Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Chicken and Spinach Pizza

Some people are intimidated by homemade pizza because it may come across as a lot of work that produces somewhat of an imperfect result. Let me tell you 2 tips to a great pizza that never fails me: a great dough and a perfect balance and proportion in the filling. It sounds obvious but I'll try to explain it a bit further.

Most people would say that they enjoy what is on the crust more than the crust itself, so when it comes to homemade pizza, they overload the pizza with lots of ingredients. Just because you enjoy the crust a bit less doesn't mean it doesn't contribute to the overall flavour of the pizza. You'd be surprised how important the dough is, and how amazing the pizza tastes when the dough is done right.

Chinese New Year Dumplings!

Happy Chinese New Year! CNY is unusually early this year so I wasn't even aware that it was coming up. But never mind that, let's do some dumpling talk. I've had tons and tons of different kinds of dumplings growing up: fish, pork, beef, chicken. There are a billion occasions for eating them. Chinese new year is one, and the other is when someone is about to go on a trip, the family makes "kick-you-out" dumplings the night before.

Although I have participated in the assembling part of the process, I never paid attention to what goes into the actual filling. To make sure I get it right, I called my mommy for her recipe.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork can be time consuming, but so good if it's done right. My family had it for dinner with tortillas the first night, then used the left overs for sandwiches. I suggest making a big portion to make the process worth while. You can use the pork for lunches or dinners throughout the week and they freeze well if you don't think you can use them up fast enough. This time I'm using the pressure cooker to finish it off, and I really liked the method because it produced a really tender and moist meat.

Spice rub:

1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1/3 cup salt
2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1tbsp cayenne

The pork I used was about 8 lbs, bone-in pork shoulder roast.

Rub it all over the pork and place in an oven preheated to 325 degrees.

While the pork is in the oven, make the BBQ sauce.
1/4 cup of the spice rub
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 tsp W-sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup. 

Mix well and brush it over the pork every 40 minutes for the next three hours. The pork should be fully cooked by then. 

Cut the pork into large pieces so that they fit into a pressure cooker. Add in all the juices from the pan as well as what is left of the BBQ sauce. Finally, add a splash of orange juice, about 3/4 cup. turn on the pressure cooker and cook for an hour and 10 minutes. I have one of those electric ones that looks like a rice cooker and it made my life a lot easier.

After the meat is tender and falls off the bone, remove it into a large bowl and shred it with 2 forks. Place back into the pressure cooker and mix with all the fats and juices. It should be able to absorb a lot of it.

 To make the slaw that goes with the sandwich, I used 1/8 of a cabbage and a tiny bit of red onion. Chop them up into thin slices and toss with mayo.

The pork can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

French Croissants

This is a pretty instructive recipe and it's gonna be a very long post with lots and lots of pictures. So! Croissants, one of the most intimidating and time consuming things to make, but that's why I love it. I started at 8pm and ended at 2:30 am, but most of which are idle hours. If you are smarter than me, you would start earlier in the day, do other things during idle hours, and go to sleep on time.

4 cups of flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 cup half and half
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
3 sticks of butter, room temperature

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and stir for a few seconds using a dough attachment. In another bowl, combine the half and half with hot or warm water until the mixture reaches 110 degrees. With the motor running on low, slowly pour in the milk mixture. Let the mixer go for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. Add in the butter 1 tbsp at a time. It takes a little bit of time, but I help it along by picking up the dough and rotating it every once in a while.

After the dough has come together, pour it onto your work surface and kneed it for a few more seconds. Form the dough into a rectangle, wrap it and put it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

1 pkg of butter is 4 sticks so I usually buy a pound/pkg of butter then divide it my self. For this recipe, I cut the butter side ways so that 1 stick is actually a square that's about 1.5 cm thick. Take that slice out and you'll end up with 3 sticks worth of butter.

Place the butter between 2 plastic wraps and hammer it with a rolling pin to flatten. My butter wasn't completely at room temperature so I microwaved it for 5 seconds and did some hard core smashing. Be very careful not to melt the butter in the microwave, you'll end up with a mess.

After the butter has softened, roll and form it into a rectangle. If the shape is off, just pinch some of one side and fill in another. Put it into the fridge to firm up.

To assemble, roll out the dough into a large rectangle thats about 1.5 the size of the butter. Place the butter on the dough so that it is covering 2/3 of the dough. Fold the uncovered third over once, then make another fold with the other side on top of the folded third.

Roll it out again and fold it in thirds again. Put it into the fridge for 30 minutes then repeat the roll and fold twice more. You know you have enough layers when you can just barely see the butter through the dough. If you go any further than that, the dough will break.

Let it rest one last time for an hour and roll it out as far as it can go. Take a pizza roller, cut the dough in half length wise, then cut each piece into triangles.

Cut a little slit in the middle of the triangle so you can stretch out the corners.

Turn it so the wider part faces away from u, roll it towards you with your palm while pulling on the tip of the triangle with your other hand.

Place it on a baking sheet and pinch together the corners. Let it proof for 2 hours. I made the mistake of letting it sit in a warm oven. Usually it's perfectly fine to proof dough in a warm oven, but since there was butter in this dough, it would melt under anything above room temperature. Mine did melt slightly but it wasn't too bad.

After it's risen, place it in a 435 degrees oven for 22 minutes, rotating half way. The corners came apart for some reason. I think it might be because it was too fat and not long enough. I'll probably cut the triangles shorter and fatter next time.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Salt and Pepper Fried Squid

"Salt and Pepper" is a common way of treating many traditional Chinese appetizers. I've been introduced to 2 versions of this cooking method. The first is a platter of some kind of deep fried food that is served with a mixture of salt and ground pepper on the side. I've seen this a lot as a kid when I was living in China, but that was probably more than 10 years ago.

 In the new version that I've become familiar with, the food is deep fried along with red and green chili peppers then sprinkled with seasoning after. Maybe these are differences of cuisine from the North and the South of China, hence I see more of the second version at dim sum. You can use this method with just about anything : tofu, chicken, fish, shrimp, ect... I will be frying squid this time because it's my dad's absolute favorite.

squid (3 or 4 large ones)
red chili peppers
green chili peppers
corn starch
salt and pepper

Slice open the squid from one side, open it up and score the inside skin with a knife in a criss cross pattern. I used frozen squid that has been thawed. Cut the scored squid into bite size pieces. Then finely dice the green and red chili peppers and the garlic.

Toss the squid in some corn starch until everything is evenly coated. Fry on high heat until the squid has curled up and has turned a golden brown. Pour off some of the deep frying oil and leave just enough to fry the peppers. Sprinkle a little bit of corn starch on the peppers and toss lightly so that the peppers and the squid has a similar density. Fry the peppers for 1-2 minutes then add the squid back in. Season well with salt and pepper and toss for a few more seconds.

Remove to a plate and serve.