Saturday, July 4, 2015

Chicken Kebabs.

This recipe adapted from America's test kitchen Chicken Kebabs.  A unusual interesting ingredients here is bacon paste to keep chicken moist.  No brine needed.  The large amount of Paprika powder giving chicken an attractive flavorful reddish hue.  This recipe calls for 6 servings but  it makes 8 servings for us.  I did not wipe the chicken before coating them with  bacon paste so they did not adhere well to the chicken so I shmeared 1/2 of them on top of chicken at the end, close the lid, grill for 1 minutes.  Baste with the sauce, then turn the bacon side down and repeat with other side-schmear bacon paste, cook, baste, turn.  I made 1/2 amount of the sauce which was enough to coat both sides of the chicken well. Onion can be coarsely chopped and smashed with a pestle and mortar.  I added fresh minced garlic to the sauce and garlic powder to the coating spice mixture.  I had a small portable Weber gas grill so I use 10 inch wood skewers instead of 12 inch ones and I did not need to soak the wood skewers.  Serve with potato salad and other side dish.  I usually cut each large chicken thigh into 6 pieces after removing bone and skin, then freeze them on a baking tray lined with plastic.
Make 6-8 servings


  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs light or mild molasses
  • 2 Tbs grated yellow onion or shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs light brown sugar


  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller
  • 8 10-inch wood skewers
The sauce:  add all ingredients of the sauce in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat down to simmer, stir constantly until thickened like ketchup consistency.  Remove from heat. Cover until use.
The kebabs:  
  1. Trim excess fat and cut chicken into 1 inch cubes or if you like thinner pieces, you can cut each cube in halves (1 inch x 1 inch x ½ inch thick ). Toss chicken pieces with salt and garlic powder in a bowl, cover and let it sits in the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour.
  2. Preheat the grill as manual instruction ( 5 minutes with cover on high with mine) 
  3. While the grill heating, puree bacon with a food processor into a paste.  Combine sweet, smoked paprika, sugar, in a bowl, adding bacon paste and mix well.  Wipe chicken well with paper towel.  Using hands to coat chicken pieces with spice/bacon paste.  Thread chicken onto skewers.  These thinner pieces can be rolled or fold into 1 inch thick or 1/2 inch thick. Try to make the thickness even because it will affect cooking time.  Do not thread the chicken too tight together.  
  4. Cook on lowest setting for 2 minutes on each side with the lid down until well browned and slightly charred.  The 1/2 inch thick pieces cook faster (about 6 minutes total:  3 minutes on each side).  Brush 1/2 of of the sauce on the top of chicken, turn, cover and cook for 1 minutes.  Turn the other side up and brush the remaining sauce to it, turn it down and cook for 1 more minutes. Check the temperature at the center at least 160 for breast and 165 oF to 175 oF for thighs. Cut one thickest piece at the center and check if you do not have a grill thermometer.  Recheck after every minutes until done.  Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fudge Cookies and Mint Chip Ice Cream

This recipe is adapted from Emily Luchetti's via  Emily is recognized around the world for her award-winning sweet creation and this recipe is pictured on the cover of her book "A passion for ice cream"  These cookies are very soft.  I like to put them in the freezer until firm up at least 4 hours or overnight before making ice cream sandwiches.

Fudge Cookies, make 30-34 cookies (2.5 inch) if using the small (1¾ inch )cream scoop

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 quart of mint chip ice cream, homemade or store bought

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F now or later if you have a power plus function oven. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler over hot simmering water. Stir constantly until smooth and combined.  Set aside, let cool down at room temperature.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together , then add salt. 
  4. Whip eggs, sugar and vanilla together until thick and pale in color. Check by lift the beater up, the batter should fall down slowly and form a ribbon that slowly dissolved.  Use a spatula to fold cool melt chocolate into the egg mixture.  Then stir in the flour mixture.  Let the batter rests until slightly thick about 5-15 minutes.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop to make small cookies.   Scoop the batter into prepared pans at least 2 inches apart.  The batter should spread a little bit but not running.   Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  The cookies will start cracking on the top and loose the shining.  Remove from heat when cookies look set and dull. They still very soft when done but do not overbake.  Let they cool down in the tray.  Then remove with a spatula.  Put them in an air tight containers at room temperature or in freezer until use.
  6. Put a scoop of ice cream on the bottom of one cookie and top with another, gently press down to adhere the sandwiches together.  Serve immediately or wrap in a plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container until ready to serve. 

Mint Chip Ice Cream-Kem Thơm Mùi Húng Thơm.

  • This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz and Emily Luchetti.  Spearmint is growing like weeds in my garden but they are still very expensive at the store. I think it is not worth it if you have to buy mint from the store.  Spearmint is easy to grow. If you live in town, I have plenty to share.  I used dark chocolate (53 %) from Winco.  Emily uses 8 oz chocolate and chopped it with a food processor for chocolate chunky lover.  However, Anne Walker's only uses 3 oz of high quality bittersweet chocolate (about 60% of cacao)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar (3/4 cup sugar in original recipe)
  • 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, washed and drained well
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 5 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • A few drops of Blue or Green color (optional)

  1. Heat milk, 1/2 cup sugar, heavy cream, and mint in a medium heavy pan (2.5-3 quarts) over medium high heat, stir occasionally until almost simmering.  Remove from heat, cover and let the mint steep for an hour.  Strain the mixture into a bowl with a sieve. Press the mint against the sieve or squeeze them with a cleaned hand (if they are not too hot ) to extract as much flavor and color as possible. Discard the mint.
  2. Reheat the cream mixture over medium heat.  While the cream is heating, place egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beating egg on high until slightly thickened and lemon color.  Slowly pour hot cream into beaten egg yolks, whisk constantly while pouring.  Return the mixture back into the saucepan,.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicon/wood spatula, until it reaches 170-175 oF and slightly coats the spatula about 1 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and strain the mixture into a stainless bowl.  Cool in an ice-water bath to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Stir in food color if used.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.  
  5. Melt chocolate over simmering water stir until smooth, set aside.  Put a container in a freeze.  Churn ice cream base in a ice cream machine following the manufacturer's instruction. When the ice cream ready, dribble some melt chocolate at the bottom of container.Place a layer of ice cream atop chocolate and dribble with more chocolate.  Make a quick stirring to break chocolate into small pieces.  Repeat with another layer of ice cream and chocolate, stirring. 
  6. Cover, then place in the freezer for several hours until firm/scoopable before serving.  

  • * Notes: The amount of fresh mint and time of infusing vary from one to other.  2 cups of mint steep in hot cream for 1 hour is the max in David's recipe produce an beautiful intense mint flavor but my daughter thinks it was too strong.  Emily and Anne use less mint in shorter infused time.  I sure to try next time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Steak au Poivre/Pepper Steak -Thịt Bò Chiên Tiêu

Steak au Poivre is  a French dish which consists of a steak coated with cracked  peppercorn, pan-seared and served with a pan sauce. Serve it with a favorite potato and a fresh mixed green salad or roasted/steamed/sauteed green. This recipe bases on Fine Cooking.  It has tarragon and thyme which is my favorite herbs too but I did not see them in other recipes so if you do not have them in hand, omit it.  If you buy them, freeze left over in its own container.  Some use beef, chicken stock and veal or beef demi-glace and no cream.  Check out Wolfgang Puck's.

Make 4 servings.

4 New York strip or Rib eye steak, or filet Mignon about 6-8  oz each (3/4 to 1.5 inch thick)
1 Tbs whole peppercorns (black or white)
1 tsp Kosher salt or any flake sea salt or 1/2 tsp table salt.
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp cognac or brandy, or dry cherry
1/4 cup chopped shallot (about 1 large or 2 medium)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs chopped  each tarragon and thyme (optional)

  1. Remove the steaks from the fridge for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking.
  2. Crack all the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or put them in a thick plastic bag on a cutting board and use the bottom of a cast iron, or a mallet, or a meat pounder.  Do not use ground black pepper because it would be burned and become bitter. 
  3. Wipe the steak dry with paper towel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt evenly on both sides of the steak. Then press cracked peppercorn on both sides of steaks.
  4. Heating oil in a 12 inch heavy bottom skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering (it looks thinner and changes the color when the pan is swirling), gently place the steaks into the pan.  Cook until the bottom nicely brown about 2-3 minutes. Turn the steaks and cook until brown 2-3 minutes more.  Turn the heat down to medium and cook until done as your liking.  The instant-read thermometer inserted in the center read 125 oF for rare about 8 minutes total.  130 oF/medium rare, 135 medium.   Transfer the steaks to a plate and cover loosely with foil or a lid. Set aside.  
  5. Pour off excess fat from the pan but the browned bits. Melt butter in the pan over medium heat.  Add shallot, stirring and scraping the browned bits from bottom of the pan until soft and translucent about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat to avoid any flare up, add 1/3 cup of cognac or other spirit if used.  Return pan to the heat and cook until the cognac reduces to a glaze consistency about 1-2 minutes.  Add cream, thyme, tarragon, and any accumulated juice from resting steaks.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Cook, stir frequently until the sauce coats the back of a spoon .  Stir in the remaining 1 tsp of cognac and season to taste with salt. Strain the sauce over a fine mesh sieve over a bowl if you want a smooth sauce.
  6. Spoon the sauce over steak and serve immediately.

Double fried potatoes

1 lb russet potato, 
Vegetable oil for deep fried
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Peel, slice potatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and soak them in water at least 30 minutes.  
  2. Heat oil in a heavy bottom stock pot to 325 oF.  
  3. Remove potatoes from water, pat dry.  Add  potatoes into hot oil in batches.  It should have about 1 inch of oil  above potatoes.  Fry until light brown and soft.  Remove and drain on wire rack.  Set aside. 
  4. Reheat oil to 360 oF, add potatoes and fry until golden brown.  Remove from oil, shake off excess oil. Season with salt and pepper.
* The blanching technique of Heston Blumenthal sounds great but I haven't tried it yet.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Boston Cream Pie

What is a lucky girl.  My daughter celebrated her 27 birthday last month surrounding by loving, caring and supportive people with multiple cakes from her company and organizations that she has been a volunteer for over a decade.  

I was planning to bake a cake so she could decorate herself.  Anyone remember the amazing totally Eugenian cake design in this blog at this time last year.  However, she was too busy with work, and school and preparing the Lotus dance for Vietnamese Student Association at UO's "Vietnam Once Upon a Time" show and I was busy too with work and being Mama paparazzi too.  But the urge to make a homemade birthday cake?

This cake is an America cake, born at the Parker House Hotel in Boston in the middle of the 19th century.The cake is required a little time to bake and melt the chocolate and you can finish it in a blink when the cake and pastry is cool.  No decoration skill needed I promise and if you have a favorite cake box use it.  
This recipe uses  hot milk sponge cake filled with pastry cream and chocolate ganache. 

Make a 9-inch cake, needs two 9-inchx2-inch round cake pan

  • The cake: Bake the day before or at least 2-3 hours before assembling
  •    4 ½ oz  ( 1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for the pan
  •    1/4 tsp. table salt
  •    7 whole eggs, at room temperature
  •    1 cup granulated sugar
  •    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  •    1/4 cup whole milk
  •    1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter and extra for the pans
  1. Preheat oven to 350 of with a rack  in middle of oven.  Grease and flour cake pans.
  2. Heat milk and  butter over medium low heat until butter melts.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and cover to keep warm
  3. Separate eggs into yolks and  whites.  Beat egg yolk in medium high speed with an standing electric mixer fitted with beaters or a whip attachment for about two minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar until very thick and pale about 6-8 minutes (or 10-12 minutes with handheld mixer).  Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides to make sure sugar and yolks are evenly mixed.  When the beaters or whip is raised the yolks should fall and form a slowly dissolving ribbon into the mixture in the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.  Set aside or transfer to another bowl if you do not have an extra mixing bowl. Wash and dry the bowl and beaters/whip spotlessly. 
  4. Beat egg whites with salt on medium low speed until frothy about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and beat until soft peak form ( peaks that curl softly at their tips when the beater is raised).  Gradually add sugar by tablespoon  about 1 minutes total.  Continue whipping the egg white until shiny and form stiff peaks but still able to curl slightly at the tips about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Use a large rubber spatula fold 1/3 of egg white to egg yolk mixture with a few broad stroke.  Rotate  the bowl a little bit with each fold. A few streak of white  remain is ok.  Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Sift about 1/5-1/6 amount of  flour on the top of eggs mixture and gently fold in  until the flour is almost incooperated.  Repeat until folding all flour.
  6. Check the milk mixture temperature, it should be around 95 oF.  Rewarm briefly if needed.  Pour the warm milk along the side of the bowl and continue folding until the flour is completely incooperated and no streak of butter.  Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake until the golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached about 15-18 minutes.  Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes on wire rack.  Then remove from the pans and let it cool completely with the top up on wire rack about 2 hours.
Pastry cream:  Make the day before or at least 2-3 hours before assembling 
   2 cups whole milk   
   6 large egg yolks    
   ½  cup sugar   
   ¼ tsp salt
  1 tsp pure vanilla extract  2 Tbs unsalted butter

  ¼ cup cornstarch or 2 Tbs cornstarch and 2 Tbs all purpose flour
  1. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a heatproof bowl until very thick and pale.
  2. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Slow whisk hot milk into egg yolk mixture.  Pour the egg-milk mixture back to the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, use a spatula and stir constantly until the mixture start getting thick and lumpy at the bottom.  Decrease the heat down to medium low or low and continue stirring constantly with a spatula all over the bottom and sides until thick and glossy.  When bubble appears, cook briefly for 10 more seconds to cook out the flour taste.  Then remove from heat.  
  3. Pour, push and scrape the pastry cream through a sieve into   a medium bowl, press a plastic layer directly on the top and refrigerate until chilled and set about 2 hours or overnight.
Chocolate ganache
   6 ounces bittersweet or semi chocolate, chopped fine ( semi chocolate chips is handy too)
   1 Tbs light corn syrup
   3/4 cup (6 oz wt) heavy whip cream

Bring whip cream to a simmer over medium high heat. Pour it over chocolate.  Set aside for 1 minutes.  Whisk until smooth.  Let it cool down to pourable consistency about 20 minutes or a little longer in the hot weather.  It can sit longer a couple hours at room temperature to reach to spreading consistency for spreading.   It can be made in advance, store in the fridge and warm it back when ready to use.

Assemble the cake:

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and top with a wire rack.  Place a layer cake on the wire rack.  Spread the pastry cream in an even layer to the edge. Put another cake layer on the top.  Press down lightly.  Pour chocolate on the top and let it drips down to the side.  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set about 2 hours.  Before serving, transfer the cake to a platter and let it sits at room temperature about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  The cake can sit overnight in the fridge.

*Notes to make the birthday cake

The image idea from  "Rose's heavenly cakes" 

14 oz rolled wafers needed to wrap around the cake for the birthday cake.

The orchard flower is from Chau's bouquet for her birthday celebration on the stage from VAS's courtesy but any fresh flower can be used.

I just let the chocolate cool longer until no dripping and spread it all over the cake-more on the top. The rolled wafer cookie are broken in different height and adhere to the cake by pastry cream and chocolate glaze but if you plan to take the cake to somewhere, a ribbon should be used to keep the wafers intact. Mix a little bit red color with a few table spoon of pastry cream to make the candle light or you might use rolled candy, etc.  Put the red pastry in a bag and squeeze it out on the top of wafers. These disguised candles numbers and good for office if candles are not allowed because of fire hazard. My daughter told me her colleagues tried to count "the candles" to guess her age.  The amount of pastry cream and chocolate ganache is generous per America's Test Kitchen recipe and I think they can be reduced down to 2/3 if  you desired.

Mango and Kiwi Lassi with spinach

Lassi is a popular, traditional yogurt based drink from India, Pakistan, Sri lanka, and Bangladesh.   Mango lassi is the most popular drink at Indian restaurants.  The flavor and texture will vary depending on  more or less mango, yogurt, sugar, ice or milk  is used.  This combination of mango and kiwi lassi has a striking beautiful color but my daughter does not like kiwi lassi.

Mango lassi

 Make 1 drink 16 oz
1 large very ripe  mango. peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup crushed ice (125gr)
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Splash of milk or water (option)
1-2 Tbs of sugar

In a blender, blend  mango pulp and ice  until smooth.  Add yogurt and blend to combine well.  If it is too thick add a little milk or water.  Taste and add sugar to suit your sweet desired.   Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately with a straw.

*Notes:  some recipes flavor mango lassi with:
A pinch of ground green cardamom or ginger is blended with other ingredients and extra is sprinkle atop the drink.
A pinch of saffron warm in 1 Tbs milk 30 seconds in microwave is added atop the drink before serving.
Honey can be used instead of sugar.

Kiwi Lassi with Spinach

Make 16 oz drink
3 ripe kiwi
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup crushed ice (125 g)
1 handful spinach (1/2 cup packed)
Splash of milk or water
1-2 Tbs sugar to taste

Process like mango lassi. 

Braised Pork Belly with Eggs-Thit Kho Trung

This is a popular traditional dish of Vietnam.  This recipe is special because it is adapted from Masterchef winner, blind chef Christine Ha.  This was the dish she made for the judges at the finale.  I bought her book a few year back after it is published to learn her taste.  The unique taste makes this humble dish well known.

She is amazing and I do not think anyone else can do what she does.  However, everyone has different taste. In my opinion, the dish is sweeter than traditional braised pork in Vietnam at the first taste and she advises to adjust the seasoning, adding fish sauce or sugar if necessary before serving.  So the taste of the winning dish still remains secretly between her and the judges.

The coconut soda "coco-rico" brand is sweetened with 40 g sugar (about 3 Tbs and 1 tsp ) in each 12 oz can.  It is used by most Vietnamese here including my mom.  You can find it at oriental store.  We use pure coconut water to cook this dish in Vietnam.   Coconut water is the clear liquid inside fresh coconuts.  Some is sweeter than others but it is definitely not as sweet as coco-rico.  If you can not find Coco-rico brand, buy other brand  but adjust sugar later for the taste.  The coconut water will turn into caramel color when it is cooked down with time so no caramel  needed here.

Pork belly is used in her recipe but pork butt or shoulder can be used.  The skin and fat adds flavor and body to the broth.  The blanching enhances the flavor and browning helps to add color as well as keeps the meat intact during braising.  In the time frame of the show, she must use the pressure cooker to achieve the tenderness of pork.  The pressure cooker actually give the pork a darker caramel shade too.  If you do not have a clay pot, the pork can be cooked in the same saucepan.  If you use pressure cooker, use it to blanch, , brown and braise the pork as a saucepan.  Follow the manual instruction, cook at high pressure for 30 minutes with the lowest possible heat setting ( medium low or low) to maintain pressure.  When the time up, remove the pot from heat and follow the natural release method.

Braised pork is served with cooked rice and other side dish as raw veggies (cucumber, tomato, lettuce, Vietnamese herbs), pickled veggies( green mustard, daikon, carrot), boiled/steamed veggies, etc.  or use  in spring rolls, sandwich.  We do not eat a lot of meat in daily meal.  Believed it or not when I was young, one or two pounds of meat would be plenty for a big family to eat in one day.

Make 6 servings:

2 ½ lbs pork belly
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper and extra for garnish
2 cans (12 oz) coconut soda (prefer Coco-rico)
1/4 cup fish sauce plus additional if desired (I add 1/4 cup total 1/2 cup three crab brand)
3 garlic cloves, minced about 1 Tbs
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
2-3 green onion, thinly sliced
6 cups cooked jasmine rice
Veggies to serve:  cucumber, tomato, lettuce, herbs, broiled broccoli, spinach, etc.

  1. In a large saucepan, bring enough water to cover pork to a boil over medium high heat ( about 3 cups). Add pork and cook about 3-4 minutes.  Remove pork belly, rinse and drain well.  Wash and dry the saucepan.  Cut pork into 1 inch cubes.
  2. Return the saucepan to stove, add oil over medium high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the pork, stir occasionally until the pork is slightly brown all sides.  Lower the heat down to medium if needed to achieve the golden brown.  Transfer the pork to a clay pot and add pepper, coconut soda, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, shallots, onion and eggs.  The liquid should cover both pork and eggs.  Add water if needed.  Bring it back to a boil.  Then lower the heat to low or medium low, cover.  Simmer for 1 hour, check to see if pork is tender enough to pull apart easy with chopsticks or a fork.  If not, cover and check in 15-30 minutes.  Taste and add more fish sauce or sugar to suit your taste. Sprinkle ground pepper and green onion before serving.   This dish is always served hot or warm.