Monday, December 31, 2007

From our family to yours...

May your 2008 be filled with food, fun, friends, and family!

Happy new year!!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brown Butter Almond Shortbread Cookies

I love shortbread. And I'm always on the lookout for a good shortbread recipe. I think I can stop looking now because I've found what is possibly the best one.

Browning the butter gives the cookies a nice, rich, deep flavor and adds a nutty dimension to the recipe. You can use any nut you like. The original Bon Appetit recipe called for pecans. But I had almonds on hand so that's what I used.

Brown Butter Almond Shortbread Cookies

2 sticks butter, room temperature (1 cup, divided)
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup almonds, processed until texture is like coarse cornmeal

1. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt one stick of butter over low-medium fire and cook until amber in color. It will take about 6-8 minutes. Make sure butter doesn't burn.
2. Strain butter and cool in fridge until semi-solid.
3. Meanwhile sift flour and salt together. Set aside.
4. Cream butters and sugar until fluffy.
5. Add vanilla and nuts.
6. Add flour and mix just until incorporated.
7. Form one inch balls with your hands and place on a cookie sheet.
8. Flatten balls slightly with your palm and bake in a 300 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack.

Tomato Sauce

Marcella Hazan is considered to be a goddess of Italian cooking. Her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking remains to be one of the ultimate Italian cooking resources today. I've borrowed the book from the library but have still yet to get my own copy. Maybe my Secret Santa will give me one this Christmas :-)

This highly unusual tomato sauce recipe is inspired by her. It might not sound like much, and I admit I was a skeptic, but the end result is rich, simple and oh so good. On spaghetti, with some freshly grated parmegiano, it truly is what Italian cooking is all about.

Tomato Sauce inspired by Marcella Hazan

1 can whole plum tomatoes (get the best ones you can buy, San Marzano preferably)
1/4 cup butter (or 1/2 stick)
1 medium onion, halved
salt to taste

1. Open can.
2. Dump everything into a heavy pot and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
3. Add salt.
4. Puree with hand blender.
5. Serve on top of your favorite pasta with freshly grated parmegiano reggiano.

Chicken with Szechuan Peppers

I'm always on the look out for new spices. So when I saw these Szechuan peppers in my regular Asian supermarket haunt, I quickly put them in my cart to use for my next cooking adventure.

Normally, when I cook, I don't measure. I open my pantry, see what I have, take it from there, and play it by ear (or by tongue, I suppose). This also means that I normally don't use measuring spoons. I often pour and sprinkle, going mostly by gut feel, and taste as I go along. But once in a while, I regret not using a measuring implement. Today was one of those days...

I snipped a corner of the Szechuan pepper bag and poured what I was planning to be about a teaspoonful of pepper. Instead, I must have put 2 tablespoons worth! I tried to get as much of it out of my already sizzling pan, but I could only do so much damage control. Luckily, the dish turned out okay. The peppers added an unintended "crunch" which I'd much rather not have with my chicken :-P

Chicken with Szechuan Peppers

400g ground chicken
1 asian eggplant, minced into 1/4 inch pieces
5-6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, minced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tsp. minced garlic
6 slices ginger
2 stalks green onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp. szechuan peppers
2 tbsp. chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
2+2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. chili garlic oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1. Marinate ground chicken in 2 tbsp. soy sauce and cooking wine. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, sugar, vinegar and chicken broth. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a wok/pan until very hot. Put szechuan peppers and saute until fragrant.
3. Add garlic, ginger and green onions.
4. Saute aromatics for a couple of minutes.
5. Add chicken, cooking until it is no longer pink.
6. Add eggplant and mushrooms, keeping the food moving in the pan. Cook until vegetables are soft.
7. Pour in sauce mixture and saute just until the chicken and veggies are coated with the sauce.


We went on a roadtrip to New York/New Jersey last week to meet up with family. It was sort of a pre-Christmas thing. We drove (with our dog!) and spent a few days with my dad catching up, shopping, and eating :-)

We went to TJ Maxx and take a look at what I snagged!

Yup, a Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart dutch oven for $99.99!!! I almost jumped when I saw it in the store. Plus the color matches my 12 inch skillet. Happy dance! :-)

P.S. The hubby got a dSLR camera as an advanced Christmas gift. I've started using it for my photos. What a difference! Another happy dance! :-)