Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sweet Thai Chili Chicken Salad with Mangos and Homemade Sesame Chips

So this is my first official post from my new home, all the way from New Orleans to Hell's Kitchen in New York City. Moving in was the most ridiculous process, considering within 15 minutes of driving in the city with my rental car I get towed while signing my lease and have to pay a $300 fine (because OF COURSE I just have $300 lying around. no problem!) But it's been a month since I've actually been able post anything recent because although my apartment is actually awesome (considering we are under our original budget AND have all new appliances) the lighting is crap. And it's also not like i'm going to cook dinner any time before the sun goes down because I get out of culinary school at 3 after being on my feet all day, and the last thing I want to do is start cooking immediately once I get home. 

But, Troy is in town for 10 whole days, which is so incredibly nice for obvious reasons. It also gives me someone to cook for and a reason to try things that are not just pasta with garlic and parmesan... I was also super excited when I was looking up chicken salad recipes (since we went to trader joe's and just got basic ingredients that I could make something out of later) and he saw a recipe for bbq thai chicken salad and got really excited about it. So obviously I got excited also, because it's something i've been wanting to try and make for a really long time now anyway. So the inspiration from the salad came from a blog called Half Baked Harvest. Her pictures are so beautiful. I can't wait for the day when mine start looking like that...aka BRIGHT. It's all about lighting fellas - and I just can't get the hang of it. Although I read some bloggers wake up at absurd hours just to get the best natural light, and I can't say that i'm THAT committed...  

Sweet and Spicy Chili Garlic Vinaigrette 
inspired by a recipe by Half Baked Harvest 

1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of agave
1 tablespoon of chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons of hoisin 
1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard 

1 tablespoon olive oil
about a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger 

Mix that isn up in a bowl and voila 

For the Salad 
1 mango, cubed
½ medium cucumber, cubed 
2/3 cup roughly chopped dry roasted peanuts (unsalted)
about 6 large leaves of cabbage, chiffonade or roughly sliced into strips 
about 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
4 chopped green onion

Homemade Sesame Chips

2 medium white or wheat tortillas
1 tablespoon of hoisin 
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
about ½ sesame seeds 

Cut out two tortillas with a biscuit/round cookie cutter. Mix together the hoisin, honey and soy sauce in a small bowl and brush on the tops of each gorilla round. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds and bake for 10 minutes at 350, rotating halfway through baking and checking frequently to make sure they don't burn.

Baked Chicken Thighs

4 chicken thighs or two breasts 
Leftovers sauce from the chips becomes the marinade for chicken

Preheat oven to 425°F
Bake for 15-20 minutes 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Not to Make Chicken and Mushroom Pho

My first attempt at making pho was needless to say a bit of a disaster. Now don't get me wrong, the picture of the pho above was not horrible. It was fine. I ate it for dinner and was satisfied. It just wasn't the kind of pho I was going for. I'm sure I could give the recipe, and someone out there would love it. I mean it's soup. But it was too salty, and the flavors were just too strong for what pho is supposed to be.

 I think the route of all the evil stemmed at the fact that I had actually never had pho before I tried to make it myself. DUMB. Like so so so dumb. Italian dishes - ok I could probably make that without having tried the original. Cajun - again no problem, because they are flavors and ingredients I am used to. I can get away with changing this for that or doing my own order of operations etc. If I want to experiment in the kitchen, I shouldn't be experimenting with recipes for a dish I have never had. That doesn't make any sense! And pho is a whole different ball game. Granted I went out in New York (did I mention I live there now?) and had pho that actually tasted a lot like mine, and I didn't like it. It wasn't light and kinda sweet like the incredibly delicious pho I had for the first time in New Orleans. And maybe there are many different techniques and styles and I hit the nail on the head when I made my version that would rock someones world, but not mine.

So I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. My stepdad got a really bad case of food poisoning (or something terrible) that left him incredibly sick for a couple of days. He's a doctor, so getting sick is not something that happens often for him. (Or maybe its a father figure thing. My dad also NEVER gets sick. ever) I wanted to make some soup for him because, although I have about a million Pinterest pins of soup recipes, I have never actually made soup before. My stepdad LOVES all food types (ethnicities? genres?) that end in "ese" - Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Taiwanese (ok Thai but you get the picture). So I figured he had to love pho, and of course I mentioned the idea and he loved it. Basically, I had no idea what I was in for. A million dollars worth of groceries, and several hours later, I was finally straining out my stock - or base or whatever its called - and my mom comes in to the kitchen to chat. Now I know me mentioning the next part will absolutely break her heart because she felt so so terrible after it happened, but she accidentally dumped out my strained stock that had taken me SO LONG to prepare.

Accidents happen. It seriously could have happened to anyone. And for some reason, I just had a gut feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that it was going to happen. I don't know why I knew, I just kind of did. My mom is a chronic cleaner. She can't help it. Sometimes she will pick up my fork or cup or plate while I'm still eating to clean it. So when she saw the murky-ish water in a pot in the sink, it was her instinct to dump it out. Immediately after it happened we stared at each other in silence. It was one of the moments where there were just no words. Yep - that just happened. And nope - I will not be making it again. So we called up our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, ordered some up and I picked it up 20 minutes later.

And guess what, it was amazing. Absolutely delicious, and CHEAP. considering the money we blew on ingredients - SO not worth making it myself. Leave it to the pros - It also tasted NOTHING like what mine was going to taste like. Mine had a weird spiciness because of the soaked pepper flakes with back notes of cinnamon because of some recipes I read that called for that. No thanks. I will make it again one day, but after I start learning how to make stocks in culinary school.

What I learned NOT to do after my first pho experience:

  • Unless you want it spicy (or even have a tiny note of spice), don't use red pepper flakes. at all
  • Don't use a cinnamon stick. Use a pinch of cinnamon if you think it might add something, but the stick is way too powerful of a flavor for a small batch. 
  • Do NOT use shiitake mushrooms in soup (unless you remove the bottoms) They are pretty, but the bottom is way too tough for eating. (I bet that's a known fact and I'm just an idiot, but you live and you learn)
  • MOST IMPORTANT LESSON: Don't use chicken stock or broth. Not even reduced sodium that has been cut with water (because that is what I used) It's not authentic and will not give you that light and deliciously sweet and mild taste that you long for in a chicken pho. 
  • I also need to remember exactly what kind of sprouts I used but if they have little red dots at the bottom that look like chili flakes - don't use them because they also taste like chili flakes and are too bitter and weirdly spicy for the soup. 
  • Just because you poached the chicken, doesn't mean its not going to be dry. Learn how to properly poach because that was dry as ef 
  • Don't buy all of those ingredients unless you have a line-up of similar meals that require those ingredients because you will be stuck with a boat load of herbs and nothing to do with them if you don't. (Check out my shrimp curry recipe - that was a HUGE success, and used some of the ingredients) 

The driest poached chicken. The second I learn how to do this in culinary school I will do a post on it because it's supposed to be a very low fat method for cooking chicken breast...

None of this shiz should have been the in pot in the first place..."A" for effort Big Suz

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sigma Chi Sugar Cookies

So like pretty much everyone post i've written recently, I actually made these a while ago and just haven't had the time to post about them until now. My friend and sorority sister, Victoria, is the sweetheart for Sig Chi this year, and she asked me to bake some cookies for her to give to the boys. That would make this the first time I have ever been commissioned to bake something. Obviously, it's a super big deal to me and I was totally honored to do it for her. She also happens to be an incredible sweetheart - she was just doing this to be nice and to welcome the new pledge class. Do they deserve it? eh....(which is probably why I'm no ones sweetheart let's be real...) They are a lovely group of lads though and I can't wait to go on Spring Break with Vic n 'dem in a few days. 

For the recipe click here

I was also so tired and hungover on a Sunday morning when I decorated these. I have ZERO clue how I did it....

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sautéed Apple and Brie Crostinis

Of course you can just eat the uncooked apples on top instead, but the sauté makes them warm and tender and remenicent of delicious apple pie. This would actually make a great appetizer to a holiday party or thanksgiving dinner. It's also great if you have a brother who is allergic to raw apples but not cooked, like me. That's an allergy I've never quite understood; like he can have apple pie but he can't eat it in a salad? I wonder what it is about the rawness that he can't have. I guess something get's cooked out in the baking process; but isn't what's baked out still in the pie itself? Who knows! well google probably does...The fact that raw apples is the only food allergy we have in my family is such a blessing though. I got in a car with a girl allergic to peanuts and she could smell it on my breath! Peanut butter does have a pretty distinct smell, but still. I also sat by another coach when I was a counselor on a 10 hour bus ride once only to find out if I had eaten peanuts that day with my hand and he touched my hand (even hours later), he would have had an allergic reaction - and I had brought snacks with peanuts with me on that trip....

After experiences like that and knowing a million and one people with allergies, if I ever open a restaurant, customers should know everything in my food. I don't know how, but they should. I mean I made curry last night and it had flour in it. Did you know a lot of curry's have flour? because I didn't! But anyway I digress; don't know how this got me on a rant about allergies.. but back to the crostinis...

Sautéed Apple and Brie Crostinis 

1 french baguette
1 apple, sliced
wedge of brie (or spreadable)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
Sea salt or fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the baguette at an angle to get optimal surface area for the apple slices. (if desired) very lightly brush or dip the slices of bread in melted butter. Toast for about 7 minutes until lightly brown around the edges, watching closely.

Melt the butter and sugar over medium heat. Add the apple slices and sauté on each side for about 2 minutes or until tender and slightly brown on the edges.

Place slices of brie on the hot bread, then place the sautéed apples on top. Sprinkle with fleur de del or sea salt and serve!