Chinese New Year Dinner – Turnip Cake!

Happy New Lunar Year of the Snake!  This is a special new year me because my Mom and brother will be visiting me for the first time in NYC for our traditional new year’s dinner!

This dinner party menu will be split into several posts as some of the recipes may be quite complex.  That said, practice makes perfect so don’t be discouraged!!  I will post as many photos of ingredients as I can to help you shop at your local Asian supermarket.

Chinese New Year Decorations

Chinese New Year Decorations

Here’s the Menu:

Appetizer

– Turnip Cake

Main Course

– Whole Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallion

– Chinese Wine Marinated Steamed Chicken

– Pork and Shrimp Stuffed Eggplant and Peppers

Dessert

– Sweet Dumplings with Peanut or Black Sesame Filling

– Purple Glutinous Rice and Barley Sweet Soup

First up on the recipe roster is home-made turnip cake. This savory “cake” is a family favorite and is a staple item for new year celebrations.  While this item can be found in most dim sum restaurants, I always prefer to make my own as I find store bought cake ingredients to be “watered down”.  As a note, I would reduce the dried ingredients by half if you’re not used to them as they can be quiet pungent (an acquired taste).  The batter is quite thick so this is going to be a great work out for your biceps!

Turnip Cake

Turnip Cake

Yield: 1 turnip cake (8 inch square Aluminum container), can serve as appetizer for 6 – 8 people

 Ingredients:

– 1 turnip: About 2 pounds

– Chinese Sausage: 1 – 2, diced

– Dried Chinese Mushrooms: 7 small ones, diced (Reconstitute dried Chinese mushrooms in water the night before, or hot water for at least an hour the day of cooking)

– Dried scallops: 3 – 4 (2/3 in batter, Reserve 1/3 as topping) (Reconstitute dried scallops in water the night before, or hot water for at least an hour the day of cooking); Tear into small pieces after reconstituted

– Dried shrimp: 1/3 cups, Roughly Chopped (2/3 in batter, Reserve 1/3 as topping) – Rinse dried shrimp before chopping up

– Scallions: 2 stalks with white parts, Chopped (2/3 in batter, Reserve 1/3 as topping)

– Rice flour: 1.5 cups

– Ginger: 3 – 4 Slices

– Chinese Rock Sugar: 2 – 3 cube sugar sized lumps

– White Pepper & Oyster Sauce: A Dash

– Aluminum container: 8 inch Square

Oyster Sauce & Rock Sugar

Oyster Sauce & Rock Sugar

Dried Sausage, Mushrooms, Shrimp, & Rice Flour

Dried Sausage, Mushrooms, Shrimp, & Rice Flour

 Directions:

– With a little heated olive oil in a pan, lightly fry up the diced Chinese sausage, reconstituted dried Mushrooms, dried shrimp and dried scallop (remember to reserve 1/3 for topping the batter!) for 2 – 3 minutes over medium heat.  Place in bowl and set aside.

– In a large bowl, grate the turnip. If you want better texture, grate 70%, the other 30% can be diced. Strain the turnip and save the juice in a separate bowl – my 2 pound turnip yielded just shy of 1 cup of juice.

– Mix rice flour with the turnip juice and make sure there are no lumps. The texture of the mix should be toothpaste like, if it’s too dry (or if your turnip didn’t yield a lot of juice), add water as needed (I added 1/8 cup of water for this batter)

– Again, in a slightly oiled pan, fry up 3-4 slices of ginger. Add turnip and cook until translucent, about 7 – 10 minutes on medium heat. Add 2 – 3 lumps of small Chinese rock sugar, dash of white pepper & oyster sauce, cook with turnip until sugar is melted. Discard ginger.

– Add the flour mixture into the cooked turnip and mix well.  Consistency would be like a thick batter, so add 1 – 2 cups of water if the batter is too dry. Then stir in Chinese sausage, mushroom, scallop, shrimp, and scallion mixture.

– Pour the batter into the aluminum container, top with the reserved topping, and steam for 1 hour. Store in fridge overnight.

To Serve

Option 1: Slice up the cake and pan fry with oyster sauce to dip.

Option 2: Steam and serve individual portions in bowls with some soy sauce and freshly chopped scallions

Option 3: Make the cakes into these super cute hearts for Valentine’s day with a twist!!!

Next up! Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions & Wine Marinated Chicken, stay tuned and Gung Xi Fa Cai!

Holiday Dinner Thyme Part III of III: Dessert and Menu Design

Following Part I’s Pre-Appetizers and Part II’s Appetizer & Main Course recipes, I would like to share with you one of my favorite Ice Cream recipes as well as the “how-to” instructions on creating this super-festive Owliday dinner menu!

Owliday Dinner menu & tablescape

There’s definitely an art to Ice-cream making, but it sounds more intimidating than it may seem – more on technique later.   That said, experienced or not, this David Lebovitz Pumpkin Pie ice cream recipe sure isn’t one of those quick & easy treats, but I think the results are well worth the process. I followed the recipe without adding any “optional ingredients” and  topped off the ice cream with some crumbled Ginger Snaps prior to serving.  Remember, don’t skimp on the double “straining”, that key step makes the ice cream custard nice and smooth!

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Cookie Crumble

Reading Buzzfeed is one of my favorite past times, not only do they have hilarious animal posts (such as this one), I love getting tips and inspiration from them!  This post on DIY Holiday Card and a trip to Paper Source was all I needed to get excited!

Tools Needed (for Menu and 3D Trees):

– 1″ Paper Punch“Leaf” Edge Punch

– 3-D Foam Squares; Elmers Glue

– Color Markers; Silver / Gold Gel Pens

– White / Green Card Stock

– Paper Printables for Little 3-D Xmas Trees and Ornaments

– Awesome Owl Stamp & Stamp Ink Pad

– Small Red and White Felt Balls

DSC_0936

Menu Instructions (oh so festive!):

  1. With Silver / Gold gel pens, draw from top of menu “ornament  strings” of various lengths.
  2. Using Edge Paper Punch on green card stock, punch an edge long enough to cover the width of the menu. Glue on “Menu” card, covering part of the ornament strings.
  3. Print out  Modern Ornament free printable on white card stock, then use the 1″ Round Paper Punch and punch out the ornaments.
  4. Attach 1 small 3-D foam square on back of each of the paper ornament and press firmly onto the menu card at the end of each “ornament string”
  5. Glue on the red / white felt balls on top of the Green leafy edge.
  6. Stamp the Owl on the bottom right corner.
  7. Using a black marker, write out the menu items and draw out the “String Lights”
Owliday Menu!

Owliday Menu!

3-D Tree Instructions:

  1. Using white card stock, print out this free Xmas Tree printable.
  2. Cut out the triangles and fold each triangle in half.
  3. With Elmers glue, glue sides to each other – TADA!

Floral Arrangement:

To top off the tablescape, I assembled a very simple and fragrant bouquet of White Chrysanthemums, Parrot Tulips, and Hypercium Berries.

Until our next dinner party – season’s tweetings to you and yours!

Holiday Dinner Thyme – Part II of III: Appetizer and Main

I hope Part I’s Buttered Rum & Cranberry Popcorn and Kale Chips recipes are making you hungry! Let’s keep the holiday spirits high and move onto appetizer and main course recipes: Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze & Provencal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes.

The dynamic tastes & textures of the stuffed figs truly makes it a wonderful starter.  Also as a hostess favorite, these figs can be pre-assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving!

Stuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

I’ve tried making this original Todd English recipe with smoked ham and prosciutto; based on the structural integrity and taste of the end product (as well as presentability) I have to recommend using Prosciutto – other modifications below.

Ingredients:

Serves 8

– 16 fresh Black Mission figs, cut off stem, exposing small section flesh, quarter through the stem end, leave root end intact

– 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (see Note)

– 16 paper-thin slices Prosciutto

– 2 tablespoon olive oil

– 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 teaspoon black pepper

– 1  1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (to make glaze)

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F degrees.
  2. Stuff each fig with 1/2 tablespoon of Gorgonzola. (I’ve found the figs not really being able to hold more than ½ tbsp and that amount is perfect for each serving)
  3. Wrap each fig with a slice of Proscuitto and top with the oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper mixture.
  4. Place the figs in a greased medium-size baking pan. Bake until the figs are gooey on the inside and charred on the outside, soft but still firm, about 15 to 18 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling until it reduces to about ¼ of the original volume, about 20 minutes. The vinegar will start to glisten, thicken, and taste much sweeter than the original liquid. (YUM!!!!)
  6. As soon as the figs come out of the oven, pour the hot glaze over them. Serve immediately.

NOTE: You can substitute Roquefort, Danish blue, or ricotta cheese for the Gorgonzola.

Stuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

This Epicurious Provencal Rack of Lamb recipe has accompanied me through many Holidays and has never failed to impress – while the lamb itself is delicious, the potatoes and tomatoes are equally key. I double the amount of the garlic, thyme, rosemary rub so I have enough to cover as much surface area as I can to give the tomatoes and meat a nice crispy top. For the potatoes, I use a mandoline slicer to get a thin even cut.

Provencal Rack of Lamb

I prefer to have the potatoes go in the oven the same time as the tomatoes to get it cooked slightly before I place the lamb on top and finish the dish off.  Recipe and modifications reflected below:

Ingredients:

Serves 8

– 16 garlic cloves

– 16 teaspoons chopped thyme

– 8 teaspoon chopped rosemary

– 20 tablespoons olive oil, divided

– 8 medium tomatoes, halved  OR 32 – 40 cocktail tomatoes (while smaller, the flavor of cocktail tomatoes is well worth the extra cutting effort when regular tomatoes aren’t in season)

– 4 pounds frenched rack of lamb (4 chops per person, 1 rack usually has about 8 chops)

– 8 medium shallots, thinly sliced (1 1/3 cup)

– 8 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

– 8 tablespoons water

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  2. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 4 teaspoon salt and 4 teaspoon pepper. Stir together with chopped Thyme, Rosemary, and 16 tablespoons oil.
  3. Pat lamb dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown lamb on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer lamb to a cutting board.
  4. Put tomatoes cut sides up in an oiled baking dish and top with a third of garlic mixture.
  5. Rub half of remaining garlic mixture on fat side of lamb racks.
  6. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium heat and cook shallots and potatoes, stirring occasionally, until edges are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in water and remaining garlic mixture and remove from heat.
  7. In an oiled baking dish, arrange sliced potatoes / shallot mix (single layer as best you can). Roast for about 15 minutes then arrange lamb over potatoes and roast in oven, medium 35 – 40 minutes (medium rare 25 – 30 minutes).
  8. Place oiled baking dish with tomatoes in oven. Roast until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  9. Let stand, loosely covered, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes Roasted Rack of Lamb

Holiday Dinner Thyme Part I of III: Finger Foods

It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year with Christmas trees & bright holiday lights lining up the sidewalks of NYC. But most of all, it’s a really great excuse to feast with friends and family!

Owliday Tablescape

Part I of this III part post will feature Pre-App Appetizers of the Dinner Menu, and what spells the Holidays better than Popcorn? Okay, maybe Buttered Rum Cranberry Popcorn and Kale Chips does.  Parts II and III will feature the rest of the recipes as well as the instructions on creating the menu, so please stay tuned this week!

Menu:

Finger Foods:

Buttered Rum & Cranberry Popcorn

Baked Crispy Kale Chips

Appetizer:

Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

Main:

Provencal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes

Dessert:

Home-Made Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream with Ginger Snap Crumbles

I had to try this Buttered Rum & Cranberry Popcorn Recipe when I saw it on one of my Serious Eats browsings. This was my first time making stove-top popcorn, the nerves were there but it turned out to be SO EASY.  I doubled the recipe for 8 and followed it to the tee.  Not only was it a delicious, perfect combination of sweet & savory with the airy crunch of popcorn, it was also a crowd pleaser.

Buttered Rum & Cranberry Popcorn

Kale, at least to me, was an intimidating vegetable to work with at first. But once you make friends with it, it gives you so many wonderful dishes.  Kale chips are one of the tastiest and easiest ways to work with this ingredient.

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

Ingredients – Finger Food for about 4 people:

– 1 Bunch of Kale – You can use Curly Kale or Black / Tuscan Kale 

– Liberal Drizzle of Olive Oil (to Coat Kale), About 2 Tablespoons

– Sprinkle of Sea Salt (to Taste)

Recipe:

  1. After rinsing the kale, cut out center rib of kale, then chop up into bite sizes.
  2. Use a salad spinner to remove as much moisture from the kale pieces as you can. If excess water remain, use paper towel to pat dry. This is a very IMPORTANT step! Wet kale = soggy chips!
  3. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt liberally over kale. Use your fingers (or tongs), rub (or toss) the leaves to make sure the kale gets coated well with oil. Don’t over oil your kale – see Branching Owl update below.
  4. Spread oiled kale evenly on a large microwavable dish – try your best not to “stack” the kale, that way each piece of kale gets its chance to dehydrate properly
  5. Place in oven for about 2 – 3 minutes
  6. Remove from dish once the chips are done.

TIP: You can store chips in an airtight container for several days, however, DON’T store or serve chips before they completely cool down, they can get soggy quickly!

UPDATE:

Overly oiled Kale = Soggy chips. Beware!

I previously posted an “oven based” kale chip recipe, it works and you can make it in larger batches than the microwave method. BUT (as much as I don’t like using microwaves) the magical waves dehydrate the kale much better than the oven.

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two – Yes We Can!

The silver lining for us unfortunate New York City transplants with no family nearby, I suppose, is that we get to create our own quiet traditions!  With some modifications and a twist to the traditional meal, I hoped to recreate the warmth and festive feeling of this holiday.

Menu:

– Butternut Squash & White Bean Puree with Bacon Sage Croutons

– String Beans “a la Marc”

– Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken Breasts

– Roasted Figs with Home Made Honey Ice Cream

It’s hard to imagine that the star of a meal would be a side. But try out Big Girl Small Kitchen’s Butternut Squash & White Bean Puree with Bacon Sage Croutons and I think you’ll agree with me. A dish with such a nice sweet / savory combination and great crispiness to break up the puree, what’s not to like!

Butternut Squash White Bean Puree with Bacon Sage Crouton

 

As another side, I wanted to make a lighter version of another Thanksgiving favorite, the String Bean Casserole.  I loved this String Beans a la Marc recipe from BGSK – the nice garlicy notes went very well with the bird of the evening.

And now, the Thanksgiving bird! I decided to pardon a turkey and make a zesty & refreshing Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken Breasts (at this point, I might as well rename my post, a Very BGSK Thanksgiving…!). 

String Bean A La Marc

To end the evening just right, we gave thanks to the wonderful fig & honey. I made some beautiful roasted figs which accompanied the nice vanilla bean in Maison du Miel’s Honey Ice Cream so well (especially with a hint of richness added by butter used for roasting the figs).

Roasted Figs with Honey Ice Cream

Menu / Floral Design:

Using rich burnt orange palette, I created a menu with paper punched fall leaves & a petite fall arrangement with Mini Calla Lillies, Roses, Waxberries (too cute, like mini lychees!).

Rose Calla Lily Floral Arrangement