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Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

Chicago: The Purple Pig

May has been the busiest month of my residency as I am wrapping up my research project.  After many hours of data crunching, presenting my research at Western States Conference in Monterey Bay, and celebrating with a trip to Chicago, I am excited to blog again and share with you my culinary adventure in Chicago.  We flew into Chicago last Friday and hit up The Purple Pig for dinner, located conveniently on the Magnificent Mile.  Recommended by a friend for its lively atmosphere and creative menu, we could not pass up the opportunity.  With a group of seven, we ordered practically everything on the menu.  I will tell you my 4 favorites of the night: Razor Clams with Oregano and Lemon & Olive Oil, Mussels with Pancetta and Crème Fraiche & Marjoram, Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey, and last but not least, Steak and Mushrooms.  The razor clams were grilled to perfection, flavorful, and left me wanting more even though my stomach was ready to explode.  The mussels, on the other had, were the best mussels I have ever tasted in my life.  They were tender, moist, and and delicious.  Who would have thought a restaurant specializing in pork would have such amazing mussels!  The pork blade was Vu’s favorite.  According to him, it was the best piece of grilled pork he has ever had in his life, and I concur.  The thickness was just right.  You can taste a hint of sweetness from the honey mixed in with the char.  The steak was seasoned perfectly and so juicy.  It beats David Burke’s Primehouse famous 55 day aged ribeye and Ruth’s Chris steakhouse in my book.  There were so many other amazing plates that we ordered but those four stood out the most.  The Purple Pig was my favorite restaurant from this trip, beating out L2O and David Burke’s Primehouse with regard to taste and price.  I would go back to this restaurant again and again.

Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese & Pistachio Vinaigrette

Charred Cauliflower, Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cornichons & Parsley

Asparagus & Hazelnuts with Arugula & Treviso

Octopus with Favette, Celery & Radishes

Purple Pig Platter

Pork Liver Pate

Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes

Mussels with Pancetta, Crème Fraiche & Marjoram

Razor Clams with Oregano, Lemon & Olive Oil

Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey

Steak and Mushrooms

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Lobster Mac and Cheese

Inspired by an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay with a lobster mac and cheese challenge, I decided to test out my own recipe for dinner.  With Vu’s love of mac and cheese and my craving for lobster, it was a perfect combination.  I went the unconventional route and added mascarpone cheese to my recipe.  Yes, mascarpone cheese!  Who says you can only use mascarpone cheese for desserts!  The sauce was creamy and delightful!  The lobster meat was tender and sweet, elevating the dish to a new level.  I would proudly serve this dish at a dinner party.

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 lb lobster, should yield 1-1 ½ lb of meat
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cup half and half
2 bay leaves
1/2 yellow onion, cut into fourths
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup of mascarpone cheese
a pinch of salt
a pinch of pepper
½ pound of Barilla medium shells conchiglie
½ cup of panko (Japanese bread crumb)
½ cup of butter
½ cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
Chives for garnish

Instructions

In a large stockpot, add 1 cup of water, and steam the lobster for 5 minutes.  Let the lobster cool down before you separate the meat from the shell.  Cut the lobster meat into small pieces.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add in the garlic.  Sautee the lobster meat and season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.  In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the shell pasta until al dente, 6-8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

For the béchamel sauce, in a small saucepan, melt the butter on low heat and whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, half and half, bay leaves, onion, and nutmeg and bring the mixture to a simmer over 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the solids.

Return the cream mixture to the sauce pan and gently stir in the mascarpone cheese until everything is well blended.  Whisk in the butter and flour mixture and continue cooking for 10 minutes on low heat.  Add in the pasta and lobster meat and season to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and stir to moisten evenly.

In a casserole dish or individual cocotte, add the pasta mixture, top with Gruyere and bread crumbs, then bake for 10 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the cheese has completely melted.

Remove from the oven and let it cool.  Garnish with chives before serving.

Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Spareribs

I have been MIA from the blogging world for a while.  It feels good to be back!  Today, I am making brown sugar glazed pork spareribs, one of Vu’s favorite dishes.  This dish brings me back to my undergraduate days at UC Davis when I was living with two other girls, Kc and L.  We would cook together, then gathered around the dinner table and enjoyed our creations while chatting about classes, college drama, and everything in between.  Kc, one of my closest friends, showed me how to make this dish.  It is definitely one of the simpler Vietnamese dishes but incredibly delicious.  The meat falls off the bone with a hint of sweetness while your olfactory bulb picks up the scent of the sesame oil.  Every since Kc taught me how to make this dish, I have cooked it on a monthly basis, if not more often. I hope you find these pork spareribs as satisfying as I did.

Ingredients

1 lb pork spareribs
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp of brown sugar
Green onions for garnish

Instructions

Cut the pork into bite size pieces and boil on medium high heat for 20 minutes to soften the meat and remove any excess fat.

In a frying pan, add the sesame oil and turn on medium high heat.  Add the strained pork pieces and let them brown for about 5 minutes.  Add in the fish sauce and let the meat cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and let the meat caramelize for 10 minutes taking care not to burn them.

When ready to serve, garnish with green onions and enjoy it with rice.

Pho Bo Vietnamese Beef Noodle

Today, I am going back to my roots and sharing with you one of my all time favorite dishes, pho bo, or Vietnamese beef noodle.  Pho is a northern Vietnamese dish that has become well known worldwide.  Whether you are traveling in Asia, Australia, Europe, Canada, or America, you will likely find a restaurant with this wonderful soup.  If you can find a Vietnamese community, you can find a pho restaurant.  I grew up on pho, eating it for breakfast and lunch from the street vendors near my house.  And during the cold, rainy nights, it was the perfect soup for dinner.  My dad, a northerner, passed on his family recipe to my mom who came from south Vietnam.  Pho has a wonderful broth, flavored with star anise, Saigon cinnamon, charred onion, ginger, and many other spices.  The original recipe does not call for chicken stock, but my mom, who has more than 50 years of cooking experience under her belt, passed on her secret that one can of chicken stock adds even more flavor to the soup.  The daikon also adds a hint of sweetness lessening the amount of sugar needed.  Similar to many other Vietnamese noodle dishes, pho is served with lots of greens, mainly hung que (Thai basil) and ngo gai (which I do not know the English translation).  I also like the texture of bean sprouts in mine.  It adds a bit of crunch.  And of course, a bowl of pho is incomplete without the hoisin sauce and Sriracha!  People like to add brisket, tendon, tripe, and flank to their pho, but I enjoy mine with round steak and bo vien.  I am happy to share with you my mom’s recipe and hope it will send you in the right direction on your pho adventure.

Ingredients

A handful of spices (fennel, clove, coriander seeds, star anise, cinnamon)
1 large white onion
2 pieces of ginger, halved lengthwise
1 lb of daikon
1 tbsp of salt
2 lbs of beef bone
6 cups of water
1 can of chicken stock
¼ cup of fish sauce
3-4  tbsps of sugar
Rice noodles
1 lb of round steak cut in thin slices (ask your local butcher to prepare for you)
1 lb of meat balls  (bo vien from Kim Son)
Green onions and cilantro (cut in small pieces)
Bean sprouts
Hung que (basil leaves)
Ngo gai
Lime wedges
Hoisin and Sriracha sauces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place the ginger, onion, and spices in the oven and broil for 10 minutes.

Clean the beef bones with warm water and place them in a large stockpot.  Add the daikon, ginger, onion, spices, salt, and water to the pot.  Cook on medium heat for  three to four hours.  Remove any scum.  Strain the broth and transfer to a clean stockpot.  Add the chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar to the new pot and adjust the seasoning to your liking.  Let it simmer for another hour.

To cook the rice noodle, in a clean pot, bring water to a boil.  Immerse the rice noodle in the boiling water for a few seconds so you do not overcook the noodle.

When ready to serve, place the bean sprouts and noodle in the bowl.  Place the steak and meat balls on top.  Add the hot broth to the bowl, and garnish with cilantro and green onion.

Serve with hung que, ngo gai, lime wedges, and condiments.

Birthday Celebration at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

The past two weeks have been super busy for me.  In between celebrating my birthday, working, and attending the SCCM conference, I have not had time to relax or step foot into the kitchen.  I found out that a friend at work has the same birthday and Amy, my other friend, has her birthday exactly one week after mine so we all celebrated at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  Fortunately, it was during San Diego Restaurant Week so we took advantage of their 3-course meal for $40.  I picked the seared ahi tuna for the appetizer.  It was very fresh, comparable to Sushi Ota’s.  For the main course, I went with the petite filet which I anticipated to be much smaller than the filet mignon, but was pleasantly surprised by the portion.  It was a bit dry for medium well but was still delicious!  Vu ordered mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat, and they were the best crabmeat stuffed mushrooms I have ever had.  Filled with real crabmeat and no filler, they were seasoned perfectly.  His 12 oz ribeye was even more delicious than my petite file.  Tender and buttery, it was the perfect piece of ribeye.  We ended the night with two heavenly desserts, chocolate sin cake and duo of cheesecake and sorbet.  The chocolate was light but decandent.  I could not stop eating even though my stomach was at max capacity.  I did not enjoy the cheesecake as much but the raspberry sorbet was fresh and delightful.  Overall, it was an excellent meal, perfect for a birthday celebration.

Seared ahi tuna

Mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat

Petite filet

12 oz ribeye

Chocolate sin cake

“Banh Canh Cua” Vietnamese Rice Noodle with Crab Soup

I am so happy that crab season lasts longer this year.  I plan on making “banh canh cua” or Vietnamese fat rice noodle with crab soup.  Banh canh cua is one of my favorite soups.  There are two versions, pork soup and crab soup.  I grew up with both but being a seafood fanatic, I enjoy the crab version much more.  The noodles look fat like udon, but are made with rice or tapioca, not wheat.  The tapioca noodles are clear after boiling and taste more chewy compared to the rice noodles.  This dish brings back fond memories of my pharmacy rotation in Vietnam.  My classmates and I would go to Ben Thanh market in Saigon for lunch or dinner and order banh canh from the various food stands.  The atmosphere was always lively, great for eating and people watching.  I hope you find this soup tasty and comforting!

Ingredients

2 Dungeness crabs
10 cups of water
2 lbs of pork neck bones
¼ cup of fish sauce
¼ cup of sugar
2 pkg (15 oz) fat rice noodles (they look like udon)
1 lb of deveined shrimps
chili pepper and pepper to taste (optional)
cilantro and green onions for garnish

Directions

Fill a large stockpot with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Place the crabs in the water and steam for 15 minutes.  Save the crab stock.  Remove the meat from the body and claws, and save the juice from the body.  In a separate stockpot, fill 10 cups of water and cook the pork neck bones for 2 hours.  Pour the strained the pork stock, 2 cups of crab stock, and juice from the crabs into a separate stockpot.  Add fish sauce.  Let simmer for 30 minutes and remove any scum at the surface.  Add sugar to taste.

Boil the rice noodles until semi-clear.  Strain and leave the noodles in cold water so they do not expand.

When ready to serve, transfer the noodle to a serving bowl, top with crab meat and shrimps and then add soup.  Garnish with green onions, cilantro, pepper, and chili pepper.  Enjoy!

Roasted Turkey with Stuffed Rosemary and Butter

We drove from San Diego to San Jose on Thanksgiving day to avoid traffic and moved dinner to Friday.  My mom had already bought a 14-lb turkey and defrosted it in the fridge 2 days before.  I decided to keep the recipe simple and do a rosemary butter stuffed turkey seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  We went to three grocery stores to get rosemary but all of them ran out.  I was getting a bit nervous that my recipe needed substitution for the rosemary.  Fortunately our neighbor had a rosemary bush in his backyard and was kind enough to let us take as much as we needed.  It was nice to get fresh rosemary! After four hours of basting, checking, and flipping, the turkey turned out very moist and delicious.  I also made gravy using the neck, heart, and gizzard, fresh cranberry sauce, apple with bacon stuffing, mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans for side dishes.  My brother in law added an excellent side dish of mac and cheese topped with bacon.  Everyone gobbled up their food within 15 minutes.  We ended the night with a pumpkin roll, vanilla ice cream, and dessert wine.  It was a successful Thanksgiving dinner for 13 people and no leftover.  I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as I did!

Ingredients

12-14 lb turkey (neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for gravy)
2 sticks salted butter
¼ cup fresh rosemary leaves (save the sprigs)
2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps pepper
¼ cup olive oil
2 oranges (halved)

Directions

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator before roasting, clean, and pat dry.  Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Combine the butter and rosemary in a food processor and process until smooth.

Use a butter knife, gently separate the skin from the meat.  Stuff the mixed rosemary and butter evenly underneath the turkey’s skin.  Fill the cavity with the orange halves and rosemary sprigs.

Combine the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Brush the entire turkey with the mixture.

Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast up, and roast for 4 hours.  Baste every 45 minutes so the skin will not dry out.  Flip the turkey at 1.5 hrs so it can cook evenly, and flip it again at 3 hrs.  Roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh reads 170˚ F.

Transfer the turkey to a platter. Tent it very loosely with foil, and let it rest for at least 45 minutes before serving.

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