New Site Coming Soon

UPDATE: My new site is now active (www.cabcooks.com) and you can get to it by clicking here.

I’m in the process of giving CAB Cooks a face lift and a new URL. I’ve been using my (limited) free time getting the new site all spiffy for launch. It was fun, even a bit painful at times, reading the old posts and looking through all the old pictures. Kind of embarrassing to see that my picture-taking skills and my plating skills haven’t really gotten any better in the past 3 years. At least I’m taking more pictures now, ha!

So with fingers crossed, I’ll be ready to flip the switch in the near future (like really soon). The new site won’t have anything fancy but I’m working on a few ideas. At the very least, I’ll have a lot more control over content and layout. You won’t have to do anything except maybe update your bookmarks, feeds and/or links. This site will automatically forward visitors to the new site so it’s okay at least for a while if anyone forgets.

As a pre-celebratory stroll down memory lane, here is a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures of past posts (aka, pictures that didn’t totally suck!).

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Salmon Pie

With all the pork, oxtail and beef posts lately, one would think that’s all we ate. But we really have been trying to eat more fish lately, like this Easy Salmon Pie recipe from Sunny Anderson. Not only is this dish easy, it has spinach as part of the pie, which “beefs” up the health factor in my book. And I should also mention that this heats up great as a leftover in the toaster oven!

I reduced the servings to 2 but even then, we had a tough time finishing a whole pie each. They don’t seem that big but they are surprisingly filling. I also tweaked the amount of lemon juice a bit since I don’t like my fish overly lemony.  On this night, I served it with a simple green leaf and pickled beet salad with homemade goat cheese dressing (goat cheese whisked with milk, salt and pepper). Boy, that tender flaky puff pastry was so good with the salmon. The mushrooms and spinach filling was really good, extra garlicky! I was surprised how nicely the sour cream and lemon juice worked to bring it all together.

Adapted from Sunny Anderson’s recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 (6-7 oz) center cut salmon fillets, skin removed
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, chopped, ~1/4 cup 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, separated 
  • 1 cup chopped brown mushrooms, stems discarded (or other mushrooms)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 cups washed, dried, and loosely packed fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Warm 1 tablespoons oil in 2 separate skillets over medium-high heat. Add half of the onion and half the garlic to each pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and thyme into 1 pan and the spinach, lemon zest and lemon juice in the other pan. Stir the spinach until it wilts and set aside. Saute the mushrooms until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the sour cream. Set aside.

If the salmon fillet is not the same thickness in length, trim the thinner ends of the fillet so to get even thickness. I bought skinless salmon fillets that were pretty even in thickness.

Unroll a pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Pass a rolling pin lightly over 2 or 3 times to seal the seams and lengthen slightly. The length and width of the pastry sheet should be about 1 inch wider and longer than the salmon fillet. This will allow the edges to be folded over to seal the pie. For my fillets, I ended up cutting the pastry sheet in half.  Lightly prick the 4 strips with a fork.

Put 1 heaping spoonful of mushroom mixture on 1 half of each pastry, top with salmon, then layer with a heaping spoonful of spinach mixture. The first time I made it, I accidentally put the salmon down first and both the mushroom and spinach on top. Didn’t make a difference in texture of the puff pastry or the flavor of the pie.

Wet the edges of the pastry with water and fold over the other half, pressing lightly and folding to seal the edges. I used the tines of a fork to gently press the seams together. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling. Cut 2 vents on the top of each pastry packet and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake until the pastry is golden and fish is just opaque in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. The recipe didn’t call for an egg wash and the color was pretty good. But if you want to have that deep golden color, you can use egg wash.

Transfer the pies from the oven to serving dishes and garnish with chopped parsley.

Here’s a cross section of a pie. The salmon was moist and flaky and it tastes best when I can get the perfect bite: a little of the mushroom and spinach with salmon and crust. Yum!

 Hope San Diegans are keeping dry and warm out there. Have a great hump day!

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Filed under Recipes, Seafood

Ching Du Spare Ribs

Of all the different styles of ribs I ate growing up, Ching Du Spare Ribs was my favorite. My mom would always order it for me when we went out to eat, assuming it was on the menu. But my 1st Aunt still made the best version and oddly enough, Mom never made this at home.

I’ve made other Chinese-style ribs (here, and here), which we’ve enjoyed very much but this version of Ching Du Spare Ribs has become our favorite. The slightly sticky sauce has a hint of sweetness and the Worcestershire sauce adds a great savory flavor when combined with the ketchup. Yes, you read that right. This recipe calls for ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. And it works. If you don’t have Worcestershire sauce, you can always substitute with soy sauce and distilled vinegar (noted below).

If you’re tempted to eat this all in one sitting,  probably won’t be a bad idea unless you’re completely stuffed. The ribs do not reheat well at all. For some reason, the flavor of the sauce is completely lost and the rib meat is rather bland. But served hot right from the wok is smack-finger-linkin’-good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb baby back ribs
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Oil for frying

For rib marinade:

  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

For sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or substitute with 2 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp distilled vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2  Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp water
  • dash of sesame oil

Directions:

Cut each rib in half (or have your butcher do this for you). Combine ingredients for the rib marinade and add the ribs, mixing to coat. Add cornstarch and mix thoroughly.

Heat wok on medium heat. Add oil. Deep fry the ribs until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Fry ribs in batches so as not to overcrowd the wok. Remove and drain on paper towels. Continue until all ribs are done.

Reheat oil, if necessary and deep-fry the ribs again for 1 minute. Remove and drain.

In a clean wok or large pan, add sauce ingredients and bring to boil. Add deep-fried ribs and stir fry on high heat until liquid is almost evaporated. This should only take a few minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

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Filed under Chinese, Pork, Recipes

Chinese Style Braised Oxtail Soup, uh Stew

The weather finally turned Autumn-ish but I’ve already started on cold weather dishes. I was rummaging around in the freezer for some inspiration and noticed I had a package of oxtails I completely forgot about. How could this happen? I love oxtail so needless to say it was a happy discovery. Kind of like when you find money in your pocket that you forgot you had.

I was in the mood for braised oxtail stew so I went digging for my mom’s recipe. It’s a Chinese braised oxtail stew and very similar to Kirk’s braised oxtail recipe. The only bummer about this recipe is that it is made the day before you eat it since it needs to rest overnight in the fridge. But if desperate, and I was seriously thinking about skipping the overnight rest, you could just eat it the same day. But with many braised dishes, waiting to the next day always seems to taste so much better. In the process of preparing the oxtail, for some reason the liquid turned out way too salty for me. I think it’s because I’m so used to using reduced-salt soy sauce that the saltiness of regular soy sauce become overpowering now. Kind of like drinking diet soda for years and regular soda being too sweet.

Anyway, so instead of continuing with my Mom’s recipe for braised oxtail, which would have made the dish even more salty after reducing down the liquid, I changed plans in the middle and decided to make soup instead. For the oxtail stew, reduce the amount of broth by 2 cups from the following recipe. I’ve included the carrots and potatoes for the stew part but you can certainly include this as part of the soup. The cellophane (mung bean) noodles are for the soup, which I think is great in this dish.

Makes 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 5 pounds oxtails, cut into pieces, fat trimmed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons Canola oil
  • 3 dried red chili peppers, cut into 1/2-inch lengths (more or less to taste)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 scallions, white part cut into 1” lengths, green parts sliced diagonally reserved for garnish
  • 2/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock (use only 2 cups if making stew)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (Mom used yellow rock sugar but I didn’t have any)
  • 2 star anise
  • 6 slices of 1” thick fresh ginger
  • 4 pieces of dried orange peel
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, rehydrated if dried (optional)
  • 2 large carrots, diced (optional, for next day)
  • 2 small potato, peeled and diced (optional, for next day)
  • 1-2 oz cellophane noodles per person, depending on how much noodles each person likes (for next day)
  • Baby bok choy and/or bean sprouts or other greens (optional, for next day)

Directions:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Brown oxtails on all sides, working in batches if needed and removing pieces when browned. Add more oil as needed.

When all the oxtail have browned, pour off extra fat from the pot and reheat pot over high heat. Add dried chili and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic, ginger and white parts of scallion and cook for another minute until fragrant, Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add soy sauce, stock, sugar, star anise and orange peels. If you don’t have dried orange peel, you could use fresh orange peel as a substitute. I remember my Mom doing this many times. Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat to low and return oxtails to pot. Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours, depending on how tender you like your oxtail. Like Kirk, I like mine to still have some texture to it and I like gnawing the meat and cartilage off the bones. Stir occasionally, making sure to turn over the oxtails to get even cooking. Once oxtails are at the desired tenderness (for me, it was around 3.5 hours), remove from heat and let cool.

Once completely cooled, cover pot and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, soak cellophane noodles in warm water.

Remove pot from refrigerator. Skim any fat on surface of sauce and discard. There was a decent amount in mine even though I had trimmed the oxtails before browning. Warm sauce on medium-low heat until it becomes liquid again. Remove the oxtails. Strain the liquid to remove all the bits. Return the liquid to the pot and turn the heat to medium. Add shiitake mushrooms, carrots and potato if using. I only used mushrooms this time. Return the oxtails to pot. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If making stew, turn heat to high and cook for another 10-15 minutes to thicken the sauce.

For soup, drain softened cellophane noodles, add to pot and cook for another 5 minutes or so. If adding bok choy and bean sprouts or other greens, add them with the noodles and cook until desired tenderness.

Here’s a better shot of the oxtail, yum yum yum. This was so good I’ve made it another 2 times since. Kind of nice for the recent drop in temperature.

Before wrapping up, I want to apologize to email subscribers and twitter followers who were inundated with several repeats of a post this past week. I was playing around with wordpress’ dashboard and managed to tweak something that caused a few hiccups. Good thing I had backed some things up. Oops. So my sincere apologies and hope you’ll forgive me for the extra unintentional intrusion.

Hope everyone is having a good week. Rain predicted taper off by tonight and the rest of the week is suppose to dry out.

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Filed under Asian Noodles/Rice, Beef, Chinese, Recipes

Upcoming Review

The generous folks at CSN Stores contacted me again recently with another offer and I have chosen to do a product review this go-around. Some of you are familiar with CSN Stores but for those who aren’t, CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be a stylish handbag, a chic bar stool or wonderful cookware for the upcoming holidays. With all the cookware products that CSN Stores provide, it was tough to choose just one thing. The item that I’m considering using the $65 gift certificate towards is the Circulon Elite 14″ Stir Fry Pan.

Although I already have a 14″ carbon steel wok, I’ve been wanting a large nonstick wok. You may say, “But CAB, a well seasoned carbon steel wok can be nonstick.” Well, yes, sort of. My CS wok is only a couple of years old and although it’s well seasoned, it’s not true nonstick. I think the biggest benefit of a nonstick wok is the ability to use less oil. Besides, I think there’s a place for both kind of woks in a kitchen, just like there is for stainless steel and nonstick pans. I’m interested to know how many people have both types of woks in their kitchens. Of course if you have other suggestions on another product I should review instead of the wok, let’s hear that too. But do it quickly please.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend so far. It’s beginning to feel a bit more Fall-ish in San Diego, which is nice since Halloween is just around the corner.

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Slow Cooker Korean-Style Short Rib Noodle Soup

OMG it’s hot today!! According to various websites, it’s anywhere from 101-109 degrees right now in Poway. Heck, it’s at least 81 degrees in Coronado. And Autumn has officially started. It wasn’t that much cooler this past week. I wasn’t in the mood to do a lot of cooking on the stove or in the oven. And I certainly didn’t want to be outside in the heat grilling. So what’s a hungry CAB to do? We gotz ta eat. So I decided to make dinner using the slow cooker. Truth be told, I don’t care for slow cookers all that much. We used to have a really old Crock Pot that used to belong to my MIL. It was so old that the crock wasn’t removable and had the tell-tale color scheme from the early 80’s. I think we used that thing 3 times before finally donating it. One time, the beef was so dry you could choke yourself trying to swallow it. The second time the liquid boiled over, all over the counter. The third time I think was chicken that wasn’t completely cooked. So the Mister was skeptical when I bought another slow cooker. I have one of those baby crocks that are good for dips but not for a meal. Besides, slow cookers have come a long way. Mine is about 4.5 quarts and has the bare minimum controls: Off, Warm, Low, High. In my case, it works out just fine.

Using the slow cooker on a hot day seems like a good idea except that everything cooked in a slow cooker is piping hot. This might be a problem for those who can’ enjoy a hot meal on a hot day. For me, I don’t mind at all as long as I didn’t sweat cooking it. The Mister prefers a slightly cooler weather to truly enjoy noodle soup. I went with what was in the fridge to dictate what I made. Thankfully I had some short ribs that is just perfect for slow cooking. After looking through recipes, I chose a Korean influenced recipe for short ribs on Food Network. I had everything on hand, even rice noodles.

I followed the recipe with some minor adjustments to taste. I didn’t add the garnishes although I wish I had some bean sprouts. It turned out pretty good. The meat was so tender and the broth was a little sweeter than the galbi soup I’ve had but overall really good flavor. It reminded me a bit of Chinese niu rou mian (beef noodle soup). The soup went really well with the flat wide rice noodles. I’m sure it would go well with other Asian style noodles too. Things I would adjust next time: 1) reduce sugar amount, 2) add more kochuchang, maybe another tablespoon, 3) add more meat, and 4) add bean sprouts.

The recipes calls for English-cut short ribs which is what I typically have on hand. I sliced the meat a bit differently than what the recipe called for. I sliced the meat into 1/4″ thick slices completely off the bone,  leaving some meat and tendons on the ribs. Of course feel free to cut the meat or use whatever kind of short ribs that tickle your fancy.

Slow Cooker Korean-Style Short Rib Noodle Soup
(Adapted from Food Network)

Servings: Feeds 2 hungry adults
Equipment: 4 quarts or larger slow cooker

Ingredients: 

  • 6 English-cut beef short ribs
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Korean red chili paste (kochuchang)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts separated)

Noodles and Garnishes:

  • 10 to 12 ounces medium-thick rice noodles
  • sliced scallion, green parts

Directions:

Trim away any large chunks of fat from the ribs. Make 2 cuts across the grain, through the meat down to the bone.

In the slow cooker crock, whisk together the broth, soy, sugar, ginger, chili paste, sesame oil, garlic, and scallion whites. Add the ribs. Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours. This can probably cook for 8-9 hours on low too.

About 30 minutes before serving, prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. I used boiled the rice noodles for about 5-6 minutes.

Skim any fat that may collect on top of the beef broth and discard.

Divide the noodles among 2 bowls and ladle the broth over top. Cut the meat from the ribs if desired. Divide the meat evenly among the bowls. Garnish as desired with remaining green parts of the scallion and more chili paste, if desired.

Here’s another shot of the noodle soup with some of the ribs and oh-so-tender tendons still on. You can see the rice noodles better in this shot too.

 Hopefully everyone had a good weekend. Stay cool and have a great week!

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Filed under Asian Noodles/Rice, Beef, Korean, Recipes, Slow Cooker

Jiaozi (Chinese Dumplings) – Revisit

Ever since my post of grandmother’s jiaozi recipe 3 years ago, I’ve been meaning to do a revisit post with pictures. It’s been even longer since I’ve made wrappers from scratch, uh like over 15 years! So what crazy bug bit me in the butt to cross off 2 to-do’s this weekend? I don’t know but it’s still a little itchy. I made jiaozi earlier in the week with some store bought wrappers but stupid me only bought 1 package, which only used up half of the filling mixture.

So on Saturday, rather than drive to 99 Ranch or somewhere to get another pack, I thought to myself, “Self, don’t just sit there with your thumb up your —. Why don’t you do something productive and use up that extra filling?” So I pulled out one of my favorite Chinese cookbooks, Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook (2nd ed. 1987), for her wrapper recipe. I couldn’t remember the amount of ingredients for my grandmother’s recipe: flour + salt + water + elbow grease. Just lots of that last ingredient. So I decided to use Mrs. Chiang’s recipe, halved.

Recipe will make about 50 wrappers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used unbleached all purpose), plus more for kneading and rolling
  • 2 pinches of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cups water

Directions:

In a medium bowl, add flour, salt and 1/2 cup of water. Mix everything together. The dough will clumpy and won’t be sticky. Continue to add about 1 tablespoon of water at a time, combining after each addition, until all the flour comes together. The dough should not be sticky. Turn dough out on a generously floured work surface. The recipe calls for 2 minutes of kneading until elastic but I remember my grandmother kneading longer than 2 minutes to get smooth and very elastic dough. After kneading for about 2 minutes, the dough was still very stiff and not very elastic. Then I remembered that my mom used to use her food processor to make her dough. Well, it probably would have been easier to go the “mom” route but too late now.

After 7-8 minutes of kneading, I thought the dough was elastic enough even though not as smooth as bread or pasta dough would be after kneading. I couldn’t remember what it should look like but I figured it was long enough (arms screaming with pain joy).

I divided the dough into 2 halves. Rolled one half into a long rope about 3/4 inches thick. Then I cut the rope into 1/2-inch sections. The book doesn’t talk about the next step so this is what grandmother taught me. Turn a section onto one of its cut side. Gently squeeze the section to make it round then smash it down with your palm. I should have taken pictures at this point but the camera was upstairs and my hands were all doughed up. Anyway, the point is to make little round disks to roll out.

Don’t worry about using too much flour on the work surface. It won’t hurt the dough. Use enough flour so the disks don’t stick to each other. Using a rolling pin, start to roll out each disk into a wrapper 3-inches in diameter. The best way to roll out the disk is to hold the top of the disk with one hand and roll half way up and down the bottom of the disk with the rolling pin with the other hand. Then rotate the disk about 1/4 turn and repeat. Keep doing this until the wrapper is about 3 inches in diameter. Reflour the work surface as needed to prevent sticking. The finished product should be soft, supple, elastic yet strong.

I rolled out about 6-7 wrappers and then fill them before rolling out more. I eye-ball the amount of filling but if I had to guess an amount, probably about a tablespoon of filling. The nice thing about homemade wrappers is that they are quite forgiving to overfilling due to the elasticity. Another good thing is that the wrapper doesn’t require water for it to stick to itself. Just squeeze the sides together. Put the filled jiaozi on heavily floured surface, in my case was a baking sheet. There is a downside to homemade wrappers over many store bought wrappers, other than the whole kneading and rolling thing. Homemade wrappers tend to get soggy faster and stickier once filled. So be liberal with the flour. Or rest the jiaozi on wax paper.

I think rolling wrappers is like riding a bike. After my fifth one, I was breezing through them and for a minute, I felt like I was back in time and I could hear my grandmother and mom in my head telling me how to make the perfect wrappers. Ahhhh, good times! Although I was never as fast as them at pleating the suckers. The funny thing was that even though my arm was getting a little tired towards the end, I found the process to be kind of nice, almost calming. Certainly a lot different experience than the last time I made it. Well, I was much younger and I’m a better cook now. Okay, at least more experienced.

It took about 2 hours from the start of making the dough to filling the last wrapper (total of 40 jiaozi),with a couple of small breaks in between tending to the dogs. Not too bad since I spent extra time to make pretty pleats rather than doing it quick and dirty. Oh yeah, the filling ingredients this time were: ground pork (fatty kind!), napa cabbage, scallions, egg, garlic, broccoli spigarello, ground white pepper, soy sauce, salt and sesame oil. So here’s what they looked like. 

Here’s a shot of the back of these little scrumptious bundles.

Okay, wait, at least the filling I know for sure is scrumptious but I don’t know how good the wrappers turned out. Why not? Because I froze these to be eaten at a later time, that’s why. Go ahead, complain. All preparation and no “h”. But it means I have to do a follow-up post when I boil these up. Come to think of it, maybe I should add another to-do item, like make a video on how to roll out a jiaozi wrapper?

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

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Filed under Chinese, Pork, Recipes