Friday, March 30, 2012

That's Some Monkey Business!

I had no idea that they use monkeys to pick coconuts!!! Wow!!! Anyway, concluding my Thai and Thai-inspired recipe week, my final recipe is for "Coconut Rice." This rich and creamy rice is just right to serve with spicy meats and curries, like my Thai-Style Chicken Kabobs! Don't forget to serve it with some classic Thai condiments, like Hom Jiew and Ahjaad! I even have the perfect dessert: Coconut Ice Cream!

Coconut Rice

Serves 6


1 1/2 cups Thai Jasmine Rice
1, 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 kaffir lime leaf, torn in half (fresh, frozen, or dried)
Toasted Coconut, for garnish (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)


In a strainer, rinse the rice well under cool water, until the water runs clear.

In a medium saucepan, add the coconut milk, stock or water, sugar, salt, and lime leaf, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove the lime leaf. Spoon into a nice bowl, garnish (if desired), and serve! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Don't Make Thai Without Them!

Continuing my Thai and Thai-inspired recipe week, I'm going to share two excellent condiments. The first is "Hom Jiew" (fried shallots), and the second is "Ahjaad" (pickled cucumber). I wouldn't serve anything Thai without them! Hom Jiew is a combination of shallots, ginger, spring onions, and garlic (or just a combination of one or two of these ingredients), then fried to crispy perfection in peanut oil. Perfect to sprinkle over my Thai-Style Chicken Kabobs! (Save the flavorful oil for another use.) Ahjaad is a mixture of cucumber, shallots, and red chili, pickled in a sweet mix of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Served on the side, it really adds a cooling element to spicy Thai dishes. I love it! Even better, they both can be made ahead!

Hom Jiew (Fried Shallots)


2/3 cup peanut oil
6 shallots, halved lengthwise and sliced along the grain
2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine strips
6 spring onions (scallions), trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1" pieces
3 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, and cut into thin strips


Heat the oil over medium, medium-high heat in a wok or small saute pan. When the oil looks shimmery, add the shallots, ginger, onions, and garlic. Fry until lightly browned and crisp, just a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Leave to cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Ahjaad (Pickled Cucumber)


6 ounces rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 ounce water
3 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1/4 cup red chili, sliced
1/2 cup shallot, sliced


In a small pot, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. When cool, add the cucumbers, chilies, and shallots. Let soak for at least 20 minutes before serving, but can be refrigerated over night.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Beautiful Thailand

It's no secret that I love Mexican food, but I also love the flavors of Thailand! Not only is it extremely healthy, but the blend of fresh herbs and spices are exotic and absolutely enchanting! This week I will share some simple Thai and Thai-inspired recipes, starting with my "Thai-Style Chicken Kabobs." So fire-up the grill and get grilling!

Thai-Style Chicken Kabobs

Serves 6


2 to 2 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2" chunks
3 large red or green bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2" pieces or 1 very large red onion, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
Cherry tomatoes (optional, but I already had some)
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed (optional, but I LOVE mushrooms)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, shredded
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (in Asian section at any grocery store)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Vegetable oil cooking spray (for grill)
6, 17" metal skewers (or whatever you have)


In a large glass or ceramic dish, place the chicken and vegetables. Mix the oil, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, basil, cilantro, chili garlic sauce, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Add to the chicken and vegetables, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 6 hours.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill to moderately hot. Lightly spray the grill rack with vegetable oil cooking spray. 

Thread the chicken and vegetables onto the skewers. Drizzle the marinade over the skewers. Grill, covered, 10-12 minutes, turning with tongs several times, until the chicken is cooked through. A little cilantro sprinkled over the top makes it even prettier! Yum!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cowboys, Germans, and a Short-Order Cook

Most people know that Texans are passionate about their barbecue, Tex-Mex, and chili; but, they also LOVE their "Chicken Fried Steak!" Don't believe me? Well, in 2011, Governor Perry put it into law, by declaring October 26 the official Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day, "to pay homage to that shared legacy" with "special deals and related activities." Not sure what a Chicken Fried Steak is? Chicken Fried Steak is when you take a sorry cut of beef, pound it, batter it, fry it, and serve it with cream gravy. Mashed potatoes and green beans are classic sides for this rib-sticking meal. The origins vary widely from the good ol' cowboy and his chuckwagon, a mistake by a short-order cook, or created by German settlers, who settled in the Texas Hill Country in the mid 1800s. Being a native Texan myself, I'll give it to the Germans! After all, it bares a striking similarity to their beloved schnitzel

Chicken Fried Steak

Serves 6


For the steak
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
6 cube steaks (about 5 ounces each), pounded to 1/3-inch thickness
Canola oil, for frying

For the cream gravy
1 medium onion, minced
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper


For the steak
Measure the flour, 5 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and the cayenne into a large, shallow dish or bowl. In a second large, shallow dish or bowl, beat the egg, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk (the mixture will bubble and foam).

Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Drop the steaks into the seasoned flour and coat well. Shake off excess flour from each steak, then, using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off any excess, and place them on the wire rack.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, set a second wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet, and place on the oven rack. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat 1-inch oil in a large (11" diameter) Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Place as many steaks as fits in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. Transfer the steaks to the paper-lined plate to drain, then transfer to the wire rack in the oven. Bring the oil back to 350 degrees and repeat the cooking and draining process (use fresh paper towels) with the remaining steaks.

For the cream gravy
Carefully pour the hot oil through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. Return the browned bits from the strainer along with 2 tablespoons of the frying oil back to the Dutch oven. Turn the heat to medium, add the onion and thyme, and cook until the onion has softened and begins to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir until well combined, about 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened (the gravy should have a loose consistency-it will thicken as it cools slightly), about 5 minutes.

To serve
Transfer the chicken fried steaks to individual plates. Spoon a generous amount of the gravy over each steak. Serve immediately, passing any remaining gravy in a bowl.

This recipe for "Chicken Fried Steak" is from The New Best Recipe, by America's Test Kitchen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Virtues of a Good Meat Mallet

Keeping in mind my "Schnitzel Week," I thought I would share this video showing various uses of a meat mallet, particularly, this "antique" one. 

ANTIQUE??? I bought this one, "Made in Italy," brand new! I'm not that I? He's older than I am! Well, ego aside, a good meat mallet is very handy. It is essential to turning tough cuts of meat into something special, like schnitzel!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why do you keep busting my chops?

My husband LOVES pork! He loves bacon, (me, too), he loves pork shoulder, (me, too), he loves pork roasts, (me, too), but boneless center-cut loin chops, (not so much). However, when these lean as cardboard chops are on sale, he ALWAYS brings them home. Although I applaud his frugality, I can't help but sigh. This is perhaps one of the most difficult cuts of any meat to cook successfully, thanks to "advancements" in breeding to produce a super-lean meat. I've tried brining, stuffing, braising, and searing, but no matter what, I'm always left disappointed. 

There is only one way to keep my sanity: "schnitzel" to the rescue! By pounding the meat, (tenderizing it), breading it, (sealing in moisture), and a quick fry on the stove, (preventing overcooking), you come out with a delicious and versatile entree. Try my "Pork Schnitzel Sandwich with Hot Chili Mayo." It's easy and quite tasty, perfect for a casual meal with family and friends. So fine, keep busting my chops! I can handle it!

Pork Schnitzel Sandwich with Hot Chili Mayo

Makes 8, (great leftover for lunch the next day!)


For the hot chili mayo
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili garlic sauce or hot chili sauce (e.g., sriracha)

For the schnitzel
4 boneless, pork center-cut loin chops
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko bread crumbs, or more if needed
Canola oil, for frying

For the sandwich
8 Kaiser sandwich buns, toasted
1 head Iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 ripe, juicy tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, sliced into rings (red onion would look nice, but I didn't have any)
Pickles, optional


For the hot chili mayo
Stir all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover and chill.

For the schnitzel
Place one pork chop on a cutting board. Cut away any fat from around the edges. With a sharp knife, place one hand on top of the chop and carefully cut the chop in half, horizontally.

Set one of the cut chops aside. Cover the remaining chop with a piece of plastic wrap, and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin, until a uniform thickness of about 1/4-1/2" thickness. 

Repeat with the remaining chops.

Prepare the Panko breading by setting up a breading station. Place flour on a plate or shallow bowl, beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, and then the Panko on another plate or shallow bowl.

Season the chops with salt and pepper. Now dredge each chop first in the flour, then the egg, and then the Panko, shaking off any excess after each step. Place the breaded chops on a cookie sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 10-20 minutes. (This ensures the breading will not fall off when cooking.)

In a large skillet, (I like non-stick), heat about 1/4 inch or so of the oil to about 350 degrees over medium to medium-high heat until the oil looks shimmery. I actually don't check the temperature. Instead, I drop a small piece of bread (usually taken from the end of a loaf) to see if it starts to bubble around the bread. Cook the chops about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, tray, or cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining chops. You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

To plate
Generously spread some hot chili mayo over the top and bottom of the bun. Top with a pork schnitzel, a handful of the lettuce, a nice slice of tomato, a few rings of onion, and a couple pickles (optional). Top with the top bun and dig-in!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

If it can Swim in Water, It can Swim in Butter, Right into my Mouth!

Continuing my theme of "less is more" (see Pear and Blue Cheese Salad), here is my recipe for "Trout with Butter, Almonds, and Frizzled Parsley." This unbelievably quick and easy recipe is so delicious! I like to serve it with adorable sauteed baby carrots and equally adorable steamed harticot verts. One bite and you'll be hooked!

Trout with Butter, Almonds, and Frizzled Parsley

Serves 2, but can be doubled easily


2, skin-on, trout fillets
1/2 cup flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (clarified butter is best, but if not, I won't tell)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 lemon wedges, for garnish


In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Season the first fillet with salt and pepper. Dust lightly with the flour, shaking off any excess. Lay the fillet, skin-side up, in the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Then flip the fillet over, skin-side down, and finish cooking another minute or two, or until cooked through. Remove to a serving plate. Repeat the process for the second fillet.

When the trout is done, add the almonds to the butter in the pan and let them brown slightly. Next, while standing back, add the chopped parsley to the almonds and butter. (The water in the parsley will cause it to jump everywhere, while it "frizzles!") Pour over each fillet, add a lemon wedge to be squeezed over at the table, and serve immediately! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Flambe, or not to Flambe?

The origins of the legendary dessert, "Crepes Suzette," is disputed. Historically, it is attributed to Henri Charpentier, who in 1895 was a 14-year old assistant waiter at Maitre at Monte Carlo's Cafe de Paris. The story goes that while preparing dessert for the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII of England), Henri accidentally lit the cordials on fire. The Prince, along with his daughter, Princess Suzanne instantly fell in love with the dish, thus the name. This is rejected by Larouse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine, and Cookery, because Henri would have been too young to be serving the Prince, rather it would have been the head waiter. Another story attributes it to Monsieur Joseph, of Restaurant Marivaux, who in 1897 provided flaming crepes on stage (for theatrical effect) for French actress Suzanne Reichenberg, known as "Suzette." However, in 1896, the recipe appeared in print, as "Pancakes, Casino Style," (but without the flambe) in The Cookbook by "Oscar" of the Waldorf, by Oscar Tschirky. 

While the origins of the dessert will always be disputed, so is the necessity to flambe it. Some insist it is essential to achieve the correct flavor. Some insist it is not. However, when given the opportunity to have a dramatic presentation, I choose flambe! There are a plethora of recipes for Crepes Suzette, but this is the simplest recipe I could find, by Nigella Lawson, for novice Crepes Suzette makers. It's easy and fun! You can serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with the sauce, if you wish.

 Crepes Suzette

8-12 crepes, 4-6 servings


2 oranges, juiced
1 orange, zested
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
8-12 crepes (Nigella recommends store-bought, but I like homemade. Click here for my favorite recipe. That is what I used here.)
1/3 cup orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec)


Pour the orange juice into a saucepan, and add the zest, butter, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, cooking for another 10-15 minutes, until the sauce becomes syrupy.

Fold the crepes into quarters and then arrange in a large pan, or any oven-proof dish, slightly overlapping in a circular pattern.

Pour over the warm syrup and then gently heat the crepes through for about 3 minutes over low heat.

Warm the orange liqueur of your choice in the emptied but still syrupy saucepan. When the crepes are hot in the orange sauce, pour over the liqueur and quickly light it with a long match or long lighter to flambe them. (If you don't light it right away, it might dilute and not flame.) Serve immediately, spooning crepes and sauce onto each plate.

*Note: I find that people either really love this or they really don't. If you don't like orange desserts, don't make this. If you do, you'll love it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Oh Crepe! What's A Galette?

I think everyone knows that a crepe is a thin pancake made from white wheat flour and eaten simply with sugar (Les Crepes Sucre), filled with sweet ingredients for a dessert or snack, or filled with savory ingredients for an appetizer or main course. Then what's a galette? A galette is a crepe made with buckwheat flour, and originated in Brittany, located in the northwest region of France. Traditionally, all crepes were made with buckwheat flour, which was introduced to the region from the Middle East in the 12th century. It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that white wheat flour became widely available and affordable. Usually, savory crepes are made with buckwheat, and sweet crepes are made with white wheat. Today, "crepes" is the generic term for both.

This recipe for "Galettes Poireau-Fromage," is adapted from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. These savory crepes, filled with bacon, leeks, and Gruyere cheese, are delightful! Serve them with a nice green salad and a glass (or two) of wine, for an elegant meal. If you don't have or can't find buckwheat flour, just make them with 1 cup all-purpose flour, as opposed to the 1 1/3 cups all-purpose and buckwheat flour blend. I won't tell!

Galettes Poireau-Fromage (Buckwheat Crepes with Leeks and Cheese)

Makes 7 generous crepes, serves 4-6


For the galettes (this is not Joanne Harris' recipe, but I like it better)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more to cook the crepes

For the filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces slab bacon, cubed
5 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced (click here for more about using leeks)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere or Tomme de Savoie cheese
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


For the crepes
In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, milk, water, flours, salt, and the melted butter for 5 seconds, or until extremely smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Gently stir the batter if it has separated. Heat a NON-STICK crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Coat the pan lightly with butter and pour in about 1/4 cup of the batter. Lift the pan from the heat, tilting and rotating, to allow the batter to spread evenly. Return pan to the heat and allow to cook until dry on top and browned on the edges. Loosen the edges with a plastic or rubber spatula and flip the crepe over using your fingers or spatula, then cook the other side for about 15 seconds, or until lightly browned. Remove the crepe  to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the crepes as they are cooked.

For the filling
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the bacon, leeks, and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The aim is to cook the leeks until they are soft and any excess liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere and creme fraiche.

Place a generous spoonful of the mixture on a quarter of each crepe.

Fold in half, and in half again to make little triangular cones. (You can "stuff" them generously.)

Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter. Arrange the filled crepes on the baking sheet and brush with the remaining butter. Bake until the crepes are heated through, about 15 minutes. (They will get pleasantly crisp on top, and warm and delicious on the inside!) Serve at once!

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Crazy Crepe Man"

Apparently, Julio (aka., "Crazy Crepe Man"), makes the best crepes and is somewhat of a tourist attraction in Alcudia, Mallorca. He really loves making crepes, and so do I! They are cheap, fast, and very versatile. This is a fabulous and simple recipe for "Les Crepes Sucre," taught to me by an old friend who lived in France. However, I highly recommend buying a NON-STICK crepe pan! (I have a 9-inch crepe pan, and it is great for omelettes as well!) It may take a little practice at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be making crepes all the time!

Les Crepes Sucre (Simple Sugar Crepes)

Makes about 15 crepes


2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more to cook the crepes


In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, milk, water, flour, salt, and the melted butter for 5 seconds, or until extremely smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Gently stir the batter if it has separated. Heat a NON-STICK crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Coat the pan lightly with butter and pour in about 1/4 cup of the batter. Lift the pan from the heat, tilting and rotating, to allow the batter to spread evenly.

Return pan to the heat and allow to cook until dry on top and lightly browned on the edges.

Loosen the edges with a plastic or rubber spatula and flip the crepe over using your fingers or spatula, then cook the other side for about 15 seconds, or until lightly browned.

Remove the crepe to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the crepes as they are cooked. To make "Les Crepes Sucre," place a warm crepe on a plate, sprinkle generously with sugar.

Fold the crepe in half. (The heat from the crepe will melt the sugar.) Then fold in half again, making a triangle. Pick it up and devour this delightful treat!