my dream cake

We’re getting close to our Songkran break, the Thai new year holiday. I’m planning on doing a lot of cooking and baking when I am home. For Easter, of course, and, well, also “just because!” Just because I want to.  I have been fantasizing about making this cake, the Crystallized White Rose Cake I saw on Butter and Brioche —because it’s so beautiful. Crystallized-White-Rose-Cake-940x627

It’s the kind of cake that has to be planned. I am searching for the ingredients and finding that two of them are particularly hard to find: rose extract and organic roses. One of the teachers at school tells me I should try Pahurat, the Indiantown of  Bangkok to find the rose extract. As for the organic roses, they have everybody stumped. What about orchids? They are edible and also very common. Every garden, nook, tree, and balcony have orchids hanging. When I am ready to bake this cake, I will cut  a spray of orchids growing in our pots upstairs, lovingly coat them with egg white, and sprinkle them with sugar.

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ruammit burger with cucumber drizzled with sesame-soy sauce

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Make this without a recipe.

I call it “ruammit burger” because ruammit in Thai means “mixed up together.”  my husband corrects me, “together with friends.” I suppose the ingredients are friendly, because they certainly complement one another! Just combine lean ground pork with lean ground chicken. The pork adds a little fat to the chicken and makes it tender rather than dry. Because I wanted to clean out my fridge, I added chopped cooked vegetables that were a bit soggy. Then, because they were soggy, I added a half cup of cooked red-and-brown rice to soak up the extra liquid. Then I added seasonings: a bit of ginger and garlic, some chopped Chinese celery (คื่นฉ่าย), chopped cilantro, a squirt of Sriracha, a dash of black pepper, salt, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Mix it all together and make into patties as wide as the palm of your hand. I grilled the patties in a skillet with a little rice bran oil, about 4 minutes per side on medium heat. For the vegetable side, I chopped up some fresh Holland cucumbers and drizzled a sesame-soy dressing on top. That’s it! No recipe necessary.

soy-glazed five-spice chicken legs and cilantro with sesame-soy sauce dressing

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This recipe is a family favorite. I’ve reduced the calories by removing the skin from the chicken drumsticks. I really don’t miss the skin at all because I hate chicken skin unless it is absolutely crisp. The meat is tender, sweet, salty, with just a hint of anise.

Soy-Glazed Five Spice Chicken Legs
Prep time: 5 minutes plus overnight
Cook time: 28 minutes

6 chicken legs with the skin on
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice bran oil
1 teaspoon onion or garlic powder
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Cilantro with Sesame-Soy Sauce Dressing
1 bunch cilantro, washed and patted dry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Prepare the chicken legs. Grasp each end of the leg with a paper towel and pull the skin down over the tip of the bony end of the drumstick. Zip! Discard the skin. Repeat with the other drumsticks.

Place the prepared drumsticks in a dish with a cover or a glass food storage box with a clip on cover. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients until it emulsifies. Pour over the chicken and cover. Move the chicken back and forth to coat. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, shift the chicken back and forth again in the box. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade.

Heat a skillet with a little oil or cooking spray. Brown the chicken about 2 minutes per side. Pour on the reserved marinade and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes or until done.

Make the cilantro side. Whisk the sesame oil and soy sauce until it emulsifies. Drizzle all over the cilantro and gently toss. Serve chilled.

lime skillet soufflé with caramelized bananas

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This recipe may seem complicated but it is actually quite easy to make. It is first cooked on the stove top then allowed to finish and brown in the oven. This is only the second time I’ve made it. The first time I made it in New York I used lemons. It has an intense citrus flavor which lessens somewhat as the soufflé cools. I served this version with caramelized bananas. I used the stubby fat Thai banana called kluay nam wa (กล้วยนำ้หว้า) which has an intense sweetness. If the bananas you use are as sweet, reduce the amount of sugar used to caramelize them by half.

Lime Skillet Soufflé (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 12 minutes

5 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice plus 1 teaspoon lime zest (about 4 small limes)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Special equipment:
10 inch aluminum skillet (do not use nonstick)

Cook’s note: Wipe out the bowl and beaters with vinegar before whipping the egg whites. I used an8 inch skillet so I reduced the heat to 325˚F or 150˚C.

First, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375˚F (for 10 inch skillet). In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on medium low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium high and whip the white to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in 1/3 cup of the sugar and salt and continue to whip the whites until they are glossy and form stiff peaks, 2-6 minutes. If using a stand mixer, gently transfer the whites to a clean bowl and set aside.

Cook’s Note: No need to wash the whisk attachments for the next step if using a hand-held mixer.

In another large bowl, whip the egg yolks and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar together on medium high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. When you raise the beaters, the egg yolks form a ribbon. Whip in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Using a wire whisk, fold one-quarter of the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.

Cook on the stovetop. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium low heat. Swirl the pan to coal evenly with the melted butter, then gently scrape the soufflé batter into the skillet and cook until the edges begin to set and bubble slightly, about 2 minutes.

Cook’s Note: I used an 8 inch skillet and had left over batter. I mounded as much of the batter as the skillet could hold. Next time, I will bake the leftover batter in buttered ramekins

Bake and serve immediately. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the soufflé until puffed, the center jiggles slightly when shaken, and the surface is golden, 7-11 minutes. Using a potholder (the skillet handle will be hot) remove the skillet from the oven. Dust the soufflé with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Per serving: Cal 180; Fat 6g; Sat fat 2.5g; Chol 180mg; Carb 28g; Protein 6g; Fiber 0g; Sodium 105mg

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with caramelized bananas. To caramelize, melt two tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add four slices of medium bananas and 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar. Brown 1-2 minutes or until thick and syrupy. If too sweet, squeeze lemon or lime juice on the bananas. Serve bananas with or without syrup.

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chef’s ultimate grilled cheese sandwich

DSC04393 What’s your favorite foodie movie scene? My current favorite is Chef. I love the scene where Jon Favreau’s character Carl Caspar is making a grilled cheese sandwich to share with his son Percy. Watch the YouTube video here. Here is what I think he did.

First, he sprinkles olive oil on a countertop griddle. I believe the setting to be about medium to medium high, because any higher and the bread will toast too quickly. Then he butters two slices of farmer’s bread. He places the two slices buttered side down on the griddle with the oil. He  fries the bread on one side only, moving the slices around on the griddle, smearing butter and oil into an aromatic sauce that sizzles.

Then Favreau tops the un-fried bread sides with thin slices of cheese–looks like a fair amount of Cheddar and Gruyere topped with a couple of slivers of Parmegiano Reggiano. When the cheese looks a bit melty, he stacks the two halves, cheese sides together Finally, he spreads a bit of butter on the edges of the fried side of bread to make it evenly brown and crusty. Flips it over and butters the other side. When both sides are golden, when the cheese oozes out, it’s done. Slice. Share with Percy. Eat. Crunchy. Yummy.

After I watched Chef, I tried to replicate it myself–with some of my own touches. I used a much thicker slice of bread than was used in the movie. My cheese slices were thicker too. Gruyere is prohibitively expensive in Bangkok so I substituted Emmentaler. Instead of the Parmegiano, I added the red pepper cheese for a bit of bite. I ended up with a meal. It was filling, salty, gooey, tangy, and so delicious. The ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.

Note, July 12, 2015: I’ve since learned that it was mayonnaise, not butter that was used to spread on the bread before grilling.