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.

An Autumnal Dinner Party (Revised)

To celebrate the end of a successful (yet insanely packed) fall wedding season, it is time to get back to the social scene and invite some friends over for a fun dinner party!

With cauliflower at the tail end of its season, I decided to begin a meal with one of my favorite fall soups – Cream of Cauliflower Soup (with Seared Scallop & Lemon Oil).  The freshness of the lemon infused oil brightens up the cream and definitely wakes up your taste buds for the evening. Even better, the soup can be made one day ahead and rewarmed before serving – great for cooks who tend to be stressed out before dinner parties (I’m guilty)!  Remember, for your scallops to brown nicely, pat them very dry before searing them.

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops

To temper the creaminess (and calories) of the soup, the main course will feature a homey chicken dish from Provence filled with the wonderful aroma of herbs de Provence, juicy tomatoes, kalamata olives, and hearty white onions. I have made this dish with a variety of cuts of chicken, I chose to go with 4 bone in chicken breast this evening for 4 adults.

Poulet Provencal

Bringing the meal to a sweet end, I featured my home made Earl Grey Tea ice cream. Delish!!

MENU

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallop & Lemon Oil

Poulet Provencal (Braised Chicken with Olives, Tomatoes, & Onions) served with Rosemary Potatoes

Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream
TABLESCAPE

How about an elegant arrangement of Pale Pink Peonies, Chilean Calla Lilies, White Tulips? Add a dash of whimsy (and a nod to the upcoming holiday) with some Hypercium Berries!

Floral Arrangement

RECIPES

CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH SEARED SCALLOPS

<Revised on 11/20/2012: Sorry Brian for almost burning down your house!>

INGREDIENTS

FOR SOUP / SCALLOPS

  • 3 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (2 tbsp for soup, 1-2 tbsp for searing scallops)
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 3/4 cups (1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces cauliflower (from 1 large head)
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 sea scallops, patted very dry

FOR GARNISH

  • 1 leek (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • Homemade Lemon Verbena infused Olive Oil (or your can purchase lemon infused grapeseed oil) 
  • Finely chopped fresh chives

PREPARATION

For Cauliflower Soup

  • Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat (if you want to see if the oil is heated enough, drop a tiny drop of water in there and see if it “dances”. If it does, the oil is ready). Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower, broth, and cream. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer gently until cauliflower is tender, about 18 minutes. Puree soup in small batches in blender until smooth. Return to same saucepan. Season soup with kosher salt and white pepper (go easy on the white pepper, it can easily overpower your soup).

For Scallops

  • After rinsing and patting the Scallops very dry, sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  • Heat remaining 1 – 2 tablespoon vegetable oil in medium skillet over high heat.
  • Sear until brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side (or minute or 2 more if needed to brown).

PLATING / GARNISH

  • Using a slotted spoon, place 1 or 2 leeks on it at a time and submerge in small saucepan of boiling salted water for about 1 minute to blanch.  Set Aside.
  • Ladle soup in a wide rimmed soup / pasta bowl. Place blanched leek in center of each bowl, then place 1 scallop on top of each leek.
  • Use a dropper, surround each scallop with 5 drops of lemon oil, and sprinkle with chives for garnish.

POULET PROVENCAL
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound tomatoes (4 medium), cut into wedges
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges, leaving root ends intact
  • 1/2 cup drained & pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced, plus 2 teaspoon minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 teaspoons herbes de Provence, divided
  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts

 

PREPARATION
  • Preheat regular oven to 425°F with rack in middle.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together tomatoes, onion, olives, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Stir together 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Rinse chicken and pat dry, then rub inside and out with seasoning mixture.
  • In a 13 x 9 baking dish, surround chicken with tossed vegetables
  • Roast about 1 hour in oven and until skin is golden brown. Make sure center of breast is cooked through!

PLATING

  • Let chicken stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • Spoon a layer of vegetables and pan juices onto shallow dish, place chicken breast on top, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve immediately.

EARL GREY TEA ICE CREAM

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 Earl Grey Tea Bags

PREPARATION

  • In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, salt.
  • Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.
  • Remove from heat, place tea bags in the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for an hour. Remove tea bags.
  • Make an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water in a large bowl and nest a smaller metal bowl (one that will hold at least 2 quarts, 2l) inside it. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
  • Re-warm tea infused milk then whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and GRADUALLY whisk in about half of the warm milk mixture, stirring constantly.
  • Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. PATIENCE IS KEY if you don’t want scrambled eggs!
  • Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl nested in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, then stir until cool, then chill over night.
  • Freeze according to ice cream maker manufacturer instructions

Here are the original recipes:

Poulet Provencal

Cauliflower Soup with Seared Scallops