Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Curry Chicken

Today I did a little demonstration for some friends and made Green Curry Chicken for lunch. I know for me, there is a world of difference between watching someone cook and trying to figure it out from a written recipe. I'm assuming that's the reason that the Food Network is wildly popular - most people prefer visual learning. But even with those shows, the measurements and cook times are vague or glossed over.

Luckily for us, vague is the best way to cook Thai do it by taste, trying to find the right balance between the 4 S's -- salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Once you have the ingredients and understand their strengths, it is easy to do. For blog's sake, I've written out a recipe with precise ingredients for a guideline, but it's up to you what your palate prefers. Some people like spicier and others like sweeter. Make up your own veggie combination beans, sweet potatoes, and summer squash are all fine additions. I've put my favorite brands in there too, in case you were curious.

Thank you to my enthusiastic tasters was a fun afternoon!

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

1 lb. chicken breast tender, cut into bite-sized chunks
2-3 tbs. green curry paste (Mae Ploy brand)
1 can coconut milk (Mae Ploy or Chaokoh brand)
3 kaffir lime leaves, split and thinly sliced
¼ to ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
1 tsp. fish sauce or to taste (Golden Boy or Three Crabs brand)
1 tbs. brown sugar or to taste
1 cup eggplant, cut in bite sized pieces
1 sliced red bell pepper
½ sliced onion
3 sliced carrots
½ lime
½ cup Thai basil leaves

1. Saute the chicken until just done, set aside.*
2. Do not shake the coconut milk before using, so that the cream stays on top. Scoop out ½ cup coconut cream into a pan over medium high heat until bubbly and the oil surfaces (3 mins). Add curry paste and fry it in the cream until fragrant (3 mins)
3. Add the remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Add broth until you get a consistency and richness that you like. (If you like it super-rich, skip the broth.) Bring to a boil.
4. Add the veggies and simmer uncovered until they are tender (7-10 mins.)
5. Add the chicken back in and bring back to a simmer. Add the basil. Squeeze the lime juice in. Stir and remove from the heat. Serve over rice.

*You could add the raw chicken in at the end of step 2, but after having a few batches curdle on me, I’ve decided it’s better just to sauté the chicken before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden my DVR is recording Barefoot Contessa every day. Probably more like 5 episodes a day. I've always loved the simple and delicious recipes of Ina Garten, but tall guy does not appreciate her New England sensibilities and her trips to the "market" for fresh lobster, caviar and truffle oil. So I have to watch them in secret or deal with the snickering in the background.

Anyways, this sandwich is reproduced from one of those episodes. Most of my prep was done in the morning so I could enjoy my day and then put it together at the last minute. I caramelized the onion when it was still cool in the house and then grilled a flank steak right before serving (yes, this girl can BBQ with the big boys).

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Saute until brown:
1 large sliced onion
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve

Lightly score flank steak and marinate in: (4 hours+)
2 T. soy
2 T worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp pepper
1 T. brown sugar

Cook on a hot grill until medium rare. Let rest 10 minutes then thinly slice against the grain.

1/4 cup mayo
2 T. brown mustard

4 toasted ciabatta rolls
spread 1 T. sauce on each
add 4 oz. sliced flank steak
then 1/4 of the onions
2 tomato slices (optional)
top with spinach or arugula

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Caribbean Steak Wrap

Stuck at home today, so I have a little time to share my dinner with you. I wish I could have actually shared it because it was quite tasty. My goal over the next couple of weeks is to try out some of the recipes I've been clipping over the years.

I am now trying to stick to a food budget and so I am meal planning on Sunday for weeknight meals in order to shop more efficiently. This is something I have not done in the past and so far it has been really nice to have all the ingredients I need because I have actually planned it that way. Yay for being organized!

Approximate cost for main ingredients (the rest I had on hand):

1 lb. thin sliced steak - $5
1 can black beans - .60
1 mango - $1
1 avocado - $1
lime - .20
cilantro - .50
4 large flour tortillas - $1
$9.30 for 4 servings

This was one of my clippings from the Contra Costa Times called "Steak Wraps with Rum Black Beans and Mango-Avocado Relish" and was tagged as a 30 minute dish. I shortened the title because although descriptive, it's just too much. I also don't consider mango, avocado, cilantro and lime juice to be a "relish." Whatever. On to the recipe - it seems long, but just read over it before you start and it comes together pretty quick.

Caribbean Steak Wraps

3 T. olive oil
3 t. jerk seasoning (purchased, or make it as follows)
1 t. salt plus more to taste
1 lb. thin steak (flank or carne asada cut)
2 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
1/4 cup water
1 ripe mango
1 ripe avocado
1 T. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 T. rum
4 large flour tortillas

Preheat the broiler.
Combine 1 T. of the oil with 2 t. of the jerk seasoning and 1 t. salt in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into both sides of the meat and place the meat on a baking sheet. Broil until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side for flank steak (less for carne asada cut). Let it rest until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T. oil in skillet. Add the garlic and remaining teaspoon of jerk seasoning and saute for a few minutes. Add the beans and and water and simmer gently for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the avocado and mango and place in serving bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and add chopped cilantro. Toss with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the rum to the beans, and increase the heat to cook off the alcohol for a couple minutes. Season the beans with salt and pepper.
Slice the steak into thin strips. Serve fajita style with each component laid out, or roll everything into a burrito for your lucky guests. I also added a dollop of sour cream because I thought it was lacking in sauciness.

Easy Jerk Seasoning
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. ground ginger

Tall guy really enjoyed it and was impressed that it did not taste like your average Mexican burrito. He thought it was like one of those gourmet burritos that cost $8 a pop. He was also happy to have an extra to take to work tomorrow. I just love it when a plan comes together....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Little Einsteins Rocket Cake

Happy 3rd Birthday, Wesley! Yesterday we had a nice little art party where the kids got to create some masterpieces and get messy. We had a fun time, even though I was hoping for a non-rainy day so we could be outside.

The Little Einsteins Rocket was a cake I had envisioned making for a few months because it is his favorite show....and the art theme of the party seemed to go along with it. One who has not worked with cakes or fondant might have tried a less ambitious first project, like a simple round cake. But noooooo....not me. I don't work up to these things, I just dive in and go for it.

You can find the fondant recipe on my previous post. After using almost a whole bottle of red food coloring, I still had a big pink mass of fondant. I ran out to Michaels to find the Wiltons Icing Color, which I added a bit at a time to get the right red. I did not want to knead it out on my table in order to avoid staining it, so here was my solution. Lots of powdered sugar in a baking dish.

For the cake, I used 2 boxed cake mixes. The first one I made was a rectangle for the base. The second batch was split between a round cake pan for the base of the rocket, and a small oven safe mixing bowl, which was used for the top. I realized that it would need a little shaping, so I just used a serrated knife and started carving away. It wasn't pretty, but I think the shape was pretty close. A layer of frosting held each level together.

For the boosters, I used two Twinkies, with one end cut off, separately covered in fondant. The rudders sticking up were pieces of graham crackers covered in fondant and then stuck into the Twinkies. The antenna was a covered cut down straw and a fondant ball stuck into it. The windows were stuck on with royal icing and the lights were cut from banana Laffy Taffy.

I ended up cutting the base cake into a free form because it was falling apart at the edges. I added marshmallows as clouds, but mostly to hide the crumbs and frosting left on the cookie sheet. Sneaky, right?

I had fun making this cake when the kids weren't up in my business and trying to steal pieces of pure sugar fondant to fuel their already crazy behavior or thinking it was fun to "skate" in the powdered sugar that landed on the floor. They also wanted me change the channel or get them a snack while my hands were covered in Crisco or food coloring. It was an adventure and maybe by July's birthday I will have forgotten the challenge of it all....and only remember how excited he was about that rocket cake. Totally worth it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant

I am always impressed by those elegant fondant know, the ones that look all modern and sleek. And after watching Duff and his cakerators use fondant on everything, I really wanted to give it a try. I heard that the pre-made fondant tastes pretty bad, so I found this easy recipe all over the's simple and cheap! It cost about $3 for the whole batch, which should be enough to cover a whole cake and decorate it too. It was a little messy, but not that complicated. The fondant is held in place by frosting underneath.

This is my very first try with fondant. The Easter cupcakes were for the Annual Mom's Club Easter Egg Hunt Party we attended today. Good times!

1 lb. bag mini marshmallow
2 T. water
2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
Crisco to prevent sticking

Dump all marshmallows and water in microwave safe bowl. Put in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir, back in microwave for 30 seconds more, stir again, and continue doing this until melted. It usually takes about 2 minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.

Now grease your hands generously (palms, backs, and in between fingers), then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle. Start kneading like you would bread dough. You will immediately see why you have greased your hands. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more. Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant starts sticking. Add water or sugar as needed to get the right consistency. It may take up to 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.

Cover the ball with a thin layer of Crisco and wrap in plastic wrap. Put in the fridge until you are ready to use. It should last at least a week in the fridge. When you are ready to use, microwave for 10-15 seconds and then add your food coloring, if desired. Knead and roll out on a greased surface (again).

I used a canned frosting to stick mine on, since the tops of my cupcakes were flat. To wrap an entire cake, I would use buttercream underneath the wrap and then if you are decorating the sides, use a Royal Icing that will dry hard, so your pretty little flowers will not slide off (thanks for the tip, Jill!). Most of all, have fun! If you like to play with play-doh with your kids, this will be right up your alley.