Sunday, June 29, 2008

Braiding Memories


When I was very little my family lived on an old raspberry farm. It had been a long time since the primary focus of the farm was selling the raspberries, so it was mainly a bunch of acreage with about twenty or so rows of raspberries that my mother diligently cared for year after year. With those precious raspberries she made amazing jams, jellies and fruit leathers. And every once in a while, if we begged and pleaded enough, Mom would craft a raspberry braid from a cream cheese pastry dough and some of her delectable jams and jellies. Today I tried to recreate her masterpiece of simplicity and elegance...and failed miserably.

I'm definitely going to have to call Mom and get her recipe.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lettuce Wraps

So, I made these about a month or so ago and I haven't been able to get them out of my head.

Lettuce Wraps

I mean, what's better than tender chicken in a sweet-salty-vinegar-y sauce wrapped in lettuce with some fried mung bean threads and carrot matchsticks, right?

Look at this bird, it's like pornography...

Eat me...I'm sooo yummy

Anyways, I stole this as a copycat recipe for some I had at a restaurant with a friend. I'm not going to say which restaurant unless their corporate office calls me up and forces me to. Why, you ask? Because it's shameful...downright shameful. After having had it exactly as the recipe states, I'd definitely tone down the sugar in the sauces. 1/4 cup? My ass! And that's exactly where it goes too. So, I've decided that I'm only going to use about a tablespoon of sugar and I've altered the recipe to reflect that. Hey, I'm just looking out for your health, ok? I'd much prefer enjoying the flavors themselves, not some sugary processed-tasting crap that I can get out of a bottle anywhere. Eww. I'm sure you feel the same way.

It's a fairly time consuming recipe, especially if you're like me and prefer to make each sauce one-by-one. I think it's totally worth it though. It's not mentioned in the recipe, but if I were you I'd definitely go to the extra effort of deep frying some mung bean threads. It really adds a LOT in the way of texture. Also, I nearly doubled the amount of chicken used in the recipe. The sauce recipes make a lot of sauce. I just turned the skillet up on high and poured all the stir-fry sauce in, letting it cook down and get all syrupy, coating the chicken all nice and thick-like. God these are so delicious...

Lettuce Wraps

* 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
* 1 teaspoon sesame oil
* 4 chicken breasts
* 4 scallions
* 1/4 cup minced water chestnuts
* 1/4 cup sliced almonds
* 1 - 2 heads bibb/boston/butter lettuce

Stir Fry Sauce
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon cornstarch
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/4 cup vinegar
* 1 tablespoon oil
* 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
* 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1 teaspoon chili oil
* 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce
* 1/4 cup water
* 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/3 cup vinegar
* 1/4 cup soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon minced ginger
* 1 teaspoon oil
* 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
* 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1 dash red pepper flakes

Peanut Dipping Sauce
* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 1/3 cup water
* 2 tablespoons vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
* 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
* 1/2 teaspoon oil
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Stir-Fry Sauce

1. Combine water and cornstarch and stir until cornstarch is dissolved.

2. Add this to the other stir fry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.

3. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer till thick.

Sesame-Ginger Dipping Sauce

4. Combine water and cornstarch into a slurry.

5. Combine the slurry with the other dipping sauce ingredients in small pan over medium heat.

6. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

7. Combine ingredients in a pan over medium low heat.

8. Heat while whisking until sauce becomes smooth.

9. Remove from heat when done.

Chicken Filling

10. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

11. Cook chicken breasts until done, turning every couple of minutes Remove to a cutting board and slice it into strips with a sharp knife.

12. Keep the pan hot.

13. Put chicken back in the same pan over medium/high heat, and add water chestnuts.

14. Heat for 1 minute.

15. Add 5 Tbsp of stir fry sauce to the chicken and heat for 2 minutes, stirring often.

16. The sauce should be bubbly.

17. Add the sliced green onions and stir.

18. The chicken is done.

19. Spoon on to lettuce.

20. Serve with the dipping sauces on the side.

Comfort Food

I had a serious hankering for some old fashioned comfort food today, so I thought some collard greens would fit the ticket quite nicely. And bo-oy were they yummy! Growing up I thought greens were gross, as most kids do I'm sure. Then I'd eat them if they were saturated in butter and sour cream...them's some good eats. But, them's also some seriously fattening eats too. So, when the husband requested them a few months ago along with some stewed tomatoes and cornbread, apparently a favored comfort food while visiting the sandbox for 15 months, I decided to tone down the fats a bit.

Now, usually I use the turkey-ham like in the recipe - it's full flavored and super low-fat...well, for meat at least - and it works very well in the recipe. Today I was feeling particularly gluttonous used some nice thick cut bacon.

I think I'm going to go eat the leftovers now...

* 2 lbs collard greens
* 1/2 cup yellow onions, chopped
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 cup jennie-o turkey ham, diced
* 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 tablespoon butter
* 1-2 cup water
* 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
* cracked black pepper

1. In a 3 quart saucepan over medium high heat heat the olive oil just until the scent of the oil starts to bloom.
2. Add the butter and allow to melt in the oil.
3. Add the turkey ham and saute for about 3 minutes or until you start to get those little brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the onion and stir with the ham, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
5. Saute for about 2 minutes.
6. Add half of the collard greens and allow to cook down some, about 1 minute or so.
7. Add the last of the collard greens and stir until the greens, onions and bacon are combined.
8. Cook over medium high heat for about 2 minutes.
9. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir again.
10. Allow to come to a boil over medium heat.
11. Reduce temperature to low and simmer for 30 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain a constant simmer but not let it boil.