Lemon Tart

Since last Thanksgiving, I’ve been making this tart about every two weeks. That’s much more frequently than before when I would just make it once or twice a year. I have definitely been eating a lot more desserts, that is at home or outside in restaurants. I’ve been making a lot more ice-creams too.

Makes 8-inch tart.

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[100% organic]

For Pâte Sablée (Short Bread dough)

  • 150 g butter (softened to room temperature)
  • 90 g powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 255 g cake flour (sifted)
  • 1-2 TBS cold water (optional)
  • Butter, as needed, for tart pan

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a rubber spatula or spoon, flatten out butter and powdered sugar. Add yolk one by one and then add sifted cake flour. If you don’t have cake flour, substitute with pastry/AP flour (for every 1 cup of pastry/AP flour, remove 1 TBS of it and add 1 TBS cornstarch). Mix slowly to combine. If dry, add the cold water. Form into a ball and flatten it, wrap with plastic and place in refrigerator until firm.

Butter the tart pan and put in freezer.

In between two sheets of parchment paper/plastic wrap/SilPats, roll dough to 1/16 inch. Carefully place into buttered pan, press into place and roll over the top of the pan to remove excess hanging dough. Using a fork, puncture tart shell with holes. Blind bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove weights and continue baking until golden.

Reserve shell at room temperature before pouring in the tart filling. Lower oven to 300°F.

For the Tart Filling

  • Pinch of flour
  • Butter, as needed
  • 5 eggs
  • 6 lemons: zested, and 150 g juice
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 150 g heavy cream

Zest lemons and mix the juices together. Infuse for as long as possible.

In a bowl, add the eggs and sugar. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add cream, mix lightly and continue to whisk. Stir in lemon juice, zest, and pinch of flour. Skim the foam off. Strain before putting it into the cooled pastry shell.

Bake 25-30 minutes. When removing from oven, the custard should jiggle. Cool on wire rack and serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Dim Sum: Har Gow 蝦餃

This is my fourth attempt at trying to make my favorite dim sum: Har Gow, which is a traditional type of steamed dumpling served during dim sum, the Chinese equivalent of brunch but without the alcohol. It’s widely known that this dish is the ONE that dim sum chefs are judged on because it’s the epitome of dim sum. Whenever I try a new dim sum spot, I do indeed judge everything about the restaurant on their quality of har gow.

There are so many recipes and resources available yet none of them are foolproof nor tested out to yield perfect results. I have been trying to get the dough recipe down to perfection and for the previous three times, I have failed due to the dough. The filling is easy; it’s basically just shrimp and you can add in bamboo shoots or water chestnuts or something else to give it some texture.

I’m not that skilled yet in rolling dough into perfect circles so I used a ring mold to cut out 3½-inch circles.

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Makes approximately 20 dumplings.

For the Filling

  • 3 water chestnuts
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1-inch ginger, microplaned
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Peel and finely mince the water chestnuts into little cubes.

Peel and de-vien the shrimp. Then using the side of your knife, smash the shrimp and roughly chop them. Place them into a mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except for water chestnuts. Thoroughly mix shrimp until it gets sticky, add the water chestnuts just to combine, and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the Dough

  • 1 cup wheat starch
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • 6 TBS/3 oz. boiling water
  • 1 TBS oil

In a mixing bowl, add the two starches and using a spoon, stir starches while slowly adding the boiling water. Continue to stir until the mixture has turned translucent. Add the oil next and continue to stir. While the dough is still hot but cool enough to handle, knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes a smooth dough ball. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel while you set up your steamer.

I noticed that my bamboo steamer just barely fits into my rice cooker so I steamed them that way since I have two bamboo steamers so I could fit 12 dumplings per steam, instead of using the steamer rack that comes with the rice cooker.

TO ASSEMBLE

Roll dough into a long cylinder and either cut or tear off little 1-inch pieces and roll them into 3½-inch (diameter) circles. Place a little filling in the center and wrap dumplings. It’s difficult to explain how to wrap them and there are several ways to close dumplings. Do what works best for you or YouTube it.

Make sure that dumplings have an inch of expanding space during the cooking process. Steam for 10 minutes and serve with soy and chili sauces.

Cuttlefish Ink Risotto with Calamari, Tomato Concassé, Shichimi & Parsley

There was this dish at work that I wanted to eat but I never got the chance to have the entire dish because my days off are the same days when the restaurant is closed. So I kind of recreated it at home. It doesn’t have the sea urchin on it because I can’t splurge on a tray of fresh sea urchin on myself… with company yes but I would feel so gluttonous if I ate the entire tray alone.

I have some grated cheese in my seafood risottos. I don’t understand the taboo about not putting cheese with seafood. It works for me and I think it helps to bind the rice together.

Serves 2.

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[Calamari from Connecticut, Cuttlefish Ink from Spain]

For the Tomato Concassé

  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 3 thyme sprigs, picked without the thick stems
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Boil a pot of water that can fit the tomatoes. Core out tomatoes and make an “X” with a paring knife on the top of each tomato. Have a bowl of ice water on hand. Once water is boiling, cook tomatoes for 30 seconds and immediately place in ice water.

Once tomatoes are cooled, remove from ice water bath and peel skin off. Remove seeds and insides of tomato. Dice tomato into small cubes and set aside.

In a sauté pan and on low-medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Sweat the onions, tomatoes, garlic, thyme for 30 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Cool and set aside.

For the Calamari

  • 1 lb calamari, tubes and tentacles
  • Canola oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Shichimi
  • Lemon juice

Clean/rinse the tubes and cut into thin strips. Save one third for garnishing and the rest for cooking within the risotto (below).

For the garnish, sauté/broil the calamari and season with salt, pepper, shichimi, and lemon juice. Keep warm and set aside.

For the Risotto

  • 1½ quarts fish stock
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • ¾ cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Reserved cut calamari strips and tentacles
  • 1 TBS cuttlefish ink
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan, for grating
  • Parsley, finely chopped

The fish stock should be hot/simmering before adding into the cooking pan for the risotto.

In a pan on medium-low heat, heat the olive oil. Sweat the onions until translucent. Stir in the rice and make sure the oil fully coats the rice. Cook until the ends of the rice are transparent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Then add in the wine and cook until completely absorbed and the alcohol has evaporated.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. Adding ½ cup stock at a time, stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed between each addition. Be careful not to let the bottom of the pan dry out. Continue to stir often, and repeat until the rice is almost al dente. Add in two-thirds of the tomato concassé into the rice. Then add in the reserved calamari and season lightly with salt. When the calamari is cooked, add in the ink and fully incorporate ink into rice.

Before rice is finished and taken off heat, grate in some parmesan cheese and taste/adjust for seasoning.

TO ASSEMBLE

Scoop hot rice into bowl, garnish with sautéed/broiled calamari, remaining tomato concassé, and parsley.

Cockles with Wilted Baby Spinach in a Scallion Thyme Broth

I have the biggest news! My friend told me that there is a freaking seafood market near me, called Dorian’s Seafood Market! It’s just a few blocks away from me and OMG, I went there this morning and I’m so exhilarated! I finally have somewhere to shop for real, fresh seafood. Not like the “plastic” crap they sell at Whole Foods here in NYC. I don’t have to venture to lower Manhattan to Chinatown to get seafood anymore. Plus, the quality of seafood at Dorian’s is much better (and safer) than what gets sold in Chinatown. However, if I want live shrimp and live crab, I’ll still have to get it from Chinatown.

It is 22°C in NYC right now and it’s December 24. I’m thankful that it’s not winter nor snowing because I don’t like that. It’s wonderful, this Xmas Eve.

Serves 1.

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[Cockles farmed from New Zealand]

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 4 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 2 lbs cockles
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Handful baby spinach
  • 1 TBS parsley, finely minced
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Soak the cockles in salted cold water for 20 minutes.

In a pan, melt the butter and sweat the garlic, thyme, and scallions. Turn the heat to high and add the cockles and white wine. Toss and shake the pan. Close the lid and cook for 7 minutes. Before the cockles are ready, add in the spinach and parsley. Throw away any unopened cockles.

Serve with toasted bread.

Warm Pear Tart with Spiced Crème Chantilly

This was the final course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people. When I was thinking about what to make, peaches were still in season. Then I’ve done apple tarts so many times already so I really didn’t want to make it again so I settled for pears! But once again, it looks and tasted amaaaazing!

Makes 8-inch tart.

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[100% organic]

For the Tart Shell

  • 100 g AP flour
  • 100 g cake flour
  • 100 g cold butter, small cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 40 g sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 TBS water, whisked

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sift both flours on work surface, mix sugar and salt into it. Using a bench scraper, cut with cold butter (sablay). Create a well, and add the egg-water. Working quickly, compress the dough using the palm of your hand piece by piece (fraisage). Form the dough flat and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Butter the tart mold and place in freezer.

For the Compote

  • 3 large Asian pears peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 50 g sugar
  • 30 g water

Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and cook on medium-low until slightly chunky and dry, approximately 10-15 minutes. Cool over ice.

For the Garnish

  • 2-3 Bosc pears
  • 50 g butter, melted

Peel pears and cut in half. Remove the seeds and cut the halved pears in half again. Mandolin them but not too thin and rub lemon juice over each slice.

Take the dough out of the fridge and brush off excess flour. Roll dough into a thin layer larger than the tart mold. Carefully place over tart mold and press into buttered mold.

Layer all of the cooled compote into the mold, tightly arrange mandolin pears over the top but do not hang over the edges. Brush melted butter over everything.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F, then turn temperate down to 350°F and continue baking for 50 minutes.

For the Finish

  • 150 g apricot juice
  • 30 g water
  • 20 g sugar

Mix together, reduce until thick, and brush on after tart is slightly cooled, out of oven.

For the Crème Chantilly

  • 300 mL heavy cream
  • 25 g confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients into an iSi dispenser and charge twice. Place in refrigerator.

Serve whipped cream with slice of warm tart.

Smoked Dry-Aged Duck Breast, served with Chinese Steamed Buns, Cucumber, Scallions, Cilantro, and Tian Mian Sauce

This was the fourth course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people.

This year I decided to serve the last savory course family-style! And it turned out so great!!!! I would have been happy if this was the only course served because it’s that amazing!!!

Serves 6.

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[100% organic]

For the Duck

  • 3 ducks (legs used in previous course)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Once the duck has thawed completely, remove the backbone and have the ducks lying open with breasts up on a wire rack over a sheet tray. Place in fridge and dry-age for 2 weeks.

After two weeks, butcher duck breasts off and score them. Season duck breasts with salt & pepper, turn heat to the lowest setting and place a large pan on the stove. Place breast in the pan with skin-side down. Render the fat to all the breasts slowly. Every few minutes, pour away rendered fat. After 10 minutes, turn breast around and cook flesh side for 3 seconds and remove from pan and place on a wire rack, skin-side up, to rest.

Using a smoke gun, place duck breasts in a single layer in a glass dish and wrap in plastic. Smoke duck for 10 minutes.

In a pre-heated oven of 500°F, flash heat duck breasts for 1 minute, allow to rest, then slice and serve.

For the Accoutrements

  • Steamed buns (I used 2 packs of 15 for six people)
  • 12 Persian cucumbers, cored and julienned
  • Scallions, julienned
  • Micro cilantro
  • Tian Mian 甜面酱/sweet bean sauce (needs to get sautéed with oil, then cooked with some water for consistency, and salt/sugar for taste)

Shredded Duck Leg Confit in Cream of Mushroom and Chestnut with Crackling & Parsley Chips

This was the third course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people.

Last year’s roasted duck legs didn’t turn out so well and I didn’t want to braise them again so I took the classic, ambitious French-route this year, which is why I had to cut a course out because it was too overwhelming for my tiny studio kitchen. It also made sense because why have two soups?

Serves 6.

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[100% organic]

For the Confit

  • 6 legs from 3 ducks, Frenched
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 garlic head, minced
  • 12 bay leaves, crushed
  • 12 thyme sprigs, picked and crushed
  • 3 TBS black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 quarts rendered duck fat

Sprinkle a shallow layer of salt and sugar into a shallow glass/plastic container. Scatter with half the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns over the salt/sugar and lay duck legs on top in a single layer. Scatter over remaining herbs, spices, salt, and sugar. Wrap/cover and refrigerate duck for 1-2 days.

After 24-28 hours, pre-heat oven to 225°F. Remove duck from cure mixture and rinse salt off. Pat dry duck and place in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish. In a saucepan, gently warm fat until just melted. Cover duck completely with melted fat.

Cook in oven very slowly – you should only see a small bubble every now and then – until the meat is tender and ready to fall off the bone. Approximately 2-4 hours. If the duck seems to be cooking too quickly, or the fat begins to simmer, reduce temperature to 200°F.

When the duck is ready, remove from oven and cool in the fat. Once cool, peel skin off and reserve for cracklings. Using your fingers, shred duck meat and store them in the fat. Duck should be completely submerged.

This entire process can be done in advance because the duck submerged in its own fat can store for several weeks.

For the Duck Skin Cracklings

Under a broiler, crisp up reserved duck leg skin from confit process. Season with salt. For extra crispiness, place in a dehydrator.

For the Cream of Mushroom & Chestnut

  • Butter, as needed
  • 6 leeks, white & pale green parts only, sliced
  • 3 quarts packed mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb roasted chestnuts, cut
  • Chicken stock, as needed
  • ¼ lb AP flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

In a pan, sauté mushrooms to get color and aroma. In a saucepan, sweat leeks with butter and add the sautéed mushrooms and roasted chestnuts. Add enough chicken stock to cover. Season and bring to a boil. Turn heat down for simmering. Cook for 15 minutes.

In a separate pot, make a blond roux using ¼ lb butter and ¼ lb AP flour. Scoop away little by little of roux and put it in the saucepan until desired consistency and thickness. Add the heavy cream and adjust for seasoning.

For the Finish

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • Salt

Pick parsley leaves and set aside.

Fit a medium saucepan (with thermometer) and pour in oil to measure 1”. Heat over medium-high until thermometer is at 350°F. Fry until parsley is translucent, about 15 seconds. Season with salt.

For extra crispiness, place in dehydrator or 110°F oven.

TO ASSEMBLE

Scoop soup in bowl, place a large ball of shredded duck confit in the center, garnish with skin cracklings and fried parsley. Serve with toasted bread.