as you like it: a breakfast casserole baked in a pie dish

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This is loosely based on a Simply Recipes breakfast casserole. Since I am cooking for two, I halved it and baked it in a pie dish. I remembered how at Christmas we’d use up leftover ham by frying it with scallions. It made a most delicious breakfast. So I did that and threw in the mushrooms for savoriness. I call this…

Egg Pie As You Like It (with apologies to Shakespeare)

Butter
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
3 slices bread, cut into rough cubes
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup quartered shiitake mushroom caps (can use chopped uncooked broccoli)
1/4 cup sliced scallions (can substitute sliced onions)
1 cup cubed ham, preferably pepper ham (can substitute crumbled cooked bacon)
1 teaspoon dried herbs, e.g. basil, rosemary, thyme (optional)
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a nine-inch pie plate and set aside. Meanwhile quickly stir fry the mushrooms, scallions, and ham in a little bit of oil. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and cheese. Add the bread and carefully stir it in the egg mixture. Scrape the mushroom mixture into the prepared pie plate. Pour the egg mixture on top. You may need to stir the mixture carefully in the pie plate to redistribute the ingredients. Sprinkle herbs on top if using.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until a thin blade inserted near the center comes out clean and the top springs back when touched lightly. Cool about 10 minutes in the plate then slice into wedges and serve with Sriracha sauce, if desired.

penne with chinese sausage and flowering chives

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There is no recipe for this dish. I used up a bunch of leftovers and fried up a couple of Chinese sausages (fah chung in Hakka Chinese). To make this dish, I also used two kinds of penne, onions, and flowering Chinese chives. I also tossed in a couple handfuls of shiitake mushrooms and 1/3 cup of sesame sauce–like I said, leftovers. Then I seasoned the dish liberally with salt, pepper, and fish sauce or nam pla. The flowering Chinese chives  are called dok gui chai in Thai and taste faintly of onion with a crisp texture even after stir-frying. Combined with the sweetish taste of the Chinese sausage, this was a satisfyingly hearty dish that was perfect for Sunday lunch.

hainanese chicken rice at the montien

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We went to the Montien Hotel for lunch on Wednesday. We ordered their specialty: Hainanese chicken rice (khao man gai). This is the Thai take on the traditional Chinese dish. Starting clockwise at the top: the four dipping sauces. First, a yellow bean sauce and chilies, next to it a soy, ginger, and chili sauce, below that a sweet soy sauce, and last of all, ginger with Chinese rice vinegar (chikcho)–a much milder-tasting vinegar than Western varieties. The bowl of garlic rice was fluffy and moist, and the chicken soup had been lightly flavored with soy sauce. It included two pieces of daikon cooked until they were tender but not mushy. (BTW, the Montien gives seconds on the soup). And finally, the pièce de résistance: the chicken itself, one whole skinless and boneless chicken breast,  braised to perfection and resting on top of slices of cool fresh cucumber. Those chocolate brown squares at the top of the plate of chicken were two squares of pig’s blood cake (leud moo). Well,  I’m no Andrew Zimmern, so I passed on the blood cake and could not tell you how it tasted. But I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the meal.

sweet corn and okra purloo with lemongrass, thyme and chinese chives

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I found this recipe on Food 52, and fell in love with its simplicity. A purloo is a traditional southern (US, that is) vegetable stew with smoked meat. Southern cooking is based on the trinity: onions, sweet green peppers, and celery. I did a variation on it, using Thai spur chilies  and Chinese celery. In fact, I took other liberties with this recipe and added lemongrass to it and Chinese chives. Spur chilies are not very hot, instead they add flavor rather than heat to the dish. Chinese celery has very skinny stalks and big leaves. Use the stalks only, as the leaves are very very strong tasting. In Thailand, the leaves are used as a garnish, often combined with scallions and cilantro. Chinese chives resemble scallion but have flat leaves and instead of an onion-y taste, taste faintly of garlic, hence its other name garlic chives. This dish is a mash-up of cuisines, using a mix of local Thai ingredients and Western. It tastes lemon-y, garlicky, and is a hearty meal for two–with leftovers.

Okra and Sweet Corn Purloo with Lemongrass, Thyme, and Chinese Chives (adapted from Food 52)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 as a main meal, 6 as a side dish

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
3 Thai spur chilies sliced on the bias (if desired, seed and devein the chilies for less heat)
1/4 cup Chinese celery stems only, small dice (save the leaves for garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups okra, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 cups smoked ham cut into 1 inch chunks (I used black pepper ham for flavor)
1/4 cup lemongrass, sliced fine
2 cups sweet corn, cut from the cob (approximately 2 corn on the cob)
1 cup organic short grain rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (or 1 bouillon cube to 2 cups water)
1/2 cup Chinese chives (aka garlic chives), diced fine

Heat the oven to 400° F. Place an oven-proof 3-quart pot over medium heat on the stove top. Add enough oil to the pot to barely coat the bottom.

Cook’s note: I didn’t have an oven-proof pot, so I used a large skillet for this step.

Once the oil is hot add the onion, peppers, and Chinese celery. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not brown.

Add the thyme and garlic. Sauté until it becomes fragrant. Don’t let the garlic brown. Add the okra, ham, lemongrass, and corn. If the pan seems dry add a little more oil. Then add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains with the oil. Add the broth. Stir the ingredients. Bring the broth to a boil. Turn off the heat.

Cook’s note: I transferred the ingredients to a Corningware casserole dish with a lid for this next step.

Cover the dish and slide the whole thing into the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 325° F.

Set a timer for 35 minutes. At the end of 35 minutes remove the dish from the oven, carefully. Using oven mitts, remove the lid and taste. If you can taste tough grains of rice, stir then cover the dish and put it back in the oven. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Continue stirring and cooking in 10 minute increments until the rice is cooked. In my oven this took 55 minutes.

Taste and adjust any seasonings as necessary. If desired, lightly sauté the chopped chives in a little oil. Add the chopped chives and fresh celery leaves to the top of the purloo, and serve.

back in bangkok

Greyhound's Coconut Piek
Greyhound’s Coconut Piek

I’ve been off the blog for some weeks now because of the move from New York to Bangkok. I’ve been cleaning out my kitchen cupboards since I got back, and when my cleaning lady came yesterday, she did the heavy work of cleaning the exteriors. The very next two days we got here, we went to IKEA Bangkok to buy some shelf units called Varierra to extend our storage space–we have a tall cabinet for glassware with only one shelf. All the glasses and mugs were nested. So untidy, not to mention a lot of breakage.

Last night I cooked a meal in my clean kitchen. I miss my Calphalon cookware which was duly packed on August 15 and is sailing over the Pacific by ship, not due to arrive until sometime in October. While I make do I have been re-visiting my favorite places to eat. Of course I had to go to Peng Kee at Seacon Square for my crystal cake fix (Kanom Goh Sen or Mochi Sticks). That was after I had a bowl of fresh homemade noodles at Chiseng Lamian. Other foodie adventures: We went to Bangkok Hospital for dinner at Fuji; some of the best restaurants in town are in hospitals. They make the medicine go down easier. Then I went upscale to Greyhound at Emporium where Asian fusion is their claim. I had the Coconut Piek (literally “wet coconut”) for dessert, a visually stunning concoction featuring saku or sago a delicate shade of Blue Curacao blue but without the Blue Curacao, served with salty coconut cream, slivers of fresh young coconut, and a scoop of coconut sherbet for sweetness’ sake. So delicious. 

nutella bars made with oat crisps
nutella bars made with oat crisps

Since our arrival in Bangkok, I’ve been shopping at the supermarkets and looking at the prices. For instance, avocados here are more expensive than New York. What would be a local substitute for an avocado, I wonder?  I’m determined to find something not only budget friendly but also tasty! My first attempts at finding substitutions are conservative if not successful. I transformed my TJ Cocoa Almond Bars recipe into Nutella Oat Crisp bars. Substituting oat crisps for graham crackers resulted in crumbs that are dry and crunchy, making these chocolate bars taste like Nestlé crunch bars. The oat crisps, BTW, came from IKEA. IKEA, you’re my everything! This morning I turned leftovers into breakfast. I did a riff on the Egg McMuffin with a fried egg and a stick of gai yang (grilled pork) sandwiched between two broccoli-tomato fritters. It was good!

fried egg and gai yang (grilled pork) sandwiched between two broccoli-tomato fritters
fried egg and gai yang (grilled pork) sandwiched between two broccoli-tomato fritters

Since good food is the stuff of (my) life, my blog is going to shift focus. Still writing about preparing and eating food  but now I will also write about adapting my favorite recipes and new to local ingredients.