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KRINGLE

19 Jan

I was walking through Trader Joe’s the other week and saw a flat package wrapped in opaque wax paper labeled “Almond Kringle.  From Wisconsin!  Limited Quantities available!”  You may know that I love almond everything.  Side story: I love the almond soap they have on Amtrak trains.  A lot.  So much that I tweeted once about how much I love it and where could I find some?  And Amtrak tweeted back to me, and I ended up getting a bottle of soap that doesn’t have a flat bottom (it screws in to the train) so I can’t use it unless I empty the soap into another container.  And it was great.

Also, I’m from Minnesota, so if I run into something in Texas that says “from the midwest!” I’ll buy it (also I am a sucker).  And “Limited quantities available,” because I am a sucker, means that I’ll buy it.  All the ingredients were in place for me to get this magical, amazing delicious experience (I’m not the only one who feels this way).  After getting home and taking a bite of the oval shaped pastry that came out of the mystery bag, I laughed and couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes.  My husband had a bite, and then we both texted all the people we knew from Wisconsin and told them that while we loved them, they are not the best thing to come from Wisconsin.

After we polished off our TJ’s Kringle in three days (it’s a bit over a pound, and contains at least one pound of butter), I decided to try to make my own.  The official recipe will have you use just over a pound of butter and take three days to make all the layers.  But there are plenty of homemade ones out there that do not take three days or tons of rolling, and that’s what I did.  You can stuff kringles with anything, but the TJ’s one was filled with marzipan (yum) and I did a coconut and almond filling for mine.  Many recipes were just butterscotch (butter + sugar).

I also was still in a bit of a funk when I decided to impulse make the kringle, so no ingredient photos.  The dough and recipe is super simple, but this was my first time making a filled pastry so I did a bad job (who knew you have to actually close it all the way, or the filling all falls out?!)

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Dough or dough not, there is no try

The dough was just cutting butter into flour, then adding in yogurt (the recipe called for sour cream, but I use yogurt as a substitute for most white goops like mayo, sour cream, and sometimes butter/margarine/shortening).   The dough is VERY STICKY.

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Though if you want a doughnut this is not the recipe for you

Wrap it up in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for a while (all day is great, or overnight).  Meanwhile you can put together the filling, which is another cup of butter beaten with brown sugar and shredded coconut and almond pieces.  I put my coconut in a dry pan on the stove for a few minutes, until lightly brown and toasty.  I also used sweetened shredded coconut, unsweetened flaked would also be fine.

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Happy MLK Day! You could also think of social justice once a week all day, perhaps AllMond ays?

Now you split the dough into two halves, and leave one in the fridge while you roll out the other on a very floured surface (remember, sticky) until very, very thin.  Far thinner than expected for a person who’s never made a filled pastry before.

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I had some friends over while I made this kringle and we were watching Clueless and at this point I kept saying I was ‘rollin with my homies.’ Actually this isn’t true because I don’t have friends to watch Clueless with while baking.

Filling goes in one long line down the middle.  If you want to make two separate danishes, like lines, then stop before the ends so you can tuck down the top.  I put my two halves together so spread the filling pretty far to the ends.

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If baking was Hollywood we’d celebrate avant garde fil(ling)makers

The recipe called for some fancy cutting and braiding, but didn’t have pictures.  I attempted this on the first half and then all the filling went out through the holes.  So, good luck to you if you decide to go the braided danish route- check for seals in your dough!  Instead, I recommend just folding the two sides over and making a less beautiful but more structurally sound tube of dough.

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Kringles at TJ’s come from O&H bakery in Racine, Wisconsin. The other option besides the O is an H shape. This is not true.

See all the holes in my kringle above?  Don’t do that.  But do make two tubes and tuck them together to make the beautiful wreath shape of the kringle.  Bake at 375 until golden brown and it smells SO GOOD and it’s SO GOOD.  Even if it doesn’t turn out beautiful.

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Easy coconut-almond kringle, adapted from Taste of Home

2 c flour

1 lb (4 sticks) butter

1 c full-fat plain yogurt (or sour cream)

1 c brown sugar

2 c sliced almonds

2 c shredded coconut, toasted

Cut 1 c (2 sticks) butter into the flour, until you have pea-sized chunks or smaller of butter.  Mix in the yogurt well, until you have very sticky dough.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate all day or overnight or at least a few hours.

Beat the brown sugar with the remaining cup of butter.  Toast the almonds and coconut by putting each in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring lightly a few times, until they smell yummy and look lightly brown/toasty.  Mix the almonds and coconut (or whatever filling of nuts/fruits you want here) in with the butter and brown sugar mix.

Split the chilled dough into two halves.  Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out dough very thin into a rough rectangle, then put one half of the filling in one straight line down the middle of the dough.  Either cut and braid the outsides in, or fold them over.  Do so with both halves, then push the halves together into an oval shape on a baking sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

Pineapple upside-down cake, using box mix

11 Jan

I’m alive!  My fingers and palm are tingling a bit as I type this, because I contracted a particularly virulent strain of hand, foot, and mouth disease from my baby (it’s not as bad as it sounds).  Yesterday I had a 103.1 fever, and last week he had a 103.1 fever.  I took him to the ER, I gave myself a Tylenol and a nap.  It’s been mildly hectic.  As I’ve said before, I’m so impressed with stay-at-home parents and I don’t know how anyone gets anything done with their kids (like, for instance, a Ph.D. thesis).  Baby had a mild fever the day before his crazy one, so I kept him home with me.  We went to the store, and I thought hey, it’s never too early to introduce kids to the things you love to do, so let’s bake a cake!

I’ve blogged before about a super easy pineapple upside down cake, but that required some amount of measuring so I decided to just go with a box cake.  Semi-homemade all the way, snobbery be damned!

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If Rooney Mara and Al Pacino got together and decided to combine last names, would they be the Maracinos?  Also that would be gross because she is 30 and he is 75 and unrelatedly he is 5’7″.

The topping is the same as for the easy-peasy amazing cinnamon buns I’ve done over and over again: put a stick of butter in a pyrex in a cold oven, and turn it on.  You could definitely do this with only half a stick of butter instead; I just had a frozen stick so used the whole thing.

Meanwhile, drain the pineapple rings and you’ll get just under a cup of pineapple juice.  This is great, you use it to make the cake, following the box instructions and subbing juice for water.  Also I’m not so great at following instructions, so I used yogurt instead of butter (I got the “butter recipe” box).

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Do you ever worry you won’t measure up?

 

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That even with all the eggstras you’ve added to the world, the whisks involved with you weren’t worth the benefits?

I mentioned that I didn’t feel like measuring, so I didn’t, but you probably know how big half a cup is, and can eyeball about that much of full fat yogurt.  (Remember, we’re using yogurt to replace butter so we need the fat).

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It’s important to remember that we were all once babes in the woods, and also it doesn’t matter how effective/efficient you are, but that you made an effort.

If you were starting with half a stick of unfrozen butter, it’s probably melted by now.  If like me you had a stick of frozen butter slowly melting in your oven, you have some time now to play patty cake or clean up or sit.  Whatever floats your boat.

Once the butter is all melted, take it out of the oven and sprinkle brown sugar all over it, then lay down the pineapple rings and sprinkle maraschino cherries everywhere they’ll fit.  Pour on the batter.  I put in about half the batter, then sprinkled it with coconut, and added the other half to cover the coconut.

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Sometimes you feel like you’re a ringer, but you’re just cherry-picking examples where you don’t fit in.  (Incidentally I’ve been using the sports idiom “ringer” wrong my whole life I thought it was a great person you save for the end who will win the game what’s the word for that?)

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Cakes are like onions; they have layers! (Shrek joke, does that date me?)

Bake it for 40-45 minutes, let it cool for a bit, and then invert it onto a plate.  Honestly the hardest part of this cake is finding something to invert the cake onto.  I ended up picking up the whole thing and putting it back into the Pyrex after, for storage.

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Everything will be okay, just turn that brown upside down!

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Even if you miss, there’ll always be an imprint of your attempts at success (I located the sticky pineapple ring and put it back on the cake, btw).

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Pineapple upside down cake, adapted from Betty Crocker

1/4 c (half a stick) of butter

1/2 c brown sugar

1 can pineapple slices in juice

1 small jar maraschino cherries

1 box yellow cake mix

3 eggs

1/2 c full fat yogurt

1 c sweetened flaked coconut

Put the butter in a 13 by 9 dish, and put it in the oven.  Turn to 350.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, juice from the pineapple, cake mix, and yogurt until almost totally smooth.  This is a good place for kids to help!

Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over it, then lay in the pineapple slices and put in the maraschino cherries wherever they’ll fit (take off the stems).

Pour half the cake batter oven the topping, then sprinkle the coconut all over it.  Pour the rest of the cake batter over.

Bake for 40 minutes or until brown.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife all along the edge and invert onto a plate.  Eat.

 

Biscuits and Gravy, super easy

16 Dec

About a year ago two of my friends held a Southern dinner party, where a bunch of displaced Southerners brought comfort food.  It was just as delicious as it sounds, with greens, fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, okra, pies, shrimp and grits… and biscuits and gravy.  I’ve always loved biscuits and gravy and I associate this heavy breakfast with long road trips through the flyover states as we trekked from Minnesota to Texas or California in our minivan, stopping at diners with big signs that said “RESTAURANT” or “EATS.”  So at this dinner party I asked the people who brought the awesome gravy for their recipe, and it was so simple that I memorized it and have made it several times since.  It’s literally “1, 2, 3, lots.”  Then for biscuit recipes I’ve done my friend’s secret family recipe as well as one from allrecipes that I’ve made several times (because it’s on the internet and my friend’s is written in a book).

Biscuits and gravy is great because once you pop the biscuits in the oven, you have just enough time to make gravy and everything is hot and ready at the same time.  So let’s start with the biscuits.

Not to be confused with bisque-it's a smooth creamy soup often made with seafood.  These are small rolls of unyeasted bread

Not to be confused with bisque-it’s a smooth creamy soup often made with seafood. These are small rolls of unyeasted bread

Several years ago I went on a huge biscuit kick, the first time I lived in an apartment with a kitchen (not a dorm).  My dear friend/roommate (now non-coincidentally a math educator) and I made so many biscuits and so much homemade jam within a few months.  It was just as wonderful as it sounds.  If you are young I highly recommend eating a ridiculous amount of carbs for a short while, because your metabolism and stomach will likely not be so great in the future [I am young but I do not think I could eat half a pan of biscuits by myself in one sitting anymore].  Anyways, biscuits are really easy!  Mix flour with a few other things (salt, baking powder, sugar), cut in your fat (shortening and/or butter), and then mix in your liquid (milk or buttermilk or vegan substitute) until sticky dough is formed.

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs?  Not quite, there are biscuits in the forkast today

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs? Not quite, there are biscuits in the forkast today

Throw some (1/4 cup) flour on a clean counter or table, and lightly knead the dough until it’s smooth (not smooth and elastic like yeasty bread dough, just not lumpy).

My husband really doesn't appreciate my puns.  Oh well, you can't always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you knead.  Here, I'm kneading biscuits.

My husband really doesn’t appreciate my puns. Oh well, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you knead. Here, I’m kneading biscuits.

Then pat or roll it out, and cut it out with a glass dipped in flour.  Roll the scraps together and cut out more.  I always end up with one funky biscuit, the last one made of tiny pieces sadly patted together into an approximation of a circle.

That last biscuit is always teased, and he always responds "cut it out, guys" and they respond "that's what we did but what are you?"

That last biscuit is always teased, and he always responds “cut it out, guys” and they respond “that’s what we did but what are you?”

Then toss those beauties into the oven on an ungreased baking sheet, and get ready for gravy!

The recipe said it makes 9 but I'm not good at uniformity.  It makes me too ten-se.

The recipe said it makes 9 but I’m not good at uniformity. It makes me too ten-se.

You need one pound of breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage), two tablespoons of flour, three cups of milk, and far more pepper than you think is reasonable.  Brown the sausage…

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Making breakfast for the family before everyone is up definitely gave me brownie points

Then sprinkle it with the two tablespoons of flour and stir until the meat is evenly covered with flour; by then the flour should be browned too.  Pour in the three cups of milk.

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I tried to milk this good deed for all it’s worth

Now it looks like greasy sausage floating in milk, but bring it to a simmer and let it simmer for awhile, stirring, until it’s thick and turned into gravy.  Then add way more pepper than seems necessary.

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Even if I mess up, my family still eats it and loves me. It’s all gravy.

Those biscuits should be wrapping up in a few minutes.  To serve, split a biscuit and put it on a plate, then drown it in gravy.  I actually went back to sleep after making this and my family ate it without me (this is what happens when you have a baby who doesn’t understand time zones) and merely dabbed with gravy.  Nope, drown it!

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Biscuits and gravy (biscuits adapted from allrecipes, gravy from folklore)

2 c flour +more for dusting

1 TB white sugar

1 TB baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/3 c butter

1 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, then cut in the butter until crumbly.  Slowly stir in the milk until it’s doughy and pulls away from side of bowl.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead (they say 15-20 times; 10 is fine) lightly, then roll out to 1 inch thickness and cut rounds with a glass dipped in flour.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake 13-15 minutes.

Meanwhile…

1 lb sausage (I’ve enjoyed Jimmy Dean’s maple as well as hot, and I hear good things about sage)

2 TB flour

3 c milk

black pepper

Brown the sausage in a large saucepan or medium sized pot over medium heat, crumbling/breaking it up into chunks using a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle with the flour and mix well until flour is browned, then pour in the milk.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower heat and let simmer until thick/coats the spoon.  Stir in lots of fresh ground black pepper (like 2 tsp or more).  Serve on the biscuits, which should be done by now!

My mom’s goi cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls)

26 Oct

Apologies for the long delay in blog posts.  I have no excuses, really.  I’ll make up for it by trying to post a lot this week.  This afternoon I’m planning on chatting with a postdoc friend about some math for a blog post!  In the meantime, here’s a cooking post.

I get a lot of compliments on the sauce that accompanies these light, fresh spring rolls.  Peanut, hoisin, onion, garlic are the main players.  Usually I make a bunch of goi cuon as an appetizer for a party, though the other night we ate a bunch of these for dinner and they make a great light dinner.

The end (of the onion) is nigh-fed (pronounced 'knifed' in case you thought that said nigh fed)

The end (of the onion) is nigh-fed (pronounced ‘knifed’ in case you thought that said nigh fed)

It’s also nice because you can throw out all the ingredients on the table and people make their own rolls with whatever they want.

First, you’ll want to boil a piece of pork.  I had a hunk of pork leg leftover in my freezer that I used for this.  Something without too much fat, but with a little bit of fat (so like a tenderloin but with more fat).  If you want to boil the first (so boil just the outside of the pork, then toss out the water and boil it to cooked with new water), you can do that to minimize the smell, or just throw half an onion in the water.

You heat the water. Por que? To cook the pork!

You heat the water. Por que? To cook the pork!

It takes surprisingly long to cook a hunk of pork.  This took about 25 minutes at a low steady boil (not a simmer).  But that’s fine, because I did everything else during that time- prep veggies, make sauce, make noodles and shrimp.

Do you think a group of Irish people in Argentina would be called Garlic?

Do you think a group of Irish people in Argentina would be called Garlic?

Consider putting a pot of water on to boil after putting the pork in, so you’re ready for the noodles/shrimp.  Anyways, minced onion goes in a pan with a bit of oil as long as you can stand in (the more caramelized, the better!), then add minced garlic until fragrant.  Toss in a can of diced tomatoes (I used fresh because I had them), peanut butter, hoisin sauce, and enough water so it can actually simmer down and the tomatoes cook away.

These tomatoes were being really fresh with me so I told them to simmer down

These tomatoes were being really fresh with me so I told them to simmer down

You’re left with a delicious, sweet and salty and umami-sauce for dipping.  I’ve used an immersion blender on this sauce to great effect in the past, but since it was just for us two I let us eat it chunkily.  My mom also likes squeezing a lime into it, for some acid to cut the richness of the peanut butter.

While that’s simmering away, hopefully your secondary pot of water has got to boiling, and you can toss in some noodles (bun tao or whatever kind of rice noodles you want) and cook per package directions.  Shrimp boils for just 2 minutes or so, depending on the size (until it’s opaque).  Rice noodles are very thin and slippery, so I’d recommend getting a metal strainer instead of just a plastic colander.

Making Vietnamese food was a huge strain before I got this piece of kitchen equipment

Making Vietnamese food was a huge strain before I got this piece of kitchen equipment

A colander just coldn't cut it

A colander just coldn’t cut it

You’re almost there!  Time to thinly slice the pork…

Whaddup, homeslice? Not much, I'm about to get eaten. Oh... that doesn't sound great.

Whaddup, homeslice? Not much, I’m about to get eaten.
Oh… that doesn’t sound great.

And peel the shrimp.  My mom likes cutting them in half, which is a lot of work but also looks nice.

To serve, place your proteins, noodles, and veggies on a table along with rice paper and a bowl of WARM water (or one of these cool things).  Also small dishes for the dipping sauce and a plate for rolling for each person.  For veggies: lettuce is a must, also something crunchy like pickled shredded carrots (shred carrots, add some rice vinegar and sugar and salt and water and leave in a bowl for at least an hour), or sliced apples, or sliced cucumber or bean sprouts.  Spearmint, shiso leaf, and cilantro are all good.  If you’re at a Vietnamese grocery store, just get everything that’s labelled “rau sống” and try everything to see what you like.

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Apples are snappy and the spoon is saucy, but the noodles are just limp. They are poor conversation partners.

To eat: wet the rice paper.  Some recipes say to leave it in the water for 5-10 seconds, which is way too long in my opinion unless the water isn’t warm.  Just dip it so that every part of the rice paper is wet; it will soften on your place as you assemble the roll.

About 1 inch from a side, make a line of herbs and lettuce.  Put on about a tablespoon of noodles, a few pieces of pork, and whatever else you want.  About one inch above the rectangle, place the peeled shrimp in a line.

Fold the bottom side (the close one) over your rectangle, then fold in the sides and roll it up like a burrito.

They see me rollin'... they hatin'... because they're jealous

They see me rollin’… they hatin’… because they’re jealous

My husband likes putting the sauce directly inside the roll, which makes sense if you’re going to eat it immediately and aren’t making these ahead of time.  I like dipping them.  Either way is fine.

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Enjoy!

My mom’s goi cuon: this recipe makes about 10 rolls, so dinner for 3 or appetizers for 10.

1 lb Pork leg/shoulder/some cut with a little fat on it

1 onion

1 apple and/or carrot and/or cucumber and/or bean sprout, sliced/shredded

1 can tomatoes

3 TB peanut butter

3 TB hoisin sauce

garlic

1/2 lb shrimp

herbs: half a head of lettuce, cilantro, shiso leaf, coriander leaf, spearmint, peppermint…

rice paper

rice noodles

  1. Boil the pork with half the onion and a spoonful of salt and a spoonful of sugar for about half an hour or until cooked.
  2. Make the sauce: dice the onion and saute in some oil until translucent, then add minced garlic until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, hoisin, peanut butter, and enough water to thin, let simmer until tomatoes are cooked down.
  3. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions (boil for 4 minutes, rinse with cool water).  Boil shrimp for 1-2 minutes until just opaque.
  4. Serve noodles, pork, and shrimp with vegetables and rice paper and a bowl of warm water.

Tofu twofer: marinated and baked, and my mom’s garlic-lemongrass fried (dau hu chien)

8 Oct

We’ve been on a bit of a tofu kick lately, and have been buying the big family packs from Costco even though there’s only two of us.  But whenever I make one of these two preparations we gobble it all up!  I actually don’t like tofu as a meat substitute (had a goat cheese salad last night with grilled tofu on it; ick), which is why I like these two recipes so much: the tofu doesn’t pretend to be meat, it’s just delicious squishy flavorful tofu!

Note: both of these recipes require thinking ahead.  Not a lot of effort, but they just aren’t as good if it’s half an hour til you eat and you throw them together.  For the fried tofu, it’s fine to prepare in the morning (5 minutes, if that), and cook for dinner.  For the baked tofu, I think it’s better to prepare the night before and let marinate for a whole day.

First, my mom’s fried tofu with garlic and lemongrass.  This stuff is addictive and very, very easy.  Lots of recipes say to press your tofu to make it firm/get the water out, but that takes effort.  You can also leave tofu uncovered on a plate, and the fridge will dry it out.  Yay!

The other day I saw Cheetos described as "cheese toes", which is so gross.  But also makes you think about other potential Toe Fuuds

The other day I saw Cheetos described as “cheese toes”, which is so gross. But also makes you think about other potential Toe Fuuds

If you eat lemongrass ever, I suggest planting it!  We have so much lemongrass and it’s so fresh and delicious and I do nothing to take care of it!  Start by finely chopping about 3 TB of lemongrass (more is better).

Then mince a bunch of garlic.  Lots of recipes say to use 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (I mean any recipe anywhere for anything), and I always use 6 or 7.  I love garlic!

I saw the Foo Fighters last weekend at ACL.  If their van broke down and they called AAA to come help them, would the truck guy say "I tow foo"?

I saw the Foo Fighters last weekend at ACL. If their van broke down and they called AAA to come help them, would the truck guy say “I tow foo”?

Chop up your tofu into slabs: my mom cuts one of these blocks into 6 slabs; I like to cut those in half.  Arrange on a plate to maximize exposed surface area (I mean, lay them flat).  Cover liberally with garlic and lemongrass, and a bunch of salt (a TB or so).  Put it in the fridge, exposed, for a day (or two).

I think the Japanese eat soybeans a lot, right?  This is a KyoTO Fuud?

I think the Japanese eat soybeans a lot, right? This is a KyoTO Fuud?

I was in a foosball tourney my freshman year of college.  At the end, someone said "I propose a TOast!  FOOsball!"

I was in a foosball tourney my freshman year of college. At the end, someone said “I propose a TOast! FOOsball!”

When you’re ready to cook, heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and carefully put in your tofu.  Don’t overcrowd them (this’ll probably take two batches or two pans).  Leave for about 4 minutes, until golden, and then flip over and leave for another 2-3 minutes.

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I'm not a huge fan of discrete subgroups of PSL(2,R).  I'll hover near them, but I'll only toe Fuchsian groups instead of diving in.

I’m not a huge fan of discrete subgroups of PSL(2,R). I’ll hover near them, but I’ll only toe Fuchsian groups instead of diving in.

You can cook them longer, so they’re crispy, but I like them less crispy.  After you’re done frying all the tofu, toss in that garlic and lemongrass and let it cook til golden brown and a little crispy.  Delicious crunchy topping!  Also, cut up some green onion and heat it in oil, then pour over the whole thing.

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Second, my marinated and baked tofu.  Similar idea: dump stuff on tofu, let it sit, and cook it. This time, cut up the tofu into smaller pieces: I do rectangles, just half the size of the previous recipe.  You don’t have to be religious about draining it this time either, I like to leave a little liquid in.

I wonder what they thought in Mortar of Frodo: probably that this Pest'll go away soon

I wonder what they thought in Mortar of Frodo: probably that this Pest’ll go away soon

Also, try to use a tofu-sized container for this, preferably with a lid.  I’ve done this in a bowl and the tofu doesn’t get as much flavor.  Less space for moving = more tofu submerged in deliciousness= more flavorful tofu.

What if I use body parts instead of swear words in this blog? I tried using a smaller tupperware earlier, and felt like a to fool.

What if I use body parts instead of swear words in this blog? I tried using a smaller tupperware earlier, and felt like a to fool.

If you have a mortar and pestle, this recipe is great!  Just smash up some garlic and ginger, no need to worry about making them small or uniform: we’re just trying to infuse the flavors in.  If you don’t, just slice them up and toss them on top of the tofu.

I love using the pestle to smash garlic and get the paper off: it's so appeeling

I love using the pestle to smash garlic and get the paper off: it’s so appeeling

If I lost this mortar and pestle, I'd be totally crushed.

If I lost this mortar and pestle, I’d be totally crushed.

Now the fun part!  Pour on 1-2 TB of soy sauce, 1 TB of sesame oil, 1 TB rice vinegar.  If you have it, add 1 TB rice wine for cooking, and 1 tsp of fish sauce (I love fish sauce; I am Vietnamese).

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This recipe doesn’t fit in with NATO. FOOlish Europeans and North Americans; they’re missing out on so much flavor!

Close your container and give it a shake, then leave it in the fridge for awhile (I’ve left it for two days and it’s awesome).  Turn it upside down every now and then if you want.

Here in Austin we're proud of the local vodka company.  TiTO's FUrnishes all of Texas and then some with quality alcohol

Here in Austin we’re proud of the local vodka company. TiTO’s FUrnishes all of Texas and then some with quality alcohol

Once you’re an hour out from eating, turn the oven to 350, shake the tofu out onto an oiled baking sheet, and toss em in.  You can turn them if you aren’t lazy like me, or just bake them for 50-60 minutes until they look and smell delicious.  Don’t forget to put the garlic and ginger in there too.  This stuff is addictive.

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My mom’s garlic-lemongrass fried tofu:

3 TB minced lemongrass

3 TB minced garlic

2 TB finely chopped green onion

1 lb tofu (1 16-oz package)

Chop tofu into thick slabs.  Cover liberally with lemongrass and garlic, and sprinkle heavily with salt (1-2 TB).  Arrange on a plate and let marinate for a day or two.

Heat up a thick frying pan with a drizzle of vegetable oil (1-2 TB), add tofu, being careful not to overcrowd.  Do not touch!  Fry for four minutes on one side, then turn and fry 2-3 on the other side.  After finishing the tofu, fry the remaining lemongrass/garlic for a few minutes until crispy.  Add 2 TB more oil to the pan, and add the green onion for just 1 minute, until wilted.  Top tofu with crispy lemongrass/garlic and green onion oil.

Marinated baked tofu, adapted from food.com

1 lb tofu

1 TB each: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce, rice wine (optional)

1 inch piece of ginger

6 garlic cloves

Cut tofu into cubes, draining off most of water.  Put into a small container.  Smash garlic and ginger, removing peels, and put on top of tofu.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Close container, if possible, and leave in fridge for 8-60 hours.

Heat oven to 350.  Oil a baking sheet, and pour tofu and garlic/ginger out onto it.  Bake for one hour.

VEGAN MERINGUES WHAT

17 Sep

I’m late to this vegan meringue game, compared to vegan bakers, but I think I’m still ahead of the game for, yknow, normal people.  (I kid, I love you vegan bakers!  Strangely I have three good friends and an ex who are vegan and love baking).

If you know someone allergic to eggs, or a vegan, or if you make hummus/use chickpeas ever, you should try making vegan meringues!  This time I just went with normal meringue cookies, next time I might try pavlova or a pie.  I’m so impressed by what the vegan baking community has done with “aquafaba”- the liquid leftover from a can of garbanzo beans/chickpeas/chana (as in chana masala the Indian dish, as I learned from wikipedia).  Look at this crazy list of recipes on the facebook group.  And there’s a website dedicated to aquafaba, with the history of it (basically it was a myth, and then someone did it but way too hard molecular gastronomy-style, and then finally someone was like wait you don’t have to do anything fancy).

It is pretty unbelievable how beaten chickpea liquid looks just like beaten egg whites, stiff peaks and all, with nothing added (I would expect agar or something).  So let’s get to it!

It's a garnanbo!  A Zoganba!  I meant a garnanza!  (Or did I?  Everything gets garbled sometimes... )

It’s a garnanbo! A Zoganba! I meant a garnanza! (Or did I? Everything gets garbled sometimes… )

First, use your can to drain the liquid from the garbanzos.  I used the beans in a crockpot on low with a jar of salsa, a beer, and a pack of chicken thighs all day.  I added some zucchini about half an hour before we ate with tortillas, queso fresco, and spinach (didn’t have lettuce).  Yum.

What if Andre Young is actually a robot series, and this is the 14th iteration of him?  He'd be Dr. Dre N.

What if Andre Young is actually a robot series, and this is the 14th iteration of him? He’d be Dr. Dre N.

I realize I’m in the middle of a blog post and I baked these meringues tonight just so I could have a blog post out on Thursday but oh my gosh I just read a great tweet that you should know about.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I can't get over Euclid.</p>&mdash; Ric (@ellopickle) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ellopickle/status/644340277361049600″>September 17, 2015</a></blockquote>
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Anyways.  Let’s all calm down.  I laughed so hard at this my husband told me to go to sleep because I’m getting delirious.  That should make a fun post!

Start beating that bean liquid!  It takes approximately FOREEEEEVEEERRR by which I mean 10-15 minutes.  We worked on our new hobby, PANDA magazine, during this time.  (Brag: we’re in the magazine this issue, because we completed last month’s!  It’s really hard!  Great for DASH fans.  Which should be everyone in the relevant cities.  I’ve DASHed in Davis, San Francisco, Chicago, and will in Austin next year.)

How you bean lately?  Oh, same old same old

How you bean lately? Oh, same old same old

How bout you, how you bean?  Oh, things in my life are a little crazy.  I feel like things are getting really mixed up.

How bout you, how you bean? Oh, things in my life are a little crazy. I feel like things are getting really mixed up.

Tell me about it.  I've bean beaten again and again by life.

Tell me about it. I’ve bean beaten again and again by life.

I thought you've bean sort of stiff lately

I thought you’ve bean sort of stiff lately

Bean there, done that is how I feel toward everything nowadays, you know?

Bean there, done that is how I feel toward everything nowadays, you know?

Because I can’t read directions I dumped all my sugar and vanilla in at once.

But you shouldn’t do that!  Add about a tablespoon at a time and beat, so you don’t get any sugar clumps and it mixes smoothly.  Then you won’t have any holes in your meringue like I did.  Mine worked out anyway.

If we said "kapull" instead of "kernel" and "lite" instead of "lew tenant", maybe my friend Thomas (grad student at Temple U) would be meringue

If we said “kapull” instead of “kernel” and “lite” instead of “lew tenant”, maybe my friend Thomas (grad student at Temple U) would be meringue

Bake at a very low temperature for a very long time, and they magically work!

20150916_212550

20150916_222238

Aquafaba meringue cookies, from slate.com

1 can chickpeas

1 tsp vanilla

sugar- 1.3 times as much chickpea liquid you get (so a cup or less)

Drain the chickpea liquid.  Start beating it- I did speed 3 (low) for 4 minutes.  Then medium for 4 minutes, then high for 2 minutes.  It’ll form fairly stiff peaks, if not as good as egg whites pretty darn close.

Preheat oven to 250.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat in the sugar 1 TBSP at a time.  Add the vanilla and beat it in too.  Dollop onto your parchment paper sheets.  Bake for 90 minutes, then turn off oven and crack it.  Let cool to room temperature.

This makes about 36 small meringue cookies.

Triple Ginger Cookies

10 Sep

I first made these cookies a decade ago, back when I was in high school, and was blown away by how good they are!  They pack a punch with lots and lots of ginger flavor.  I actually messed up baking these (used something that was not powdered ginger) but they still taste pretty good despite the potential garlic-onion in there.  Sounds pretty gross but the molasses and fresh ginger and crystallized ginger sort of hide the strange savory notes.  I also have old baking soda so the cookies didn’t rise as much as they should’ve.  Oops.

Anyways!  They’re even better without any onion flavor in them!  I highly recommend these.  I already had everything I needed to bake a half batch in my pantry; we like keeping crystallized ginger around to chew on if we have a stomach ache.

If you were running a Scottish daycare but didn't have enough enrollment, maybe you'd put up a sign saying "SPACE FOR MO LADDIES AND MO LASSES"

If you were running a Scottish daycare but didn’t have enough enrollment, maybe you’d put up a sign saying “SPACE FOR MO LADDIES AND MO LASSES”

It generally helps to have slightly softened butter when you start baking cookies, to easily cream the butter and sugar together.  You don’t want it too soft, just to have been out of the fridge for half an hour or so.  In this case I took butter out of the freezer an hour earlier, and it was still a bit too hard to beat.  Thank you extremely strong Kitchen Aid stand mixer– it did a great job beating up the butter.  Cream the brown sugar in, then add the molasses.  Normally you have a pretty fluffy butter-sugar base for cookies, but the liquidy molasses makes it look a little grosser with clumps of butter suspended in the molasses..

If your lawn is dying and you start to see things that look like huge anthills appearing, take another look.  You might see some creatures scuttling down into the holes, and you'll catch a glimpse of some mole asses

If your lawn is dying and you start to see things that look like huge anthills appearing, take another look. You might see some creatures scuttling down into the holes, and you’ll catch a glimpse of some mole asses

Then mix all your dry ingredients, as usual.  Flour, powdered ginger, salt, baking soda.  Toss those in with the wet and mix.  Finally, chop up the crystallized ginger (this is difficult if it’s very dry) and grate some fresh ginger, and mix those in too.

I have fairly large eyes for an Asian person, while my best friend has short eyes.  My other friend is named Chris.  If he were a redhead I could refer to him as Chris-tall-eyed Ginger

I have fairly large eyes for an Asian person, while my best friend has short eyes. My other friend is named Chris. If he were a redhead I could refer to him as Chris-tall-eyes Ginger

I just learned all about the Kuna, and their traditional garments.  Mola says "give us our autonomy!"

I just learned all about the Kuna, and their traditional garments. Mola says “give us our autonomy!”

After you’re all mixed, toss the dough into the fridge for a while.  I’m not usually a good recipe-follower and I don’t often chill my cookie dough, but it helps these ones hold together (that tricky molasses!).  They’re particularly nice if you roll them in sugar before baking, but I skipped that this time.

What if all the "l"s of the world were suddenly replaced by "r"s?  Directions would be so muddled.  We'd all be stuck in crazy morasses.

What if all the “r”s of the world were suddenly replaced by “l”s? Dilections would be so muddled. We’d all be stuck in  sticky molasses.

A pretty quick bake (10 minutes) and they’ll be done!  These are soft chewy cookies, not crispy.  Again, pardon my old baking soda in the next photos.  The original recipe makes massive cookies, but I like them smaller.  So i did a half batch (original says makes 18) and I got out 27 cookies.  Up to you!  Surprisingly, smaller cookies bake in almost the same amount of time (9 minutes v 10)

20150909_083431 20150909_084449

Triple Ginger Cookies (half-recipe from allrecipes) Makes 27 cookies.

6 TB butter

1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg

2 TB molasses

1 C + 2 TB flour

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 TB grated fresh ginger

1/4 c chopped crystallized ginger

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in the molasses.
  2. Stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix.
  3. Add the grated fresh ginger and crystallized ginger, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Chill the dough in the fridge for awhile.  (I did overnight)
  5. Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Roll heaping teaspoons of dough into small balls, then roll in sugar.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 9 minutes.

Cinnabon mots

20 Aug

I made these fantastic and very large cinnamon rolls last week.  They are fluffy and light and soft and airy and buttery and pretty delicious and remarkably un-vegan.  Personally I prefer my pumpkin vegan cinnamon rolls, which are a bit heavier, smaller, and denser with a stronger cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg flavor and filling, and they don’t really require frosting.  These white cinnamon rolls definitely require frosting- the cream cheese/butter combo makes them super delicious and ties together what’s basically a soft white roll + brown sugar and cinnamon.  It’s just down to your preferences- are you a sugar cookie or a spicy ginger cookie kind of person?    This was from a recipe called “Clone of a Cinnabon” and they are quite similar to that mall staple.

If you don’t have three hours to spare/you want cinnamon rolls RIGHT NOW, check out these super fast banana ones that I’ve made over and over again.

I feel a lot of pressure to come up with butter and butter puns... maybe I should start doing repeats and milk them for all they're worth

I feel a lot of pressure to come up with butter and butter puns… maybe I should start doing repeats and milk them for all they’re worth

I microwaved my milk for thirty seconds and put it in the mixer bowl, then added the yeast- you want it to be warm but not too hot.  Tickle the yeast, don’t kill them.  Also, turn on your oven to 350 while you prepare the dough, so you can have a warm place for the dough to rise.

Another way the kitchen aid stand mixer has changed my life- no more ten minutes of kneading required!  Just use the dough hook and the mixer does it for you!  I’ve never been a good kneader so this is great.  I did use a whisk to mix the liquid stuff first though (the yeast with the milk, then the egg and melted butter).

LOOK AT THIS ONE HANDED ACTION SHOT!  Do you know how hard it is to crack and open an egg with one hand?  The eggstremes I go to for you.

LOOK AT THIS ONE HANDED ACTION SHOT! Do you know how hard it is to crack and open an egg with one hand? The eggstremes I go to for you.

Now that my measuring cup was empty (because the milk was in the mixing bowl), I could use it to melt six tablespoons of butter- another 30 second zap.

Ghee whiz it's easy to melt butter

Ghee whiz it’s easy to melt butter

Add that in to your mixing bowl, then measure out your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt.  Toss them in, and use that incredible dough hook to knead the dough.  Or knead it yourself on a floured surface for ten minutes, until it makes a nice soft ball.

It's so great that after you bake something, you get to eat a baked good!  If you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you knead.

It’s so great that after you bake something, you get to eat a baked good! If you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you knead.

If kneading yourself, turn off your oven beforehand so it’s the right not-killing temperature for the dough to rest.  Otherwise, turn it off, then put the dough back in a bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and stick it in the off-oven for an hour.  Go do something else, like attend to the little monster who’s been crying at your feet this whole time:

Worst sous chef ever

Worst sous chef ever

Anyways, when you come back to it the ball should be twice as big as before and so fluffy.  Plop it onto a clean floured counter, leave the kitchen towel on it, and make your filling: this is just a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, but I like adding white sugar to cut the molasses-ness of it.   This time I used the Cinnabon method and spread butter, then topped with sugar/cinnamon, but I actually think it’s better to mix the butter with the sugar/cinnamon ahead of time and use that as a filling, like we did with the pumpkin rolls.

Roll out your dough into a nice thin rectangle and fill it.  I used to use wine bottles or tomato sauce jars for this, but we got this awesome fancy rolling pin as a wedding pressent and I love it.  It’s too large for a drawer and sits on our counter looking mildly rustic/pretentious and I love it.  It’s like you’ve been eating jelly beans your whole life of various quality, and then someone gives you some Jelly Bellys.  That’s how I feel about this rolling pin.  (I love Jelly Belly jelly beans a LOT.  If you’re ever near Fairfield, CA I highly recommend the free Jelly Belly factory tour.)

Swing your partner round and round... Now dough

Swing your partner round and round… Now dough

See...

See…

Dough!

Dough!

Notice that I don’t put the cinnamon sugar all the way to the edge- this helps keep the filling from leaking out.

Now roll that log up (long side rolls up) and pinch the ends and the seam.

Don't be fooled- this would make a terrible rolling pin, even though it looks about the right size and shape.

Don’t be fooled- this would make a terrible rolling pin, even though it looks about the right size and shape.

Cut it in half, then cut each half in thirds, and cut each third in half.  If that sentence was hard to read, just cut it into 12 pieces in a reasonable way.  Put them into a buttered 9×13 (I used a pyrex), toss it back into that warm oven for half an hour.

Notice how far apart they all are- feeling a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit like middle schoolers at their first dance.

Notice how far apart they all are- feeling a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit like middle schoolers at their first dance.

They grow up so fast.  This is more like the club when they're leaving college.

They grow up so fast. This is more like the club when they’re leaving college.

Take out the big cinnamon rolls, then heat the oven to 350.  Bake for 20 minutes, until very lightly browned on the top.  Meanwhile, switch to the regular paddle (not the dough hook) for your mixer and beat some butter with some cream cheese until homogenous, then add a bunch of confectioners sugar, a dash of vanilla, and a bit of salt.

The proeblem with studying for speelling tests at the last minutee is you might end up addding extra letteers to words.  Creamming is not the answer.

The proeblem with studying for speelling tests at the last minutee is you might end up addding extra letteers to words. Creamming is not the answer.

Let the rolls cool a bit before your frost them, so the frosting doesn’t totally melt everywhere.  Like 5-10 minutes.  Then frost and eat these beauties.  We actually split them usually because a single one is so huge.

20150814_191927

 

Fake cinnabons, adapted from “Clone of a Cinnabon” on allrecipes

Bread:

1 c milk

1 packet of yeast

2 eggs

6 TB melted butter

4 1/2 c flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 c sugar

Filling:

3/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c white sugar

3 TB cinnamon (+ginger, nutmeg if you like that)

6 TB softened butter

Frosting:

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)

1/2 c butter (1 stick)

3 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

 

  1. Heat up the milk until warm, then mix in the yeast.  Turn on oven (to whatever temperature).  Mix the egg and melted butter with the yeast-milk, then add the flour, sugar, and salt.  Mix until it turns dough-like, then knead until soft (10 minutes by hand, 3-4 minutes by stand mixer).  Turn off oven, and cover the kneaded dough and put into oven for an hour.
  2. Filling: mix all the filling ingredients together: you’ll actually want to cut the butter into the sugar so you’ll end up with a crumbly delicious mess.
  3. Take out your dough from the oven once it’s doubled in size, and plop it onto a floured surface.  Let rest for ten minutes, then roll it out into a big rectangle (12″ by 8″ or so), and spread the filling on it.  Roll up from the long side, tightly, and pinch the seams and end.  Cut into 12 pieces, and place into a buttered 13″x9″ pan.  Cover and put back into that warm oven for half an hour
  4. Take out the rolls, heat oven to 350, and bake the rolls for 20 minutes until very lightly golden on top.
  5. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and butter together, then add the sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth.  Frost the rolls about 5 minutes after they’re out of the oven.

Blueberry cheesecake ice cream

6 Aug
You might eat dinner after you make this ice cream.  Make sure you leave rum for dessert!

You might eat dinner after you make this ice cream. Make sure you leave rum for dessert!

It’s summer!  Time to bust out the ice cream maker!  This ice cream is super fancy compared to the other ice creams/sorbets I’ve made (you can also just blend a melon and put it in the ice cream maker and it’ll be great).  To make any ice cream cheese cake ice cream, just toss in some softened and blended cream cheese and a sleeve of graham crackers.  That’s pretty exciting.

This recipe has two parts: first you make the cheese cake ice cream base, then add a blueberry sauce.  This is IMPORTANT: don’t just put blueberries or blended blueberries in your ice cream without cooking them fully, because then you will have little ice chunks of frozen fruit in your final product.  Not great.  With almost no tweaking, you could use this exact recipe to make any fruit here cheesecake ice cream: strawberry, raspberry, peach…

If naming conventions were more standard, a shredded would be called a word processor.

If naming conventions were more standard, a shredder would be called a word processor.  Also how great would this food processor be with a cartoon wooden spoon giving me tips about how to use it?!

The cheesecake ice cream base is easy: blend cream cheese, half and half, milk, sugar, salt, and rum (yum).  I used a food processor for this.  You want chunks of cream cheese so don’t worry about mixing it really well.  Also, cream cheese is very rich, which is why we’re using half and half here instead of cream.  You can use cream if you want.  Then toss that in the ice cream maker while you do the rest.

To everything, churn churn churn

To everything, churn churn churn

There is a season, churn churn churn.  That season is summer.  Making ice cream in winter is not something I think of doing

There is a season, churn churn churn. That season is summer. Making ice cream in winter is not something I think of doing

To light crush the graham crackers, I stuck my sleeve (unopened) into a bigger bag, and then started smashing it with the end of my French rolling pin.  Smashing it with a pot would also work.  I liked leaving it in the sleeve to minimize graham cracker crumbs flying everywhere.

I filled out a form about home ownership the other day.  Asked if I would've bought a house without granite countertops, my first thought: "that would be crushing!"

I filled out a form about home ownership the other day. Asked if I would’ve bought a house without granite countertops, my first thought: “that would be crushing!”

The blueberry sauce takes a few minutes but is worth it for the fanciness factor.  Heat up berries with water and sugar…

Man, I lowthe unripe barrys

Man, I lowthe unripe barrys

And add corn starch, lemon juice and zest, and salt.  Stir and stir and heat, and just like cranberries in cranberry sauce, eventually the blueberries will burst their blueberry-y goodness out into a tasty sweet and thick sauce.

Surely they made lots of versions of the robot in 2001: Space Odyssey.  Maybe he was even the fifth version: HAL-E.  If there were a botanist obsessed with that movie who discovered a new species of single-ovary fleshy fruit, he could name it HAL-E berry.  I bet you know whose favorite fruit that'd be.

Surely they made lots of versions of the robot in 2001: Space Odyssey. Maybe he was even the fifth version: HAL-E. If there were a botanist obsessed with that movie who discovered a new species of single-ovary fleshy fruit, he could name it HAL-E berry. I bet you know whose favorite fruit that’d be.

Sometimes I name inanimate objects and talk to them.  If I had used a pan here instead of a pot, I would've named him Peter.  The brand would've been Peter's creator, so I could call that jammy manufacturer J.M. Berry.

Sometimes I name inanimate objects and talk to them. If I had used a pan here instead of a pot, I would’ve named him Peter. The brand would’ve been Peter’s creator, so I could call that jammy manufacturer J.M. Berry.

Cool down your berry sauce as much as your patience allows (I threw it in a tupperware and stuck it in the freezer while doing other stuff), then swirl it with the churned cream cheese ice cream and add in the graham cracker pieces.

If workers at my fridge manufacturer took bets on who could mix this ice cream the best, it'd be a sw(h)irl pool

If workers at my fridge manufacturer took bets on who could mix this ice cream the best, it’d be a sw(h)irl pool

Stick the whole thing into a tupperware into the freezer.  It’s so good.

I didn’t take a picture of the final product so here’s a picture of my baby reacting the way I bet you are to this news:

20150715_172856

 

Blueberry cheesecake ice cream, adapted from Joy the Baker:

1 package cream cheese, softened

1 c milk

1 c half and half

1 c brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp rum/bourbon/whatever you want

1 sleeve of graham crackers (not crumbs)

at least 1 c blueberries, more if you want

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c water

2 tsp corn starch

1 lemon

First, use a food processor or blender to mix the first six ingredients until mixed (it’s fine/expected that it’ll be lumpy).  Throw that in your ice cream maker.

Smash the sleeve of graham crackers into small pieces (bite size or smaller).  Chunks are fine here too.

Heat up blueberries with sugar, water, corn starch, and the juice and zest from the lemon over medium heat.  Stir occasionally, until berries have burst and sauce is thick (5-10 minutes).  Cool the sauce (put into freezer for speediness).

Carefully swirl cooled sauce into churned ice cream, then mix in graham cracker pieces.  Freeze for several hours.

Easy ga kho gung (Vietnamese braised chicken with ginger) [based on my mom’s recipe]

23 Jul

Slow-cooked chicken with ginger, garlic, and onions.  I love this recipe.  It’s one of those classic home-cooking recipes that you aren’t likely to see at a restaurant, but every family makes it.  In fact, when I was in Vietnam several years ago I made some friends and visited their village for one night.  They showed me how to grow rice in their paddy, and we walked around the village, and practiced driving a motor scooter while trying to avoid the water buffalo that hung out on the roads.  At night their mom made us a big feast for dinner, consisting of rice from said paddy, rau muong xao toi, and this braised chicken (freshly killed from their neighbor).  Very traditional, very delicious.

I also ask my mom for it every time I make it, so I thought I’d blog it so I could stop bugging her.  I’ll tell you how I do it and also make notes for where my mom takes more time and makes it more delicious than I do.  Also, it’s made with items that you probably have in your pantry (we buy garlic from Costco and always have onions and ginger and frozen chicken parts).

This is a RAW file.  I'm just kidding it's a jpeg.

This is a RAW file. I’m just kidding it’s a jpeg.

If you don’t have fish sauce in your pantry and you’re interested in making Vietnamese food ever, then you should buy a bottle.  If you aren’t, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this post.  I like using coconut water/juice (I always keep it around because it’s all I drink when I’m sick), but water or chicken broth work great too.

My mom always soaks chicken in salted water for half an hour before cooking it, “to get rid of the smell.”  Brining does keep the chicken super moist, but I’m always too lazy to do it.  It’s good if you feel like it though!

Also, traditionally the chicken parts are chopped up into bite-size pieces for this dish.  Part of that is frugality and part of it is flavor- more surface area to soak in more of the sauce.  Plus it’s fun to bust out your cleaver!  I generally make the pieces baby-fist sized (so three or four bites) because I am lazy.  You could also not chop them.

I guess they had to give that suburban sitcom star a nickname instead of just calling him by his last name.  Then it'd sound like a serial killer sitcom instead of a family one: Leave it to Cleaver!

I guess they had to give that suburban sitcom star a nickname instead of just calling him by his last name. Then it’d sound like a serial killer sitcom instead of a family one: Leave it to Cleaver!

Next, chop up some garlic, onion, and ginger.  A few thoughts on this: for our wedding someone gave us a mortar and pestle, and it is AWESOME for garlic.  I don’t even peel or smash the cloves, I just throw them in and smash them a couple times.  The paper falls off and you can pick it out.  This isn’t great if you care about uniform sizes, but if you want a ton of garlic quickly smashed into smallish pieces, this is definitely the way to go.

If the actress from Young Frankenstein comes up to you and wants to fight, try to walk away.  You'll get Teri Garr-licked in no time.

If the actress from Young Frankenstein comes up to you and wants to fight, try to walk away. You’ll get Teri Garr-licked in no time.

I am a total sucker for those stupid “17 life hacks that will change the way you sit on a couch!!!” articles.  I’ve seen “one weird trick” a few times for peeling ginger: use a spoon.  Unfortunately, this one actually works!  Especially if you have a fairly smooth/not-too-knobby piece of ginger.  Just push the spoon tip in at one end of peel, eating side facing the ginger, and pull down while pushing into the ginger.  I can’t believe this worked and now I’ll go nail polish my keys so I don’t mix them up and save my bread bag close-things to label cords.

I actually have naked ginger in my house a lot (my baby is a redhead!)

I actually have naked ginger in my house a lot (my baby is a redhead!)

You’ll want diced onion, smashed pieces of garlic, and matchsticks of ginger.  Throw that in with your chicken (if you brined it, toss the brine), along with sugar and salt, and let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Just like in the human world, in horse races there are far more males than females.  I've been to exactly one horse race in my life, and it was almost all stallions, but there was one lane with a female.  There was a mare in eight.

Just like in the human world, in horse races there are far more males than females. I’ve been to exactly one horse race in my life, and it was almost all stallions, but there was one lane with a female. There was a mare in eight.  [I just told my husband this caption, and his response: “our kid is going to love you.”  Not even a chuckle from him!]

My mom first browns the chicken in a little bit of oil, then adds in the garlic, ginger, onion.  I actually marinated it in the pot, and just put the pot on the stove and turned it on.  Like I said, super easy.  Put it on high, add some fish sauce for flavor, and then your liquid (I used coconut water).  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down and simmer for as long as you have.  The longer you simmer, the richer the flavor.  The chicken will be cooked after about 15 minutes so if you’re in a rush just eat it then.

How cute would it be if we called every adult animal like we call chickens?  Kittenens?  Puppyens?  PUPPY YENS?!?!

How cute would it be if we called every adult animal like we call chickens? Kittenens? Puppyens? PUPPY YENS?!?!

A few minutes before you want to finish it, I like to add some cornstarch to thicken it.  To avoid lumps, put the cornstarch in a small bowl/ramekin and spoon some of the hot liquid into it, then whisk that til smooth.  Add the mix to your pot, and stir.  Then bring it back to a boil.

'don, sob', some', shiratak': these are all rame'kin.

‘don, sob’, some’, shiratak’: these are all rame’kin.

Serve this with rice and plain boiled vegetables to soak up as much of the sauce as you can.

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Easy ga kho gung:

Bone-in chicken pieces (I like thighs, but drumsticks or a whole chicken are also great) [Enough for the number of people you are serving]

1/2 head of garlic (just a lot of garlic.  Like 7 cloves at least)

1 thumb-sized piece of garlic per 4 servings

1/2-1 onion

2 TB sugar

2 TB fish sauce (nuoc mam; we always get Three Crabs brand)

salt, pepper

2 C water or chicken broth or coconut juice

2 TB corn starch

Chop chicken into pieces.  If desired, brine in salt water for half an hour.

Dice onion, smash garlic, and peel and matchstick ginger.  Add to chicken (drain brine, if using) with sugar, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1 TB of salt should be fine, you can always add more fish sauce later).  Stir, and marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

If desired, heat 2 TB of oil over medium-high, and brown chicken pieces, 5 minutes.  Then add marinade, and proceed.

If you didn’t brown, just cook the whole thing over medium high.  Add fish sauce and liquid of choice, bring to a boil, stirring a few times (at least two or three times).  Lower heat and simmer at least 15 minutes, or for an hour.

Five minutes before you want to eat, place corn starch into a small bowl.  Spoon in some of the hot liquid, and whisk until smooth.  Add corn starch mix to pot, and incorporate and bring back to a boil.  Boil for one minute while stirring, then turn off stove.

Serve with rice and boiled vegetables.

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