Friday, December 31, 2010

Holiday Dinner

Over the past couple of years, I've been attending a Christmas party with some of Mr. M&P's family friends. This year, due to the short notice, it wasn't as good as normal. Nonetheless, everything was good and fun, especially the Secret Santa in which a Shake Weight was highly laughed over. But you don't care about stupid gifts. You want to know what I ate. It was a combination of delivery from PF Changs and homemade Indian food.

The appetizer plate below is a vegetarian lettuce wrap with tofu. It was okay but really difficult to eat. There was also a random dumpling which was eh. Some fried calamari/squid which was really dry and over fried. Lastly, a fried dumpling which was also meh. Weak from PF Changs. Everything reminded me why I don't like their food.

But onto better things. The dinner! Here you have yellow split pea dansak, lamb curry, byriani rice, and chicken curry. Every thing was nice and flavorful and filling. I didn't need much to feel happy. Oh so happy.

But wait, there's more! Dessert! There was a nice spread but I opted for the fruit tart and pecan pie. The fruit tart was delicious! The fruit was fresh and not sour at all. The natural sweetness paired well with the buttery crust and luscious creamy filling. The pecan pie (which someone informed me was from the Little Pie Company) was really good as well. It was really sweet, just like a pecan pie should be but I liked the brown sugar and nuttiness of it. A small piece was all I need to be satisfied. There was also a pineapple and cream cake which I took a nibble and passed on. Other people loved it though. Me, not so much. Why? Reminded me of Chinese bakery cake. I hate those. Bleh!
A good time shared by all. So nice. Happy Holidays Everyone!

PF Chang's
3545 U.S. 1
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 799-5163
pfchangs.com

The Little Pie Company
424 W 43rd St
New York, 10036
littlepiecompany.com‎
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking: Steak Dinner

Many people don't realize how easy it is to make a decent steak dinner at home. Now, don't expect superb NYC steakhouse quality here. Why? I don't have convenient access to their prime dry aged meats. And my stove nor oven goes up high enough for that quality. However, making steak at home is much cheaper and can rival some of the more mainstream places that you or I may frequent. So on the menu this night: steak with mushroom marsala wine sauce and a side of tator tots.

I actually started off with heating the toaster oven for the tator tots. I won't show you the steps to do that because they were frozen tots and I followed the instructions on the bag. Easy said and done. And now onto the more difficult portion, the steak. Please keep in mind that this steak recipe works best for fattier cuts of beef like rib eye and strip. If you like filet mignon, do not use this recipe. It will come out tough and dry. Okay, enough of the warnings, now onto directions.

Take the meat out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. It takes about an hour. While the meat comes up to temperature, turn on your oven to 450oF. Yeah, it's high but it's what you need. Then liberally salt and pepper the steaks on every exposed surface. Also add some olive oil for grease.

Here's a nice tip: using a larger grained salt here works best. So think sea salt instead of table salt. This also goes for freshly ground black pepper.

Heat up a pan until screaming hot. I mean so hot that when you put your hand over (not on) the pan, it's too hot to keep it there. Add your oil. Use an oil with a higher smoking temperature like canola or peanut. Please your steaks carefully in. If you're afraid of burning yourself, use a pair of tongs. Once the meat touches the pan, you should hear it sizzle and see some smoke/steam. This is good. It's forming that lovely crust already. To keep that crust, do NOT touch the steaks. I mean do not move them at all. Do not take a peek to see if it's browned enough. Do not poke at it with the tongs. Just leave the damn things along so they can work their magic!

Helpful tip: use a regular (not non-stick) or cast iron pan with low sides. I find that non-stick pans cannot produce the kind of crust that you want. And pans with higher sides tend to steam the food as opposed to letting the water/moisture evaporate.
After a few minutes (about 5 or 6 depending on how thick your meat is and how you like it cooked), flip your meat. Again, do not touch the damn thing. Let the crust form on the other side. Now take a look at that beautiful caramelized color there. Looks Burned? No fool! It's not black. It's brown. Brown, flavorful, and delicious! Now carefully take the whole pan and put it in your pre-heated oven. A few minutes later (3-4 minutes or so), take it out.
Take the steak off of the pan, and let it rest on a cutting board or plate. This allows the meat juices to run back inside. This keeps the steak juicy and flavorful. Patience is a virtue when it comes to food.
While the steaks rest, make the sauce. Skim off any excess oil from the pan. Be sure to keep all the juices and browned bits on the bottom.
Chop up some mushrooms. I used baby bella here. I find that they have a deeper flavor than regular white button mushrooms.
Into the got pan they go! Slowly cook them down until softened.
And then add your wine. I'm using marsala wine here which is sweeter, but a red wine would also work.
Pour some wine in until the mushrooms are slightly covered. Be sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Then let the sauce simmer until reduced and thickened. Keep in mind that the sauce will be thicker once cooled.
And here's my finished sauce. Look at those loved mushrooms that has absorbed all that beef and marsala wine flavor. And that sheen! Yes kids, that sheen is from lovely steak fat.
Plate your steak and tator tots which should be nicely golden and crispy now. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the steak liberally. Viola! Steak dinner!
So this is the inside of my steak. I would think that's medium which is a little more than what I would have liked. I'm more of a medium-rare type of steak lover. Not bad though. Next time, a little less cooking time.
The steak was juicy and so good. The mushrooms and marsala wine just made it so much better. The thick crust that formed on the steak held up to the sauce really well. So happy with this meal. It's nice to have a proper dinner once in awhile. And it wasn't difficult nor expensive. Good eats, indeed!
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jade Asian

Holiday time for me means dim sum time! I hardly go to dim sum anymore. Probably because I don't see my family enough. Oops! But when we do get together, it's AWESOME! By awesome, I mean it's filled with lots of delicious food. One of the more common things we eat is dim sum. We've fallen into a nice run with Jade Asian in Flushing. They have solidly good food there. It gets crowded. However, time it right (meaning go early like 10am when it opens) and you'll get to sit where ever you want. And the rolling carts of hot steaming food come straight to you. The only downfall of going early is that you never get to the afternoon specials. It's a trade off. Oh well.

And on to the food! Glorious food! Lots and lots of food! This is just the beginning of our epic meal. Keep reading for dish by dish recaps.

Sticky glutinous rice with dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. Really filling but really delicious. The rice is super sticky and makes it a little sweeter than normal rice. But the soy sauce, shrimp, and pork sausage help balance it out. The scallions on top add a nice freshness to it.
Fish meatballs: these chewy balls of fish paste are definitely an acquired taste. They're not fishy but the texture can be really off putting for people. I really enjoy these though!
Beef honeycomb tripe and turnips in anise sauce: this slow braised dish is packed with lots of flavor from 5 spice and star anise. You'll find honeycomb tripe, stomach, and liver for your adventurous eaters.
Shrimp dumplings: the shrimp is chopped up into a paste-like mixture then wrapped in a glutinous flour dough and steamed. Really delicate in flavor and texture. But it still remains one of the most popular items.
Phoenix feet or chicken feet: these marinated chicken feet can be scary to some people. Yes, it's a daunting task to get any meat (tendons and skin really) off these bony morsels. But, I love these things! So much flavor in each and every one of these. Be patient with your food and it will pay off.
Black pepper beef short ribs. These short ribs are thinly sliced, sauteed, then steamed. Tender, juicy, and super flavorful with soy sauce and garlic. One of my favorite items.
Pork spare ribs: another of my favorites. Each little piece of pork goodness is flavored in garlic, black bean, and soy sauce. Nuggets of happiness to me.
Pork and shrimp dumplings: I like to call these open faced wontons. It's a mixture of pork and shrimp that is wrapped in a very thing dough/wonton wrapper. Steamed until cooked though. The meat is fatty which means its good.
A bowl of salted pork and thousand year old egg congee: this porridge or gruel is rice based. Think really loose risotto. I didn't get a taste of this so I can't comment on what it was like. But salted pork and thousand year old egg is the classic flavor.
Shrimp and chive pan fried dumplings: This mostly chive dumplings has some shrimp bits in it. But it's all about the chive here. Pan fried until crispy, the skin is delicious. However, be wary of the burps you will get later. Don't plan on making out with anyone after eat this one.
Pork spring rolls: a holiday treat for us since we don't normally order the deep fried item. Crispy, crunchy with a minced pork innard. What's not to like?
Roast pork skin noodles: These thin flat noodles are filled with deliciously fatty roast pork or char siu. The sweet soy sauce on top is the kicker. Slurp!
Braised beef tendons: definitely an acquired taste. The knuckles of the cows legs are braised for god knows how long. The sauce is slightly sweet but also tangy. Deep, rich flavor. However, the texture is very soft with the slightest chew.
Shrimp stuffed eggplant: the Asian eggplant is split open then stuffed with shrimp paste. Then cooked slowly in a savory (probably soy sauce based) sauce. The result: tender, juicy eggplant with spongy filling. The flavor of the sauce is really good.
Malay sponge cake: light and airy. This cake is so unassuming in flavor. Not my favorite but a nice contrast to all the savory items on the table.
Deep fried taro balls: the taro is ground into a paste, then stuffed with some minced pork and veggies, then blanketed in panko crumbs. Deep fried into a light crispy perfection. Crunchy, soft, and savory.
And lastly, deep fried cruller in skin noodles: a long piece of dough was deep fried until super crunchy. Then wrapped with the noodle. Lightly steamed and soy sauce on top. I love the contrast in textures with this dish. I also love the flavors of the sweet soy sauce. This is my perfect dim sum dish. Swoon!
Another great meal had at Jade Asian. We eventually waddled out with our bellies full and our wallets about $60 poorer. Not bad for 4 adults and 1 child. Not bad at all.

Jade Asian Restaurant
13628 39th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 762-8821
jadeasiannyc.com
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lunch Week 45: "Thanksgiving Leftovers"

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: "Thanksgiving Leftovers"
I missed Thanksgiving this year. Yeah I was traveling and what not, but it's one of my favorite holidays. So, I made up for it by making all the dished on Christmas Eve instead. I made a HUGE feast with turkey, ham, and the all fixins. Yes, I cooked for 2 days but it was well worth it. Just look at that glorious plate of food. Enough said. It's going to be a good lunch week. Read more...

Monday, December 27, 2010

John's Shanghai

If you've been in NYC lately, you've noticed that it's bitter cold these days. Some foods were just made to be eaten when it's cold out. The food I'm writing about today is soup dumplings or xiao long bao. Just, little doughy steamed dumplings with rich broth and meat inside. Sometimes you may burn your mouth but it's all worth the risk. The deliciousness inside is unparalleled. On this cold, cold night, Mr. M&P and I went out to John's Shanghai. It's not the best Shanghai restaurant in the city but it's definitely the closest to me. Location, location, location!

Once inside the warm restaurant, we peered through the menu. They offered quite a large array of items. However, we knew we only wanted one thing: soup dumplings. So we ordered regular pork dumplings ($8), crab and pork dumplings ($9), and pan fried pork dumplings ($8). As you can see below, the soup dumplings come 8 to an order. They come steaming hot with a layer of cabbage on the bottom. This helps prevent sticking. They give you a pair of tongs to pick the dumplings up. However, if you're chopstick skilled like me, you don't need those. Challenge each other to see who will pop one of their dumplings first. Like I said, I'm chopstick skilled.

You can the dumpling any way that you prefer. But this is how I do it: pick it up, then lightly dip into the black vinegar. Then onto the spoon being held in my left hand. Using the chopsticks, I slightly tilt the dumpling up to my mouth. I take a nibble of the skin. Some steam comes out. Then I suck some of the soup out. It's not really soup. It's more of a rich, pork broth. Then I pop the whole thing in my mouth. The meat, the broth, and the slightly chewy skin is heavenly. So rich. So delicious.
And here's the crab and pork dumplings. Also 8 to an order. The only different is that they add crab roe/cream to the filling. This is supposed to add another layer of richness to the whole thing.
This is what it looks like inside. Look at that orange, cream-like substance. That's the crab roe or innards. In my opinion, it doesn't add anything to the taste of the soup dumpling. I don't find it any richer. It's probably because the broth is so rich that it overpowers the lightness of the crab. Some people swear by it. Others, not so much. I'm with the latter. Save the dollar and get the regular kind.
And here are the pan fried dumplings. I find these are more like buns than dumplings. Shouldn't a whole dumpling fit into your mouth easily? These...not so much. Whatever the case is, they come 6 to one order. They're much doughier and a similar pork filling inside. However, no super rich broth in these.
Here's what the "dumpling" looks like. See the pork filling? See the thicker and doughier bread? Yeah, different. But I still like it. Why? Because the crust. I mistakenly didn't take a picture of the underside of the dough. But there's a nice crunchy, brown crust on the bottom. It's a really nice contrast to an otherwise soft food.
John's Shanghai surprised me. Their dumplings were actually one of the better ones I've had. Pricier, yes. But still better. I'm not sure if they use MSG or not but they do taste darn good. I would definitely come back for more soup dumplings, preferably when it's cold out.

Oh and if you're wondering how they make those delicious soup dumplings? Go to the restaurant. There's almost always a woman making them in the front window. Look at the meat filling. See something strange in it? Yes, that gelatinous rich broth. Genius! Pure genius!

John's Shanghai
144 W 46th St # 1
New York, NY 10036
(212) 869-9183
johnshanghai.com
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eatery

After a late show, we walked around the Hell's Kitchen area looking for a bite to eat. After a couple of unsuccessful tries, we ended up at Eatery. Not only were they open, we were greeted by the cheeriest waitress that I can remember. Wow, she was really working it.

None of us were really too hungry so we kept it on the light side. I ordered the grilled salmon salad ($17) which came with beets, endives, and arugula. This was HUGE! The salmon was nicely cooked but I didn't notice any grill marks. However, the fish was moist and flaky. The salad was fresh and lightly dressed in a vinaigrette. I enjoyed this.

Here's a closer look at the salmon. Rosemary dotted the light pink flesh while inside, the meat remained almost raw...just the way I like it.
My other friend ordered the classic hummus ($8) which looked as if they took a supermarket container of hummus, turned it upside down, then plopped it on the plate. All with some pita of course. They did take the care to throw on some pine nuts and a pomegranate glaze. However, the taste was just eh. Tasted like store bought hummus. Not bad per se but not what we were expecting either.
Would I go back to Eatery? Probably not by my choice. It wasn't bad but it wasn't good either. Just okay. However, I wanted to reiterate how nice the waitress was to us. She definitely made the meal better than the food.

Eatery
798 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 765-7080
eaterynyc.com
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hell's Kitchen Pizza (again)

Another lazy day, another day of pizza. Not that I'm complaining. Pizza is awesome! And I can't seem to make it properly at home. Failure in bread making is the story of the cooking/baking life. Anyway, good thing there's a good NY style pizza place near me. A couple of slices (~$3-$4 each) and I was one happy camper.

Some may call me boring, but I like to stay traditional. So a plain slice for me (with lots of garlic powder).

And a white slice. Creamy, cheesey goodness. Simple ingredients like cheese, tomato sauce, and bread is all I need. For oomph, I add garlic powder.
He's a little more adventurous with his mac n cheese slice. Too much in my opinion but I can see why someone would like this...the overload of carbs and cheese! What can be better...?
Add bacon! Yes, his second slice is bacon mac n cheese. The salty cured pork added more punch to the slice, as well as more texture. This slice was better. Though, still too much for me. He enjoyed it as he gobbled it all up quickly.

Hell's Kitchen Pizza
691 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10036
(212)765-8565
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