Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ming Tsai: Hatosi (Shrimp Toast)

My mother decided that it was about time for her to host a happy hour at our house, especially since all of her friends have already done their turns. So I agreed to help her out as her personal "caterer" for the event. I needed to stay in the realm of very bland since my mother is convinced I am the only person on Earth that enjoys curry, squid, or anything that doesn't appear in a regular American grocery store. So I devised a menu based on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine with significant American modifications so that it wasn't too "weird." I'm still rolling my eyes over this one.

For Chinese food, I was warned not to make any strange dumpling creations (since I'm apparently also the only one on Earth that knows what dim sum is), so I decided to just do some shrimp toast and be done with it.  As you can probably tell, cooking for me is 90% debate and 10% actual work.  The recipe I pulled came from Ming Tsai and turns out the most luscious shrimp toast I think I've ever had.  These babies put take-out to shame.

Hatosi (Shrimp Toast)
From Ming Tsai

1½ pounds raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 large eggs
2 sticks butter, cut into small squares
1 tablespoon truffle oil
White pepper
1 cup water chestnuts (fresh or canned), chopped finely
½ cup green onions, chopped finely
1 loaf thinly sliced white bread (I used Mrs. Baird's), crusts removed
¼ cup sesame seeds (optional)

Process shrimp and eggs in a food processor until almost smooth. Add the butter and process until you can only see small bits in the paste. Add the truffle oil, salt, and white pepper, and process just enough to combine (a few seconds). Move to a small bowl, and fold in the green onions and water chestnuts. Store in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Place bread slices on a rack on a baking sheet. Dry the bread in a 200°F oven for approximately 15 minutes per side. Cut the bread slices into triangles or squares. Using a knife, spread shrimp paste over the top of each bread portion. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. You can fry the shrimp toast in a fryer (at 350°F) or in a frying pan with a thin layer of oil on the bottom over medium heat. Always add the shrimp toast with the shrimp paste facing down to start, no matter which method you choose. Flip after the top is finished cooking to allow the toast to crisp. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tyler Florence: Cracked Chocolate Earth (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

It's Valentine's Day Singles' Awareness Day.  A day when I wish I could just crawl under the covers and wait for midnight.  But my mother requested that I make a chocolate cake without too many carbs for dessert, so that plan was scraped.  Sometimes I wish I could pout in peace.

I had seen Tyler Florence make a flourless chocolate cake on his show, and it was a dismal flop, quite literally. Flourless chocolate cake is actually a kind of souffle, relying on the strength of the eggs to hold the whole thing up, so unless you're really steady of hand and just leave it to do its thing in the oven without constantly poking it, the whole thing falls and sags. As I watched his cake deflate on air, I couldn't help but wonder why they didn't do another take.  I mean, that's pretty embarrassing, right??

Tyler's recipe calls for unsweetened fresh whipped cream, but I thought it needed a little powdered sugar in the mix. Not too much; just enough to sweeten it slightly. I also served each slice with a couple of blackberries (raspberries would have been delicious, too), since the slight tang of the berries works well with the dark chocolate.

Cracked Chocolate Earth (Flourless Chocolate Cake)
From Tyler Florence

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 large eggs, separated
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Put the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water until melted.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color.  Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks to temper the eggs; then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold.

While the cake is cooking, make the whipped cream.  Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy.  Dust the cake with confectioner's sugar.  Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Almost from Scratch: Pork Chops with Pepper Cream

I took a cooking class several years ago with Andrew Schloss when this cookbook first came out.  It was about the same time that Sandra Lee started doing her semi-homemade shtick on Food Network, and everyone seemed to want their dinner to look gourmet, but not actually take any time or effort.  I could kinda see getting on that bandwagon, especially if you had a bunch of kids running through the house on a regular basis, but Sandra's stuff just seemed too...packaged.  And unappetizing.  On the other hand, Andrew got very little press that I can remember, but his stuff was...actually good.  Unfortunate for him, but for all those harried moms out there, it means you can actually throw together something halfway decent using things in jars.

Note: I had trouble finding exactly "red pepper pesto", but I found some sort of red pepper-eggplant thick sauce-y thing in a jar, and it was fabulous.  Just grab whatever looks good if the pesto eludes you.

Pork Chops with Pepper Cream
Adapted from Almost from Scratch by Andrew Schloss

4 boneless center-cut pork chops, ¾-inch thick
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic, jarred or fresh
Olive oil
1½ cups light cream
¼ cup red pepper pesto or spread
1 tablespoon chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Season the pork with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat with olive oil and brown the pork on both sides. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and tender.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the cream to the pan and simmer until slightly thickened.  Whisk in the red pepper pesto, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.  Return the pork chops to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and cook for a few minutes more.

Makes 4 servings