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.

Quail with Glutinous Rice, Chinese Sausage, Dried Shiitake & Spiced Black Currant Ximénez Reduction

This was the second course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people. I decided to go with two quails per person again. They’re such tiny birds and one per person is just not enough because Thanksgiving is all about being gluttonous, right? Also, I was going to stuff the quail but I allowed the quails to rest too long after being seared so it was impossible to open them. Don’t make my mistake!

Serves 6.

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[100% organic]

For the Brine

  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 quarts water
  • 8 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • 12 quails

Bring everything to a boil and cool down immediately. Using a cake tester or sharp paring knife, stab quails, then submerge quails in this brine for 6 hours in the fridge.

Once the 6 hours are up, drain and pat dry.

For the Sauce

  • 2 cups black currant juice
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 bottle of Montegrato Pedro Ximénez vinegar

Reduce all ingredients nine-tenths of the way. Take out spices. Allow to cool and place in a squeeze bottle.

For the Stuffing

  • 2 cups glutinous rice (ratio: 2½ cups water)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-inch ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 Chinese sausages, cubed
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted, diced
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • Salt, as needed
  • Soy sauce, as needed
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

Cook rice in rice cooker.

Sauté garlic, ginger, and scallions with sausages and mushrooms. Add brown sugar, and season with salt. Turn off heat and add in cooked rice. Add soy sauce and taste for seasoning. Keep rice stuffing warm in rice cooker.

For the Quail

  • 12 brined quail
  • Salt, as needed
  • Oil, for searing
  • Black currant juice, reduced
  • Celery ribbons (I forgot)

Once the quails are patted dry, sear quail well on both sides for color. Stuff the quail and finish in the oven at 450°F. Glaze quails with reduced black currant juice. Peel celery ribbons in iced water and set aside.

TO ASSEMBLE

Squeeze sauce on plate, prop 2 stuffed quails on celery ribbons, and squeeze more sauce over quail. Garnish with micro greens.

Update: Cantonese Fried Rice with Dried Scallops & Chinese Broccoli

瑶柱蛋白炒饭

I’m still in the very glacial process of updating my posts from the earlier years of this blog. My mom sent me some dried scallops from Hong Kong and what’s my favorite thing to cook with dried scallops? Cantonese fried rice!!! It’s so delicious! It’s one of the many things I must eat during the first few days of going back to Hong Kong.

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[100% organic, dried scallops from Hong Kong]

For the Rice

  • 4 cups rice (jasmine/kokuho)
  • Salt
  • Canola oil

Cook the rice and set aside to cool, then refrigerate it. Rice must be cold when making fried rice.

For the Dried Scallops

  • 6 medium dried scallops (soaked in water for at least 8 hours)
  • 4 scallions
  • 1-inch piece ginger
  • ¼ tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Reserved soaking liquid
  • Canola oil

Using your fingers, pull apart the soaked scallops and reserve the soaking water.

Finely chop the scallions and set aside. Thinly slice the ginger and set aside.

In a hot pan, add the canola oil. When oil is hot, stir-fry the dried scallops shreds. The scallops will jump out of the pan, put them back into the pan. Add in brown sugar, dark soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and a few drops of the reserved soaking liquid. Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Place scallops in a sieve and drain off excess liquid. Reserve scallops, keep warm, and set aside.

For the Chinese Broccoli

  • 1 bundle Chinese broccoli
  • 1-inch piece ginger
  • Salt
  • Reserved soaking liquid
  • Canola oil

Clean Chinese broccoli, remove leaves and thin stems. Using only the thick stalks/stems, slice them into thin rounds or use a mandolin. Thinly slice ginger and set aside.

In a hot pan, add a few drops of canola oil. Add ginger and stir-fry Chinese broccoli until al dente. Season lightly with salt and add some reserved soaking liquid so that the vegetables don’t burn. Remove from heat. Place Chinese broccoli stems in a sieve and drain off excess liquid. Reserve, keep warm, and set aside.

For the Egg Whites

  • 5 egg whites
  • Salt
  • Canola oil

Lightly beat the whites with a pinch of salt. In a non-stick pan, add a little of canola oil. Cook whites for 1-2 minutes then remove from pan.

TO ASSEMBLE

In a large non-stick pan on low heat, add enough canola oil to cover the base of the pan. Add in cold rice and break rice apart into loose pieces. Once slightly warm, add in dried scallops, Chinese broccoli, and egg whites. Season with salt and occasionally toss and turn. Adjust salt content to your liking and serve immediately.

Soba Noodles with Shimeji Mushrooms in Hollowed Cucumbers

You have no idea how happy I am to be posting on my blog again. I feel like I’m on a roll! Four posts today, two yesterday! June was an insane month and the last two weeks have been extra chaotic. My final exam went very well and I was very happy with the professional judges’ critiques.

It’s so hot in New York and the heat wave is intense. This is a nice refreshing bite-size (or two) party plate. It’s so simple to make too! Aren’t my plates just adorable?

[100% organic]

For the Mushrooms

  • 1 package shimeji mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil

Roughly break apart the shimeji mushrooms into small florets/clumps.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and sauté the mushrooms briefly until they develop some color and add in the shallots and garlic. Reduce heat to low-medium and season with some salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until tender.

Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Discard garlic cloves.

For the Cucumbers & Noodles

  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 2 oz. soba noodles
  • 2 TBS rice vinegar
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced on the bias (green parts only)
  • White sesame seeds, as needed
  • Salt

Do not remove all the green skin of the cucumber; peel roughly around the cucumber. Cut cucumber into rounds around 1-1.5 inch thick. Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds from the middle to create a “cup”. Be careful not to scoop too much and then creating a hole in the “cup”.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions, usually 6-8 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water, to stop the cooking process.

TO ASSEMBLE

Whisk the rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Pour half the sauce over the noodles and save the rest for later. Add the scallions and mushrooms to the noodles and gently toss to mix everything together.

Pack each cucumber cup with noodles and mushrooms, drizzle ¼ tsp of remaining sauce over each cup, and garnish with white sesame seeds.

Optional: mandolin carrots to use as a place mat for the cucumbers to sit on and to give some more color. (I totally forgot to do this!!!)

*I made this for my birthday get-together.

Mini Turkey Spring Rolls with Duo of Sauces

I wanted to try something new by using ground turkey and I still have been obsessed with making finger food/appetizers/amuse bouche/canapés. I have a lot of dumpling wrappers and I wasn’t in the mood to make pot-stickers so I decided to make spring rolls!! Because there is a deep fryer in my new apartment. OMG! How cool is that? I no longer need to make an oil bath in a saucepan to fry my things!

[100% organic]

For the Filling

  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, small cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • ½ lb ground turkey
  • 3 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Peel the carrot and on a mandolin, julienne the carrot, then cut into 1-inch lengths and set aside. Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and cut them into small cubes (small macedoine).

In a sauté pan, heat some oil and sweat the carrots and bell peppers until tender. Season with some salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another sauté pan, heat some oil and sauté the ground turkey, making sure to break apart the clump of ground meat. Add the garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Cook until almost done and then add in the carrots and bell peppers. Cook until meat is fully cooked and taste for seasoning and adjust.

Let the filling sit on a strainer to allow all the excess juices and oils to flow through, then cool on a sheet tray. The filling should not have too much moisture because that will make the spring rolls soggy.

*This can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in a quart container.

For the Duo of Sauces

  • One 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • Sriracha
  • Peanut sauce
  • 1 TBS powdered sugar

Before mixing the coconut milk with the sauces, bring it to a simmer and stir in powdered sugar. Mix half of the coconut milk with sriracha and the other half with the peanut sauce.

For the Spring Rolls

  • Filling from above
  • 1 granny smith apple, tiny dice
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • Oil for frying

Mix the apple into the filling and wrap the wonton wrappers into spring rolls using a teaspoon of the filling for each wrapper. Set aside on a dusted surface or on plastic wrap. You may use water or egg wash to close the wrappers. You may freeze these as well before frying.

When the oil reaches 375°F, fry spring rolls for 2-3 minutes, just so that it’s golden brown and hot in the center. Serve with the sauces.

*I made this for my birthday get-together.

Pork Belly Steamed Buns

Whenever I go back to Hong Kong/China, I always want a nice bowl, or two, of dongpo pork (东坡肉) after the jet lag wears off. It’s the best thing in the world, better than bacon! Dongpo pork is served in a little porcelain bowl with a lid.

I made these steamed buns with my family’s dongpo pork recipe and quick pickled cucumbers. I made this in class for part of the charcuterie buffet but it did not turn out good because I’ve never done mass quantity (buffet) servings before and I had to cook everything so far in advance, it was difficult to gauge. Also, the pork had to sit in the braising liquid for a week so it was really salty, even though I diluted it lots of water.

I wanted to make these because I wanted to prove to myself that I CAN make these taste heavenly. And I did. It just took one afternoon. I thought I could eat 6 or 7 (because that’s how many buns I steamed) but I could only stuff 5 into my face.

[100% organic]

For the Pork Belly

  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ cups Shaoxing/Chinese rice wine
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • ½ cup dark soy sauce
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 1 piece cinnamon bark
  • 6 scallions, chopped into thirds
  • 3 thick slices fresh ginger
  • 2 TBS whole Sichuan peppercorns

In a heavy-based pot, add the sugar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauces, star anise, cinnamon, scallions, ginger, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, while you sear the pork belly.

Cut the pork belly into cubes or small rectangles. Tie tightly with butcher’s twine – the pork will shrink so make sure to tie them very tightly.

In a pan, heat some oil for searing. Sear each side of the pork belly and remove from pan. Place them into the pot and add water to cover pork belly. Bring to a boil and then lower to a low simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Flip the pork every hour and add water if necessary (because you don’t want the soy sauces to over reduce and get really salty).

When ready, turn off heat. Remove pork pieces from braising solution and ladle some braising liquid over the pork belly pieces to prevent it from drying out.

Optional: skim off fat and reduce braising liquid, and add a slurry to thicken it, if you want to use it as a sauce.

For the Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1 English cucumber
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBS salt
  • Salt, as needed

Slice the cucumber very thinly or use a mandoline. Sprinkle salt over the sliced cucumbers and let them drain for 15-20 minutes.

In a saucepan, boil all the ingredients and then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool over an ice bath. The pickling solution has to be cold before you put the cucumbers in.

Rinse the salt off the cucumbers and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put the cucumbers in the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Drain before serving.

*Adapted from Aquavit.

For the Steamed Buns

  • 1 TBS + 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups water, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups bread flour
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 3 TBS nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 TBS salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Rendered pork fat (for shaping the buns)

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8-10 minutes.

When the dough turns into a ball, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place and let it rise until the dough doubles in size, for 1.5 hours.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the little dough balls with plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.

Cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Dip chopstick with the rendered fat.

Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.

Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. You can use the buns immediately or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

*The steamed buns recipe makes around 50 and I know that’s a lot but you can always store them in the freezer and eat them with other things, like Peking Duck!!!

**Steamed Buns recipe from Momofuku’s Noodle Bar.

TO ASSEMBLE

Open each steamed bun and place 2-3 slices of pickled cucumbers on the bottom layer, place a slice of pork belly, and top with more slices of cucumbers, then close the bun. If using, serve with the braising sauce.

Steamed Bun (Baozi, 包子)