Friday, February 26, 2010

Food Dehydrator (aka Jerky Maker)

I got an email this morning from one of our new colleagues inviting everyone for Friday happy hour at Rivals.  It is a new place in town – pretty spacious, with very comfortable bar stools, nice ambiance, cheap drinks and great fried pickles.  Friday evening is special family time for us so even if I wanted to I could not make it and never have.

Friday dinner is usually roast or stew cooking in the crock pot while I’m at work---or something easy to prepare after a long day like a nice, tender grilled steak (on my indoor electric grill), jerky salad and fine wine from Stone Hill Winery.   I add beef jerky to my salads as it’s my son’s favorite salad and baked potato topper.   It’s pretty good. Who does not love beef jerky? It’s salty, sweet, peppery…very addicting … and… it's not cheap!

When Cookware.com contacted me to review one of their products, it was a toss-up between a food dehydrator (aka jerky maker) and a multi-cooker (that can bake, roast, steam and slow cook).  I was leaning on getting the counter top multi-cooker.  Preparing meals would be a breeze but when I talked with Hubby and my son, the unanimous vote was for the jerky maker.  I think they’ve gotten tired of ALL my failed attempts at making beef jerky!!!  Then Mr. J  said ,  “If  you use a food dehydrator, maybe it might turn out  just an itty-bitsy, teeny-weeny better than our latest teriyaki....umm…umm...teriyaki CHARCOAL!?!?!  That made me laugh…maybe it was really time to give it a try!   I’ll let you know how it works for me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Teriyaki Beef with Brown Rice

One of the quickest dinners for me to prepare is Teriyaki beef or Teriyaki chicken.  The sauce is so simple, I don't bother buying bottled teriyaki sauce from the store.  The other advantage of making my own is I know exactly what's in it.  I've always used dark brown brown sugar but I found that using Xagave gives a lighter sauce that is just delicious!   

Xagave is premium agave nectar made from a unique blend of nectars from Blue Agave (Agave tequiliana) and White Agave (Agave salmiana).  It's supposed to be low on the glycemic index (with a score of 30 to 35 so it does not rapidly raise the levels of glucose in the blood ) and is about 1.4 times sweeter than sugar so you could use less of it!  Xagave is different from other brands of agave nectar.  The label says it contains calcium, iron and the soluble fiber inulin, known to be a prebiotic or a substance that stimulates growth and activity of good bacteria in the lower intestines and increases absorption of calcium.....sounds pretty healthy to me!  

Agave nectar is not a newly engineered sweetener unlike aspartame.  It has been used for thousands of years by native peoples of Mexico in beverages and as a condiment to food.  Stephen Richards of BetterBody Foods & Nutrition developed Xagave as a blend of nectar from several agave plants to come up with the best of taste, texture and health benefits that this wonderful plant has to offer.  Their cookbook has more than 150 recipes (ranging from breakfast, gourmet meals, sauces, ice cream and dessert to cocktails) with detailed nutritional data for each.  The company website has lots of amazing recipes....I've already tried their Beer Beef Marinade, Banana Bread and Chocolate Protein Oat Shake.  My son's favorite is the Triple Berry Yogurt Smoothie and I can't wait to try their version of Kansas Barbecue sauce.

Meantime, here is Xagave's recipe for Teriyaki with Brown Rice
4 Tsp canola oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 lbs. chicken breast, beef, fish or tofu
4 cups vegetables (I used carrots and snap peas)
1/4 cup Xagave Teriyaki sauce
3 cups cooked brown rice
In a wok or saute pan, heat oil on high.  Add garlic, ginger and meat then saute till cooked.  Add vegetables and cook 3 to 5 minutes but not longer so the veggies remain firm, crisp and bright-colored.  Add 1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce.  Mix thoroughly and serve over cooked brown rice. Enjoy!

Teriyaki Sauce
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp white unsweetened rice vinegar
1/3 cup Xagave
3 tsp minced garlic
3 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp water

Combine the first six ingredients in a blender.  Pour into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then bring it to a simmer.  Mix cornstarch and water, add to the sauce, stirring constantly to thicken (about 1 minute).  This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.  I use it for stir-fry and as marinade for grilled chicken and fish.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Singaporean Hainanese Chicken

Hainanese Chicken is a Singapore classic made with fresh/ chilled whole chicken.  Copious amounts of salt is rubbed into the skin and in the body cavity to remove impurities.  It is then rinsed in water and the salting- rinsing process is repeated to ensure that the chicken is very clean. The chicken is blotted dry then gently poached several times in chicken stock to infuse the delicate ginger-scallion-sesame flavor.  The resulting poached chicken is very tender and delicate. It is served with three dipping sauces to complement the flavor of the chicken.  Often jasmine rice is added to the stock used for poaching then served as Chicken Rice.

For this dish, I adapted the Hainanese Chicken Rice recipe from The Food Of Singapore.  Since I did not prepare the Chinese chicken stock myself, I added ginger, sesame oil, scallions and salt to enhance the flavor. 

Here's the modified recipe:
1 fresh chicken/ 4 chicken breasts or thighs (deboned but skin on)
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp sesame oil 
3 slices of ginger
2 scallions
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

For the Chicken Rice:
2 cups jasmine rice
2 cups chicken stock used to poach chicken
salt and white pepper to taste

Three kinds of dipping sauces:
Kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
Sambal olek
Ginger scallion sauce (made by mixing finely minced ginger, scallions, salt, sesame oil, canola oil and chicken broth)

Clean and dry the chicken.  Boil chicken stock, sesame oil, ginger, scallions, salt then put in the chicken.  Cover the pot, let the stock come to a boil again for 1 minute then turn off the heat and let the chicken steep for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot, plunge in iced water and drain.

Bring the stock back to a boil, add the chicken and repeat the steeping process.  Plunge chicken in iced water and drain.  Repeat the whole process twice so that the chicken has steeped in the chicken stock for a total of 60 minutes.  The chicken will be lightly cooked, not at all dried out and with no traces of blood.  Cut into serving pieces, sprinkle with soy sauce and sesame oil, and set aside. Make sure you adjust the amount of seasoning depending on the size of chicken you use.

Wash jasmine rice and cook it in a rice cooker.  Place the dipping sauce in separate dishes.  Serve Hainanese Chicken with hot Chicken Rice and the three dipping sauces. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Best Fettuccini Alfredo Ever

Last week, my very talented niece, Mia B. prepared what was for me The Best Fettuccini Alfredo Ever!

For years, Mia enjoyed dancing ballet but about a year ago, she decided she was more interested in cooking so she took Culinary Arts as a school elective. Her teachers are professional chefs in the industry.  They teach them right and start them young so Mia really knows her stuff.  She even explained to me a couple of things about chef uniforms.  The double breasted jacket can be reversed to hide stains. The jacket protects the chef from the stove/oven's intense heat and from splattering oil and boiling liquids.  Cleanliness in the kitchen is important to chefs so most jackets are white to symbolize cleanliness.  There is also a pocket on the left shoulder to accommodate a chef's personal tasting spoon.

At home, Mia enjoys cooking for special events.  Everyone still talks about Mia's scrumptious Creamy Three Mushroom Soup and Ginger Snap Banoffe Pie.  Mia loves making pasta and desserts.  She was so excited to tell me that her team won a cake decorating contest in school! 

When I was visiting, Mia created an unforgettable Fettuccini Alfredo.  What makes her recipe so unique is the finely minced shallots in the sauce and the use of Edam cheese because we did not have Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand.  Who'd ever think Edam cheese would result in such an amazing Alfredo sauce!  It's creaminess was punctuated by the delightfully sharp flavor of bits of partly melted cheese.  

This weekend Mia and her classmates will be demonstrating Churros at the school fair.  Unfortunately, I won't be around but maybe my sister can take some pictures for me to post with her recipe. 

Meantime, enjoy the Best Fettuccini Alfredo Ever brought to you by Mia:

1 lb. dried fettuccini noodles
6 Tbsp butter
2 shallots, finely minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Edam cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
fresh parsley (optional but so refreshing if added)
Cook the fettuccini noodles in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until pasta is al dente. Drain noodles, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan/ wok over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and saute until tender.  Add heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Cook sauce for about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove sauce from the heat.

Return the pasta to the pot in which it was cooked.  Set over medium-high heat along with the reserved cooking liquid.  Add the Alfredo sauce and half of the cheese then toss to combine thoroughly.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and garnish with parsley and serve immediately.