Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blueberry Bread Pudding w/ Condensed Milk Sauce

Anybody who knows me, know I am not a dessert person.  I don't like sweet very much, and I probably have my mom to thank for that.  My mom didn't let me have a lot of sweets growing up.  So I usually passed on cakes and cookies.  I don't know what it is about bread pudding that draws me to it so much.  Every time there is bread pudding on the menu I have to order it.  There's something so comforting to me about pudding and i'm the same way with french toast.

I've been playing around with bread pudding a lot lately, making it at least once and sometimes even twice a week.  You can turn pretty much any dessert into a bread pudding!  Have anybody ever had freshly baked baguettes dipped in condensed milk?  If you haven't, you need to try it!  And that's where I got my inspiration for this recipe.  I hope you all will enjoy this amazing dessert! 

Ingredients:

1 loaf of French bread
3 eggs
2.5-3 cups of heavy cream (this depends on how firm you want it to be)
2 cups of sugar (more or less depends on your taste)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 cup of blueberry
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of condensed milk

1.   Tear bread into smaller pieces.
2.  Mix sugar and heavy cream together first, this way you can taste it in case you want to adjust the sweetness.  Add eggs, vanilla, and nutmeg to the mixture, and mix with a whisk.  
3.  Add the bread to the wet ingredients and combine.  I find it easier to use your hand with gloves.  Make sure everything piece of bread is soaked in the wet mixture.  Fold in the blueberry.  And let everything sit for about 15-20 minutes.  
4.  Pre-heat oven to about 300 degrees.
5.  Butter a baking pan and then start stuffing it with the bread mixture.  Because I like my bread pudding a little firm, I make sure I pack the pan pretty tightly.  
6.  Put in the oven for about 40 minutes.  Then I take it out and brush the top with some butter (this will help it form the delicious crust at the top), put it back in the over turn it up to about 350 degrees for another 15 minutes or until you get that golden brown crust.  
7.   In a pot combine the milk and condensed milk.  Cook it on medium heat, mix thoroughly and let it cook until the two ingredients blend together. 
8.  Let the bread pudding cool completely. 
9.  Cut out a piece and serve it on top of a bath of sauce or you can just dip it in the sauce.  
10.  Enjoy!

Pho Bo - Beef Noodle Soup

I wrote an entry for crock pot pho last year and it was quite an experience. Crock pot cooking sure has its benefits but I much prefer cooking on the stove top. Maybe I have OCD in the kitchen but I can not leave something cooking on it's own for that long without tasting it.  It'll probably work if I started measuring everything precisely but I know that's not going to happen!

Living so far from my parents, I've develop a love for pho more than ever before. While living in Vietnam, my dad and I were pho buddies.  I didn't really have a choice, but it was our daddy and daughter time together.  After pho we would walk around and my dad would catch up with his friends and neighbors.  When we moved to the states, there were no pho shop and no friends to visit.  We still had our daddy daughter time though, grocery shopping in 3 feet of snow.  Those early years were tough!

Despite her busy schedule, my mom always made sure there was a pot of pho every Saturday morning.  It was something we all look forward to every weekend.  Now that I no longer live at home, I miss my mom's cooking more and more especially her pho.  It's definitely her best dish!

I have tried cooking pho in many different ways, believe me I've tried all the techniques!  And I don't think one technique is better than another, it's all about what you are comfortable with!  And these are the techniques I love and I hope they will help you on your next phoventure!

1.  Root Vegetables

When you of think of pho, you automatic think of beef and even more beef.  While beef play an important role in making a pot of beef pho, I feel we need to credit the root vegetables.  A lot of western soup are made by using a lot of roots vegetables such as onion, carrot, leek, celery, and etc.  Why?  Root vegetables are so good for broth because they give off a natural sweet flavor that's not going to take away or overwhelm the beef flavor.  I especially love using the onion family for pho such as yellow onions and leeks.  They are must haves whenever I make pho!

2.  Beef Bones

I love love my bone marrow but you have to use a variety of bones and meat.  Bones alone will not produce a great broth, that's why we use beef shank as well.  Look for beef neck bones or any bones with a little bit meat to it.

3.  Spices

One of the worst pho turn off for me is the over use of spices.  I definitely got this from my dad.  He hates pho that has a very strong aroma of spices, he feels it takes away the beef flavor.  There are pre-package pho spices at the Asian market but I tend to stick with only a few.  I usually only use cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.  You want the spices to be subtle to linger but not to overwhelm.

4.  Roasting

While my mom feels roasting the ginger and onions are not needed, I love this step.  It takes these ingredients to a whole another level of sweetness.  You can also roast the spices as well but spices burn a lot faster so be careful.

5.  Clear Broth

Certain soups you can get by without have a clear broth but murky pho is not as inviting.  I take the extra step to get my bones and meats very clean.  You'll want to par-boil your bones and then rinsing them with cool water right after.  I even use a different pot par-boil my bones.  The only thing that goes in my pot of pho are clean bones, fresh water, and clean meat.

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs of bones (the more the better)
2 shank, beef balls, tendons (optional you can just stick with rare slice beef for Pho Tai)
2 yellow onions
2 leeks
2-3 knob of ginger
rock sugar
salt
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
fish sauce
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 star anise
5-6 cloves
aluminum foil
thinly sliced beef (Pho Tai)
pho noodles
green onions/cilantro/sliced yellow onions (garnish)
lime
bean sprouts/basil (optional)

Total cooking time:  5-6 hours

1.  Par-boil beef bones/shank/tendons, thoroughly rinse both with cool water and set aside.
2.  Fill a new 10 qt. pot with water and add clean beef bones/shank only.  Let the bones simmer on low-med heat for about 1-2 hours.  Occasionally check on the broth for scum and remove.  If you are using tendons, use a different pot to boil the tendons on high heat (otherwise it will take to long to get tender).  Add tendons to the pho pot when it's about 80% done.
3.  Roast the ginger/onion in the oven or grill.  Remove the skin and then add to the broth.  Add the leeks to the pot as well.  Add rock sugar about the same size as a knob of ginger. 1/2 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning.  Remove scum when necessary.
4.  You should see fat at the top from the bones/shank, remove as much as you can or if you like the fat you can leave it.  Continue to let pot of pho simmer for another 1-2 hours.  Add additional water if too much has reduced.
5.  Remove shank when it's tender, I don't like my tendon fall apart tender I like it a little firm.
6.  Taste the broth, add additional salt/sugar/fish sauce if needed.
7.  Lightly wrap the spices in aluminum foil and add to the pot for about 20 minutes or so.
8.  Prepare sliced beef, noodles, vegetables, green onion, sliced onion, and lime.
9.  When your pot of pho is done I like to remove all bones in to one bowl for munching.  Discard ginger, onions, leeks, spices.  So you are left with only the broth.  You can also take the extra step of straining your broth.
10.  Prepare a bowl to your liking and enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Che Sam Bo Luong

My dad is a part-time herbalist, a position that was passed down in the family.  Family and friends often ask him to prescribe herbal medicine to help relieve certain ailment.  He makes herbal medicine in all forms such as powder, liquid, dough, etc;  I just know they all taste god awful.  It's basically ground dried roots, plants, and tree barks how can you expect it to taste any good.  He always assured us that it was good for us, they are nature's medicine.  I try to stay clear of his herbal medicine except for one exception, when I want to make Che Sam Bo Luong.

Sam Bo Luong is a sweet soup of Chinese origin.  Ingredients for this sweet soup varies but jujube(Chinese dried dates), dried logan, seaweed(kelp), white fungus, pearl barley, and lotus seeds are the usual suspects.  Each of these ingredients have a medicinal usage therefore this dessert is often deemed as good for your health. My dad says every ingredient has either a "cooling" or "burning" effect to your body, like a ying yang effect.  Therefore it is important that we consume both kinds of food to attain a balance.  I'm glad this soup is considered good for you because it is delicious.  On a hot summer day, you simply cannot get enough of this dessert!

You may have trouble finding certain ingredients especially if you only have access to a smaller Asian grocery store.  We have had some trouble finding pearl barley at the market but my dad usually have a lot in stock from the herbal shop.

Ingredients:

seaweed/kelp (the ones used to make seaweed salad dark green in color that looks like long ribbons)
lotus seeds
pearl barley
white fungus
dried dates/jujube
dried logan

1. You'll need to rinse and rehydrate most the ingredients except the dried dates and dried logans.  The kelp will require a lot of rinsing because it may contain a lot of sand/dirt.  You can soak the dried ingredients overnight or boil them for instant use.
2.  Soak the kelp in warm water after a good amount of rinsing and then cut them up into 3 inch ribbons.  Soak the white fungus in a warm water and chop them into smaller pieces.
3.  Boil the lotus and barley to soften it up but you don't want to cook them all the way through.  About 10-15 minutes in boiling water will do.
4.  Fill a 10 qt. pot with water and add 2-3 cups of brown sugar.  You can add more or less sugar to your liking.  This is suppose to be sweet soup after all so it is usually made very sweet and eaten with crushed iced.
5.  Once the water has come to a boil, add the barley, lotus seeds, and kelp.  Let that cook until tender. Then add the white fungus, dried dates, and dried logan.
6.  Once you attain the sweetness to your liking and all the ingredients has become tender, you can turn off the heat.
7.  This sweet soup taste best when chilled or eaten with ice.  Enjoy!




Saturday, July 6, 2013

Canh Chua Ca - Sour Fish Soup

The word sour and fish doesn't sound too appetizing together does it?  But don't let that hinder you from trying out this delicious soup.  Canh chua is a sour soup produce by fresh vegetables and one key ingredient tamarind.  Whole tamarind pulp, pineapple, and tomatoes is used to produce sourness to the soup. Okra, bean sprouts, and a strange stalk called elephant ear (bac ha) is also unique to this recipe.  The spongy like elephant ear and slimy okra soaks up the broth and every time you take a bite your mouth is gushing with sweet tangy flavor.

Canh chua is usually made with fish therefore it is commonly accompanied by ca kho, Vietnamese braised fish.  This recipe also works well with shrimp and again you can use extra shrimp to make tom kho (Vietnamese braised shrimp).  I prefer to make this soup with fish especially whole cat fish.  While visiting home this weekend, my uncle brought over some freshly caught striped bass and catfish, they were 5 - 8 lbs a piece.  Nothing beats fresh ingredients when it comes to Vietnamese cooking!  Without even thinking, my mom and I already know what's in store for dinner.
I don't order this dish when i'm eating out very often because everybody like it a different way.  We all have our own interpretation of the perfect canh chua and that is best achieved at home in our own kitchen.  Even though it is called sour soup, I like to make mine sweet as well and let's not forget I like everything spicy.  When I taste this soup I want to get a punch of sourness, a flicker of sweetness, and kick of spiciness.  It's like a party in your mouth, flavors fighting to get your attention.  While this soup is usually eaten with rice you can also eat it as a noodle soup with vermicelli noodles.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:

1 whole pineapple or 1 can of pineapple in syrup (I like to use the canned pineapple in syrup because it does a good of sweetening the broth so I don't have to add so much sugar)
4-5 tomatoes quartered
2-3 stalks of elephant ear cut into 2 inch section
1 lb of okra cut in half
a handful of beansprouts
Thai chili
ngo om 
4 - 5tablespoon of fresh tamarind pulp ( I like my soup pretty sour so I would start w/ 3 tablespoon)
tamarind powder
sugar
salt
fish sauce
mushroom seasoning
catfish 2-3 lbs cut into smaller portion will do but the more the better

1. Marinade the fish by sprinkling it evenly with salt and dash of fish sauce and some green onions. My mom likes to pan sear her fish ahead of time so it won't break a part when you put it in the pot.
2. Fill a 8 qt. pot 3/4 of the way with water.
3.  Add the fish to the broth on medium heat, if you use high heat the fish may break apart easier.  Let the fish thoroughly cook in the broth for a 10-15 minutes depending how much you use.
4.  Remove fish from broth and set a side for later.
5. Add the tamarind and if you are using canned pineapple drain the syrup into the pot.
6. Let the tamarind break apart and flavor the water.  Then you'll want to scoop it out and discard.
7. At this point you'll want to flavor your broth with salt, sugar, and additional tamarind powder if you like it more sou.  Start off with about 2 tablespoon of salt, and more sugar if needed.  I went ahead and added a bit more tamarind powder.  At this point the broth will seem really overwhelming with a a lot of flavor but once you add all the vegetables it will lighten it up a lot.  So seasoned everything very aggressively before I add the vegetables.  
8.  Add the vegetables.  Okra and elephant ear will take a bit more time to cook so i usually put that in first followed by tomatoes, pineapple, and bean sprouts.  Try not to overcook the vegetables to much or the vegetables will lose its texture.  
9.  Season more fish sauce if needed.
10.  Turn off the stove re-the fish to the pot if you plan to eat it right away.  Add chopped ngo om and thai chili.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Homemade Pad Thai Sauce

I have no problem using store brought Pad Thai sauce, I've used it plenty in the past. My problem is I never think to buy them when i'm grocery shopping and when I do get that craving for Pad Thai I never seem to have it at home. It is simple to make and I usually already have the
ingredients handy.

The best thing about making the sauce from scratch is being in control.  You control the consistency and the flavor.  When you go to ten different Thai restaurants, each of their Pad Thai will be slightly different in flavor and consistency.  Some Pad Thai are more dry, while others are more saucy.  Everybody makes their sauce differently but it's the same concept.  You'll need tamarind, fish sauce, and sugar.  Below is the recipe I used for a 16 oz. pack of rice noodle.  Don't forget to taste your food and adjust to your liking.  If you prefer your Pad Thai to be more saucy I recommend increasing the recipe by a half.


Pad Thai Sauce:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of tamarind pulp
1/4 cup of fish sauce
2 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/4-1/2 of water (thick or saucy your choice)

1.  In a pot combine the sugar, water, and tamarind on low heat.  Use a spoon to help break down the tamarind.
2.  Once the tamarind has broke down add the fish sauce and soy sauce.  Let the sauce come to a boil and remove from stove.
3.  Strain the sauce so it will be smooth and you won't be eating any of the seeds.
4.  Sauce is ready for you to make Pad Thai.
5.  Enjoy.