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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

It is hard to think of a more satisfying comfort food than macaroni and cheese. This is my new method, which is easier because buying the cheese in thin slices eliminates the tedious task of grading cheese. I now use only white Vermont and Munster. I stop using small elbow macaroni as it does not yield enough pasta. This recipe uses rigatoni.

1 ½ Pounds rigatoni
4 tablespoons sweet butter
4 tablespoons AP flour
½ Pound white Vermont sliced thin
½ Pound Munster sliced thin
1 Cup Heavy cream
Half and Half as needed
Pinch of sweet paprika
1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1 Teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of nutmeg (optionally)
Pinch white pepper
Salt to taste, if needed

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a covered pot with 4 quarts water to a boil. Begin cooking the pasta, keeping in mind, that while you’re making the sauce, the pasta should be drained as soon as it is “al dente”.

Melt butter in a large casserole dish over low heat, add flour. Stir while cooking until very slightly light brown. Whisk in cream over medium heat. Bring to a boil, adding more half and half as it thickens.  Add a slice each of both cheeses, whisking as they melt. Alternatively add half and half and cheese until the volume of sauce has increase to fill half the casserole. Whisk in pinch of sweet paprika, garlic, onion powders and ample white pepper. Taste then correct seasonings.

Whisk in pinch of sweet paprika and a pinch white pepper. Add grated Fontina cheese and slowly heat to melt stirring frequently. Now add half the grated cheddar cheese and slowly heat to melt stirring frequently. Add in the cooked pasta. You will need to stir this very well insuring the sauce is distributed evenly all over the pasta.

Top with slices of both cheeses. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned.
  1. Rigatoni are a form of tube-shaped pasta of varying lengths and diameters originating in Italy. They are larger than penne and ziti, and sometimes slightly curved, though nowhere near as curved as elbow macaroni. Rigatoni characteristically have ridges down their length.
  2. If your kids expect all “Mac and cheese” to be yellow, you may use yellow food coloring to the desired shade of yellow.  I skip it.
  3. This is not the French version of Muenster but the milder and less expensive Wisconsin, New York or Vermont version.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kae's Melting Moments - Cookies

2 Cups flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
½ Teaspoon salt
½ Cup powdered sugar
1 Cup sweet butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla
Optionally, 1 teaspoon almond extract or almond oil

Lemon Icing
Powdered sugar
Lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Yellow food coloring added until icing is lemon colored
Finely minced lemon zest

Cream sugar and butter, then sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix with butter mixture until well mixed. Refrigerate until easy to handle (2 hours is plenty).  Pre-heat oven to  350 F.

Form small rounds of dough and flatten with a fork coated with flour on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10~12 minutes.

When cool, ice with lemon icing that is made to taste.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maude's Old Fashion Chocolate Fudge

I do not know Kae’s (my mother) friend Maude but this simple recipe looks like a fun project for the grandkids and Grandma or Grandpa.

12 Marshmallows (some also for kids to eat)
¾ Cup evaporated milk
2 Cups sugar
1 Cup walnuts
6 Ounce package of chocolate chips
1 Stick (1/4 pound) salted butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Combine Marshmallows, milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir and cook seven minutes once boiling. In a heat proof bowl, add chocolate chips and butter. Pour over boiling mixture and beat until well mixed. Stir in nuts. Turnout mixture into a butter pan and cool overnight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sichuan (Schezuan) Pepper aka Prickly Ash

This pepper is not actually a member the pepper family. It has a unique aroma and flavor that is neither hot nor pungent; rather it has lemony flavor and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that enhances chilies usually used with it. Only the outer husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded as they have a hard gritty sand-like texture. Husks are stemmed then toasted before mortared or ground then added to the dish just before serving.

Sichuan pepper are one of the traditional ingredients in the Chinese spice mixture five-spice powder and also Japanese  shichimi togarashi, a seven ingredient seasoning often found as a shaker on the condiment tray of your Asian noodle shop. Shichimi togarashi is made typically with equal parts each of ground red chiles and ground sansho (berries of the prickly ash tree related to Sichuan pepper) plus one portion each of the following: dried orange or yuzu peel, black sesame, white sesame, ginger, and nori flakes.

Due to their lemony undertones, this pepper works well with duck, chicken and fish.

Sichuan culinary history reaches all the way back to the Ba and Shu kingdoms in the 21st to 5th centuries BC. During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), a 50 volume  cookbook was published. Despite its reputation to the contrary, not all Sichuan food is red-hot. Of the eight major culinary cuisines in China, Sichuan cuisine is perhaps the most popular throughout the country and across the world.

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken)

This dish may well be the world's most popular Chinese dish and is a excellent show case for the Sichuan pepper flavor. It is also one of the few Chinese dishes that have largely remained authentic yet served worldwide. A blend hot, sweet and sour, this delightful chicken dish is also quick to prepare. The chicken slices easier if it is slightly frozen. Note that when the chilies are left whole, the dish is less hot than in they were broken up. For this reason, I use whole arbor chilies that are quite hot.

2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin bite sized pieces
3 Cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 Tablespoon finely minced peeled ginger
Whites of 5 scallion, sliced on the diagonal into 1 inch lengths
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
Handful of whole dried red chilies (show courage)
1 Teaspoon toasted ground Sichuan peppers added just before serving
2/3 Cup roasted peanuts

2 Teaspoon Tamari (less salty) soy sauce
1 Teaspoon sweet rice wine or Shaoxing wine
1½ Teaspoon cornstarch
1 Teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon water

2 Teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon cornstarch
1 Teaspoon Mushroom soy sauce
1 Teaspoon Tamari soy sauce
2 Teaspoon Chinkiang (Black rice vinegar) or seasoned rice vinegar
1 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Teaspoon Marin
1 Tablespoon chicken stock or water
Pick out any black seeds or stems from a tablespoon of Sichuan pepper berries. Heat a small pan until hot and toast pepper berries until fragrant (30 seconds or so). Turn out into a mortar or grinder. Grind into a not too course grind. Set aside.

Prepare garlic, ginger, and scallions. Assemble the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Cut the chicken into thin bite sized pieces. Thin strips cook quickly and maintain tenderness when flash cooked in the wok. Add the marinade ingredients and stir in the chicken pieces. Let marinate 15 minutes.

Into a hot wok, add peanut oil and then toss the whole chilies until fragrant. Drain then add and stir-fry chicken for several minutes until nearly fully cooked. Now add the ginger, garlic, and spring onions and stir-fry another minute. Stir the sauce ingredient then add to wok. Continue to cook. As soon as the sauce has thickened, mix in the peanuts. Remove from heat and sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppers. Serve immediately.

Very good with plain steamed Jasmine rice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Good Life

Photo by Steve Salkow
Perhaps one of the greatest things I ever ate was fresh tuna Sashimi at Mama's fish house on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The fish was speared that morning by one of the restaurant's two divers. This welcoming place, and Maui's Favorite Restaurant, is located on Maui's North Shore. The view though the open windows under the shade of the coconut palms is this gorgeous curved Kuau Cove featured in this photograph.
Sashimi is the epitome of simple. It is raw fished sliced into mouth sized pieces that is served with fragrant hand-grated wasabi-root and a soy dipping sauce. It is a bell ringer reminder you do not need fancy to make wonderful!
Another favorite dinner is simply fresh oysters in their half-shelves, horseradish, Tabasco and a handy bottle of fine Russian vodka. Pretty hard to beat.