Don’t sweat it, it’s cucumber soup!

After that long, brutal winter here on the East coast, summer is almost, almost, upon us, friends. As much as I hate the cold, I love winter foods. There’s simply nothing as soothing as stewed meats, and soups. Heck, I’d have a big bowl of beef noodle soup in the middle of August in DC, with or without air conditioning. But. There’s really no need to sweat it. (Sorry,)

Several years ago I discovered cold cucumber soups. There’s several varieties with more or less the same ingredients of cucumber, herbs and plain Greek yogurt. It’s one of the few things I make that takes almost no time at all, and tastes like I’ve spent hours preparing. The flavors are refreshing yet complex, especially if you add a few pepper flakes.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

Ingredients:

4 cups of diced cucumbers, seed removed

1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt. (For the keto-conscious I recommend Fage’s 5%)

⅓ cup fresh dill

⅓ cup parsley or cilantro

A pinch of thyme

3-4 cloves of garlic

A few red pepper flakes (optional)

⅓ cup olive oil

Enough truffle oil to drizzle on later

Salt and pepper

Equipment:

1 large mixing bowl

1 immersion blender

Instructions:

Take all your ingredients, except truffle oil, salt and pepper. Blend in large mixing bowl until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a tiny drizzle of truffle oil on top. Use whatever leftover herbs as a garnish.

That’s it. Promise.

Enjoy!

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Individual rabbit pies, oh my!

Don’t ever trust me to hold a box of croissants for you.  I will eat it all and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.  It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love.  I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general.  There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.

It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love.  I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general.  There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.

Imagine my joy when I discovered a French recipe that combines flaky puff pastry with meat. I’ve never had a rabbit with mushroom and leek pie before I discovered the recipe in a friend’s cookbook: Lapin de Compagnie en aumônière.   And boy did the recipe sound amazing!

I’ve made it twice now and, I’ve modified the recipe a bit.  I won’t kid you, it’s labor intensive.  There’s no reason why you can’t substitute chicken for the rabbit if game-meat isn’t your thing.  Chicken might even be more tender as rabbit meat can be a bit tough, but with this method, it turned out amazingly tender. To thicken the sauce the original recipe called for flour.  But when my husband, Dave was on the ketogenic diet, I stopped using flour to thicken my sauces.  Just allow a bit more time to cook the liquid down.  When Dave had his pie, he gave me his pastry puff top.  I didn’t complain.

Equipment:

1 soup pot or Cast Iron Dutch Oven

1 large saute pan
1 small sauce pan
1 large strainer
2 or 3 Pyrex bowls

2 small Porcelain Bowls. Every rabbit fits in two of these bowls.  Not only are they pretty, but they are oven safe!

Ingredients:

1 whole rabbit, cut into 8 portions
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, halved
1 leek, divide between the green and white parts. Half the green portion and shred the white
button mushrooms, about two little boxes from your grocery
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (recipe to follow)
1 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 puff pastry sheet

1 egg yolk, beaten
salt
pepper

Step 1:
Combine the carrots, onion, green leek, celery, wine, chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme with the rabbit in a soup pot (or Dutch oven) and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Add a bit more water to cover the rabbit.  Remove the carrots, onions, celery after about 20-30 minutes. DO NOT DISCARD!  Save it in a separate container.

Let the rabbit continue to cook in the stock for the full hour or until the meat can be easily separated from the bones.  Then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Step 2
Remove the rabbit from the stock and remove the meat from the bones.  Try to shred the meat into smaller pieces with your fingers or a fork. Strain the stock, and throw away the bones.

Step 3
Cook the mushrooms and shredded white leek a saute pan with butter until softened, then combine with the reserved vegetables and shredded rabbit meat.

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Step 4
Heat up the stock in a sauce pan and let it cook down until it’s reduced by half. Add cream and let the liquid thicken.  Pour enough of the liquid until it coats the veggie and meat mixture. Then let it cool before dividing it into the ceramic serving dishes.

Step 5
As your mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your puff pastry and using a small dish cut out rounds that will cover your serving dishes with a slight overhang.  Now place it gently over the top of the filling and crimp down the edges to seal each dish.  Don’t forget to pierce few holes in the center of each pastry.  Brush the pastry with egg yolk.

Step 6
I would place each assembled pie dish on a cookie sheet before popping it into the over for each removal.  


Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry puffs up and turns a beautiful caramel golden color.

Enjoy!

Love the dinner party

I had quite a weekend, in terms of cooking, last weekend.  I made a few treats for a dear friend’s bridal shower, and then hosted a dinner party for some old friends.

Let’s tackle the dinner party first.  You have to love dinner parties.  Either throwing one or attending one.  What’s more ubiquitous across cultures than sharing a meal in the home?

My typical dinner party starts with an appetizer, main entree of some sort of meaty dish, with a few sides and then dessert.  This time around, I broke my own rule.  One friend happened to love my stewed oxtail, another friend loves duck.  Also, I still had some of the lovely tuna Dave caught vacuum sealed and frozen, I decided to do an air, land and sea themed dinner.

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Air, land and sea.

Both the tuna poke and oxtail are keto friendly.  The duck, eaten without the pancake as Dave did, can also be part of your diet.

 

 

 

Eat more oxtail

I’m truly delighted that nowadays when you mention oxtail, not everyone will cringe or shrink back in revulsion.  How about you?   What do you picture when you hear oxtail?  Does it look like this:

I happen to love the oxtail as a stewed meat.  It’s bone, cartilage, and bits of fat releases an amazing flavor slow cooked.

Recently I decided to steal a page from the classic French boeuf bourguignon and use oxtail instead of lean beef.  Instead of using flour to thicken the sauce, I let the lid of my dutch oven open slightly, lowered the heat and increased the cooking time.  Thus, it too can be part of the keto diet.  No flour.  No sugar.  Still pretty delicious.

Ingredients

One 6-ounce slices of bacon (apple prefer apple wood smoked)
3 pounds oxtail
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
3 cups red wine. I use whatever I have on hand
1/4 cup cognac
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (Can be made yourself ahead of time)
4 cloves mashed garlic
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of flat parsley
1 bay leaf
half a stalk of celery
18 to 24 pearl onions
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

I highly recommend dicing all the veggies before hand. Tie the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley and celery with kitchen twine in a bouquet garni.  Set aside.

Sizzle and brown bacon in a dutch oven. Let the fat render out. Take the bacon out and set aside. Brown each piece of oxtail, sprinkled with salt and pepper
until all the pieces of oxtail are brown. Put it aside with the bacon.

Toss in diced onions and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Fry until soft and aromatic. 

Add cognac. Let it boil off, scraping the side and bottom of the pot.
Slowly add in wine and beef stock. Toss in bouquet garni. I left a bit of string on one end to tie around the handle. It makes for easier removal later.

Now add in oxtail and bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, covered for 2 + hours. I leave a bit of the lid ajar to let out steam and ensure
the sauce thickens. When the beef is tender and falling off the bone it’s ready.

30-45 minutes before serving, heat butter in a large skillet, then toss in the mushrooms, onions, and carrots. Cook until there’s a bit of brown to the carrots.  Pour everything into the dutch oven and cook till ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Peking Duck (Beijing Roast Duck)

I had Peking Duck in Beijing, China for the very first time when I was three years old.  It was my first trip to the capitol.  I vaguely recall taking a really crowded, slow-moving train, standing on top of the Great Wall, running up steps in the Forbidden City and feeling incredibly hot and uncomfortable at the ruins of the Summer Palace. I’d go into detail about each other those spots, but this is a food blog, after all, so let’s focus on the food.

I don’t remember which restaurant I had my first taste of Peking Duck.  It kind of doesn’t matter.  What matters was my first bite into the soft envelope of slightly sweet wrapper that subtly released so many different textures and flavors were incredible.  Later, I had “Beijing Roast Duck” again when we returned home to Tianjin, some 83 miles away.  I recall telling someone that the flavor was off and being ridiculed for my snobbery. (That happened a lot.)

It wasn’t until 2008 when I’ve made my home in the US for a few decades, that on a return visit to Beijing that I tasted the real thing again.  My husband, Dave, was with me on that trip and his response very much mirrored my own.

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Quanjude. Established in 1864

Dave was adamant that we recreate that experience at home.

I’ve tried.  For several years now.  At first, I roasted my ducks (headless from Wegman’s or H-Mart) on a Cuisinart Roaster with Rack like a slab of rump roast.

While the meat was flavorful, I could not recreate the crispy skin that comes with hanging a duck in an open oven so that its fat rendered out, slow roasting the meat, yet leaving the skin as crispy as a potato chip.  But I kept trying.

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I stuffed it like a turkey:

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Dave created a contraption out of string that shall never be mentioned again.

Then we found Chinese groceries that sold the duck with the head on and we fashioned it so that we could hang it by the neck in the oven.  Better.  Much better!

Once upon a time this meal was only served in the imperial court, to the guy living there, so mentally prepare yourself.  This recipe is not for the faint of heart.  It takes time and preparation.  I recommend studying this recipe until it makes sense.  Once you buy the ingredients and start the process, it’ll be too late to turn back.

My Peking Duck in a regular oven.  

Part 1  — Prepare 5 days in advance.   

Equipment:
Cuisinart MCP117-16BR MultiClad Pro Stainless 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster with Rack

Checkered Chef Cooling Rack Baking Rack. Stainless Steel Oven and Dishwasher Safe. Fits Half Sheet Cookie Pan

Flammi 20-Pack Black Heavy Duty Kitchen Utensils Cookware Pot and Pan Rack Hooks Metal S Hanging Hooks

Ingredients:

1 duck, preferably with the head still on. (Feeds three adults.)

2 Star Anise Pods

1 tablespoon fennel seed

2 teaspoon clove

2 teaspoon peppercorn

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

5-6 stalks of scallions, white part cut off and sliced into slivers.

2 cloves of garlic

1 bamboo skewer

2 slices of ginger

1 cucumber, sliced into slivers

  1. Prep your duck by washing it under running cold water, then let it drain.  Pat dry.  Remove excess feathers and fat from the bottom
  2. Take half of the 5- spice ( star anise, fennel seed, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn) blend w/ salt, molasses, green portion of the scallion, garlic and ginger.  Stuff in the cavity.  Use a bamboo stick to sew the cavity up.
  3.  Cut off wings and feet.  (If you’d like , keep these scrap bits to make duck stock later.)

4. Separate skin by inserting a straw through a small slit cut into the base of the neck and blowing vigorously.  The skin should balloon and separate from the body.  Flip, cut another slit and blow again.  

5. Boil pot full of water with salt, 5 spice ingredients and soy sauce.  Hold the duck by its neck over the pot and ladle the hot liquid over duck in a poaching/ basting manner until skin turn amber in color.  Be careful as the hot liquid will splatter on you.  So wear a shirt

img_20161003_193529588_top.jpg6. Set on a baking rack over a cookie sheet and dry for 5 days in the fridge.

When it’s time to cook the duck, let it rest at room temperature for up to 1 hour.  Cooking time takes 2 hours, so prepare by setting your oven racks as far apart as possible.  The duck will be hung by the base of its neck using a metal hook from the top rack.  Place a roasting pan on the bottom rack to catch all the rendered fat drippings.

Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and roast for two hours.  After two hours, turn up the oven to broil on low for 10-15 minutes.  This should crisp up the skin, but not burn it.  Check often.  Be careful removing the duck from the oven as it will be sitting on top of a pan full of scalding hot duck fat.  Carefully slide the top and bottom rack out slowly until the duck can be easily removed from the hook.   Let the duck rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.

My pancakes are still being perfected, so I won’t share it just yet.  However, the dark sauce that goes with the duck can easily be made with what is called a Chinese noodle sauce, honey and a bit of water.

Enjoy!

Letter to my slow cooker.

To my favorite kitchen appliance:

Life in my kitchen sucks for you, I know.  I use you.  I abuse you.  I don’t often take care of you.

All your predecessors are now living a wonderful life in retirement… somewhere.  I’m certain they don’t miss the endless days of slow roasting meats, simmering chili or stewing tea eggs.  Sometimes for 48 hours straight without a break.

After a quick dip in a soapy, lukewarm bath and it’s back on the counter to brew chicken broth.

I do appreciate you.  I appreciated all of you.  I’m just often times too busy to stop and express it because I have a movie to watch or a nap to take.

 

You do all the work.  And then I take all the credit.  I’d apologize.  I want to apologize.  I really do.  But we both know I’ll just do it again, and again.  Speaking of, I’m having some people over next week.  I’m thinking oxtail stew.

All my best!

Wendy

First Post

Hello Reader:

I would not call myself a foodie.  Frankly, I’m still not sure what that word means. Everyone eats, and everyone has a preference for what they enjoy eating.  Right?

A bit about myself .  I immigrated to this country from Northern Mainland China and I grew up in various parts of the U.S.  My husband and I currently live in the DC Metro area with its plethora of different cultures and cuisines.

This is us: me and my husband l, Dave

As much as I enjoy exploring different foods, my cooking definitely reflects my cultural background.  There’s simply no better comfort food for me than homemade dumplings.  The mention of dumplings conjure up memories of family gatherings where women in my family huddled together for at least half the day.   A cloud of flour suspended over them.  They take turns rolling out the dough wrappers fast enough to keep up with two pairs of hands wrapping the pouches of juicy meat.

(Come back soon as I will be updating with recipes)

Yes, I’m a bit anal about the size and shape of my dumplings.  No, I don’t often label my food.

When I feel like being fancy I’ll throw together something more complex like Peking Duck.

But I’m not here just to share with you the foods that I grew up with.  I borrow heavily from Italian, French, and other cultural cuisines.  I do love to experience other cultures and customs through food.  This blog will be a record of my exploration in all things I feel are too delicious not to experience.

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Wendy