Archive for February, 2010

Thai Red Curry with Chicken

Red curries are one of the more popular of the various Thai curries (green, yellow and Massaman are a few others). Curry pastes are the foundation of Thai curries. While many Thai cooks start with their own version of curry pastes, most use one of the many very good commercially prepared versions. Thai curries are different from Indian curries in that they use fresh herbs such as lemon grass, Thai ginger and other moist flavorings while Indian curries rely on a different array of dry herbs and spices. This dish uses red curry paste that, due to the popularity of Thai food, is now easy to find in the Asian food section of most major supermarkets these days. The amount called for in this recipe produces a medium hot dish. The heat can be adjusted by adding more or less paste. This is a perfect dish to try if you’ve been wanting to try making a Thai curry at home. It goes together fast and can be ready to serve in the time it takes to cook a batch of plain rice.

The chicken is prepped using a method that guarantees tender pieces of chicken that cook in minutes. The boneless chicken breasts are pounded between pieces of plastic wrap with a meat tenderizer mallet and then sliced into 1 inch pieces. Beef and pork can substitute for the chicken in this recipe and will also benefit from this tenderizing step. Another trick I like to use when I desire a sauce that’s a little thicker is to refrigerate the can of coconut milk called for in the recipe. The thicker, richer coconut cream will rise to the top of the can and solidify leaving the thinner, clear coconut water at the bottom. I often just use the thicker bit at the top of the can, scooping it out with a tablespoon.

Serve with plenty of plain jasmine rice. Sliced fresh mangoes or pineapple are perfect for desert.

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 can good quality coconut milk
1 can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
½-1 tsp Thai fish sauce
2 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp fresh lime juice
Shredded green onions and slivered bell peppers for garnish

Place the boneless chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and with a meat tenderizer mallet pound each to ½ inch thickness. Slice into 1 inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick sauté pan or wok. Quickly stir fry the chicken for 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir fry for another minute.

Add the thick portion of a can of coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the bamboo shoots, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice.

Serve right away with hot plain rice garnished with sliced green onions, bells peppers or an extra spoonful of coconut milk. Serves 2.

Roccos NY Italian Deli and Pizzeria

We really like this little neighborhood Italian pizza place/deli/bakery tucked in a little strip plaza on the corner of Buffalo and W. Charleston and apparently so do the numerous regular customers we’ve spotted on our last three visits. We understand why, the food is great. They seem to do a little bit of everything at Roccos, take-out, dine-in, grocer,deli,caterer and a mini bakery-and they do it well.

Pizza is the real deal here. A genuine thin chewy crust comes with a tasty tomato sauce that gratefully has no traces of the dreaded corn syrup we abhor in pizza sauce. But while pizza may be the star at Rocco’s, the sandwiches are not to be missed. Generous portions of high quality Italian meats are served on chewy Italian sub rolls and make some of the tastiest subs we’ve had in Vegas (the large size is big enough to feed 3 people generously). The menu also includes a nice selection of pastas, salads, soup, stromboli and a few main courses that include veal and seafood. There’s a sandwich we can’t wait to try on our next visit-a soft shell crab and eggplant combo that really sounds intriguing.

A dozen or so small tables are perfect for casual pizza night or for waiting while your take out order is prepared. There are also plenty of Italian pantry staples and prepared foods on display to drool over while you wait. Don’t forget to take home a dozen of their lovely chewy almond cookies studded with pignoli nuts. They’re the traditional recipe just like the ones my grandmother made. Rocco’s is a gem!

Roccos NY Italian Deli and Pizzeria
1181 S. Buffalo (at W. Charleston)

Cinnamon Braised Beef

In the west we’re used to cinnamon showing up in our sweet dishes. In the east it’s often used in savory dishes like this fragrant Asian beef stew redolent of spicy cinnamon and black pepper.

Look for a large chuck roast for this recipe. Leaner cuts such as round tend to become dry when braised for a long period. Beef short ribs can also be used and are especially good in this dish.

Serve with a quickly cooked Chinese green vegetable such as bok choy or broccoli and steamed rice.

1 ½ pounds chuck, cut into large cubes
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 whole dried red peppers (Thai or cayenne)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup good soy sauce (such as Kimlan)
3 cups beef broth
¼ cup sherry
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

Brown the beef cubes in a large pan with a lid. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine and bring just to a boil.

Lower the heat to simmer and cover. Simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until meat is tender. (This recipe is also great prepared in a slow cooker following your crockpot’s instructions). Serve with steamed rice.

Tangerine Mousse

Tangerine Mousse

Tangerines are often overlooked in desserts. Sweeter and a little more mysterious than oranges, they can be substituted in any recipe using citrus. I love a tangerine meringue pie using tangerine juice instead of lemon. I also love the flavor and fragrance of tangerines in the following mousse recipe. This recipe, by the way, can be adapted to use any fruit; try it substituting pomegranate juice and pomegranate liqueur for the tangerine juice and orange liqueur called for in this version (blueberry also works well).

1 package unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons Cointreau, Curacao or Grand Marnier
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated tangerine zest (orange part only)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup tangerine juice
1 cup heavy cream

Dissolve the gelatin in three tablespoons warm water and add the Cointreau.

Place the egg yolks in a heavy saucepan and add the sugar, tangerine peel, gelatin mixture, lemon juice and tangerine juice. Mix well, using a wire whisk.

Place the saucepan over very low heat (you may also use a double boiler) and whisk gently until the mixture has thickened enough to coat a spoon. Do not overcook. Cool and place in a large mixing bowl.

Whip the cream until stiff.

Whip the egg whites until barely stiff (not too dry).

Fold the cream into the egg-tangerine mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites until barely blended.

Spoon or pipe the mousse into individual bowls or into a serving bowl. Chill overnight or for at least four hours. Garnish with crushed amaretto cookies or chopped mint.

Serves 4-6

Chinese Roast Pork (Char Siu)

It’s easy to find great Chinese roast pork in Las Vegas. All around Las Vegas Chinatown, in it’s grocery stores, shops and restaurants, it’s sold by the pound. Sometimes called Chinese BBQ Pork or Char Siu, it’s not actually barbecued, but roasted after being marinated in a mixture that frequently contains red food coloring that gives it a “barbecued” appearance. The pork is marinated in a sweet mixture perfumed with Chinese five spice powder, a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper and fennel seeds. Red food coloring is traditionally used to give the pork a reddish color, but is totally optional.

Chinese roast pork is served in a variety of ways; by itself as an appetizer, simply served sliced over fresh vegetables and rice or as an ingredient in stir fries, steamed buns, dumplings, fried rice, sandwiches, and soups. It can be roasted either outdoors on a BBQ or indoors in the oven. Boneless pork loin can be used, but the best Chinese roast pork uses fattier cuts such as pork shoulder. The following marinade also makes fabulous Chinese BBQ ribs.

½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1 cup good quality soy sauce (Kim Lan is very good)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp five spice powder
3 cloves garlic mashed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup sherry
½ tsp Asian sesame oil
few drops red food color (optional)

3-4 lbs pork roast

Cut the roast into 3 or 4 smaller pieces and place in a large zip lock bag or large deep baking dish with high sides. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and pour over the meat, turning to coat it well. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours or overnight turning occasionally.

Remove the meat from the marinade, place on a shallow rack in an aluminum foil lined baking pan (to make clean up easier) and roast in a 350 degree oven until the internal temperature is 160 degrees or the juices inside are no longer pink (roasting time will depend on the thickness of the meat). Baste the meat several times with the marinade as it roasts.

Remove from the oven, let rest 10 minutes and served thinly sliced with fresh Chinese stir fried vegetables and steamed rice. Leftover unsliced roast freezes well when wrapped tightly and frozen in freezer bags for later use in many other Chinese recipes.

Garlic Chicken

A good stir fry is an important addition to a home cooking repertoire. With a versatile basic recipe it’s possible to take advantage of seasonally available produce and weekly bargains on meat. With only a few tablespoons of oil they can also be low in fat.

Chicken, pork and beef can be dry and chewy in home stir fries, even when they’ve been marinated for a lengthy time. The classic Chinese method to achieve that tender result we love in Chinese restaurant dishes involves a two step cooking process called “velveting”. An easier (and less messy) method is to pound the chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap with a meat tenderizer mallet to a ½ inch thickness before slicing it into bite sized pieces. This also reduces the marinating time to about 5 minutes.

This entire dish can be put together and ready to serve in the time it takes to cook the rice that goes so well with it (Asian style egg noodles are also very good). It’s excellent just as it is but add-ins such as snow peas, cashews, broccoli, baby corn, mushrooms, hot chile paste, fermented black beans and so on, transform it into any number of familiar Chinese restaurant menu standards. This recipe is a basic starting point for a number of Thai stir fries as well when fish sauce is substituted for the soy sauce and herbs like lemon grass or Thai basil are added.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
few drops sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
3 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying (peanut, canola or vegetable)

Pound the chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap with a meat tenderizer mallet till an even ½ inch thickness. Slice into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Add the soy sauce and sherry and mix to combine. Set aside.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a cup and stir to dissolve the sugar and cornstarch, set aside.
Heat the oil in a medium hot large saute pan or wok until hot. Add the garlic, ginger and green onions and stir quickly for a minute just till fragrant. Add the chicken pieces and continue to stir fry over medium high heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir the sauce ingredients a final time then add all at once to the chicken and cook till thickened, about 1 minute. Serve tight away with plain rice and steamed vegetables. Makes 4-6 servings.

(Note: this recipe makes a dish that has a small amount of sauce that glazes the meat nicely, but if you wish to make a dish with a larger amount of sauce add ½ to ¾ cup of chicken broth and increase the cornstarch to 1 teaspoon for the sauce ingredients)

Fondue Potatoes

¾ cup grated fontina cheese (about 2½ ounces)
¾ cup grated gruyère or swiss cheese (about 2½ ounces)
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
4 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold or red all-pupose)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash but do not peel the potatoes. With the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the potatoes in several places. Wrap in paper and place on a microwave safe plate. Microwave till just cooked through (a toothpick should insert easily) being careful to avoid overcooking. The potatoes should still hold their shape. Unwrap and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Make a cheese sauce by melting the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add all of the milk at once and continue to stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheeses. Stir till cheese melts. Season with black pepper.

With a small spoon carefully scoop out the middle of each potato leaving about ½ inch around the sides. Place the scooped out potato pulp the cheese sauce and gently stir until just combined.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. (tip: a small shallow pile of coarse rock salt can be placed on the baking pan to act as an anchor to prevent the potatoes from tipping over while filling and baking). Fill with the cheese mixture. Bake in a hot 375 degree oven till the tops are brown and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Mango with Sticky Rice

Preparing the sticky rice for this classic Thai dessert is worth the trouble. This is a perfect dessert to follow a Thai-or any other Asian meal.

2 cups sticky rice (also called glutinous rice or sweet rice)
2 ½ cups coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 ripe mangoes, cut into thick slices

Prepare the rice: Soak the rice in water to cover for at least 3 hours, up to overnight. (The longer the rice soaks, the less time it will take to steam.)

Dain the rice and transfer to a bamboo steaming basket designed for cooking sticky rice suspended over a pot of boiling water. (Alternatively, steam the rice in a cheesecloth-lined steamer basket or colander suspended over boiling water. Place the rice in an even layer in the steamer basket for even steaming.)

Wait for the steam to begin rising through the rice, then cover the rice with a damp, thin kitchen towel, folded to completely cover the rice. Gently cover the rice (do not press down the towel) and reduce the heat to maintain a steady flow of steam. Have a pot or kettle of simmering water on the side to add as necessary to maintain the water for steaming. Steam the rice until it swells, glistens and can be molded into small, cohesive balls; the rice will be just tender (be careful not to overcook). Cooking time will vary from about 25 to 40 minutes depending on the cooking vessel and soaking time for the rice.

While the rice is cooking, combine 2 cups of the coconut milk in a saucepan with the sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a heat-proof cup or bowl. Set aside.

In the same pan heat the remaining coconut milk to a gentle boil. Add the remaining salt and continue to cook and gently stir for about 3 minutes or until coconut milk thickens slightly. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof cup or bowl. Set aside.

Turn the rice out into a large bowl. Pour the sweetened coconut milk over it and stir gently but well to incorporate thoroughly. Loosely cover the bowl and set aside, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is absorbed by the rice, 30 minutes to an hour. Serve mounded on a servicing platter with remaining coconut milk and sliced mangoes on the side. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds or toasted coconut. Serves 4

Note: Fresh ripe fresh peaches make a delicious substitute for fresh mangoes.

Fried Pasta

So what do you do when you have too much leftover pasta? Fried pasta! Fried noodle cakes are popular in a number of cuisines, particularly in Asian cooking. When cooked pasta is fried it becomes crisp and toothsome.

Asian noodle cakes typically don’t use a binder; in this Italian-inspired recipe a bit of breadcrumbs, a beaten egg and parmesan cheese are added to cold leftover cooked pasta. Exact proportions are not important and the pasta can be fried in smaller cakes or one large cake the size of your frying pan. Add-ins are also optional but herbs, a bit of leftover cooked, chopped meat or other types of grated cheese all produce interesting results. Here I’ve used leftover pasta from my prior recipe, Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs but any plain, cold, cooked pasta is perfect.

Leftover cooked, cooled pasta or noodles (any shape or size)
½ to 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 beaten egg
oil for pan frying

Preheat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick saute pan over medium heat. While the pan is getting hot combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

When the pan is hot add the pasta to the pan in the size desired, flattening slightly, and fry on both sides till golden brown.

Serve hot plain, with pasta sauce or extra cheese.

Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs (Pasta con pangrattato)

This thrifty pasta dish is from an era when clever home cooks had to feed large families and meat and cheese were too expensive and often hard to come by. Bread was always on hand and stale bread was never wasted. Stale bread shows up in many classic Italian soups, pastas and even deserts. Crisp, savory breadcrumbs are the star in this dish. The simple ingredients are deceptively flavorful.

This is the basic recipe and is very, very good just the way it is. In Italy, some families toss in toasted crushed, dried red peppers, sardines or anchovies. Others brown a small bit of pancetta or prosciutto in the olive oil step of the recipe.

The beauty of Italian cooking is its long list of core recipes such as this one that have been adapted and changed to suit each family’s tastes and budget.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups fresh homemade breadcrumbs
2 large garlic cloves, very finely minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or capellini

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two. Remove from heat; add the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and add to pan with breadcrumbs. Toss over low heat until pasta is coated. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese.


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