Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Collard Greens with Ox Tail

When Matt said "I enjoyed that more than I thought I would. You've got me liking all kinds of things now!" I knew I succeeded. See Matt can be a picky eater, so I'm always trying to challenge that.

These collard greens are so flavorful. And it's an extremely hearty dish. There are 2 secret ingredients that make this dish...

The first secret is the ox tail broth. You can get ox tail at any asian farmers market, like Super HMart. There's not much meat on ox tails, but the little bit that's there is juicy. It makes a delicious broth.

The second secret is the use of "nước mắm " or I should say "fish sauce". Now, don't get turned off. Fish sauce is commonly used in many of your asian dishes. This bottled sauce adds so much flavor to asian cuisine, and it really shows here.

Collard Greens with Ox Tail

nước mắm aka Fish Sauce

3 lbs Ox tails
3-4 qt water
1 bunch collard greens
4 tsp salt
6 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce

Add water to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the Ox tails. Bring to a boil again. Skim the fatty froth off the top layer and discard. Turn the heat to low and cover with a lid for 30 mins. Meanwhile remove the stems from the collard greens. Then slice the leaves, about 1 inch thick. Add the sliced collard green leaves, salt, fish sauce, and hot sauce to the broth. Simmer on medium to medium-low heat for 1 hr. Serve with more fish sauce and hot sauce to taste.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Anniversary dinner: Veal, Risotto, and Truffles

When you cook every night, what do you do for a special occasion? Cook a very fancy, expensive meal! That's what I surprised my husband with on our 3rd wedding anniversary. This meal turned out perfect. If I had a restaurant, I would definitely serve this.

This veal dish is very similar to a Veal Marsala. Instead of using Marsala though, I used Cognac.It was a nice touch, not overpowering. The mushroom cognac sauce paired so well with the veal. And the risotto was so creamy and delicious. You really get that nice, fragrant mushroom aroma from the fresh summer truffles. We really, really loved this dish and I hope you will give it a try to see why...

Veal Scallopini with a Mushroom Cognac Sauce

4 veal scallopini
1/2 c cognac
1 c beef stock
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pint bella or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Lay the veal in saran wrap and gently pound the veal out a bit. Then lightly coat with some salt, pepper, and flour. In a deep skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp butter and olive oil. Brown the veal, about 3 mins on each side. Transfer to a plate while you make your sauce.
2. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Scape up the browned bits, and let the cognac reduce by half. Add the beef stock, garlic, and mushrooms. Let the sauce reduce by half. Finish with a tbsp of butter. Spoon the sauce over the veal and serve alongside these creamy risotto:

Risotto with Asparagus and Truffles

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 shallot, diced
1 1/2 c arborio rice
1/2 c white wine
6 c chicken broth
1 bunch asparagus
0.3 lb brie
3 whole black summer truffles (1.4 oz jar)

1. Prepare your asparagus: Snap off the lower woody ends of the asparagus and discard it. (It will naturally break where it should.) Then using a vegetable peeler, peel off the outer layer on the bottom of the asparagus. (If you've never peeled your asparagus stems, I encourage you to do so. Ever since I discovered the tender taste of peeled asparagus I haven't prepared my asparagus any other way.) Cut your asparagus into your desired bite size. (Mine was about an inch long.) Blanch the asparagus in gently boiling water for 1-2 mins. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the asparagus from cooking. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, heat up the chicken broth. When it's warmed, keep the broth over low heat.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook the shallots until translucent. Then add the rice and cook for a few mins. Add in the wine and cook until all the wine is absorbed. Then slowly add in a ladle of the warm chicken broth. Stir and cook until all the broth is absorbed. When the broth is absorbed, add another ladle of broth. Repeat process with the rest of the broth. (It will take about 30 mins.)
4. When you have a cup of broth left to add, go ahead and add your asparagus from earlier into the risotto. After all 6 cups of broth has been absorbed into the risotto, add 3/4 or all of the brie. (I, of course, added all the brie because we love cheese. But depending on your preference you can add as much as you'd like. I also tore the brie into smaller pieces to make incorporating easier.) Then with a microplane or grater, grate/slice the truffles into the risotto. Also add the truffle oil from the jar...you don't want to waste that flavor! Serve and enjoy your restaurant worthy meal at home.
Note: You can prepare your asparagus the day before like I did. Because the peeling can take some time and it was a workday, I wanted to prep the asparagus beforehand. And yes, do peel your asparagus. Even though it's time consuming it's very much worth it!

Matt surprised me with our wedding cake from Cecilia's Cakes...mmm!

And surprised me with flowers at work..so sweet :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Awesome taco filling/nacho topping

I have a very special guest blogger for you all today! The famous Matt Hawkins! Yup, the guy I'm always talking about in my blog posts / my wonderful husband. Matt likes to cook too and last night he made these amazing tacos. It was so good he was saying how he needs to remember this recipe. So I was like, why not blog about it! So readers, I'd like you to meet Matt!:

You will need:

For the meat:
2.5-3lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Smoked paprika
Chili powder
Onion powder
Salt, pepper

For the veggies:
3 medium tomatoes (seeded, diced)
1 medium red onion (diced)
1 bell pepper (diced)
1 lime (split in half)
Cilantro (to taste) diced

Cheese of choice (I used a blend of cheddar and Queso Gran (which is like manchego))
Corn tortillas (deep fried, so start heating the oil now)

First make the veggie topping, combine the bell pepper, red onion (why are they called red onions, anyone can see they are purple onions!), tomato (I like to remove the seeds and “juicy” parts for 2 reasons: 1) I don't like the taste, and 2) It will turn your little salsa into a mushy mess) and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the lime juice on top and add salt to taste. Mix it up well and put in the fridge while you prep the tortillas and beef. 

For the ground beef, sauté the garlic in a little bit of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Next season the beef with salt and pepper and add it to the pan, separate the clumps so you can mix it up well in the pan (or pot). Now add the chili powder, onion powder,and paprika. You're aiming for a ratio of about 3:1:1 for these three seasonings,but feel free to adjust to your personal taste. Once the meat is browned, drain off the grease and set it aside until your chips/tacos are prepared.

Make sure your oil is nice and hot 350 degrees or so. You can either make tacos or nachos with your corn tortillas. If you're going for nachos then slice the tortillas into triangles and fry them in batches. Be careful of the rising oil, you don't want it to spill over and make a mess or worse, burn you. The nachos at the hospital aren't as good as these.Alternatively, you can make tacos from the shells. If you have a fancy-pants taco frying device, use that! Alternatively you can use tongs to hold them in a taco-type shape. One of the best methods I found was to drop the tortilla round in the oil, when it starts to rise up and float, press down in the center with the tongs. Hold it like that until it is nice and crispy (chewy tacos aren't very good) about 1-2 minutes. You can also use a dual-wielding technique with two sets of tongs to hold both ends of the shell in a taco shape. You're tacos might come out slightly misshapen, that's okay; just like the ugly duckling,these shells taste a million times better than the ones you get out of the box.

Alright, now you're ready to build! You really shouldn't need directions for this part, but just in case:
1) Take a shell/chips
2) Pile on some meat!
3) Stack it with cheese!
4) Add the veggie mix!
5) EAT!
6) Repeat as desired

Four Cheese Egg Souffle

You can enjoy this egg souffle for breakfast, or for dinner like we did. I was surprised this little souffle was so filling. It was smoky, fluffy, and flaky. Just delicious! And even though it looks involved, it was really easy to make. Most of the cooking time was either spent in the microwave or the oven. The only laborious part was rolling out the dough. But you just have to roll it out into a square which isn't that bad.

Four Cheese Egg Souffle

1 can of Pillsbury Refrigerated Crescent Rolls
1 tbsp butter, melted
7 eggs
1/4 c smoked mozzarella, shredded
1/4 c Gruyere, shredded
1/4 c apple-wood smoked cheddar, shredded
1/4 c Parmesan, shredded
2 tbsp whole milk
2 tbsp cream
Pinch of salt and pepper
Flour for dusting

 1. Carefully unroll the crescent roll dough and separate into 4 rectangles. Pinch the diagonal perforation within each rectangle together (to make it into a solid rectangle). Dust some flour on the dough, and with a rolling pin, roll the rectangle out about an inch to make it into a square. Brush the melted butter inside 4 ramekins. Carefully lay a square inside a ramekin, leaving some of the edges hanging. Repeat with the rest of the squares.

2. In a microwave safe bowl, add 6 of the eggs, mozzarella, gruyere, cheddar, milk, cream, salt and pepper. Beat with a fork until combined. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir the mixture with a fork. Then stick it back in the microwave, repeating for a total of 2 mins cooking time. (The egg mixture should look like runny scrambled eggs. This will help the folded dough edges from sinking into the egg mixture.)

3. Pour equal amounts of the egg mixture into each ramekin. Top each mixture with the parmesan cheese. Fold the edges of the dough over the egg mixture. Beat the last egg, and brush it over the top of the dough in each ramekin. Bake in the oven for 20 mins at 375 degrees F or until golden brown.