Wednesday, February 15, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...In my world it's impossible to serve a rib roast without Yorkshire Pudding on the side. I suspect my family would abandon me on a dessert island if I even tried. Fortunately, the pudding is simple to make and comes together quickly. It's made with the same batter that's used for popovers, and I'm always amazed that a handful of ingredients can produce such airy golden towers. Years ago, I followed English custom and made the pudding in a single large baking dish. That worked while the children were small, but as their appetites grew, the pudding disappeared before everyone at the table was fed. At that point, I switched to popover pans so every member of the family could have their own to nap or drown with gravy as they saw fit. The individual puddings are a visual delight and the trick to their towering, gnarly height is three-fold. First, the batter must sit so the gluten in it has a chance to relax. Second, the initial temperature at which they cook must be high. Third, while the temperature is manipulated as they cook, the oven door must not be opened till the puddings are done. I guarantee that if you follow the directions in the recipe below, you'll have perfect puddings every time you make them. Because my kitchen is small, I do as much cooking as I can ahead of time. I make gravy the day before the feast, so the mess and last minute stress of getting it to the table becomes a non-issue. I like to use a New Orleans-style roux as the base for the gravy I pass with the puddings. It has wonderful flavor and I think you'll agree it's worth the time and watchful eye it takes to make. Here are the two recipes I used for our Christmas in February feast.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The Silver Fox and I live in an area surrounded by small cattle ranches and, seasonally, that can lead to beef bargains not found in other areas of the country. During the Christmas holidays, standing rib and and strip roasts can be purchased here for what ground beef costs in other communities. My mother raised no foolish children, so I take full advantage of these bargains and pack the freezer when those holiday sale signs appear. That leads to some wonderful meals, and one of the the things I love to do is to serve a "Christmas" meal at odd times of year. We had some good friends for dinner this past Sunday and I decided to celebrate their company with one of the rib roasts stashed in the freezer. Whenever I do this, I go whole hog and make a dinner fit for the groaning board of an English country estate. There is, of course, the roast, but authenticity demands Yorkshire pudding, and the "pud" demands a gravy we find too heavy for the juicy rare, red beef we so enjoy. I make the gravy a day or two before the meal, while the wine sauce is a task for the morning of the feast. Potatoes, too, are made early on and sit in a slow cooker protected by a shallow puddle of cream that keeps them milky white for serving. I do, however, postpone the puddings till the last possible moment. While they can be made ahead of time, we prefer ours so freshly warm and moist you can almost hear them begging to be drowned in gravy. They share the oven with chunks of roasting carrots whose preparation is sheer simplicity, but whose color adds brightness to what can easily become a beige meal. While many think it unnecessary, we are salad folk and I think the meal demands shades of crisp greens to make it complete. To be honest, the salad, made with watercress and Belgian endive, is nearly as expensive as the beef and actually more work to make, but I can't prepare this meal without knowing it will grace my table. I generally make rolls of some type for the feast and dessert depends on the whims or dietary restrictions of the folks sitting at my table. This past weekend we had a luscious pear torte and a creamy lemon pudding to end the meal. I can't feature all these recipes in one post, so I thought I'd pick and choose and share those for the roast and its various sauces with you today. I have several recipes for standing rib roast, but I recently resurrected this one which is failproof. I think you'll enjoy its flavor and ease of preparation. Here is how it's made.
Friday, February 3, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...When the children were home, a Chinese dinner would include 3 main dishes plus soup and rice. These days, the Silver Fox and I just don't eat that way. That's not a bad thing. Fortunately, appetite diminishes with age, so we can still fit through the door, and when we have a dry spell, can actually bend and touch our toes. That's not to say we don't eat. It's just that a dish once meant for one now feeds two or three with ease. Tonight I made the pan-fried noodles for our dinner. While they were a main course for me, I augmented Bob's supper with Chinese-style salt and pepper pork chops, the recipe for which can be found here. Despite my best efforts, the Fox remains, a committed carnivore and I rarely get away with serving him a completely meatless meal. We both love pan-fried noodles and they make a perfect accompaniment to dishes like the chops I made for him. We have a well-stocked Asian market in town, so I have no trouble getting the noodles or the dark soy sauce called for in the recipe. Dark soy sauce is thicker in texture and despite its deep color, less salty than the everyday varieties most use for cooking. Dark soy is fermented for a longer period of time and it's usually augmented with sugar or molasses, that gives the sauce a sweet-salty flavor and viscous texture. Dark soy sauce is used solely for cooking. If you can't find it, replace it with regular soy sauce. Your noodles will be lighter in color, but their flavor will be fine. I know those of you who try this recipe will be pleased with the noodles. Here's how they are made.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...We've had a busy day. The saving grace was accommodation had been made early on, so, while the day was over-scheduled, we got through it with a smile. In keeping with my plan to serve Chinese food during the Spring Festival, I whipped up these noodles for our lunch. I had asparagus and fresh mushrooms in the refrigerator, and I thought these lovely noodle bowls would be perfect for a Chinese-style lunch. While the recipe I'm featuring is not truly Chinese, in appearance, taste and execution, the noodle bowls would fit perfectly on a Chinese table. I found the recipe last summer when looking for ways to cook asparagus from a harvest so successful it caused the shelves of farm stands to sag under its weight. I can't resist a bargain and, as a result, my refrigerator shelves sagged as badly as those in the farm stands. The question than became, "now that I have it what do I do with it?" I went searching for recipes and found the original source for the noodle bowls here. While I've made few changes to the original, the dish still contains only four basic ingredients, including asparagus, mushrooms, eggs and of course, noodles. The eggs which provide the protein in this dish are handled in the same way as those that are used to make Spaghetti Carbonara. This dish, however, is more mildly flavored. The noodles are quite nice and perfect for any time of year. While I think you will enjoy them, I do not want to mislead you. This is not an Asian noodle recipe. It's for an all-American dish that happens to use Chinese noodles and sesame seeds. It has several things going for it, among which is the speed with which it can be prepared. The recipe is also scaled to feed two or three people, depending on how hungry they are, so it would make a great addition to the recipe collections of those who are now cooking for two. I know many of you have carnivores at the table, and, if you wish, chicken or pork can be added to the ingredients without changing the basic nature of the dish. The bowls can be on the table in less than 30 minutes, and as Martha use to say, "That's a good thing." Here is how the bowls are made.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The Silver Fox and I are having guests for brunch on Saturday. In keeping with my plan to serve Chinese food for the duration of the Spring Festival, I've put together a menu that I think our guests will enjoy. I'll be serving congee, noodles, shrimp omelets, dumplings, and creamed bok choy as well as Chinese donuts and pancakes. The recipes for these dishes have been featured on One Perfect Bite in the past, but I came across new recipes for the donuts and pancakes that I wanted to try and share with you. They are easy to make and I think your family and friends will enjoy them. Here is how they both are made.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The Silver Fox and I use the 15 days of Spring Festival to enjoy some of our favorite Chinese dishes. Over the years, I've collected a huge number of recipes for Asian food, particularly Chinese. These meatballs are a personal favorite of mine, and I always make them during the holiday, as much for their symbolism as their wonderful flavor. There is discussion, sometimes contentious, about the origins of this dish. I favor Shanghai, but the beautiful city of Yangzhou is also a contender. Children love this dish and it's whimsy. For some, the four large meatballs represent the cardinal points of north, south, east and west. For others, they represent the blessings of felicity, prosperity, longevity and happiness. The meatballs are braised with a mild Asian cabbage in a delicious brown sauce. The finished meatballs, festooned with shreds of cabbage, do resemble a lion's head. When there are no children at the table, I opt for smaller meatballs. There are hundreds of recipes for Lion's Head; this version is based on one developed by Jacki Passmore. If you do not eat pork, or abstain from meat, you might like to try this recipe using a product called Gimmee Lean. In Shanghai these meatballs are served as an appetizer. They're also great for church suppers and other potlucks.
Monday, January 30, 2017
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Chinese New Year - Spring Festival - is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The year 4715 - the year of the rooster - begins on the 28th of January. Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in rooster years are observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented. While they are confident to the point of irritation, they have a great sense of humor and are popular with those who know them. It goes without saying, they enjoy being the center of attention. I suspect they also love to eat. Food is an important part of the New Year celebration and certain foods are included for their symbolic value. Noodles are served for longevity, oranges for wealth and prosperity and a whole fish for abundance and togetherness. Today's recipe is for long-life noodles like the ones stick-stick men sold from pots that hung from shoulder poles. The noodles are served at the very beginning or at the very end of the meal. Be aware that bad luck or a shortened life is the fate of those who break or cut them into more manageable lengths. It's a pretty safe bet that those born in this lunar cycle, the Roosters, manage to keep their noodles in one very long piece. I've draped a noodle across the kitchen cabinet to give you an idea of their length. The noodles can be sauced in many ways, but I've chosen a really simple recipe to share with you tonight. I know you'll enjoy them, and if you have children or grandchildren at the table, they'll have a blast slurping the longest worms ever. Here is how they are made. Remember, the longer the noodle, the longer your life.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Gong Hey Fat Choy
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Happy New Year. The year of the rooster begins today, and for the next 15 days those who celebrate Chinese New Year will join with family and friends to enjoy the "lucky" foods that are associated with the holiday.
Nian gao, or year cake, is a popular dessert served during Chinese New Year. It has a history of at least a thousand years. It is considered good luck to eat the cake because the Chinese pronunciation of its name is a homonym for another word that means higher year. The cake has come to symbolize improving one's status in the coming year. It is also known as a rice cake. The cake is a sticky sweet snack that was first made as an offering to the kitchen god. It was hoped his lips would stick together as he ate it, preventing him from reporting family transgressions to the Jade Emperor. The cake is made from glutinous rice flour, Chinese brown sugar and flavored with almond extract before it is steamed. It is decorated with sesame seeds and dried red dates while it is still warm, but it must sit for at least a day to firm up for slicing.