hold a bench scraper upright 1-inch from the edge of the cookie to mark off a shallow semicircle (see picture above) but do not press down into the dough. While holding the scraper steady, sprinkle sanding sugar within the semicircle, gently pressing to adhere. Lift up the scraper. You should have a tidy sugared edge. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Baker’s Note: You’ll be making a “V” with a sugared edge on one wide and chocolate on the other

Bake cookies one batch at a time. Rotate baking sheet halfway through until edges are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer cookies to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. DO AHEAD: 1 day. Store tightly wrapped on a rimmed baking sheet at room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add corn syrup/honey/simple syrup, pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons warm water. Stir until smooth and glossy.

Position bench scraper to make another shallow semicircle on the other side of the cookie, angling it so that it forms a V with the sugared edge. Lightly press the scraper into the cookie to make a barrier. While holding the scraper, spoon 1 teaspoon glaze on the exposed semicircle. Use a toothpick to help coat evenly, letting the excess chocolate drip over the edges onto the baking sheet below. Lift scraper straight up and over the chocolate side to create a neat edge. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let sit until glaze is set, at least 2 hours.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Mexican wedding cakes also called Russian tea cakes, are a favourite during the holidays. Lightly sweet with every bite the taste of almonds. This year, I rolled them in strawberry powdered sugar.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, or other nuts, toasted and finely ground (if using hazelnuts, wrap in a dishtowel while still warm and roll about until most of the brown skins come off)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F/175˚C. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using, in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing cookies 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve. Makes about 4 dozen.

Variation:
Pastel Mexican Wedding Cookies:
½ cup freeze dried fruit, e.g. strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, mango
½ cup powdered sugar
Process the freeze dried fruit and powdered sugar together until very fine. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This year, I substituted a cup of cranberries soaked in a tablespoon or two of rum (exact measurements don’t matter!) and warm water. Result: “Cranny” Garcia cookies!

Cherry Garcia Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1-1/2 cups (192 g) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (113g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1/2 cup granulated white sugar [substitute superfine or caster sugar]
1/2 cup light brown sugar, (packed then sifted)
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely-chopped unsalted macadamia nuts or almonds (optional)

Preparation:
1. Place dried cherries on a cutting board and coarsely chop. For a moister cookie, soak the cherries in hot water for a few minutes to plump them up. Drain well or squeeze out the water. For more of a kick, soak cherries in rum or brandy.
2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and the sugars on low speed. On low speed, beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add flour mixture to butter mixture half at a time and mix on low speed until combined. By hand, fold in cherries, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and nuts, if using.
4. Refrigerate cookie dough 30 to 45 minutes to firm up.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
6. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, placing cookies about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Bake one batch at a time.
7. Bake each batch 12 to 14 minutes (10-12 minutes in a convection oven) until lightly browned around the edges. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to racks to cool completely. Store air tight in a covered container.

There’s nothing that says “Christmas is here” than these chewy cinnamon cookies.

Snickerdoodles

1 cup (2 sticks, 227 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1 1/2 cups (300 g) superfine sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (352 g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon sugar
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven 375˚F/200˚C. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix until fully incorporated. With the mixer on low, add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out rounded balls and put them close to each other on the cookie sheet. It’s recommended to do one batch at a time.

Mix together the 3 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Roll each ball in the cinnamon mixture and place on the baking tray about two inches apart. Bake 6-8 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and let cool on wire cooling racks.

I had plans to make and decorate gingerbread this year. But it was not to be! The cold weather abruptly left me with a hot kitchen. Chilled cookie dough rapidly softened in the heat. So instead I made iced gingerbread stamped cookies using the stamps from a moon cake mould I bought on Amazon.

Iced Gingerbread Stamped Cookies

wet ingredients
Servings: 14 cookies
Cook Time 10 mins
Calories: 154kcal
6 tbsp 85 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 packed cup plus 2 tbsp (90 g dark brown sugar), sifted to get out the lumps
1/3 cup 100 g molasses
1 large egg yolk
dry ingredients
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp (235 g all-purpose flour) 1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
glaze
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar 1 Tbs/15g unsalted butter melted 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp warm water
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C Put your cookie stamps in the freezer to chill. Skip this step if the stamps are plastic.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a stand mixer or with electric beaters. Beat in the egg yolk.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low until the dough comes together.
4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until all the floury crumbles are incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. I did not have to chill my dough before rolling, but if yours is very soft, you may want to.

5. Dip the cookie stamps in a little flour. Press the cookie stamps firmly into the dough, and then use a round cookie cutter slightly larger or slightly smaller than the stamp itself to cut out the cookies.
6. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want to over bake these cookies, so do a test cookie or two to figure out the best timing for your oven. The cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven, but will firm up as they cool.
7. While the cookies are baking whisk the glaze ingredients together until they become a smooth thin glaze. Add more water if the glaze is too thick, it should have the consistency of maple syrup or a thin honey.
8. Put the cookies on a cooling rack and brush them with the glaze while still slightly warm. The glaze will dry in about 30 minutes.

Happy Holidays!

tropical christmas crack

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This is my take on that Southern American Christmas treat called variously Christmas Crack or Crackle. It looks complicated but it is actually very easy to make, and would make great gifts. The base layer is a box of saltine crackers. I sprinkled bits of dried tropical fruit and crushed cashew nuts on top of the chocolate layer, and that was it.

Christmas Crack (adapted from Southern Living)

40-48 saltine crackers (1 box of Haitai brand crackers has 42)
227 g unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips or a mix of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried tropical fruit, diced fine
1/2 cup crushed salted cashew nuts

*Recommend sifting the brown sugar in Thailand as it is lumpy

Preheat oven 325˚f/165˚C.

Line one 15.5 inch baking tray with parchment paper. Place crackers in a single layer on the parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar on medium-low heat. When it starts to bubble, stir constantly for 3 minutes until the mixture emulsifies. Carefully pour the caramel all over the crackers, making sure to cover the edges. If any crackers are displaced or if there are any bare spots, use a knife tip to straighten and cover any bare spots with caramel.

Bake 15 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the baked caramel. Put the tray back in the oven for 1 minute more to melt the chocolate. Remove the tray from the oven. Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate to cover the crackers and the caramel. Sprinkle diced fruit evenly on top of the chocolate layer, followed by the nuts. Cool on the countertop to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.

Remove the tray from the fridge and using your hands, break up the crack into shards, about 2-4 inches. This being Bangkok, store airtight in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

sparkling sprite fruit gelatin cake

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You know that feeling when you want something sweet but a slice of cake is too much? I came across this recipe on the Kitchn website when I was browsing.  I thought, it’s got fruit, it’s healthy, and it’s light. Eating this is literally like having your cake and eating it too. It intrigued me because it’s not like the gelatin moulds back in the day, when it was a fanciful substitute for a vegetable (think: green Jello.). This was quite sophisticated and extravagant calling for elderflower liqueur and a whole bottle of sparkling wine. Chaiyo! Instead, I decided to make a non-alcoholic version, replacing the elderflower liqueur for lychee syrup and the sparkling wine for Sprite soda. The cake itself is slightly sweet and extremely colourful with the addition of fruit like green honeydew melon, red seedless grapes, lychees, blueberries, and sweet red plums. You can add any fruit you like, except kiwi, guava, papaya, mango, and pineapple which contain an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting. I know because it happened to me. When that happens, make a smoothie!

Sparkling Sprite Fruit Gelatin Cake—non-alcoholic version (adapted from Kitchn)
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cooling time: 4 hours minimum

Vegetable oil
1/4 cup (4 x 1/4 oz envelopes) unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup syrup from a tin of lychee
1 (750 ml) bottle of Sprite, soda must be fresh, not flat
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, strained to remove pulp and seeds
2 small plums, pitted and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup tinned lychee fruit, drained, halved, and sliced into thin strips
3 cups fresh fruit halved or cubed if large (e.g. strawberries, melon, red or green seedless grapes, pitted cherries, whole blueberries, bananas, drained watermelon. Don’t use kiwi, guava, papaya, pineapple, or mango as they contain an enzyme that prevents gelatin from setting)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried, optional

Passion fruit coulis (recipe following)

Very lightly coat a 10-cup Bundt pan or gelatin mould with vegetable oil, being sure to carefully oil all the nooks and crannies. Alternatively, use cooking spray, but I prefer to oil it myself as I have more control over getting the pan properly oiled. The surface of the pan should feel slippery to the touch and there should be no pools of oil at the bottom of the mould.

Combine fruit in a large colander and turn occasionally to drain juices. If using banana, add separately as the juices from the cut watermelon, cherries, plums, and strawberries can stain it. Refrigerate fruit until ready to use.

In a small bowl, place the gelatin. Add 1/2 cup water and whisk well to combine. Set aside to bloom for 5 minutes. Warm the 1/2 cup of lychee syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Scrape the bloomed gelatin into the pot and whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the Sprite and lemon juice. Scrape the gelatin mixture into the Sprite mixture. Stir gently to combine. Set this bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Cool the gelatin in the ice bath, stirring occasionally, and scraping up the sides as it starts to thicken. The jelly may look cloudy at first but will become transparent as it cools. When the mixture thickens to the consistency of hair-gel, add the cut fruit. Add the banana cubes. Add the mint leaves, if using, and gently combine them all with a silicone spatula, distributing the additions evenly.

Scrape the jelly and fruit into the prepared mould. Shift the pan back and forth on the countertop to settle the gelatin. It will look lumpy but will become smooth as it cools and sets. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight. You can make this cake in the morning and have it for dessert that evening.

How to unmould the cake. Take the cake out of the fridge. Fill a large bowl with just enough room-temperature water to come up to the level of the gelatin cake in the mould, but not so much water that the pan floats or water spills on the gelatin. Don’t use hot water as it will melt the gelatin. Put the mould in the water-filled bowl and let it sit 5-10 minutes to loosen. Moisten your fingertips with water and gently press down on the edges of the gelatin, easing it away from the sides of the pan. Take the mould out of the water bath and dry the bottom with a towel. Cover the top of the mould with a large plate and invert both the mould and the plate. Gently shake the mould and the plate. If the jelly doesn’t fall out onto the plate, put the mould back in the water bath. The second time, I changed the water and tried easing the edges away from the sides again with moistened fingertips. After 5 minutes, I tried again. Success. So don’t hurry the process; be patient. Refrigerate the plated gelatin cake until ready to serve.

Make a passion fruit coulis. To a half-cup of fresh passion fruit in a small saucepan, add 50 g of sugar and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the stove and taste. It should be tart but not sour, so add more sugar a teaspoon at a time to taste. Using a hand blender, puree the sauce so that the flesh separates but the seeds remain whole. If you wish to remove the seeds, strain the coulis. Chill coulis until ready to serve.

Slice gelatin cake with a sharp knife. Serve thick slices of cake with the chilled passion fruit coulis drizzled on top or as a sauce that pools around each slice.

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nam prik noom (northern Thai green chili dipping sauce)

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There are many dipping sauces in Thailand. This one is nam prik noom (นำพริกหนุ่ม) from northern Thailand. “Nam” means sauce. It is made from a long pale green chili about 6 inches long called prik noom  (พริกหนุ่ม)–sorry, couldn’t find an English translation on the internet. It is spicy but not fiery hot. On my subjective scale of one to ten with ten being tongue-numbing, I’d say this is a five. Nam prik noom is absolutely delicious, especially when eaten the traditional way with salty, crunchy pork rinds.  Serve it with an ice cold beer, or in true Thai style, with ice in the beer. 

Nam Prik Noom (Northern Thai Green Chili Dipping Sauce)
Makes 1/2 cup

4 Prik Noom (a slender light green chili that’s about 6 inches long)
4 large cloves garlic with skin
6 small shallots with skin
1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Special equipment: mortar and pestle

Roast the chili over an open flame to char and blister the pepper. I used an open gas burner fitted with a wire rack, to roast the peppers. Turn peppers frequently with a pair of metal tongs. Don’t try to turn it with your fingers. When it is completely softened, remove the chilis to a rimmed baking tray to cool completely. By then they will have turned olive green. Cut off the stems of the prik noom and discard, keeping the chilis whole, peeling and discarding the charred skin. Set aside.

In the same pan, roast the garlic cloves and shallots in the skin until softened and blackened on the outside, shifting the pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Be careful as the heat can make the garlic and shallots explode, so you might cut a small slit in each one as a precaution. Cool and peel the garlic and shallots, discarding the papery skin.

Put the garlic, shallots, and salt to taste in the bottom of the mortar and pound until fine. Add the peeled whole prik noom to the mortar and pound until the peppers are thin strips. Mix, scooping up the bottom and bringing it to the top, and pound lightly a few times. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Bring the nam prik noom to room temperature and serve it with pork rinds.

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no-knead bread loaf

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I wanted to make a bread with a chewy crust and a tender crumb to accompany roasted sausages, grapes and onions. So I made two boules, round loaves of bread. This recipe is adapted from the recipe A Loaf of Bread in How to Cook Without a Book. For some reason, my bread doughs are always very wet, and this one continued that tradition. I used SAF-Instant gold yeast which is said to be “osmotolerant” a phrase which means it is specially formulated to handle high sugar doughs. Because of my experiences of the past 8 months with the multigrain bread recipe, it seemed so simple in comparison–just 5 ingredients. And in a sense, the result was quite simple. I got what I wanted. I got a crusty chewy bread with a tender open crumb.

No-Knead Bread Loaf
Time: 3 hours 15 minutes (more or less)

1 2/3 cups water, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
4 cups (480 g) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal for the pan

In the workbowl of a large food processor, add the flour and the yeast. Pulse to combine. Add the salt and pulse to combine. While the machine is running on high speed, gradually pour the water down the feed tube, watching for the dough to clump and form a ball. Mine didn’t and I used up all the water. In your kitchen, you might not need all the water. I ended up with a very soft, very wet, very sticky dough. Rather than knead the dough, I decided to use the stretch-and-fold method.

Using a plastic dough scraper, I scraped that sticky dough out into a bowl, covered it, and let it rest 10 minutes. Then I smeared some oil on the work surface and rubbed my hands in oil. I dabbed a little on the top of the dough and turned it out on the oiled surface. Using a metal dough scraper, I lifted the edge of the dough furthest away from me, stretched it and folded it in half towards me. Using the heel of my hand, I pressed the edges together, gave the dough a slight turn, and repeated the process 8 or 10 times. Then I put the dough back in the bowl, covered it and let it rest 10 minutes. I repeated the process two more times. Incredibly, it worked. Without kneading, the dough became smooth, pliant, and elastic.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in it for the first of two rises, called fermentation. I covered the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and put it in the microwave (off) with a cup of boiling water for company. Because I wanted to get a ciabatta bread, I took the bowl out of the microwave after 30 minutes. (If you don’t, skip this step.) I oiled the work surface and scraped the dough out of the bowl. I oiled my hands and patted the dough into a rectangle twice as big as the ball originally. Then I folded the dough in thirds. First the left side, then the right, then the top and lastly the bottom. I folded the edges of the dough towards the center, rotating it and folding it to get a taut ball. I turned it over, seam side down, and shaped the ball between cupped hands. Then I put it back in the bowl, seam side down, covered it, and let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours in the proofing box (aka my microwave oven, off, of course) with a cup of boiling water to create a humid environment.

While the dough is rising, prepare two bannetons or two 7-inch bowls lined with thin dish towels. Generously flour the bottom and sides of the towel inside the bowls/bannetons and tap out the excess flour.

With fermentation completed, I turned the dough out onto a floured surface and cut the ball into two equal halves. You can weigh it for even distribution. Shape each piece into a taut ball by folding the edges towards the center. Flip it over seam side down, and rotate it on the work surface to seal the bottom. Put the balls in the bannetons/bowls, seam side up. Flour the seam-side and cover the dough with a damp towel. Put them back to proof 45 minutes.

While the dough is proofing, heat the oven to 220˚C/450˚F. Line a large rimmed baking tray with a sheet of parchment. Sprinkle cornmeal on top of the parchment and set aside.

When the dough has proofed, tip the boules out on top of the cornmeal. Using a sharp knife, slash the tops of the dough with a cross. Put the tray in the oven and increase the oven temperature to 260˚C/500˚F. After 15 minutes, turn the tray around. Bake an additional 10 minutes. The original recipe said 20 minutes but the bread was brown and crusty in half the time. Don’t rely on the time but do observe how brown the top is getting. To test the bread is done, it should read 200˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the bread to a wire cooling rack to cool thoroughly before slicing.

multigrain bread

I have been baking bread since February. The same recipe. And I’m not even tired of it! Why am I not tired of this recipe? Well, quite honestly, it’s the challenge. Bread is just flour, water, yeast and salt, but these four simple ingredients can be so temperamental that making a good loaf of bread is almost elusive. To be good, the bread must be moist, tall and tender, and be springy to the touch. So here we are, the first day of October and I think I have finally nailed it.

This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen which has never disappointed me if I follow their recipe strictly–until now. The dough was so appallingly sticky and the gluten stubbornly uncooperative. For the last eight months I obsessively maintained a Dough Diary, writing down every deviation, experimentation, failure, and success. I decided it must be the flour, so I switched from all-purpose in the recipe to bread flour, and got better results. I did my research and learned how to knead bread by hand, a very enjoyable activity. Still, I didn’t get a tall tender loaf until I learned that I need to weigh the dough to fit the pan I’m using. In baking bread, weighing is everything. Now that I’ve worked that out, here is the (almost) perfect multigrain sandwich loaf and boule. Ta-DAH!

Multigrain Bread (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
Minutes to Prepare: 30 minutes
Resting Time: varies, from 5 hours to 6
Minutes to bake: 35 minutes
Yield: 1425 grams of dough or 1 sandwich loaf and 1 boule**
**I converted all measurements to grams because it’s more accurate.

Special Equipment
1 8.5×4.5 loaf pan
Stand Mixer
Scale
Dough or Bench Scrapers
Instant Read Thermometer

Ingredients
135 grams multigrain hot cereal mix (in Thailand use McGarrett’s 5 grain cereal)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
360 grams bread flour, plus more for dusting (all-purpose originally)
170 grams whole wheat flour (also called hard wheat)
91 grams honey
59 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon fine table salt

Optional Additions to the Dough
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, OR
1/2 cup flaxseed or chia seeds, OR
3/4 cup chopped nuts, after sifting out the powder

Topping
Egg yolk wash (1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, quick oats, or multigrain cereal

Place cereal mix in the work bowl of the stand mixer and pour boiling water over it. Let it stand, stirring occasionally to cool the mixture to 100-115˚F. The grain will swell and absorb some but not all the water. This takes from 20-30 minutes. Measure the flours into a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Once the grain mixture has cooled, add the honey, melted butter, and yeast. Attach bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Mix on low speed (Level 1-2) to combine. Still beating on low speed, add the flour mixture a half-cup at a time, mixing the flour into the cereal. Once all the flour has been added, switch the paddle for the dough hook, and knead on Level 2-3 until the dough forms a ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Without removing the bowl, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt. Knead the dough in the machine 3-4 minutes on Level 2 or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom. If it doesn’t clear, add 2-3 tablespoons additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on Level 2-3 for 5 more minutes.

Touch the dough. It will be sticky–some of it will come away on your finger. It is tacky if your finger is clean. If it is tacky, most likely the kneading is done. Cut away a walnut-size piece of dough and stretch it as thin as it will go without tearing. It will be flexible and translucent when held up to the light. This is called the windowpane test. Add the nuts/seeds, if using, and knead for 15 more seconds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes to disperse the seeds. The dough is ready for the stage called bulk fermentation.

If the dough is sticky, and it always was for me, this means the gluten is undeveloped. I recommend kneading it by hand, a process that can take up to 30 minutes, but is oddly satisfying. The slap and fold method works well for this sticky dough. Oil your hands (keep a bowl of oil nearby) and try not to add more flour, though the dough can take up to 6 tablespoons more. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Lift it up and slap the dough firmly on the work surface, stretch it back towards you, then fold it over on itself. Repeat and repeat. It may seem like forever, but the dough will eventually come together. You can see demonstrations of this technique on YouTube. Stop and do the windowpane test after 10 minutes. If it’s not stretchy, keep slapping and folding.

Once the dough passes the window pane test, it will become tacky and not stick to your hands or the work surface as much. Lightly flour the work surface and shape the dough into a ball. Oil a 4-5 quart mixing bowl and put the dough ball in it, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Put it in a warm draft free place to rise. This is called bulk fermentation, and is one of two rises that the dough will need. I put the bowl in the microwave (off, of course) with a cup of boiling water. Or you can heat the oven on low, turn it off, and put the bowl in the oven. The dough will need 45-60 minutes to double in bulk. It will rise to the top of the mixing bowl but not over it. If it only rises 2/3 of the bowl after 45 minutes or one hour,  let the dough have 15 minutes more.

When the dough has risen weigh it. I get about 1425 grams of dough after fermentation. I cut it half, roughly, one piece weighing 770 grams will make a sandwich loaf in the pan. The smaller piece I roll into a boule. I don’t have a banneton and you don’t need one to make a boule. Use a medium size bowl. I use a bamboo rice steamer basket.

Making a sandwich loaf. Pat 770 grams of the dough into a rectangle. Roll it into a tight cylinder so there are no holes. Pinch the seams closed and roll it back and forth on the work surface to smooth it out.  Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Brush egg wash on the sandwich loaf and roll it in a 1/2 cup of oats or cereal spread in a plate. Place it in the center of the prepared loaf pan.

Making a boule. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Keep doing this until you get a taut ball. Dust a little flour on the work surface and put the ball seam side down in the flour. Cup your hand around it and smooth out the ball. Line your banneton with a clean dish towel and sprinkle some flour inside it. Don’t use the egg wash on the boule just yet. Put the boule in the bowl with the seam side up. Sprinkle some flour on the dough then cover the boule with the ends of the dish cloth.

Proofing the dough. Put the dough in the microwave (off) to proof, 30-40 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic and a kitchen towel. The loaf will rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the rim of the pan. The boule will increase 50%. While they are proofing, heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Put a baking tray on the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the bread. Unwrap the boule and tip it out of the bowl onto a piece of parchment paper. Take the hot baking tray out of the oven and place the boule with parchment on  one side. Brush top of boule with egg wash and pat oats/cereal on it. Put the loaf pan next to it on the baking tray. Put the baking tray in the oven and watch the magic. We have bread! After 35 minutes, take the baking tray out of the oven. The loaf and the boule will have reached an internal temperature of 200˚F which means the bread is cooked inside. Transfer the boule with parchment to a wire cooling rack. Put the loaf pan on another cooling rack. After 10 minutes, take it out of the pan. Cool completely for at least 3 hours before slicing.

PS I got a new brand of yeast that’s recommended by bread bakers. I’m so excited. I can’t believe I’m excited about yeast.

honey-ginger chicken thighs

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These chicken thighs are sweet and savory at the same time. It has the earthy notes of ginger with the tang of garlic, caressed with honey. The accompaniments are pan-roasted baby bok choy sprinkled with balsamic vinaigrette, purple rice salad, and a light fruit salad of pineapple, pomelo (a cousin of the grapefruit, very mild-tasting, not sour), cucumber, and pomegranate sprinkled on top, all drizzled with mayongchid syrup I had made when mayongchid was in season. But a lightly sweet fruit salad dressing will do too. 

Honey-Ginger Chicken Thighs
Marinating time: at least 12 hours
Cooking time: 40 minutes

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons garlic (8-10 large cloves), minced
4 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
Salt and Pepper to taste
4-6 chicken thighs with the bone in, trimmed of excess fat

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and nam pla until just simmering. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large casserole dish, put the chicken thighs in a single layer, skin side down. Pour the sauce over the chicken, move the chicken around to get the sauce underneath it, and cover the dish. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Transfer the chicken thighs, skin side down, to a 10 or 12 inch oven-ready pan with a lid. Cover the pan with the lid. If the pan doesn’t have a lid, cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place the covered pan in the hot oven and bake 20 minutes.

Remove the lid and increase the oven temperature to 375˚F/190˚C. Turn the chicken so that the skin side is up. Bake an additional 20 minutes, turning the pan around half way through the baking time, until the chicken is golden brown and reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Remove the pan from the oven. The pan drippings will be very sweet and strong and not really suitable for a gravy.

If you wish, make a pan sauce. In a 10 inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Off the heat and stir in 2-3 tablespoons flour to make a thick slurry. Add 1 cup water and heat until thickened. Add a quarter cup of the drippings from the chicken pan. Taste and adjust seasoning. Aim for it to taste sweet and savory. For some zest,  chop up a small chili pepper and add it to the sauce.