Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Chinese New Year Celebration Feast

We will pretty much take on any holiday or celebration as inspiration to whip up a feast and even more so if it pushes us to try some recipes we've never tried.

So Chinese New Year  2012, The Year of the Dragon, fit the bill perfectly. The first day of Chinese New Year started on January 23rd. I read that in China it's not uncommon for people to take a couple weeks off to celebrate. Now that's what I call a celebration. We were liberal with our interpretation of the celebration but we did have the color red in check, a traditional color used to celebrate the holiday.

I have to tell you as I sit here writing this post, a day later than this feast originally occurred on, I end a day that did not include much celebration but instead included some real sadness and very tough news for my family. And it was good to know that we still all came together to share this fabulous food that we had lots of leftovers to share. The meal served as celebration for one night and consoled the next.

For this post we'll stick to the celebration part.

We started by scouring recipes for the best ones to add to our feast. We started first with this recipe for Shrimp Won tons found on Return to Sunday Supper's blog. They just looked too delicious and easy to not be made.

We make lots of potsticker type recipes in our kitchen.They are a personal fave for both of us. Here's a few we've posted about recently; Lobster & Shitake Potstickers, Chicken & Lemongrass Potstickers.  But I have to tell you I don't know that we've ever made one quite this simple that was also incredibly tasty.

First you start with some beautiful shrimp. Clean and devein them. Chopping them and adding a swig of sesame oil, salt & pepper and some green onion. That's it.

Then prep your won ton wrappers, brushing them with an egg wash before filling them and folding them in a triangle.

A triangle how simple!

You finally boil them, 3-4 minutes and serve with a red-chile sauce.

They were scrumptious. Really fresh, tender and simple. With good ingredients simple is great.

For our next course we made Mu-Shu Pork from a Fine Cooking recipe. Mu-Shu is G's favorite item to order on a Chinese menu these days.

And we've never ventured to make our own version so this was an exciting recipe for us.

First we started by making the Mandarin Pancakes. Still can't get over what can be made out of the same ingredients that make the paper mache' paste that I used over and over as a first grade teacher. (The second night we served the mu-shu pork I have to confess; we ended up making a more traditional crepe recipe for the pancake. The first night's version was just a bit tough.)

We weren't adventurous enough to search for cloud ears or golden needles as the recipe called for on this blustery Sunday afternoon. So we went with some oyster mushrooms in their place.

G prepared the mu-shu pork mixture while I made the Mandarin sauce that is spread on the pancake.

This dish was probably the hit of the menu of our Chinese New Year feast. We both loved it night one and everyone loved it night two as well.

Our main course was Mongolian Beef and Spicy Noodles.

I found a recipe for Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef on All Recipes that sounded perfect because it could cook in the crock pot while we prepped everything else.

I even got brave enough to fry up some those crispy rice noodles that they serve on top at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

Finally we made Spicy Sesame Noodles with Peanuts and Thai Basil that we found on Epicurious.

The flavor of the Mongolian Beef was spot on to the version we love. Night one I misread the directions and cooked it too long which sadly turned into more of a "pulled beef" mixture, not exactly the result I was looking for. But the flavor was fantastic. Although after reading the reviews I cut the amount of brown sugar I used by half. And on night two I remade the beef totally. We skipped the crock pot and did  it on the stove top and used even less sugar.

We served our feast with a bottle of 2008 Robert Mondavi Fume' Blanc.

Robert Mondavi winery in Napa was breathtaking and serene last August. We actually fell in love with some of the smaller producing wineries on our trip. But this vineyard was worth the trip. And we've fallen in love with this Fume' Blanc. We tried it Friday night and G went back to the store on Sunday and picked up a few more bottles. It was perfect with our meal.

Making Chinese food at home is not a quick task. It involved lots of prep, organization, team work and time. But the result was amazing. We knew our meal was free of MSG, extra sugar and oil. And the taste revealed it clearly. Each dish was fresh and clean.We will make all of these recipes again in the future I'm sure.

Links to all 4 recipes enjoyed in our feast:
Return to Sunday Supper's Shrimp Wontons
Fine Cooking's Mu-Shu Pork
All Recipe's Mongolian Beef

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GCC: Asian Chicken Wings with Honey Ginger

For our last Gutsy Cooks Club entry for the month of January  we went with the recipe for Asian Fried Chicken with Honey Ginger Sauce posted on Food52.

We got our "gutsy" on with this one by totally skipping the "fried" part replaced by grilling them and making wings instead of using a whole chicken. Hey, Super Bowl is right around the corner so we figured everyone is looking for some wing alternative recipes so why not give this idea a shot.

First I started off by cleaning the wings, removing as much skin and fat as I could. Yes, I know some folks would say removing the skin & fat is sac-religious in making chicken wings but we do always remove some skin & fat when we make them.

Yuck, this was a lot of skin & fat.

Besides seasoning them with salt & pepper I added some dried lemongrass as well to enhance the Asian theme.

Next I went on to make the Honey Ginger Sauce. It smelled wonderful. I knew immediately I was going to love the flavors of this recipe.

Next the wings went on the grill. While they were grilling I decide to make a dipping sauce. I just had a hunch they weren't going to be quite as spicy as we might desire.

So I simmered together some sriracha, honey & rice vinegar.

The wings were ready to come off the grill,

and they looked pretty tasty already. We brought them in and coated them with the honey ginger sauce and added some chopped green onion.

We served them as a late Saturday lunch.
 G had his with a pale ale and I had mine with a Charles Smith Rose' that we really like.

We both agreed they were very tasty, wonderful fresh Asian flavors.

As I kind of predicted G felt that I had been a bit too heavy handed with my skin & fat removal. And I hate when he's right, but he was. They needed a little more fat. But the sauce flavor was excellent.

This recipe was an example of having all the right flavors is what is most important. Once you have the flavors where you take the recipe from there will likely be 'just right' as well.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

G has been eating Italian Beef Sandwiches his entire life really. And making Italian beef  has been one of those things G has done with his buddies long since before I met him. Actually before meeting G I don't think I'd ever had an Italian Beef...it's clearly a Chicago thing. And the first time I ever had an authentic Italian Beef sandwich in Chicago I immediately got why he and his pals were determined to recreate it at home. It's something you just really can't get here in Washington. But now we've even got my family hooked.

There are a few places that now serve it that we've found locally...but it's never quite the same. So for us at home it's either wait until our next trip to Chicago (which have been too long and inbetween lately), have them Fed Ex'd from Portillo's in Chicago (we do this at least twice a year) or make them our self.
Which G is always trying to perfect.

Three things have helped our at home version taste closer to the real thing.
1) A Christmas gift of a meat slicer last year...you just can't cut the beef thin enough with a knife. And thin beef is essential.

2) A recipe that we found in Saveur Magazine that makes the flavors pretty spot on. We do add a lot more garlic & onion powder to the recipe though.

3) Finding a brand of giardiniera that has that perfect Chicago mix of peppers.

The one thing that still perplexes us is being able to find the "just right" roll. The rolls are essential too. It cannot be too soft or it just disintegrates to nothing. It can't too tough or it doesn't soggy enough. For now we've been using fresh French rolls but they aren't exactly, 100% the perfect texture.

Here's the link to the Saveur recipe that's become our at home version to make Italian Beef at home. It's a great superbowl treat...pretty sure it will be ours again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Buffalo Bleu Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions

We are super excited to share this recipe for Buffalo Bleu Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions. This was a great after skiing treat that we basically threw together that ended up being fantastic. We had been craving homemade mac & cheese, as well as both chicken wings and french onion soup lately..so T was curious how to pull all of those flavors together into this mac & cheese dish.

It was just one of those cooking weeks for us; we made some amazing food, our November post for Spicy Garlic Prawns was posted on Yummly for their Fiery Dishes for International Hot & Spicy Food Day post (which was such a great surprise for us...not even sure how that happened they must of found it on FoodGawker or something?? yeah even after a year we are pretty naive about this whole foodblogging recognition thing and since it's rare FoodGawker or Tastespotting ever accept my photos we were even more in shock.) but we were very excited however it happened and we had an extended holiday with 3 snow days which gave us some time to do some extra cooking. Overall it was a treat of a week all the way around.

It all started with the Roquefort Chive Sauce leftover from our Steakhouse steaks we had enjoyed the night before. We decided that sauce could be a great roux to start a blue cheese mac & cheese.

We got started. We started with caramelizing the onions.

While the onions caramelized we roasted some chicken thighs, gave them a rough chop and added G's fav at home wing sauce, Frank's Red Hot sauce. This made the chicken smell divine and also kept it moist while it cooked in the mac & cheese.

To the Roquefort chive sauce we added some fontina and white cheddar and a bit more bleu cheese to make it even more cheesy.

Then we added it all together; the chicken, cheese sauce, onions and pasta shells making a decadent bowl of yumminess.

We filled four smaller ramekins with the good stuff and topped them with some browned panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

This mac & cheese really was amazing. It was definitely rich and decadent but creamy and moist. Although sadly the 2 left over ramekins we reheated a day or so later for lunch really weren't nearly as good.

That creaminess just melted away evidently so it's an "eat when you make it" kind of dish in our opinion.

Our  Buffalo Bleu Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions recipe:

Leftover roquefort chive sauce; recipe (from Ina Garten's Steakhouse steaks link)

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

  • 2 ounces French Roquefort cheese, crumbled (4 ounces with rind)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

  • Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has become thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, salt, pepper and chives and whisk rapidly until the cheese melts.

    Add to cheese prepared cheese sauce:
    1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina Cheese
    1 cup shredded White Cheddar Cheese
    1/4 crumbled bleu cheese

    Slice and saute 1 white onion in olive oil until brown and fully caramelized, 20-30 minutes.

    Prepare 2 cups pasta of your choice.

    Roast 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a 400 degree oven approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through.

    Chop chicken and mix with 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot wing sauce. Mix chicken, onions, pasta shells and cheese sauce in large bowl. Pour prepared pasta into a large casserole dish or smaller ramekins.

    In a small bowl mix 1/2 cup shredded parmasean with 1 cup panko and 2 Tablespoons diced cold butter. Mix together. Pour over top of mac & cheese.

    Cook mac & cheese 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Top with chopped chives.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Gutsy Cooks Club: Lazy Loaf

    Feeling somewhat negligent about not keeping up with our
    Gutsy Cooks Club posting commitment we figured we better get back on track.

    After almost a full week of unexpected vacation this past week (gotta love those unexpected snow storms)... now that it's time to get back in the routine of things so making Nigella's Lazy Loaf posted on Cookstr seemed like a great idea for breakfasts for this upcoming week.

    As we transparently admit baking is not really our passion..so baking bread not something we usually do regularly. But this recipe just seemed too easy to not make. REALLY!

    I mean how can we not handle it, no kneading and no serious rising steps.

    I mean the photo above includes everything but the water needed to make this bread. How difficult could it be.

    So we went with it although we could easily see based on the recipe that this was something we "could do" we weren't convinced that it would actually be good.

    Basically you mix everything together starting with the dry ingredients. Simple.

    Then you add the milk & water.

    It basically comes out to be a thick oatmealy paste that you put in a loaf pan.

    So we're thinking to ourselves; "really it's this easy?"

    It came out looking like a dense bread.

    We let it rest a bit and then gave it a "tester" slice. And all be... we loved it. With a little bit of Raspberry Peach Champagne Jam it was delicious.

    Truly this will be the perfect breakfast pick me up going back to school this week for us both.

    To give this a try here's a link to the recipe.