Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latke Love

On the first night of Chanukah my latke said to me,
Add sour cream and eat me…

plus homemade applesauce

the sizzling shiznit

the don...

the lighting...

The Best Latke Evah Recipe
Courtesy of Lee Bierman

8 potatoes
1 onion

Grate 1 onion into a bowl. Peel potatoes, let soak in bowl of water to not turn brown. Grate potatoes, draining the water from the bowl. Take all the grated potatoes and rinse in a towel to drain as much water as possible. Mix grated onion and potatoes thoroughly to evenly distributed onions amongst potatoes. Add egg and a scoop or two of flour to bind the mixture and stir up. Add salt and pepper. Heat a pan covered in oil (about 1 inch on the bottom). When oil starts to bubble, with your hands make little round pancakes with the potato mixture and put in pan. Fry about 4 mins until the sides start to brown. Flip and fry 4 mins on other side until brown. On subsequent batches add more oil if needed. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce.

9 small apples
3/4th cup of water
Cinnamon stick
2 sugar packets

Peel/core apples  (save cores for yeast!). Place in pot apples, water, cinnamon, sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn to simmer for 25 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Mash with a potato masher to get applesauce consistency.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Challah Daze

Challah ("hallah") is a beautiful decorative egg bread. I've always wanted to make it...never the opportunity...until a friend visiting and staying with us in Costa Rica suggested making some. Not only was it entertaining, I learned a little bit about the history and tradition of the bread. Challah is customarily eaten for shabbat (the day of rest in the jewish faith)...which begins after sunset...a way to begin Friday's evening meal.

We made 2 loaves. A long braided one and one shaped into a circle (although round challahs are most traditionally used for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah...)

We used some of my homemade yeast made from fermented raisins. We started the dough on Thursday night. Kneaded it a second time the next morning. Shaped it, let it double (more like tips below in the recipe section)...then brushed it with egg and baked it. After 40 minutes in the oven, the bread smelled goooood. While the loaves rested and cooled, we popped out for a quick walk to watch the sunset on playa carmen...the intensity of the red orb cracked its rays over the blueness of the sky. We'd made it just as the sun sank quicksand into the horizon of the ocean.

We zipped back home anticipating a slice. A little prayer...

"Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz" ("Blessed are you, Adonai, Sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth").

The bread came out pretty tasty. A hint of sweetness. And delightful french toast the next day with a little bit of red plum compote on top...the best way to start a Saturday.

Here are the photos and recipe below. A special hallah goes out to baking buddy, Lee.

Love, mb

knock knock. who's there. challah
challah french toast with plum compote
the color of the setting sun...the coat on my challah orb

Recipe - How to Make Challah Bread

1 1/4 c warm water
3 1/2 c flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 c sugar
1/4 vegetable oil
4-5 eggs
1 tsp salt
egg yolk (for brushing).

Mix yeast, water, 1/4 flour in a bowl. Stand 10 - 20 mins. Or for homemade yeast ( 1 / 2 c of the preferment / spoolish + 1/2 c water). Then mix in sugar, eggs, salt, a cup of flour one cup at a time. At this point, transfer to a flat surface...flour and stretch the dough. (Good bread stretching technique, jump to 1:30) Then cover and let rest overnight or until double.

Punch down for a second kneading. Divide into 3 pieces. Roll out to a 9 inch rope. Braid. (Watch the video. 1:20). Rest or allow it to proof on a greased cookie sheet until it doubles again. Brush with egg yoke. Preheat oven to 325 F and bake for 30- 40 mins until golden brown. Let it cool for 30 mins before serving.

-2 coats of egg yoke is best. One before final proofing and one before baking. After 20 mins in the oven, Lee didn't see any color on the bread. We took out the loaves and gave it another coating for good measure.
-The original recipe calls for 4 eggs...the color wasn't as yellow so I'd wanted it to if I were to make the bread again, I'd add in another egg to get it a nice sunny color.
-On the final proof, after the braiding, we let it rest until it doubled inside the oven with the light on. We found this was not a good idea...especially for tropical humid weather. The bread ended up expanding way too much and the braids ended up disappearing! To save the bread, we reshaped and braided it a second time. Allowed it to rest 30 minutes. Egg washed and baked. But when it came out of the oven, the braid marks were really faint (as you can see in the photos below). Lesson learned, I would do the final proofing in the refrigerator to retain the braids. (Or in my more recent post, super challah #2, make the braids smaller! This is a secret I learned to retain the braids.)
-We inadvertently gave the dough a mini 3rd kneading when we had to rescue the braids...this gave it some good texture and elasticity...not entirely the texture like brioche which is the trademark of a good, I would definitely give it a good 5 min 3rd kneading to build up the texture and give it that ideal elasticity.
-Finally, line the bottom of the pan with some parchment or something non-stick. (2nd photo below).

pps peace and hallah baby!


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Kitchen Siesta Sessions

vina del mar, chile
santa theresa, costa rica
santa teresa, costa rica
puerto vallarta, mexico

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pho Ga (aka Chicken Pho)

NOTHING, nothing beats the flavor of a good chicken pho (must be the saigonese in me). Almost 5 months since we set off on our central american journey and I need a serious fix.

The longest I've ever gone without was back in '97, a semester abroad in Vienna, Austria (almost half a year). Like one of those sci-fi cave man movies, thawed from ice...first words. Mine was "pho"...only minutes from landing into SFO, parents coming to collect. I've been so grateful to savor all the foods on our travels south...but my heart yearns for a taste of home. To me, pho is gathering around our cluttered kitchen table...char roasted onions, ginger and star anise releasing their aroma into soup's sweet cauldron lapping away on winter's long starry night.

the star  for an authentic broth
(image from

Nothing quite satisfies either. The time to release zippers or unbuckle belts...more room for broth and noodles...a generous gift to the soul like mom's harvest apples.

In my quest to make a good bowl, I've had to go "old school". Back to basics: chicken, stock and noodles (ok, on the noodles, couldn't find the traditional "banh pho" I used pad thai noodles instead). No beloved garnishes like cilantro, basil, sprouts. Here in the remote beach town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, depending on the day of the week, depending on the grocery store, fresh herbs are often hard to find. I don't mind...managing some how to score hoisin, sriracha and star anise.

I know there are broth purest who don't like over doing it on the customary red and brown condiments...but lordy help me, I love the stuff.

When I brought the bowls to the table, I garnished them with thin slices of onion, black pepper and a wedge of lime. Old school. The boy and I started to quietly and then loudly slurp away...a sumo eating competiton. It was good. Like bread making, I've learned a couple of things...and I still pine for my fresh herbs...but for now, my heart and belly are happy.

I hope you enjoy the recipe (if ever you're in need of a simple pho fix). Buen provecho amigos!



Simple Old School Chicken Pho
Serves 4 - 6

1 large yellow onion (peeled and cut in half)
1 good knob of ginger (crushed with skin)
4-5 star anise
1 chicken (~ 2lbs, cut in half)
10 c of water for the broth
1 package banh pho or any type of flat rice noodles...pad thai works too
½ onion, sliced thinly (for garnish)
¼ lime (for garnish)
Black pepper
Salt (or fish sauce)

You need 2 pots. #1 pot to parboil the chicken. #2 pot for the broth.

Cut the chicken in half. Clean thoroughly under running water. Trim off access fat. Cut off the butt (parson’s nose) since it will release a lot of fat. In a medium/large pot, fill half with water. Place on high heat until the water comes to a boil. Place the chicken in the boiling water for 5-7 minutes until dark brown foam starts emerging. Remove from heat, throw out the water and do another washing of the chicken under cold water. Set aside.

The reason for parboiling is you’re removing the murky swamp water that comes from the chicken. And there's a LOT of it. By parboiling first, you get rid of the cloudy stuff off the bat, ensuring a clear broth. You can skip this step, cook everything in one pot and skim as you go. But I find this one pot method tedious and I'm rather lazy. Checkout this home video on how the chicken is prepped and parboiled (vids 1, 2, 3, 4). I love how the vietnamese woman uses a toaster oven to roast her aromatics.  It's all in vietnamese but I adore the woman (she reminds me of my moms)!

Place the second pot under med-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and star anise. Let them roast for 5-10 minutes. You will start to smell lovely smoky, molassie…star anise. So intoxicating. I love it. Allow the ingredients to brown. You don’t want to blacken because in this method, you don't have to discard the skin. When ready, add 10 c water. Then the chicken that is now nice and clean. Cook under med-low for 30-40 mins depending on the chicken until it’s cooked. Easy does it. If you've trimmed well...there's very little to skim at this point, if at all (...unless you're anti fat). When I've used this method, I've made a clear broth without lifting a spoon to skim.

You don’t want to over cook the chicken. You don't want it to fall off the bone. Rather, you want the chicken meat to be firm. So after 30-40 mins, you can remove the pot from the heat and allow the broth with chicken to continue their romance in the fridge for maximum flavor magic…(oh, and the broth does smell wonderful to the nose the next day!) On the following day, heat the broth, season to taste and use...

OR if you don’t want to wait…add 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons chicken bouillon to the broth to give it more flavor. (Maggi is something that my family has been using as a secret broth enhancer…shhhh!) Season to taste. Salt or if you have it at hand a couple good dashes of fish sauce. Quick broth done. Tip: any chicken pieces I don't use or cut up right away, I leave it in the broth.

For the noodles, follow instructions. Soak. Cook. Strain. (At least with pad thai noodles ---the noodles I had available at the time, I forgot to soak it, just cooked it longer in boiling water. Big mistake. It ended being a just a wee bit chewier, so I definitely recommend the soak bath at least for pad thai noodles to get the maximum softness. You don't want the noodles breaking apart either or al dente. Balance, young grasshopper.

For the chicken, I wait until I'm about to assemble the pho bowls to cut up the meat. You can either chop or I like to use my fingers to tear into bite size pieces. 

To assemble
Place the strained cooked noodles in a bowl. As much or as little depending on what your guests like. Top with chicken (I like to mix a bit of everything: some breast, good piece of thigh, drumstick meat). Add some of the sliced onions. Cover with hot, hot broth. Some pepper and a good wedge of lime. Serve with hoisin and chili sauce. (Even better, a small plate of fresh herbs...basil, cilantro, mung bean sprouts if you have them...mmmm)

Foto del Dia

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Patience young grasshopper...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bread Meets Chicken

Twas the day before thanksgiving when all through the house...
not a creature was stirring, not even a chicken louse??!

Okay, doesn't quite work but you get the idea.

My first time hosting a dinner in Costa Rica for a friend and his mother and I wanted to make something with a "wow" factor. Plus being in the spirit of thanksgiving tidings, I wanted to do something comforting and homey. And so the perfect opportunity to try this intriguing recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, Chicken in Bread Crust. Over the months, I've been enjoying my own yeast experiments with bread why not toss in a chicken while we're add it? I followed the recipe to the letter, but being a newbie, I wanted a foolproof way to knock it out of the park. Here are my tweaks to Mam'selle Clotilde's (love her) recette:

1. I'd read that when the baked chicken comes out of the bread, it looks rather like ugly baby...(the chicken, never seeing the light of the inferno gets a hot blistering steam bath incased in dough instead). Would that be a pasty piece of thigh or breast meat dear? Trick: I seared the chicken in the oven for 10-15 min until the skin was brown (ooops, a tad scorched in my case), allowed it to completely cool (in the freezer - for those impatient like moi) before wrapping it in dough.

2. I was worried that the chicken wouldn't be flavorful enough. Even though I've been cooking since I was a wee lass, I still have salt paranoia. For me, I don't use a lot of salt (must be all that fish sauce growing up) so I'm either under salting things or being seriously heavy handed (usually, when I have a couple glasses of wine). Trick: I brined the chicken overnight with lots of bay leaves and garlic to make sure it was very moist and perfectly seasoned. Now did I  or did I not mention all that lovely chicken juices (ok, I can't help think that I just sounded a lot like John Cleese in the Meaning of Life, when he covers the vagina juices...yes, I just went there.)

3. For the bread crust, I didn't want to just cut it up and serve it along with the chicken. Oliver Twist comes to mind, "please sir, might I have some more...a bit more crust, cough cough." Ok, I exaggerate...who serves just crust?? Not I! Trick: I made my version of the legendary, Zuni Chicken Bread Salad. This bread salad is so close to my heart (living in San Francisco, I adore Zuni Cafe). My twist: I mixed the bread with roasted red peppers and eggplant in garlic (ok, I can't get enough of this stuff), basil and copious amounts of the chicken juices (there I go again). Yummers!

I brined the chicken and prepared the dough the day before so it takes a little more time and planning but it's well worth it...and the meal...oh, lordy so good and delightful. I can't wait to make it again. I hope you enjoy the recipe. Buen provecho amigos!

"scorched" chicken in bread aka poulet en croute de pain. green things = basil


look at that gorgeous crust...out of the oven and resting
half bread, half chicken...who am i???
ready for the knife...although i could have used a spoon
bread salad my way

Chicken in Bread Crust Recipe (serves 4)

For bread:
3 c flour
1 c water (add 1/4 c or more if needed, dough will be slightly wet)
1/2 cup spoolish or 2 tablespoons dried yeast (mix in ½ c warm water)
oil (for coating)

For chicken:
1 chicken (2 kg ~ 4lbs)
1 batch brine

1/2 c salt
1/2 c sugar
10 c water
4 bay leaves
6 cloves of garlic crushed
cracked pepper

Bread Salad
½ of the bread crust
2 red peppers
1 medium sized eggplant (chopped)
½ red onion (sliced)
1 large tomato
4 sprigs fresh basil
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt pepper
3 crushed cloves of garlic
½ c chicken juice
lemon juice (optional for brighness)

For the chicken brine (the day before)
Remove the wishbone and truss the chicken. (Believe it or not floss works, could not find twine here in the village). Brine chicken overnight in the fridge. Next day, discard the brine. Sear chicken in the oven. 260 C or 500 F. Remove and let chill in the fridge or zap it in the freezer for 20 mins.

For the bread (the day before)
In a bowl, combine flour, salt, yeast and water. Mix and place in an oiled bowl with a towel and let dough rest for 1 hour. Punch down dough after and hour and allow it to rest and grow over night (ok to place in fridge - remove from fridge 3 hrs before using). 2 hour before using the dough, I stretch and knead it. (Good bread stretching technique, jump to 1:30) Then let it rest.

Assembling & baking
30 mins before baking, flour the surface and your hands, roll out the dough. Remove any access flour. Lay chicken in the center of the dough and wrap. Fold the sides, then top and bottom. Seal the dough with water, place in a roasting pan or a 24 ‘ inch cake pan. In a 360 F oven, bake for 1 ½ hrs depending on the size of the bird. If the bread gets too dark, you can cover with foil.

After 1 ½ hrs, remove the chicken and let it rest for 30 mins before carving. (How to carve video).

For the Bread Salad (Prepare the vegetables ahead of time)
Line a pan with foil. Roast the peppers in the oven for 20 mins at 180 C or 356 F. The skin will be brown, remove and let the peppers rest to room temperature. When cool, peel off the skin. Remove the seeds and chop. Set aside.

For the eggplant, cut into cubes and salt liberally. Let it sit for 30 minutes until water comes from the eggplant. On medium heat, add oil and crushed garlic to a frying pan. Add the eggplant and sautee for 15 minutes or until brown. Set aside.

In a salad bowl, make the vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the chicken juices from the pan or deglaze with water if there isn't enough juices (will be pretty salty). Add the sliced onions. With half the crust, cut into cubes. Add to the bowl. Add the peppers, eggplants with garlic, sliced basil and tomato. Toss and season to taste. Add more juice or water. The bread should be moist but still have texture. If you need some brightness, squeeze some half a lemon.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...