Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crispy Pork Chops

I have to admit I am not big on pork chops. The only pork I like is sweet and sour, which if you ask me, I can get away with sweet and sour chicken. These Crispy Pork Chops, however, is in a class of its own. They are crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside. Best of all, it is really easy to make. (Really, I promise!)

Crispy Pork Chops
3 bone-in center cut pork chops
3 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp brown sugar
pepper to taste
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp parsley
3 Tbsp cooking oil

Step 1: Prepare the brine. Mix the sugar and salt. Pour in enough cold water so that pork chops are all immersed in the brine. Leave it for 3 hours.

Step 2: Remove pork chops from brine. Pat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle with pepper.
Step 3: Prepare the egg wash by whisking an egg in a bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs, flour and parsley in a pan.
Step 4: Dip the pork chops in the egg wash.

Step 5: Coat pork chops in breadcrumbs/flour mix.

Ensure pork chops is well coated.
Set aside. Preheat oven to 400F or 204C.

Step 6: Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a hot skillet over medium high heat.

Step 7: Fried pork chops till golden brown. Add more oil, if necessary. Place on a baking sheet lined with wire rack. Bake for 25 minutes till crispy and golden brown.

Serve chops with potato salad or pasta and a vegetable dish.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

American Chinese Takeout Series - Kung Pao Chicken

Will it be too lame to put up a post on Kung Pao Chicken on the blog. After all, this is one of the more famous chicken dish in Chinese takeout places, along with General Gau's Chicken ( Love the good old general!) and Sesame Chicken.

Kung Pao Chicken originates from the Szechuan province, where their use of Szechuan peppercorn coupled with dried red peppers, creates the most fiery tongue numbing effects ever. A sensation so potent that many return for more, addicted to the fiery heat and vinegary tang this dish is famous for. In the States, many takeout places tone down the heat for the benefits of many. Unless you venture into Chinatown and you are Asian, almost always, one will get the diluted version of the dish.

The key to success in preparing this dish is to ensure that the chicken pieces is diced up small. We are talking about the size of 2 peas combined. The cooking of this dish went on really fast and you want to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked. This recipe is, by no means, as hot as how the Szechuan people will like them. However, it still packs a good punch of heat while maintaining the sweetish, sourish flavor that are synonymous with a good Kung Pao dish.

Kung Pao Chicken
2lb chicken breast, diced small (about the size of two peas)
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, cut into small chunks
3 stalks of scallions, cut into small section, about 1-inch long
12 dried hot peppers, stem removed
1 Tbsp whole Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 cup unsalted cashew nuts or unsalted peanuts
2-3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Marinade for chicken
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp regular soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark rice vinegar ( you can substitute with white vinegar but the flavor will be slightly different)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp of water

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients. Marinade the chicken cubes for at least an hour. Combine all the ingredients for sauce and set aside.
Step 2: Heat up a deep pan or a wok over high heat till hot. Add in 2 Tbsp canola oil and the dried hot peppers. Saute the hot peppers till it is dark in color but not burnt.

Step 3: Add in the Szechuan peppercorn. Stir for a minute. You should be able to smell the peppercorn at this point.
Step 4: Add in all the chicken, ginger and garlic. Saute over high heat for 5 minutes, making sure that the chicken pieces is all cooked. Stir rigorously to avoid chicken from burning or sticking to the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, if necessary.

Step 5: Add in the onion and scallion. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes till onion has softened. Add in sauce mix. Stir rigorously till sauce is thickened and all chicken pieces are well coated with sauce.

Serve over rice.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Sticky Bun / Cinnamon Rolls

I love surprising my family on weekends. Nothing says special more than these lovely sticky bun or cinnamon rolls, hot and fresh out of the oven. The sticky sweet caramel-like topping with cinnamon sugar in the center, all topped with walnuts. If you have never had a fresh out of the oven homemade sticky bun/cinnamon rolls, try this recipe. I bet you, you will scream for more.

Weekend Sticky Bun/Cinnamon Rolls

Butter Roll recipe
285gm King Arthur's Bread Flour (or any brand bread flour of your choice)
60gm sugar
1/2 tsp salt
7g active yeast or 1 envelope
1/2 egg, beaten
85ml warm milk
84g water roux
40 gm softened butter

For the Filling
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon powder

For the toppings
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cream or milk
3 Tbsp honey
1 cup walnut


Step 1: Prepare the water roux for the bread dough. Combine 30 gm of flour with 150ml of water in a saucepan. Place saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk.

Step 2: Cook till mixture thickens like picture above. Set aside and let cool.
Step 3: Combine bread flour, sugar, yeast, egg and water roux in a large mixing bowl.
Step 4: Add in the warm milk.
Step 5: Mix with your hand.

Step 6: Continue to mix till dough comes together in a ball and clean from the bowl.
Step 7: Place dough on granite counter top or wood board. Knead for 20 minutes while working the butter in. 
Step 8: You should get a smooth dough like this. Grease a large mixing bowl and place dough in bowl. Covered with a clean kitchen towel and let proof for an hour in a warm place.
Note: If you are using a stand mixer, mix all ingredients in except butter. Using the hook attachments, work the dough till it comes together, about 5 minutes. Add in butter and continue on for another 10 minutes till dough comes out clean from the side of the bowl. Place in a greased bowl. Covered with a clean kitchen towel and let proof for 1 hour.

Step 9: Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Cook till the mix begins to boil. Remove from heat. Add in cream. honey and salt. Stir to mix well. Pour in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Scatter walnuts on top of butter-brown sugar mix.
Step 10: Once dough has done proofing, roll dough out to a 18x12 inch rectangle.
Step 11: Brush dough with melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch border at the top edge.
Step 12: Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tsp cinnamon powder. Sprinkle sugar onto dough.
Step 13: Roll the dough, like you would a swiss roll.

Step 14: Place on seam side down.
Step 15: Slice the dough in half. Proceed to slice the dough into 12 pieces.
Step 16: Place dough into baking dish on top of toppings.
Step 17: Cover dough with kitchen towel.
Step 18: Place baking dish with a bowl of hot steaming water in the cold oven. Let proof in the oven for another 45 minutes.

Step 19: Take dough out from the oven and remove the dish of water from the oven. Preheat oven to 350F or 176C.
Step 20: Bake in oven between 20 - 25 minutes till it is golden brown.

Remove sticky bun from baking dish, turning the bun over so that the sticky walnut topping is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cauliflower Au Gratin

One of the many side dishes we love but only allowed ourselves the occasional treat is anything au gratin. Au gratin is the french style of cooking, which combines butter, cheese, cream, egg and topped with breadcrumbs, all baked to golden perfection in the oven.

Potato Au Gratin or Potato Dauphinoise, is the more famous version of the gratin cooking technique. At home, we love doing gratin using potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. The dish is so creamy and satisfying that I have to admit, more often than not, I tend to make a meal out of it.

This dish is perfect for vegetarian and carnivore alike. Even the pickiest vegetable eater cannot help but like the creamy texture of the dish.

Cauliflower Au Gratin
1 lb cauliflower florets
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground mustard
2 Cups whole milk or cream
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese
1/2 tsp parsley
1 bay leaf
5 Tbsp of panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in 1/2 tsp of salt into the boiling water. Add in the cauliflower florets. Cook for 5 mins and drain. Set aside and let cool.
Step 2: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the 3 Tbsp of butter. As soon as butter is all melted, add in 3 Tbsp of flour and a teaspoon of ground mustard. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the milk, parsley and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to medium high. Cook for 10 minutes till sauce thickens. Remove the bay leaf. Turn heat off and set the saucepan aside.

Step 3: Grate the cheese.
Step 4: Stir cheese into the sauce and mix well, leaving 1/3 of the cheese behind for toppings.

Step 5: Stir in the cauliflower.
Have a baking dish ready. Preheat oven to 350F or 176C.
Step 6: Sprinkle casserole with remaining cheese.

Step 7: Top with panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 mins till top is golden brown.
Serve as a main dish for vegetarian or as a side dish to a meal. Perfect with chops, roast or chicken.