French Vietnamese Fusion Meal

Pepin Chicken
This is one of our favorite go-to recipes for a quick weeknight dinner. It is largely based on the highly acclaimed French chef Jacque Pepin’s Crusty chicken recipe, but I made some minor modifications to tailor the doneness and seasoning of the chicken to our own liking. We also served it with a traditional Vietnamese crispy rice (com chay), hence the “fusion” nature of this meal. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of the crispy rice to share at the moment, but we will be sure to post one when we stroll across this recipe again in the future. The recipes below are quick, straightforward, and simple. Enjoy!

Modified Jacque Pepin Crusty Chicken Recipe with Mushrooms and Onions

Ingredients:
– 4 Chicken Thighs, skin on
– 3/4 teaspoon of salt
– 3/4 teaspoon of pepper
– 1 cup of diced onions
– 2 cups of washed, diced white mushrooms
– 1.5 tablespoons of chopped garlic
– 1/4 cup dry white wine

Directions:
1) Make slashes on chicken thighs on both sides (about 1 inch apart) to help the chicken cook evenly.
2) Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
3) Place chicken thighs on a COLD pan with skin side down, then turn heat on pan to high.
4) When chicken starts to sizzle, turn heat down to medium, and cover pan with lid. Let cook for 10 minutes.
5) Flip chicken after 10 minutes (note the crispy, golden brown chicken skin!) and cook on other side for 6-8 minutes with the lid off (otherwise the skin will get soggy). Plate chicken.
4) Pour off and save the chicken fat, leaving 2 tbsp in the pan;  add garlic, mushroom, and onions to saute. Season with salt and pepper. Add white wine and cook until the onions are clear.

Vietnamese Crispy Rice

Ingredients:
– 2 tablespoons of chicken fat (from step above) or just olive oil
– 2 cups of cold, leftover white rice
– 2 cloves of chopped garlic
– 1 chopped scallion
– 1/2 teapoon salt

Directions:
1) Add chicken fat or oil, garlic, and scallions to a pan and saute over medium heat until fragrant.
2) Add cold white rice to pan, saute with garlic and onion, stir to break up rice (if it is all clumped together).
3) Pat rice down against pan and place a heavy bowl on top, turn heat up to med-high and let rice sit for 3-5 minutes, a crusty layer of golden rice should form along the bottom of the pan.
4) Flip rice over and serve!

Lobster Night

So Nancy and I saw lobster tails on sale, and were feeling fancy. I don’t have a lot of backstory to this post — basically we saw something on sale at the grocery store and decided to run with it. This is a broiled lobster recipe and it takes like 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 lobster tails

2 tbsp butter

2 pinches of Emeril’s Essence (2 1/2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme)

Directions:

Grab a pair of scissors and cutdown the center of the lobster tails as so:

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Season the lobster tail meat with Emeril’s Essence. Shout “BAM!” as you’re doing so. Put 1 tablespoon of butter on top of each tail.

Place the lobster tails on an oven tray. Set the oven to broil (depending on how powerful your oven is, you might not have to pre-heat). Broil for 5 minutes, and voila!

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Serve with whatever vegetable and starch you like. I recommend something potato-y and something green; like scalloped potatoes and baked asparagus:

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(As you can see, I was studying hard for my Pediatrics shelf exam)

Or roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts:

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Enjoy!

How to save a pan

So in the pursuit of the perfect steak, I bought a cast iron skillet with grill marks from amazon.

My mouth was watering at the thought of searing the filet, then throwing the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking. It just sounds like the right thing to do.

Nancy and I were really excited to use the pan as soon as we got it. We didn’t plan on when the pan would arrive, and I happened to be on salmon night, so we grilled up some salmon steaks with some success.

The salmon steaks had a maple soy glaze which stuck like crazy to the grill. So, in my brilliance of not ever having used a cast iron skillet or read anything about it, I scrubbed it with a detergent soaked sponge, and filled the pan with water overnight.

In the morning, the pan had turned an orange rusty color and left a rust stain in the sink. Little did I know that you’re not supposed to clean an iron skillet by soaking it. I was so embarrassed at having ruined the pan the first day I got it. But come on — those things should come with instructions on the label!

Anyway, I asked around about how to salvage my pan, and found an interesting method that involved a potato. Don’t ask me how, I just works.

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Put a tablespoon of salt in the pan. Cut a potato in half. Scrub the pan with the potato until the rust is off. Rinse and repeat until the rust is gone. Then, dry the pan with a paper towel. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and spread it around evenly with a paper towel. Next, stick the skillet on the stove on low heat for 20 minutes or so until it is dry. Wipe off the pan and voila, good as new!

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Notes: We have a skillet with raided bars for that grill. The potato half is not really ideal to fit in between the bars. As such, cut the potato into quarters or eighth wedges so that there is a tapered edge that can reach those rusty parts between the grill.

Vietnamese Night Recipe: Bun rieu cua

ImageServing Size: 6 bowls

Ingredients:
– 2 bags of vermicelli noodles
– 4 cans of chicken broth
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 lb. ground pork
– 1 cup of lump crab meat
– 1 can of Bun rieu minced crab meat seasoning (found at your local Asian grocery store)
– 1 bag of Fish tofu/ fish cake
– 2 lbs. of tomatoes
– Sugar
– Fish sauce
– Mint/Basil for garnish
– Optional: Bean sprouts

Directions:
1) Cook vermicelli noodles for 3-4 minutes, turn off heat, put lid on the pot to let noodles steep in hot water for 2 minutes, drain, run under cold running water, and drain again. (note: get the kind of vermicelli that says “bun” on the package, Chinese rice vermicelli does not withstand the boiling process as well as the Vietnamese “bun” vermicelli and breaks down more easily)
2) Bring 4 cans of chicken broth to a boil in large pot.
3) In a large bowl, mix ground pork, bun rieu seasoning mix, lump crab, and eggs. Add this mixture to boiling chicken broth.
4) Cut tomatoes to roughly the size of a slice of cut orange and add to broth.
5) Let broth simmer until tomato breaks down and season to taste with fish sauce (if not salty enough) and about 1 tspn. of sugar to tone down the acid from the tomatoes.
6) Add bag of fish tofu to broth to cook, bring entire broth back to boil before serving.
7) Add vermicelli and (optional) washed and dried bean sprouts to bowl and ladle on Bun rieu broth and fish tofu. Garnish with mint or basil.

Vietnamese Night Recipe: Shrimp Roll Two-ways

Vietnamese - shrimp rolls

Spring Roll:
Serving size: 10 rolls
Ingredients
– 1 lb Shrimp – cooked, shelled, de-veined
– 10 sheets rice paper (I like using the Rose brand)
– Handful of Basil
– Handful of Mint
– 1 Bunch of Chives
– Lettuce
– 1/2 bag of Vermicelli noodles
– 2 Tbsp. of Hoisin Sauce
– Roasted peanuts or peanut butter
– Corn starch

Directions
1) Wash and drain basil, mint, chives, lettuce.
2) Bring water to rolling boil and cook vermicelli for 3-5 minutes (depending on brand), turn off heat and put lid on pot to let vermicelli noodles sit in hot water for a minute, then drain. Run vermicelli under cold water to stop cooking process and prevent it from sticking, drain again.
3) Run rice paper under HOT tap water and place on large plate.
4) Layer 3 shrimps, vermicelli, lettuce, chives, mint, and basil on softened rice paper and roll. Repeat.
5) For sauce: Dissolve 1 Tbsp. of corn starch in 1/2 cup of water, then add 1 tspn. of sugar and 2 Tbsp. of Hoisin Sauce. Cook mixture in sauce pan until sauce thickens and begins to simmer. Add 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter and mix until sauce is homogeneous. Alternatively, you can ground roasted peanuts and serve it with the hoisin dipping sauce upon plating.

Shrimp and green onion eggroll
Serving Size: 20 rolls
Ingredients:
– 1/2 lb. raw Shrimp (About 20 Shrimps)
– Green onion cut into 2 inch stalks
– Eggroll wrappers (NOT rice paper)
– Corn starch
– Optional: Aroy Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Directions:
1) Shell and de-vein raw shrimp while leaving tail on for aesthetics. Make small cuts along inside (shorter) edge of shrimp so that your egg roll doesn’t curl in the frying process like the ones in our photo did.
2) Marinade shrimp in pinch of salt and 1/2 tspn. of sugar.
3) Make eggroll “glue” by mixing 1 Tbsp. of corn starch with 1/2 cup water.
4) Peel off eggroll wrapper and top with 1 shrimp (make sure tail sticks out of wrapper) and 1 stalk of cut green onion, roll tightly, and glue the end of the eggroll with corn starch slurry.
5) Heat frying oil over medium heat until hot. Add shrimp rolls to fry until golden brown on the outside, about 4 minutes.
6) Serve with Sweet Thai Chili dipping sauce

Vietnamese Night with Friends

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Our beautiful friends graciously joined us for an evening of Vietnamese fare on Sunday night. This is hopefully the first of many underground restaurant style dinner parties we will be hosting. We were inspired to try out this “underground restaurant” style dining event after reading an article about the Hearth Underground on Serious Eats. With underground restaurants, the chef plans and publicizes the menu for the event, the guests reserve a spot for said event, pay for their meal, and the chef will disclose the mysterious location at which the event will take place to the selected guests shortly before the day of the event. Since Patrick and I have zero culinary training experience and no experience in the food and hospitality industry, we are keeping the parties small and among our friends for now, so that even if our culinary ventures fail, we won’t get sued for serving instant noodles. Also, due to the lack of public cooking spaces, the dinners are being hosted at my humble abode and we are charging our friends mainly for the cost of the ingredients to prepare the dinner, because we are dirt poor med students.

The underground restaurant concept strikes us as a fun and feasible idea because it is a good outlet for trying new recipes, exhibiting your tried-and-true recipes, spending quality time with friends, and getting feedback on the foodstuffs you make. Our pilot study was definitely a very fun, frantic, and informative learning experience.

We started with a Vietnamese night, the menu consisted of the following:

Amuse bouche: Pork belly on congee (Caramelized pork belly, congee: Jasmine rice, roast pork bones, thousand year old egg)

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All food photos courtesy of our fantastic friend and dinner guest Jenny Z.

Appetizer: Shrimp roll two-ways (Spring roll: vermicelli, basil, mint, shrimp, rice paper, served with a hoisin peanut sauce; Egg roll: shrimp, green onion, eggroll wrapper, served with a sweet Thai chili sauce)Image

Entree: Bun rieu cua (Tomato based broth, lump crab, pork, egg, fish tofu)

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Dessert: Che 3 mau (Coconut milk, mung bean, red bean, Pandan jelly)

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We also had made a batch of Jeni’s salty caramel ice cream and shared that with our guests at the very end.

Quick reflection: preparing a 3 course meal for 6 people is harder than it looks. Patrick and I were all over my (tiny) kitchen trying to finish frying the shrimp rolls, figuring out how to plate the rolls, running out of spoons and dipping sauce dishes, hence the random waterfall of hoisin sauce on the side of the spring roll. It was exhausting, but rewarding to break bread with our friends and watch them enjoy what we’ve prepared for them.

ImageA beautiful shot of the lychee sangria that accompanied the meal while Patrick and I scurry to finish the appetizer in my tiny kitchen in the background.

Despite the initial chaos and mountains of dishes that Patrick had to do (thanks, Patrick!) we were really pleased with the result of the pilot dinner experiment and had a great time. We look forward to our next dinner. Recipes for the items on our Vietnamese night menu will be up soon, so stay tuned!

Sea Urchin Carbonara

Just after new years, Nancy and I took a trip to Napa, California to go wine tasting and visit a friend. The previous year, I had a chance to visit Morimoto’s restaurant in Waikiki — probably one of the top 5 meals of my life. Guess how excited I was to learn that Morimoto had another restaurant in Napa?!

Here’s the store front:

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The lunch menu offered box sets which came with vegetable tempura with some cream sauce, miso soup or salad, fresh tuna sushi and nigiri, and an entree. I chose the sea urchin carbonara:

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And of course, here’s my lovely date Nance:

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Now, the sea urchin carbonara was a very rich dish, one that we wanted to recreate.

The first thing was finding uni (sea urchin gonads — appetizing, I know). It’s pretty hard to find actually. You’re probably better off on the coasts, or in a place with a big Japanese population. After trying the great seafood market Monahan’s in Kerrytown of Ann Arbor, I started calling around local Japanese restaurants, none of which carried or sold uni. It’s sold frozen online — but costs a bundle for overnight shipping.

In Clawson, MI about an hour away from AA, there’s a Japanese grocery store and restaurant called Noble Fish. Best sushi in the area. Bought 0.11 lbs of uni from them, at $99.99/lb, so it was 11 bucks. Pretty expensive, but high quality stuff. Good uni is solid (not slimy/gooey) and brightly colored golden or orange (not yellow/brown).

Anyway, here’s our version of the dish:

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And without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 package udon noodles
  2. 1 sheet toasted seaweed
  3. 2 Quail egg
  4. 1 egg
  5. 4 strips hickory smoked thickly sliced bacon
  6. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  7. 0.1 lb uni (about 3 large pieces)

Directions:

Cut the bacon strips in half, and arrange them in one sheet in a pan; cook the slices on low heat. This takes a long time, but is the key to making crisp bacon. Flip when the bottom is a nice golden brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and keep the slices on a sheet of brown paper bag so they don’t get soggy.

Fry the 2 quail eggs in the bacon fat sunny side up. Be careful not to overcook the yolk, so it remains runny when broken.

While you are preparing the bacon, boil udon noodles until al-dente (probably 10 minutes). Strain, but save 1/4 cup of the starchy liquid. Put the noodles aside for now. Add the 1/2 cup of cream to the starchy liquid, cook over medium-low heat, and add cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Add 1 of the uni pieces into the sauce and break it up into small pieces.

When the sauce becomes homogeneous and is reduced to the consistency you like, remove from heat source and toss in udon noodles. Crack and whisk 1 egg and add to the sauce and noodles while it’s hot so that the egg cooks without getting scrambled.

For plating, grab the noodles with a pair of tongs or with a fork and twirl it until you’ve collected the portion size that you are planning to eat. Place it in a bowl and top with crisp bacon, fried quail egg, 1 piece of raw sea urchin, and toasted seaweed cut into thin strips.

And there you have it!

Uni Carbonara