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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Venison Bourguignon

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confessions ~
  • dw & i did not celebrate xmas. he's not big on the holiday and since i don't have a strong attachment to it myself, we ix-nayed it. instead, we slept in, took goofy visa pictures of each other in preparation for our Vietnam trip next month, and went to see a movie. (Sherlock Holmes. he rules.)
  • my affection for young adult fiction has merged over to young adult tv shows. i finished Life Unexpected and now i'm deeply involved with Roswell.
  • i don't mind mind winter running when my ears are warm. who knew a headband + running skull cap would be the answer to getting me to run in this cold?
  • i like deer meat. i, who wept when bambi's mom was shot & he was orphaned, adore this gamey protein.
  • i don't particularly care for red wine. so when i did a search for this recipe & it called for the use of red wine, i inwardly sighed. i also wasn't all that surprised when i looked at our stash of wine & all the bottles were white. and so i made this with white wine.
  • and. um. damnit. i used a packet of onion soup mix to season the meat before searing it. there. that's it.

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Venison Bourguignon
adapted from a spicy perspective

packet of onion soup mix
4 strips of bacon
2 lbs. deer roast meat, chopped into large 2 inch chunks
3 big carrots, chopped into large chunks
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 container baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
½ cup bourbon
3/4 bottle white wine, i used chardonnay
2 cups water (or stock)
2 TBL tomato paste
thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf, you could get fancy & make a Bouquet Garni
4 TBL butter, i used soy margarine
¼ cup flour

cook up bacon in pan until done & crispy. remove from pan, set aside.

meanwhile, season deer chunks with onion packet, or salt & pepper. Brown the meat on all sides. do in batches, add too much meat in the pan and the mean just steams.

transfer some of the fat or oil into a pot. add in the onions, garlic & carrots. cook for a few minutes until onions are soft & translucent. add the meat to the pot. pour in bourbon, wine, and water. throw in the tomato paste & herbs. cover.

bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for a few hours. i let it go for 3 hours. in the last hour, added the mushrooms.

in a bowl, mush the butter + flour into a paste. stir into the stew until thick.

i served this with roasted cubed potatoes.

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wishing you and yours a delightful 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Beef Rendang ~ take two

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it is the day after christmas. the house may still be in disarray. the tree is still merrily lit, the cheerful excitement lingers in the air. it's a magical time. it's a time i've always enjoyed, despite coming down from the holiday high. because now the pressure is gone, the frenzy is over. instead in its place is a peacefulness, and if you're lucky, a quiet joy that warms you to your toes. the new year is looming. there is hope. there is purpose.

i attempted this beef rendang again, this time with all the proper ingredients. this time i waited for the flavors to meld into one another. this time dw or i stirred the pot every 15 minutes accordingly, gently coaxing the colors to develop. this time we ate the meal the next day. because this dish is best as a leftover, a day after thing.

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the hints of clover & cinnamon may bring warmth, but the use of thai chilis adds a pleasant layer of heat beneath it all. the use of keffir leaves and lemongrass gives the dish a depth that i did not have previously, one that i don't think i could be without again. it is a dry curry but the bits of dried paste provide extra flavor to the white rice.

Beef Rendang

beef rendang
adapted from Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore by James Oseland

For the Flavoring Paste:
note: i made this exact recipe and put half the paste in the freezer for later use.

1 whole nutmeg, cracked open with a nutcracker or a heavy, blunt object such as the bottom of a glass measuring cup
8 whole cloves
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 thai chilis, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 TBL ground turmeric
1 piece fresh ginger, 2 inches long, peeled and thinly sliced against the grain
1 piece fresh or thawed, frozen galangal, 2 inches long, peeled and thinly sliced against the grain
10 almonds

For the remainder of the dish:

1 LB organic, grass-fed beef tenderloin
1 can unsweetened coconut milk + 1/2 can of water
3 thick stalks fresh lemongrass, each tied into a knot
1 piece cinnamon stick, 4 inches long
7 whole fresh or thawed, frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the flavoring paste, place the nutmeg and cloves in a small food processor and pulse until ground to a dusty powder, about 2 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic, chiles, turmeric, ginger, galangal, and almonds to the ground spices. Pulse until you have a chunky-smooth paste the consistency of cooked oatmeal.

In a 12-inch skillet (nonstick works best), mix the beef and the flavoring paste until well combined. Add the coconut milk, lemongrass, cinnamon, whole lime leaves, and salt. Stir well to combine and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered at a slow, steady bubble, stirring every 10 to 20 minutes with a spatula to prevent the meat and coconut milk from sticking and scorching. You'll probably need to adjust the heat periodically to maintain an even simmer.

The meat, coconut milk, and flavoring paste will now go on a fascinating journey. At first, the broth will be thin and gorgeously bright orange. As it cooks, the coconut milk will reduce, its fats (as well as the fat the meat renders) separating from the solids. It will become progressively thicker and darker, eventually turning brown. Continue to simmer gently until the liquid has reduced by about 95 percent, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent sticking. Only the meat, oils, and a bit of very thick sauce will remain in the pot. This will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the skillet that you use, how hot the fire is, and the richness of the coconut milk. Test the meat; it should be tender enough to poke easily with a fork. Taste some of the liquid for salt, and add a pinch more if needed.

When all the liquid has evaporated, reduce the heat to low (the meat and the remaining sauce are prone to burning) and allow the beef to brown slowly in the rendered fat. (The fat may be foamy at this point, but it will settle down when the cooking stops.) Stir every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking and scorching, being careful not to break the beef apart. Continue sautéing the beef until it's the color of roasted coffee beans, 5 to 10 minutes longer. The surface of the beef should be barely moist and have an appetizing oily sheen. (If there is too much oil in the pan for your liking, skim some of it off with a spoon and set aside for later use; it's wonderful for sautéing potatoes.)

Remove and discard the cinnamon, lemongrass, lime leaves, and then transfer the beef to a serving dish. (Alternatively, serve this dish with all the aromatics, for a more rustic presentation.) Allow the beef to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Slightly warm room temperature will best show off its intensely aromatic flavors. This dish will taste even better the next day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

homemade dairy free hazelnut spread

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it's a hectic time. it is the holidays after all. but these darker, colder, longer nights call for a slower pace, time to savor the moments with loved ones. my days are spent in the bustle of life, i would rather spend my evenings cozy, going about my home living calmly.

over dinner last night, dw & i got to talking. we talked about the time he & i spend together. as sweet as always, he said that tho he would rather spend all the minutes in a day with me, he is glad for the 8 hours we have to spend at work, for the remainder of the 16 hours with me would be all the more blessed.

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in celebration of the holiday cheer, whatever holiday you celebrate, i present you homemade, dairy free hazelnut spread, aka Nutella. it's a lovely treat, easily spreadable on warm toast to be enjoyed with tea in the morning light, or with some fruit & a glass of almond milk while you enjoy a flick on the television. a whimsical dream to whip up, it's also a great gift to give to someone who loves chocolate, who can't consume the dairy variety, or a gift to yourself, because you're finally slowing down, returning to your heart during this season.

happy christmas.

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homemade hazelnut spread ~ dairy free

1/2 lb organic raw hazelnuts, preferably without skins
5 TBL good quality cocoa powder, more or less to taste
1 TBL grapeseed oil (or whatever neutral oil)
8 TBL powdered sugar, more or less to taste
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

roast hazelnuts in 350F oven for about 15 minutes, keep an eye on them. you don't want to burn them, you just want the oils to gets all nice & warm & do it's thing. if the nuts have skin on them, dump them in towel and rub on them, the skins should flake off.

in a food processor, pulse the nuts until smooth. think peanut butter consistency. add in the cocoa powder and sugar, pulse thru. to loosen the mixture add in the oil.

this recipe is super easy, and all dependent on your taste. if you want it to be sweet, add more powdered sugar, by 1/8 cup first. same with the cocoa powder.

if you're expecting the consistency to be like nutella, it's not. store in the fridge and i usually zap it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to loosen up before spreading. so far it has lasted about 3 weeks in the fridge.

Monday, December 19, 2011

bun bo hue ~ home

Bun Bo Hue

thus far, i have lived in 5 countries, 3 states, and quite honestly, more towns & cities than i care to recall. in the here & now, i have lived in baltimore for just over 9 years. i have owned my home paid my mortgage for 6 years. due to all the moves growing up, this setting down deep roots in one place is intoxicating.

my grandparents' first home in america was a small one bedroom apartment. the one bedroom housed mattresses on the floor for my two youngest uncles, one of them only just 15, and sometimes my father peter. in the living room, i had a small cot, while my grandparents and an assortment of aunts and cousins slept on the ground. we upgraded to another apartment down the street, this one a 2 bedroom.

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i never once thought we'd be there forever. i was right. when i was 11 i moved overseas with peter and his new job and his new family. i didn't come back home until i was 18, in college and eager to get out. after school, like clockwork i moved whenever leases ran its course. the packing. the unpacking. i fear i have never outgrown the nomadic lifestyle. i don't know how to properly unpack a box, not throw away said box or even let go of the ability to live out of a suitcase.

i have been on my own for a very long time. i can't remember the last time i was home visited my parents. this beef noodle dish (not to be confused with pho. and please don't confuse it, Wandering Chopsticks will kick your ass, and i got her back) reminds me of my stepmother. her mother is from Hue and this dish made an appearance regularly at the dinner table. it was not my favorite. in fact, i would usually make a sandwich to eat while the rest of the family slurped their way thru their bowls. like all the recipes in the cookbook i will refer to, food is used to show love, to show forgiveness, to bring home a lost child, and for me, it is home.

i initially wanted to attempt the recipe from Pauline Nguyen's memoir cookbook Secrets of the Red Lantern (with recipes by Luke Nguyen & Mark Jensen) but ended up meshing it with WC's version. i will not be posting the cookbook recipe, as there are so many other dishes in the book i want to create & post properly about, and i can't very well post every recipe in the book! just know that WC's version is, in my opinion, much more authentic and easier to follow.

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This is my entry for Delicious Vietnam, a monthly blogging event to celebrate Vietnamese cuisine created by Anh of Food Lovers Journey and Hong & Kim of the Ravenous Couple. This is the last month of this wonderful event, as a result, Anh will be the final hostess.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Boston Cream Pie Cake - 12.12.

boston cream pie cake

exactly one year ago today it was grey, a rather tired day. in the beginning i thought it was a sign of a dreary year. i was wrong. because, oh, it has been a year. a most perfect year, personally.

and to celebrate it, i have cake that dw made with me. because anybody's first day of a yearlong journey around the sun should always begin with a delicious cake.

Boston Cream Pie Cake ~ dairy free
adapted from Everyday Baking

original recipe calls for the use of a 9" pan. i wanted something smaller, i used 2 6"x2" pans.

cake -
2 TB soy margarine, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup almond milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

chocolate glaze -
7 TBL soy creamer
3 oz best quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Pastry Cream Filling -
2 cups mimiccream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 salt
6 TBL cornstarch

Boston cream pie cake

preheat oven to 350F.
grease 2 6" pans

in mixer bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks for a minute. gradually add in the sugar, beating the mixture until light & fluffy.

meanwhile, sift the dry ingredients in a bowl. also, heat up the almond milk gently with the soy margarine. seriously, allow to get hot but not boiling. remove from heat, add in vanilla. with mixer still on, very slowly add the hot liquid to the eggs. this is called tempering, you don't want the eggs to scramble. alternate with the dry ingredients until fully mixed. transfer to prepared pans.

bake 30-35 minutes, keeping an eye on the pans, until golden brown. use a tester. allow to cool for a bit, then remove from pans to cool completely.

to make the chocolate glaze, make sure the chocolate is chopped accordingly. heat up the soy creamer gently until hot thru and pour on top of chocolate. mix thru.

to make the cream filling, in saucepan heat mimiccreamer & 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat and bring to a simmer. while that is heating up, in a bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until combined. whisk in salt & vanilla. whisk in cornstarch, 1 TBL at a time. again tempering, whisk the egg mixture continuously while slowly adding 1 cup of the heated milk. strain this mixture into the milk that is in the saucepan. continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. about 4-5 minutes.

transfer to bowl and cool. then cover with plastic wrap, pressing against filling to prevent skin from forming. refrigerate for minimum 3 hours, or overnight.

to assemble cake:

cut even layers in the cake, i managed 2 layers per cake.

remove cream filling from fridge, beat a stiff whisk until cream is smooth. pipe (or spread) cream between layers, however many layers you want. i'm a fat ass, i wanted 4 layers. pour glaze over top of the cake, starting in the center. it will spread and spill over. chill cake for 20 minutes before serving.

Boston Cream Pie Cake

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quote Ornament

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Pride & Prejudice Ornament
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to my dearest darling December,

i don't like that 6:45am rolls in dark and it's when i must rise.
i dislike the blustery wind and damp air (is it rain? is it snow? what is this shit?).
i loathe that it takes socks, a bathrobe layer AND two throws in my lap to warm up.
but of the 31 days you give me, a good majority of them are in celebration of something or other.
like birthdays.
holidays, whichever you may follow.
i spend minutes hours in the day daydreaming about the cookies to bake,
the cakes to decorate,
the savories to make,
the crafts to create.
then i actually do it.
this mollifies me. 

good save, December, you were on thin ice for a second there.


this year i made six ornaments for bigk's birthday. because that's how many came in a pack. i used lyrics from madonna & dave matthews, quotes from Harry Potter, Twilight (don't judge us!), Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, and Pride & Prejudice. this craft project was inspired by this ornament i found on pinterest, tho it is no longer an item on etsy.

previous bigk projects:

Monday, December 5, 2011

the art of wooing: Soy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie

shortly after dw and i met, he cooked for me. i know. i swooned too. i may have spent a few minutes in the bathroom texting BigK about it.

Soy Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

it was our 3rd date. at his apartment. ooh la la. i was nervous. i showed up, in my hands chocolate oatmeal cookies, sans raisins as he is not a fan of the combination of fruit + chocolate. i know. i shake my head about it too. for my one dessert, he had TWO desserts: peanut butter pie AND chocolate sorbet.

in my mind's eye, i remember thinking it was entirely too cold to be consuming sorbet but if it was a reason to sit close to him for body warmth, i was IN. i also recall thinking that the pie looked like it was heavy with Dairy Doom and my stomach was going to revolt, but i was going to choke down the pie like a champ. because i liked him. nay. i was smitten with him and i wanted to get in his pants hold his hand.

Soy Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

milestones occurred that night, we still talk about it, giggling while we do the dishes, or fold laundry, but that pie. that pie full of peanut buttery goodness, laden with, like i thought, Dairy Doom; it was also full of his good intentions and that is why i ate my slice with a smile. warning: having just one lactaid pill is not enough to combat it. so i had to come up with a non-dairy version. it's just like the chocolate tofu pie i made eons ago, except it's, you know, organic and more posh.

Soy Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

Soy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie

for the crust:
organic graham crackers, 2 sleeves, crumbled in food processor
6 TBL melted soy margarine

combine both ingredients and press into pie dish. bake for about 10-12 minutes in pre-heated 300F oven. set aside to cool.

chocolate ganache:
4 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, rough chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup mimicCreme

warm mimic creamer through very gently, but not boiling. pour in bowl with chocolate and stir until smooth. pour into pie crust. allow to cool and set.

soy peanut butter filling:
1 container of soft tofu
1 cup of smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup of super fine sugar OR 1/4 cup honey OR agave nectar

process all ingredients in processor until smooth and mixed through completely. pour into pie crust, on top of the chocolate ganache. level and smooth top. refrigerate at least 4 hours to set, or ideally, overnight.

soy peanut butter chocolate pie

garnish with crushed peanuts and chocolate shavings.